Montessori doesn’t just start and end inside a Montessori classroom – it’s a lifestyle. Bridging the gap between home and school is crucial when it comes to raising a Montessori child. After all, Montessori is centred around embracing the child’s life as a whole, including his/her time in the classroom and outside the classroom.
So, What Exactly is Montessori Parenting?
Montessori parenting encompasses ideas drawn from the studies of Maria Montessori and the famous Montessori movement. (Be sure to check out our blog post on “What is Montessori?”) It mostly focuses on children’s need for learning through play and their desire to take on responsibility, which in turn gives them the opportunity to grow and to develop in a healthy and productive way. Here are our top 10 tips on how to incorporate the Montessori philosophy at home through parenting.
1. Foster Independence
As parents, we naturally have the urge to step in and help our child when they don’t know how to do something, but this doesn’t help their learning process and self-confidence. Children love the fact they have control and independence over simple tasks such as feeding themselves, wiping up spills, washing their hands or putting on their own clothes. It can be messy at first and might take a little longer, but giving your child the opportunity to do things for themselves gives them a chance to practice as well as learn fine motor skills and decision making.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori
2. Simple, Natural Toys
You might feel the urge to want to buy your child the world – including the flashiest, most expensive toys that you can afford. However, most of the fancy toys do all the work for your child with the simple push of a button, which means they are bound to tire of the toy after a short while. Instead, choose simple and natural toys that encourage your child to do something with their hands where they can manipulate objects such as building blocks, stacking rings, etc. These types of activities allow children to get deeply involved and repeat the same activity multiple times.
“The hands are the instrument of a man’s intelligence.” – Dr Maria Montessori
3. Parent-child Time
The Montessori parenting approach believes that the only thing children truly want is to spend time with their parents. Not only does this build a stronger emotional bond with your child, but it also helps you discover your child’s needs and desires. Set a little bit of time aside each time to spend quality time together through playing, talking, walking, art activities or eating. You don’t need to go anywhere fancy or spend a lot of time preparing an activity, simply being together is what’s important.
“Of all things, love is the most potent.” – Dr Maria Montessori
4. Space and Time to Explore
Give your child ample time and space to explore their environment, whether it’s at home or a visit to an external environment. By doing so, it expands their possibilities for learning by freely exploring their environment. For example, the next time you plan a trip to the library, factor in some extra time to allow your child to explore the different sections in the library and look at the books on the shelf.
“Play is the work of the child.” – Dr Maria Montessori
5. Freedom of Choice (within limits)
Always give your child a choice. For example, “Would you like to wear the red top or the blue top today?” This works particularly well with toddlers who sometimes engage in a power struggle. Keep in mind that this approach doesn’t mean you should let your child run the show – the key phrase here is within limits. Setting limits helps your child understand what is and isn’t acceptable and safe.
“Free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes.” – Dr Maria Montessori
6. Follow your Child
It’s a well known fact that toddlers and children know what they want! By following your child’s lead in letting them choose what they want to do and how they want to play (within limits, as we mentioned earlier), instills a sense of self-worth at a very young age.
“Follow the child, but follow the child as his leader.” – Dr Maria Montessori
7. Respect Your Child as a Person
The best way for children to learn respect is if it’s used in practice. Respect that your child has certain needs, can have ‘off’ or grumpy days (just like grown-ups do), and remember to be courteous and gracious towards them in the same way you would towards adults. When children are shown respect, they feel heard, loved and will naturally respect others through your example.
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” – Dr Maria Montessori
In the same way that a Montessori directress/guide observes children, parents too should take the time to quietly observe their children. Watch your child while they are playing by themselves, and make a note of which activities make them happy, and which ones they get bored of easily.
“When dealing with children there is greater need for observing than of probing.” – Dr Maria Montessori
9. Teach by Modelling, Not by Correcting
If your child makes a mistake, rather than passing punishment and blame, model how to do it correctly. Try not to make a big deal out of it, simply make them aware of the mistake in a subtle way.
“Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves.” – Dr Maria Montessori
10. Involve Your Child
Montessori believes that children need inclusion and involvement in their parents’ schedules. By involving your child in some of the day-to-day activities such as reading, cleaning, and cooking, it will help develop their sense of belonging and make them feel wanted and cared for.
“The child seeks for independence by means of work; an independence of body and mind.” – Dr Maria Montessori
Montessori parenting is a big part of the Montessori philosophy, and it’s an art that can be learned and practiced by any willing parent. By using some of the Montessori parenting tips above, you’ll be able to create a peaceful, respectful and caring environment that will contribute to the happiness of the whole family.