What is Montessori?
Montessori is a Method of Education developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori. Even though teachers started to use Montessori more than 100 years ago, it is still very popular.
Maria Montessori had a specific approach to children’s behavior. She observed them both from a doctor’s and a scientist’s perspective. Her idea was to design a method of education that would appeal to a child’s nature - the Montessori method.
The main idea behind the Montessori method is to let the child be the one who will initiate the learning. After all, children are very eager for knowledge, but we often seem to forget that fact. Of course, Montessori doesn't underestimate the role of a teacher or a parent. They need to provide the child with the needed materials and guide him.
Maria Montessori had certain visions of how to apply her method in schools and it is quite different than traditional ones. For example, the child is “forced” to stay in his seat and listen to his teacher. Well, Maria Montessori wanted to design a school that would support a child when he wants to move. Without any prejudices, she designed her own, “Montessori classrooms”.
In these classrooms, children develop in many ways: physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively.
Today, you can find a range of educational materials and toys under the name “Montessori”. Not all of them follow the original method, which doesn’t mean you should avoid them.
In this guide, we wanted to make clear what the Montessori method is all about, so you can choose the right materials and toys if you apply Montessori at your home.
There are several elements that he Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) considers as Montessori-essential. Here are they:
1. Experiential learning rather than memorizing facts
As mentioned above, the Montessori method supports learning through experience. Even maths can be taught with a movable alphabet, little wooden letters, and numbers. You’ll be surprised that this fun-learning-way can be very effective!
2. Mixed-age classrooms rather than one-age ones
Montessori classrooms encourage peer learning. Younger children have the opportunity to observe and learn from their older classmates. On the other hand, older children solidify their knowledge and develop leadership skills when they lecture their younger "colleagues".
3. Long(er) learning period rather than interrupted classes
In Montessori classrooms, there are uninterrupted work periods of 2-3 hours, depending on the children’s age. Instead of having 30-45 minutes for maths, or any other subject, children spend more time learning several subjects. That way they can engage with the learning materials more deeply.
4. Montessori specialized academic areas rather than just traditional ones
Montessori education has two academic areas: Practical Life and Sensorial. Don’t get confused - these areas are just an addition to math, science, and other traditional subjects.
Practical Life helps a child to develop everyday-life skills: shoe tying, pouring water, etc. Older children are taught entrepreneurial skills, as well.
Sensorial is, as the name says, “the education of the senses”. Children learn by using their senses (like smelling, hearing, etc) with the help of specifically designed materials.
5. A guide rather than a teacher
Something very specific in Montessori education is a non-traditional role of a teacher. His/her duty is to observe a child and make sure it gets the right educational materials at the right time. So, in Montessori classrooms, teachers are referred to as “guides”. You won’t find them standing in front of the whole group of children, but working one-on-one with each child.
6. Child-directed learning rather than focus on discipline
One of the most important things when it comes to the Montessori program is to give a child enough freedom to make choices. Math or language, sitting at a table or on the floor - the choice is his. Of course, a guide is the one who will provide all the needed materials, but he shouldn't force the child to use them.
Of course, there are certain boundaries. A child needs to be disciplined enough not to disturb other classmates. He can have enough freedom as long as he is studying.
7. Educating the “whole child” rather than learning specific subjects
The idea behind the Montessori method is to educate the "whole child". That means social, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional education at the same time. Each of these components is equally important.
“This means that you might find a Montessori 3-year-old carefully walking on a line while carrying a glass of water, learning to control his body and his movements. You might find a child meditating or doing yoga while you see another practicing subtraction nearby.” - as explained at Mother.ly
8. One-on-one lessons rather than group lessons
No matter how big a class is if it follows the Montessori guidelines each child would be having individualized lessons. How is this possible? Well, as stated above, every child is encouraged to study independently (with help from the guide).
9. Prepared, minimalist environment rather than traditional classrooms
Since a child has to have a certain amount of freedom, Montessori classrooms are adjusted accordingly. A child can easily reach every item, toy, book. Classrooms’ appearances are minimalist, full of natural light, with carefully organized shelves. Everything is that well organized that a child knows exactly what to expect. Thus, Montessori classrooms are referred to as a “prepared environment.”
10. Focus on peaceful conflict resolution
Maria Montessori lived during a war period so she believed that we should teach our children the importance of peace. The Montessori method teaches children how to resolve a conflict peacefully. Also, it encourages them to calm themselves and don’t get into conflicts in the first place.
The Montessori Toy List
What is a Montessori toy? What material should it be made of? Is it suitable for my child’s age? Is it really educational? How should my child play with it? - These are just some of the questions you’ve surely been asking yourself if you are interested in following the Montessori program.
First, let's just clarify that Maria Montessori never created toys. But, there are certain materials for Montessori classrooms.
Since there are no rules about products that can be sold under the name “Montessori”, we decided to help you to choose the right "Montessori material". You’ll be surprised that there are many toys that you already own or that you can easily make by yourself!
Infants till 12 months
Toys for young babies should be as simple as possible. By that, we mean to choose natural materials, nothing too complicated. Try to void toys that have small pieces, or that are heavy.
In this age, babies need toys that will help them to develop fine and gross motor skills.
When it comes to educational toys, young toddlers love puzzles, musical toys, books, etc.
Toddlers 18 Months to 3 Years
Every child is unique, learns, and develops individually. It is important to keep this in mind when choosing educational material for this age. Don’t get surprised if your toddler is ready for a toy designed for a 5-year-old! But, don’t be disappointed if he isn’t interested in a toy that should be suitable for his age.
Preschoolers till 5 Years
At this age, you should just follow your child’s interests. You’ll surely manage to find or create a DIY Montessori toy according to his preferences. However, there is a range of Montessori - suitable toys that will develop your child's imagination, cognitive skills and be fun for him at the same time!
This large size wooden rainbow stacking toy is a perfect choice for your preschooler.
Stay tuned! The guide will be updated soon.