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The REAL Story about Different-Colored Socks

There is a long-told story in many Montessori parent newsletters about letting your young child go to school with different colored socks. The points they make are good ones: (1) you allow your child to be independent, and (2) by not correcting the mismatched colors, you help your child’s confidence build by letting him/her “do it myself.” It also isolates two skills and lets a child develop each one independently. The first skill is choosing and putting on the sock. The second skill is matching the colors before choosing. Better to master the first skill before taking on the second. Asking a very young child to incorporate both skills simultaneously when first learning about putting on socks is a recipe for failure, leading to discouragement, lost initiative, and a loss of confidence.

In Montessori, and especially at Albemarle Montessori, we talk about “preparing the environment” so that the young child can experience success. I would suggest that, instead of having multiple pairs of socks in your child’s drawer, you only put two or three pairs in the drawer. Find a way to bundle each pair together either with a rubber band or by tying each pair of socks (if long enough) into a simple knot. By doing this, your child is still focused just on the first skill (retrieving and putting on his or her own socks). The second challenge has already been done; you’ve prepared for your child to have success. As your child continues to have success with the first, you can begin letting go of the pairing and leave it to your child to develop. Take the rubber bands off and just connect each pair of socks by folding them over and placing each pair separately in the drawer. Continue to only have a few pairs of socks in your child’s drawer because a child up to six years of age craves order, and you are helping to model/support that tendency.

The important points in this are to prepare the environment, to allow your child to be independent, and to let your child feel success by carrying out his or her independence.

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