Ask me your Montessori questions!

For a while now, I have started a new series on Instagram where I answer your most common asked questions.

I will update this blog post as I progress through all your questions. Some of your questions have been answered in a separate blog post and I have answered some directly on Instagram and here. 

You may want to save this blog post in your favourites as it's going to be a handy post to come back to!

Can I start Montessori with a baby?

Yes, you can.

Although Maria Montessori started with children aged 3 to 6, she soon showed an interest in children from birth to 3.
With a baby, you lay the foundations for all the years ahead.
You can set up a beautiful and inviting space where your baby will be free to move and explore.
You can be mindful of the way you communicate with your little one, with respect and empathy.
You can make sure your routine is not overwhelming for your child and you can definitely start to work on yourself! That will pay off, in the long run, to be respectful of your own needs from day 1.

Many parents discover Montessori with their first the child often when he is 2 and they always say that they would have done so many things differently so here are a few things that you can do from the start:

- have a floor bed, learn about normal baby sleep (check the Gentle Sleep book from Sarah Ockwell-Smith and check if cosleeping is an option for your family)
- no need for expensive toys and flashy plastic toys
- have a few rattles and every day safe objects to explore such as a wooden spoon
- observe your child instead of entertaining your child
- follow your child rhythm and be mindful of not having too many activities in your schedule
- learn about baby led weaning and see if it's for you
- set up space where your baby is able to explore safely
- ditch the containing devices such as a Baby walker and baby entertaining station.
- Place a mirror along the wall to encourage baby to move and communicate
- have a look at Elimination communication and adopt cloth nappies if doable for your family as your baby will be more aware of his bowel and bladder movement.

Why are Montessori materials so expensive?

Let's talk about the Montessori materials. What is so special about them and why do they cost so much? In fact, do you need those materials at home?

This is a question that I answer quite often.
Here, I will talk only about the official Montessori materials and their cheaper version. I am not talking about toys that sellers and manufacturers describe as Montessori.

At the time of Maria Montessori, she designed those toys with the material of the time: wood and metal. It was probably not that expensive as there were no cheaper alternatives anyway.

In 1911, she asked a local company to make those materials. In fact, the original factory, in Italy, still produces the material according to the specifications of Maria Montessori herself. Those materials are made to last as they are made for the schools. They are made in Italy so the costs are higher than producing those toys in Asia.

When Montessori created the AMI in Amsterdam where she had moved her headquarters after the first world war, she also started to collaborate with another local company, Nienhuis to produce her materials. It was in 1929.

Nienhuis still produces most of the materials in Holland, in Europe and owns a factory in Sri Lanka where working conditions are extremely good.
Since you may be curious, to this day, only 4 factories are accredited by AMI, included the 2 originals.

Those materials are still produced for the classroom, not for the home, are made of high-quality material such as plain wood and some specific wood as there is a need to achieve a certain weight and smoothness to fulfil the aim of each material. You couldn't achieve with plywood for example.

Some factories will produce in masses some lookalike materials in a smaller version with lower grade materials & still sell it at a higher price just because they brand them as "Montessori".

My advice would be to really think twice before buying a Montessori material for your home. Think about what that material teaches, can you teach this in a more natural way? Can you DIY that material? Can you find it second hand? You can still embrace Montessori without the material.

Is the Grimms rainbow a Montessori Material?

Do you like the Grimm's rainbow? The Rainbow is super popular, and there is not a day when I am not asked if it's in line with Montessori, and if it's a must buy items.
There are few misconceptions about Grimm's toys & Montessori.

First, let's say that those toys are not Montessori materials. ​

For a start, they are "toys." Montessori didn't design toys, she used materials. Many of those materials were created before her time by the way. Nowadays, toy's manufacturers name anything wooden and vaguely educational "Montessori."

But those Grimms toys are beautiful and in line with what I believe Montessori is in the home. Children need hours of free play with natural and open-ended material so the Waldorf inspired toys are a good fit.
The Grimm company clearly bases its design on the Waldorf ideas and Steiner himself was inspired by the blocks designed by Froebel.

While Maria Montessori was also inspired by Froebel, she designed her own material differently.

Also, many parents are under the impression that they need "the rainbow toy."

I personally was not able to afford those toys when my daughter was little. I don't believe in having the whole collection of Grimm's toys, many are similar and a big box of wooden blocks, found in a charity shop, by the way, was enough for my children. We finally bought a small rainbow when she was 3. She used the rainbow to make an enclosure for her farm animals. That is all she did for years! I finally added the semi-circles, and they were, at last, doing something with it.

Is the Rainbow Montessori Inspired? Not really.

Is it beautiful and great for children? Sure it is even considered a piece of art.

