The guiding philosophy of the Montessori classroom is that children are empowered to learn through exploration. As children “teach” themselves about the world and how it works, they become eager to learn even more on a never-ending path of self-motivated discovery.
There is no reason why this philosophy can’t “come home” with your child at the end of the school day. Whether your child is in pre-school, elementary school, or secondary education, you can easily adopt Montessori principles into your home for greater learning and independence.
Design Your Home with Learning in Mind
You want your child to be able to explore the world with as few tangible or immediate restrictions as possible. This means you need to carefully plan what things can be accessible to your child while removing items that could be harmful. Here are some ideas.
Simple Placement. Have basic cooking tools like measuring cups, spoons, bowls, and mixing utensils in a single place along with basic recipe ingredients. School-aged children can use these to craft simple dishes like pancakes or cookies on their own.
Easy Access. Leave cups, butter knives, forks, spoons, and bowls on a lower shelf so your preschooler can reach them. Provide placemats with outlines to show where to place the cups, cutlery, and plates. Your child will now have all the tools to set the table without much, if any, grown-up assistance.
Consistent Places. Have tangible places to put things away. Toys should not just be thrown in a bin. Instead, each toy should have a specific place on a shelf or in a basket. Cleaning up is easier for children if the same toy goes in the same place every time.
Child-Friendly Room Design. It’s hard to learn to brush your teeth properly without seeing yourself. Hang a mirror in the bathroom at your child’s height and provide a way for the child to easily access the sink for hand-washing and brushing teeth.
Remember to baby-proof thoroughly so your child can feel confident in exploring your home. Things that are not part of the learning process should be out of reach or locked away.
Another aspect of bringing Montessori back home with you is the encouragement of learning through home design. You can, for example, encourage children to learn and explore by providing different “stations” for home learning activities. An art table, for example, is great for paper and crayons but should not also be used for Legos. Instead, set up a building station somewhere else.
Help your children make decisions for themselves by encouraging them to take care of their own needs. Ask yourself: “What am I doing for my child that he or she could do without my help?” For example, could your child choose his or her own clothes if the closet bar were hung at their eye level instead of yours? Other examples include the following ideas.
Making Simple Meals. Meals such as sandwiches or carrots with dip can be great options for children to access themselves. Consider preparing some healthy snack foods children can access without needing additional prep work from you.
Cleaning Up Toys. With the right design, children should be able to easily clean up their own toys, so hold your child responsible for this task. If this is a struggle for your child, consider packing some toys away until the skill is learned.
Washing Hands and Faces. Make sure a soft washcloth is available to your child in the bathroom or kitchen, and encourage your child to take charge of their hygiene routine.
To further your encouragement of exploration, try to leave the TV off when your children are present in the home. The TV disrupts the learning process and should be reserved for only occasional viewing.
Build Discussion into Your Dialogue
Take time to narrate what you’re doing throughout your day. You can adjust the dialogue based on the needs of your children. For example, with a toddler you might say, “I’m getting myself a glass of water because I’m thirsty. Water comes out of this dispenser. See how it fills the cup when I push down?”
This type of dialogue naturally answers the creative questions children are excited to ask. You also model self-sufficiency and the important of mastering a task. You can do the same thing with more complicated life skills for older children.
For example, when at the grocery store, you might say, “I notice this generic brand of cereal is 25 cents less expensive than the same amount of brand-name cereal. I wonder how much I’d save if I bought the cheaper kind for a year.” These are simple calculations for adults who have learned this skill, but children like the challenge to learn and explore more about the world.
Don’t forget that you can also model the exploration process as a method of lifelong learning. When walking outdoors with your children, take time to slow down and notice new things about the world. Mud is squishy. Some beetles have shiny backs. Birds make nests. If you model exploring the world, your children will follow your example.
For more advice on what you can do to make Montessori learning an important aspect of your home environment, contact us at Miniapple International Montessori School.