Classroom Tours, Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials

Montessori Materials for Snack Preparation

Our snack preparation area is one of the children’s favorites in our Montessori Toddler and Montessori Baby classes! These materials can be used as early as 14 months up to 3 years old! Find 12 Montessori snack materials for toddlers below, including their presentation descriptions and links where to find all the tools!

Montessori Kitchen Setup

To encourage independence and responsibility, set your little one up for success by preparing a couple of these snack materials every day so your little one can make themselves a snack whenever they feel hungry. Your child can also prepare extras to share with you or a sibling. We also always have our little water dispenser available so the little ones can take a cup of water whenever they feel thirsty. There is just a little bit of water inside. In case it spills everywhere,

only offer as much water as you are willing to clean up afterwards.

Toddler Snack Table

A little snack table is a wonderful addition to the eating area, as little ones can take their work to the table, sit down and prepare their snack, and enjoy it in peace. Of course, when having family meals the child still joins the family table, but this space is for all the times they eat snacks alone. We love our adjustable table and chair set, handmade from beechwood.

Washing Dishes

Of course after enjoying their snack, your little one can help to clean up by putting their trash in the bin and placing their dirty dishes in a box to be cleaned. If you have a learning tower up to your sink, or a little wash station like this one, they can wash up their dishes themselves!

In our classroom the toddlers get water using this pitcher from the sink, fill the basins, wash and dry their dishes, and empty the dirty water into this bucket. They can then carry the bucket to the sink and empty it out again. It seems like a lot of steps, but the toddlers LOVE all this purposeful water work and they also enjoy seeing the result of a dirty to clean dish. This activity builds so much self esteem and is about much more than just washing up their dishes. 🙂 This is a custom wash station built with love by my husband, Chad at Montessori Mother Materials. 🙂

Montessori Snack Materials 1-6

Find the corresponding material presentation descriptions and links below! I tried to find the exact links I used wherever possible, but some materials I purchased a long time ago so I have listed the closet alternative I could find.

FoodDescriptionSetup
EggCrack egg on both sides with pestle, peel, add the bits of shell to mortar, slice egg in egg slicer, spoon onto plate, crush eggshells with pestle, enjoy!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Mini mortar and pestle
Egg slicer
Mini plate 
Mini spoon
Hard-boiled egg
Crackers and Cream CheeseSpread cream cheese onto rice crackers with tiny knife, enjoy!Tray
Blue cutting board
Small glass bowl – filled with 1 cream cheese box
Mini plate 
Spreading knife
2 unflavored rice crackers
Orange JuiceSqueeze halves of mandarins or clementines, pour into fancy cup, enjoyTray
Anti-slip cover
Yellow plastic goblet
Small bowl
1 mandarine (cut in half)
Mini juicer
Mini sponge (moistened)
StrawberriesPluck off leaves, slice in strawberry slicer, spoon into bowl, enjoy!Tray
Red cutting board
Trash cup
Small bowl
Strawberry slicer
Mini spoon
2 strawberries with the leaves on
PeanutsCrack with nutcracker, separate from peels, enjoy!Tray 
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Trash cup
Wooden nut cracker
A few peanuts in the shell
BlueberriesEnjoy eating blueberries with chopsticksTray
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Children’s chopsticks
Toddler-sized handful of blueberries

