Did you know you’re likely practicing Montessori parenting without realizing it? Here are 12 ways you’re using the Montessori methods at home.
Even when they were five-years-old, I would still brush my twins’ teeth.
Whenever I could, I’d go straight to brushing their teeth, assuming that I could do a better job of preventing cavities. Not to mention that I could do it 10 times faster if I squeezed the toothpaste, filled their cups, and brushed their teeth than if I left the job to them.
My husband, though, had no time for that.
Whenever it was his turn to bathe them, he’d say, “Okay, brush your teeth.” In fact, had it not been for him, they would probably still need me to tie their shoes and dress themselves.
In his quest to get our kids to do more things (and he less), he had been following one of the principles of Montessori parenting without even realizing it.
12 ways you’re already practicing Montessori parenting
I’m not unfamiliar with the Montessori philosophy. Even when my eldest was a mere baby, I was already reading materials about Maria Montessori. Later, I enrolled all three kids in a Montessori preschool.
But I had never rigidly followed the Montessori way of living. For instance, I put my kids in cribs and high chairs—both that, for the true Montessori fan, would be a no-no.
Still, over time, I realized that we do apply a lot of Montessori practices in our parenting, even if we weren’t always intentional about it. From the day-to-day life, to how our kids learn, and especially with discipline, I’ve turned to Montessori parenting more than I realized.
And I’m willing to bet that you are, too. Take a look at these 12 ways you’re already following the Montessori methods:
1. You show empathy to your child
Empathy is by far the first advice I often suggest to parents. Putting ourselves in our kids’ shoes makes us more patient and melts their defenses. Who can argue with someone when they’re on the same side as you?
Being able to show empathy is key to Montessori parenting. We’re not reacting to their behavior, but trying to understand where they’re coming from. What motivated them to behave that way? What external reasons (hunger, tiredness) could’ve contributed?
Any time you’ve said, “I know, I’d feel the same way, too,” or “It’s hard, isn’t it?”, you’ve shown a bit of empathy that brought you closer to your child.
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2. You have a kid-centric environment at home
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I may have used cribs and high chairs, but I’ve also bought furniture and toys that were conducive for my kids to comfortably use on their own.
For instance, we had a set of toddler-sized table and chairs that were perfectly suited for them to sit and use. I’m also a fan of creating an environment safe for kids to explore, baby-proofing every room so they have the freedom and safety to explore on their own.
You likely do the same in your home.
You’ve drilled a hook low enough on a wall for your child to easily hang her coat or installed a pretend kitchen she can use to “cook” alongside you. You might have even created a drawer of snacks she can easily reach and help herself to come snack time.
The idea behind all this? That kids thrive in an environment suited for them, not for adults. This is why you’ll find child-sized chairs and tables in preschools, or that their paintings are displayed at their eye level, not ours.
3. You encourage self-sufficiency
Montessori parenting encourages self-sufficiency, perhaps a lot earlier than you might think. At first, expecting your child to put her shoes on by herself can seem impossible, but that’s only because you’ve never known anything but doing it for her.
But once you actually give her a chance to do things on her own, more than likely, you were blown away by how quickly she learned and improved.
For parents who’ve had a second child, this drive toward self-sufficiency happened because we had no other choice. We needed our older kids to start doing things for themselves because we couldn’t do it for them any longer.
That might mean having your child get her favorite cup from the kitchen cupboard, even if it meant she had to move and climb the step to reach it. Or she had to line up at school all on her own without you walking her through the door because the baby was fussy.
Any time encouraging self-sufficiency follows one of the principles of Montessori parenting.
4. You give your child responsibilities
Along with self-sufficiency, giving your child responsibilities falls in line with Montessori parenting. It’s easy to do everything for our kids, but handing those responsibilities to them nurtures competence and healthy habits.
Maybe that’s creating a to-do list they need to follow every morning before you leave for school. Perhaps that’s giving them a child-sized broom to clean up the mess they make, or having them sort laundry instead of you taking on the task yourself.
The more you include them in your day-to-day tasks and let them help, the more responsibilities you’re inevitably giving them.
5. You slow your pace down
I was at a children’s museum with my then-toddler, admittedly bored out of my mind. He had been playing with the same display (a “bus” that could open and close its doors, for crying out loud) for what seemed like forever.
But it was actually in that moment when I realized we adults have a strange habit of rushing through life.
