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Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Montessori Food Q+A

Montessori weaning in the parent-infant class
Snack time in the Montessori Baby Class where babies enjoy food together and parents learn about Montessori-style weaning.

This blog post is common question and answer style discussion about Montessori Weaning, food-related difficulties with toddlers, play food, and links to a great Montessori mealtime set. I hope you find it very practical and helpful! 

1 | Montessori Weaning

“How does Montessori weaning work?”

Montessori weaning is a child-led approach to the transition from milk to solid foods. We use real, child-sized dishes, glasses, and cutlery to make their experience similar to they way they see us eat. A great place to introduce Baby’s first food is at the family table during a family meal. After you start introducing solid foods, your baby will decide how fast or slow you change to eating food all the time. Start a meal with the food you have chosen, and finish the meal with milk. Gradually baby will take more solid food and less milk until they are completely weaned.

“When should we introduce solid foods?”

In Montessori we follow the child’s interest and natural path of development. Baby’s interest in food sparks around 6 months old. They will start to reach for food at the table, to watch with fascination while you are eating. They have probably had their first tooth and they will be sitting comfortably with support. This is a great time to start introducing new flavours and drinking water from an open glass.

“What are some good 1st foods?”

What you give as your baby’s first food is up to you, your culture, and their interest. You can give juices, broths, soft solid vegetables, soft fruits, purees, or tastes of what you are eating during family meals.

babies eating bread and strawberries at Montessori weaning table
These babies have the choice between strawberries and soft bread.

2 | Refusing food

“My child just isn’t interested in food!”

There are multiple reasons why children refuse foods. Sometimes they don’t feel hungry; sometimes they are too tired/overstimulated/not feeling well and will prefer milk. Having scheduled mealtimes also makes a big difference because your child can feel when it’s time to eat based on your daily routine and prepare themselves.

Starting each meal/snack time with 2 solid food options allows the child to choose which food they want to eat and how much. You can finish each meal with milk to make sure that they get all the nutrition that they need. If they have refused a food, have patience, stay positive, and keep offering different options. If you are concerned about how much your child is eating, please speak with your paediatrician.

toddler eats at Montessori table
A toddler enjoying strawberries during snack time, which he cut for himself in Montessori Toddler Class.

3 | Family Meals

“My child doesn’t want to sit at the table.”

First you should set the general expectation that when we eat, we eat at the table. If they are hungry, I promise that they will sit with you and eat. When they are done and they want to leave the table, put the food away together. Do not to continue to feed them or give snacks while they walk around. This is distracting and it sends the mixed message that food comes to them and they can eat it wherever they like. Remember to have patience and stay positive. 🙂 You are the parent and you are setting a kind, but firm limit.

“My toddler wants me to play with him during meal times.”

Family meals give babies a lot of information and language. They should be able to participate as an equal member of the family by having a place for themselves at the table – to join you in eating or just observing. If they want to go play after they have finished eating, that’s fine, but you also need to finish your mealtime. You can let your little one know that after you have finished and cleaned up you will be happy to play with him, but at the moment it’s meal time so they are welcome to sit with you at the table or play in their space until you are able to join them.

Our adjustable weaning table by Community Playthings and handmade cube chairs by Montessori Mother Materials

4 | Throwing food

“What should I do when my child throws food?”

If you are trying to feed your child and they are throwing food, maybe they are not hungry enough to eat right now or they have finished their food. If they have finished eating, they we should set the example that throwing food isn’t appropriate by removing the food and cleaning up together. If they are not hungry, you can try again to sit down an eat in 30 minutes.  Make sure to give at least two options with meals so they can decide which food they want to eat.

Snack table in our Montessori Toddler Class

5 | Using real food + dishes

“Why don’t you use toy food in Montessori?”

In Montessori we always give real objects so that children can have their own experiences and learn about real life. Toddlers are fascinated by cooking and eating, something that they have observed adults doing for their whole lives and they are even more interested when they have the opportunity to do it themselves. So instead of a wooden banana with velcro, give them a real banana and a dull knife (link below) and they can cut it themselves and prepare their own snack!