Montessori Snack Materials 7-12

FoodDescriptionSetup
BananaPeel banana, place peels in the trash cup, cut with knife, add to bowl, enjoy with fork, enjoy!Tray
Green cutting board
Green toddler knife
Small bowl
Trash cup
Half banana, cut 3 peel-deep lines along side
Mandarins/ClementinesPeel clementine, place bits of peel in the trash cup, divide into slices, enjoy with a fork!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Small bowl
Trash cup
1 mandarin (with corner pre-cut out)
CucumberPeel cucumber, place peels in the trash bucket, Cut into slices with toddler knife, transfer to bowl, enjoy!Tray
Mini cutting board
Toddler knife
Mini plate 
Trash bucket
Mini peeler
Snack cucumber
CarrotPeel carrot, transfer peels to trash bucket, enjoyTray
Red cutting board
Mini plate 
Red trash bucket
Mini peeler
1 sweet carrot
Tea BrewingCut mint and/or lavender from the gardenWash in the sinkPluck or cut leaves and place into flowered teapotAdd warm waterCount to 10 or 20 with the child to let the tea brewPour into glasses Invite friends to teaTray
Anti-slip cover
Pitcher for tea
Saucer
3 glasses
small scissors
Tall pitcher of warm water (1/2 hot, 1/2 cold)
Mini sponge
WaterChoose a cup, pour water into small pitcher from dispenser, transfer water into cup, enjoyWater dispenser
Mini pitcher
Mini sponge
Washrag on hook
Mini cups on shelf

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful.
Happy snacking!

-Katelynn

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Montessori Sleep: FAQ

A Montessori Sleep Environment for 6+ months

In this blogpost I will be answering these frequently asked questions anonymously and I will give advice based on Montessori theory. This doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect solution for you, every family and every child is unique, but I will do my best to give helpful suggestions and if those suggestions feel right for you, then try them out.

Sleep is such a personal topic . It is a skill that all children have to learn. The relationship your child has with sleep affects the whole family’s mental and physical health so making changes regarding their sleep situation should involve the whole family. Communicate with each other so that everyone is on the same page and whatever you decide to do is the right solution for everyone, parents and children.

Question 1

My baby is 5 months old. She only falls asleep when I am cuddling with her, not my partner, just me. If I am not there she will cry 95% of the time. What should we do to help her find sleep by herself or with my partner?

  • Children can easily get used to one thing that they need to go to sleep. This can be cuddling with a specific parent, like in the example above, it can also be a pacifier, a lovey, milk… It doesn’t mean that they can’t find rest another way, they just have to re-learn how to sleep without that attachment. Believe in your child that they can do it. 
  • Their whole life they have slept one way, so changing that understanding will take some time. On top of that, they have to process this new information when they are tired and probably when the parent is tired also which makes it even more challenging. Communication, patience, and complete calm are so important in this process. 
  • Make a change that your family has decided on, go to bed early so they haven’t passed exhaustion, and stick to your plan so it doesn’t send mixed/negative messages. You can do this!
  • You can make a plan to take it slow. For example, start with day sleeping, then move to night sleeping. Instead of getting in the bed, sit next to it and offer comfort and closeness this way. Let the child feel all of their feelings about this process without judgement. If there are tears, let them be expressed and show compassion. This is your child’s way of saying “I am tired and I am having a hard time.”

Question 2

How should I set up a Montessori sleeping area?

  • In Montessori we use a low bed or a floor bed which is a mattress on the floor, on a carpet, or on a base which is only slightly higher than the floor. Eventually baby moves to this bed as they transition to independent sleeping. 
  • The sleep area is should be in the darkest, quietest part of the room. 
  • Make the space functional and inviting. 
  • You can keep some books nearby in a basket or on a shelf for reading before bed. There shouldn’t be any noisy or highly stimulating toys in the sleeping area – this is a place of quiet where the child knows they can go if they need to find rest.
A Montessori Cestina (sleeping basket) for babies from birth to rolling

Question 3

How and when should we transition from crib sleeping to toddler bed sleeping?

