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WHAT WE CAN LEARN ABOUT EDUCATION FROM OUR DISTANT ANCESTORS

Education has come a long way since the days of rulers used for discipline and nearly windowless classrooms to promote focus. Nevertheless, more and more parents are looking at ways to get back to more simple times. What if we delve back in time even further? Turns out, prehistoric parents can teach us a bunch about education!


A mother with her toddler wrapped around her back picking vegetables

OBSERVE, IMITATE & DO


Prehistoric infants and toddlers got to observe almost everything there was to learn in their world. From the safety of an auntie’s arms or the back of their mother, they saw and absorbed everything the grown-ups were doing. After observing how to look for berries (and, more importantly, which ones to avoid), how to build shelter, and how to interact peacefully with your fellow humans, once they were physically ready, the little ones were capable to start imitating.


And very quickly to start actually doing the tasks for themselves. Our modern-day takeaway: show your child everything you’re doing, even if they can’t participate yet. That could look like wearing your baby when doing laundry and inviting your toddler to sit next to you while answering emails for work.



STORYTIME


Sitting around a fire and listening to exciting stories is more than just a fun way to end a productive day. Hunter-gatherers might not have guessed it, but hearing stories about the history of their people does wonders for the mental health of children. Being in touch with their roots helps little ones make sense of their world and feel connected. Try telling your kids stories about what school looked like for their grandparents and about your favorite toys when you were their age. They’ll love it - and it’s great for them.


A picture of bonfire

INVISIBLE SAFETY NET


Toddlers and preschoolers are surprisingly capable. But clearly, anticipating dangerous situations isn’t yet their strong suit! To keep them safe and still provide lots of opportunities for practicing autonomy, prehistoric parents used an invisible safety net. For example, when a two-year-old decided to follow the men hunting on a treacherous trail, mom sent a nine-year-old along to look out for her, but without being seen. To help your own child develop autonomy, try to be as unobtrusive as possible when you need to keep her safe. Perhaps you can issue less warnings or simply talk less in certain situations. Or you can try looking casual beneath the monkey bars, while actually standing on high alert.


A child holding a basket full of wild blueberries

HELPING OUT FELLOW HUMANS


Prehistoric kids were very much involved in the care of little ones. Toddlers helped entertain babies. Five-year-olds taught toddlers how to fish. Nine-year-olds taught five-year-olds how to hunt. That’s prime education for not only the younger child but, the older child as well. So if you’ve got a couple of kids, never feel bad for asking them to help take care of a sibling.


Speaking of help, little kids are highly motivated to learn, especially if it helps their fellow humans. The great thing about this is not just what they learn from the task or that they take stuff off your plate. Most importantly, it’s like magic for keeping their motivation going and building good character. Children are very sensitive to whether they are actually helping or not, and when they are, they feel like a valued member of the tribe. Letting children help is, of course, completely in line with the Montessori approach.


A child helping her mom in the kitchen

One more hint straight from the Stone Age:


Make sure to collaborate as much as possible since little kids love nothing more than doing things together with you. An extra benefit is that this provides a personalized lesson.


Carmen

 

ABOUT Carmen from DESIGN STUDIO TETI

Picture of Carmen from Design Studio Teti
Carmen from Design Studio Teti

Montessori-loving mama of two tiny tots that I try to get outside in the Dutch sunshine as much as possible. Indoors, I love sitting down with a cup of coffee and designing printables that are inspired by them. My shop covers a broad range of items, ranging from teaching materials to resume templates to wedding planners.

 

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