How great is it that when they feel hungry they can know where to go and what to do to feed themselves. As long as you prepare a space for them in the kitchen where they can do this easily and safely, they won’t have to ask an adult each time they feel a bit peckish. They can meet their own need until the family mealtime. You can start doing this with simple snacks as soon as your little one is walking-around 16 months. Just empty out a low cabinet or shelf and put there a little try or box with one favourite snack in it that they are allowed to take and eat at any time. It helps if they have their own little table nearby where they can sit, prepare, and enjoy it as well.

“Why do you give real glasses and plates to babies?”

We always use real cups, dishes, and cutlery with our babies and toddlers in Montessori. Using plastic spoons and dishes and water bottles is not necessary. We should trust the child enough to  allow them the same pleasant experience we expect when eat. 

6 | A Montessori Mealtime Set

Montessori at Home

How to set up a Montessori play area at home (from birth to 3 years)

What are the reasons for using Montessori education at home?

1.Our absolute main goal is to support the child’s mental and physical development. First we are aware of what the child’s needs are, and then we prepare the space for them, so that they can follow their natural path of development with everything in their environment is available to them to use to meet each developmental need. 

2. Understanding the child also makes parenting them more peaceful and more joyous because it takes away our struggles and frustration of every-day tasks like getting dressed, going off to sleep, etc 

3. At home, you are often able to allow your child to have more control over their learning than they have at school. When children have more control over their learning, they are able to face challenges, grow their creativity, and become more resilient. They have to be self-aware, resourceful, and confident in their capabilities in order to solve their own problems. 

4. Finally, Montessori is an education for life and gives children a love for learning so that they can succeed in every other area of their life. 

Parts of the Montessori 0-3 Environment

When we talk about the home environment from 0-3, we are looking at 4 general zones of the child’s space. They are the sleep, care, food, and movement areas. In this blogpost, we are going  to focus mostly on the movement area because that’s usually what people think about when we talk about Montessori and the other areas can be different for every family.

The toddler (5m-walking) play area includes…

· low, light-weight table and chairsprovides a comfortable place where the child can focus on their work
· cleaning suppliesteaches responsibility and allows child to do practical life work
· toddler shelf with 6-10 materials organises the toddler’s materials for most success
· easelprovides a comfortable place for artistic expression
· access to water sourceallows the toddler basic access to drinking water and water for practical life (just a small amount)
· plant with watering canteaches how to care for nature
· 3-8 books on a low Montessori bookshelf or basketchild can grow a love for reading
· wall art hung at eye levelbeautifies the space + gives visual information
· reading loungegives the child a comfortable place to enjoy their books

The baby (5m-walking) play area includes…

· larger movement mat or regular carpetallows Baby to move freely, easily, and safely
· mirror on the wall with pull-up barprovides motivations and opportunities to stand
· low shelf with 6-8 materials organises Baby’s materials for maximum success
· push wagonallows Baby to walk independently and practice balance
· tactile mobilestrains the grasp and supports concentration
· plant with small watering pitcherteaches how to care for nature
· 3 books on a low Montessori bookshelf or basketchild can grow a love for reading
· wall art hung near to floorbeautifies the space + gives visual information
· place to climbstairs, a Pikler triangle, or bridge offer a defined climbing area

The newborn (0-5m) play area includes…

· firm movement matallows Baby to move freely, easily, and safely
· low horizontal mirrorgives visual feedback on movements; allows Baby to see more of the environment
· low shelf with 3-6 materials or booksprovides motivation to crawl
· visual mobilesgives gentle stimulation and supports visual development
Montikids $50 off code: MONTESSORIMOTHER
· plantshares an appreciation for life and nature
· wall art hung near to floorbeautifies the space + gives visual information

I hope you found this helpful and interesting! I will go more into detail about materials and other zones of the environment in separate blogposts.

Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials

15 Montessori gifts for 0-3

Here are 5 Montessori gifts for newborns, babies, and toddlers that are perfect for Christmas, Chanukah, birthdays, or just because!