I’d feel the same way when we’d take neighborhood walks, and he’d want to squat to inspect a dandelion or a leaf. Meanwhile here I was thinking about all the things still left to do back home.
But an over-scheduled calendar overwhelms your child and denies her the chance to play on her own. And you understand that a rushed life doesn’t allow for down time or creative play and exploration.
Rest assured, all the times you chose to follow her lead and pace, no matter how busy you felt, has only served her well.
6. You follow your child’s cues
Here’s the truth: kids are going to learn a whole lot more when they’re actually interested in what they’re learning.
Sure, you might be able to drill the multiplication table into your third grader’s head through force and repetition. But she’ll not only remember it better, but also see it in a positive light when she’s curious and eager to learn.
That’s why it’s important not to impose your version of what she should learn, but follow her lead instead.
Maybe that’s when you borrowed a pile of library books about dinosaurs because she wouldn’t stop talking about them. Or you bought her a set of gardening gloves because she’s been eager to help you out in the yard.
Following her cues takes advantage of the natural curiosity she already has. You’re fueling the fire that’s already there, making teaching her that much more effective.
7. You expose your child to different experiences
Talking or reading about interesting things can’t compare to actually experiencing them.
One of the best ways to learn is through using as many of your senses as possible. For instance, you can talk about how a seed grows, but nothing beats actually guiding your child to planting one and watching it morph into a plant.
Taking her to different places is another fantastic idea. You may have even combined this with following her cue and taking her to a place to encourage her interest. That might mean going to a botanical garden to further nurture her curiosity about seeds and plants, for example.
8. You provide open-ended play
I’ll admit, my boys have their fair share of “character-driven” toys. These are toys (typically from TV shows) that favor one type of play because they already come equipped with character traits.
But for the most part, nearly all their toys fall under open-ended play, or the type of toys that don’t have limits on how they’re played with.
I’m willing to bet that you do, too. You have art supplies and crayons that encourage creative art, or play dough and building blocks that can transform into anything. You might even have a bin of pretend clothes that allow your kids to don a new identity.
Montessori parenting favors open-ended play, as it doesn’t limit the imagination and instead allows them to direct the play as they see fit.
9. You talk in a normal way to your child
As tempting as it is to use baby talk or silly words, talking in a normal way and using everyday language helps your child to better communicate.
You might not use long words all the time (unless you’re talking about a hippopotamus!), but you don’t shy away from using challenging words, either.
Words and sentences that might be a notch higher than what your child is used to, but one she can eventually figure out in context.
You see, that’s truly the best way for kids to learn new words. It’s not about holding flash cards as it is using them in your regular conversations, allowing the context to provide the meaning.
10. You give your child a choice
Montessori parenting encourages empowering children, especially through making their own choices. This doesn’t mean they get a choice in everything, but from time to time, including them in our decision-making process.
All these simple choices add up to give them a chance to practice decision-making. Learning how to make the right choice is like any other skill that needs to be developed.
11. You model the behavior you want to see
Montessori parents don’t just talk the talk, they follow through with their actions as well. Sure, you may have yelled at your child to stop yelling (ironic, right?), but for the most part, you let your actions do the talking.
You treat them as kindly as you would want them to treat you and others and eat healthy food so they can follow suit. Reading becomes a habit for them when they see you picking up a book every day. You do all these things not only for your benefit but for theirs as well.
12. You respect your child
Respecting your child goes beyond Montessori parenting into plain good advice.
You’re not perfect of course, but you value your child and respect her for exactly who she is. You don’t try to change her into someone she’s not, and you speak to her with as much respect as you would another person.
More important, respecting her confirms that you may at times not like her behavior, but you always love her, no matter what.
More than likely, you’re already following Montessori parenting principles without even realizing it. To recap, you:
- have a kid-centric environment at home
- encourage self-sufficiency
- give your child responsibilities
- slow your pace down
- follow your child’s cues
- expose your child to different experiences
- provide open-ended play
- talk in a normal way to your child
- show empathy
- give your child choices
- model the behavior you want to see
- respect your child
Perhaps this was enough to convince even me to let my twins brush their teeth on their own.
p.s. Check out The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies to help you navigate through your child’s younger years using Montessori principles:
Get more tips:
- 7 Useful Ways to Teach the Montessori Alphabet
- 30 Creative Learning Activities for 2 Year Olds
- 31 Things to Do with a 1 Year Old
- Preschool Pros and Cons: Should You Send Your Child to Preschool?
- 7 Benefits of Reading to Your Child You May Not Know
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