Saturday, September 24, 2011

Montessori Baby

The school that I teach with started out years ago as a Montessori Casa.  Although it is no longer a Montessori school it has held on to many of the Montessori elements over the years, particularly in the kindergarten program, which is the level I teach.  I have had the good fortune of teaching with many experienced women who have shared their knowledge of Montessori with me. 

We did not set out to raise The Bean using a Montessori approach, but I find we have adopted many Montessori ideas into the way we choose his toys, set up his space, and interact with him.   

For newbies to Montessori, here are some of the basic principles: 
  • Respect for the Child -Adults must respect the child and their work.
  • The Absorbent Mind -Just by living, children learn from their environment.  The first six years are seen as extremely important in terms of learning as children absorb information so readily during this period.
  • Sensitive Periods -There are periods where children are can learn specific skills more easily because of their readiness for them.
  • The Prepared Environment -Children learn best in an environment is prepared in a way that allows them to do thing for themselves.  Learning materials and experiences are made available in an aesthetically pleasing and orderly format.
  • Autoeducation -Given access to a prepared environment, children have freedom to explore and thereby educate themselves.
 Here are some examples of things we have done:
  • We have tried to make his environment aesthetically pleasing.  The colours in his room are warm, without being overwhelming.  He has artwork on his walls.  His floor is covered with a cotton rag-rug and a lambskin rug which he loves to lie on. 
  • We have the ever-so-popular Ikea Expedit shelves in the nursery.  Once The Bean started moving around we took off the baskets we were using for storage on the lower shelves and placed a few age-appropriate toys in each section.  He is able to see what is there and choose what he wants to play with.  The selection is varied, but also limited as to not overwhelm him. 
  • I have always been fond of natural materials.  I find them beautiful and they hold a warmth that plastic just doesn't.  Don't get me wrong, The Bean still has his fair share of plastic toys that light up and blast music at him (which he loves), but he also has lovely toys made of natural materials like wooden cars and stacking toys, fabric stuffies, and wool pompoms (which he also loves).  
  • We've also given him quite a few everyday objects to explore.  He currently has a hinged box which he can open and which holds items like a pasta measurer, a vegetable brush, a wooden pestle, and a tea strainer.  He plays with these as much as many of his other toys. I really look forward to setting up Practical Life exercises for him as he gets older.  
  • He sort of forced us into this one by refusing to bottle-feed, but from time to time he drinks water out of a ceramic espresso mug or a glass shot glass.  They are the right size for him and although messy, we do encourage him to hold them himself and try to drink from them. 
  • We try to model things for him, but also let him explore on his own.  Of course we try to prevent him from bashing his head off of things, but we also try not to do everything for him just because it might be safer or easier (either for him or for us). 
I look forward to continuing to prepare a nurturing environment for The Bean in which he is able to grow and develop with our love and support.


  1. I love this list of the ways you've incorporated Montessori practices into Bean's daily home life! J used to teach at a Montessori primary, and she's super devoted to helping us bring those practices into the home. I don't know much about it, though, so it helps so much to read this list! And all of these things feel intuitively right, you know? Like: how can these practices NOT benefit our children? Bean is a lucky little boy! R.

  2. Thanks R!

    Admittedly, I know more about Montessori at the pre-school and kindergarten level than I do about it at the infant level, but I agree that there are so many things that just feel right about it.

  3. We've been planning to get the Ikea Expedit shelves for our basement for a while now. I love your idea of putting different toys in each of the cubbies and rotating them. I think we'll definitely 'steal' that one from you guys for the girls :)

  4. I just love this post. I really enjoy what I have learned about Montessori thus far, and my son really takes to whatever bits of the philosophy that I have implemented. Thanks for this great post!

  5. @Kimberly - Thanks. I'll have to do a quick search on your blog to see some of the stuff that you've done.

    @Ashleigh - Steal away! It's been a great way to lay out his toys. It also makes me feel good that we don't go out and buy tons of toys that he will hardly play with with because they will end up in a giant tub or box.