Montessori. You’ve heard of it. You’ve probably misspelled it. You’ve drooled over the beautiful materials, the sweet, child-sized everything. Maybe you’ve considered implementing it with your family. But then, you started reading about it and yikes– it sounds like you’d have to overhaul your entire life to make it work. Not only that, but it seems expensive. Like, expensive. Here’s the thing– Montessori CAN be costly and you CAN overhaul your life when incorporating it if you want. BUT neither of these things are deal-breakers.
Let me tell you a secret. You can make Montessori work for your family without spending a dime and without turning your life upside down. Here’s how.
You’ve heard the saying ”Mind over matter”….well, when it comes to making Montessori work for you, I say Mind over materials. Montessori materials are brilliant and lovely, but the most essential parts of the philosophy are the principles and mindset.
At its core, Montessori is an approach to learning and living that looks at the whole child. Rather than seeing your little one as a helpless, defenseless creature, there’s a deep understanding and respect for the soul and being that lives inside that delicate little body. Montessori is rooted in the belief that all children, no matter their age, are miraculous, whole people with capacities beyond our imagining.
When you begin to step back and allow this to sink in, you can enable your child greater freedom and opportunity to grow and demonstrate their fantastic capabilities.
Tips to Try
Pause. When you notice your child doing something you’re not on board with, resist the urge to shout, “No! Stop that!” and instead observe your child for a moment. Perhaps he is just exploring the item or have a unique idea about how to use it. If you decide you don’t approve, that’s okay. Try asking him about what he’s doing.
Ask. If you disapprove of what your child is doing, try allowing her to think through her actions. “Do we climb on tables in this house?” or “Does that belong in your mouth?”. Sometimes simply asking your child about their behavior interrupts the activity and gives her the chance to make an empowered decision to stop. This is more powerful and beneficial than making a demand or coercing her to follow through with a threat or bribe.
Empathize. How do you like to be treated when you’re learning something new or navigating a challenge? Provide your little one with the same respect you’d like to receive. Rather than distracting or dismissing his feelings, acknowledge them with affirming love. “I can see that you’re upset. I would find that very frustrating too.” Remember, your child’s brain is still developing, so while he is competent, he can’t regulate his emotions the way you can.
Provide Opportunities. It is faster and easier to do everything for our children, but offering time for them to practice real-life skills is a beautiful way to incorporate Montessori into your life together. It can be as simple as providing opportunities for independent decision making– offering choices, “Would you like to wear this shirt or that shirt?” or “Would you like to read this book or that one?”. You can also allow them to participate in cleaning. “We spilled our drink. This is how we wipe it up.” Show them and offer them a cloth to help.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a great way to dip your toes in and see if some of the Montessori principles mesh with your life. These suggestions work whether your child is six days, six months, six years, or older! Whether your child is verbal or not, treating him as a whole person with capabilities, feelings, beliefs, and a unique personality is an important part of laying the foundation for his growth and development in the years to come.