13 Steps to Know Before You Start Montessori
There is more to practice than the activities.
Parents trying to choose different ways to raise their children are bombarded with so many “non-traditional” parenting styles. One of them is Montessori parenting.
To admit, even I was drawn to it because of the aesthetics of social media and those cute wooden toys. But as I always dig deeper (I mean my research), I learn so much more. I realized that Montessori is more than an education; it is more than a parenting style.
It is a way of navigating parenthood through the eyes of our children.
How to Implement Montessori Parenting
I am not going to bore you with what Montessori is and stuff.
There are a ton of articles online about Montessori, and you can read them. Here I am going to discuss 13 steps to practice at home, formulated based on Montessori principles. This is a comprehensive list derived from tried-and-tested Montessori principles in a home environment.
Observe their interests and needs:
In Montessori parenting, observation is the first thing you need to do. What should you observe? Observe their sensitive periods.
Sensitive periods are periods when people show a particular interest. For example, they might babble new words, meaning it is a sensitive period for language. Or like to run and walk, meaning a sensitive period for movement.
Observing gives us an idea of their current needs and interests, and we can prepare our home based on them. This creates an opportunity for our children to practice and master their skills.
Set your home for success
This one is my favourite. Also, this one requires some thought and planning.
Based on your observations and your child’s developmental stage, prepare your home environment. This means setting up appropriate activities, providing opportunities for practical life skills, and keeping everything organized. This is because children love order and thrive with a sense of predictability.
Remember, you do not have to buy expensive toys and furniture. Try to use what is available at home. There are a lot of DIY and budget-friendly activities online. Try to keep it simple.
Make sure you add natural elements like plants and beauty like art. This makes it inviting for them to explore. The ultimate aim here is to build curiosity and a love for learning.
Provide them with meaningful work.
Make sure you provide them with meaningful work. This means involving them in activities and ideas that introduce them to real-life concepts and sharpen their developmental skills.
This includes activities that fine-tune their hand-eye coordination, motor skills, practical life tasks, language, and social skills.
Also, I want to talk about the needlessness of electronic toys and gadgets here. Studies show that these toys can potentially hinder a child’s language and social development. Most of them lose their usability soon and end up in garages.
Giving them time:
Do not expect them to master everything they are learning on the first try. Give them adequate time to explore and learn.
They may not know what to do with an activity. Model them, step back, and let them lead at their own pace. Give them the time to learn language and movement and master the skill.
Balance freedom and boundaries:
Letting children take the lead doesn’t mean letting them take hold of our home and turn it upside down. It means providing freedom within limits.
Freedom involves giving them appropriate choices, which imparts a sense of control to them.
At the same time, inform them of the rules and what is expected, and follow through with appropriate consequences when a rule is breached. We need to step in immediately if they are hurting themselves or others and shift them away from that place.
Be a guide, not their boss or servants
Montessori parenting doesn’t mean being permissive or making children follow a rigid structure. It focuses on letting them be unique instead of molding them.
Determining our role in their lives gives us mental clarity and peace. And our role is to be their guide and show them what and how things are done.
With practice, you would learn when to step in to guide them and when to let them discover for themselves. Again, the key here is observation.
Include them in daily life activities
Even if you are unable to provide them with Montessori-based activities, this one practice makes a way to build independence and responsibilities: including them in our day-to-day activities.
Cleaning, cooking, laundry, organizing, self-care, and all that you do at home create an opportunity for them to learn. Taking part in these mundane activities will be enjoyable for them now and will not feel so hard when they grow up.
A quick disclaimer here: Though this is a budget-friendly way of doing Montessori at home, it is not easy, and it is going to be messy. So watch out for the mess and be ready to clean up.
Model all that you want them to learn
If you want them to be respectful to others and themselves, model them by showing respect. If you want them to have good manners and behaviors, model those manners and behaviors.
Children do what we do and speak what we say. Thus, it is good and bad at the same time. But how?
It is good because it is easy to help them learn new things, like doing an activity. You just need to show them again and again. You can model positive habits and behaviors.
It can be bad when they pick up some negative habits or manners when we unconsciously behave in a certain way. For example, using too much screen in front of them or using negative language when they are around
The key here is to work on yourselves. Heal yourself. Be mindful of your time with them. Take care of how you behave and speak when they are around.
Get them outside in nature
Children are sensory learners. They are enriched with experiences when they are out in nature. Because being in nature helps us to become present and aware, it calms us and reconnects us with the environment.
Also, there are so many nature-based activities to choose from. Picking dry leaves, jumping in puddles, taking care of plants, and much more.
As Alfred Wainwright said, There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Be it any weather, let them experience it with the necessary gear.
Give time for open-ended play as well.
Several believe that Montessori supports only structured play with rules and activities. This is not true. Because it supports and encourages open-ended play as well.
What is not allowed in Montessori is fantasy, which is more like flying with fairies or riding unicorns. This is because they believe that children will find it hard to differentiate between fantasy and reality. They need to be around six years of age for that.
Open-ended play is where the children are free to choose how they play with no set rules or restrictions. This is needed for imaginative power and critical thinking. It can be in the form of any real-life activity, like imaginary cooking or imaginary art.
Also, open-ended play gives us some rest when we can just sit down and watch them. There is no need to get in the middle and show them how it needs to be done.
Accept all their feelings, not their behavior
Montessori parenting doesn’t always mean staying calm and colorful, where kids do all that they want and you just sit and watch.
Children are going to be impulsive. They will throw tantrums. They will get frustrated. It is our job to accept all that they are feeling because all their behaviors hide a feeling beneath them.
It is our job to know and embrace all those feelings, but not all their behaviors. If it is not safe for them, for you, or for others, or if it is not respectful and appropriate, you can step in to stop that immediately.
Prepare yourself as a parent:
This is the most important step. You are making a huge shift. You are making a lifestyle change. So, it is important to prepare yourself.
This means taking care of yourself, filling your emotional bucket, becoming self-aware, taking responsibility for your choices, setting up your space so that it is helpful, having a learning mindset, slowing down, and being mindful.
Aim for growth instead of perfection:
I admit that it is not going to be easy and breezy. You will need a lot of patience and practice to get the hang of it.
But always make it a point to remember two things:
Why did you choose this way of parenting?
Aim for progress every time, not perfection.
This is how I redirect myself when I have self-doubt about my parenting options.
Any parenting style, including Montessori, is not a one-size-fits-all technique.
The principle here is to let your child lead under your guidance, through your modeling, and with the respect they deserve. This creates an opportunity to gain independence, cultivate curiosity, learn, and foster good behaviors in them. My take is that Montessori is a subtype of conscious parenting where learning is the primary focus.