Montessori philosophy is something I live and breathe during my work week but it’s also something I try to implement in my parenting style with Javi. A lot of people take this to mean that our home is earthy-crunchy and that we don’t allow any toys that are plastic. This isn’t true. Here’s what being Montessori means to us… at (nearly) 17 months.
Prepared Environment – Rather than just “baby-proofing” our whole house we chose to set up prepared environments for Javi. This means he has a small area in each of our main rooms just for him. In the kitchen he has a small kitchen set, a table and chairs and a some cleaning supplies like a broom and a dustpan. We have set up a play space for him with a low shelf and a few toy choices in room now known as his playroom and that’s also where some gross motor activities are like a slide and climbing blocks. In our hobby room we have all his books and musical instruments. I wanted Javi to feel like he had something to do just for him in each room so that as I move from room to room he can come along and do something he’d like. We do have the stairs blocked off with gates and light sockets covered with outlet covers and generally anything we don’t want him to touch isn’t around for him to see and be tempted by. My hope is that our home environment sets limits for us so that we don’t constantly have to say “no” to him.
Real-life Skills – I do my best to let Javi “help” in many areas of the home. I’ll be the first to admit that I have pretty high expectations and preferences so sometimes these tasks end with me becoming increasingly frustrated! — but I do my best to smile because I know how positive these activities can be. He unloads the dishwasher every day and he separates out items from “his” kitchen and the “big” kitchen. When he spills water he wipes up the water with a towel or when he drops food we encourage him to pick up the crumbs. He helps me put away his toys throughout the day. Real-life skills also play into how we speak to Javi. When he falls we choose not to rush to his side as though every tumble is life or death. We sportscast — “I saw you fall. It hurts to fall.” We don’t try to assume we know how he’s feeling when he cries and we don’t tell him “you’re okay” or not to cry.
Promote Concentration – While I prefer the look of wood toys I’m not “no-plastic” when it comes to what we keep in the house. I do think that toys that aren’t flashy or noisy promote and strengthen concentration and focus so when I buy Javi toys I keep that in mind. But he’s given many toys, very generously, and I always put them out for him to use no matter how much noise they make or what they’re made from. Because less is more I try to keep out only a few items at a time and we rotate out toys frequently. When I find that he isn’t using something I replace it but if he loves it — it’s here to stay. When he’s playing (or working, as Montessorians typically say) I don’t disturb him by talking to him or touching what he’s doing. I rarely ask him what he’s up to if he’s focused and I try not to make any movements of my own that will interrupt what he’s doing — partly because I’m fascinated by him and don’t want him to stop and partly because I want him to develop concentration and the ability to play and work independently.
Nurture Inner Motivation – When I watch him do amazing things — complete a puzzle, slide down the slide, build a tower — I respond with a smile and a “you did it” and watch as he claps for himself… but I don’t say “good job” or give him some sort of inclination that I like what he did. In my view, it doesn’t matter if I like it. It matters if he does. I don’t want Javi to grow up and seek out praise from others to know if he did something well. I don’t think praise motivates kids to do anything but seek out more praise. I want Javi to show interest in things he likes, do what he likes well and know that he did it well because he feels it.
So that’s how we’re doing the Montessori thing at home. 🙂