Two days ago was a huge milestone for Z and me. It was the first time Z (2.5) successfully worked the zipping frame (or at least our homeschool version of it.)
What is the zipping frame?
The zipping frame is one of many Montessori practical life activities that is categorized under “Care of Self”. The general objective of this activity, along with other practical life activities, is to help a child develop control of movement and independence. In addition to the zipper, there are other dressing exercises such as buttons, buckles, snaps, velcro, etc.
What didn’t work & what I didn’t want to use
This is one area that took a bit of trial and error. Here’s what we’ve tried but didn’t work for us:
- Dressing baskets — putting several articles of clothes in a basket, each one with a different type of dressing exercise (zip, snaps, velcro, etc.) For some reason, it wasn’t appealing or attractive enough to Z. It also frustrated him because the clothes droop (gravity) and so he has to use some strength to hold it up in addition to practicing the work.
- Clothes on a hanger, hung on a doorknob — it was far too wiggly and the hanger keeps coming off the doorknob.
I did not want to use dressing frames the way they are presented in Montessori classrooms, even though I appreciate that they are ideal in the sense that they hold the fabric steady for the child to practice.
- I wanted the activity to look as close to reality as possible so that Z will understand the purpose of the work — and this meant using real clothes. And as much as I could help it, real clothes that he can actually wear.
- I had a budget to stick to so I decided that buying or even making frames is not a priority, unless there were absolutely no other choice.
What worked in the end
We finally discovered that draping a zippered vest, in his size, over the back of his chair, was the best way to go.
I simply folded his vest and put it on his shelf. Whenever he wanted to work with it, he would ask for my help to drape it over the back of his chair. (I know it’s not 100% independent work since he has to have my help for this step, but I’m ok with it since we’re homeschooling one-on-one.)
Once it’s draped, he’ll kneel or sit on the floor and work on zipping.
He finally succeeded some time last week and was SO excited and happy. We took multiple videos of him doing the work afterwards, and he keeps wanting to watch them over and over again.
He has not yet mastered it though, because there are still instances where he doesn’t get the pin docked deep enough in the box to be able to pull the tab up. (Just in case I’m not making sense, and you are interested in parts of a zip, here is the link to a great diagram. I had to look it up just so I would make sense. Blogging is good in that way, it forces me to learn something new each time.)
The zippered vest is one of his favorite Montessori works now, and I find myself having to suggest that he do some other work otherwise he’ll only be working on this one activity! He still gets frustrated when it doesn’t work, but he keeps wanting to come back to it after a break. And after lunch. And after his nap. And after dinner. He wants to try it mostly on the chair, but every now and then he’ll ask to do it on his own body.
This is the first time something like this has happened with Z. I’M THRILLED!!! Because if I understand correctly, this is what Montessori looks like when it works. He’ll keep going back to it until he’s mastered it or until he’s ready to move on to something else.
I have to grab a cup of coffee and watch his relentless practicing. Needless to say, Montessori works.