Read this book if: you want to learn more about Montessori or if you want some ideas of how to interact with baby, toddler or preschooler. You’ll find topics such as: sensory stimulation/movement, dressing skills, bathroom skills, housework, garden, nature, games, creating peace, language, music, reading, writing, math, science, spatial relationships…
Beginning parts about life with a new baby (chapter 1) was nothing new, but I enjoyed the activities later in the book. Title of book a bit odd – should be more like creating a Montessori household.
Was written in a magazine style, so was easy to read, and could just read certain sections at a time. Also had plenty of pictures of different Montessori styles and toys.
I like that Montessori was less strict about TV compared to Waldorf – it says limit the time and be aware of what they are watching. Waldorf also has no learning at all whereas Montessori seems to teach traditional preschool concepts such as ABCs and counting.
Book written by a father who attended, taught and led a Montessori school based on his observations; he is now president of The Montessori Foundation.
“While not every teacher is a parent, every parent is a teacher”
Chapter 1 – Why Montessori?
Don’t need to attend Montessori school – can implement style in your house.
Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy and was the first Italian woman to become a physician. Through her work with the poor, she became convinced all children are born with amazing human potential, which can develop only if adults provide them with the right stimulation during the first few years of life. She oversaw a daycare for working-class children in a Casa dei Bambini or “children’s house.” Their behavior changed from that of street urchins running wild to models of grace and courtesy. She had furniture built their size. The first children’s house received instant acclaim and interest surged around the world. She gave up her medical practice to spread Montessori schools around the world. Her systematic approach can be replicated and sustained in almost any situation. Some people are attracted to the calm, responsible behavior shown by these students and appreciate their love for learning. Others applaud the freedom, spontaneity and independence that Montessori gives young children.
Making Home Child-Friendly
Organize home to help child become more independent and self-confident, always keeping health and safety in mind; design a home that conveys a sense of beauty and order. Accommodate home to youngest child. Want child to be able to move freely.
Planning Perfect 1st Bedroom:
Instead of confining baby to playpen, put a stairgate across her bedroom doorway creating a larger and more interesting play area.
Chapter 2: Discovery through the Senses
Basket of Treasures: objects should be large enough they can’t be swallowed and free from sharp edges or anything else harmful. Gather 50-100 objects with distinct characteristics: shape, color, texture, weight and smell. Ex: wallet, large walnut shell, pine cone, brush, feather, silver bell, smooth stone. Infants and toddlers use all of their senses whereas adults rely on sight. Distinct aromas or cool touch are nice. Ideas: metal (whisk, bell); natural (pine cone, sponge, avocado stone, father, shell); wooden (spoon, block); glass (spice jar, salt shaker, string of beads); fabric and leather (satin and velvet ribbons, ball of knitting wool, silk scarf). Don’t say a word – carefully observe object and put back and they will follow. Children like us to be nearby but not always to interfere.
Tasting: Sucking great satisfaction for baby; make sure object safe
Looking: sharp contracts important in early days
Hearing: Beans and seeds in small sealed bottles and jar make interesting sounds as do tiny bells or crackly paper inside tightly tied drawstring bags. Measuring spoons clatter against each other
Touching: pine cone or smooth stone nice to touch unlike plastic toys which all feel the same
Smelling: Bags of herbs, sachets of lavender, lemon. Put scented sweets, vanilla pods or coffee beans inside salt shaker.
Sorting Objects (2-5 years): according to shape, color or other properties. Be careful with small objects for toddlers so that it does not end up being swallowed, in ears or nose. Button sorting.
Stacking Blocks (18 months-3 years): Wooden stacking blocks. Montessori Pink Tower. Graduated blocks or cups that nest inside each other and build into a tower.
Geometric Shape Stacker (2-4 years): many variations, but stack shapes according to size
Simple Puzzles (2-5 years): attractive images, made from wood. Under age of 4, puzzles with knobs.
Matching paint swatches (3-5 years): Same size, just different color. For younger children start with 6 colors – 2 of bright yellow, red and blue. Ask child to match primary. Then Set of 11 primary and secondary: yellow, red, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, brown, grey, white and black. Can also have them sort from lightest to darker shade. Find shade closest to something in room. Show one and ask them if next one is lighter or darker. Teach to make lighter or darker by mixing black and white.
Concentration Game (3-5 years): 8 different geometric shapes or pictures of animals. Turn over two cards, one at a time. If they match, keep. If not, pick again
Dried Lima Beans (18 months – 4 years): Large glass or pottery salad bowl fill (lima beans good because too big to go in ear or nose and make pleasant sound when dropped in glass bowl). Give child ladle and have him scoop and empty. Show how to pick up any outside bowl.
Matching Bells (2-5 years): 8 or more pairs of bells. Picks up two and puts back if not same sound.
