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If there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on, it’s that Montessori education is great for children’s development. But not everyone knows that the principles of the Montessori philosophy are easy to apply at home. Montessori education is really about viewing your child in a certain way and privileging a certain parenting style to help them thrive. This article will focus on what every parent should know about Montessori education and give you easy tips that you can start applying at home from today!
The article will talk about:
- Key Montessori principles and how you can apply them at home
- How to promote different development skills in your child using Montessori’s philosophy
- Why Montessori-inspired toys can help your child develop important development skills
- How to choose Montessori-inspired toys for babies and toddlers.
Despite some criticism, the Montessori method has attracted praise from many different quarters. There is proof that children enrolled in this type of education have better academic outcomes, a higher sense of community, more advanced social skills, and are more likely to have a sense of justice and equity than kids enrolled in traditional schools.
The good news is that many of Montessori’s principles can be applied at home. Here are just a few principles that you can incorporate at home.
Key Montessori principles every parent should know about
“Help me to help myself” is one of the best known Montessori quotes and it is based on Montessori’s belief that given the right tools and the right environment, every kid can thrive.
Montessori came to this conclusion after working with disadvantaged children at the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in rural Italy. She believed that teaching children skills depending on their development stage would help them learn better. She introduced a system of education that focused on the individual child, showed children that they were capable of success, and taught them that cooperation could help them achieve their goals.
Montessori’s methods were wildly successful, and her philosophy of education gained popularity that went beyond her native Italy. This philosophy is based on firm principles, which explains why it remains famous even today.
There are several key principles of the Montessori method.
- An appropriate environment. Young children should be able to easily access whatever they need for their everyday life.
- Age-appropriate tools. Children are not adults, and they therefore need tools that they can use with ease. This was actually one of the principles Montessori insisted on most. Age-appropriate tools may include knives to help out in the kitchen, aprons, cutlery, and so on.
- Freedom. Montessori believed that children should be allowed to choose their own activities and the duration they spent on their chosen activities.
- Self-discipline. According to the Montessori method, children need a structure. They need to be aware of the limits they are expected to respect. That being said, Montessori did not believe in harsh punishment methods and privileged positive discipline that help kids learn natural self-discipline.
- Learning from nature. A key principle of the Montessori philosophy is the ability to learn from nature. Montessori believed that the world was filled with practical and natural materials from which children could learn.
Now that we’ve covered some of the key principles of Montessori education, how can you implement them in your home? Here are several things you can start doing (or keep doing) to incorporate Montessori’s principles into your home.
8 ways to incorporate Montessori principles at home
1) Let your child participate in your family life as much as possible.
Letting your children participate in your family life is one of the easiest ways to integrate Montessori’s principles at home. You can achieve this by encouraging them to participate in age-appropriate chores.
2) Provide the right environment
Montessori believed that one of the reasons that often blocked children’s growth was the fact that they were expected to succeed in an adult-size environment. She believed that children’s environment was to be adapted to their size and to their level of development to make it easier for them to succeed by themselves. This could look like:
- Ensuring that your child can easily dress themselves (for example no zips or shoelaces for the youngest children)
- Making it easy for them to access objects by themselves by providing low shelves or cube-type storage.
- Providing learning towers to enable your child to fully and safely participate in the kitchen.
- Keeping all their stuff together – for example, giving them their own toothbrush holder so that they know where to get their stuff and where to put them back.
- Providing age-appropriate dishes and cutlery they can use by their own. Montessoriservices has a range of safe options to choose from.
3) Avoid overstimulation.
Over stimulation can have a negative impact on your child. Montessori believed that it is better for children to have fewer things than too many things which would only distract them.
In other words, using a low shelf on which you place a few simple toys and about five books is better than letting toys and objects take over your house. Remember that you can rotate your children’s toys and books to keep their interest.
Privileging muted colors can also reduce your child’s overstimulation and is therefore a good choice for bedrooms and playrooms.
4) Privilege child-led learning
Child-led learning is easy to apply at home. It refers to letting your child choose their own activities, according to their interests. This could mean letting them choose how to occupy themselves – play with blocks, paint, color, etc.