I hope this list will make getting gifts for your little ones this year a bit easier – whether you’re looking for your own child or your relatives are wondering what to buy for them.

These Montessori materials, furniture, and non-toxic toys range in price from 6 to 240 € and are made by various brands in Germany, France, and Sweden. I have separated them into three age groups: newborn (0-6m), baby (6-14m), and toddler (14-36m)

Gifts for newborns 0-6 months

MUNARI MOBILE

The first Montessori material from birth is the Munari mobile. Its high contrast colour allows Baby to focus on it. The geometric elements are designed with specific proportions that ignite a child’s inherent mathematical sense. It moves naturally with the air in the room so that it’s slow enough for their eyes to follow, which gradually improves their ability to shift focus between distances. Hang 30 cm from the movement mat.

TOPPONCINO

A topponcino is a thin mattress used for holding and carrying newborns. It supports them when relatives or siblings are holding them. It keeps the familiar smell of the parents and eases transitions from person to person/place to place. Time-tested design by Maria Montessori.

BEST TEETHER EVER

This ball is great for grasping, teething, and playing. It can also be cooled in the refrigerator to soothe Baby’s gums.

MOVEMENT MAT

Movement is an essential factor for intellectual growth. Freedom of movement is Baby’s time to have their own experiences using all of their senses and make their own discoveries. The Montessori movement mat allows Baby to move freely in a place where view of the space is not obstructed by any walls or bars.

WOBBLE TOY

This toy wobbles slowly back and forth and is a motivation to Baby to reach out and start to crawl. It’s small enough for them to grab and it also makes a soft sound when the yellow ball moves from side to side.

Gifts for babies 6-16 months

ELECTRIC PIANO

This tiny piano has a beautiful and realistic sound. It also has an on/off switch. My little ones in the Montessori Baby class love playing the piano we have in the music area. This is a nice way to make creating and enjoying music a part of your child’s every day life.

PUSH TOY

This is such a fun material that babies can use successfully and toddlers also enjoy. The balls have to be pushed down so it trains their finger strength, grasp and release, and sense of object permanence.

BALL TRACKER

The tracker is an amazing Montessori material for integrating the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which supports movement and crawling. It also trains their grasp and release and balance. *photo by Eltern vom Mars*

RINGS ON DOWEL

A ring on dowel activity is a critical material for babies. It’s something that they can use for a long time with multiple levels of difficulty. First with a single large wooden ring, and gradually they work up to using a basket of these 4 small rings to the side.

PEG AND RING BOARD

This is a great toy which can be used in so many ways as Baby grows. The first presentation is as a simple pegging activity with 2-4 of the pegs in the board, on the shelf. The final presentation is a colour-matching activity with all the pegs and rings in two separate baskets on the side.

Gifts for toddlers 16 -36 months

TOOL BOX

Toddlers love learning about tools. Teaching them how to use a saw, hammer, clamp, manual drill, screwdriver… is a lifelong skill that they can do successfully and independently from two years old! It’s amazing how much children are capable of when they have the right tools. The Haba Terra tools are good quality, child-sized, and most importantly, real.

BUY ON AMAZON:

MONTESSORI RADIO

Hoerbert plays screen-free music that the child can choose for themselves. You can also program white noise, audiobooks, and entire playlists into the buttons through their easy application. This is a fantastic way to include multiple languages in your child’s environment as well if each button has songs or stories in a different language.

WATERING CAN + PLANT

Toddlers love caring for the environment. Giving them their own plant to love and water and clean is a beautiful way to support their sense of responsibility, respect for life, and self esteem. Water is also a huge point of interest right now and they LOVE to pour, so make sure that you buy a plant which can take a lot of water. 🙂

CRINKLE CUTTER

It’s such a boost to a toddler’s self esteem when they can prepare a snack for themselves, therefor fulfilling one of their basic needs independently. Cutting a banana or other soft fruits+veggies is a safe and easy activity that you can keep available for your little one at all times in the kitchen for when they feel like having a snack. Invite your toddler to help you chop ingredients for meals. This teaches life skills and includes them as a contributing member for the family. 🙂

THREADING ACTIVITY

Threading is another activity which grows with your little one as their fine motor skills develop. This beautiful set comes with 18 wooden beads. When you first introduce this toy around 14 months, you can start with just the thread and 2 beads. Slowly add more and more. You can also use them for color sorting activities! Suggestion: when your toddler is able to have success using the wooden threading needle, change it out for a long thicker shoe lace for a new challenge.