  • Make this transition when you feel your child is ready and when you are ready to commit to the transition which can take some time.
  • When the child is walking they should be able to get in and out of bed independently. 
  • Step-by-step: Remove the crib and introduce the bed in the same day. You can invite your child to help you or they can observe what you are doing passively. 
  • Talk about how “Your ‘new bed’ is in this box. We are going to open it and put it in your room so you can sleep there.”
  • Say “Goodbye!” to the crib with your child so they have the memory of it being gone.
  • Put the new bed exactly where the crib was before if you can. 
  • On the first few nights, go to bed a little bit earlier and prepare yourself (what you are going to say + your positive attitude) for coming into the room several times before they fall asleep. You will have to remind them that it’s time to rest, go back to bed, and tuck in every time in the exact same way. 🙂
  • Keep a neutral attitude of calm and acceptance. It’s just a new bed, not an overly exciting or a bad thing. This will also help your little one accept it.

Question 4

How and when should we transition from co-sleeping to independent sleeping alone?

  • If this is what your family has decided is best for you, you can make this transition when you are ready to commit to it. It can take some time and no matter when you decide to do this, it will be a learning process for your little one. If your family is happy with co-sleeping and it works for you, then you should continue it! There is no 1 right way to sleep.
  • Explanation: Co-sleeping is family sleeping, so often it’s difficult for the child to learn how to fall asleep when the family is not right by them and that they have their own bed now where they sleep alone. 
  • The first step is to get them their own bed, talk about it, show where they can put their head… “This is your own bed. When you are tired, you can come here and rest.”
  • Don’t get into the bed yourself, because it is a place where only your child sleeps.
  • Start with day sleeping, sitting near the bed if they want closeness. Gradually give more and more space until they are sleeping there fairly comfortably. Use a specific routine before they get into bed to sleep. (For example, lunch, brush teeth, change clothes, read books, sing a special song, give a kiss, then it’s quiet time.)
  • Begin changing the night sleeping by giving information and going to bed early. “Tonight you will sleep in your bed and we will sleep in our bed.” Use the exact same routine as you do before a nap.
  • If they are upset, be their calm and give them the words to explain how they are feeling. “You feel tired right now and it’s hard to get to sleep. I am here for you.”

Question 5

My baby is 13 months old and he wakes up every 2-3 hours. We are a co-sleeping family. How can we help him to have a more normal sleeping pattern? It feels like everything is on pause until we can sleep through the night.

  • The sleep cycles of a child this age should be longer than this so it’s a sign that they are waking up for a reason. 
  • There are many reasons why toddlers could wake up in the night:
  • digestion – their tummy is upset or they have food in their stomach so their rest is not quality
  • they are waking for a bottle (they don’t need to eat at night any more at this point, so slowly give less watered down milk until they no longer feel hungry at night.)
  • they sleep with a pacifier or lovey and it’s fallen out triggering their wake-up response
  • they are feeling discomfort – teething, sickness, overheated, uncomfortable
  • they have had a bad dream
  • they have woken themselves up with their own movements or by the sleep noises and movements of the other people in the bed (If this is the case, perhaps they need their own sleeping space away from the noise and movements of others – which is OK if that’s what they need. There are no rules on where or how to sleep.)
  • I recommend saying ‘goodbye’ to sleep props/associations
  • Communication: Encourage independence by teaching her how to find rest without waking you up. Teach her what you do when you wake up in the night.
    – keep a waterbottle nearby the bed
    – teach her how to flip her pillow over
    – take off socks
    – roll over…

About using a pacifier or other sleeping props:

  • Say ‘goodbye’ in a respectful way. It’s a real and strong attachment your child has, so treat it with love. 
  • After 3 difficult nights, it’s usually over with.
  • If they use the pacifier other than at night, start by using it not using it during the day, then for night sleep, and finally for day sleep. 
  • You can also say goodbye to the pacifier all together at once!

Question 6

My baby is 17 months old. She sleeps alone in her bedroom but the bedroom door is closed so she has to cry to call one of us when she wakes up.  How can we give freedom without creating a bad habit of leaving the room during rest time? At night, would it help if we open his door before we go to bed, so he can go out and find us when we wakes up? How about at nap time?

