Creating A Montessori Home: From Child Proofing to Child Preparing
Picture this: a home where your kids make their own lunches, clean the house and can feed themselves when they are hungry - and I am not talking about when they are 14! This can start happening as soon as your little ones are mobile! SIGN ME UP! Right?! Well creating a Montessori home is the first step to fulfilling all of your dreams. We are going to go from child proofing to child preparing, the Montessori way.
Traditional childproofing has long been the standard approach to shielding our little ones from potential hazards by removing everything, adding gates everywhere and locking things away, which don’t get me wrong, we definitely need for many safety reasons! But what about all the things we need to ADD!
A Montessori home challenges us to go beyond mere safety and prepare an environment that not only protects but also empowers children to explore, learn, and actively contribute to their surroundings. “Child preparing” creates a balance between safety and independence and cultivates an environment where our whole family can thrive, not just the family members over 4 feet tall :)
What is Montessori?
But first, what is Montessori? According to the American Montessori Society, The Montessori method, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century, emphasizes self-directed learning, hands-on experiences, and a child-centered approach. It recognizes that children have a natural curiosity and desire to learn, and it aims to create a prepared environment that nurtures and supports their development. In a Montessori-inspired home, we create an environment that is safe, accessible, and stimulating, where children are encouraged to explore, discover, and foster independence.
Benefits of a Montessori Home
Number 1, your kids will stop bugging you for snacks because they can get their own. Number 2, they can start pitching in and set the table… just kidding, just kidding! Well technically all of this is true, but we know your kids don't bother you… at least thatttt much 🙂
A Montessori Home will:
- Promote Independence: Children are empowered to take charge of their environment and tasks, fostering a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency from a young age.
- Enhance Learning: The Montessori approach emphasizes hands-on learning and self-directed exploration, making educational materials easily accessible and encouraging a love for learning.
- Develop Responsibility: Children actively engage in tasks like setting the table, tidying up, and caring for their space, instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership over their surroundings. My kids love to feel like they have a “job!”
- Nurture Confidence: The freedom to explore and contribute in a prepared environment boosts children's confidence, as they learn to make decisions, problem-solve, and take on challenges independently.
- Promote Positive Behavior: By offering tools and facilitating age-appropriate tasks, we can reduce frustration and encourage healthy behaviors. Have you ever dealt with your child throwing tantrums while getting dressed? Do you find it challenging to leave the house in the mornings? When we provide our children with the opportunity to select their outfits, and encourage independent dressing, we effectively minimize potential conflicts and tantrums. This positive shift occurs because they feel empowered to control their routine, leading to a heightened sense of accomplishment.
When do I start?
Traditionally, childproofing starts when a child becomes mobile. Creating a Montessori home and “child preparing” can begin at a similar time, as soon as a child starts exploring their environment. This proactive approach encourages children to gradually develop skills and independence from a young age.
How to Create a Montessori Home
STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) Parenting expert, Wendy Keiser, reminds us “don't do for your child what they can do for themselves.” This mantra underscores the essence of a Montessori home. Wendy emphasizes that stepping back and allowing children to tackle tasks independently not only builds confidence but also enhances problem-solving skills. It's a reminder that children are capable of more than we often give them credit for. So when looking around at your home, start to think more broadly about what your children can actually do themselves.
When we set up our homes we should keep a few things in mind.
- Organization is key: "A place for everything and everything in its place" is one of the critical principles of Montessori at home. When you designate a place for everything, your child will quickly learn where everything goes. My 4 year old daughter cleans the playroom up better than my husband because it is always organized the same way. This consistency of having everything in the same/similar place makes it easy for her to put things back where they go.
- Match tasks with appropriate age: Of course your 1 year old isn’t going to be able to put their shoes on themselves, but they will definitely be able to go get their own shoes and put them back in the right place when you take them off. I actually have a video of my son at age one, moving all of the shoes from the front door (where guests had left them) to the shoe rack because he knew shoes didn’t belong at the front door. I’d share it, but he is naked 🙂
- Be Patient: Patience is key like with anything in parenting. You may have to stop and take the time to teach your child how to properly wipe the table after a meal or which cabinet to place their cups in. You may need to allow a few extra minutes for your little one to accomplish simple tasks that would take you 10 seconds to do, but where is the learning opportunity in that?
