For over a century, the Montessori method has advocated giving practical life skills to children, both at school and at home. Dr. Montessori observed a greater level of fulfillment when children engaged in meaningful activities, beginning at a very young age. But what happens to these same children when they grow older? Do the early benefits of chores stay with children throughout their lives?
The answer is yes!
A recent Wall Street Journal article cited a range of academic studies. “In 2002, Dr. Marty Rossmann analyzed data from a longitudinal study that followed 84 children across four periods in their lives—in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s. She found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.”
Dr. Montessori explained that not giving responsibilities to children until they were teenagers could warp their personalities. Children pass through various sensitive periods in their early lives, she observed, and not giving certain experiences early on can alter development for the rest of their lives. Those in the Montessori community have accepted this fundamental maxim for years, because we have seen hundreds of children pass through our schools, and Montessori children, as a rule, act very differently than many of those found in traditional school settings. Dr. Angeline Lillard showed this in her famous study found in Science magazine back in 2006.
So, the takeaway is: give your children real work to do at home. Don’t wait until they are “old enough” to contribute meaningfully. If you wait, you are likely to have a struggle on your hands simply because of waiting too late.
In the Montessori preschool classroom, children can be seen pouring, sorting, polishing, folding, scrubbing, lacing, tying, buckling, and snapping. Larger work includes washing windows, mopping and sweeping floors, dusting, vacuuming, cooking exercises, hammering real nails, weeding a garden, flower arranging, watering plants, even washing a tricycle.
As they grow older at a Montessori school, children shovel snow or mulch, trim bushes, move furniture, carry supplies, build furniture and small structures, paint walls and fences, just to name a few.
There is plenty of real work to be done, both at home and at school! Be careful not to put such an emphasis on academic work that chores are pushed into a corner of unimportance. Balance is the key to life, and the earlier children learn that balance, the better.
To read the article in the Wall Street Journal, click the link below.