More gift ideas…

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

montessori toddler parent playgroup mother nesting activities

What is temperament?

The child’s temperament is the social and emotional part of their personality, which they are born with. Understanding our children’s temperaments and the way it contrasts with our own can help make life easier so that we can:

>>> prevent and manage problems more easily
>>> modify the child’s environment to best suit their needs
>>> set reasonable limits & expectations

There are no bad or good temperaments, only constructive or non-constructive expectations towards them. 

We can be a positive model of temperament control by accepting the child’s natural tendencies and adjusting our reactions through self-observation.

Try to avoid giving the children labels like, “she is fearless; he is social…” because it can be difficult later to free them from this role. This temperament questionnaire is simply meant to help us to recognise their patters of behaviour so we can maintain a peaceful and positive connection with our little ones. 🙂

Use the questionnaire below to compare your temperament and your child’s. Do you have similar or differing personalities?

Montessori Temperament Questionnaire

1. Activity level

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – rarely bored
– enjoys playing independently moves
– constantly seeks out new things
– wiggles and needs to move around
– makes decisions impulsively (or perhaps recklessly)
– needs frequent breaks from sitting
– Try to anticipate what’s going to happen throughout the day and plan several steps ahead.
– Allow enough time to burn off energy
– Give activities one at a time, particularly when traveling.
– Find new skills and challenges or materials to keep them interested and engaged in the environment .
LOW – generally calm and easy-going
– content to sit quietly for long periods of time
– often found engrossed in a task
– sits through mealtimes
– Let them play and figure things out at their own pace (don’t interrupt or rush them).
– Allow enough time for the child to transition to a new task.
– Accept that they will take their time doing things. 

2. Adaptability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – can easily cope with unexpected situations or events
– easily influenced by the feedback from others
– Be a positive model of behaviour and language. They are absorbing everything. 🙂
– Give positive feedback instead of general praise: “You put the puzzle together! You look very pleased with yourself!”
– Give plenty of opportunities for new challenges.
LOW – takes time to warm up to new situations or places
– does not enjoy switching from one task to another
– changes in the daily routine may be upsetting
– Aim for a routine whenever possible. 
– Prepare your child in advance if there’s likely to be a change.
– Allow them to repeat as much as they need to whenever possible.
– Invite them to try something new, but respect their choice if they decline.

3. Approach to new situations & sociability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
BOLD – has a carefree, fearless approach to life
– enthusiastic about new situations and people
– doesn’t consider possible dangers
– Let them have their own experiences, but monitor closely for safety
– Give frequent reminders
– Set clear boundaries
HESITANT – less likely to put self at risk
– exhibits caution
– hesitates often and for long periods of time
– Prepare for new situations and experiences ahead of time
– Don’t force them to participate if they are not comfortable

4. Attention span

temperament qualities Montessori tips
SHORT – eager to move on to the next thing
– most work is not done to completion
– doesn’t follow long demonstrations
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– forgets to tidy up
– Keep language and instructions to the minimum
– Allow them to get involved quickly
– Use points of interest to help them notice what they are doing.
– Remind them what they were doing if they get distracted
– Have a place fore everything and a clear order to the space
– Encourage practical life activities
LONG – without distractions, can concentrate for a long time
– persists even when facing difficulty
– can return to an activity even if their attention has been briefly redirected
– does activities to completion
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– Allow the child to  continue or repeat a task as long as they need.
– If you need the child to do something or go somewhere, wait until their state of concentration has ended.
– When you see that the interest and intensity of their concentration is fading, invite them to tidy up or try something new.
– Respond to tantrums with gentleness and compassion.
– Introduce activities that require multiple steps .

