You know that expression, "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?"
Here's a similar idea: Wipe your child's face and it will be clean until the next meal. Teach a child to use a wipe and a mirror, and their face will always be clean!"
Okay, a toddler might not have a clean face for a lifetime, but offering a self-care station allows your little one to begin practicing skills like face-wiping, teeth-brushing, and more.
And it's really simple! A self-care station is just a mirror hung at your child's level so that they can walk up to it on their own two feet.
Dr. Montessori wrote, “Everyone knows that it requires much more time and patience to teach a child how to eat, wash, and clothe himself than it does to feed, bathe, and clothe him by oneself. The one who does the former is an educator.”
Taking extra time to show your child how to do things independently will be exciting for both of you. You may have noticed by now that toddlers love doing everything themselves.
Pro tip: A self-care station pays off big-time when it's time to leave the house. Would you like me to put your hat on for you or would you like to put it on yourself in front of your mirror?
Giving your little one self-care jobs they can master results in self-confidence that no amount of “help” can give.
Set up a self-care station to empower your child to participate in washing, brushing, and dressing.
Here's what you'll need to create a self-care station
- Start by following your child's current interest. Do they want to select their own clothing or might they be more interested in using the sink in the bathroom? Use whatever space you have, but you might want to focus first either on a getting dressed station or a personal hygiene routine.
- Place a mirror at your child's eye level. This conveys that the space is designed for them and that we, as caregivers, want to give them an environment that meets their needs. Instead of lifting them up to see the mirror over our own bathroom sink, they are now welcome to use the mirror at any time.
- Install hooks or shelves for their self-care belongings. Anticipate the tasks you want to introduce and design a path that will allow your child to do as many of the steps by themselves as possible. (Browse the photos in this post for ideas!)
- Offer a stool for access to things you cannot move lower. If turning off the light is part of the routine you are modeling, perhaps the stool will stay next to the light switch. Your child can move it to the sink to wash hands and then move it back to the light switch to turn the light off.
Using Water In A Self-Care Station
Monti Kids families have come up with a variety of solutions to bring water to the child's level for handwashing.
A simple solution is to have a large bowl that serves as a child's basin, with a jug from which the adult pours water to fill it.
A large water dispenser is another popular solution. Toddlers can quickly learn to open the tap to wet their toothbrush or fill a cup of water.
Self-care station for dressing
When it comes to getting dressed, the Montessori approach guides us to only do for our child the tasks that they can not do for themselves. So, while they may not be able to pick appropriate clothes or shoes for the weather-- a battle most of us have lost at some point! -- we solve this by only making available a small number of items to choose from.
A low-hanging clothing rack and shelves allows a child to select their clothing from limited options. Baskets can corral socks, underwear, and pajamas. A small hamper will enable little ones to place their dirty clothes in the right place before changing into clean clothes. A basket with handles like the one pictured above invites your child to carry their dirty clothes to the laundry area.
Expectations for self-care
When possible, invite your child to participate in caring for themselves. These tasks will start as choices or collaborations (let's put your pants on together!) and grow into tasks that they are able to complete independently.
We get it: They might not do it the way you'd do it! Each of us has a different level of tolerance for our toddlers' unique way of matching clothing or styling their hair. You might need to look away. 🙈
Self-Care Station Favorites
The concept of a self-care station is flexible. It can expand as your child is ready to do more tasks. It's all about helping a little one build confidence as they learn to take care of their own bodies.
Some items that Monti Kids families like to make available to their children include:
- tissues for nose-wiping
- soap and water for hand-washing (tip: break a full-size bar of soap in half for easier handling)
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- diapering items for stand-up changes
- a small towel for drying hands
- stool for reaching the sink which can also be used for assistance when putting on clothes or shoes
Other items you might find useful when setting up a self-care station:
- Monti Kids Toilet Learning Kit
- IKEA KALLAX shelves
- Sprout Kids Montessori wardrobe (Save 10% with code MONTIALBA)
- Small tension rods for DIY clothes hanging inside shelves
- Monti Kids Self-Care Station (Mirror with Hooks)
- Water dispenser
- Command hooks for fast installations
Monti Kids Self-Care Station (Mirror)was created to support a toddler’s growing independence so that they can care for themselves in a space that’s uniquely theirs. $115
- Mirror with shelf made of Baltic birch wood
- Child-safe 1.5mm acrylic mirror
- Three beech wood pegs allow children to hang clothes
- Includes wall mounting hardware and instructions
- No assembly required