Here the article I had published in Juno Magazine, Winter edition 2014
I’m a Montessori teacher, but first a mother. When I had my daughter, almost 7 years ago, I already had plenty of experience in childcare and a background in psychology but I was also living abroad and isolated from family support. I remember spending a month at home in Belgium and all my family members were carrying her around, she was delighted and contented. Alone with me, she didn’t want to stay anymore on a playmat. She wanted me to help her to sit up or to carry her around.
As a first time parent, I fell in the trap of buying lots of stuff to try to keep my daughter occupied. It didn’t really work. A good friend of mine recommended How to raise an amazing child by Tim Seldin based, among other philosophies, on Montessori education. The book promotes the freedom of movement and an uncluttered environment. I was hooked and tried straight away with my daughter. This was how Montessori education made its entry into our home and is still very present in our family life.
You might be familiar with the Montessori as a school system, but what does it mean to raise a child the Montessori way? In our everyday life, we prepare our home to help our children to thrive, explore freely and become independent. We observe them and adjust the activities we provide in order to respect their needs and sensitive periods of development.
Babies and toddlers observe us all the time and they learn that way. Their only purpose is to learn life skills to become independent human being. That’s why they are so interested by kitchen utensils, laptops, keys, purse and mobile phones! For a young baby, a treasure basket full of everyday objects to explore is far more interesting than any plastic noisy toys.
There are some simple steps that as a parent you can take to have a child-friendly home. For example, why have fragile decorations that your toddler is not allowed to touch? This intense phase of exploration doesn’t last for long. In our house, we don’t have knick-knacks and fragile vases. I have plastic containers, kitchen utensils and baking material in the lower drawers so they can explore it.
What about toys? We have toys of course but only toys that follow our children’s sensitive periods. I rotate their activities regularly to avoid boredom and I present them in an orderly way. Children less than 6 years have an immature brain and the order outside helps them to order their thoughts. If their toys are classified by type, they will be able to classify in their head too. It will improve memory and concentration. And they will play better! You don’t have to buy anything expensive, some of the best activities for my toddler are just a collection of little boxes and bottles to open and close.
Now that my eldest is almost 7, I can see the long term benefits of this philosophy. As long as I prepare the environment, she can be totally independent. She knows where the art and craft material is and decides what to do and take what she needs to do a piece of art. She is in charge of her toilet and dress up by herself every day. During the school holidays, she loves to have projects and to learn about something specific. Following the Montessori ideas of learning through the 5 senses and hands-on material, I help her to explore a subject of her choice. In this way, I have found the Montessori philosophy to be of benefit to us all.
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