Implementing Montessori at home

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Maria Montessori.

Beginning around age one, children desire to do things for themselves and to participate/contribute meaningfully. They have an internal, unconscious need to do things for themselves. It is their greatest work to learn and assimilate all that is necessary to be an adult. Adults need to be patient, observant, and active guides, they need to prepare the environment to support the child’s need for independence.

Here is the video that we watched at one of our parent nights. It was produced three years ago by a former MH family and features some of our current 4 and 5 year olds when they were infants and toddlers. Such a treat!

What can we do at home to provide a Montessori environment for our children?

Kitchen
  • Have a step stool so the child can reach the counter to help prepare/observe
  • Have a child size apron
  • Use specific language to describe food and activities
  • Demonstrate how to accept and decline food. Grace and courtesy about thanking the cook.
  • Have towels for spills and cleaning at child’s reach
  • Use a low cabinet to keep child’s plates, utensils, cups, kitchen tools, etc.
  • Access to snacks/food preps
  • Access to drinking water
Activity Ideas
    1. Unpacking groceries. You can name things for them to hand to you, have them pack away appropriate items
    2. Unloading the dishwasher. For example, they can use a step stool to pack away cutlery, a good sorting activity.
    3. Setting the table and clearing the table
    4. Pouring own water from a small pitcher
    5. Scrape scraps into compost bin
    6. Serving oneself and others
    7. Using a spray bottle and sponge or cloth to clean the table
    8. Measuring pasta, rice, etc. into bowls or pots
    9. Washing hard fruit and vegetables (small bowl of water, special brush, bowl for clean fruit/veg, drying cloth)
    10. Spreading softened butter, nut butters, cream cheese etc (with a spreader or safe knife) onto toast/rice cakes/bagels
    11. Removing seeds with fingers or scraper
    12. Grating cheese
    13. Mashing bananas with a fork or masher
    14. Cutting with a safe nife (bananas, steamed carrots, cheese)
    15. Beating eggs
    16. Peeling an egg
    17. Preparing fruit (pulling grapes, peeling and sectioning a mandarin)
    18. Stirring sauces/mixing ingredients
    19. Grinding Coffee
    20. Sweeping/using a hand held vacuum cleaner to clean the floor
    21. Salad spinning
    22. Wiping counters, floors, cabinets, etc.
    23. Folding cloth napkins
    24. Feeding pets
    25. Dish washing with soap and water
    26. Loading and/or starting dishwasher
    27. Grinding spices
Bedroom
  • Have a low bed to allow the child to get in and out of bed independently
  • Low hooks for child to hang backpack, coats, etc.
  • Low shelves in closet or drawers so child can get and put clothes away independently
  • A mirror (hair brushing, aid in putting on clothes, self care, etc.)
  • Low shelf to house a few toys that can be rotated as needed. Less toys means less mess making it more likely that they will be able to clean up independently
  • Basket with books and a large pillow, small comfortable chair or rug to read on.
Activity ideas:
  1. Pulling sheets and blankets straight
  2. Putting toys back on shelf
  3. Putting clothes away
  4. Watering a plant
  5. Put laundry away
  6. Dressing oneself (let them do as much as they can)
Rule of thumb – number of choices for their age for example, leave a 2 year old 2 outfit choices, a 3 year old 3 outfit choices, a 4 year old 4 outfit choices, etc.
Bathroom
  • Have a sturdy step stool reach sink for hand washing. Have soap and a drying
  • towel in reach
  • Have a hook or bar low enough for them to get and hang own towel
  • A hamper to put their dirty clothes in
  • Tissues within reach
  • A step stool that allows them to get onto toilet and a child size toilet seat for them to sit on
  • Have a supply of diapers or underpants in the bathroom
  • Have a mirror low to the floor so they can see their entire body
To make a mirror “shatterproof” you can cover the back with duct tape
before mounting to wall. If the mirror falls the glass will stick to tape
Activity Ideas:
  1. Washing own hands (get hands wet, turn off faucet, get soap – lather while singing ABCs, turn water on and rinse, turn water off and dry)
  2. Getting own clean underwear/diapers
  3. Putting own dirty clothes/wet underpants in hamper
  4. Taking a turn to brush teeth
  5. Putting on own underpants/pants
  6. Taking out and returning bath toys
Living Room
  • Have hooks for coats, a place for shoes, hats, etc.
  • Have a small area/shelf with a few toys and books for the child to use while spending time with the family.
Activity ideas:
  1. Watering plants
  2. Sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming with hand held vacuum
  3. Dusting
  4. Window washing (small spray bottle, sponge and cloth for drying)
  5. Cleaning up toys, putting away books
  6. Art area where they can independently get paper, crayons, etc.
Outdoor Environment
  1. Sweeping deck, patio, etc.
  2. Child size tools: raking, sweeping, weeding, pruning, etc.
  3. Gardening. Children enjoy all aspects – preparing soil, planting, watering, weeding, composting, having their own gardening tools and clothes
  4. Great opportunity for messy water work. They can clean windows, outdoor furniture, deck, etc. (soapy bucket of water and cloth)
  5. Well supervised carpentry (sanding and pounding nails into a log, adult starts nail)
  6. Flower cutting and arranging. Adult cuts for younger children but they can choose flowers, place in basket and carry into the house to arrange in a vase
  7. Pet care
  8. Window washing
  9. Respecting plants and animals
Other
  • Speak to your child in a clear, polite manner
  • Positive statements work better than questions, for example “ I need your help, let’s clean this up” rather than, “can you help me clean this up?” which allows for the answer, “no”
  • “Respect all the reasonable forms for activity in which the child engages and try to understand them” Maria Montessori
  • Protect concentration. If they are concentrating and repeating an activity, they are learning something (even if it is not obvious to you) and if you interrupt this concentration they may not recapture the moment. Save your praise for later and them be specific and detailed, for example, “ I noticed how hard you were working to clean the window, I appreciate your help.”
  • Look at the world from their eyes and make things available to them at their height for example, hooks for coats, glasses, water, etc.
  • Tell them what they CAN do, not what they can’t. For example if your child is throwing blocks around the room, “you can play with the blocks on the ground, if you want to throw something let’s go outside and throw a ball.”
  • If a child is not concentrating and keeps misusing a material you can say something like, “I see you are done with the blocks, let’s put them away”
  • Children of this age need a little time to process spoken information. Go to them, come down to their level, touch them on the shoulder, hand, etc., look at them and speak clearly. Give them several seconds to process what you are saying.
  • Model good behavior. For example, carry a plate with two hands.
  • Model good manners.
  • Give choices, “Do you want to wash the carrots or apples.”
  • Give only 2 appropriate choices for example if they don’t follow through with an instruction you could say something like, you can walk to your bed yourself or I can carry you but it’s time for bed.”
Slow down! When demonstrating how to do something move carefully and deliberately so they can see what you are doing and copy you. Give your child the gift of time.

Always use plenty of language! Name everything, for example when cooking, name ingredients, tools, talk about smells, textures, colors, etc.
Remember that time invested now will save time later. Learning when the desire is strong will speed up the learning.

Resources:
Montessori From the start; The child at Home from Birth to Age Three (Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen)
Montessori Services catalogue (www.montessoriservices.com)
Michael Olaf catalogue (www.michaelolaf.net)

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