Why we love Montessori (& some things we don’t)

“The studies which have been made of early infancy leave no room for doubt: the first three years are important for ever” – Maria Montessori

The two most used words in Montessori are – Independence & Respect. Montessori is a way of life, influencing the way we are with our children. Montessori is based on a philosophy, a set of values & a way of thinking, & is an approach that rests on the values of trust & respect – it encourages us to empower our little one’s curiosity, learning to really see & accept them as they are. Remaining connected to our little one & showing the same respect to our child as we would a grown-up, seeing our little one as their own person on their own unique path, understanding their development & supporting them as their guide & leader, as opposed to moulding. Montessori facilitates a natural love for learning, it facilitates a natural way of living. This is the Montessori way. There are lots of things we at SensorStory love about Montessori, & a few we don’t:

What we love about Montessori:

  • Emphasis on respect for the child – treating every child, from birth, with the same respect we would show an adult. For example, asking baby’s permission to change their nappy, such as “baby, I am going to lay you down on the changing table. Is that okay with you?” This idea is to show them that their body belongs to them & that they deserve to be asked before something is done to them. Or asking permission before picking them up. This idea is because they may be working hard on something with intent concentration that we may not have observed, & so sweeping them up without letting them know that’s what’s going to happen could disrupt what they’re working on – & lead to a powerful emotional response i.e. crying/screaming. As a grown-up – being swiftly picked up & moved when we’re working hard on an email, or taking & closing a book out of another adult’s hands when they are concentrating on it, is certainly a sure-fire way to generate a powerful emotional response & negative emotions!

  • Emphasis on less clutter, more order, & fewer playthings – with a multitude of benefits for our little ones, but for us grown-ups too – great for smaller spaces & for a less over-whelming “cluttered” space.

  • Emphasis on focus – a commitment to offering children the kinds of challenges that develop independence & concentration – willingness to let them struggle a little bit as opposed to jumping straight in & ‘fixing’ it for them. As Maria Montessori said – “Teach by teaching, not by correcting”. Focus isn’t something that can be taught, but by going at the child’s pace & allowing them to complete their work cycle without interruptions, is fundamental in supporting their developing focus. Research shows us that regularly not allowing a child enough time to complete their activity can actually lessen a child’s focus.

  • Materials are simple, thoughtful, beautiful, & deliberately designed for hands-on learning – more natural & simpler “open-ended” or “passive” toys, that help children enjoy the real world, allowing them to relish in their quest for mastery.

  • A thoughtful & prepared environment, setup with the child in mind – with child-sized furniture, low shelves, & stools to help children reach things for themselves. Society doesn’t generally setup an environment for our little ones – public bathrooms for example. We’re very unlikely to go & find a public bathroom with a child-sized toilet or a sink at child height – playgrounds – few & far between as they are, are designed for the needs of adults, not with our little ones in mind. Setting up an environment where our little ones are acknowledged as the important people they are, in the most important stage of their developmental lives, is without a doubt one of our biggest loves.

  • Importance placed on sensory-rich experiences.

  • Practical life ”work”— moping spills, wiping windows, cleaning fruit, sweeping, pouring, watering plants, & caring for pets – is another favourite & a wonderful part of the curriculum as it tunes directly into what our little ones naturally want to practice (& really is a cuteness overload sometimes!)

  • Going at the child’s pace – allowing time to cultivate a child’s focus & flow with minimal interruption, allowing time for mastery.

  • Emphasis on rotation – Toys, books, & other materials are regularly rotated which has great benefits for our little ones as well as for us – we don’t need to buy endless amounts or continuously shop for new toys – a few well-selected toys rotated & stored away is of far more beneficial to both our little ones & us!

  • Children are combined in mixed-age groups in a class environment, usually 0-6 months (newborn class), baby – walking (nido community), 1 – 3 (toddler community), 3-6 (children’s house), 6-9 (primary school class), 9-12 (elementary class), 12-16 (high school class). The idea behind this is that the younger ones learn from the older ones, & the older ones can consolidate their knowledge by helping the younger ones. It also serves to minimize competition – every child learns at their own pace.

Where we question & look beyond Montessori:

  • Imaginative play—costumes, make-believe, fantasy—is discouraged in Montessori until the age of six, yet children love dressing up & modern research shows us that this kind of role-play is important for their brain development. We strongly believe in imaginative play through the early years.

  • Guided play – when helpful, a mix of open-ended & guided play for our little ones, as opposed to strictly open-ended play, is our belief. Montessori method places an emphasis on a parent or guide first showing a child how to engage with the materials, quietly & calmly with little to no verbal instructions – so as not to take the focus onto yourself & what you’re saying, rather than what you’re showing/doing. We believe in some guided play, singing, dancing, & messy play for example is where we believe guided play can be helpful, & fun!

To read more about Montessori, check out our article What is Montessori & Montessori at home

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