5. Distractibility

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – notices every sound and movement
– doesn’t maintain a constant  state of concentration, but can come back to their current task (if attention span is long)
– finds it very difficult to become fully engaged in a task (if attention span is short)
– Provide a quiet and orderly workspace to limit distractions
– Remind them what their work was if they get sidetracked
– Never interrupt  if they have achieved focus
LOW – can remain focused, even amidst chaos
– becomes frustrated if something isn’t working perfectly
– Allow them to go through a process at their own pace.
– Show them slowly and clearly each new activity so they can have success
montessori toddler playdough clay work art materials mother

6. Intensity of Reaction

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – must have all needs met at all times
– very self-aware
– demands attention
– attracted to what other children have
– Have patience
– Model mindfulness and respect
– Remind them of other people and children in the environment
“Alfie’s working on that. It will be available soon.”
– Set kind a firm limits.
LOW – laid-back
– enjoys most things
– doesn’t react when their work is taken away
– Try to give them the language to express their wants or needs
“Do you want to say, ‘this is my work. It will be available soon?” 
– Look for signs of their desires which they may not be expressing
– Offer 2 choices so they can practice choosing for themselves and self-awareness

7. Mood

temperament qualities Montessori tips
CHEERY – smiley
– seems to have fun in most situations
– Observe closely because the child may have developmental needs or obstacles that may be overlooked. 
SOMBER – difficult to read
– complains often
– Accept the child for who they are.
– Make sure they know their feelings are being heard
– Invite to try something new or try a new way

8. Rhythmicity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – naturally falls into routines for eating, sleeping, and toiletting
needs and behaviour are predictable 
behaviour can become erratic with the daily routine is changed if the child has a high reactivity
– Try to anticipate changes and have an appropriate alternative available
“Your boots are unavailable right now. Would you like to wear your boots or your sneakers?”
– Make changes one at a time, for example reading one new story before bed or one new flavour at snack time. 
– Give 2 choices and for opportunities to try something new, but respect their choice if they say no.
“Would you like to go to the pond or the playground today?”
LOW – can ‘go with the flow’
– is not upset by changes in the routine
– it’s difficult to predict their needs without a clearly established routine
– Respect that the child’s patterns may vary from day to day. Some nights they need sleep more than other nights. Some days they need to be more active than other days. 
– Incorporate a regular routine, but allow the child to have some control. For example, make the same quantity of food available at mealtimes, but let the child control how much they eat. 

9. Threshold of sensitivity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – sensitive to the feelings of others
– may react negatively to sudden noises or movements
– may exhibit compassion and try to soothe others
– Allow them to feel and express their feelings in an appropriate way
– Give language to express that they are understood and language to understand the outside person or situation.
“Are you feeling concerned? You noticed that Yuna was crying. Let’s go see if she’s alright.”
“That was a loud noise! Did it startle you?”
LOW – seems not to notice the feelings of other people
– might notice others’ reactions but not realise that they can affect or cause them
– Be a positive model of awareness and sensitivity
– Try to give them the language to understand how others may be feeling.
“Let’s ask if Luka would like a cuddle before we give him one. Luca, would you like a cuddle?”
“Stomping is loud and disturbs others. Let’s go outside and stomp.”

10. Cuddliness & soothability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – feels relaxed when you hug them
– can be soothed by cuddles and words of reassurance
– Offer a cuddle when they are upset before picking them up. “Would you like me to hold you?” Allow them to express yes or no. 
LOW – feels more comfortable at arms length
– just needs time to relax after being upset rather than cuddles or caresses
– If they push you away, don’t take it personally. Stay nearby and let them know you are there for them without giving a hug. 
– Offer a cuddle and allow them to express yes or no. 

Photos by Chad Chittenden and  Kerly Ilves at Montessori Mother ELC

Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

Supporting Concentration in Montessori

father reading to daughter a montessori book for babies about baby bears in a parent and child class

A special part of the Montessori classroom, which is different from traditional classrooms, is that children concentrate deeply and for long periods of time on their work, whether a teacher is watching over them or not. 

