You may have heard of Montessori but - unless you've had a child in a Montessori school or learning environment or know someone who does - you may not know how useful the principles of Montessori can be in raising children. We all want our children to be happy, independent and safe, but those things can sometimes seem mutually exclusive when it comes to toddlers. Using the principles of Montessori can make the whole process much easier. Keen to find out how? Let's go.
Developed by Dr Maria Montessori in the early 19th century, the Montessori Method is the result of her years of observation and work with children. It's founded upon a few basic principles:
Obviously, some of these are easier to replicate at home than others, and some are more conceptual than practical. For example, respect for the child and sensitive periods really just speak to an attitude of observation and attention, as does teaching roles and the absorbent mind. Others, such as preparing the environment, and respecting the three-hour work cycle are easier to implement at home.
One of the easiest is the prepared environment. You can do this from the very earliest days with your baby, by creating a space that is designed for them. For a newborn, this might be a series of mobiles, or propping board books up around a play mat for them to look at during tummy time. It means observing what stimulates their interest and tailoring the environment to work for them."
For a toddler, you might prepare your home with low shelves containing open-ended toys and provide ways in which they can exercise their independence in safe ways. This might include a small kitchen space, with real cups, glasses and plates, as well as water and snacks for them to help themselves to. Yes, there will be messes and spills - it's part of the learning process - but you can also provide materials for them to clean up the mess. It's genuinely amazing to see what children can learn if you give them the chance to be independent, and you'll reap the rewards far sooner than you might think.
The three-hour work cycle is another important one. As adults in our computer/social media/email/push notification world struggle with concentration. The Montessori three-hour work cycle aims to foster a desire to concentrate, a love of focus from very early on. At home, you can work with that by having a routine that takes into account these work cycles. Sure, small kids might not be able to do so at first, but with consistency and stability, it's something they'll grow into."
The Montessori Method is about creating what some people refer to as 'yes spaces' but throughout the house. The idea is to ensure that your child sees themselves as a valuable and contributing member of the family. But that's only possible if they can reach and contribute. Things like covering plug points, removing delicate breakables, gating unsafe areas, and creating ways for toddlers to help themselves rather than ask for help."
It can be a bit of a transition if you're not used to it, and you need to be prepared for messes (and have a bit of patience). But the rewards are worth it. By allowing your child the opportunity to practice, repeat, mess, clean up and help themselves, you are fostering a spirit of independence, intrinsic reward and so much more. The principles of Montessori don't have to come from the school environment; they can come from home and be enormously helpful."