The Montessori Method of education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician, which she achieved in 1896. In 1901, she gave up her work in the clinic and studied philosophical education and pedagogical pathology. Dr. Montessori based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes.
What I love about Dr. Montessori is that she always emphasized respect for children. She believed even very young children have a sense of personal dignity, and therefore she advocated for allowing children freedom of choice to choose their activities and also for teaching them autonomy – to do things for themselves. She discovered that children had a wonderful ability for deep concentration at tasks that interested them and also a great sense of order. Children are naturally eager learners, and Montessori believed they are capable of initiating learning in a prepared environment.
The question is can one provide a Montessori environment at home? The answer is yes! Here’s how:
Your child needs freedom to move and explore the environment. Prepare a place in your home where your child is allowed to freely explore without interference and “no’s”. Make this space clean and clutter-free, pleasing to the eye, engaging, and of course, safe.
Provide simple toys for babies and toddlers, such as wooden blocks, rings with a rocking base, and simple wooden puzzles. You may want to create a busy board with a real key and lock, zippers, buttons, wheels, etc. You can find many ideas for busy boards online. Provide several different baskets of activities, all neatly arranged and easy to see, and allow your child the freedom to choose at will. Montessori emphasizes learning through all 5 senses, so be sure to include activities that stimulate each sense.
Montessori believed that having external order can help children develop a sense of internal order. Therefore, the environment should be neat and orderly, and everything should have a place. Teach your child to put things away when they are finished. Make tidying up a habit when your child is a toddler as this gives him some control over the order of his environment.
Look at your home through your child’s eyes. Put things within reach. Low and open shelves and child-sized furniture are staples in the Montessori environment. Provide light weight step stools at sinks and arrange things such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand soap within reach, as well as snacks low in the refrigerator and cups accessible for getting their own drinks.
Montessori believed that young children have a need for purposeful work, not to complete a job but for the activity itself. It is good for children to have small-sized brooms, mops, and buckets so that they can be involved in cleaning up. Teach children self-care – how to blow their noses, brush their own teeth, bathe themselves, and dress themselves as toddlers. Allow for many choices throughout their day – which cup, which shirt, etc. – and this will also foster a sense of independence. Stand back and let them try things and only offer help when needed.
If you want an easy way to start using Montessori activities at home, Montessori By Mom provides themed Toolboxes with hours and hours of activities. Having all the material together saves time and money. They include instruction videos so you don’t need any previous experience. I have used them and both of my children love their Montessori Toolboxes. They enjoy playing with the materials time and time again.
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Maria Montessori