Montessori Field Notes: The One-Work Challenge

Q: My child chooses the same work over and over, and doesn't want to do more challenging activities.  Please help!

- Anna

Dear Anna,

We want to give the world to the child and it’s only natural to feel concerned when they hyper-focus on one work in the beautiful sea of choices we offer.  We know time is precious and it can feel maddening to watch them let it slip away by “repeating,” especially as they get older.  

Here are three Montessori-aligned steps you can take:

1. Observe.

What is this behavior communicating?  Ask yourself:

  • What developmental needs and skills are being met when they choose this work?
  • Is your child using the activity to reach self-mastery or to avoid new challenges?  How can you tell?

2. Dig deeper.

  • Is their need to control their work a reaction to a lack of control in other areas of their life?
  • What are you thinking, feeling, and deciding about your child's work choices?
  • Have you had a one-on-one meeting to discuss their relationship with this choice?
    • You can have a formal meeting with an Elementary child, and an informal conversation with a Primary child.

3. Prepare to inspire and expand.

  • How can you add a greater level of challenge to this deep interest?
  • Where can you connect this deep interest to other subject areas?

Prepare the environment to connect this work to more inspiring choices using a mind-map.  Start with his interest, and then jot down how you can connect it to areas of learning in other subjects.

Keep in mind that every interest either runs its natural developmental course or becomes a life-long passion that leads to self-mastery and a sense of self-efficacy.  Either way, by observing your child and checking your perceptions, you'll be able to use their deep interest as a springboard for new learning.


Meghan Rinehart



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