The Montessori Method: How This Educational Theory Can Help You Have A Happier Home
At La-la-llama, several of our products are inspired by the Montessori educational philosophy which encourages independence and real-world learning. As part of our ‘Behind the Buzzwords’ series, we’ll give you a very brief history of the Montessori method and practical ideas to try today.
Where does Montessori come from?
Born in 1870, Maria Montessori was one of the first women doctors in Italy. She worked with children, including kids with developmental delays and behavioural problems, to develop her Montessori Method. At the turn of the century, when most education involved rote learning and physical punishment, it was revolutionary A hundred years later, many of her ideas have become standard.
What are the key elements of the Montessori method?
While different programmes feature different core elements, some Montessori ideas you can use at home include:
- Offer a choice of activities
- Learn through play rather than from a book or instructions
- Carefully choose toys and limit numbers
- Plenty of time – Maria recommended 3 hour blocks
- Child-size tools that really work
- Kids do chores too
- Bring nature indoors and go out into nature
Essentially, it is the adult’s responsibility to create a safe, nurturing, interesting environment, and the child’s role to explore, play and learn in their own way. Below you’ll find practical ideas for how to use Montessori methods at home.
Make space for your children
It could be as simple as a bookcase or set of drawers, but making a child-friendly space to play, where children can easily get out – and put away! - their own toys can make a big difference. Put anything that needs adult supervision away out of reach. Using different height drawers or shelves can be a good way to give older children access to things the baby mustn’t get into.
Give them extra time
It’s hard when you’re rushing out the door or trying to get through all the work school has sent home, but give kids as much time as possible before you interfere (or ‘help’). Trying (and failing) is how practice and learning works. It’s OK to limit practice to certain days or activities – maybe you always do socks, shoes and coat on weekdays but let your preschooler do it themselves on weekends.
Ask questions rather than issue instructions
Encourage independence (and stop feeling like a nagging machine!) by asking children what needs doing instead of telling them. For example, you might say “What is the first thing we do when we get inside?” instead of “Please wash your hands”.
While children are learning new things every day, they also need to repeat a task dozens, hundreds or thousands of times before they master it. Don’t rush to add new skills or activities if your child is still engaged by the last one. Tasks like pouring a cup of water or sweeping are ideal as they are genuinely useful and need doing multiple times per day.
Do chores together
Maria Montessori encouraged children to take care of their environment, including simple cleaning and food preparation. With appropriate supervision, kids can help you peel oranges, bananas or carrots, cut up fruit or vegetables, lay the table or put dishes away, sweep and do other chores.
From choosing clothes to brushing their own teeth, even quite young toddlers will enjoy these little daily moments of independence. Make your day easier by putting out only options that are acceptable to choose – if you don’t want them wearing shorts in winter or a super hero costume to Grandma’s, put them away.
Snacks and water
Help children listen to their own bodies and learn to manage portion control by giving them free access to snacks and water. As the parent, you control the environment (only offer healthy snacks, for example) and the kids explore it. Spills and messes will happen occasionally, so you may want to set some ground rules (‘food stays in the kitchen!’) but kids learn quickly and value their independence.
Parents stay quiet!
Once you’ve set up a play space or started an activity, your job is done. While age appropriate supervision is still required, stepping back gives kids room to learn while also letting parents get on with other chores or their own work or hobbies.
This article is part of the La-la-llama ‘Behind the Buzzwords’ series which gives a short, clear explanation of modern parenting phrases and trends. La-la-llama toys are made by parents with parents and kids in mind. Our goal is to help you find the right toys and activities so your kids will learn while they play at every age.