  • This is a good idea to open the door when it’s time to wake up and let them come out when they are ready.
  • You can also try leaving the door cracked after you say ‘goodnight’ and if they get up, remind them to it’s time for sleep and going back to bed.  See question #3
  • Perhaps you can add a long extension to the door knob so they can open it alone.

Question 7

My son sometimes sleeps either naked or topless when he refuses to put his pyjamas on. I don’t force him to put on his pyjamas if he resists. Should I insist on this as part of the routine? Are there unintended consequences of me agreeing to let him sleep without pyjamas on?

  • This depends on you. If it’s okay for you, then yes. If it’s a limit for you, then no.  Always sleep with some protection like a diaper or training pants. In the summer it’s hot and lots of people don’t wear pyjamas.
  • Personally, I think it’s fine – It’s the child’s choice. Offer them to put on pyjamas and let them decide if they want or not. 

Question 8

My toddler wakes up at 5:30am. Why is he waking up crying?  Why so early? How to help him understand that morning starts at 7.30 and 5.30 is still night? How can we help him to wake up happy saying hello?

  • 6am is a pretty normal time to wake up in the morning for toddlers. Their best sleep usually takes place between 8pm and 6am. 
  • See question #5 for reasons why your toddler might be waking up. 
  • Waking up early could also be part of your child’s bodily rhythm. If possible, prepare the environment so when he wakes up he can prepare himself a snack when he wakes up or play independently. If the environment is safe, it’s okay to say, “I still need to rest. You can relax here with me or you can go prepare some fruit.” 
  • If possible, change your routine to go to sleep earlier and his routine to go to sleep later so you can wake up at the same time. 
A reversible Montessori floor bed (by Montessori Mother Materials)

Question 9

Why does my baby wake up every hour screaming? It’s as if he is afraid of being alone even though he is in a familiar and safe environment and has never had any traumatic experiences around sleep.

  • When a toddler passes out from exhaustion, this sleep will be more restless and involve more wake-ups at night. 
  • Waking up suddenly and crying is a natural response which comes from an instinct to react to threats of danger or being alone. The fear of being alone is a natural fear in all children . It isn’t only a sign of trauma. 
  • Communication before bed “I will be in my bed and come say good morning to you. “ “You woke up and felt worried. I am here for you. Spend time in the bedroom for a while before and after sleep so the room is not only a place of aloneness. 
  • Always be calm and understanding, translate her emotions, meet her where she’s at, let the fear pass for her and keep going with the day. 
  • The child’s emotions are very powerful in the moment, and when the moment has passed the emotion will have passed. Take a step back to observe how they are feeling, help them work through their emotions, and be their calm.

Question 10

We have a night routine and my toddler knows it very well. However, every night is a fight. He’s exhausted because he only sleeps 30 minutes to 1 hour during the day. He wakes every 2-3 hours crying or calls me for cuddles. How can I help him find rest? He is too stressed and so I am. 

  • It sounds like in this situation it becomes very had to manage because both child and parent are exhausted. 
  • Try to go to bed before reaching the point of exhaustion. Try to help them not get overstimulated during the day, which will help him relax at the end of the day. 
  • Crying is a natural form of expression and we can respond to it with 
  • Make sure that all of his sleeping situations are consistent so he can make the associations with where and how to find rest. 
  • If the tantrum every gets to much for you to handle, leave the room for a few minutes. Calm down, listen to a song or drink a cup of tea. Come back and explain “I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed to have a calm moment. I feel better and I am here for you now.”
  • Crying is a normal and healthy form of emotional expression. Be there for your toddler as they release all their emotions. If they push you away, give them space and let them know that you are nearby if they need you. 
  • Every time he wakes up you don’t need to run in straight away. Try to understand the cries and see if he needs something or is afraid. If he’s just woken up and is not really upset, give him a couple of minutes to see if he can get back to sleep by himself. If not, observe how he is feeling + if he needs anything, help him work through his emotions, and be his calm. 

