Developed by Dr Maria Montessori over 100 years ago, the Montessori philosophy is focussed on the belief that children are capable of initiating their own learning experiences. It’s a great way to recognise and develop your child’s inherent ability to learn about the world around them through meaningful play.
Many assume that Montessori education can only be facilitated in a Montessori nursery or school. However, by making a few changes to your home environment, you can foster your child’s natural curiosity at home.
It can be hard to know where to start when you’re implementing a Montessori philosophy in your home. There’s so many amazing Montessori activities and resources out there and it can feel overwhelming at first.
We’ve put together our top tips to help you to get started with practicing Montessori at home.
Bringing Montessori principles into your home
Before beginning with Montessori, you need to change your mindset. Your child is capable of so much more than you realise, and your job is to facilitate, encourage and nurture this capability. Once you have acknowledged this, you can begin to make changes to your home environment to set yourself and your child up for Montessori success.
Respect your child – Montessori principles are centred around respecting your child as an individual, with their own likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Speak and listen to your child in the same way that you would an adult.
Be led by your child – Take a moment to really observe your child. What does your child like to play with? What motor skills are they working on? Does your child try to participate in your daily life?
When you understand what your child is interested in and what stage they’re at, you can begin to provide opportunities to follow that interest. Children learn best when they’re interested in what they’re learning. This also means keeping your child’s pace. Don’t try to rush them – follow their lead.
Include your child in your daily life – Young children love to be involved in your daily life, and this makes up a huge part of their learning. You can get them involved in food preparation, setting the table, cleaning, helping with shopping and anything else that you do on a daily basis.
Provide hands-on learning opportunities – Children learn best when they’re actively involved in their learning. Provide concrete learning experiences which focus on discovering things for themselves.
Some great examples of hands on learning include water play such as pouring, puzzles, The Pink Tower and Red Rods. Wooden toys such as tracing boards and sorting trays offer hands on learning opportunities whilst promoting a sustainable lifestyle.
Be the guide – Your role is to guide your child. Give them just as much help as they require – no more and no less. Try not to use extrinsic motivators such as bribes, rewards or punishments, instead guiding your child to become intrinsically motivated.
Creating a Montessori environment in your home
The key to starting Montessori at home is to prepare the learning environment. You can create a prepared environment within your home by making a few small changes. This will make your home more accessible and inviting for your child.
Less is more – Young children can easily become over-whelmed when there are lots of activities to choose from. This can affect their concentration and impact their ability to learn. Try to limit activities to a carefully selected few and store anything that isn’t being used out of sight. You can rotate between activities when your child loses interest.
Homemade is just as good – When you’re just getting started, you probably don’t want to spend a lot. You can make the most of materials that you already have in your home. For example, bowls, spoons, measuring cups, jars and cardboard boxes all make great learning materials.
Set your child up for independence – You can encourage independence by setting your home up in a way that is accessible to your child. It’s a great idea to invest in a learning tower or step-stool so that your child can reach high surfaces without asking for help.
Keeping items such as toys, books and cleaning tools at a low level and using trays and baskets to arrange activities can also encourage independence in your child.
Keep it child-sized – Invest in a table and chair which is the right size for your child. Their feet should sit flat on the ground. It may be that you need to cut the legs of the table and chair to make them the right height for your child. If your child is comfortable, their concentration span will be extended.
See the world through your child’s eyes – Take a moment to sit on the floor and see what your child sees. Is the room attractive from their height? You can then take steps to improve the low-level environment if you need to, such as hanging artwork or placing plants at your child’s level.
Montessori activities to try at home
When you’re first getting started with Montessori, it can be hard to know what to do. Here are a few Montessori-style activities that you could try at home:
Art and craft – Art and craft activities are great for encouraging creativity whilst developing fine motor skills. You can try drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, sticking, sewing, playdough or clay.
Life skills – Learning doesn’t always have to be planned out. Your child will enjoy helping you to prepare a snack or meals, gardening, cleaning and helping with laundry.
Hand-eye coordination – Activities such as threading, sorting, throwing, catching and posting are great for developing hand-eye co-ordination. Wooden toys such as puzzles and ring stackers are also perfect for improving hand-eye coordination in your child.
Music – To stimulate creativity in your child, try banging or shaking instruments to music and singing. This will help them to develop a sense or rhythm as well as fostering a love for music.
Movement – Movement activities are a fun way to developing gross motor skills. Try running, skipping, jumping, climbing, swinging and even riding a bike. It’s also great for your child to spend time outdoors, immersing themselves in nature. Luckily, most of these activities can be done both indoors and outdoors.
Language – Reading books, baskets of classified objects and even just talking to your child can help to develop their language skills.
Take away message
Beginning Montessori at home can feel like a big change, especially if it isn’t something you’ve had much experience of before. You can start small and add on new aspects as you go along, or you can go all in to start.
When you find your feet with Montessori, your eyes will be opened to the capabilities and potential of your child and you will quickly begin to see the benefits of following a Montessori philosophy at home.