Montessori parenting is a parenting style based on the educational philosophy developed a century ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. Montessori principles follow the child’s natural learning process, to foster social, emotional, and academic skills.
It revolutionized education and has been used in schools around the world for decades. Yet, this philosophy isn’t exclusive to schools anymore! Parents can incorporate Montessori principles into their homes and create an environment that encourages holistic development in their children.
Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician who believed that children learn best through direct experiences with materials and activities, rather than simply hearing about them.
Maria was an educator who believed that children had a natural desire to learn. She also believed that children were born with a desire to learn through their senses and their hands, so she designed her schools around these principles. The Montessori classroom offers a carefully prepared environment that helps children learn with natural materials. This approach develops the whole child and nurtures their individual interests.
What does it mean to be a “Montessori parent?”
In the Montessori parenting style, parents follow the child’s lead while using a relaxed parenting approach that respects the child’s development.
Children are encouraged to develop independence and self-control in order to master certain skills at their own pace, while also learning social skills such as sharing with others. There are many reasons that the Montessori method is increasing in popularity, but here are some of my favorite aspects of the approach:
The focus is on the whole child
Learning isn’t just about academics and practical life skills! Montessori education prioritizes the development of the child’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and creative self
Mutual respect recognizes that children (even younger children) are strong and capable little beings capable of achieving great things – And that their thoughts, feelings, and wants/needs are just as important as the adults. Showing that you value what they think and feel is a great way to respect your child.
In education, there’s been a general shift from teachers being the holders of information to being the facilitators of learning. This is a much more empowering way to teach, and can be reflected in parenting approaches, too!
From a very young age, children want to be independent. The Montessori way’ encourages independent thought. Things like allowing children to put on their own shoes or make their own snacks are small examples of the Montessori approach to parenting.
Another thing about this is it increases intrinsic motivation (motivation from within rather than outside, like rewards). When children feel proud of their accomplishments (how heart-warming is it to hear ‘Look, Mama, I did it all by myself!’?), they are inspired to keep learning new independent skills!
Accessible learning (for every child)
The Montessori method really emphasizes placing everything at the child’s height, making their world a lot more child-friendly. From simple things like placing their essentials (personal hygiene items, learning materials, toys, and everyday items) at their height to hanging their art eye level, you can easily make your home more enjoyable and accessible for your child.
Doing these things means that the child can simply use what they need, when they need it, without asking for adult help. That’s super empowering for them!
Freedom of movement
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to provide your child with a space that they can explore freely. This means allowing them to roam around the house without constant supervision, allowing them to play outside in the backyard or on the street by themselves, and giving them space within your home to make their own choices about what they want to do there.
Children need opportunities for free choice. Giving free choice also reduces negative behavior, because the child feels like their actions are their choice (nobody likes being bossed around all day, anyway!).
For children to develop their interests, they need the time and space to explore them. They will have a better understanding of their likes and dislikes, and can freely pursue their passions (or just play freely sometimes!)
I’ve got two teacher tips for this:
- Give choice whenever you can, and make sure you’re okay with both outcomes
- It looks like this: “Would you like to make fruit salad for a snack or apples and peanut butter?” Both fill a similar nutritional need, but you’re letting your kiddo choose their food rather than just giving it to them
- Acknowledge and validate their wants
- It looks like: Your kiddo is climbing windowsills (or some other inappropriate place) “I see that you want to climb right now – Can we think of a safer place to climb?” You’re letting them get the energy out that they need to, but giving them choice about where, while also gently teaching them that climbing where they were isn’t safe.
Learning that respects the unique learning styles and developmental paces of each child
Each kiddo is unique! So is the way they learn and the speed they develop at. Montessori parents recognize this.
Each child can progress as quickly or slowly as they need to in order for them to reach their full potential. To understand where your little one is at, I would highly suggest reading up on the sensitive period they are in. Montessori school outlines them well in this post!
Rely on the child’s natural curiosity to learn from their surroundings
The Montessori approach prioritizes the child’s natural curiosity to explore and understand the world around them. As a parent, you can be a role model for this as you observe your child and let them explore curiosities in everyday life!
- Natural curiosity is a child’s innate desire to learn.
- Children learn through play and exploration.
- They learn through hands-on experiences.
- Children learn through repetition.
- They learn through imitation.
- Children learn through observation.
Encourage exploration through hands-on materials
Montessori parenting is based on the belief that children have a natural desire to learn and that they can be successful learners if given the opportunity.
This encourages exploration through hands-on materials that allow kids to manipulate and learn about their world physically. The child learns to understand the world around them, including themselves as part of it, by means of concrete experiences. Through these experiences, a child’s natural curiosity will help guide him or her into developing an understanding of abstract concepts such as numbers and letters through sensory stimulation (e.g., seeing five blocks arranged in a row versus hearing “five”).
In addition to helping children develop cognitive skills such as problem-solving, this helps critical thinking and reasoning ability.
Montessori parents balance adult guidance with independence
The Montessori philosophy emphasizes that children should lead their own lives and enjoy the freedom to experiment. Montessori parents balance adult guidance with independence by children in their work.
This lets children learn through natural consequences. It is not to say that you shouldn’t provide boundaries – Rather that if the learning environment is carefully planned and prepared, your children can freely explore without feeling restricted by boundaries. Guidance is the key word here!
The parent’s role
In Montessori parenting, the adult’s job is to teach the child how to choose the right activities, follow through with the activity of choice, and reflect on what they are learning (at their own pace). The parent guides their child as they explore these materials by asking questions such as: “What do you see?” “How could you change your blocks so they will fit together better?
As a Montessori parent, you will also have opportunities to introduce new subjects or concepts through various activities.
The parent’s role is also to provide an environment that meets their child’s developmental needs (the materials they need) and guides them towards productive activities. This includes things like putting items away when they are done!
Montessori parenting is a style that is based on the Montessori method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. This approach focuses on the child’s needs and interests rather than those of the parent or caregiver. The parent’s role is to guide their children in activities they enjoy while meeting developmental milestones at their own pace. Parents should strive toward creating an environment with minimal distraction so kids can explore freely without interference from adults. In addition, parents need to provide opportunities for children to learn about themselves, others, and their environment through hands-on experiences and interaction with peers.
Interested in learning more about using a Montessori parenting style in your home? Check out our other articles!
- Montessori furniture: Creating an empowering environment
- Creating a Montessori playroom in your home
- Montessori friendly bedrooms: Ideas for your child’s room
- Montessori-friendly kitchen tips for parents & educators
- Montessori friendly bathroom ideas: Building independence
- Montessori toy storage: Room organization for kids spaces