Week 45: What's the real deal with the Montessori approach?
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And of course it is simple… in theory. In practice, it’s a lot harder. Allowing children to perform everyday tasks themselves builds independence, confidence, and resilience. It also takes some extra time.
Yet when we let her push the elevator or laundry machine buttons, pour her own water, and wash her own hands, she’s practicing how to operate in her own little world. In Montessori terms, this is called “Practical Life,” and it’s one of the many reasons we love this method.
What is Montessori?
The Montessori method was developed by an Italian doctor named Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s. Dr. Montessori was an inspiration, someone who broke gender barriers, fought for women’s rights and believed in educating children with learning differences.
Dr. Montessori believed in promoting independence in even the smallest children. She did this by carefully preparing the learning environment with a specific set of educational tools and by providing plenty of uninterrupted work time.
What we love about Montessori:
- Emphasis on less clutter, more order, and fewer playthings.
- Commitment to offering children the kinds of challenges that develop independence and concentration; willingness to let them struggle a little bit.
- More natural and simple “open ended” toys that help children understand and enjoy the real world.
- A thoughtful environment with child-sized furniture, low shelves, and stools to help children reach things for themselves.
- Belief in freedom of movement for babies and toddlers.
- Real-world, sensory-rich experiences.
- Time to cultivate a child’s focus and flow with limited interruption.
Where we look beyond Montessori:
We believe in imaginative play—costumes, make believe, fantasy—which is not emphasized in Montessori.
- We believe in allowing children their own “right way” to play. In Montessori, the teacher often first shows the child how to engage with the materials.
- We believe in lots of baby talk. Research has shown that the higher-pitched sing-song voice that comes so naturally when adults are talking to babies actually helps develop language. The Montessori philosophy is that adults should speak to small children as they would speak to each other, with a more sophisticated language and tone. The Montessori emphasis on focus and concentration can be hard to balance with a child’s equally important need for narration and verbal stimulation.
What about Lovevery is Montessori?
Here are the top Montessori toys for the first year.