Research has confirmed Montessori’s principles and found that by choosing their own activities, children develop their critical thinking skills. Identifying your child’s interests and proposing activities in line with those interests can help increase their focus and attention.
Child-led learning also means allowing your child to work at their own pace even if they seem to be making less progress than other kids.
5) Allow your child to undertake activities of their choice without interruption
If your child shows interest in a particular activity, Montessori says that you should allow them to carry on uninterrupted. This means ensuring that you schedule enough time for your child to participate in their interest-driven activities to avoid frustration (yours and theirs!).
6) Choose simple toys
Montessori believed that “the simplicity or imperfection of external objects often serves to develop the activity and the dexterity of the pupils”. By this she meant that children must be allowed to explore and play with the simple things that are available in their environment.
7) Provide the appropriate structure to help your child thrive
While one of Montessori’s greatest principles relates to allowing your child to be free enough to express themselves, she also believed that children cannot blossom if they do not have a structure. This means that it is important to set limits and to hold your child accountable for their behavior.
8) Use routines
For Montessori, routine and consistency is important for your child’s development. By knowing what to expect at any given moment, routines make your child feel safe. Morning and bedtime routines are easy routines you probably already do, and other routines could involve sharing meals, starting a family routine or even something as simple as always doing homework at about the same time.
If you’re looking for even more practical ideas of how you can incorporate Montessori’s principles, here are a few examples of Montessori-inspired things you can do at home to help your child thrive.
Practical tips on getting Montessori into your home
You may be wondering if there are any practical ideas to help you incorporate a Montessori-inspired education into your home. Here are a few things that you can do in your home to help increase your child’s sense of autonomy
Several things you can do to integrate the Montessori philosophy into your kitchen
- Get your child child-sized utensils and let them help around the kitchen. For example, you can let them participate in preparing the family dinner by cutting up vegetables, fruits, and other soft food stuffs. Montessoriservices has great child-sized utensils to choose from.
- Give your child an age-appropriate chore. For example, they can help clean the countertop or set the table.
How to incorporate Montessori into your living room
- Provide cube-type storage and let your child know that everything must go back to its place when they are done playing
- Create a space in your home where your child is allowed to freely explore. Put only a few toys at a time (you can rotate their toys) in a space that they can easily access by themselves (for example low shelves)
How to get Montessori into your bathroom
- Use step stools to ensure that your child can reach the sink
- Keeping all your child’s stuff in the same place (toothbrush/toothpaste/timer) means that they will not need your help
What you can do to integrate the Montessori philosophy into your child’s bedroom
- Ask your child to put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper
- Encourage them to make decisions by asking them questions such as “would you like the green dress or the yellow one?” Proposing a few options and allowing them to make decisions gives them a sense of autonomy and control
- Allow your child to get dressed by themselves. Even young children can learn to manage by themselves if you provide simple clothes (few or no zips, easy to manage buttons, no shoelaces, etc.). Allow extra time if you’re worried about being late
- Use Day of the Week labels to help increase your child’s independence. For example, you can use them to help them get dressed, or even to help them know what they need to take to school on specific days of the week. Here are FREE LABELS you can download and use with your child.
- Ask your child to put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper
Certain Montessori-inspired toys can also help your child develop their autonomy, creativity and problem-solving skills. They can help them work on their fine and gross motor skills, their hand-eye coordination and their visual discrimination and spatial skills. But labelling a toy “Montessori” does not necessarily make it so. So what does a Montessori-inspired toy really mean, and is it worth your money?
Understanding Montessori-inspired toys and how they can help in your child’s development
Montessori-inspired toys have received praise for helping in the development of different skills such as fine motor skills, gross motor skills, visual discrimination skills and spatial development. The common characteristics shared by these toys are that they are:
Open-ended: Most Montessori-inspired toys are open-ended, meaning that they can be played with in multiple ways. Open-ended toys encourage your child to imagine, create, design and experiment.
