The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori over a hundred years ago for impoverished children in Italy. She observed, listened, and refined her method. It became an pedagogical approach used around the globe impacting not only the classroom but parenting. She firmly believed that children were capable and their educational journey was more effective if it was child-led in an intentionally crafted environment. The teacher’s role was to act as a guide. Observing, presenting, and modeling (with most of their time spent observing). But how can we apply this at home?
The key to implementing the Montessori Method in the home environment is two fold: preparing the environment and the guide (aka parent!). Let’s start with how to prepare your Montessori environment. The inclination can be to start with buying but the best way to get started at home isn’t to grab all the Montessori materials, toys, or furniture (although long term you may add some to your environment). The first step is to look at your environment from the viewpoint of the child. Get down on their level. Don’t focus on baby proofing or child proofing. Instead, I invite you to shift to asking yourself how can I make this more accessible for my child? You may find that before you are able to do this, you need to quiet your space. In fact, you don’t need to run out and grab materials or new toys at this time (although you will start shifting what you are looking for long term!). You just need to reduce the amount and shift the way you present what you have.
Once you have prepared your environment, it is time to prepare the guide. In order to prepare fully, you will need to understand the Montessori Method, work on your own mindset, and prepare spiritually. I highly recommend reading “The Montessori Method” as well as “The Absorbent Mind” by Maria Montessori. They are excellent reads. You may find yourself coming back to them over time. To prepare to apply Montessori from birth, I highly recommend reading “Montessori from the Start” by Paula Polk Lillard. If you are diving in with a toddler, I highly recommend reading “The Montessori Toddler” by Simone Davies.
The next step is to observe your child. Set aside some time to simply watch how your child interacts with the environment. What activities are they choosing? Which materials/toys are regularly selected? What tasks are repeated and enjoyed? What interests do they have? Do everything you can not to interrupt your child. Do not guide or direct their play/activity. You also don’t want to be obvious in your observations. This may interrupt their play. Instead, hold space for the child’s work cycle and observe it. It can be hard to prioritize observation but this is essential!
Note: You may find that if your child is used to adult led play that you need to shift to helping them have independence in play. I found these resources helpful from Janet Lanesbury to facilitate child led, independent play in the home. Here is my favorite article on getting started with babies and here is my favorite on getting started with toddlers.
Once you have created an environment that is ideal and observed your child, it’s time to dive in with supporting their current interests in a Montessori way. For example, you may notice that your toddler is dumping her puzzles, your baby is very engaged with peek-a-boo, and your preschooler is begging for your scissors. For your toddler, you can present the puzzle (assuming it is age appropriate) undone. Put the puzzle pieces in a basket and set the tray on the shelf beside the basket. For your baby, bring out a object permanence box so she can happily explore the concept over and over. For your preschooler, simply draw lines on cardstock or construction paper. Make some lines straight, some zig zap, some go in circles. Cut out around these to create cutting work for the child. These are just a few examples, if your child is older, the concept still applies!
Want to see how we do Montessori at home? Check out more posts here.