Whilst the Montessori method started out as an educational philosophy, it can sometimes be better described as a way of life. In this way, it is not difficult to apply Montessori practices at home with your own children.
The Montessori method can influence the way you see your child and the way that you connect with them. You will come to appreciate that your child is their own person, with their own unique path, and that parents and educators are cultivators who are part of that special journey.
You may also be interested: Reggio Emilia Approach vs Montessori For Early Years At Home
What is the Montessori Method
The main distinction between the Montessori Method and traditional education is that the Montessori method does not employ a top-down approach. Instead, following the Montessori method, the child is in charge of their own learning, supported by the adult and the environment.
The interaction between the child, adult and environment can be described as follows:
- The adult prepares the environment, observes the child and makes adjustments where necessary to meet the child’s needs.
- The environment attracts the child, and the child follows their interests and learns from the materials within the environment.
- The adult will only give as much assistance as necessary; the focus is on self-mastery by the child.
The objective of Montessori education is not to fill a child with facts, but to cultivate their own natural desire to learn. (Dr Montessori)
What are the benefits of Montessori
Whether the Montessori method is the right fit for your child is a very individual decision for you and your family. The most commonly cited benefits of the Montessori method include: individually paced learning, fostering independence, encouraging empathy and social justice, and developing a joy for lifelong learning.
In particular, self correction and self assessment is an integral part of the Montessori learning experience. Being able to critically assess their own work and recognise and correct mistakes, is an important life-skill which is sometimes overlooked by other educational approaches.
What age is best to start Montessori
Dr Montessori’s stage theory of human development describe the first plane of development as occurring from between birth to age six. During this phase the child is characterised by their “absorbent mind”; this is the stage where the child absorbs all aspects of his or her environment.
You may wish to adopt a Montessori approach from birth, incorporating the principles in your home life. Montessori classrooms are generally multi-aged learning environments. Parent-Infant programs cater for children from 8 weeks to 3 years; in these programs, parents are guided by a trained Montessori educator to learn how to observe their children and to offer relevant experiences to cater to their needs.
Montessori ‘school’ generally starts from the age of three in Australia.
How to start Montessori at Home
One of the easiest ways to start the Montessori method at home is with activities. Begin by observing your child holistically. What are their current interests? What activities can you set up to meet those interests? When setting up a Montessori activity, keep the following principles in mind:
- Ensure the set up is child-friendly and kid-sized
- It should allow your child to freely and easily help themselves to the activity
- The activity set up should require minimal input or guidance from you
- The aim is to encourage indepedence and allow creativity
Montessori Activities & Play Ideas
Montessori activities and play ideas for toddlers generally fall into five main areas; you may wish to set up Montessori activities and play ideas based on these areas.
- Hand-eye coordination
- Music and movement
- Activities of daily life
- Arts and crafts
To set up a Montessori activity, you may wish to:
- Display it on a shelf – rather than storing away in a box.
- Make it more appealing to a child – by putting it into a basket or a tray.
- Showing what belongs together – by grouping.
- Make it accessible to the child – the child can help themselves to all equipment and materials.
- Disassemble the activity – a completed activity is less attractive to a child.
Related: Montessori Toy Guide 0-5 Years
Here are some examples of Montessori activities and play ideas to get you started:
An example of a Daily Life activity: Setting the Table
Provide your child with a place mat with drawn markings for fork, spoon, bowl and glass. Also provide them with: a small glass, bowl, small fork and spoon. Let them explore how to set the table without explicit guidance.
An example of a Hand – Eye Coordination activity: Opening and Closing
Hide small objects inside old purses, jars with lids, or containers with various openings (such as zippers, press studs and clasps). This activity is generally suitable from 18 months onwards; always supervise the activity as small objects can pose a choking hazard to younger children.
As a general guide, follow your child, observe their interest towards various activities and remove activities that are too hard or too easy.
This article may contain affiliate links. [Read full disclosure]
Montessori Equipment and Toys
It is possible to implement the Montessori method at home without needing to buy special equipment or toys. The activities can often be set up or made from things that are lying around the house. Here are some examples of Montessori equipment and toys that are commonly referenced:
Toy Shelf & Storage
A toy shelf is useful for displaying various activities. Activities are generally set up on the shelf in increasing levels of difficulty from left to right. In this way, if an activity is too difficult, the child can move back to an earlier activity.
A toy shelf also introduces the idea of order, as your child can be encouraged to place the activity back on the shelf once it is completed.
A highly popular and affordable toy shelf is the IKEA Kallax Shelf, but any shelf that is open and child-sized is great for organising Montessori materials and activities.
Kids Activity Table
A key concept of Montessori is to create an environment that is child-sized and suitable for little hands and feet. As such, a kids’ table is essential to allow little ones full control over their activities.
The Carry-Play foldable kids table, for instance, is designed with two height settings so it can be adjusted for tiny tots as well as preschoolers. It also has storage compartments and clip-on buckets to allow for various activity setups and play options.
See also: Carry-Play vs IKEA Flisat kids table
Striking and banging an instrument is a great activity for toddlers to engage in. Not only does it stimulate the mind and senses, it also nurtures gross motor skills.
If you’re feeling crafty, it’s easy to DIY music instruments with materials you have lying around the house.
Alternatively, if you’ll like to invest in longer-lasting toy instruments, the Band In A Box by Melissa & Doug encourages your child to explore various tones, volume and rhythm. It also comes in a wooden storage box perfect for grouping and storing on the shelf.
Life Skill Play Sets
One of the foundations of Montessori is to teach life skills to our little ones, so involving them in real or pretend house chores is a fantastic way to nurture their independence.
Cleaning the windows, washing cutleries or smaller dishes, watering the plants, etc are some of the activities they can do. Most toddlers love to learn about caring for their home. They model what they see, and they love to clean right along with you!
You can either prepare smaller-sized actual cleaning tools or get a toy set like the “Let’s Play House!” play set that mimics the real things. This is a good starter set to introduce them to practical life events.
Other examples of life skill play sets include:
Montessori Learning Materials
Montessori Learning materials are designed to stimulate the child into logical thought and independent discovery. The materials are designed to meet one or more specific needs of the child and are offered in sequence to promote layering of learning and understanding. Each material has a “control of error” so that if the child has done something incorrectly it is self-evident (eg. geometric shape won’t fit into the hole).
Our go-to resource for Montessori Learning Materials is the Montessori Australia online shop. Parents wanting to create a Montessori home-school environment can attend relevant workshops and training courses.
The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davis (book) offers a great general starter guide as to how you can turn your home into a Montessori home.
Free additional Montessori resources
Our favourite round-up list is available from the Montessori notebook. This is a great starting point, as you familiarise yourself with the Montessori landscape.