Purposeful: Montessori-inspired toys have a purpose other than simply distracting your child. They help them develop specific skills.
Durable: Most Montessori toys are made of wood (at least Montessori had a preference for wooden and natural materials!) and are therefore durable. Although some toys might be quite costly, they last longer, and older siblings can pass them down to younger ones.
Safe and natural materials: Good Montessori-inspired toys privilege safe and natural materials.
Simple: Montessori toys are often simple, non-distractive and attractive to children.
Relatable: Montessori toys are relatable. Your child should be able to associate them with real-life things or experiences
What are the best Montessori toys for toddlers?
A toy is not a Montessori toy just because it is labelled so. There is quite a bit of debate about whether a play kitchen is a Montessori-inspired toy or not. Those who argue that it is not say that they doubt Montessori would have approved of such a toy. Those who say that it is are convinced that it is a Montessori-inspired toy because it can offer your child hours of imaginative and make-believe play. My opinion is that one must not lose sight of the fact that one of Montessori’s key principles was encouraging children to participate in actual home activities, within an environment adapted to their age. This could mean setting up your kitchen so that your child can participate (supervised) in activities such as:
- Setting the table and putting dishes away in low shelves they can easily access
- Serving themselves water using appropriate pitchers or water dispensers
- Helping prepare meals by making access to the countertop easy. Kitchen helpers such as this one can make it easier for your child to reach the countertop. Remember to prepare kid-friendly knives that are safe for young helpers!
- Feeding themselves using age-appropriate cutlery
- Washing their hands by themselves
- Helping clean up using child-size brooms, brushes, dustpans and mops
In other words, if you choose to incorporate Montessori’s principles into your home, it is always a good idea to first find out what you already have at home that you can use, or easy things that you can do to increase your child’s autonomy. Simply obtaining child-size tools in your home is an easy way to start increasing your child’s sense of autonomy. Montessoriservices has everything you need (and more!) to get started.
While it is true that it is easy to adopt Montessori in your home without risking financial ruin, some toys do help increase your child’s autonomy, creativity and problem solving skills. Before I give you a few recommendations for your child, I think it is important to say that many toys that meet the criteria listed above can help in your child’s development. Also, many toys can be quite costly for many parents (me included!), so it’s important to consider your family situation and your interests when deciding on which Montessori toys are best for your children.
Here are some things that may help:
- Make a decision to buy fewer toys. For instance, you can ask your family members to chip in to buy a Montessori play shelf that is on your wishlist.
- Make the toys yourself! If you’re good with your hands, why not make a few Montessori-inspired materials yourself. For example, many Youtube videos give practical tips on making the Montessori play shelf. Don’t forget that when Montessori started out working with orphans, most of the objects she used were DIY!
- Buy used Montessori toys. Most Monstessori toys are made of durable material which should withstand your child’s rough play! My family and I are big fans of recycled products. The first Montessori blocks we bought for our son were second hand, and each of our three children played with those blocks for years!
Choosing Montessori-inspired toys for babies and toddlers
I am a firm believer in choosing durable, wooden Montessori toys that all your children can use for years! Choosing fewer but higher quality toys means that your child will be able to use them as they grow. The one toy I recommend is Lovevery’s Block Set. It is a bit costly, but I honestly agree with them when they say that it is the “most comprehensive block set ever designed”. There are so many ways to play with these blocks, it’s like having 20 toys in one! If you don’t believe me, just check out the reviews. But if you’re looking for more options to choose from, here are a few ideas for kids over 18 months that I hope will be useful.
Choosing a Montessori toy for toddlers and young children
Choosing toys for toddlers can be a tricky affair because kids born the same year can vary widely in their developmental age. In other words, developmental age and relative age are two very different things, and every child develops at their own level. Also, among small children, months can make a huge difference! A 12-month-old child and an 18-month old child are miles apart in development, meaning that the things they like doing or can actually do will differ. Then there’s also the question of preference.
What this means is that it is important to take your child’s level of development (rather than their age) and interests into account when choosing their Montessori-inspired toys. Generally speaking, I believe that these toys are best for children from 18 months up, but that’s just me!
