summer requiem
week 19 maternity sewing

quenching thirst, montessori style

water and a 16 month-old1

"Wawa. Wawa! WAWA! WAAAWAAA!" It's amazing how quickly a small human can go from realizing he's slightly thirsty to absolutely dying of dehydration. I've counted - twenty seconds. It's so nice to be able to offer an immediate solution to his thirst when we're at home. At the first utterance of "wawa," all I have to say is, "Would you like to serve yourself some water?" And he gets this big ol' grin, does a little dance of excitement, and heads to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.

water and a 16 month-old3

water and a 16 month-old4

water and a 16 month-old 5

water and a 16 month-old 6

water and a 16 month-old 7

When he's done, he says "ahhh!" then likely serves himself another sip. At times, he will be so enamored with the process that he serves me some water, too. When he's ready to move on to another activity, he sets his glass in the bowl to the right of the water spigot, where it will stay until he's thirsty once again.

water and a 16 month-old 2

And yes, at other times, he'll just push down the lever and watch, transfixed, as the water drips into the basin below. No worries - the cats will appreciate a replenishing of what has become their new watering hole.

water and a 16 mont-old 8

A few spills are part of the deal, and that's where this pint-sized mop comes in handy. He loves mopping up just as much as he loves serving the water. (The broom is another favorite "toy." He sweeps so often, that we're considering changing his nickname from "Sweet Pea" to "Sweepee.")

water and a 16 month-old 9

I know what you're thinking. "This woman is loopy. A real glass! Free access to water! What a nut she must be."

My Montessori teacher training gave me the idea for this. Such a set-up, however, does take some courage to set up. Because no matter how brave you are, and how confident you are in your child's ability to learn to do things proficiently when given the opportunity to practice such skills, you will run into some majorly raised eyebrows along the way. Perhaps the eyebrows of a husband, an aunt, or a grandmother - and let's not forget your OWN inner raised eyebrow, which is how you'll feel about this water serving activity after you've just shown your toddler how it works.

There will be water. There will be lots of drinking. There will be spills. The exuberant child just needs to work the excitement of the newness of it out of his system, then things become normalized. Within a week, Finn had practiced the movements enough that they had become noticeably more controlled and graceful. He was able to synchronize the pushing down of the spigot with the correct placement of the glass underneath it. It was amazing to watch, really - a testament to the importance of mistake-making in the process of mastering a skill. It's something I think of often, how we, as parents, are often nervous about letting our child make mistakes. I am no exception - I have to consciously step back and let go of my perfectionism and just let the learning process unfold. My own attitude toward mistakes is also something I'm mindful of watching - I do my best to assign neutral emotions to them, treating them as a matter-of-fact part of life, even treating them with some interest: "Oh, look! You tipped the glass over and the milk spilled on the floor. Let's go get the clean-up cloth to wipe that up. Would you like to wipe?"

I do hope that Finn picks up on this attitude - this embracing of mistakes. It's really what I believe is the foundation of a positive relationship with learning. A book that discusses this concept and how it relates to parenting is Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. It's a very helpful read.

water and a 16 month-old 10

A few notes about setting up a water station:

  • It's essential that your water cooler be secured in place. Ours fit perfectly between two shelves and is wedged in there quite well (although not so tightly that I can't remove it for cleaning and filling.)
  • The glasses we have for Finn are these. They come in a set of six, and that's been plenty for us. Obviousy, he reuses his glass. If you have more than one child, you might consider a different colored little bowl for each of them, for sanitary purposes.
  • Another word about the glasses: it's good to note that Finn has been using these, or other similar enamelware cups, since he started drinking liquids other than breastmilk. At first we would help him bring the cup to his mouth and tilt it for him. Eventually he transitioned seamlessly into drinking from a cup at the dinner table. So he's already had a good deal of practice with this. If you're looking to transition a child who has been using a sippy cup, I would give plenty of time for the child to work with just the small, open-topped glass first before introducing the water serving station.
  • The enamelware basins I have set up here are from Michael Olaf.
  • The shelf is a single playstand with the awning removed.

I'll try to answer any more questions in the comments!