Sound Cylinders (3-6 years): Wooden, plastic or glass containers that you find around house – opaque so you can’t see inside. Small baby food jars you paint can be used. Fill with something that makes interesting sound (dried peas, beans, rice, sand). Match same sounds.
Silence Game (2-6 years): When silent we can hear our own thoughts and we become more aware of the world around us. Develops self discipline. Ring small bell. Children stop what they are doing, sit down, close eyes and remain perfectly still. Challenge them to stay like this until you whisper their name. Then they quietly join you. Can challenge them by having them carry bells quietly. At first, young children may not be able to stay still for 30 seconds. Make it a daily ritual. Can also guide through visualization: describe scene for them to imagine.
Listen to Music (18 months – 6 years): Maracas, xylophone, drums, guitar and encourage her to sing with her favorite tunes. During these years they are in a sensitive period for music and have an interest in pitch, rhythm and melody. Encourage clapping, dancing and singing along.
Texture Matching (2-5 years): small tablets or blocks of wood with distinct texture on one face: piece of fabric, Velcro, seeds, sand etc. two matching. Eyes closed or blind folded, find matched pairs.
Fabric Matching (2-5 years): Basket filled with different kinds of fabrics: silk, wool, cotton, tweed. Matching types and have them find with eyes closed.
Sandpaper Tablets (3-5 years): wooden tablets with different grades of sandpaper. Identify same.
Mystery Bag (3-6 years): A favorite. Cloth bag or box with hold for child’s hands and fill with different sizes, shapes, textures and have them guess before pulling out of bag.
Perfume bottles (3-5 years): cylindrical spice jars with screw on caps ideal but can use baby food jars. Put cotton ball inside a jar with drop of two of same perfume. Or use vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon or cologne. Instead of cotton ball, can use potpourri, spices such as cloves or cinnamon or orange or lemon rinds. Need to refresh from time to time. Have matching sets.
Herb Scents (3-5 years): If have herb garden, rosemary, lavender, basil and thyme great. Use mortar and pestle to crush herbs or make sachets or bowl with potpourri that add pleasant fragrance to home. Children have a much more sensitive sense of smell than most adults.
Taste: 4 basic: sweet, sour, salty and bitter
Tasting Bottles (3-5 years): 8 small bottles with squeeze droppers and paint lids of 4 bottles blue and other 4 red. Have each one represent each of the 4 basic tastes. Ex: sugar water (sweet), lemon juice (sour), salty water (salty) and black coffee diluted with water (bitter). Child washes hands, carefully unscrews and drops on back of left hand. Lick slowly. Try second set. Does it taste the same? Child needs to wash hands before returning to second set.
Chapter 3: Let me Do It
First step is to have tools and utensils the right size. Child sized toothbrushes, cups, plates, forks, spoons, watering cans, broom, brushes and toothpaste.
Buy child sized cutlery. Outline each piece on paper and show her how to set table.
Sense of Order: In crucial sensitive period for order, world needs to be well-organized. Can select something from shelf and play with it for as long as she wants but must put away before playing with something else. Some objects can be played with together. One book at a time.
Photographic Labels on storage containers: So everything in right place.
Practical Storage: No toy boxes. Low shelves to hold child’s books, toys, games in bedroom and in playroom. Contain toys with many parts.
Defined Work/Play areas: Playing on a mat or rug confines activities so pieces don’t spread out all over the room.
Safe Maneuvers: Carrying many pieces on a tray
Pride of Ownership: When toy breaks, don’t punish or buy replacement. Take time to show her how to use things correctly. Encourage to repair. Encourage her to take care of home. Pick up stray pieces of paper, beads or debris from floor
Control of error: Using glass cups that can break teaches children to be careful.
Beauty and Harmony: Avoid cheap things made of plastic. Instead of most attractive materials that you can find and afford. Children respond to beauty of wood, glass, silver, brass and similar natural materials.
Turn Faucet on and Off: Small platform so she can reach. Small hand towel close by. Show child to open drain and not let water overflow. Show her cold and tell her hot water can hurt you so be careful. Can put cold on first, then hot. Don’t put on water too fast because it will splash.
Washing Hands: To get rid of germs. With soap under running water for at least 30 seconds.
Brushing Teeth: small toothbrush, pleasant tasting toothpaste, mirror and instruction. Teach to brush after every meal
Bath Time: Between 3-5, child will let you know she is old enough to bathe herself. Make sure she knows correct way to wash hair and use wash cloth
Brushing Hair: Child owns own brush and show her how to. Might want easy to use hair clips and bands
Introduce Toileting: Children learn when they are ready, not when their parents get around to training them. Depends on maturation of child’s nervous system, as well as the desire to feel independent and grown up. Cannot hurry process and patience is a virtue. Between birth and 18 months, the cells of the nervous system become coated with myelin, a fatty substance which facilitates the transmission of impulses from cell to cell more efficiently throughout the nervous system – this allows infants and toddlers to gain more and more refined control and coordination of movements. It develops in stages – infants gain control of head, then arm and trunk and eventually legs and feet. From random movements, they gain the ability to move with conscious intent and control.
