I didn’t know much about the Montessori approach before having my daughter apart from once hearing a head Montessori teacher present to my cohort while I was studying teaching.
When my daughter was 6 months, a new mum at my mother’s group mentioned she had started at a Montessori Parent Child program at the local Montessori school and was loving it. I was quite curious and signed us up and am so happy about this decision!
I think what I’ve loved most about our classes is the support and education it’s given me as a parent. Each week I could arrive with a set of questions, concerns or general queries and was always met with support and guidance to help us move through whatever stage or challenge we were facing. They also run regular information sessions and seminars which have been incredibly helpful and interesting!
Let’s be honest we need all the help we can get as parents and it was like a good therapy session at times!
Having a community of like minded parents around was also so wonderful. We could practice positive parenting in a safe and supportive environment.
We’ve since finished our time there as my daughter is turning 3 (the program runs from pregnancy to 3 years old) and I’m feeling very grateful for our time there. I’ve had some time to reflect on my top takeaways and am sharing them with you here today.
So here are my key take aways, in no particular order:
Slow down speech, movement and actions. Children learn by watching us complete tasks and take longer to process what we say, so slowing down helps them take it all in more easily.
Moments of connection and learning can occur during the everyday activities like changing nappies, eating time, washing clothes, bath time, and reading etc.
Observe your child without judgement and respect where they are in their development without letting your ego interfere.
4-Freedom within Limits
Many people think Montessori is parenting with no boundaries but it’s quite the opposite. Children have the freedom to explore and learn in their prepared environment however the boundaries are clear and well defined where both the parents and child understand them.
Children are independent thinkers and beings and we have to respect them as such. Do not do for your child what they are capable of doing for themselves i.e stepping in to ‘help’ before your child truly needs it. If they’re struggling to do something that’s ok and in fact it’s great as this is how we learn. We’re often quick to help put shoes on or a shirt as we can help do it faster. However faster is not always better (when you have the time to allow your child to do it for themselves).
This has been the biggest thing to learn and readjust. It truly is a whole different language and one that I’ve had to continuously train myself to do and practice. Instead of telling a child what not to do reframe it by telling them what they can do i.e rather than ‘stop yelling’ we could say ‘we use a quiet voice inside’.
7-Daily Rhythms and Routines
Children thrive off routines, predictability and order. The importance of daily rhythms and routines provides a sense of calm, safety and security. Schedules don’t have to be exact however routines should have a general pattern and be consistent to allow a child to settle into their day and week.
8-Dealing with Big Feelings
Acknowledging feelings and leaving it there and not trying to ‘fix’ the problem immediately i.e with food or distractions. By providing children with the appropriate language to express how they’re feeling, we are assisting them in developing emotional regulation skills. Choosing connection over correction by waiting to assist a child to make amends once we’ve helped them calm down…no one wants to be forced to say sorry or be told to relax in the heat of a meltdown.
Toddlers have a difficult time with the concept of sharing as the idea of sharing a toy is tricky. At Montessori it’s addressed as ‘turn taking’. If a child sees another child with a toy and wants it, you might say something like ‘I can see you want to play with that toy. It looks interesting when so and so is playing with it. We can watch her play or go and find something else until she is finished and it is your turn to play with it.’ This again takes practice but works surprisingly well! Unlike toys, food is for sharing as we can divide it up to share and this is actively encouraged to foster a sense of community and friendship.
I hope these principles help clarify some of the Montessori teachings and philosophies.
Below are some of my favourite Montessori accounts I love for information and inspiration:
- Montessori Australia
- The Montessori Notebook
- Montessori In Real Life
- Frida Be Mighty
- How we Montessori
Note: Montessori runs a parent baby/toddler program for pregnancy to 3 yrs. The classes run once a week for 2 hrs where the children are busy at ‘work’ and the parents observe whilst receiving education and guidance to help support your child’s development. I can’t comment on the preschool or primary school programs as I haven’t experienced them first hand however I highly recommend the 0-3 program for parents and their little ones!