What is Functional Independence?
One of the foundational pieces of the Montessori philosophy is Maria Montessori’s Four Planes of Development. She tracked the patterns of human tendencies and development and found from birth to age 24, children go through different planes as they grow. One key aspect of each plane is an independence goal. In the First Plane, years 0-6, the goal is Functional Independence: I want to *do* for myself.
I’m sure you’ve heard your toddler yell, “I want to do it,” and thought, “Yeah, but you can’t.” It’s frustrating on both ends. Your child wants to be independent, but oftentimes it’s easier if we step in to just do it.
One of my favorite sayings from my AMI training was:
Unwanted help is a hindrance.
As your child grows through the First Plane, our goal is to create space and structure that allow them to develop their functional independence, without stepping in to help and accidentally hindering.
If you know your young child takes 5 minutes to put on their shoes, it is worth it to schedule the extra 5 minutes in your day so they can be independent. (They’ll get faster, I promise.) If, instead, you always put the shoes on for your child, they will come to expect that as a task you do. Yes, I have seen 6-year-olds stick their feet in their parent’s face so they will put their shoes on for them.
Kids grow up fast, so take time to enjoy the moments where it moves painstakingly slow.
Photo by Andre Taissin