Toilet Curiosity – become curious ~ 1 year (like to flush and play with water – give more appropriate forms of water play). Children also become fascinated with “poop” and “pee” at this time. ~ 15 months, children are interested in dressing and undressing themselves. Often express interest in wearing underpants and may try on siblings or parents – probably an indication they are becoming curious about learning to use the toilet. ~18 months, children enter sensitive period where they can most easily gain control of their more developed and integrated nervous system. Most children now have physical ability and interest to control bladder and bowels. Spend more time in underpants rather than diapers so they can gain greater awareness of bodily functions. Children wearing disposables can rarely sense they went to the bathroom. Many want to sit on toilet like others even though don’t have full control of bladder and bowel. Show how to pull down pants, sit on toilet correctly, use toilet paper, pull pants up, flush toilet and wash hands. Be prepared for occasional accidents – stay calm and reassuring. Keep clean underpants where child can reach, provide hamper and stack of old towels to wipe up accidents; help child when he asks or is overwhelmed but don’t rush in and make him feel ashamed. We don’t train children to use toilet, but support them when ready.
The Art of Getting Dressed – between 6 months and a year, most children hold out hand or foot while being dressed. ~18 months, many start to want to wear underpants and try on others clothing. Sit on floor next to child and put on pants together, then socks, and a shirt. Make it into a game. Take a look at bedroom and make sure everything is accessible. Let them practice dressing skills before wearing: fastening buttons, bow tying frame to practice tying shoes. Give kids choices as they get older – two outfits to choose from; discuss next day clothes the night before. Simple technique for putting on winter coat: lay coat on floor and squat down, slip hands into sleeves and lift coat over head. Low hook to hang coat. Use clothespins to clip pairs of shoes together helps child with right order.
Helping Out Around House – Child sized broom, mop, bucket, own feather duster, cleaning clothes and access to her cleaning supplies. Can put tape around a square in kitchen to practice sweeping into small area. Make it fun and not a chore. If you approach things correctly, without nagging, impatience, criticism, and redoing something your child has done because it is not quite perfect, she will take delight in helping to care for the home.
Chapter 4 – Keeping the Peace
Creating a Loving Climate
Sidestepping Tantrums – during tantrums, both children and parents can get completely out of control – but one of you has to be the grown up.
Teaching Lessons in Grace and Courtesy – practicing with games that teach good manners can help your child learn how to behave well in any company. Teach to shake hands, greet a friend, say goodbye, how to interrupt someone who is buy and how to tell someone “no thank you” politely, how to speak indoors, how to play nicely, how to offer a sincere apology and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Solving Problems at the Peace Table: when children need help to resolve issues themselves, direct them to the peace table
Taking Control of the TV: children’s values and knowledge shaped by: home, school, religion, peer groups and now TV
Chapter 5: Exploring the Wider World
Children are Little Scientists
Working in Family Garden – getting children to eat veggies is rarely a problem when they have grown them themselves
Taking a Walk in the Forest – make a regular thing
Make Your Own Nature Museum – When your child brings specimens home, help him to create his own nature area where he can observe and learn.
Caterpillars changing into butterflies in covered terrarium; frogs eggs into tadpoles. Baby chicks in incubator. Study flowers – different species, counting petals and stamens. Collect fruits, nuts, berries in fall – which animals eat them. Collect and press flowers and leaves, put in scrapbooks. Root boxes. Journal observations – write poems/stories that capture beauty around him. Draw/photograph nature.
Nature Equipment: magnifying glass/lens, microscope, sound-amplifying microphones, bug boxes and jars, terrarium, ant farm, aquarium, bird cage, cricket cage, guide books for identification, cards for labeling
Nature Based Party Games
Making Cultures Come Alive – introducing our children to different cultures helps cultivate their sense of wonder and curiosity as well as dispel prejudice. Introduce to different places in the world and fill with fascination for other cultures.
A Montessori Birthday Party – Children are given a relationship between Earth and Sun and taught a year is the amount of time it takes Earth to circle the Sun one. Children are told the story of their lives, year by year, from birth to the present day.
Chapter 6 – The Best Time to Learn
The Foundations for Learning – Learning is not a race. Children learn at their own pace. The more parents push, the more children resist.
The Writing Road to Reading – the process of learning to read can be as simple and painless as learning to speak
First Steps to Mathematics – learning to count by rote is easiest activity to build into daily life – count when cooking, walking, playing catch.
Exploring Science in Your Home
Is Montessori right for your child?
Choosing a school– Montessori not protected by copyright nor a central licensing or franchising program. Anyone could open a school and call it Montessori. Sign of excellence is membership in one of the professional Montessori organizations. Some good ones choose to remain independent. Trust your eyes and go with your gut. Stay for 30 min group meeting or watch children play.