Many parents ask ‘what is the right age to begin Montessori?’ and the answer to this question will vary greatly depending on who you ask. There are benefits to practising Montessori at every age, but when is the best time to begin?
In this article, we’ll explore the best age to get started with Montessori, whether your child might be too old to begin Montessori and how to get started with Montessori at various stages.
What is the best age to start Montessori?
The absorbent mind is a key principle of Montessori. It describes the sponge-like brain of a child from birth until around six years which allows the child to absorb learning from their environment without conscious effort. This absorbent learning happens naturally and spontaneously.
Around the age of six, the brain begins to transition to a reasoning mind which we have as adults. This brain is much less able to absorb knowledge naturally when it reaches this stage.
For this reason, Montessori is best started from a young age, to get the most possible benefit out of the absorbent mind. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t start Montessori later if you’ve only just discovered it or if the timing hasn’t been right for your family before now.
Can you take a Montessori approach from birth?
Some people are shocked to learn that you can take a Montessori approach from birth. Many people find it easier to begin Montessori as soon as their child is born as the philosophy can then slowly grow with your child until Montessori is ingrained in your lifestyle.
Is my child too old for Montessori?
Although it’s preferable to begin Montessori from a young age, it’s never too late to adopt a Montessori lifestyle. Learning about the Montessori method and adopting the practices into your way of life will bring benefits to the whole family, whatever the ages of your children.
How to begin Montessori with your baby
Babies have an unconscious absorbent mind. Without even trying, they continuously absorb information about the world around them.
When talking about babies, Maria Montessori says: “He is by no means passive. While undoubtably receiving impressions, he is an active seeker in the world. He himself is looking for impressions.”
Taking a Montessori approach from birth lays the foundations for how they will explore the world as they grow. Your baby will also be learning a lot about themselves at this time and a Montessori approach helps to embrace this.
Talk to your baby using the same rich language that you might use for an adult. You’ll begin to notice that your baby understands much more than you realise and using a diverse range of language will help them to develop their own communication skills.
When your baby does try to communicate with you, respond to their efforts immediately. You’ll soon begin to understand their wants and needs before they are even able to speak. Respond to their sounds as if you’re having a conversation – they are learning to take turns in conversation even if it doesn’t make any sense.
When you touch your baby, ask for their permission in a respectful way. This teaches body autonomy and respect from a young age.
Less is more with Montessori, so you don’t need to buy lots of toys. Your baby is able to choose more easily when the options are limited. A few toys made of natural materials such as wood, rubber or fabric are great and your baby will love to grasp and explore these materials, especially with their mouths.
How to begin Montessori with your toddler
Toddlers are known for their fierce independence and their love of learning. Montessori is a fantastic philosophy to follow with your toddler, allowing them to follow their interests and learn at their own pace.
The key to success with Montessori in the toddler years is setting your home up to facilitate your toddler’s learning. Invest in toddler-sized furniture and tools to allow your toddler to be independent. This includes low-level tables and chairs as well as small tools such as a mop, sweeping brush and watering can.
A step-stool or learning tower is also a great investment for your toddler, as they learn best when they are involved in your every day life. Your toddler will love to help you with the daily chores including preparing meals, washing the dishes and cleaning up.
As with babies, less is more. A few well-selected activities will give your toddler options without being overwhelming. You can store anything that isn’t being used and rotate activities when your toddler loses interest.
Resources such as a sorting tray are ideal for setting up engaging activities which stimulate your toddler to develop a wide range of skills such as fine motor skills, visual discrimination and numeracy.
Sustainable wooden toys such as a pre-writing tracing board are perfect for introducing your child to writing techniques in a fun and engaging way.
How to begin Montessori with your child
It’s never too late to begin Montessori with your child. Older children love the independence that Montessori gives them and many parents notice a dramatic difference in the speed of their child’s learning once they adopt a Montessori approach in their home.
You can start by involving your child in your daily activities such as preparing meals, feeding pets, recycling and gardening. They will gradually begin to take on a larger role in these activities as they gain confidence and independence.
It’s easy to underestimate how much your child can learn through helping with everyday activities. For example, baking a cake can help your child to develop fine motor skills, numeracy skills and problem-solving skills.
There are also many Montessori-style activities that you can try at home. These activities help to build concentration and scaffold skills in your child whilst encouraging them to become curious learners and to explore the world around them.
Try to take a step back and observe your child to understand what types of activities they may be interested in. You may find that they enjoy arts and crafts activities such as sewing, painting or clay modelling, or they may be drawn to nature activities such as bird watching or gardening.
There are many activities that you can offer to your child to facilitate their learning, but it’s important to follow their lead. Offering activities that they are interested in will allow them to make the most of their absorbent mind, soaking up the knowledge and learning about their world.
To sum up
To get the most out of Montessori, we’d always recommend beginning as early as possible with your child. It’s perfectly possible to take a Montessori approach from birth and many people find it easier this way as the Montessori lifestyle gradually builds around you as your child grows.
Ultimately, you need to take the approach that is right for your family, whether that is adopting a Montessori approach from the start or when your child becomes a toddler. It’s never too late to adopt a Montessori way of life and will bring benefits to your whole family no matter what age your children are.