Question 11

How will my child manage to sleep with a caretaker (kita, tagesmutter, babysitter)? What can I do to help?

  • Make sure that both you and your child trust the other carer completely before they start putting them to sleep. If you feel comfortable with the way they are going to put them to sleep, it will help your child to feel secure. You can help them to have success by giving information about your child’s sleep routine. Hopefully in day care they will not insist that the child has to fall asleep at first, but offer quiet rest time. 
  • Sleeping in this new way will become part of their normal daily group routine. Believe in your little one and trust that they can do it. 

Conclusion

At this age babies and toddlers are still not usually sleeping the same way that adults do. We would love for them to, but physically many are still developing the ability to sleep through the night. Sometimes they need help to learn how to get to sleep and how to get back to sleep when they wake up. The key is communicating with your partner, making a plan, and being consistent with your plan. Change, especially around sleep is difficult because the child is having to learn and process information while they are already tired. At first it will be hard but it will get better and you will be able to sleep through the night, at least hopefully, 80 percent of the time. 🙂

All of your had work will pay off and your child will learn how to relax and sleep when they are tired, a skill which will help them their entire life.

Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this interesting and helpful. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. 

-Katelynn

Our podcast episode on sleep >>>

You can now listen to the Montessori Mother Podcast on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify!

Montessori at Home

Materials for Montessori-at-Home

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.

0-6 months

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 MONTESSORIMOTHER60.

Montessori Teething and Grasping Toy

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)

6-16 months

How to make your own Montessori boxes

“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

3 einfache DIY Montessori-Materialien für Kleinkinder – Eltern Vom Mars

Peg board with rings

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)

16 months – 4 years

How to make a DIY gluing box

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.

Ein simples DIY Montessori Klebekästchen und ein Rezept für selbstgemachten, ungiftigen Leim – Eltern Vom Mars

Magnetic Drawing Board

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)

I hope you found this post helpful and interesting!

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Montessori Mixed Age Groups: in school & with siblings at home

toddlers doing practical life work in montessori class

at home

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
siblings without rivalry montessori book recommendation

Book Recommendation: “Siblings without Rivalry” by Adele Faber

in school

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.

toddler doing coinbox material work at montessori table in class

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. 

toddler choosing wall art in montessori class

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.

– all photos by Natalia Smirnova

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 $60 off code: MONTESSORIMOTHER60
· 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 MONTESSORIMOTHER60 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

Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

The Way Children Play: how to use a Montessori shelf at home

what makes Montessori toys special?

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 shelf for a child 12-16 months old
  • 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

Montessori shelf for a child 20-24 months old

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

  1. Add 6 toys to the shelf
  2. Allow them to play with the toys on a carpet or low table next to the shelf
  3. 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
  4. 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

Montessori Puzzle Box
$50 off promo code >>>

Ring on a rocking base

Pegboard with 4 kinds of wood

Box of containers
similar suitcase available on Amazon

Bead Threading
trays from Absorbent Minds

Russian Nesting Doll

level two | 20 – 24 months

from MontiKids – Level 5
MONTESSORIMOTHER

similar toy by Ancona

handmade by Mamumabird

find containers around the house your child enjoys, clean them, & add them to their box

DIY IKEA Hack – Mula
more IKEA hacks from my classroom here

different styles available on Etsy

Thank you for reading! I hope this blogpost has been useful for your family’ s Montessori journey. Feel free contact me if you have any questions!

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Translating for Toddlers

“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.

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Classroom Tours, Montessori at Home

Montessori Ikea Hacks

toddler aquarium reading nook montessori

part 1 of 3

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.

1.Easel

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.

2.Table and Chairs

montessori toddler work table

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!

3.Self Care Area

toddler self care area vanity montessori

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.

4.Reading Nook (relaxation corner)

reading nook montessori quiet corner zen area for toddlers

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.

5. Newborn Movement Area

montessori newborn movement area
with mirror and mobiles

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!

~ Katelynn