My favourite Montessori quotes about independence – musing and reflection

In this blog post, I will talk about independence and share my favourite Montessori quotes about independence.

We all want our child to become independent.

But what do we mean by independence?

Many parents come to Montessori because their child wants to do something by himself.

Others discover Montessori and have the hope that their little one will be more independent – in other words, that she will play by herself for long stretches of time.

When we think about independence, we picture our child being able to dress and undress, pour her own drink and prepare her own snack.

dress himself

With what you know about Montessori, maybe you’re providing child’s size items and activities to your little one, demonstrate once, then expect her to repeat the activities on her own.

This is where we can get sorely disappointed!


You may have seen cute pictures of children doing Montessori activities on Instagram. What you haven’t seen, though, is the long and slow process behind that result… Or the mess they’ve left behind!

I too had unrealistic expectations when I discovered Montessori.

When my daughter was a baby, I designed her environment to contain few toys and promote her freedom of movement. She was very contented.

When I completed my training, my daughter was a young toddler. I prepared our environment and I showed her some practical life activities. She was around 2 years old. I expected her to do the practical activities on her own, but she was following me everywhere.

At the time I thought she was clingy, but in fact, she couldn’t find what she needed: a guide.

The Montessori teacher is called a “directress” because she is there to guide, not to teach or control. But she is there, especially in the early years. Her role is to show, observe and offer a carefully planned process to foster the child’s independence.

As a first-time mother and newly trained teacher, I was missing a key element of the Montessori education. I just had one goal: 5 minutes of peace! Here is your beautiful environment, be independent for 5 minutes and let me drink my tea!

It seems that our child’s independence is the Holy Grail. But it shouldn’t be our goal, as Judith Orion reminded me. If you haven’t heard about Judith, she is the directress of the Birth to 3 AMI training programs at the Montessori Institute of Denver.

To quote her, “Independence is not the Holy Grail. Young children need functional independence”.


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What do we mean by functional independence?

For children under the age of 3, it’s all about the physical independence, the ability to use their body, to strengthen their gross and fine motor skills. It’s about language, being able to ask, to name and to make themselves understood.

Without those basic skills, a child will not be able to pour his own drink.

So, the goal is not to be able to serve themselves a snack, the goal is to develop skills that will later make them independent.
This is why we help them to do stuff by themselves, BUT WE ARE STILL THERE!

We need to be patient, assess our expectations, and support their quest toward independence.

I love this quote from Maria Montessori:

“Never help a child at a task which he feels can succeed”.

This quote is very famous among Montessori enthusiasts.

Yes, we need to let the child try. But the second part of this quote is important too: “a task which he feels he can succeed”.

If we see Independence as the Holy Grail, as I did, we become pushy, we let our child try to the point of frustration or we feel annoyed that he cannot do it yet. We compare our child to other children.

Ah, again the danger of social media comparison!

We need to follow our own child. What is she capable of doing today? What is the extra step she needs to achieve this particular task? What can we do to support her independence?

To inspire you, I just released this short video with the best Montessori quotes about independence.

Let me know what your thoughts are. Do you struggle to give your child’s independence? Do you feel that you expect too much from your child?

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.