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What is Montessori? Getting Started and Core Concepts

Montessori is a term that many parents don’t hear until their babies grow into preschoolers who are ready to enter the big wide world of our education system, but what if I told you it was something you could be practicing with your child from birth?

Montessori is more than just an alternative way of approaching the typical school day, it’s a way to grow independent and confident children who learn to trust themselves.

While Montessori has been around for quite awhile, it seems now more than ever we are seeing parents gravitate to it’s practices, so today we are going to delve into the origins of Montessori, how exactly you can begin to implement Montessori practices with your little one, and what benefits you will see.

When Was The Montessori Method of Teaching Created?

When we say that Montessori has been around for quite awhile, we truly mean it – Montessori was developed over 100 years ago by an Italian woman named Maria Montessori. Maria Montessori was a highly intelligent, well respected educator in Italy when she was asked to run a childcare center in one of the most impoverished parts of her nation.

Through her experiments to find the best way to educate these children who were given no advantages in life, Maria realized that children learned best when they were given the freedom to guide their own learning, choosing what they pursued in a safe environment that fosters the ability to learn. Maria’s extreme success with the children became widely talked about amongst those in her field, and educators from all around the world traveled to her to learn her method.

Thus, Montessori as we know it today was born, and implemented all over by people from all walks of life.

The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being

The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies provides practical ideas for every aspect of living with a toddler, including how to feed your child’s natural curiosity. The book includes five principles that will help you create daily routines without stress or frustration by cultivating steps like “trust” and wonderment in their development process

What Are Some Core Concepts of Montessori?

Montessori is hands on!

Children learn through experimentation, and the process of elimination. Since there is no pressure to learn at any pace other than their own, children are able to make mistakes and take the time to self correct them.

A big part of successfully implementing Montessori is to support your child without taking over, allowing them to recognize their own mistakes and figure out the steps they need to take in order to make something more efficient, or successful.

Socialization – No one is left behind

Montessori is not a form of education that works great for only some children, it was designed to benefit all children. Children of all ages are often taught together in typical Montessori settings, and the space for children to learn from each other is fostered. In addition to this, all children are treated equally.

Since Montessori is individualized for each child rather than practiced under the assumption that all children learn the same, children with special needs are not excluded from the typical classroom and are given the space to learn at their own unique pace.

Montessori is Child Centered

Montessori is not designed to be easier for you, although it might end up seeming that way once you get the hang of it. Environments that foster Montessori concepts allow for the freedom of movement and self expression.

Children should be able to speak freely, engage in their space without restrictions, and exist in a sense of structured freedom – If there is something you don’t want your child having access to, it should not be in their space.

The goal of Montessori is to give your child “real world” experiences, to validate the importance of their accomplishments and get them to stray away from only engaging in what they consider to be play.

When is the Best Time to Begin Implementing Montessori Practices?

The sooner the better! While Montessori can be beneficial at any age, it’s best work is shown when it is implemented early. Montessori education practices can be put in place immediately with your newborn by the way you set up their nursery, what you choose to dress them in, and the way you communicate with them.

The reason it is so important to implement Montessori practices from the start is because the Montessori method recognizes that babies are born as essentially little sponges. Babies soak in everything around them and form their assumptions about the outside world based on what they are surrounded by, and this shapes who they are as an individual all the way into adulthood.

The Absorbent Mind and Sensitive Periods

Maria Montessori recognized two unique characteristics in early childhood – The idea of “the absorbent mind” and what she refers to as “sensitive periods”. Sensitive periods and the idea of the absorbent mind are two concepts that only apply to a child until about 6 years old, and play an incredibly formative role in who they grow up to be.

The absorbent mind is what encourages our little one to seek out self-development, it is what ultimately encourages our children to explore their surroundings and seek out their interests and desires. Back to the idea of our babies being sponges, the idea of the absorbent mind reinforces that babies learn without effort. Babies soak in their surroundings and gather all they know from their environment, learning with the least work they will ever do.

During this time of the absorbent mind, Maria Montessori noted also witnessing sensitive periods. Sensitive periods are periods of time where babies are completely absorbed in a singular task or skill and gain joy from repeatedly trying to master or complete this task.

Your baby experiences the internal self drive to learn and problem solve without any restriction during a sensitive period, and it’s important to stay hands off during this time and let your little one experience it without interference. You might notice a sensitive period when a child becomes fixated on their senses (smell, touch, sound, and so forth) or when they master crawling or walking.

When considering how extremely formative the early years are in what your child learns and how they permit themselves to learn, it’s no wonder why Montessori is best implemented ASAP.

How to Practice Montessori With a Newborn

The Nursery

Rather than following the latest Pinterest nursery trends, focus on making your baby’s nursery a space centered around their development. Strive to create an environment that your child can exist freely in (many Montessori parents opt for a floor bed, so kiddos can fully navigate their space), with minimal distractions or “extras”.

Their Clothing

The consistent theme of Montessori is freedom. Choose clothes that your little one won’t feel restricted or distracted by. Allow for your child to exist in their space as comfortably as possible, and when they get old enough allow them to be an active part in choosing their outfit!

Let Them MOVE!

Ditch the bouncers, swings, and jumpers – Confining your baby is a big no-no in Montessori. Giving your child ample floor time to get familiar with their surroundings and how they control their body is highly encouraged.

