The home offers so many opportunities for developmental activities. In this blog post I have recommended different DIY activity ideas and my Amazon material recommendations listed by age. These are all materials that the children use in class which inspire concentration and teach new skills.
How to make your own Montessori mobiles: (free downloadable instructions)
The purpose of Montessori Mobiles is to stimulate sight, hearing, touch, and eye-hand coordination, and to enable the child to discover how he is able to interact with his environment and produce change within it.
You can use this guide to make your own naturally-moving Montessori mobiles out of simple crafting materials.
If you purchase the Montessori mobiles included in the MontiKids Level 1 Newborn Box, you can get 60,00 euros off with the code MONTESSORIMOTHER.
This is a favourite baby toy because it is so easy to see and to grasp onto. It also doesn’t roll away as quickly as perfectly round balls so it serves as an inspiration for crawling short distances. (€5,99)
“Montessori materials do not necessarily have to be purchased at a high price, not even for small children and especially not at home. Some things can also be made very quickly using very simple means, such as this box with a crocheted ball for squeezing into the box. So simple and yet a material that has a lot to offer.” ~ blogpost by Anna, Eltern Vom Mars
Babies love to work with pegs. First they take them out of their holes and eventually they are able to put them back and release using the pincer grasp. I love this material because it offers so many levels of difficulty and can grow with your baby gradually over 12 months. (€24,99)
The Montessori gluing box is a fun activity for toddlers which is about learn glue and a gluing brush. Older toddlers can also make detailed and colourful collages. Here is another DIY guide from Eltern vom Mars which includes a baby-safe recipe for glue.
This is one of the top favourite activities in the Montessori baby and toddler class. It gives the opportunity to practice grasping and drawing. They also train eye-hand coordination and concentration by pushing the metal beads down with their pointer finger. (€9,99)
Tips on the Montessori home environment for siblings
arrange the environment or play space so that both children can use it at the same time (for example, a movement mat for baby and a table and chair for your older child can be near each other so that they can learn from each other through observation)
instead of buying multiple versions of the same thing, teach siblings that if a material is in use, it’s unavailable. It it is not in use, it is available to either sibling
if one sibling wants something the other is using, teach them to trade for a reasonable alternative instead of just taking it
organise the shelf so that the materials on the lower part are intended for younger siblings, and materials on the top of the shelf are intended for the older siblings
keep any small parts in containers which only the older child can open. This is a safety precaution that allows your 3+ child to satisfy their need to work with tiny items and keeps your under 2 child safe
Book Recommendation: “Siblings without Rivalry” by Adele Faber
For a school to be considered Montessori, each class must have mixed age groups. Maria Montessori stressed the importance at least a 3 year age difference in a class (3-6, 6-9, and 9-12 years). In 0-3 we separate the classes from 2-16 months and 16 months to 3 years because the big changes the child goes through in the first years of life require differently prepared the environments.
why a mixed age group is the best way to support learning and growth
1. each child is in one area the teacher and in another, the learner
Mixed-age groups are the ideal platform for learning responsible behaviour and mutual respect. Everyone is at some point the smallest or the largest, sometimes the strong or the weak, the person seeking help, or the helper. In Montessori young children grow up caring for each other and nurturing their self-esteem, self-confidence, and respect and empathy for others.
In Montessori children can strengthen their knowledge by demonstrating or communicating it to others. Younger also seem to be most at ease when surrounded by older children and enjoy learning from them by observing them with silent fascination.
2. every child has room to grow at their own pace
Having all the materials within the age group available at the child’s level, allows them to advance onto the next challenge when they are ready. It also makes it possible for them to follow their interest and advance in their strongest areas, while still being able to enjoy learning in others which are more challenging. Because teachers do not have to set the instruction pace by a whole group, each child is given the ability to learn at his or her own pace in every aspect of their development.
3. it allows for cooperation over comparison
When there is an age difference, older and younger children are able to work together to achieve a goal and solve problems. When every child is expected to be at the same stage in their development, it opens the door for competition. No longer do we see each child’s individual skills and abilities, we see which child can do the same thing better and faster. Children will help each other when cleaning up after work, putting things away, caring for the environment, and caring for each other.
the big picture
This relationship of mutual care and respect, of self awareness, and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of others make Montessori mixed-age classrooms the ideal place for learning peaceful conflict resolution.
The Montessori approach is an Education for Peace and mixed age groups is its cornerstone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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 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.
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
– 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 .
– 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.
– 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.
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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 .
– 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
– 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
6. Intensity of Reaction
– 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.
– 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
– smiley – seems to have fun in most situations
– Observe closely because the child may have developmental needs or obstacles that may be overlooked.
– 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
– 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?”
– 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
– 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?”
– 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
– 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.
– 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
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:
by offering a prepared environment (a space that facilitates the child’s ability to use engage with it)
by preparing interesting materials with varying levels of difficulty (practical activities and materials which engage the senses)
by removing obstacles that might disrupt or distract the children.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Montessori toys are not built to entertain the child, but rather to engage their curiosity, creativity, and problem solving skills.
