Photos taken in collaboration with Larry Toh and Ang Wei Ming, featuring our ParentWise families

“The period of infancy is undoubtedly the richest. It should be utilised by education in every possible and conceivable way. The waste of this period of life can never be compensated. Instead of ignoring the early years, it is our duty to cultivate them with the utmost care.” – Dr. Alexis Carrel

When I became a parent for the first time, I remember vividly how excited I was with the possibility of buying the most delightful array of things known to man.

I couldn’t resist baby fairs and even recall buying a blender specifically meant to purée baby food. Little did I know that I had succumbed to marketing gimmicks, much to the innocent ignorance of my new-born baby.

What I painfully realised years later, after I completed my Montessori Assistant certifications, was that I never needed to purchase multiple sets of cheap plastic toys to keep my baby “entertained”.

What was most important was to be a "present mum" and providing a simple and intentional home environment that supported my children’s natural developmental needs, where they could freely explore it while keeping them safe.

As parents, we can apply positive parenting principles in our homes so we can raise children who feel secure and can trust in us, themselves and their surroundings.

When we provide a home where our children feel safe because they know where things are, have routines and structure, and thus predictability, we are able to establish a relationship with them that is built on mutual respect, belief, and unconditional love.

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Children are capable of their own learning in such spaces. Even infants are more capable than what most people believed them to be, and learning can start from the moment of birth.

Knowing that you as a parent have a trusting and loving relationship with your children is the greatest gift of security you can provide to them, even when the home feels chaotic at times.

AN ENVIRONMENT SET UP FOR SECURE ATTACHMENTS

Children between the ages of 0-6 are highly sensitive to order in the home, which is characterised by an intense desire for consistency, predictability, and repetition. They’re also at an age where they unconsciously absorb everything from their environment without much effort.

Children thrive with established and predictable routines and can be deeply disturbed by disorder. Our homes must therefore be carefully organised with a place for everything, while keeping in mind our family’s boundaries based on our values.

As a KonMari® Home Organising Coach, I encourage families I work with to tidy their homes by category, keeping only things that give them happiness and serve a purpose.

By being intentional with our surroundings, we become positive role-models to our children and set the stage for how they view things as simply “vehicles” of comfort and convenience, rather than be defined by them.

By involving them in caring for and maintaining our homes, we enable our children to feel capable, self-reliant, and independent.

5 PRINCIPLES FOR A HEALTHY HOME

1. Less is more

A cluttered environment increases stress hormone levels, which increase activity in the part of the brain that manages emotions and decreases activity in the part of the brain responsible for cognitive function. Klemfuss, J.Z., Wallin, A.R., & Quas, J. A. (2018). Attachment, household chaos, and children's health. Families, Systems, & Health, 36(3), (303-314)

Studies have shown that when lesser materials are made available to children, they are able to give them more attention leading to focused play.

Keep a few toys out individually in shallow baskets or trays and place them on low, accessible shelves. Dauch,C., et al. (2018). The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers' play. Infant and Behavior Development, 50, 78-87
When you observe that certain materials aren’t being played with, rotate them out with the extras that are stored and kept away to renew interest.

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2. A place for everything, and everything in its place

When there is external order in the home, children trust in not only their home environment but also in their ability to find things in consistent locations. This makes them feel safe and secure, and as they get older, this internalises as intellectual order.

Place all similar items in a single category in one location of the home and have consistent routines in the same location at home. This provides the foundation for a trusting and respectful relationship with our children.

home for children

3. Freedom within limits

It is only through freedom that one can naturally develop an "inner discipline" or "will" to make choices easily. You can’t have one without the other.

At first, children make choices because they are curious, rather than how those choices affect their lives. They want to understand the world around them so they can be a part of it. They then start to make choices slowly with the knowledge of what they want, which comes with experience.

In a positive home environment, there are well established boundaries based on mutual respect, the family’s needs, and values. Thus, children have the freedom to explore and repeat tasks within firm yet kind limits.

For example, I offer limited choices of clothing to my children, who then have the freedom to choose what to wear amongst those options.

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4. Support their growing independence

A child’s process of growing is a succession of acquisitions of independence. As parents, we can:

•Prepare a suitable home environment that is safe for your child to explore on their own

•Have furniture, tools, clothes that can be used without your help

•Model what it looks like to care for our home

•Invite and engage them in meaningful and purposeful work that helps them live daily life

•Provide clear choices that help in the natural development of will

•Encourage their attempts – a responsive adult is the foundation for a child’s basic trust in the world

•Respect both the child’s natural developmental needs and our needs


5. Provide opportunities to contribute

Children want to be a part of the world of adults and to feel a sense of significance and belonging.

As parents, we can offer multiple ways for our children to help out at home and refrain from doing work for them when they are perfectly capable of doing so.

Demonstrate and break down a task into simple steps, be patient and have realistic expectations while they take time to learn. Tweak the difficulty level of the task by observation and enjoy watching how much joy they take in repeating and perfecting a task.

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Simple tasks that a toddler can be in involved in around the home are:

• Folding and putting away clean laundry

• Putting away their toys and books in designated trays, baskets, or shelves

• Helping with food preparation

• Setting the table for a meal

• Clearing the table and floor after a meal


We don’t need to make activities “fun” for our children. Not only is it impossible to sustain, but we are also missing the point that children actually want to contribute at home.

As pedagogical consultant Suzanne Axelsson says, “It's not about making children happy or making the learning fun, it is about awakening the joy within each child."

Dr Aparna Sundar is a KonMari® home organising Consultant, sustainability advocate, and Montessori Positive Parenting Coach. She is passionate about empowering parents in fostering meaningful family connections by creating a peaceful home environment through mindful organising strategies.

She shares her family’s low waste lifestyle, Montessori-inspired parenting journey, and tips to organise your home using the KonMari® Method on Instagram.

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Tags: Child Development /Parent-Child Relationships