From the moment you conceive, the journey of parenthood opens up possibilities of new joys, surprises, and challenges. And as prepared as we are, there is no comprehensive manual to tackle the ups and downs of parenting. Every child is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all methodology to their upbringing.
However, there are proven methods to help you create an environment where your young child can achieve optimal physical, mental, and emotional development. One of them is called Montessori parenting.
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This method allows parents to cultivate independence, curiosity, and love for learning in their children.
Let’s explore how:
The Montessori philosophy was discovered in the early 20th century by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator, and innovator. She proposed a child-centric approach to learning, emphasizing that children should be allowed to learn at their own pace and style. According to her:
‘To assist a child, we must provide an environment enabling him to develop freely.’
Therefore, her ideology included a ‘prepared Montessori environment’ tailored for the child’s age to assist them with hands-on learning and developing real-world skills. This lets the children explore their interests and abilities with freedom and responsibility.
While Montessori teachers are given comprehensive training to understand the philosophy, there is no reason why you cannot bring the same concepts to your home. These include:
- A carefully prepared environment that is safe, organized, and accessible for the youngsters.
- Allowing the children to explore and make decisions within the boundaries established by their parents.
- Encouraging independence in age-appropriate activities, including self-care and cleaning.
- Providing activities that promote hands-on learning, such as puzzles.
- Treating children with respect and empathy.
Now let’s look at incorporating the above in your home setting.
The environment is crucial in supporting the children’s exploration and development. If possible, create a dedicated space in your home for the children’s learning. Keep it uncluttered with minimal distractions like cartoon posters and brand logos.
Instead of boxes, choose open shelves, trays, and baskets to organize their toys and learning materials. The items should also be categorized and kept at a child’s level so they know where everything belongs.
Regarding furniture, experts recommend functional and child-sized products in natural materials and soft/neutral colors. Always prioritize safety by ensuring that each piece of furniture is sturdy and has non-slip capabilities.
Similarly, the wall decoration must be tidy, realistic, and relevant. It must not be overcrowded either, as too much visual information can distract children’s focus. As a rule of thumb, keep 20 – 50 percent of the wall space bare in a Montessori setting. You can utilize the remaining space to display children’s artwork, maps, diagrams, nature, and famous personalities.
Consider canvas prints rather than traditional framed photos or poster prints to showcase the illustrations. These are ideal for a Montessori setting as they are lighter, durable, and easy to clean. The canvas material also doesn’t reflect light from the sun and causes glare, allowing children to carry on their tasks without distraction.
In the end, don’t neglect natural light. If there are no outside interruptions, avoid covering up the windows with decor materials. Otherwise, ensure the room is well-lit to enhance children’s mood and productivity.
Make sure there is a planting area near the windows with a small indoor (non-toxic) plant, a small watering can, and a sponge to wipe down the spills. Encourage children to look after their plants by providing adequate water and sunlight.
Montessori learning is never limited to the four walls of a room. The concepts should be applied to every room of the house to give children the complete experience. Some tips for integrating this include:
- The closet should have a low-hanging rod so children can effortlessly access their clothes.
- Keep clothing choices limited.
- Keep the bed close to the ground.
- Use low chairs and tables.
- Keep shelves and mirrors at the child’s eye and height level.
- Avoid plastic kitchen utensils. Instead, use actual dishes and cutlery of appropriate ‘child-size.’
- Keep a rag accessible in all areas of the house so children can clean up after meals and playtime.
The Montessori method relies on the principle of ‘following the child.’ This means children should be free to make decisions regarding their learning and social interactions.
In a classroom setting, the teacher arranges different materials for the students. From these choices, the children decide what they want to do, how they want to do it, and how much time they require.
Similarly, in your home, you can provide choices to foster your child’s independence and self-confidence.
- Never restrict the children’s movements and allow them to move freely in any area of the house. However, ensure the home is baby-proof with socket covers, safety gates, and cabinet locks to avoid accidents.
- Don’t interrupt children while they are working or playing.
- Give them options from a small group of clothing and shoes.
- Allow them to choose from a few snacks.
- Ask them about the toys they want to play with.
And lastly, avoid the urge to say, ‘You can’t do this,’ ‘Don’t touch that,’ and ‘This is not for you.’ This can destroy the children’s awareness of themselves and make them cautious of their movement.
Besides giving children choices, parents must stay out of children’s way so they can complete tasks without being guided or assisted. Waiting on the child hand and foot or anticipating their needs in advance will not allow them to assess their capabilities. They will also gain the habit of looking at you for every task.
Some strategies you can integrate into your home include:
- Teach them to clean up after playtime. Again, keep all storage areas accessible and categorized so they can easily reach and organize.
- Provide a small stool near the bathroom and kitchen sink so children can wash their hands, brush their teeth, and even wash their dishes without assistance.
- Give them child-sized pitchers, cups, and plates so they can serve themselves.
- Let them help in the kitchen with tasks like meal prepping, peeling, setting the table, etc.
- Let them help dry clothes on a low-level drying rack.
- Allow them to fold small pieces of clothing.
Generally, practical life and sensorial materials are used in a Montessori setting to develop fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and independence. Some of these materials include:
- Zipping frames.
- Buckle frames.
- Button frames.
- Lacing cards.
- Stacking blocks.
- Sound cylinders.
- Puzzle maps.
- Classification cards of animals, vegetables, and fruit.
- Gluing paper or other material to showcase creativity.
- Movable alphabets.
- Pouring and scooping items.
- Mirror polishing.
Children can use these materials without the help of adults. They can also master the skill by practicing independently and repeating regularly.
According to Maria Montessori:
‘Every detail of a child’s life has rules, mysterious laws. Every detail is important, so we must respect everything, even if it does not seem logical.’
Being a Montessori parent means you have to respect the child. They should also feel valued for their behavior. Here are some ways to show your respect:
- Listen to them with attention.
- Take the time to understand their perspective.
- Show them that you trust them with age-appropriate responsibilities.
- Involve them in the decision-making process.
- Don’t push them into doing things they are reluctant to do. For example, kissing someone, playing with a particular toy, or wearing a clothing item.
- Acknowledge the efforts they make to complete a task.
- Be a role model by exhibiting respect and kindness when interacting with others.
- Encourage them to complete work and learn from their mistakes independently.
Tantrums are a normal part of childhood development and are common in children between the age of 1 to 4. Since this age group cannot express their frustration verbally, they resort to kicking, hitting, and whining to express their emotions.
Like any parent, you will also want to treat the outburst with either a treat or a punishment. But in a Montessori setup, the parents and teachers are taught to control the child’s choices.
Here are some ways to deal with the anxiety and tantrum:
- Don’t ignore your child. Instead, actively listen to the child’s problem and show empathy.
- Ask how you can help as they start to calm down.
- Give them choices. For example, if your child throws a tantrum over a sugary treat, provide them with healthier options to help them make better decisions.
- Ask them to express their feelings through creativity. For example, by drawing, painting, or molding play dough.
- Be calm during the whole scenario.
- Make sure your child stays and feels safe.
It may seem overwhelming to bring the Montessori home. But remember, Montessori is not a mode of education. It is a lifestyle.
By understanding and embracing Montessori’s key strategies, you can also create an environment for your child that fosters independence, learning, creativity, and discipline.