Bringing Montessori home with The Montessori Studio
26th July 2019
Words by Zainab Shamis-Saleem // Photos by Bonnie Doman
Montessori is usually associated with nursery, pre and primary school. The method is well known for its tidy classrooms, ordered shelves, children doing individual work and encouragement of independence. It can also be implemented at home to great success. The home is the first classroom, as many parents will agree, and the idea of having a space that is ordered, productive and fun is attractive to many – it certainly inspires me and my two small children to stay on top of things!
Having worked with families who want to achieve just that, I have seen family spaces transform into calm, loving worlds of work play and imagination, where Mum or Dad is not the only one constantly cleaning up and where children feel valued and able to make a meaningful contribution.
Maria Montessori believed that the most important work is that of the child – to reach their potential, to contribute to society as whole beings and to live harmoniously in the world. She has written many texts outlining her findings, and her philosophy drives much of pre and primary school teaching all over the world. Books of hers to note include The Absorbent Mind and The Secret of Childhood, but there are lots of other useful ones such as The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davis and How to Raise an Amazing Child by Tim Seldin, among others.
How it looks at home
Far from throwing away all the garish and loud toys which, if your children are anything like mine, they love (much to my dismay!), taking the Montessori approach at home is more about opening opportunities up for your child to learn and explore, thrive and connect. As many of us are told, the days are long but the years are short with little ones so the more we can do to connect deeply with them, the better. Minimising over-stimulation of choice rather than scrapping everything can avoid many a meltdown. Activity rotation is an easy technique that you can implement straight away, along with some good storage if you can find it, to get the most out of things you have invested in. If you’ve ever come back from a holiday and seen your little ones so happy to see their beloved puzzles or blocks, then you understand what difference a break makes. Even books can be sorted and rotated week by week.
A focused drive toward independence in toddlers and young children can be hard to manage without the right tools so wherever possible, try to set up small trays, or activity points where they can become more self-sufficient. Hooks by the front door at a low level for coats and hats, a small basket with hairbrush and comb in the bathroom near the mirror, a cleaning cloth and a child-friendly spray bottle for windows and spills (diluted lemon and vinegar is natural and works wonders on glass). Not only do children really enjoy having meaningful jobs to do (chores, to you and I), but they also love having child-size items to own and use with ease. Recycle what you have – cut old muslins and sponges in half, use old jewellery or gift boxes or baskets to store things in, wash out old jars and small bottles too.
On the surface, these things keep children busy for long periods of time, great for busy parents of course, but at a deeper level you are helping them refine their fine and gross motor skills, take care of their environment, encourage self–esteem by having meaningful work to do and promoting concentration as each job is often repeated.
Activities and toys
These can be expensive and many items may say they are Montessori but are actually not. Keep an eye out for simply designed, non-plastic items without batteries or screens. Websites such as Montessori Design by Nuccia has some beautiful items and Yes Bebe has very sweet toys too. If you are after some more imaginative rather than educational toys, then Conscious Craft, Babipur, Happy Little Folks and Little Goat Gruff are worth a look for simple, beautiful items worth investing in.
Having memorable sequences for setting up and tidying up can also really help, and you may well have seen this in Montessori nurseries. Setting out a mat before arts and crafts for example, and having places where items live help these sequences be easily followed by small hands.
You can also set up your own activity trays. One paintbrush, an old jar and a painting paper is enough to get a tidy paint set up going. A small watering can and a cloth for looking after house plants is a great one too.
Our home is our sanctuary, a safety from the world, our favourite place to be. With a calm guidance, little ones can feel empowered and in control, they can concentrate on meaningful jobs as well as get lost in a world of imagination. And if that means less jobs for the adults then it smiles all around!
The Montessori Studio offers in-person workshops in South West London and consultations to parents looking to bring this 100-year-old philosophy into their homes. If you’d like to know more or speak to Zainab, visit www.themontessoristudio.com.
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