Even Dr. Montessori was surprised by this when she first observed a 3 year old student engrossed in her work with the wooden cylinders in the first Casa dei Bambini  in San Lorenzo, 1917. She said, “the expression on the child’s face was one of such concentrated attention that is seemed to me an extraordinary manifestation”. (The Advanced Montessori Method, 1965) This level of concentration later appeared in another child and another until every child in the Casa was able to reach a state of peaceful focus through their work. Thus concentration became a core principle of the time-tested Montessori method.

Montessori supports concentration in 3 ways:

  1. by offering a prepared environment (a space that facilitates the child’s ability to use engage with it)
  2. by preparing interesting materials with varying levels of difficulty (practical activities and materials which engage the senses)
  3. by removing obstacles that might disrupt or distract the children.
montessori diy toddler art shelf with low table painting hanging work and ikea hack easel create activities on trays for young children in berlin

To prepare an environment which supports the child’s power of concentration, the parent becomes a protector of their attention and an observer of their work. The adult must be able to differentiate between purposeful play, and chaotic play. 

Maria Montessori called the child’s purposeful play with materials “the child’s work” because when they play, children can be deeply involved in the activity; their attention is clear and focused; and they are persistently mastering a new skill. “Used in this way,” Maria Montessori says, “ the material reveals itself as a key which puts the child in communication with himself and opens his mind to expression and activity.” (The Discovery of the Child, p. 210)

The way young children think

toddler coin box playing at montessori shelf with wooden tray and other learning materials

Children from 0-3 have a special kind of learning style – an “inner teacher ” which attracts them to the experiences and materials which will teach them what they need to learn in the moment. Toddlers also have the tendency to ignore activities which are too simple or too challenging for them.

This tendency can be observed even in newborn babies – when they are interested in something, they will focus on it for long periods of time and when they become bored, they will look away and their period of concentration will have finished. 

Research in developmental psychology has shown that young children, when free to choose among different materials, will choose materials that optimise their development and that are just above their currently level of competence. (Lillard, p. 117)

In my classroom, the materials on the shelves are arranged from easiest to hardest, from left to right. When parents are in the class, they can see clearly that the youngest children in the group choose more often activities on the left, which are perfect for their stage of development and the older children usually choose to work with the most complicated materials on the left side of the shelf, which offer them the right amount of challenge for their stage of development.

It is because of these observations that we know we can trust the child to make good decisions and know that when we observe them in an intense state of concentration that their activity is crucial to their development and self-mastery. For this reason, we do not interrupt the child unless it is a matter of safety or consideration for others.

Supporting concentration in babies

newborn baby montessori shelf wooden toys teethers black and white takene puzzle kicking ball movement area with mirror and mat and simple wooden shelf

newborns

When a newborn is concentrating on something, don’t disturb them until they are finished. You can observe them for signs: 
– When they are concentrated, they will focus their eyes on something and appear to be in a trance with it.
– When they are not concentrated they will move, maybe fuss and make noise that they are done and would like to be moved or have another need that needs to be met.

freedom of movement

Babies are fascinated with using their senses to understand the world around them better. They are also very focused on learning to slither, crawl, stand, and walk. Offering sensorial activities and open space where they can move freely is the best thing you can do to support their concentration.

Allowing the possibility of movement through an entire room opens up a whole world of interest an opportunities for the child to thoughtfully choose the activities which are necessary for their development.

baby reading a book about baby bears montessori freedom of movement concentration

Materials for supporting concentration at home

1. Levels of difficulty

The optimal materials for supporting concentration in toddlers are ones that are just above their current level of abilities, but not so challenging that they will not have success. When toddlers are under-challenged they can become deviant so it’s important that their environment constantly offer them new levels of difficulty as they grow. 

For example, when you buy or prepare an activity for your child at home, think – “How will this grow with my child?” Is it something you can simplify and add on to as they grow? 

The MontiKids Mailbox, which I have in my classroom, is a great example because it teaches toddlers about early geometric concepts and new vocabulary like “triangular prism!”; and it comes with 3 geometric solids and 5 lids that progress in complexity. 

