Although my baby girl is still only 6 months old, I have already found myself considering where I might send her for preschool once I go back to work in two years. Hubby and I recently moved to Denver, CO, and I discovered there’s a fabulous Montessori school right around the corner from our house! I had the fortunate opportunity of attending a Montessori elementary school myself, so I was thrilled and almost immediately decided that I wanted her to attend there. I did, however, want to read some reviews online and visit the school myself… just to make sure this particular school wasn’t shoddy.
And during my review-hunting is when I randomly learned that Montessori – although rooted in education – is not JUST a type of education! It’s a whole way of life, and of parenting, that can be implemented at home, as well. And even better? You can start from birth! At its very core, Montessori is simply about following the child and their interests, and allowing your observations to guide your parenting and your child’s learning as he or she works toward developing him- or herself.
I was instantly drawn to the beauty and simplicity of this concept, and wanted to find out more about it. So I spent the rest of the next few days and nights (basically any time baby girl was sleeping) reading all of the information that I could find online about it. I was ultimately led to purchase a wonderfully informative and practical book, Montessori from the Start, which I read from cover to cover over the course of another few days and nights and then re-read as I typed fifteen pages of notes for myself on it (it was really record timing, considering I’m a new mom with a busy little baby to tend to near-constantly).
If you don’t know what Montessori is, exactly, then take a moment to watch this video to familiarize yourself. Avital is one of my favorite vloggers, and I think she does an excellent job of summarizing the main principles of Montessori, both in general and in the home. For more in depth how-to’s on the details of doing Montessori at home, be sure to check out Deb’s stuff over at Living Montessori Now as well as some of my other favorite resources.
And you guys… I’M. IN. LOVE. Montessori philosophy just completely resonates with me, especially in how it’s so deeply intertwined with the biological milestones of early child development. The only thing I am regretting is that I didn’t know about it sooner, or else I would have started implementing the basic principles with my daughter as soon as she was born.
But I believe that it’s never too late. I’ve got a little bit of backtracking and catching up to do, but I’m going for it. I’m diving in feet-first, and never looking back again!
As far as our physical space at home is concerned, here’s where we’re at:
- TOYS: I’ve already gone through her toy collection (which wasn’t much, actually) and stored some of her things away for later rotation, so that she can focus on just a few things at a time when she’s playing. We also nixed anything she had that blinked or played obnoxious songs (basically everything battery-operated), and I’ve completely revised her Christmas/birthday wishlist for family members to include more sensory-based items that she can make use of right now (like these textured balls and gorgeous shimmering rainbow blocks), some open-ended toys that will last for many years to come, as well as some practical life tools that she will need once we start doing those kinds of activities together (like this super cute broom set from Melissa & Doug and this adorable tiny baking set from IKEA).
- LIVING AREA/PLAYSPACE: I’ve started creating a Montessori-style playroom for her that is still under construction, as I need to have hubby hang the frameless beveled mirror I found for super cheap at Michael’s; and I still need to find a few baskets and trays to help contain some of the loose toys and objects that are now sitting on the low, open-concept shelving system I found at IKEA, that I simply turned on its side. (Here’s a nearly identical shelving unit on Amazon, if you don’t have an IKEA near you.) I also put down these fabulous foam playmat puzzle pieces, since her playroom is located in one of our downstairs family spaces that has hardwood floors. I also want to hang some nature-based artwork or photographs on the wall above the shelf, and maybe add a green houseplant or two. (**UPDATE: Her playroom is now complete! Check out the video tour!)
- BEDROOM: Unfortunately, hubby is in Australia for work right now, and he’s the handyman around the house when it comes to bigger projects. So when he returns around mid-November (she’ll be 8 months old by then), he’s helping me completely make over her bedroom. We’re nixing the crib and setting up a twin-size floor bed, hanging another beveled wall mirror and some nice artwork or photos, installing a smaller IKEA shelf (here’s a similar one I found on Amazon) to hold a few select toys & books at a time (also to be rotated regularly), installing a panning security camera so we can see where she is in the room if she decides to get out of bed, and baby-proofing the heck out of everything, including changing out the electrical covers, mounting the shelf and changing table to the wall, etc. Once she’s a little older and wants to start learning to dress herself, we’ll tackle the changing table/dresser set-up and the closet.
- KITCHEN & BATHROOM: Once she’s a little older and I start to implement practical life activities with her, I want to dedicate one area of our kitchen for her, with a weaning table and chair, and all of the eating/cooking utensils she’ll need in a low nearby cupboard. I also want to make her bathroom more kid-friendly so she can have more independence, like adding a step-stool to the sink, hanging a low mirror, a low hook for her bath towel, and a special area set up with books and other necessary supplies near her potty (which we’re already doing since we practice Elimination Communication part-time, but that’s a whole other post in itself coming in the future!).
**Stay tuned for a video tour of her Montessori-style bedroom makeover, once it’s complete! You can view her playroom tour here!
And since Montessori is less about “the things”, and more so about the learning and development of baby’s self, here’s what I’ve already started doing to put the principles into action:
- FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT: I got rid of all “baby-holding devices” in the house (except for her highchair that I’m using for baby-led weaning until we get her a proper weaning table, and the carrier that I have to place her in while I walk our dogs each day). Now, whenever I need to do something in a room of the house and she needs to be with me, instead of putting her in one of these devices… I simply place her on her tummy on a blanket or towel if it’s on tile or hardwood, or directly on the carpet. I usually give her a few things to manipulate and explore while she’s hanging out near me… if not one of her own toys, then I give her two or three baby-safe household items, such as wooden kitchen utensils. And just like that… my baby girl has gone from hating to “tummy time”, to being totally happy being on her tummy nearly ALL the time! This one simple change has also really impacted her gross motor skills almost overnight; she’s already starting to push up on all fours, when just two weeks ago, she was still floundering around like a fish out of water and hating it.
- FOCUS/CONCENTRATION: I protect her ability to focus like an angry mama bear would defend her cub. Whenever she’s focused on exploring something or manipulating some object, I just let her be. I don’t interrupt, I simply observe. And I can tell that her ability to focus and her attention span are both getting better and better by the day! Before this, she couldn’t keep her attention on anything for more than 0.2 seconds, and I honestly suspect it was entirely my fault, as I was constantly shoving new things in her face if I felt like she was getting “bored”. Now that I’m acting as her “assistant” instead of the “director” during her playtime (or if I’m simply not involved at all), she’s like a laser-focused exploration machine! This transformation has been incredible to see unfold.
- SENSORIAL EXPLORATION: I’ve also been providing her with more sensory experiences (baskets of objects, textured things, sensory bottles and bags, etc.) as part of her playtime, and also focusing much more time than I was before on being outside in nature with her, even if it just means hanging out on a blanket in the grass in our backyard, enjoying the sunshine. We also go for at least one walk together outside around our neighborhood and surrounding trails each day.
I am so incredibly excited to have discovered the joy of Montessori at home. I feel like I’m doing something truly transformative to help my little girl as she works so hard toward developing herself into a capable, confident, and independent person. I can’t wait to see what new adventures the coming months will bring!
Do you implement Montessori philosophy in your home? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments below!
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