Here is a list of several Montessori-inspired toys that will spark your child’s curiosity and encourage open-ended play for years.
Best Montessori toys for developing fine motor skills in kids
Puzzles are great options for developing so many skills among kids. They teach problem-solving and perseverance; they help develop your child’s visual discrimination skills and hand-eye coordination; and they also help improve their fine motor skills.
If your child is just starting out with puzzles, those with knobs may be a more appropriate option. It is easier for their little fingers to manipulate these types of puzzles. Simple and colorful puzzles are a great option for children around 18 months/2 years.
Older children (from age three) who have already mastered their hand-eye coordination will enjoy more complex Montessori-inspired 3D puzzles or even shape sorters.
A stack and sort board is also a great option that will help your child develop their fine-motor skills and teach them about shapes and colors.
A rainbow tunnel is a common toy in Montessori classrooms. Children from 18 months will enjoy stacking and nesting the wooden arches, and this will help them develop their fine motor skills and their eye-hand coordination. As your child grows older, they will be able to use the arches in many different ways – building tunnels, houses, boats, bridges, and whatever else they can imagine!
After age three, shape puzzles can help your child begin to learn about simple concepts such as shapes, size, color, and so on. This jigslaw puzzle proposes numerous pattern blocks that your child can use to create their own designs or use pre-designed models to reproduce objects they see every day.
From 18 months, children will enjoy the wooden ramp racer. This toy will help in the development of their hand-eye coordination and also help them with their focus and concentration.
Best Montessori toys for open ended play
Building blocks are the ultimate Montessori toy for developing your child’s creativity. They teach them about balance and stacking, help them develop hand-eye coordination, and encourage them to experiment with different creations. Large building blocks are better for toddlers (at least 18 months old).
After age three, a classic building blocks set will help develop your child’s fine motor skills for years. If you’re looking to invest in something that will last for years and grow with your child, you won’t regret getting this block set!
Magna-Tiles help children from age three develop mathematical and scientific concepts. They can help your child develop their spatial and fine motor skills. These open-ended toys allow them to combine different shapes to create objects of their choice. There are so many different ways your child can enjoy Magna tiles, and their durability means that this is a toy that they can play with for years!
Most types of stacking toys are a great option for children because they help them learn about concepts such as balancing, spinning, gravity, and so on. They also help your child develop their creativity and their fine-motor and coordination skills. Although Fat brain’s Tobble Neo is not made of wood, it is a solid and durable toy that even the youngest kids will enjoy playing with (and they will play with for years)!
Rainbow peg dolls are great for imaginative play because your child can do exactly as they please with these toys – use them as construction toys, use them as marionettes, invite them to a party, and so on. These are great Montessori toys for children above age three.
If your child prefers animals, this Montessori-inspired portable wooden barn (and animals) should do the trick!
Best Montessori toys for developing gross motor skills in children
Developing your child’s gross motor skills is just as important as developing their fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer to the activities that enable children to work on their hand, arm and leg muscles and often involve whole-body movements.
The Wooden Wobble Balance Board is a great toy that can help develop your child’s gross motor skills. It can help them develop a sense of balance and is also helpful for posture. Perhaps the best part is that your child can use this toy in whichever way they see fit – a swing, a steppingstone, a tunnel, a goal post, and so on.
From age three, your child will be unable to resist the Eezy Peezy Climbing Frame and they will enjoy years of active playtime which will help them develop their gross motor skills. The good news is that this climbing frame can be used both indoors and outdoors!
Climbing triangles are another great option to help your child work on their muscles and on their sense of balance. This climbing triangle proposes an arch, a ramp, and a triangle and has so many options, all your kids from 18 months to eight will love it. The downside is that it’s costly, but you can put it on your wishlist or check out more affordable options.
Remember that incorporating Montessori education into your home is really about ensuring that your environment encourages your child to participate in your family life as fully as possible, and providing open-ended toys that let them unleash their creativity!
I’d love to know how you’re implementing Montessori’s principles in your home. Please share with us in the comments section below!