Children love to learn. They are naturally curious and fascinated by the world around them. They are eager to perfect their own skills and mimic the things they see older children and adults doing. They “play” to absorb new information and to train their skills. They enjoy repeating over and over these new skills until they have been perfected.
A child who is confident in their surroundings and their ability to approach the things that intrigue them is one who learns actively from their environment.
independence & perseverance
Montessori fosters independence and self-direction through the thoughtful design of each toy, through the layout of the play space, and through the way the adult interacts with the child. When children have more control over their learning, they work harder, perform better, retain more information, and are more creative and joyful.
Children learn most when presented with just the right amount of challenge, not so easy that they are bored and not so difficult that they are frustrated. The Montessori curriculum is thoughtfully designed and timed so that children are repeatedly entering this ideal zone for learning.
Montessori maps a child’s development so that with each toy, the child goes through the experience of struggling with a new skill, practicing and then mastering it. Mastering challenging activities helps children to develop healthy self-esteem and the self-awareness that they can improve their abilities and increase their intelligence. Children with this independent mindset also persevere longer on challenging tasks, a valuable life skill.
how are Montessori toys different from commercial toys?
Montessori toys are designed to meet the child’s developmental stages.
They provide just the right amount of challenge, without being over stimulating.
They isolate the difficulty of learning one new concept at a time . This allows the child to challenge themselves without getting overwhelmed.
Montessori toys help children to self-correct. This encourages your child to repeat and gain the tremendous benefits of solving a problem independently.
how to use a Montessori shelf at home
The goal of the Montessori shelf is not to fill children with information but rather, to provide a rich environment and support their natural drive to learn through play.
rotate, guide & observe
Add 6 toys to the shelf
Allow them to play with the toys on a carpet or low table next to the shelf
Rotate toys according to their interest:
If they don’t use one of the toys on the shelf, it might be too easy or too difficult for the child and should be altered or rotated out
Show them how to use a new toy when you add it to the shelf, then let them use it independently from then on
which toys should I buy?
less is more
You probably already have a lot of toys for your little one. Before buying anything, go through what you have and choose 6 good toys to start off with and the rest can be stored away for later.
levels of difficulty
The best toys for at home are ones that will grow with your child, offering multiple levels of difficulty. I have included a table with 6 examples below to demonstrate what this means.
level one | 12-16 months
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Ring on a rocking base
Pegboard with 4 kinds of wood
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“The interpreter is to the child a great hope, someone who will open to him the path of discovery when the world had already closed its doors. This helper is taken into the closest relationship, a relationship that is more than affection because help is given, not merely consolation.”
Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind. 1949
Understanding their position
Compare yourself to living in a country where you do not speak the language. Many of us can relate to the frustrations the child could feel when…
things happen to them which are not explained
instructions are given hurriedly without being shown
being treated by speaking people as if disabled because you cannot speak the language
wanting to say something important but you don’t have the words
Understanding their reactions
In these situations I may not have much self-control; I may become agitated, enraged, and begin to cry. That is what happens the child of one or two years old who has tantrums. They are intelligent and know people could understand their ideas, but cannot express them through lack of language. This is a dramatic epoch in the life of the child. (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind)
Do not misinterpret the child expressing their frustration as deviant behaviour. They are facing a great struggle and feel comfortable enough with you to let you know how they feel and ask you for your help to calm down. Imagine how misunderstood they must feel!
One word sentences
Around 1.5 years old, toddlers realise that every object has a name. They use one noun to express a whole idea. Let’s call this form of self-expression one word sentences. These words are also often abbreviated or altered. When we respond to these sentences’ translations, we give the child reassurance that they are being understood and we bring them calm.
Preparing a Montessori space for toddlers may take some extra time and planning, but it doesn’t have to be complex or expensive! In this blogpost I have explained the Ikea hacks I used when preparing 5 different areas of my classroom, along with links and lots of photos.
This easel allows the toddler to explore their own artistic creativity. I find that toddlers are interested in painting almost as soon as they can walk from around 14/16 months old! Of course it’s important to use washable paint (like the ones sold by Ikea) and have a washrag or little mop nearby to clean up any messes. 🙂
Instructions |I used a hacksaw to cut the legs by 17cm and sanded the edges. I also dded a plastic hook to the side from which to hang the child’s apron. Clips hold pre-cut pieces of paper from the top of the easel. A bucket to the side holds extra pieces of paper. I have also added some art to the wall at the child’s level to beautify the space.
These tables can be used in the play area for concentrating on activity or in the kitchen as a snack table. I have also seen them used as sensory tables and dollhouse tables. Toddlers LOVE having their own place to sit and work or eat. It’s something so simple, yet so important for them.
