By Julia Niego
It is a reality that today’s parents struggle to balance busy careers and lives with children. We often make difficult choices about where and with whom our children are spending their first years. At the same time science is confirming that the first years of our baby’s lives are of utmost importance. At Guidepost at Home, we recognize the Montessori approach as an opportunity to create a rich environment in your own home where your baby’s development and learning will be supported from the start.
Started by Dr. Maria Montessori with her groundbreaking studies of the developing child over one hundred years ago, the Montessori approach is time-honored, internationally recognized and backed by current research. The philosophy is rooted in a deep and scientific understanding of how children experience and construct knowledge. It recognizes that children are naturally motivated to learn about the world around them and are driven to develop themselves. Materials are designed to teach concepts the way children naturally learn at this vital early stage of development, through hands on and multisensory experience with their environment.
Montessori respects your baby’s intelligence and independence and involves them meaningfully as a member of their household community from the start. Rather than seeing babies and toddlers as needing to be confined or entertained, Montessori encourages joyful and free guided exploration so that the home becomes the optimal environment to begin the learning journey.
Why is the Montessori approach important for your child?
An important shift has happened in the last few decades in our understanding of the baby and toddler brain. Research has confirmed what Maria Montessori observed (Montessori, 1995): that the years from birth to three are vital in your child’s development; that more than any other time your little one’s mind is absorbent, soaking up the stimuli around them.
As our understanding of the young brain continues to grow we are coming to understand that the skills that underlie our child’s ultimate success at life and learning develop from birth and in response to a prepared environment that provides opportunity for challenge and independence within responsive structure and nurturing personal relationships with caregivers and peers (Shore, 1997).
In a time when there is more competition than ever for our children’s attention through toys, technology and screens, the Montessori approach offers fosters the foundational abilities of focus, persistence, self-regulation, internal motivation, resilience in the face of difficulty and joyful curiosity in the world. New psychological research on the Montessori approach has shown that Montessori children exceed on measures of academic achievement, executive functioning (Diamond and Lee, 2011), social understanding and overall enjoyment of their learning (Lilard, 2018).
How do Guidepost at Home nannies incorporate Montessori into your child's day?
Guidepost at Home Nannies are trained in the Montessori approach. They establish freedom within structure for your child by creating a prepared environment matched to the development of your child and a peer, and simple routines to guide your child in setting expectations for their world.
Each day will involve a consistent flow around activity, eating, sleeping, and tidying up. An important part of the routine is daily open work time where your child will have space to handle and manipulate carefully selected Montessori inspired materials. When working with your child the nanny will present one work at a time and will gently guide and extend exploration. They will always uphold the philosophy of observation of the child and will thus learn from your baby about his or her interests and abilities.
At all times, during your child’s first forays into learning, Guidepost at Home nannies will be emotionally responsive to the needs of each child in their care. They will strive to invite engagement, guide rather than direct, and stay in tune with their experiences. By creating this intimate community of little learners, nannies will support your child’s language development, social and emotional understanding and skills of self-regulation.
Babies and toddlers are often much more interested in what is in the cabinets, drawers and their dresser than they are in toys! They are internally motivated to learn how to work at this age, and given the opportunity will joyfully participate in day-to-day activities to care for themselves and the home. Guidepost at Home nannies will invite children to participate meaningfully in practical life work. They will learn skills of naming, sorting, cleaning, using simple tools, hygiene and dressing. This work empowers young children as they grow and provides ways for them to feel confident and deeply satisfied in their lives.
- Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science (New York, N.Y.), 333(6045), 959–964. doi:10.1126/science.1204529
- Lillard, A. S. (2018). Rethinking Education: Montessori’s Approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(6), 395–400.
- Montessori, Maria 1870-1952. The Absorbent Mind. New York: Henry Holt, 1995
- Shore, Rima. 1997. Rethinking the brain: new insights into early development. New York: Families and Work Institute.
Julia Niego, MS holds a BA in Behavioral Neuroscience from Colgate University, an MS in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia University/Teacher’s College, and professional certification as an Educational Therapist through University of California Riverside. Over the past decade she has founded and developed curricula for Montessori preschools, directed a local network of Montessori-at-home playgroups, and consults on progressive approaches as the founder of Neuleaph Child & Brain, LLC. She continues to pursue her fascination for the intersection of early learning and the child brain, and draws deeply on the Montessori approach as an early childhood educational therapist with a private neurospychologically-based tutoring organization in NYC.