Montessori at Home: What It Is and What It's Not.

Montessori at home, what it is and what it's not

Your two year old is driving you crazy.  She's into everything in the house, throwing toys, leaving sticky fingerprints all over the place, screaming when she doesn't get her way, and constantly whining for things.  This is just a phase right?  

It might be a plea for help. 

Too often, we overlook all the necessary skills needed for living, and forget that our young children need to learn EVERYTHING.  Other than their instincts, children learn how to act, think, and behave from what they see and experience.   They will automatically adapt to the culture around them using these methods. Your child can not determine which behaviors, attitudes, or events are the "right" ones, and it is the repeated daily activities, language, attitudes, and environment that will form her world view and the foundation for her personality.  She is counting on you to show her how to do things on her own, and to protect her from situations that are too overwhelming.  

So how does this translate to your busy home and your wild two year old? Montessori at home is a combination of three things: 

  1. a prepared environment which is beautiful, engaging, and functional
  2. observing what your child needs, and then
  3. providing the tools or guidance to meet her needs on her own with your help.  

It's not just about the right toy, or spending x amount of minutes together each day. Montessori at home is about including your child in the daily events with her family and providing a few other engaging activities.  How does your child spend her day? What can she do on her own? What may be causing frustration? 

Environment

  • Do you have a space available for table and floor activities? Is it easy to move around? Your child will find a place for activities even if you don't provide one, but to ensure she's drawing on paper at the table and not the wall, you'll want to set this up. 
  • “A place for everything and everything in its place.” This will help keep everything organized.  A consistent environment with familiar expectations (the jacket goes on the hook) helps young child determine the effects of their own actions clearer and faster than a constantly changing environment.  
  • Think through everything your child will need for a daily activity, including clean-up. Can she easily reach or access these items? Are they arranged in a logical fashion? Do you only want her to use the glue when you are there to assist?  What parts of the activity could she do by herself, like getting a brush or putting on an apron? 
What is your child trying to do?

Observations

  • This is a matter of noticing what your child is doing, and how she is doing it.  Is she putting everything into her mouth? Climbing up the furniture? Pointing to the dog and saying "ruff?"
  • Young children will find their own way to meet a need until given a better alternative.  Don't want her to leave fingerprints everywhere? Show her how to wipe her hands when they are messy, and give her the cloth to do so.  
  • Observation takes patience, and isn't always possible is a busy family home!  Try and take a second or two to really watch your child and guess what she is trying to accomplish.  What might she be needing now? The more you can meet her needs the happier you both will be! 
Activities to do at home

Home Activities

  • Offer simple demonstrations of what to do and how to do it, when asked. Start with the most basic steps or parts of an activity, like washing a potato or hanging up a coat. Be mindful of over-helping or over-suggesting how to use something unless it's a matter of safety. This stunts creativity and problem solving.  Once your child is able to independently work with an activity or tool, you can leave it available for her everyday use. Until that point in time, stay close by to offer assistance and ensure safety as needed.  
  • Plan to have blocks of unstructured time, so your child can really get into a project without interruption of other events or tasks. Young children also need plenty of time to move and explore, try and limit any time spent strapped into a seat, toy, stroller, or backpack.  
  • Remember, the goal of the activity is PRACTICE, not “to get the floor clean” or “say goodbye when leaving.” Our adult end goals are what the child is working towards, but our goal for her in the moment needs to be simply practice, independence, and joy.  

Looking through this lens, how might we "hear" what our two year old child from before is saying? Perhaps she has more toys than she can put away, or is distracted by all the choices.  Maybe she doesn't know how to clean her fingers after eating, or perhaps we aren't setting clear expectations for where to eat and how to clean up. Does she need help identifying and expressing how she is feeling?  Does she have things to throw inside like soft balls or beanbags? What else can you change to help her meet her needs? 

 

Now, take five to ten minutes to think over a day in your child's life.  What is she seeing, feeling, hearing, and doing?  Is this what you hoped it would be?  Any other observations that come to mind? 

 I challenge you to make one small change.  

It could be waking up five minutes earlier so your child can get her coat on herself before leaving for school.  Or maybe you want to clear a shelf in the kitchen for her cooking tools.

Tell us about it over on our facebook group!

Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. You can always contact her for personalized support and answers to your questions.

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