Montikids mailbox level 5 five montessori material for toddlers puzzle box
You can use my promo code MONTESSORIMOTHER to get $50 off your first MontiKids order! 

2. Practical life activities

Activities in practical life support toddlers’ development of concentration more than any other Montessori materials because they fix their attention on a repetitive movement or process. The purpose of this process is focused on a goal to which the child can relate – a goal that corresponds to their need to care for the environment and engage in the activities they see adults doing around them.

Movement is the secret for holding the attention of the child.”

maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child I
toddler use nienhuis spray bottle to wipe wash montessori table by community playthings

A toddler might, for example, work very hard to clean a table and then start all over again, just for the pleasure of repeating and perfecting the skill of washing it. Although materials like table-washing have a practical purpose of getting the table clean, to the child it is much more. The child is getting to imitate an activity they see adults perform regularly and they are feeling the reward of engaging their full attention on a process they can understand and complete independently. 

In Montessori we adapt all regular chores for the children so they can enjoy completing them successfully. For example, you might buy a sponge at the supermarket and cut it twice to make 3 small sponges which are the perfect size for tiny toddler hands. 

Practical tips for supporting concentration

montessori art shelf toddler concentrating at low ikea table sticker material
  • Use a shelf On a shelf in the child’s play space, set up a shelf with only 6-10 activities for the child. Keep activities on the shelf which you see them repeating again and again. When they ignore an activity it may be too challenging or too simple and it’s time to change the level of difficulty by adding or removing a step or exchanging it for another material.
    >>> See my blogpost on How to use a Montessori shelf at home for more shelf tips for 0-3 year olds <<<
  • Have a defined work space where the child can bring their activity. For babies this is probably a carpet on the floor in front of the shelf; for toddlers, this is a low table and chair near the shelf. Make sure this workspace stays clean and ready to use so that the child is able to focus on completing the activity they chose completely and have success in the end. 
  • Provide many opportunities for practical life (cooking, cleaning, self care). More than anything else, toddlers love to concentrate on these activities.
  • Avoid interrupting their state of concentration. Interrupting can take many forms, some as well-intentioned as giving a kiss or applauding them. Remind yourself to stay silent when they are focused on their work and give them the space they need to concentrate and learn.
  • Invite them to repeat an activity after they have finished it once. Every time they finish something, you can say “let’s try this again” or “would you like to do this again?” or “you can do this by yourself now”. This gives them the chance to use the material by themselves and find concentration in the activity if it’s important for their stage of development.
  • Less is more the more difficult it is for the child to find concentration, the simpler and quieter their environment should be so as to not distract or overstimulate them. The order of the space should be clear and consistent so the child can find security in the space and relax enough to find peace and focus. 

Tips for when the child struggles to find concentration

montessori magnetab magnetic doodle concentrating at an ikea table
  • Observe without intervention how the child interacts with the space. What is distracting them or drawing their attention from place to place?
  • Practical life for toddlers: entice them to get involved with some practical activity. Practical life activities are usually the first place a child who has trouble focusing will find concentration. 
  • Let them find their own solutions to their problems. Often with a child who has trouble concentrating, trying to help them will immediately cause them to abandon their activity and move on to something else. Their point of interest is often the difficulty itself, rather than the task. 
  • Lower the noise level in the space. When the space and the people around him are peaceful, the child will be more aware of themselves and their surroundings. It’s very easy for babies to become overstimulated and for toddlers to become overwhelmed. 
  • Don’t cause distractions: When they finally concentrate on something, say nothing and do nothing, so as to not distract their attention. 
  • Do your own purposeful work: Model concentration yourself by focusing completely on one thing at a time like reading a book, doing some handwork, preparing a meal.

References

Lillard, Angeline Stoll, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, 3rd Ed., Oxford University Press, 2017
Montessori, Maria. Creative Development in the Child 1. Kalakshetra Press, 1994
Montessori, Maria. The Discovery of the Child, Third Edition,1948
Montessori, Maria. The Advanced Montessori Method, 1965

Photos by Kerly Ilves Photography , MontiKids, and Montessori Mother ELC