I am so excited to have my first “guest blogger” this week. Salina is a dear friend of mine and mom of two amazing kiddos and she is here to share her expertise and give you 6 tips to simplify your home and embrace the Montessori style.
Many of you ask me “what is Montessori?” and “How can I do this at home” . I wanted to get an expert on the topic so below is a great guest blog from Salina! I hope you find it helpful and if you have any questions be sure to put them in the comments!
Montessori at Home—6 Tips to Simplify your Home and Cultivate Independence and Curiosity
I hope when you hear the word “Montessori” you think of a philosophy and a lifestyle that supports child development. Montessori in your home does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. It’s about recognizing how capable our children are and how much they love to learn, from us and the environment around them! It’s about slowing down, decluttering, observing our children, and supporting them for the unique people they are!
Since our homes are our children’s first interaction with the world, let’s make them a place where they feel free to explore, learn, contribute, and speak; and to feel loved. We can create child-friendly homes (not child-proof homes) if we start to look at the world from our children’s points of view. During the first six years of life, children have what Maria Montessori called, “absorbent minds,” where children are sponges, absorbing through their senses, with little effort; they learn through their interactions with the environment. If we know this, then we may start creating, more intentionally, a home environment to support their development, foster independence, and engage their curiosity.
In Montessori, the key elements that support child development are the prepared environment, the materials or activities for the child that promote independence, and the respectful relationship with the adult. Here are a few tips I would like to share with you to start creating a Montessori home for your child(ren) today.
Child-friendly home. If you’re saying, “No, don’t touch that!” too often, look and see what you may be able to change. Get down to your child’s eye level. How do they see the world? In each room, create a space that is designated for your child and is inviting. Are there child size chairs and tables? Are there low hooks so that they may hang their belongings themselves? Are there step stools near the toilet and sink, and in the kitchen? Give them meaningful activities to do in rooms beyond their bedroom so that they are not seeking your constant attention. Designate a shelf in your living room and family room for some of your child’s belongings—a few books, a puzzle, and a basket of blocks, for example. It doesn’t need to be much, just something that’s for them. Likewise, in the kitchen, have a low cupboard for your children. Fill it with their plates, cups, napkins, and utensils so they may help set the table for meals. Maybe even designate a low cupboard or low shelf in the fridge so that they are able to select their own healthy snacks.
2. Orderly home. Keep a clutter-free home by embracing a “less is more” approach, especially with regard to toys. Keep them simple. Open-ended toys (wooden blocks, Magna-Tiles, Lego/Duplo, stackable toys, chalkboards, watercolors, crayons, and Play-Doh) are great because they allow for experimentation and exploration. Also, limit their choices. They don’t need 20 toys out at a time; rotate what’s available for them as their interests shift. Likewise, teach your child to take out only one activity at a time. This helps your child and you keep your home organized. Teach your child a full sequence of steps: how to choose an activity from the shelf (yes, they can learn that everything has a place), how to do the activity (collaboratively at first), how to clean up the activity, and how to return it to where it belongs. It sounds crazy, but children as young as one can complete this process and find joy and satisfaction when they’ve fully completed a task independently.
3. A home rich in language. Language develops through conversations with our children and through reading books together. It’s never too early to have conversations with them. Teach them real words to enrich their vocabulary. For example, specify the types of flowers you see, name the spices you’re cooking with, or say the breed of dog you pass on the street. Their brains are wired at this age to easily learn new vocabulary—they want to know! Books and public libraries are your friend. The beauty of the library is, as your children grow, you continually get different books that are relevant to their evolving interests and you expose them to new vocabulary (without having to purchase hundreds of books). Indirect language and communication are important too. Remember that our children absorb everything in their environment; we must be mindful of how we speak to not only our children, but to our spouses, to our neighbors, to the bagger at Trader Joe’s, to the person in the car who cut us off, etc. We are also modeling communication for them.
4. Include them in the house work. Children love it, I promise! When I had my first child, I often waited until he was napping to do the dishes, cooking, laundry, etc. in an effort to spend my undivided attention on him. What I learned through my Montessori training is that children want to learn how to do the things we do every day. We call these skills “practical life” in the Montessori classroom and you can support your child with this at home. Let them help you fold laundry. Toddlers are very capable of folding small towels, matching socks, and folding pants. Let them unload the dishwasher, clean the table, wash windows, vacuum, sweep the floor, cut fruit and vegetables, and water plants. Children are much more capable than we give them credit! It won’t be perfect, but it develops their concentration, fine motor skills, and confidence. It also strengthens their self-worth as they become a contributing member of the family!
5. Get outdoors. Toddlers and children need to move! They need to run, climb, dance, skip, jump, dig, and carry heavy things. Movement is how children learn. They must get outside to experience nature, interact with others, and see and hear the world.
6. Rich sensorial experiences. Give your child opportunities to see, taste, smell, hear, and touch lots of different things. Play music together, taste new foods, show them art and family photos. Let them smell flowers at the park and enjoy the scent of baking banana bread (that they helped prepare, of course). Let them touch everything and give them the vocabulary to explain the differences between things.
I hope these tips are helpful. Here are a few of my favorite Montessori books: “Montessori from the Start,” “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius,” and “The Montessori Toddler.” I also love these blogs: “How we Montessori” and “The Kavanaugh Report,” both written by moms with young children. Enjoy this special time with your young child. Children are truly amazing and are our greatest teachers. Being a parent and Montessori educator has helped me in my own process of lifelong learning. I am grateful I’m able to support children reach their full potential.
Salina Navarro is the Program Director at the Montessori Institute of San Diego (MISD), an independent, nonprofit Montessori school in La Jolla, California. She is the mother of two curious Montessori children, Rex (6) and Marlo (3). If you’d like to reach Salina or learn more about Montessori education, she can be reached at: email@example.com or MISD’s website www.misdami.org.