By Elizabeth Bayfield
We must support as much as possible the child’s desires for activity; not wait on him, but educate him to be independent.
– Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family
Perhaps you have heard of Montessori, and possibly done some research or observed a Montessori classroom. Maybe your child even attends a Montessori school. Have you ever wondered what would take to create a Montessori environment in your own home?
I love all that Montessori is and can become. There is such potential, but I think too often we think Montessori is just something for wealthy children or that happens from 9 to 3 while a child is at school.
Montessori is so much more than that. True, it is a method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori that’s earned its street cred for more than 100 years, spanning countries and continents. Montessori is also a philosophy, which can make it sound like it isn’t attainable unless you take you take training to become a certified Montessori teacher.
Montessori is a way of being in the world—a different way of interacting and empowering children. It is in the way that you speak with your child, the way that you set up your home and your child’s space, the way that you allow for the mess and discovery and supply the tools for cleaning up those messes.
How might you incorporate the Montessori method into your home environment with these guiding principles?
Freedom to explore
In this picture my son wanted to play with one of his construction vehicles. We remembered that it was outside and muddy, so instead of saying “no,” we said “yes.” Then we gave him an apron to wear, a basin, a sponge, and a large towel. He spent 25 minutes washing his truck, completely immersed in the activity. True, his truck was clean-ish, but it wasn’t just about having a clean truck. It was about respecting his interests and needs and giving him the space and material to complete his work.
Too much stuff can cause confusion and the child doesn’t learn to appreciate and respect what they have. These pictures show a basket of little cars, which we found all over our house (really, my bed?!), and chose half the cars to stay. The other cars were loaded into a box and are going to be put in storage in the basement. We will rotate the cars in a few weeks once we notice our son is losing interest in this set of cars.
This is our son serving himself a snack. His child-size plates are located on a shelf in the dining room that he has easy access to, and the container of cereal is there with a sturdy scoop so he’s able to serve himself. Yes, there are spills. Yes, he sometimes takes more than one scoop.
But he is learning through this experience something so much bigger than just eating snack. He is learning that we trust him. We give him the tools that he needs to clean up when the cereal spills on the floor. We only fill the container one fourth of the way full to help limit how much cereal is available and therefore set him up for success instead of “You took too much.”
Setting up a space that promotes order
These pictures were taken in a family room/play room I had the opportunity to work in. The family loves board games, books, building, and creating together. Our work was to simplify what you see in the left picture, giving each child their own space. We spent less than $15 in materials for this transformation! The picture on the right is the “almost after”—they’re going to live, play, create, and make changes as necessary. The mom was adding plants and some other pictures.
I stepped out of the Montessori classroom after 17 years and have started my own consulting business, Little Acorn Consulting. My goal is to help bring the lofty ideals of Montessori to each family and show you that it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money to create spaces in your home that are child-centered and promote order, peace, freedom, joy, exploration, and creativity. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information about my services, or visit my website to learn more about Little Acorn Consulting.
Elizabeth Bayfield received her BS and M.Ed in Montessori Education from Xavier University and has been an Early Childhood Montessori teacher for the past 17 years. She is also an adjunct instructor at Xavier University Montessori Institute. Most importantly she is a mom to a curious, loving spirited 3 year old boy. She and her husband Glenn live in Cincinnati, Ohio.