In Episode 21, we talk all about the benefits of offering directed choices to babies and toddlers! We discuss things like...
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Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Baby Development & Montessori Consultant
And Your Baby Tour Guide
Bianca: [00:00:07] Welcome to Baby Tour Guide’s, Montessori Babies Podcast. I'm your host and baby tour guide, Bianca Solorzano. And for the last decade, I have dedicated myself to helping parents, educators and caregivers optimize baby development through a Montessori lens. This podcast is all about evolving our Montessori practice to make our time with our sweet babies easier, relaxed and so much fun. Let's jump into it. Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 21 of our Montessori Babies Podcast. I want to first give a warm welcome to everyone who is newly listening to our show and a big, big thank you and giant virtual hug to everyone who's been with us from the get go. I'm just so, so grateful for our wonderful community. And I am loving getting to know everyone. So definitely feel free to reach out. My email address is email@example.com. I absolutely love getting to know everyone. So feel free to reach out and say hi. So this week I actually want to open with our quote and the quote is, “Let the child be the scriptwriter, director and actor in his own play.” And that was said by the marvelous Magda Gerber. I felt like it was the perfect way to open this episode, because we are talking all about directed choices and the benefits to offering directed choices to babies and toddlers. And so before I jump into the benefits, I definitely want to go ahead and start with what they are what our directed choices.
Bianca: [00:01:48] So directed choices are limited choices that are guided by the adult and offered to children to encourage decision making within their daily experiences. And that's a definition I came up with myself. So I hope that clarifies that directed choices are. But here's what I'll tell you. Director choices are something that I really, really hope you try out with your child or with your students. I personally use directed choices all day long when I'm working with babies and toddlers. There are so, so many reasons why I do it. And so let's go ahead and jump into some of those reasons. So the first reason is that we are empowering the child by offering decision making throughout their day. And I'll tell you from experience, it's not just empowering, but it's actually incredibly exciting to a lot of our babies to have the opportunity to choose, you know. And so a story, a time when I was in the classroom setting, so when I was running my nido, kind of like I already mentioned, I would offer these types of choices literally all day long. So even something like for their snack, when they would pull out their chair at the table and sign to eat, we signed with them in the classroom and sit down. I would look into their basket in the fridge or in their cubby and see what types of food they had. And then I would offer them a choice, make sure they had a couple of food groups in there, of course.
Bianca: [00:03:17] But I would offer them, you know, a choice between two things. And then they were choosing. And then it was so exciting, you know, that they got to eat what they chose based off of, you know, the options they were given. And that entire process is just incredibly empowering. And we're including them within their daily experiences by doing that, you know. And like I just mentioned, these types of choices are amazing during the all times, if you offer, you know, a choice between two of the carby type snacks, you know, like the whole grain crackers or, you know, the toast, and then you offer a choice between fruits and then between, you know, a yogurt or a cheese or, you know, whatever it is that your child is going to eat. It's just amazing to include them within the process and to offer these choices and empower them to that experience. So the second reason that directed choices are incredibly beneficial to use. And one of the reasons I use them all the time is that we are just continuing to encourage that child led Montessori experience. So the goal for Montessori is having that child, that experience to continue to fuel that innate inner will to learn about their world. So Dr. Montessori believed that every child is born with this innate inner will to learn about their world and to explore about their world and as they develop into higher levels of consciousness.
Bianca: [00:04:45] It's amazing to offer these choices, to continue to fuel that. And if you think about it, everything is a learning experience for our babies and our toddlers. Something as simple as eating is a learning experience. Putting on clothes is a learning experience. You know, moving is a learning experience. And so when we're offering these choices within these experiences, we're empowering them. And we're also continuing to fuel that child led Montessori experience by having them use that inner light that Dr. Montessori was talking about, to choose something that, you know, we're offering to them, you know, so they're using that well and they're going with it. And we are just continuing to offer that wonderful child led educational Montessori experience. All of that said, of course, these directed choices are guided by the adult. And so what I mean by this is that we would want to offer choices that are guided by us and ones that we would, you know, ideally want them to make. So, for example, if it's 40 degrees outside, we wouldn't necessarily offer a choice of, you know, which tank top do you want to wear today, you know, or just something along those lines. We would offer choices that we would want to encourage them to make and then empower them through those choices. And just little side note, that's one of the reasons that many Montessorians called themselves guides, is because we're there and we're prepared.
