Not sure where to start with achieving Montessori at home?
Are you thrilled with your child’s Montessori school experience and want to capture some of that magic in your own four walls? Or have you not been able to find a program you like but still want to introduce the approach? Or maybe you’re the parent of a baby and you believe implementing Montessori at home will be a wonderful first learning experience.
Whatever the reason, I can show you how to create a sensible Montessori environment in your home.
As stated before in other articles, I taught Montessori for several years. And in that time I learned quite a bit about how to create and maintain a proper Montessori setting. So much so that when I decorated my children’s bedroom I arranged things in a Montessori fashion without even intending to.
Montessori at Home & Daily Tasks
One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori approach is the way it instills independence and self-confidence in young children.
So I will tell anyone who wants to implement Montessori in their home to begin by: expecting more from your child.
I have a great example of this.
A friend, who is also a mother, was visiting our family during dinner.
After we finished eating, my 2.5 year old Savannah, without prompting, got out of her seat and put her dirty plate, fork and cup in the sink. My friend balked saying her child who was around Savannah’s age would never be able to do that.
I chuckled and simply asked “Why not? Doesn’t she know how to put her toys back in her toy box?”
See, sometimes we as parents overthink things.
After playtime we could reasonably expect a 2.5 year old to be able to put a teddy bear back where it belonged but somehow cleaning up after dinner seems unrealistic?
We often have these rigid boxes of what feel kids can and can’t do. Then we hover around and complete the task for them to confirm our beliefs.
Now I’m not saying give a 3 year old an electric drill, but don’t automatically assume or limit your child’s ability to do things.
Savannah by nature is independent so she takes real pride in completing little chores around the house. She likes to think she is helping out and I love empowering her by letting her know she can.
Staging a Montessori Environment
So you’ve started shifting your mind and now want to tangibly see Montessori at home.
Okay, good. So the next phase is all about access.
And we do this by bringing life to the their level.
Montessori material, books, clothes, toys, bring them all down so that your child can readily dig in.
Montessori Material – There is so much material available today by way of the internet. And so many parents completely overwhelmed ask me all the time what specific material should they invest in.
When getting started you should have at least one or two items to add for the 5 main subject areas. I go into more details about those in my article What is the Montessori Curriculum all About?
Montessori can get expensive. The good thing is some of these materials can be made from things around the house.
So for example, for Practical Life I washed out my old deodorant containers and facial cream jars and places them in a basket.
These are things they see me use everyday so on a basic level they understand it has practical use. By opening and closing, screwing and unscrewing the containers they are learning every day life skills in a practical way.
I do recommend you invest in
Once you have established your material I would switch it out every 30-40 days. As fun as opening and closing mommy’s deodorant containers is, they will eventually master it and get bored.
Keep things fresh.
The same goes for books. Rotate 5 books a month on the bookshelf. The easiest way to do this is by seasons, holidays and interests.
Around December 1 I put out 5 holidays books. Then by New Year I’ll switch those out for books about Winter and Martin Luther King Jr. After that Valentine’s Day and Black History. Then books about Spring and something the kids are interested in at the moment.
Right now Savannah is very interested in the Eiffel Tower so I have a few books about Paris, France out right now.
Sean is interested in word books so I have some of those out as well.
There is no need to splurge on books. If you don’t have a library card, get one!
Organization is key!
Organization is extremely important in Montessori. You want to make sure to clearly communicate to your child that everything has its place.
And you communicate that placing material in the same container on the same shelf or place, every single time. It will only take a few times of showing your child this for them to understand and do on their own.
You can invest in Montessori shelves if you want. I purchased a cubed shelf, set it up horizontally and put different material in each cubby.
Invest in a step stool for your bathroom sink and a stool for cooking.
Okay, I know at this point some of you parents are concerned about giving your child too much access. Which brings us to our 3rd phase.
Establishing boundaries and sequences of practice.
The reality is, we are still dealing with children. Access is great but only within limits.
Every child is different. Some may resist and fight back to the sequence of practice. This is especially true if they are older than 2.5 and have been conditioned to play at home with no structure.
I should add, unstructured play is great and necessary for healthy brain development. I make sure my children have hours of it on a daily basis.
However once they step into the Montessori area their rules of practice change. (Sean is only 14 months so he’s still learning.)
Children are incredibly smart and know how to behave for different settings.
You probably now understand that Montessori is not just an educational approach, it is a way of life. It can easily be incorporated into a household without any drastic changes.
It first is a mindset shift. Then a simple rearrangement of toys, books and furniture. Followed by establishing boundaries and rules / sequence of practice. Finally letting go and trusting your child’s natural capabilities to discover and learn independent of you.
Ultimately as a parent trying to implement Montessori at home, you want to act as a guide. This is done by modeling correct behavior, nudging with simple instruction if necessary then letting your child take the lead.
Cieara is a wife and mom of two, passionate about empowering parents to not just survive but thrive. She offers practical and expert advice on topics related to parenthood.