Maximum Effort and How to Help Your Toddler Reach It

Maria Montessori observed that toddlers have a need to build their strength through purposeful, heavy work. In her 1946 London Lectures, she said, “They must be able to do things which require a great effort. They need big, heavy, things.” Perhaps you’ve noticed this with your own toddler — she wants to carry all of the things that you think are too heavy for her, or she’s constantly moving containers of things from one place to another all over your house. This is an example of your toddler demonstrating a need to reach maximum effort!

There are so many ways you can meet this need around the house without creating any extra materials:

  • Helping load clothes into the washer or switching from washer to dryer
  • Carrying dishes to the kitchen
  • Carrying in groceries from the car and to the correct location
  • Pushing the garbage can out to the curb
  • Pushing a full laundry basket to the washer or back to her room

You can also provide for this need through specific activities:

  • A cart to fill with objects and push around the house
  • A lug jug — a gallon of water to carry from one mark on the floor to another
  • Balls to throw or roll 
  • A small backpack to fill up and carry around
  • Large nature objects to move around the house (small pumpkins, or a basket of rocks)

In those same lectures, Montessori said, “Children make a great effort to conquer the environment, They do as much as they can as soon as they can. They apply a maximum effort.”  How will you prepare your environment to allow your child to apply maximum effort?