Bianca: [00:06:21] We're preparing their environment. We're preparing ourselves. You know, we're doing our observations. We're doing all of the pieces that keep the environments running. But we're guides because the child is using his own inner will to learn about his world through his experiences. And we're guiding that by doing all of these various things, by preparing the environment and ourselves and everything within it that helps fuel their experience, you know, about learning about who they are to the world and who the world is to them. So that was a little side note. But essentially these choices are guided by the adult in this space. And so when we are offering them, we know that it's choices that we would want them to make. Which leads me into my next point, which is these choices are amazing language opportunities. So if you think about it, if you're holding up two things and you're saying, do you want the red shirt or do you want the blue shirt, you know, and you're holding them up and you're waiting for your child to reach or tell you which one they want. And you clarify it again by saying, oh, you chose the red shirt. You know, you're offering the language to not just, you know, the physical item that's there, but to the action that just happened. You know, you chose this. And I actually have found that the repetition of a lot of the choices that we're offering.
Bianca: [00:07:48] So, for example, something like milk or water is amazing for their language development because we're repeating these words almost like tiny little language lessons throughout their day. We're literally they're holding up these options saying, hey, do you want the milk or do you want the water? And they reached for whichever one they want. And then we repeat, you know, oh, you chose the water. It just becomes an amazing learning experience within this empowerment and, you know, fueling that inner will to learn about their world and just so many, so many amazing pieces that come out of that one tiny little directed choice. And another thing to think about within the language piece is that these directed choices really do give them the language tool to then eventually use once they vocalize a little bit more, you know, so they're essentially able to express their needs and wants a little bit more by having those words, you know what I mean? So it's just an amazing language opportunity. And in addition to everything that I have just said, all of these amazing reasons as to why I offered directed choices all day long. One big, big reason that I really encourage this is that it really helps with limiting power struggles by involving them in their process. So when we're offering directed choices, we're essentially setting the foundation that the child definitely can be the driver of their experience.
Bianca: [00:09:18] And then eventually when babies develop into toddlers, they developmentally begin to seek autonomy. And some of this phase results in testing the limits around them, which I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about. And this may look like, you know, testing their routines where they, for example, sprint away as you're trying to get ready to leave or perhaps they climb on things that they hadn't tried to before. And, you know, they're giving you that. I'm looking to see what you're going to do. Look, you know that look, I know you know what that look is like. And basically the testing looks different in every child. And it is a natural and beautiful part of that seeking autonomy phase of development that emerges as toddler head emerges. But let me tell you, directed choices are a life saver and an amazing tool to working with our autonomy, seeking young toddlers. So as our babies evolve into their head, it is amazing to have this tool in your pocket to pull out. But let me give you my two main tips in regards to this. Consistently offering directed choices is key for them to feel secure within these choices. So as. Essentially, what I mean is that babies and toddlers really thrive off of consistency and feel secure with him the consistency. And so when we offer these choices, it's important to continue to do them and do them consistently throughout their day so that they know, you know, this is what's happening right now.
Bianca: [00:10:53] And then as far as the autonomous nature of toddlerhood goes, they really will feel secure. And the consistency of, oh, I do get to choose this piece, you know. And so that leads me into my next main tip, which is start before toddlerhood emerges. So something to keep in mind, and I'm sure you guys all consciously know this, but babies turn into toddlers. And it's my experience that when babies approach toddlerhood with the understanding that they make the choices, it perfectly aligns with the autonomous nature of toddlerhood. So it really, really helps with those power struggles, with those autonomy seeking moments that naturally happen. And so, for example, something like getting dressed, if we approach the getting just experience, like let's get dressed, honey, you're going to wear this today. You know, even if we're seeing it in a really excited way, the toddler at that point doesn't have any power or decision making because we're essentially choosing for them. And I will tell you that that is occasionally necessary, of course, but as often as we can, if we allow them to be a part of that experience, if we allow them to, you know, make that choice, what they're going to wear, what shoes they're going to wear, which socks they're going to wear, we're really gracefully offering what they're innately going to be seeking at that point in their lives. And so if we offer the choice, like, do you want to wear this or this, these shoes or these shoes, the green bow or the red bow in your hair, you know what I mean? We're offering that autonomy that this young toddler is naturally seeking at this stage.
Bianca: [00:12:43] And another little tip for you, directed choices don't have to necessarily be choices between two physical things. And I know that's the majority of what I've focused on so far, but I want to give you examples as to what I mean by this. There may be a situation where, for example, your 13 month old just pooped in his diaper and needs a diaper change. And when you tell him that he pooped and it's time to change his diaper, you can give him a choice, like saying something along the lines of, do you want to walk to the bathroom by yourself or do you want me to help you? So obviously, the choice here isn't whether or not we're going to change the diaper, because, of course, they need a diaper change and it's our job to keep their bodies as safe as possible. And if we let them sit in there, they'll get a rash, you know. But we're essentially giving them the option as to how we're going to get to the bathroom to change their diaper. And then, furthermore, once we get there, it can be the next choice, can be something like, do they want to lay down to diaper or stand up diaper? You know, which diaper do they want? You know, all of these things that we just kind of naturally choose and go through the motions throughout the day.
