Cooped up at home with a preschooler and wondering how to provide some meaningful learning for them? You’ve probably heard of the Montessori approach to preschool education, but you might not realize how simple it is to incorporate Montessori practice into your preschooler’s day. Now is a perfect time to explore intentional, focused learning at home with your soon-to-be kindergartener, and we’ve got some suggestions from the director of Edmonds Montessori, Christi Kreft, to help guide you. We promise, it will be easy, painless, and fun, and it will buy you some time to get other things done, too.
Nature and nurture. “The foundation of Montessori education philosophy requires nurturing each child's natural desire for knowledge, understanding, and respect,” says Kreft. Children learn through exploration, so providing them with the space to move around and explore materials is key. “At Edmonds Montessori, the children are experiencing a multi-age environment that we describe as organic, free-range learning.”
In your home, you could offer your child objects to work with such as plastic toy animals, and then ask he or she to sort them by land, water, or air animals. Ask your child to gather objects from around the house and categorize them by size. Gather beads, pom poms, or other small manipulatives and have your child use a muffin tin to sort them by color, and then count them. These simple activities are examples of explorative, free range learning.
Household objects and opportunities. Kreft explains, “While there are specific didactic materials that require lessons in the classrooms, we also prepare the environment for hands-on learning through a variety of extensions. Be creative, you can adapt almost anything.” The Montessori approach suggests that children should self-select materials, and they will begin to independently formulate concepts from doing so. So, provide some options for them, and let them explore. The materials they choose to work with will also give them feedback about their errors and successes.
Have your child sort laundry or silverware, pair the family’s shoes together, pour dry ingredients in bowls or measuring cups, water plants, or do other small tasks around the house. They may be able to teach younger siblings to do some of the simpler tasks, and in turn learn from the process of teaching. Don’t worry about setting a certain time period for them to complete the work. It should be self-paced, and the child will feel a sense of success from repetition of the process.
Real life application. A big part of the Montessori philosophy is helping kids become independent in taking care of their own basic needs (like pouring themselves water and listening to their bodies for hunger) and making healthy choices. An Edmonds Montessori parent explains, “Montessori at home can be done with giving kids ‘real life’ things to do like pouring water, cleaning things and helping around the house, and also giving them access to ‘raw materials’ like blocks.”
She adds, “Montessori teaches kids to play independently with confidence. I think that could be done at home by setting up more of a station approach to activities, regardless of what types of toys or materials you use. Have things laid out at different spots that allow kids to pick and choose what they would like to interact with, and then set clear boundaries,” like making sure the child pushes their chair in and cleans up their work station when finished.
Observe vs. impose. Finally, when bringing a Montessori approach to your preschooler at home, it’s important to remember that your child’s independence is key. Provide them with materials, and some choice, and give them the space to do the work. Let them make mistakes and work through them on their own. Encourage them, but don’t do the work for them. Kreft reminds us, “Observe. Allow them to work. Ask if they need help before imposing a solution.”
Edmonds Montessori and director Christi Kreft have been serving families in the community for over twenty years. Visit their website or Facebook page for more information about philosophy, enrollment, and parent reviews.