Taking on the Montessori approach at home can be a daunting task. After all, Montessori educators complete extensive training and specialize in interpreting and guiding children’s learning based on years of practice.
To get started with Montessori parenting, the first thing to remember is to set realistic expectations. You don’t need to be the perfect Montessori parent. Give yourself and your child grace as you progress and learn together.
- Show your child they are important
Speak to your child using respectful language, listen to what they have to say, and ask for their opinion.
Children need to feel heard, loved, and secure. The way you interact with your child models how they will interact with others.
- Set consistent expectations and limits
Establish consistent expectations with clear limits for behaviour. Limits are natural consequences when negative behaviour continues.
For example, when your child has a bath, the expectation is that water stays in the tub. If your child continues to splash, you would enforce the limit:
- Reinforce the expectation as a positive i.e. “We keep water in the tub.”
- Explain the limit i.e. “If you continue splashing, the floor will be slippery, which makes it unsafe.”
- If the splashing continues, enforce the limit i.e. “You haven’t kept the water in the tub so the floor isn’t safe. Bath time is over now. We can try again tomorrow. Would you like to dry yourself, or would you like some help?”
- Nurture feelings of safety through routine
Establish a predictable routine for activities throughout the day, and do things the same way, every day.
Routine and predictability teach children what is expected of them and when. This helps children feel safe and secure which helps them regulate their emotions.
- Offer controlled choices to show you value their input
Offer your child a controlled choice of “this” or “that” to apply freedom within limits at home. For example: “Do you want a sandwich or pasta for lunch?”
Offering your child controlled choices shows them that you value their input and that what they think matters.
- Show don’t tell
When showing your child an activity, drop down to their level, and use minimal words so they focus on your hands, not your mouth.
It’s also important to present from left to right, and top to bottom, to help your child develop a sense of order. This assists in preparing them for writing and reading.
- Observe your child
Watch your child with your complete attention and take notice of their interests, strengths, and abilities.
When you notice a new fascination, introduce activities that will expand their interests, and encourage them to develop new skills.
- Use prompting questions to encourage problem-solving
When your child asks a question, use prompting questions to encourage your child to problem-solve on their own.
For example, if your child asks: “Where are my shoes?” you may choose to answer with: “Where did you last see your shoes?”
- Everything in its place
Accessibility and order are primary considerations when setting up a Montessori learning space. Use the mantra: “Does it have a purpose and a place?” when organizing your child’s play space.
Select child-sized furniture and display activities on low open shelves in baskets or trays that your child can easily access. Choose four to eight activities to have on display and rotate them based on your child’s interest. Less is often more.
- Foster independence and autonomy
Look for opportunities for independence that are appropriate to your child’s age and skill level.
For an infant, this might be learning to drink from a cup or eating using a spoon, whereas preschool-aged children may be capable of brushing their teeth or making a simple snack.
- Slow down and stand back
Children are capable of amazing things when you stand back and give them the time and space to figure things out for themselves.
In practice, this might mean allowing an extra 10 minutes in the morning for your child to dress themselves or encouraging them to try something a different way instead of doing it for them.