I am often asked how parents can implement the Montessori method at home without buying all the materials. My first suggestion is this: give the child as much independence as you can!
Independence and freedom for the child is a huge part of the Montessori philosophy. Children are not viewed as vessels to be filled with wisdom from the all-knowledgeable adults. Instead, they are seen as people in their own right, that we as adults encourage to develop and grow, explore the world, and absorb as much knowledge from their surroundings as possible. To this end, there is so much that families can do at home to ‘follow the Montessori way’ and encourage their child’s independence.
This blog post will explore a few simple ways to enable your child to be as independent in the home as possible.
Ways to enable your child’s independence
There are so many ways in which you can encourage your child’s independence, from the practical way you set up the living spaces, including them in regular routines, and in the way you communicate with your child.
Communicating with your child
The way you speak to your child can make a huge difference in how they view themselves. If you speak to them as you would an adult with respect and as though you are actively listening to what they are saying, they will come to think that you value what they are saying just as much as when you listen to an adult. This increases their self-confidence and self-worth.
Children like routine and the security of knowing what is happening in their life. Talking with your child about what will be happening in the day prepares them for what is ahead and will enable them to possibly take some more responsibility and control of their life for that time. Children are often more capable than we realise! Having a regular routine assists the child to move through the day with confidence, and allows them to expand and extend their learning because they don’t need to expend energy on everyday recurring instances.
Setting up a child-friendly space
If your child is able to easily access things within the space, they will need to rely on you less, increasing their independence and giving you a bit more freedom too!
Setting up a child-friendly space can be as simple as putting things within their reach. For example, enabling the child to help get their own breakfast would be made simpler by having all the parts accessible to them in the lower shelves or cupboards in the kitchen. Some people buy specially designed furniture, while others modify their current space like using ladders with platforms and safety railings for the children to stand at the bench and sink.
Giving them responsibility
Giving your child certain jobs about the house will improve their level of responsibility and once they become accustomed to doing it regularly they will become independent in it as well. For example, this can be as simple as giving them the job of packing away their toys every afternoon, or getting them to help with food preparation or the dishes. If a child is involved in preparing food they will also be more likely to eat it! (A helpful hint for those fussy eaters!)
Encouraging your child to choose their own clothes for the day will also boost their sense of responsibility and independence. Obviously, the clothes need to be situation and weather appropriate, so provide them with two options that fit into those categories. For instance, two tops, two bottoms, two warmer layers (if required) and two footwear options. This way, you know that they will be dressed appropriately but they will feel like they have controlled the situation by you providing them with the freedom to choose. This links in with Montessori’s concept of freedom within limits.
Having a regular routine
If you have a regular routine your child will become so accustomed to it that they won’t have to think about it, freeing them up to extend their learning, explore and experiment, and challenge themselves in different ways. This includes their independence. Within the security of a regular routine the child becomes more confident in knowing what will happen next. Therefore, they are able to preempt it and take control of the situation themselves.
Obviously, there are sometimes situations where your routine will change. This is fine, as it is realistic of life. But if you can, try to explain this to your child beforehand so they have prior warning.
In this online day and age, there is a veritable treasure trove of resources available! There are some great blogs about using the Montessori method at home, wonderful instagram accounts to follow, and some fantastic videos, books, etc.
It follows 20-month-old Edison as he goes about his day, showing some of the ways his parents have modified the space to be more accessible to him and how their routines and lives are set up to enable his independence and development. We see how he dresses himself (but asks for help if he needs it), sets the table, gets his breakfast things, spreads his toast, and some of his time at his childcare. Most of the strategies we see his parents use are easy to apply at home.
‘Montessori at home’ blogs
To get some ideas about how you can encourage your child’s independence at home, there are already several great blogs available. These range from simple changes you can implement to complete Montessori-style re-decorations! Some of them are written by teachers, others by parents, some are both. I have collated a few below for your perusal, but Living Montessori Now has collated a much more detailed list. Check out any that take your fancy!
- How we Montessori
- Our Montessori Life
- Living Montessori Now
- Montessori and Me
- The Montessori Notebook
- Itty Bitty Love
Montessori-themed accounts on Instagram
There are now HEAPS of accounts on Instagram by centres or parents or teachers of the Montessori method. By simply searching for the phrase Montessori a whole gamut of accounts will come up. Also, once you find one, you can then check out who they’re following! If you follow me on Instagram (@themontessorianaus) you’ll be able to see who’s following me and who I’m following!
Here’s some suggestions for ‘Montessori at home’ accounts:
I hope this has given you some food for thought! Let me know how you implement the Montessori ways in your home or classroom.