Montessori Home Tour
The Montessori entryway features a coat-hanging area at a reachable height, a designated space for shoes, and a spot to put shoes on. Additionally, a basket is provided for storing hats and mittens during colder weather. This setup encourages independence and responsibility while ensuring a welcoming and organized entrance for your child.
The inclusion of a step stool and faucet extender in the bathroom empowers children to take charge of their daily hygiene routines. With a step stool, they can confidently reach the sink for handwashing and teeth brushing. The faucet extender further enables them to access water easily, promoting self-sufficiency and confidence in maintaining their personal hygiene.
- Snack Time Simplified: Keep healthy snacks on the low shelves in your fridge or pantry so your little one can easily grab a bite. Store their favorite forks, bowls, plates, and cups in a low cabinet or drawer so they can grab 'em and put 'em back all by themselves.
- Mother's Helper: This versatile piece supports young children in the kitchen, fostering a sense of involvement in meal preparation and family activities. It's like a sidekick for your young chef, making cooking and hanging out in the kitchen a blast. This one was LIFE CHANGING for our family when I was making dinner. No one was nagging at my leg, they were active participants instead of little humans I kept tripping on! RAD Children's Furniture Mother's Helper is our favorite, and comes in double size!
- Mini Dining Zone: Pop in a small table and chairs in your kitchen to give your child their own spot to sit and eat on their own. They'll also learn to tidy up after eating and keep things spick and span. Milton & Goose has many colors to match any aesthetic.
To create a safe, calming space, ensure their room is organized in a way that prevents clutter and is fairly minimalist to prevent distraction or overwhelm. Your child's room should be fully accessible to them, enabling them to make decisions about their own space.
- Floor Bed: A Montessori-inspired floor bed offers a safe and comfortable sleeping space, allowing children to learn independence in getting in and out of bed. I will note here that personally I did not move my children out of their crib until they were over the age of 3, my daughter just wasn’t ready for it. I truly believe every child is different here, so follow their lead. If you need assistance with your transition, as always, our resident sleep consultant, Alecia Kernus, is always available to help.
- Montessori Wardrobe: A child-sized wardrobe encourages independence in choosing and storing clothes, teaching valuable organization skills from a young age. Add a mirror at their height as an added touch
Now you don't need to transform your entire living room into a Montessori learning environment — you can set up a small space within it solely for your child.
- Montessori Shelves: If you want something small for the living room, try this Milton & Goose Cubby Bookshelf. Put one toy or activity in each little cubby and it won't take too much space!
- Montessori Bookshelf: A dedicated Montessori bookshelf at a child's height encourages a love for reading and makes books easily accessible for little hands.
Honestly the playroom deserves its own blog post, so we are going to save that for another time! Our blog post, 8 Steps to Spring Clean Your Playroom, is a great place to start. Another great resource is Jenny whose Instagram account, OurModernPlayroom, is inspiring! She follows the guidelines below to a T!
- Keep it simple. Montessori playrooms typically have 8-10 toys out at a time. Having a limited number of toys makes the playroom less overwhelming and gives them the ability to master an activity instead of jumping from one activity or toy to another.
- Keep things on their level. Since you are putting out fewer toys, make sure they are all accessible and on their level. This allows them to choose the activity they want and then put it back when they are done. A Montessori shelf can help accomplish this. Also using child size furniture like the Tender Leaf Forest Table gives them a space of their own.
- Curate your toy selection. We want to create variety in our selection, allowing your little ones to work on new skills. Also be sure to pay attention to “what they are into”. If they are very interested in sorting and patterns maybe you have a few extra toys to help them engage in this way.
- Make sure everything has its place. Children love predictability and when they can find things on their own independence is fostered. This also encourages children to clean up after themselves - WIN!
So there you have it, rethinking childproofing through the eyes of Montessori. When we create a home environment that allows children to be active participants in their families, we pave the way for a remarkable journey of growth and empowerment. Beyond the conventional constraints of safety-centric measures, our children thrive in a space that encourages exploration, learning, and meaningful engagement. By embracing the Montessori principles of self-directed learning, hands-on experiences, and a thoughtfully prepared environment, we equip them with the tools to cultivate independence, confidence, and a genuine zest for discovery. Let's embark on this transformative approach and nurture a generation of capable, curious, and self-assured individuals.
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