Instructions |Shorten the table so that it stands at a comfortable height for toddlers (38cm). Also shorten the chairs by 7cm. It’s slightly time-consuming, but very doable to make these with a simple hand saw and some sand paper-and it’s very worth it!
The self care area is a place where toddlers can go to brush their teeth, comb their hair, wipe their nose, put on sunscreen, etc..
Instructions | At home you might add a self care area to the bathroom or changing area to support independence and collaboration. I also added some hats and a basket of sunglasses for the children to try on. Notice that the chair is the same as the one from the toddler table in IKEA hack #2.
This is a quiet area in my classroom where toddlers and babies can go to read, watch the aquarium, play music, and relax.
Instructions |I made this new cover and pillow to make the chair more inviting and beautiful. Also the Ikea chair cover is not washable (be careful!). While assembling the bead tracker, I added only one bead to each track in order to give the activity a clearer purpose: transferring beads from one side to the other.The extra beads are perfect for a threading material.
From DAY 1 we can start to offer freedom of movement. This movement area is a place where non-walking babies from 0-6 months can observe their movements and the world around them through the mirror. Visual mobiles hang within Baby’s range of sight and move naturally with the air in the room.
Instructions |Mount the mirror to the wall for safety. You can also secure the back with duct tape if the mirror is made from glass rather than acrylic glass. Attach the hanger to the wall and use a string to tie the mobile and adjust its height. On the mattress you can also put a fitted sheet for easy cleaning.
Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful! I plan to make 2 more of these posts soon. Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below if there is something more you would like me to include next time!
Maria Montessori spoke extensively on the great potential of the child. She explains the amazing ability children have to absorb everything they experience in the first years of their life. She also wrote about the Sensitive Periods they go through, which highlight each child’s perfect moment for mastering a skill- from great feats like walking and speaking to achievements in independence such as potty learning or self-dressing.
The chart I have made follows the sensitive periods for movement and language from birth to 18 months old. It is a month-by-month guide, sharing some of the things children do during these months and a few Montessori activities which are appropriate during each stage of development.
However it is important to remember that every child has their own perfect timing to learn to turn, crawl, walk, and talk. As always in Montessori, our purpose is to follow the child.
When we are aware of all the things our little ones can do, it makes it possible for us to truly trust them and give them the space they need to grow and the opportunities they need to apply their full potential.
So what can we do to help our babies?
We know that Babies and Toddlers are happiest when they have a stimulating environment that challenges them, but doesn’t overwhelm them, which offers understanding, and allows them to have success and also feel joy from their accomplishments.
1. We can offer a safe space for them to learn and discover.
~ for newborns and small babies we set up a movement mat on the floor and a low mirror which allow them to see and feel their unrestricted movements, clearly.
~ when they start crawling and walking we clear the floor for them so they have enough space to move around. If possible we prepare a whole room or part of a room which is completely safe to let them explore freely.
The key to this is trusting your child and also trusting that the space you have prepared for them is truly, completely safe.
2. We can provide activities that help Baby learn and perfect new skills.
I will give one example for the newborn, baby, and toddler stages:
~ newborns train their eyesight with Montessori visual mobiles At birth babies can only see high contrast and they can’t change their focus. Mobiles like the Munari , which are black and white and move naturally with the air in the room, are slow enough for them to follow and see clearly.
~ A couple of months later babies are improving their grasp and release with ring on dowel activities of increasing difficulty. They start with one large ring on a stable base around 6 months old and eventually work up to several small rings of graduating size in a basket next to a stable or rocking base around 14 months old.
~ and walking toddlers grow their independence through practical activities like washing hands and slicing bananas. They are very interested in taking care of themselves and taking care of their environment so we set up activities for dressing for self feeding, food preparation, cleaning, caring for plants, and lots of other exciting opportunities so that they can have success in these daily tasks which are so fascinating for them.
3. We can remove any obstacles which might be holding Baby back from taking steps in their development.
The most common obstacles I have found in my work with children are clothing, interruptions, and safety.
~ I mean so say clothing that is too loose or too tight is a common obstacle that’s very easy to remove – literally. When a baby is learning to crawl, they really need to have their forearms and legs open to make contact with the floor and move forward or backward successfully. When they are learning to walk long pants can actually trip them or socks can be slippery and cause them to fall down which is not very encouraging to a child who is trying to learn to move.
~ interruptions like distracting sounds or movements prevent many babies from being able to enter a concentrated state of learning and repetition. Some children are more distractible than others so it’s important to be mindful of this.
~ Safety is the biggest obstacle babies face in their development because if we, the adult, see a potential danger we are likely to stop them from touching that thing instead of finding a more appropriate place for them to explore it.
In Montessori we see any state of repetition as a sign that the child has a developmental need which MUST be perfected. So if you notice your baby doing something over and over again, we HAVE to allow them that privilege, but in an appropriate place.
Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this discussion to be useful, whether you’re a parent or a teacher and that we can be reminded to trust in the amazing potential the child has and let them use their Absorbent Minds from the very, very beginning.