Bianca: [00:13:57] If we take a second to slow down and think, is my child at a place in their development where it could be really fun and beneficial for them to make this choice themselves? It might actually be a changing experience for both you and your child within this moment. So these choices can be offered all day long. And they're sincerely amazing for empowering the child and really limiting this power struggles by offering that autonomy within their daily experiences. So things that they're already going to be doing, like eating and putting on their clothes and getting their diapers changed, or if they're already toilet and choosing their underwear, you know, whatever it is, there are choices to be made. And whenever possible, I would just highly encourage the directed choices because it's just so wonderful. So one thing I actually do want to talk about is an informal term that I came up with, and it's called indirect choices. So let's talk about this, a fun fact. I came up with this term as I was writing this episode because I was, you know, talking about directed choices and directed choices. And then the thing that came up in my mind was what are we going to call the choices that they're making within their day to day experiences where the adult isn't necessarily directly involved in that choice.
Bianca: [00:15:22] So I thought, let's call them in directed choices. I grew up playing soccer. And so one of the first things I thought of, even when I first heard the term directed choices, I would direct kick. So naturally indirect kick. in-directed choice, it made sense in my head, so we'll just go with it, but essentially directed choices are limited choices that are directed and offered by the parent or guide and chosen by the child. So in-directed choices are different than directed choices and that their choices that the child gets to make without the adult being involved. And this type of choice only comes with having the prepared environment. These choices are chosen by the child who is driven by his own inner will to explore his world. And this choice might be something like which material he's going to work with off of his Montessori shelf. So whereas, for example, we did set up the space, we set everything up based on our observations, everything's out there and ready to go. But the child might be independently, you know, drawn and working with materials on a shelf. Or if you have a snack station or a functioning kitchen, it may look like your child choosing from their snack traces in the cupboard, preparing their snack, you know, going to their low table and eating their snack at the table.
Bianca: [00:16:40] So, again, these are all things that we put in their cupboard, but we're not they're saying, do you want apples or strawberries or bananas? You know, we're saying here's your prepared environment. You choose, you know, use that inner well into something that you were drawn to and enjoy. You know, another in-directed type of choice would be if you have an armadillo or a small closet or a wardrobe that your child can access, it may look something like them choosing their own clothes out of their closet. Again, we're not sitting there saying you want this or this, but we did prepare their environment and now they get to guide themselves to make decisions within their space. So what's amazing is these types of choices are available because we, the adult, purposefully set up their space to allow them to choose. So to allow decision making within their environment where the adult doesn't have to be physically sitting there offering this verbal choice, it can be something like the adult is obviously present, you know, but observing and watching with the child is driven to and watching what they choose for food and seeing, you know, using observation to see what they're interested in right now, how they're preparing their food. If a different utensil could be more beneficial to their food prep experience or or we're using observation to observe the child with their materials, interacting with the materials on their Montessori shelf or in their grasping basket.
Bianca: [00:18:09] If you don't quite have a Montessori shelf yet, whatever it is, these types of choices are those choices that they get to make within their prepared space, because we set up their space and observed and we're just fueling our child's inner will to learn about their world by preparing their space and allowing them to have that independence within their space, you know. And what I will say is that I have seen some really, really beautiful experiences by using a combination of these two, by having the prepared environment and by allowing the child to freely, you know, drive himself to the materials or to their reading area and choose books and go based off of what the child is choosing by fueling that inner will to learn about their world. I've seen just so many amazing, amazing, amazing moments in both the classroom and the home settings. And so I hope that you try something like that. And as far as the directed choices, I could not recommend them more. I use them all day long in both the classroom. And to this day, I still use them. And so I just feel like if you keep in mind that you have this tool now, this tool of using these choices to empower your child and to offer that child that experience and offer the amazing language opportunities and really adhering to the developmental phase of toddlerhood where they're seeking autonomy all while offering choices that we would want them to make.
Bianca: [00:19:51] It just makes sense, you know. So I definitely recommend it. And if you do try it out, I would love to hear how it goes. So definitely feel free to reach out. And yeah, that's about it for this week. I hope you enjoyed our conversation, undirected choices, and that it is helpful to you and your experiences with your sweet baby or see babies. That is it for this week's episode. So if you haven't already checked out our Patreon account, I have fused my infant development and Montessori consulting experiences with the patriarch in tears. So if that interests you, definitely check it out. And thank you again for listening to Episode 2 of our Montessori Babies Podcast, and I will catch you in the next episode bye! Hey, it's Bianca, your baby tour guide here, hopping back in to say thank you again for listening to this episode of Montessori Babies. If you found this episode helpful and would like more information, hop on over to babytourguide.com and download my free Montessori guide to join our community and receive the latest on optimizing development through a Montessori lens. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @ Baby Tour Guide. Also, if you found this episode helpful to your Montessori practice, I would absolutely love it if you would leave a review to help other parents and educators find our show. Thanks again for listening, and I will catch you in the next episode. Bye!