The goal of Montessori education is to support the child in becoming independent and self-reliant. Of course, this is not only possible in kindergarten, but also in your own four walls. We give you 10 tips and ideas for a little more Montessori at home.
Patience is the key to (learning) happiness
Doing things on your own! This is one of the strongest needs of babies and toddlers. For children to develop into independent and self-reliant adults, it is important to be able to try out and develop their knowledge and skills again and again. Supporting them in this? Nothing could be easier! The formula for this is: Just let them do it.
It sounds simple, but often it's not. Because in order to support children in managing their everyday lives as much as possible, we adults have to put ourselves in the little ones' shoes. And we have to be patient, a lot of patience. Yes, it can take what feels like an eternity for a child to zipper up his or her jacket. Yes, it would be much faster and tidier if mom or dad swept up the crumbs under the high chair instead of leaving this task to the little cookie monster himself. Yes, letting them clean their own shoes sometimes means that the bathroom needs a thorough cleaning afterwards. But for your child, such activities are really enriching: not only does it practice its motor skills, but it also gains useful experience and a sense of achievement that boosts its self-confidence. That's worth the effort, isn't it?
In Montessori education, this is exactly what it is all about: to promote independent action and learning. An important element for this is the so-called "prepared environment". It should motivate to do it yourself by making it easy for the child to perform actions by himself.
No matter whether you are an enthusiastic Montessori follower, the pedagogy has meant nothing to you so far, or you prefer more conventional concepts when it comes to daycare and school - enabling your child to do things himself can only be good for his development. That's why we have a few suggestions for you on how to bring a little more "Montessori" into your home. The basic principle is: It has to fit you and your family. Not every home offers enough space for a consistent Montessori furnishing. And not all parents have the time and energy it sometimes takes to let children do things on their own. Therefore, don't see Montessori as an all-or-nothing principle. Just get inspired and see if and where you want to implement some ideas for you individually.
#1 Needs-oriented, safe and cozy furnishings
To be able to let off steam and try things out, your child needs an environment in which he or she feels safe and secure. Following the Montessori idea, your child should be able to move around freely and pursue his or her interests. This includes making the home safe for children, but also keeping the rooms tidy and not overloading them with objects and decorations. A room, explicitly the children's room, should be easy for the child to survey and radiate calm. Subtle and preferably natural colors of the walls and furnishings reinforce this effect.
#2 Always with learning tower
One of the most popular pieces of Montessori furniture is the learning tower. It helps the little ones to reach high up while safely protecting them from falling down. The learning tower comes in handy in the kitchen. So the little ones can help with cooking and baking or just watch what mom and dad are doing.
#3 Safe sleep in the Montessori bed
This piece of furniture has also gained many fans in recent years. A Montessori bed is a very low children's bed, often it even lies directly on the floor. This means that it does not need a (continuous) safety gate, because the risk of injury when falling out is very low. The advantage is that even the smallest children can crawl in and out independently. With a classic crib, on the other hand, it is always dependent on your help. The visual effect is also completely different compared to a crib. Instead of fixed boundaries, the Montessori bed offers absolute freedom and is particularly inviting as a cuddle corner and retreat during the day.
#4 Montessori children's room: play and bookshelf at eye level
Montessori's principles include allowing the child to take whatever they want to occupy themselves with at any time, without adult assistance. Accordingly, low, open shelves are perfect for storing books and activity materials in the child's room. It is important that everything has its fixed place. This not only helps with finding things, but also with tidying up later. In addition, everything should be placed so that it can be grasped at first glance and invites occupation. This means that books should ideally be stored with the cover facing forward and toys should be placed ready to play with. The Montessori trays, for example, help with this.
#5 Reduction to the essentials
Let's keep it real. Most children's rooms are not big enough to display all the books and toys window-like. This is where another Montessori principle comes in handy: reduction to the essentials. Accordingly, only the currently interesting toys and books should be placed in the visible area. Things that the child is not currently occupied with may be stored in chests of drawers, boxes or behind cabinet doors. Occasionally, you can switch things out. This has two advantages: First, thanks to fewer stimuli in the visible area, the child can concentrate better on one activity. The child's room also appears much calmer overall. Secondly, the toys remain interesting for a long time.
