“Play is the work of the child.”
Maria Montessori was a pioneer of early years education in the early 20th century. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome medical school and developed an interest in education through her work as a doctor. She established schools all over the globe, using her classrooms to observe children and develop teaching and learning methods designed to help them achieve their full potential in ways that suit them.
The Montessori Method focuses on a holistic approach, developing children as a whole, and advocates learning by doing. Children should be given the freedom to choose to do what is of interest to them from a selection of activities in a prepared environment, and learning should be as autonomous as possible. Encouraging a love of learning, taking their own initiative and utilising their natural abilities, the Montessori Method encourages learning through exploration, manipulation, repetition, purposeful activity (work) and communication.
There have been vast amounts of research evaluating the effects of learning in a Montessori environment. A study conducted by Dohrmann et al (2007) found that children who had attended Montessori schools from the ages of 3-11 outperformed their high school classmates several years later in both science and mathematics. This demonstrates that the effects of Montessori learning transcend a child’s early developmental years and provide benefits all the way into secondary school. Once a love of learning is instilled in you, it never leaves. Encouraging your child to learn using the Montessori Method inspires a natural love of learning, and as young minds develop, this can be half the battle! Look out for our guest blog from local special needs English teacher Chloé Phillips in the coming months to discover why.
Children aged from birth to six years old have what Montessori described as an ‘absorbent mind’. Children of this age are little sponges, and they soak up everything around them – whether you want them to or not! The first six years of a child’s life are crucial in both physical and psychological development. Montessori acknowledged these stages, or ‘planes’, and refined her classroom and learning experiences to maximise the powerful potential of young minds in this first plane. You can do the same for your child.
Applying the Montessori Method in your own home has never been easier. Children naturally want to learn and find out everything they can about the world around them. As a parent, all you need to do is prepare that environment, helping to support and encourage your child in their role as chief sponge – maximum absorption! Activities and materials should be meaningful, appropriate and, importantly, the right size and height for your child. Everything you want them to access should be at their level and fit in their hands snugly. Who wants to complete a job when the tools are nearly as big as you are!? Benedykt and Sylvester’s personalised wooden baking set (pictured above), demonstrates the appropriate size of tools for activities. Tiny tools for tiny hands! And, realistically, who wants their toddler running around the kitchen with a full-sized rolling pin? I know I don’t!
There are a variety of activities you can do at home to start teaching your child using the Montessouri method. Something as simple as encouraging them to help with straightforward household jobs, such as setting the table, can have surprising effects. Our personalised placemats help to create a routine at the dinner table, as well as a sense of purpose and ownership. Montessori advocated an environment of order and routine which allows children to thrive and flourish. These placemats become a matching game, where every item has its place, and ultimately the completion of the game means an achievement for a young person: I have helped to get the table ready for dinner. The routine sets a precedent for family meals, and promotes and supports competent and outstanding table manners from a very early age. Sylvester began using the placemats at around 15 months old – check out our Personalised Placemats blog to see how he has developed!
Simple games created from household objects are also effective. Spooning rice or pasta from one container to another, pouring liquids, washing up and sweeping all teach young minds that the completion a job gives a sense of purpose and achievement, whilst simultaneously honing those ever-important fine motor skills.
What activities and jobs can your child help with around the home? Send your pictures and experiences to our Instagram page using the hashtags #montessori and #benedyktandsylvester. We would love to see how your children are developing and benefitting from the Montessori Method!
References: Dohrmann K.R., Nishida T.K., Gartner A., Lipsky D.K., Grimm K.J. (2007). High school outcomes for students previously in a public Montessori program. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 22/2, pp. 205–217
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