Use Your Grown Up Words

When practicing Montessori, baby talk is highly discouraged. Since children are so absorbent in their first few years, it’s very important that we talk to them as little intellectuals! By talking to your child about their surroundings, explaining to them the minute details of what is going on around them, and including them in conversations you are doing wonders for their future language skills.

Which Toys Are Considered “Montessori Approved”?

The most basic questions you should ask yourself when wondering whether or not a toy would be considered appropriate in a Montessori setting are – Does this toy promote learning? Is it age appropriate? Is it realistic? And, is it an active or passive toy?

Montessori puts a lot of emphasis on the real world. While some make believe and fantasy is absolutely okay, it’s important to surround your little one with toys that will help them learn about the world around them and the way things work. Steer clear of brightly colored, over the top, noisy plastic toys and try to give your child wooden or knitted toys that they can easily understand the origins of.

If your child understands where their toys come from, how they are made, and that they can be damaged, they learn to have a level of respect for their belongings that can otherwise be lost.

Toys also should be passive – They shouldn’t allow your little one to sit back and observe, but rather present a need for engagement. When a toy is passive your child is given the opportunity to problem solve and explore rather than search out the instant gratification of a song or lights at the press of a button.

Sensory Bin Tools with Wooden Box, Montessori Toys for Toddlers, Sensory Toys, Set of 12 Wooden Scoops and Wooden Tongs for Transfer Work and Fine Motor Learning, Motor Skills Development

The wooden tray is perfect for sensory toys. Your child can pour beans, oats or sand in this box and get creative with their imagination while developing fine motor skills!

Manhattan Toy Artful Skwish Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy

The multi-sensory clutching baby toy is a great way to help your little one develop their gross motor skills while also encouraging grasping and reaching. It’s made of lightweight wood with smooth finishes on all the pieces, which makes it easy for babies hands fit perfectly around these dowels so they can hold onto them easily!

How Can Montessori Help Your Baby Hit Their Milestones?

Reminder : Every baby is unique! If your child doesn’t seem to be hitting their milestones exactly when it is expected of them, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. Babies often simply move at their own pace, just like we adults do. This guide below serves as simply another way to approach working on hitting milestones with a “no pressure” approach.

0-3 Months

Implementing tummy time and adding high contrast toys or mirrors can encourage your little one to work those neck muscles and begin exploring their surroundings through sight. Continually communicating with your baby by explaining what is going on around them and asking permission before picking them up will begin working on their language skills as well!

3-6 Months

It’s all about movement! Offer your baby a free range of motion and a variety of environments to explore. As their eyesight and coordination improves, your baby’s surroundings become more and more important. Allow for your little one to work on reaching for their toys themselves, and continue to communicate to them about their new and exciting surroundings.

6-9 Months

The senses are extremely important between the ages of 6-9 months. Your little one’s eyesight has greatly improved, they are beginning to master sitting, and they may even be ready for their first tastes of solid food. Giving your baby opportunities to experience with their senses by touching, tasting, and exploring their environments is key during this time period. Talk to your baby about the new stimuli they are experiencing, and use descriptive language with them. Remember as well to encourage lots of movement!

9-12 Months

It’s time to baby proof! Foster your little ones independence by increasing the space they have access to. Remember to ask yourself whether or not a space could be overstimulating to them, and to be intentional about what you bring into their world. Work on simple songs with your little one and their ability to identify the people around them and the toys they frequent.

The Montessori Baby: A Parent's Guide to Nurturing Your Baby with Love, Respect, and Understanding

Drawing on the powerful insights of educator Dr. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Baby by Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike shows you how to raise your baby with love and respect from birth through age one in a way that is calm yet stimulating for both parent and child alike!

What About Baby Wearing?

Baby wearing is a topic often debated in the Montessori world as any restriction of movement is often viewed as impeding on your child’s independence, but the act of baby wearing has been around for centuries.

The reality is that infants crave closeness with their caretakers as much as they crave the freedom to move about, they want the same sense of security they had when they were carried for 9 months! While using baby wearing only as a way of containing your baby for your own convenience may not be the best option, it can be done in a way that is enriching for both you and your child.

Think of all of the things you can accomplish when you have access to both of your hands – Your little one is having those same experiences too! By baby wearing your child is experiencing much more stimuli than they would laying flat in a stroller, or sitting on the ground while you attempt to speed clean before they cry out for you.

Remember to look for a carrier that is ergonomic and keeps the baby’s hips and knees in an “M” shape, promoting their natural posture.

Early Childhood Montessori

While jumping into Montessori education with a toddler can seem intimidating and overwhelming, it can be a much smoother process when the simple practices have been put in place since birth.

If communicating with your baby in a Montessori manner has been in place since you brought your little one home, it will be second nature for you by the time you enter the preschool years, and you won’t have to worry about making big adjustments that will feel difficult for you and your child.

Remember that practicing Montessori can be a learning curve, and doesn’t have to be all or nothing or achieved overnight. Anyone can implement Montessori where and when it feels right in their lives, and it’s never too early to get started!

Montessori Toys for Babies | 3 in 1 Soft Baby Toys Bundle | Baby Toys 6 to 12 Months | Sensory Toys for Toddlers 1-3 | Teething Toys for Babies 0-6 Months | Learning Toys

Soft baby toys are perfect for teaching your child important skills that they will use their whole life!

mushie Stacking Cups Toy | Made in Denmark (Original)

Stacking cups are a great way to learn basic motor skills, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness!

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