#6 Activity trays and baskets
Montessori fans use trays and baskets to place activity materials on the shelf in an inviting way. On or in them, individual parts of a play set are presented, which your child needs to perform a task independently. This creates clarity and order. An example of such an activity tray: a small wooden bowl with colorful beads, plus different colored pipe cleaners. Just try it out and see how your child reacts. Sooner or later, he's bound to start threading the beads onto the pipe cleaners - maybe even by color? Or it creates colorful wire bead animals, flowers or jewelry... the possibilities are endless. And the whole thing works wonderfully on its own and without explanation. Montessori at its best.
The founder of Montessori education, Maria Montessori, developed some "working materials" at the beginning of the 20th century, which are still an integral part of Montessori kindergartens and schools. These include, for example, stacking, sorting and pegging games made of wood. The toy stores and online stores have so much choice of Montessori toys that you are sure to find many great things here. But you don't have to, because you can often put together Montessori activities yourself. This is not only fun, but also very sustainable. Your household will already have enough things ready for interesting activities:
- Pouring games can be improvised with dried peas, seeds or rice and various spoons and ladles from the kitchen drawer.
- Penne noodles are perfect for threading.
- Color boards for various color-sorting games are quickly self-painted.
- Sticking games made of shoe boxes and popsicle sticks - why not?
Just let your creativity run wild. In our Montessori blogs (for example here) you will find many ideas. In the end, you'll have as much fun putting the materials together as your child will have playing with them.
#8 Montessori Washstand in the Bathroom
Help me to do it myself! This is the children's request to the adults in Montessori education. This also applies to the "exercises of practical life", that is, coping with everyday life. Therefore, popular among Montessori followers is a child-friendly washstand in the bathroom for daily care. On it belong a bowl of water, a small mirror, as well as rags and a towel. A bar of soap, toothbrushing utensils, a comb and, if necessary, care creams also have their permanent place on it.
#9 Montessori Wardrobe and Closet
With the right closet arrangement, you can also enable your child to get dressed and changed independently. For this, the things should be sorted in such a way that your child can reach them. Pictures on the drawers or boxes in the closet help with orientation between shirts, pants and underwear. If your furniture doesn't lend itself to such a Montessori rearrangement, or if rearranging the closet is too much for you, perhaps the light version of the clothing theme is for you. In that case, pick out two or three outfits in the morning or evening and put them both in the kids' room or bathroom. This way, you still allow your child some freedom in choosing their clothes.
#10 Enable age-appropriate tasks in the home.
Imitation is an important source of learning for young children. I'm sure your child wants to give you a hand a lot, too. That's why age-appropriate household tasks are wonderful Montessori employment ideas, for example:
- Watering flowers
- Cleaning out the dishwasher,
- Washing and drying the dishes
- Setting the table
- unpacking and storing groceries
- Sorting laundry
- Cleaning the wheel
The prerequisite for this is, of course, that you make it easy for your child and place or store the necessary things at his or her reach height. And turn a blind eye if something spills or gets broken. Your little helper will learn from this, too.
"Montessori doesn't start on the play shelf, it starts with myself."
That's how our Montessori experts summed it up. More important than any set-up or play idea is your own attitude. If you want to bring a little more Montessori into your family's daily life, it starts first and foremost with yourself. Get intensively involved with your child, observe him and draw your conclusions about what he needs in terms of activities and stimuli. You can use advice and the experience of other parents as a guide, but at the end of the day, your child is not some standard, but a little personality of its own. Some need more inspiration and motivation to keep them busy, while others already do a lot on their own. Neither one nor the other is right or wrong. The important thing is to trust your instincts. And find the patience you mentioned earlier to get involved with your child. In this way, you will create the best possible environment for him to live, learn and grow.