Lucy very kindly approached us offering her help writing us a post. We thought we would put her Montessori knowledge to good use. Since Lucy finished her nanny training at Norland College in 1989 she has since gone on to being Head at a Montessori nursery, Ladbroke Square in London, after finding her second home there since her daughters attended the nursery. Lucy says “I have never met two children or families who were the same, and the Montessori philosophy and ethos respects and celebrates this.”
We asked her to give three different Montessori based activities that are easy to replicate at home. Here is what she had to say…
The term Montessori has become very popular in children’s education, but what is it and how can we benefit from it at home?
Maria Montessori was an Italian doctor and scientist, who opened the first Montessori school—the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House in Rome in 1907. She pioneered her theories and philosophy through observation, research and experience.
Human development is at the core of the philosophy, for example, a child’s independence, a desire to try things out, a desire to explore and find out for themselves within specially prepared surroundings. The Montessori environment feeds and nurtures this need with its specialised sensorial equipment and specifically trained teachers.
The way we all behave impacts and affects how others respond to us. Being aware of our own manners and behaviour is crucial, our actions and attitude towards others will be watched and modelled by the children around us. Having high expectations of children’s behaviour and not demonstrating the very same ourselves seems a little unfair.
There are many things that we can do at home that will echo and reinforce the nature of the theory. Ideally creating an easily accessible area for children with a few carefully chosen activities and books at their height would be a great start.
Imagine 2 ½ -year-old Bernard knocking over his drink of water. We may swoop in and mop it up (maybe even getting a bit ‘ratty’ at the third spill of the day). Now, picture him toddling off to get a paper towel or cloth, wiping it up and then putting the cloth back or paper towel in the bin, without any need for help… just a little recognition of what’s occurred.
It may not happen the first, second or even tenth time, but with encouragement and patience we will have established a very important and useful precedent – Bernard cleaning up by himself.
- Paper towels or cloths at child’s height and left in the same place
- Patience, stay calm
- Praise and support for each attempt.
- Self-empowerment, confidence and independence
- No blame – he doesn’t feel guilty as he deals with the consequence
- Bernard doesn’t panic when something goes wrong (nor will we)
- We will have time to do more things to care for a busy, inquisitive and often accident prone little person…or have a cup of tea.
This can be expanded to cleaning, sweeping, polishing, even matching socks in laundry….
Marks, patterns and fun in flour
Polly starts by making marks with her finger in a dark tray filled with flour. Over time she progresses for example drawing patterns or images or maybe spelling out each letter in her name*.
Whatever she draws will expand her experimentation, enjoyment and joy of making a mark – so any negative judgment may hinder this. We should listen and watch out for when Polly may want to move on to something else, and once she is done, she can put it away to use again.
However, nothing is stopping us from getting it out and using it by ourselves. This may inspire her inquisitiveness, on top of this we are role modelling behaviour and enjoying the process – it may even unlock our inner creative juices.
In addition to flour we could use bigger areas, using grains, paint, a cornflower/water mixed or shaving foam. By using washing up liquid and water on a work surface or table, foaming it up to cover the area before making marks (Bonus – we will also have cleaned the area in the process).
- A small shallow tray, plate or plant pot tray (preferably a different colour from the flour/grains)
- A little finger
- Fill the tray about half a centimetre deep
- Have fun making marks
- Gently shake to erase and prepare for new marks and more fun
At school we use very fine sand contained a specially designed glass bottomed tray, this allows for better definition in the marks made against the base. This activity was developed to strengthen hand, wrist and arm and muscles and refine a child’s hand/eye co-ordination.
Importantly, Montessori activities encourage repetition, which strengthens brain pathways(synapses), the more a child repeats a task the stronger and long-term the pathway becomes. This allows for easier recovery of information in many different situations, and provides the potential to build on, and expand stable brain connections.
*At nursery school we use phonic sounds and lower case letters, for example if we were to sound out ‘cat’ try first saying the letter name ‘see(c)-ay(a)-tee(t)’ and then the initial letter sound ‘c-a-t’ we can hear the word developing straight away.
To simplify what is a very complex series of squiggles and marks that signify a letter we use lower case letters rather than UPPER CASE (we do use the initial upper case letter when writing names and places).
Children love opening and closing things, so a basket filled with various small empty containers should meet their inquisitive needs. Obviously we need to watch for small mouths and small objects getting too friendly and becoming a choking hazard.
If Bernard or Polly struggle to work out how to open a container, we could say “shall I try?” and keeping the object in front of them, slowly and with deliberate movements, open it look inside and then close it and return it to them.
- 4-6 containers – for example small jam jars, pop off lids, cleaned out makeup containers
- Independence to open and close containers on their own.
- Develop and strengthen arm, wrist and finger muscular control.
- Foster focus and concentration
- Montessori believed the process is vital not just the end goal
Here are our own links and others that may be of interest
Ladbroke Square Montessori School the nursery school I take care of and manage.
Montessori Centre International
© pocketnannies 2016