In my 15 years as a Montessori toddler teacher, I have discussed the topic of Montessori in the home environment hundreds of times in a wide range of settings. As I was preparing for a recent NMS coffee talk, it occurred to me how much we tend to focus exclusively on physical modifications/adaptations to support children’s independence. While this is important, it leaves out an incredibly integral and essential element to a Montessori home: the role of the adults. Below are some practices you and other caregivers can implement to promote Montessori in the home:
Modeling: Children more readily learn expectations (and are more likely to abide by them!) when they observe the adults also fulfilling these expectations. Young children are naturally inclined to emulate the important adults in their lives, so the early years are such an opportune time to establish household guidelines.
Setting limits: A common misperception is that children in Montessori schools can do whatever they want, whenever they want. While the children have more freedoms, these freedoms come with limits and, if needed, consequences. For example, the children have a significant degree of freedom in their work choices. Associated limits include the availability of the work and handling the work in an acceptable manner. Take some time to think about some logical limits for your household. When you set the limit, avoid saying “I’m sorry”, as children associate that phrase with a mistake. Limit setting entails being firm, yet gentle; being consistent, and following through.
Being friendly towards error: Adults have a natural tendency to intervene when they perceive a child is struggling or about to make a mistake. In these situations, we are often responding to our desire to make things right than to an actual need for assistance. Unless the child is in danger of hurting themselves or actively seeking help, I encourage you to step back and observe. These moments allow the child the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, perseverance and self-confidence.