Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Montessori At Home

We communicate volumes about the way we feel about our children by the kind of home we create for them. By addressing their needs, including children in our family life and showing concern for their feelings and respect for their interests, we tell them how important they are to us.

Often parents will ask “How can I bring Montessori home?” here are some steps parents can take:

· Small children have a tremendous need and love for an orderly environment. Everything should have its own place, and the environment should be organized to make it easy for the child to maintain neat, tidy surroundings. This is what Montessori planned and put into practice in her original 'Children's Houses', which were the first Montessori classrooms, and many of her ideas can be used to make home more kid-friendly too.

· Let's start in the child's bedroom - ideally the young child's bed should be low to the floor, making it easy for them to get in and out on their own. Rather than confining a child to a cot, Montessori urged parents to modify the bedroom to make it safe for the child and yet foster her early independence. Consider a Japanese futon or a three foot mattress without the bed frame and, for the older child, a duvet to make bed-making simple for her to do herself.

· A few simple pieces of do-it-yourself can go a long way towards bringing Montessori home: Mount a little coat and hat rack low on one wall where your child can reach them easily and put a full-length mirror nearby. Modify your light switches with extenders to allow the young child to turn her lights on and off independently. Hang a bulitian board low on the wall so she can pin up art work, reminders and school papers. Don't use a toy box. Imagine the chaos in your kitchen or workshop if you threw your tools and utensils together in a chest. Instead, use low shelves to display books and toys. Avoid clutter by placing toys with many pieces in appropriate containers; such as Tupperware boxes, decorated shoe boxes, baskets or tins and use a sturdy crate or small laundry basket to hold your child's building blocks.

· You may want to create a model town or farm on a piece of heavy plywood. Paint it green and sprinkle model railway "grass" on it to simulate a meadow. Placed on a low table it can provide the basis for farm or zoo animals or be marked out with roads for toy cars or set with figures, trees, stations, etc, for a first railway set. Store Logo bricks by cutting a large circle of canvas and attaching Velcro fastenings on opposite edges and handles. Opened out, the bag serves as a mat where bricks can be sorted and selected; gathered up and fastened it clears up the clutter instantly and can be taken anywhere. Decorate the walls with high quality art prints of children and animals hung at the child's eye level. Select a wall clock with a large, and easy-to-read face and mount that the same height.

· Make sure drawers are at the right height for the child to open them and look inside. Label them "underwear," "socks," etc or stick on pictures for the very young child. Provide some shelf space or low table for a beauty and wonder collection where your child can display special rocks, interesting seeds and small creatures, but make sure she liberates the creepy-crawlies after she has thoroughly examined them. Encourage her to have flowers and plants in her room. Music should be an important part of every child's life. Make space for a simple stereo or cassette player and a collection of recordings. In the bathroom make sure your child can reach the sink and toilet by providing a booster step and have a special place within reach for her towel, washcloth, toothbrush and paste.

· Some children rarely paint or make crafts at home because parents fear a mess. All that is needed is a small area with a washable floor or even a carpet covered with a sheet of plastic and a degree of trust that your Montessori child will soon know how to use it properly. Add an easel with non-spill pots of separate colors or cover the kitchen table with a washable cloth for drawing, craft work and clay. Again store art supplies: washable marker pens, crayons, glue sticks, paper, fabric scraps and recycled household items for collage and construction - in plastic containers and trays on low shelves so she will be able to order and return them to their right places on her own.

· In the kitchen try to find space for a child-sized work table for young cooks. Set aside the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to store healthy juice boxes, fruit and the ingredients for making sandwiches and snacks (peanut butter, jams, cold meat, cheese and spreads, stored in unbreakable containers). Even a two-year-old can be trusted to open the fridge to get her own prepared snack or cold drink stored in a little cup.

· If they are introduced to jobs with encouragement and allowed to see then through themselves, children from age two to six delight in caring for their home, dusting, mopping, scrubbing, cleaning and polishing. Aid the process by giving your child her own little broom or sweeper; hang a feather duster on a hook and provide a hamper for her dirty clothes. Show her how to wipe round the sink in the bathroom with a small scrub sponge. Folding towels and napkins is another activity to teach a young child. Use a bottom drawer to hold cutlery and a low shelf for crockery so your child can help to lay the table and put things away.

These are just a few suggestions for bringing Montessori into your home. As always follow your child’s lead to make discoveries about who they are and what they enjoy, although providing the appropriate safe space with choices (you provide) can make the childhood/parenthood journey allot less bumpy. Enjoy one another. PEACE


Jennifer said...

I had a question I thought you might be able to help me with. I was wondering at what age do you stop using the floor bed? My little one is three and moving into a big girl room later this year. I wasn't sure how to do a preschoolers room following the Montessori philosophy.

Thanks for you help,

Jennifer Howard said...

Dear Jennifer,
As you may have already guessed, my answer is: "It depends."
As is the case with most things Montessori, being ready to make the transition from a floor bed to a bigger bed (or from your room to her own room) is dependent on the individual child's needs and wants (and your's). My suggestion would be to include your daughter in as many choices she can be included in, for example: color of walls (if you plan to paint them) offer her three choices of paint (ones you also enjoy)and allow her to make the color choice. Other ex: bed linens, curtains, arrangement of furniture. The more she is part of the process the smoother the transition will be. Please see my post Everything in it's place and a place for everything for some helpful suggestions. A helpful hint is to 'walk' around your child's room on your knees and see the room from their point of view. Can you reach the light switch? The Montessori philosophy promotes children's independence and the role of the adult is to nurture and support the journey that is childhood, by providing a safe loving environment and suppling opportunities for children to succeed, learn, and grow. You're doing a wonderful job Jennifer!
Thanks for the question/comment.

Laura52 said...

I love the idea of everything that the child should use being at their height but I also have a crawling baby. How can I have small interesting things or a bulletin board with pins and papers on it down low with a little one in the house?

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