The Montessori Schools in Flatiron & SoHo provide an engaging early childhood education program built upon the classical methods of Maria Montessori. Our school puts children on a path that embraces creativity, builds self-awareness and helps them develop the academic skills, physical tools and personal confidence necessary for lifelong success.
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Parents often ask us how they can extend Montessori principles from the classroom into the home to support their children's learning and maintain consistency between school and home.
Rather than introducing Montessori materials into the home, we suggest adopting a Montessori approach to the daily activities that you already engage in with your child. (We do not suggest buying classroom materials because they are carefully matched to distinct developmental stages, which take years of teacher training to identify! Moreover, blending school and the home can be confusing and over-stimulating for your child.)
Here are a few Montessori tips that can be integrated into your home life with your child. You'll notice four primary themes: Promoting independence, helping your child organize and order her world, preventing over-stimulation, and developing warm, respectful relationships. As parents with busy lives and limited time, we know this is hard work, but we encourage you to try a few of these Montessori strategies in your homes with your children.
"The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences." –Maria Montessori
- Children are naturally developing independence, so it is the role of the adult to assist in this process. Too much help is a hindrance.
- Use child-friendly furniture that your child can use independently. Provide a child's workspace, table and chair. Use a low shelf for your child's manipulative toys and art exercises, or clear off a section of a family bookshelf.
- Use low hooks that are accessible to your child for tools to clean up (one washcloth for wiping up spills, a duster, a broom, and a dustpan and brush). Provide child-sized tools and show your child how to safely use them.
- Provide child-size plates, glasses and metal utensils. Child-size but breakable items provide logical feedback. Seeing a plate break helps a child learn how to avoid breaking one in the future.
- Protect concentration! Don't interrupt your child if he or she is engrossed in an activity. Allowing children to concentrate builds important skills in focus, task completion, and self-sufficiency.
- Have an area for music listening, which your child can access and operate on his or her own.
"The child's need for order is one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life." –Maria Montessori
- Create a designated spot for your child's materials (toys, plates/utensils, clean-up tools, clothing, etc.) and assist your child in becoming competent at returning items to their spots. At first collaborate in clean up, letting go of the expectation that your child will be capable of independent clean up immediately. "Let's put your _____ back in its spot so you will know where to find it next time." "Please help tidy up your blocks so Daddy doesn't trip on them."
- Provide clear steps for "how to" lessons allowing your child to become increasingly capable.
- Logical consequences and clear expectations are a gift to children. Some children need to test boundaries and are reassured by consistent expectations and consequences.
- Reality-based books and activities help your child adapt to their culture and make sense of their world.
- Simplify the home. Removing excess objects will make it easier for your child to participate in daily life.
- Rotate activities. One puzzle, clay, a few crayons, an artist sketchbook, five books, a photo album for your child, one set of something with letters, something with numbers, replica objects for language and reality-based pretend play are sufficient. Keep excess toys in the closet in closed bins to rotate every two or three weeks. Baskets and trays work well for organizing activities.
- Use natural materials as much as possible. This will not only protect your child's health, but will prevent the over-stimulation that too many artificial, brightly-colored toys cause.
- Limit screens.
- Enjoy nature together.
- Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep, with a consistent bed time, wake time, and nap time.
"If we could say, 'We are respectful and courteous in our dealing with children, we treat them as we should like to be treated ourselves,' we should have mastered a great educational principle and be setting an example of good education." –Maria Montessori
- Ensure that each room in your home is inclusive of and welcoming to the young child (a basket of books in a parent's bedroom, etc.).
- Become aware of your language. Never criticize to correct. Instead, plan to show and model it again later.
- As the first teacher and ultimate role model, we can never be too respectful, polite or patient with our children.
- For Small Hands (www.forsmallhands.com) for gardening tools.
- Nova Toys (www.novanatural.com) for sturdy stools, lovely dustpans, and beeswax wood polish.
- Michael Olaf (www.michaelolaf.net) for low wooden shelves.
- Michael's (www.michaels.com) for baskets.
- Montessori Services (www.montessoriservices.com) for reality-based books.
- IKEA (www.ikea.com) for plates, glasses, and child-size utensils, tables, and chairs.
There are many simple ways to incorporate Montessori principles in your home. Preparing your home environment to facilitate and support your child's natural urge to be independent, is a great way to support what your child is learning at school. Typically, the process begins by taking stock of your home, how your child uses and accesses things for daily living and then making simple modifications to increase age appropriate independence. When thinking of organizing a space consider following the simple mantra that "everything has a place, and everything is kept in its place." By committing to picking a consistent place for everything it will be easier for your child to help you return something to its predictable spot. Here are a few tips by room, to help you in creating an organized and stimulating space for your child to participate in daily.
Your Child's Bedroom
- Organize seasonally appropriate clothing by type, on shelves or in drawers, that are at a low enough level to be accessible to your child.
- Less is more! Keep options (clothing, toys, hats, pillows etc.) to a minimum. By having only a few options available, your child will feel successful when making choices throughout the day.
- Create a chart that outlines the steps your child can do to get ready in the morning. This will establish a clear routine for your child and help them to feel prepared.
- Suggested bedroom toys and activities:
- 5 different types of items out on a low shelf, a collection of books, a map on the wall.
- A calendar to keep track of days and activities – cross them off as they are completed.
- A reading corner that is inviting; your child will want to read and relax in this space.
- An area to listen to music, with a device your child can access and operate on his own.
- Hang low hooks for your child's jacket and bag.
- Check the weather with your child the night before. Collaborate on any needed snow or rain gear that needs to be prepared for the next day.
- When buying clothing, make sure that your child will be able to open and close shoes and jackets independently. The simpler, the better!
- Remember, one warm coat is easier for your child to manipulate than many layers.
- Mittens are easier for your child to put on than gloves.
- Have a step stool available for your child that allows her to reach the kitchen sink, see on top of the counters etc.
- Hang hooks for kitchen clean up tools such as washcloth, a broom and a dustpan.
- Provide child sized kitchen tools and show your child how to use them safely.
- Use child sized plates, glasses and utensils. Plates should be breakable so that children learn how to handle them with care.
- Family board games.
- Provide manipulative toys and art materials on a low shelf or bookcase.
- A child size workplace or a chair.
- Your family's main collection of books can be stored in the living room, and the rest dispersed around the house in thematic baskets.
- Keep a collection of books in a basket.
- Provide a small reading nook for your child with a pillow or blanket. This gives them a small space, in your space, to feel comfortable and invited.