Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and professor of anthropology at University. In the early 1900s she presented a revolutionary approach to education. Dr Montessori’s research work was based on observation of children, which combined with her background in medicine led to her method and approach to education. Her approach is child-centred, which means a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, prepared environment.
Therefore, one thing we (parents or carers) can do is to prepare the environment for the child to develop his/her potential. Also, one of the central ideas in the Montessori method is that children learn through their interaction with objects and the environment and that the process of learning is far more important than the knowledge itself.
Another key aspect of Montessori’s method is to educate for peace. Maria Montessori lived through two World Wars and was affected by the Spanish Civil War, hence her commitment to educate for peace. Dr Montessori recognized the spirit of love within all children and therefore emphasized the need to educate children about themselves, their community, other cultures and the environment.
It was all these principles that attracted me to learn more about the Montessori method. These are principles I want to pass to Diego throughout his development. The first time I heard about Montessori was years before I became a mother and it was through a dear friend who is a pre-school teacher herself and she explained to me how this method of education benefited her son. Later on, when I was pregnant with Diego, I went to visit my friend Gioia who had her son exactly a year before Diego and I saw how she prepared her house in a Montessori way for her son. I was pleased to find out that I could apply Montessori’s philosophy at home. After this visit, I researched further about Montessori’s philosophy and the ways I could apply it in my own home once Diego was born.
Here I am going to share with you how I prepared our home since Diego was born until now. I will also share some of the blogs and books that have helped me to learn more about Montessori’s principles, how to make some of the material and how to prepare the environment at home. Luckily, there is lots of information out there about preparing the environment (the house) in a Montessori way. However, it can also be overwhelming and perhaps a bit discouraging to see pictures of different materials and toys that are often expensive. So, if you want to apply the Montessori philosophy at home, focus on the core principles of what Doctor Montessori’s method is about. As Jasmine from Three Minute Montessori blog once explained in a Montessori session with her: if you have all the Montessori’s toys and materials but none of the principles, that is not Montessori. However, if you have the principles but not the toys, that is Montessori.
So, I encourage you to look at the Montessori method as more than beautifully decorated rooms or a trendy parenting style because as you will find out, Montessori emphasises simplicity and order.
Now let me show you how we prepared our home following the Montessori method.
In the next few photos you will see three different mobiles I made with the help of my friends and husband. Mobiles are essential for the infant prepared environment and as explained here, they encourage focus and concentration, offer a visual experience, give kinetic information and educate the aesthetic sense. I made them when I was pregnant with Diego so they were ready for his arrival. I made them a few months before Diego’s arrival as I knew I would have no time once he was born.
The first one to introduce is the Munari Mobile, which is the first one in the Montessori visual mobile series. It is black and white, which is suitable for an infant’s developing vision. Also, it is developmentally appropriate as it is not overwhelming and can be introduced from 2 to 6 weeks of age. I used this blog as a guide to make our own mobile.
The second mobile is the Octahedron, which is introduced at 6 weeks of age. As said here, the Octahedron Mobile helps lay the foundations for future understanding of geometric proportions, relationships and patterns. My friends Majo and Ana helped me to make this one. However, you can use this guide to make your own.
The third one is the Gobbi mobile. It is a mobile of five spheres of graduated shades of one colour. It can be introduced from 8 weeks old. For this one I watched this video tutorial to make my own. Later on, I have changed Diego’s mobiles a few times to this one and this one.
The other thing we have included in our prepared environment at home is the floor-bed. In our case, I didn’t actually put a mattress on the floor as recommended. Instead we bought a cot where one side can be removed, giving the child freedom of access. The cot can also be lowered down so there is no risk of falling and getting injured. We removed one side of the cot when Diego was 11 months old because he was crawling and could move in and out freely. To be honest, we are still working on Diego sleeping in his bed through the night. I recommend you to read this post which explains well the idea of bed floors.
Once Diego started crawling and later on, walking, I have focused more on his play area. Especially his toy shelf, which is located in the living room of our flat. I got our toy shelf for free from my friend and it has worked perfectly for Diego and us. A Montessori space will have furniture that is the size of the child, giving them freedom to access and manipulate objects. Also, organizing toys in this way give a sense of order and space. Here is a video that I think gives a nice idea of how to set up furniture and organize their toys. For instance, I store Diego’s toys in a basket and display the ones he plays with more and also is according to his development at a specific age and I rotate them every so often.
The other piece of furniture is his ‘high chair’. As I explained before, the environment should allow the child to move freely and safely. So, traditional high chairs actually restrict the child’s movements because they need help from an adult to sit and get down. Myself and my husband bought Diego this chair, which you can use as a traditional high chair, but also as a table and chair, which enables the child free access. As you can see in the picture, Diego is having his breakfast at the table and chair. I eat on the floor with Diego during breakfast and lunch so we eat together and when my husband joins us for dinner we also eat on the floor. We occasionally use the high chair form as well. It all depends on what works best for you.
Finally, I want to mention that I have been doing some baking with Diego as he has been showing interest in practical life activities such as cooking. Even though Diego is 19 months old, he is capable of doing many things when cooking. Therefore, cooking is an activity that will have a place in our weekly schedule. Honestly, practical life activities deserve an entire post, so it’s a topic I will certainly write more about soon.
Below you can see some photos of Diego baking blueberry muffins. You can find the recipe here. I hope you enjoy this post and I would love to hear if you have done some Montessori at home with your kids and what you have done. I also hope you find the information I shared in this post useful.