By Alex Chiu
Thanksgiving is just the holiday for making connections between home and your child’s Montessori school experience. With the number of preparations involved, it’s wonderful to have extra hands helping with all of the details, and your children have a great deal to offer as helpers. Since September, they have been refining many of the skills needed to pull off a perfect Thanksgiving holiday for family and friends. Invite your child to participate in the planning and preparation. They will take pride in and feel great satisfaction in being able to contribute, and you’ll be grateful for the extra help in getting things done!
Before the Big Day
Clean: As you begin your household chores, consider what tasks can be done by your child. At school, Montessori students practice folding cloths, scrubbing tables, washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning the leaves of plants, rolling rugs, and pushing in chairs, just to name a few. See what needs to be done around the house before company arrives, and then invite your child to take on one or more of the chores that he or she can be successful in completing. Simple chores such as putting clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, organizing their toys, or pushing in the chairs around the dining room table allow even the youngest children to feel like they are making a contribution to the festivities.
Decorate: Montessori students have ample opportunity to be creative with a variety of art supplies at school. Charge your children with the task of creating table centerpieces. Encourage them to take a nature walk and collect items to use in their creations. They may also enjoy making place cards for your dinner guests. Provide them with colored paper, scissors, colored pencils, and the list of guests. To welcome visitors, you might like to spend time together making a welcoming wreath for your front door. Using a wire or grapevine wreath frame available at most any craft or dollar store, use clothespins to attach favorite photos or items from nature, or tie strips of different colored ribbons around the frame.
Set the Table: Your children are already old hands at setting the table by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. They have been setting up their lunch spaces since the start of school, and many classrooms have likely set out a “table setting” work on the Practical Life shelf, showing the proper placement of forks, knives, spoons, and napkins. If your dishes are too fragile, work together. Let your child set out the napkins and utensils while you set out the dishes and glassware. And remember to have your child count while doing this chore. How many people are coming? How many of each item will we need? How many utensils will be on the table in all? Learning opportunities across disciplines abound in this preparation work!
Help with Food Prep: Food prep is often a favorite activity for Montessori students. They become young experts in peeling, chopping, pouring, and so much more. Allow your child to help with measuring and mixing, slicing (with a child-safe kitchen tool) and washing, or pouring and peeling. Remind your child to wash hands prior to doing any food prep, and provide some guidance, but be prepared to be surprised at how well they can manage many tasks in the kitchen!
Practice Grace and Courtesy: Prior to the arrival of your guests, coach your child in some of the social graces you expect of them. You might have your child collect coats as guests arrive or provide newcomers with a small tour of the main level of the house. Have your child introduce guests to one another, and practice some ‘conversation starters’ for your child to use. Share some memories about family and friends who will be joining you for the celebration, or put out some photo albums for your child to peruse with guests as a springboard to hearing old stories and making new lasting memories. At the dinner table, include your child in conversations by asking open-ended questions or encouraging your child to share some stories about school, friends, or special events.
Clean Up: Just as with setting the table, your children can easily assist with certain clean up jobs. Ask them to help clear dishes, wipe counters, or push in chairs. Transferring leftover items from serving dishes into storage containers is a great job for children to do. Whatever the task, allow your child to do the job to the best of his or her ability, and enjoy having the help!
When everyone is full, when all the work is complete, and when the busy-ness of the day winds down, take a few moments to reflect on all of the hard work that was done in order to create a special day for everyone to enjoy. Think about the ways in which your child was able to help and how he or she is growing, developing new skills, and gaining independence. Maria Montessori once said that “Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.” So before the day is done, share your reflections with your child, and remember to give thanks for it all!
Photo Credit: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2677/4104214861_9f3e18b225_z.jpg