Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dressing Frames

At this time of year I find myself thinking often of the dressing frames in our classroom. (These are wooden frames with various fasteners used to connect the material in the frame - zipper, buttons, snaps, hook & eye, safety pins, lacing, bow tying, etc - and they are used to teach the independent skills required to dress oneself.) The fasteners are chosen with care so that the zipper is easily pulled up and the button hole is not too small for the button; the snaps are not too stiff for little fingers and the tying frame's ribbons are just stiff enough to facilitate bow tying. In our hemisphere, by the time the weather turns cold and winter clothes are needed, the children (especially the youngest) have been practising for months and are eager to try out their new skills.

     Oh, if only manufacturers of children's winter clothing were as particular about fasteners as are Montessori teachers! At times it seems as though children's clothes are designed on another planet. Many of the zippers, buttons, snaps and clasps used are beyond the skills of many adults let alone the fingers of a 3 year old! It breaks my heart to watch our youngest students struggle and strain with poorly made plastic fasteners. After months spent practising with the dressing frames the light of success dims in a child's eyes when he has to turn in frustration and cry "I can't do this!".

     This is where parents can help their children retain that feeling of success. When a new coat or jacket needs to be purchased, take the child with you. (This is especially important if you buy gently used clothing, as I do.) Restrain yourself from purchasing something that is "cute" if your child can't fasten the garment without help. In addition, take some time at home to practise with the new clothes before the child actually has to wear the garment. A few minutes spent zipping up a new coat one quiet afternoon may make for an easier time on  busy mornings when everyone is rushing to get out the door. The more we can help children build on their successes, the more independent they will become.

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