Homespun Montessori: Wool Dryer Balls

“If I were to establish a primary principle, it would be to constantly allow the child’s participation in our lives. To extend to the child this hospitality, to allow him to participate in our work can be difficult, but it costs nothing. Our time is a far more precious gift than material objects,” said Maria Montessori.

If I had to pick my favorite Montessori quote, the above would certainly be in top consideration. I love the concept of extending ‘hospitality’ to our children and generously welcoming them to join in our daily tasks, thereby recognizing them as capable of assisting in the affairs of the household.

Inviting children to participate, however, is not always easy. More preparation is often needed, and, most certainly, the abandonment of any timetable. As Montessori says, it can be downright difficult sometimes.

Yet the value and importance of human connection cannot be overstated. Making a conscious effort to include children in your own tasks pays dividends.

For the child:

  • pride in their abilities
  • joyfulness at having been able to participate
  • a boost in self confidence
  • learning new skills and vocabulary naturally
  • a true building up on one’s character

And don’t forget the benefits working with your children brings to you as well, most notably an opportunity to slow down, a chance to see the world through the lens of a child again, a moment to revel in the beauty of the mundane, and perhaps, most importantly, a moment to truly invest in your relationship with your child.

Have you made wool dryer balls before? This time invite your child to participate. It's a wonderful practical life activity for Montessori-inspired homes! Children as young as 3-4 should be able to assist and those closer to 5 should be able to make them independently. It's great for developing fine motor skills and concentration.#homeeducation #practicallife #montessoriathome #finemotoractivity

So with the weather (finally!) turning chillier this week and having made a commitment to a ‘52 Weeks to a Greener Home’ challenge, I invited Lilly to join me in making wool dryer balls. They are a very simple, affordable, and effective way to be a bit more environmentally friendly.

Because making wool dryer balls uses fine motor skills and requires concentration it really is a wonderful practical life activity for children.

Utilizing wool dryer balls in your home supposedly reduces drying time by as much as 50 percent(!), thereby saving electricity. Since they’re all natural, there’s no need to worry about any nasty chemicals coating the fibers of your clothing, and they will never clutter up a landfill. Wool will not negatively effect the absorbency of your towels and household linens like dryer sheets do; in fact, wool dryer balls reportedly help to naturally soften laundered items.

Obviously, line drying laundry is ideal from an environmental standpoint, but it’s not always possible for our family to do so, especially not in the winter time, so this seemed like a perfectly simple crafting project for us to undertake together.

For this endeavor, Lilly and I had already purchased a skein of 100% wool yarn a few weeks in advance using a 50% off coupon at Joann’s Fabrics. Once Alice had fallen asleep for her nap, I brought the skein out and gave it to Lilly and then went and made myself a cup of tea.

I’ve noticed that upon introducing a new activity it’s oftentimes best if I remove myself from the room for a few moments to allow her the opportunity to fully explore the material(s) on her own, without me feeling the need to begin “instructing” in any sort of way. Old habits and all, I suppose.

“Never interfere when a child is working by himself. Don’t be preoccupied about whether he is making mistakes; you must not correct him at this moment. The important thing is not that the child should handle the material well, but that this material has attracted the attention of the child,” says Maria Montessori.

She spent several minutes wrapping the yarn around her fingers, until eventually, her hand tangled beneath a bundle of wool, she asked how were we going to form a ball.

I demonstrated how we could take the loose bundle of yarn off her fingers and begin to wrap it, first one side for a bit and then another, rotating it around and around, until a small ball began to materialize.

This is hard work for little fingers and requires a lot of concentration.

We took turns wrapping the yarn around the ball, to give each of our fingers a little rest as Lilly said.

Once our yarn bundle had approached the size of a tennis ball, Lilly cut the yarn from the skein and then I showed her how to wrap the tail of the yarn around a crochet hook and push it under several layers of the ball to secure it.

Once we finished making our third wool ball, we stuffed them into one of my husband’s dress socks and tied a tight knot in between them so they wouldn’t felt to one other.

Usually we wash all clothes in cold water, but for the wool to felt properly it needs to be exposed to hot water so I switched to the hot cycle for the next few loads of laundry. I left the wool dryer balls in their cozy dress sock for 3 wash and dry cycles and then untied the knots and checked to make sure they were felted.

If you prefer them scented, I’ve read you can add a few drops of an essential oil.

Wool dryer balls come together rather quickly. I think they would make a thoughtful gift for adult family members and/or friends that a preschool-aged child or older could easily make with minimal assistance.

What other practical crafts do you enjoy making with your children? I’d love to hear about them! Please leave me a comment below.

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