There are a lot of educational models out there and it can be overwhelming for parents to understand the differences and choose what’s best for their little one. The Montessori Method is quite different than the standard school curriculums that most of us grew up with, which can feel intimidating. But Montessori is actually quite simple...and quite powerful.
What Exactly is Montessori?
In simple words, the Montessori Method is child-led learning. It is the belief that a child is naturally eager to learn and that a supportive teacher and a thoughtfully prepared environment are key elements in guiding their development. The approach focuses on the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional and cognitive.
The Six Areas of Montessori
Cognitive: thinking, perceiving, acquiring and organizing knowledge
Motor: moving the body in different ways
Sensory: experiencing through senses and movement
Language: communicating sounds, words, sentences, gestures, facial expressions
Social: developing relationships, personality, and expression of feelings
Practical Life: tackling motor tasks with real-life goals
It’s not a fad. Developed by Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori Method has been around for more than 100 years. So, it’s not “new age” or experimental. It’s also science. The method is based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Its focus on child-led activities have proven to result in more creative, mature and socially adept children and adults.
Plus, Montessori fosters independence by keeping a focus on individuality. Children are taught on a personal level where activities are not forced on them, but rather introduced when the timing is right. Because activities are child-led and not forced or corrected, learning is fun!
Montessori for Infants and Toddlers
While some might think infants and toddlers are too young for real learning, the opposite is actually true. Everything a little one sees, hears, touches, tastes and smells is teaching them something. This connects to the Montessori idea of an “absorbent mind,” which likens a little one’s brain to a sponge made for learning. Every experience teaches them something new about the world and their role in it.
Plus, in the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second1. It’s these connections that build brain architecture, which is what all future learning, behavior, and health depend (i.e. a big deal). You’d be surprised at just how early a child learns and is able to make choices and show their independence (If you had a toddler, you know exactly how early this happens!).
Caregivers as Guides
A key distinction of the Montessori Method is the role of the caregiver or teacher. They’re not traditional teachers, but are instead guides that observe and steer rather than lecture. Little ones are free to explore and activities are not forced.
With Montessori, every moment is a learning moment, which is why “control of error” is also an important element. This means the caregiver should guide actions, but not correct them. They show a little one how to do something and then let them try it themselves. Children can pretty quickly learn how to correct their own actions when they’re allowed to do so. We know, we know...easier said than done when you see a spill about to happen! But mistakes are part of learning. Practice makes perfect, right? Practice helps little ones grow confidence and the right guide will have the patience to let that happen.
Individuality is Important
Every little one is different and will learn at their own pace. Young minds need the right playful guidance to develop at the speed that works for them. Montessori understands that and Montessori caregivers embrace it. Milestones like holding their head up at six weeks or reaching for a toy at 5 months are important guides to keep in mind, but shouldn’t be strict measurements of “successful” development. (The same goes for comparing your little one to your friend’s or brother's child! Again, easier said than done, but trust us—your little one is right on pace...because it's their pace).
Another key element of individuality is understanding what Montessori refers to as “sensitive periods,” which are developmental windows of opportunity during which a little one will learn a certain concept more easily and naturally. A child in the midst of a sensitive period will show a strong interest or inclination toward a certain activity. Montessori caregivers are trained to recognize these windows and offer the right activities that address the little one’s specific interests, needs and milestones at these times.
The Right Environment Matters
Montessori caregivers act as guides and help little ones explore in a safe way. They do this by making sure their environment is calm, safe and a good setting for learning. This means that the items present are there to engage and teach the child. There shouldn’t be an overload of items or toys as they could overstimulate or distract them. We’re not saying the house has to be spotless, but where the children play should be tidy. So, keep your record collection or workout gear in another room. (And as a bonus, you can use Montessori as a reason Grandma should stop buying so many toys!)
Guidepost at Home: Incredible Montessori Childcare At Home
At Guidepost at Home, we strongly believe in the power of the Montessori approach because we have seen first hand the positive impact it can make in a little one’s development. That's why our care is focused around a Montessori-based curriculum that centers around actives tailored specifically for infants and toddlers.
Guidepost at Home Nannies are trained using the NAMC method to:
- Observe changes in infants and toddlers that indicate their readiness for activities
- Understand special considerations when presenting activities
- Properly prepare a play environment
- How to adjust to a little one’s changing needs
- Guide activities to develop: cognitive skills (focusing, remembering, matching), motor skills (rolling, grasping, stacking) and sensory abilities (experiencing sounds and volume, feeling textures, identifying objects)