Montessori in the Home
When your child is enrolled in Montessori School, they spend their days learning with hands-on activities. Montessori students are encouraged to learn by doing and are given opportunities throughout the day to do just that. Children are also given the freedom to explore topics that are of interest to them. A huge variety of tools and activities are available for students to choose from as they see fit.
Knowing this, it is easy to see why a child may come home with questions and even more exploration on their mind.
Instead of sitting your child in front of a television set, why not offer them a selection of activities and take advantage of their curiosity? Below are just a few of the many simple activities you can put together for your child in five minutes or less. These are perfect for entertaining the little ones while you prepare dinner.
Locks and Keys
Gather up as many locks and keys as you can find. Small padlocks and bike locks are perfect for this project, but an old doorknob or deadbolt could be thrown in as well. Place all the locks and keys in a tray and let your child go to town figuring out how each lock works and which keys match each lock. This is an excellent exercise in size-determination, memory, and patience. It also works both fine and gross motor skills.
A simple magnifying glass can provide hours of entertainment to the curious young person. Place several interesting items — shells, rocks, leaves, feathers, and other items from nature work well — along with a magnifying glass into a tray or other container, and watch as your little one observes, with intense interest, the world around them.
Encourage your child to go outside and gather items to observe from the back yard. For older kids, a microscope can add another layer of exploration to this activity.
Instead of entertaining your child while you make dinner, why not get them involved in making dinner with you? Provide your child with a set of tongs and have them move fruit from the cutting board into a bowl.
Your little chef will be working toward a finished product, which will give them a sense of accomplishment. They will also be working on important motor skills as they use the tongs to grasp each piece of fruit individually and move it, without squishing it, to the bowl.
Have your young child help unload the dishwasher. Remove all sharp objects from the silverware basket first and then hand it to your preschooler along with the silverware tray from your drawer. Allow your child to sort the silverware into the proper part of the organizer. Make sure to point out that some forks and spoons are bigger than others and remind the child to sort them into their proper places.
This activity will leave your little one feeling proud of the work they have done. It will also help them understand sorting, which is a beginning math skill.
This activity may require more involvement from you, but it tends to bring up some wonderful conversations.
Cut two holes in a box for your child's arms. Place several items in the box and have your kid stick their hands through the holes and identify objects using only their sense of touch. When an item has been identified, have a conversation about why the child believes it is that item. There are many variations on this game, but all of them encourage sensory development as well as sparking interesting conversations and potentially expanding the young person's vocabulary.
Grace and Courtesy
Montessori is, in a word, respect. In the Montessori classroom, grace and courtesy are the words used to describe respect for others. In order to bring this practice home, parents must truly respect their children. Just as parents and teachers deserve to be respected, children also deserve this gift from the adults and other children in their lives.
Showing children they are appreciated by using such words as "please" and "thank you" is a great place to start.
Acknowledging a young person's unique qualities and interests, and allowing them ample time to finish the projects they begin, are also great displays of grace and courtesy. Children need to be expected to respect others in the same ways.
Siblings should never be allowed to jump into an activity of another without permission or to take an item away. This is very disrespectful of work that is being carried out and unacceptable in all Montessori classrooms. Practicing grace and courtesy in all situations will go a long way in making a home a peaceful and productive one.
Order in the Workspace
By offering an array of engaging activities in an appealing and clutter-free way, parents invite children to work. Art supplies, age-appropriate books, simple building materials, gardening tools, and a variety of other tools and activities clearly displayed in an easy-to-reach place are tempting to little hands.
Allowing children to choose their own activities and expecting them to respect their space by cleaning up when their project is finished gives them a sense of independence and self-confidence. Keeping the workspace neat and organized shows respect of the space and creates an environment free from distractions.
Independence and Freedom
Making decisions helps build confidence in children and gives them a sense of self-ownership and control over their lives. Offering a young person choices whenever possible is also an excellent way of showing respect for them and their opinions.
As mentioned before, age-appropriate activities should always be easily accessible to little hands, and children should have the freedom to pick and choose which tools and toys they will use. To build on this, children may also be allowed to choose their own clothes (pick a few outfits for them to choose from if you are uncomfortable with allowing them free reign), choose what fruit is in their lunch box, or decide whether they would like to brush their teeth or read a bedtime story first.
Learning in Context
The Montessori classroom encourages learning in context. People learn best when information is gained through real life experiences. Having a child help with menu planning, grocery budgeting and shopping, and cooking meals are excellent ways to help a child learn by doing. Any activity a young person shows interest in can be turned into an immersive learning experience.
Retaining by Teaching
On a similar note, once a person has knowledge in a certain area, the best way to help that information stick, and possibly even expand upon the knowledge, is to teach it. Encouraging a child to teach other children (siblings included) a skill is an excellent way to help them retain information. As a bonus, being asked to teach by a respected adult will boost a child's confidence.