The magic of Montessori is that it is so focused on the development of a child, that it can – and should – be embraced at home too. Be a ‘Montessori parent’ and help your child flourish with these easy-to-do-today tips.
Bring Montessori into your home
The Montessori method revolves around hands-on, self-directed learning, and developing key skills like independence, self-esteem and concentration. One way to do this is to look around your home for ways to enable your child to be independent and take responsibility for washing, tidying up after themselves, etc.
For example, use stools so that your child can reach the kitchen sink, cabinets and shelves. Install faucet and light switch extenders to enable them to wash and reach light switches. A low coat rack allows them to hang up their own coats. Or you can create a snack shelf in the kitchen that is for them – they decide when their body wants a snack and they get it themselves. They may over-indulge in the beginning, but give it time, and with positive messaging, they’ll eventually learn self-regulation.
Encourage a love of reading. Give them access to books, whether in a basket or on a low shelf, rotating books every few weeks so that they don’t become bored seeing the same titles, or overwhelmed by seeing too many.
Make time to read together every day (perhaps even starting a ‘Family Reading Time’), or read to your child even when they are busy doing something else. You can also set up a reading nook for them with a comfy child-friendly chair and basket of books in a spot that has good lighting, enticing them to settle down and read.
And choose books that they will be interested in, even if they aren’t the ‘classics’ that you think they should be reading. Visit the library together, and let them select a book they’re interested in, as well as one you’d love them to try.
Make space and time for sensory play. Dr Maria Montessori believed that a child’s education begins with the senses, long before they set foot in a classroom.
Encourage your child’s sensory discovery with shared tasks such as baking. Make a batch of bread dough with your toddler – let them roll the dough, select cookie cutters to make different shapes, watch it bake, then eat what they’ve helped make.
Similarly, outdoor activities such as gardening will stimulate their senses – have them plant a small herb garden, tending to it every day. They’ll observe their herbs grow, touching and smelling the leaves. And when they are ready to be used, your child can use them to season dishes, enjoying their distinctive taste.
Practice positive discipline. Rephrase your comments to focus on what your child may or can do, rather than what they may not or cannot. For example, rather than saying, “No, you may not have juice now,” try, “You want a juice. You may have juice after lunch.” Positive discipline focuses on a child’s desired behavior rather than the one to be avoided, it is encouraging, and notices when a child does things right.
Avoid serving their meals on plastic dishware – use the real thing. This empowers your child to learn natural consequences (“If I bang that dish on the table, it could break”). Not only does this show children that we trust them, it also teaches them to adjust their movements to protect and respect their environment. Visit your local goodwill to stock up on real plates, cups and utensils.
Make time for family dinner. Sharing meals as a family has tremendous benefits for your children – the conversation will improve their vocabulary as they learn to express themselves, and it’s wonderful parent-child bonding time.
Find ways to engage your child in preparing and serving the meal – from washing vegetables and tearing salad leaves, to setting the table and helping you plan meals for the week. How they help isn’t as important as getting them involved and letting them participate in conversation at the dinner table. You’ll model how to listen and how to wait until someone is done speaking, a practical and crucial life skill.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed,” said Dr Maria Montessori, the idea being that you respect your child’s potential to grow and develop based on their own instincts. Your role is to offer support, not to do tasks for them. Don’t intervene in conflict or struggle, for example, when they are putting on their own shoes.
Empowering them to be self-sufficient and independent is at the center of Montessori, and children who are able to meet goals such as feed the family pet, dress themselves, or clean up a spill, will feel great pride and self-confidence at being able to “do it themselves”.