Montessori at Home: Using Scissors and Flower Arranging

Welcome back, dear Readers!  Spring is here, and the days are getting warmer and longer!  Our yard is full of wildflowers, and the children are noticing the variety and enjoying the abundance.  A few days ago, my son disappeared to the side yard with his child-sized scissors (that he is allowed to use both indoors and outdoors) and came back with a large, freshly cut bouquet of yellow ragwort.  He asked me to take the bouquet inside and place it in a vase.  And now there’s a bouquet of yellow ragwort on our dining room table.  Every time I walk by it, I smile–those yellow flowers make such a cheerful addition to the room, and my son seemed so happy and satisfied to cut those flowers to bring inside our house.  This experience reminded me of the importance of giving children space and freedom to play and explore and choose one’s activities.  And it also highlights the joy that comes from being confident in one’s abilities.

My son is almost 5, and he’s been working with scissors for several years, mostly inside where I can observe him.  His practice with scissors began with cutting playdough (cutting paper was too frustrating for him at the beginning), and the rule was that all scissor work had to be done at the dining room table.  Now after several years of practice, his abilities and confidence have grown, he’s safe and *mostly* responsible (one of our dogs has received a few haircuts) while using scissors, and he remembers to return them to a high spot on the shelf out of his younger sister’s reach; as a result, he is allowed the freedom to use scissors outside where I am unable to observe.

Although my original intention in sharing this story about my son was to introduce the work of flower arranging that is available to children in a Montessori classroom, I actually want to encourage you to make child-sized (blunt tipped) scissors available to children as a way to build hand strength and confidence–the applications are far-reaching!  In the beginning, set limits and demonstrate how to safely handle the scissors and where to store them (especially important if there are younger children in the home).  Be open to what materials are available for cutting–different kinds of paper, playdough, and thin flower stems are just a few ideas.  Observe the child, and allow more freedom as s/he demonstrates the ability and understanding of safe use.

Lastly, if flower arranging is something of interest to you and the children in your care, here is a simplified breakdown of the steps to help you consider ways to make this process accessible to a child:

  • fill vase with water–directly from faucet or with the help of a smaller pitcher
  • use scissors to cut flower stems
  • arrange stems in vase
  • choose location for the arrangement on table, sturdy shelf, etc
  • discard cuttings in compost or trash