Is it a must-have for the children? It's up to you to decide what your child needs!

Is child-led education (aka Montessori) lazy parenting?

Montessori is often described as child-led but child-led is not lazy parenting!⁠

There was a tv show a few days ago here in the UK, about an unschooling family. They were described as child-led and quickly described as having no rules and the journalist commented that the children were leading the show. I will not comment on the family itself but I am annoyed when alternative parenting is described in such a way that it damages all kind of alternative ways to raise children.⁠

If you are here, you are surely in search of something different than "the control behaviour" ways of educating children. You might be unschooling or homeschooling and I'm sure you don't see yourself as a lazy parent. I know how much you research about child's development, how much you read, how much you try!⁠

Gentle and Montessori parenting is not permissive. On the contrary, Montessori believed that children need clear limits and boundaries. Not punishing or not rewarding doesn't mean that we let our children do whatever they want whenever they want. ⁠

It might seem that Montessori children have more freedom as we don't say no as much, they use knives and cook on the hob, they have access to risky play, they may go to the shop by themselves... But this is done accordingly to their development so in line with their abilities.⁠

A Montessori parent is not lazy or irresponsible. I think it's the opposite as we constantly question how we raise our children, we thrive to be more conscious of our ways, we try to be the best role model. We don't just replicate how we have been educated... ⁠

Child-led is about understanding your child's natural development and adapting your environment and preparing yourself in order to nurture your little one.⁠

How to observe my child in order to provide the rights activities and materials?

There is a video and a handy pdf guide to download here

Do I need to force my child to say please and thank you?

I have never asked my children to say please, thank you or sorry. I never consciously teach them those words.⁠

What I did was to role-model all the time. I assume that you are a polite person and that your child witnesses you several times a day, being polite.⁠

This is enough! Now if your child doesn't say those words, it might be because he hasn't noticed you saying them.⁠
In that case, you can give some Grace and Courtesy lessons. This is part of the Practical Life activities in the Montessori classroom. And it's all about role-modelling and role-playing. It attracts the child because the teacher will exaggerate the movements, will place great emphasis on those activities and will be consistent. Every day, we will greet our student with a handshake. Every time a child gives us something, we will say thank you... If we notice some children forgetting their manners, we might do a little group role-play such as a tea ceremony activity.⁠

If my child has a runny nose and doesn't seem to notice, I would go next to him with a tissue and make a big deal of blowing my nose politely next to him. Then I would give him a tissue and hope that he will copy me (I may blow my nose a lot until he gets it)⁠

Role modelling is enough and works but again, pay attention to your attitude. If you swear when you drive, your children will too. If you forget to greet the lady at the supermarket, your children will witness it. ⁠

The first two words my daughter said in English were "Hello" and "Thank you" because those two words were the ones I was saying consistently, every day to people around us. That says it all!⁠

How to choose a Montessori school?

More info in this blog post:

Is Montessori against Fairytale and Fantasy?

More info in this blog post:

My child only wants to climb. What do I do?

My answer here:

What do I do when my toddler doesn't want to share?

My answer here:

What did Montessori say about breastfeeding?

Some more information and reflection here

How to Discipline the Montessori way?

There is so much to say about Discipline:

See this blog post

And how to connect through a tantrum

What is the absorbent mind?

More info here

How to potty train the Montessori way?

This is by far one of the most common topics of discussion in our Facebook group. And a stage in our children's life that only a few are looking forward to with excitement. In general, parents are quite apprehensive and maybe a bit "disgusted" about the whole process.

In Montessori circles, we prefer to say "toilet awareness" and "toilet learning" than Potty training. Why? As a matter of respect for the child. We don't train children (we train dogs and even training dogs make me uncomfortable). We guide children and we role-model.

Toilet awareness is a natural process and a skill that all children will develop in time. Potty and nappies are accessories that we have created to make our modern life easier or possible with young children.
As a family, you may skip the potty and nappy entirely (aka you may do Elimination Communication) or your child may go on the main toilet straight away.

Here are a few tips to start the process:
- If you can, put your child in cloth nappies from birth - Talk about your child’s bodily functions when you change her. It should be casual such as “you are wet, you have done a wee, we now need to change your nappy.”
- Avoid making faces or shaming them when you change their nappy
- Encourage your child to help during a nappy change
- If your child can stand up or walk, try to change your child standing up to give him more control and independence
- let your child be curious about you going to the toilet
- Have a potty ready at your child's disposal as soon as possible.
I made a handy Toilet learning guide for you, download it here

To be continued!

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

  • steph says:

    Hi Carine, thanks for sharing these details. My kid is turning 4 soon and I have been contemplating whether Montessori is the right start. Some of my friends are proponents too and swear by it.

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