This past summer, we decided to repaint our fence. It would have been much easier, faster and cheaper for my husband and I to paint it by ourselves.
However there were a few problems with this. We knew the kids would want to get involved anyway (please, pretty please!) We knew we wouldn’t turn them down, after all this is a good opportunity for a hands-on, practical life experience.
Once we made the decision to involve them in the job, the next step was to equip and enable them for success. We knew that if we didn’t get them tools that are child-sized, they would probably make a bigger mess and keep pestering us to help them while simultaneously rejecting our help because they want to be independent. They will start to feel frustrated, making us frustrated, and we would all just be frustrated all at the same time. Said fence would probably take forever getting painted and we would probably never look at it with a feeling of achievement or satisfaction.
Luckily the local dollar store has mini paint rollers so this wasn’t an expensive activity for the kids to get involved. We purchased a mini paint roller for each of the kids, prepared some wet wipes for hands and arms that would inevitably get painted, and asked the children to put on their raggediest clothes. All the tools were laid out on a cardboard on the ground.
Before we began, I gave a short Montessori style presentation to the kids. I took a paint roller and demonstrated how to grip it. Then I showed them how to slightly dip it in paint before slowly and gently rolling off the excess paint on the grooved part of the paint tray. Then I carefully walked over to an unpainted part of the fence and began rolling with an up and down motion. I repeated this twice before the kids took over.
A Montessori style demonstration can truly be given at any time for any activity. It helps the children to know what to do. By now, my kids have learned to watch carefully and intently when I’m giving a demonstration, and as I’m doing it I can see them smiling, nodding their heads in excitement and saying “Ok, ok, I see.” I don’t do totally silent presentations anymore because it’s just not my style, but I do them with as few words as I can possibly manage and with really slow movements.
Whenever we pause to consider how our children can get involved in any real life activity, the outcome is almost always fruitful. We take the time to equip them with the right tools and methods for success. The kids ended up helping us paint quite a large portion of the fence. They have paint-stained clothes and photos to remember the experience. And we have a beautiful repainted fence to enjoy. Everybody was tired at the end of the job, but we were all happy and walked away with a deep satisfaction.