Peace: An Integral component of the Montessori curriculum

“Establishing enduring peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of the war.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori

Peace is a core component of the Montessori curriculum. Dr. Maria Montessori is considered to be the ‘founder of peace education’, in addition to her contributions to the early childhood education. She believed that children must be provided lessons on global citizenship, diversity, equality , unity etc.

After surviving two world wars and spending a lifetime observing the development of children, Montessori understood the link between education of our younger generation and world peace.

She held “Peace conferences” in many European countries from 1932-1939, which was later published as “Education and Peace” in English. Dr. Montessori was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951. She received a total of 6 nominations.

In Education for a New World (1947), Maria Montessori wrote:

But humanity is not yet ready for the evolution that it desires so ardently, the construction of a peaceful and harmonious society that shall eliminate war. Men are not sufficiently educated to control events, so become their victims. Noble ideas, great sentiments have always found utterance, but wars have not ceased! If education were to continue along the lines of mere transmission of knowledge, the problem would be insoluble and there would be no hope for the world… we have before us in the child a psychic entity, a social group of immense size, a veritable world-power if rightly used. If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man, and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more luminous future. Education should no longer be mostly about the imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”

How does Montessori method of Education teach ‘Peace’?

  1. There is one of each material in the classroom- this helps children practice taking turns, patiently waiting or choosing to work with another material until that one becomes available, restoring them back to its original form to make it available for other children in the classroom. This helps teach patience, care of environment, social skills and respect for others.
  2. Grace & Courtesy: This is an integral part of Montessori curriculum. Guides model appropriate language, provide lessons on Grace & courtesy through the day, offer conflict resolution tips and guidance to help children navigate their social environment. Practicing kind words like Please and thank you, helping other children, preparing the classroom environment, restoring the environment for the next day are all simple ways that children contribute in maintaining peace.
  3. Care of Environment: This is a key component of “Practical life exercises”. Children take care of watering plants, sweeping and cleaning, leaf polishing, feeding classroom pets etc which helps them feel a sense of belonging to the community and helps maintain a ‘clean & calm’ environment that translates to peace amongst different components of the prepared environment.
  4. Guides: Dr. Montessori believed in the ‘spiritual preparation’ of the adult. As she stated in her book, ‘The Absorbent Mind’ , “The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” She believed in having the guides connect with their hearts which helps nurture the children’s inner lives and create more peace in the environment.
  5. Cultural studies: Dr. Montessori emphasized the importance of the study of the world we live in. Children are given lessons on the continent map, flags of the world, people, food, landforms etc. Montessori classrooms also study and celebrate different holidays which instils tolerance and respect for other cultures.

By incorporating purposeful movement in the Montessori lessons, practical life activities to help children take care of themselves and others, including their environment, having activities like silence game/walking on the line, making a maze with the Sensorial material called Red rods and walking inside it to practice balance- children are provided a variety of options to practice inner peace. That’s why there is general sense of calm and quiet in the Montessori classroom, which inturn helps the children in the process of normalization & self-regulation.

Yoga, Peace corner, Reading center, Art center and music are other ways Montessori education helps children calm themselves and be peaceful with themselves and others in the environment.

Book Recommendations on the Topic of “Peace” for young children

The Peace book by Todd Parr

Have you filled a bucket today? By Carol McCloud

I am Peace: A book of mindfulness by Susan Verde

Our Peaceful classroom by Aline D. Wolf

Can you say Peace? by Karen Katz

Peace song

“Light a candle for Peace’ for Shelley Murley is a lovely song to practice with children at school /home. The lyrics are easy for young children.

Ways to help children be peaceful

Verbalize and validate children’s feelings, provide them calming techniques like deep breathing, provide them vocabulary and tools to help navigate situations including taking turns, conflict resolution, big emotions and feelings etc.

For example, you could use props like flower, feather, bubble etc to practice deep breathing with children – this helps reduce heart rate and relieve muscle tension, making them more receptive to listen to others.

Verbalizing how they feel like “I understand you are upset that Joe took your toy” or “I see you are sad we need to leave now” gives them an impression that they were heard, their feelings were validated and then the calming process can begin.

Listening to soft music, practicing silence game, meditation, Reading books, defining the term “Peace”, learning about other cultures, being out in nature, gardening etc. are other ways to help children understand the concept and learn about being ‘Peaceful’.

International Day of Peace

It is a United Nations sanctioned holiday observed annually on September 21. It is dedicated to world peace with emphasis on absence of war and violence. This holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1981 and continues to garner more support and reach as the years go by.

To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace bell is rung at the UN headquarters in New York City. The phrase “Long live absolute world peace” is marked on the bell.

Each year there is a specific theme for the Peace day celebration. The theme for ‘2021’ is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”.

Most schools celebrate this day and use it as an opportunity to help guide young children learn the importance of “Peace”.

Resources:

A sneak peek into the woman behind it all – Dr. Maria Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori is the founder of the Montessori theory that we here at Healthy Beginnings Montessori House hold so dear.  Let us learn more about this amazing woman who was a trendsetter over 150 years ago and continues to make a significant impact in children’s lives all around the world.

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her parents were Alessandro Montessori and Renilde Stoppani. She initially lived in Florence and then moved to Rome, where she did most of her schooling. She was enrolled in an all boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and decided to pursue medicine which was totally against cultural norms at that time. She was highly discouraged by others to pursue a career in medicine and was also met with hostility & harassment from some medical students and professors because of her gender.

She went through great struggles including working alone on the dissections of the cadavers, after hours to complete requirements of medical school. Eventually she graduated from the University of Rome, as a doctor of medicine in 1896. She began studying and researching children experiencing some form of cognitive delay, disability or illness. She then spoke and published articles on that topic, eventually leading up to becoming an advocate for women’s rights and education for developmentally challenged children.

When Maria Montessori was working as a voluntary assistant in the University of Rome’s psychiatric clinic, she visited asylums there which gave her an opportunity to observe children with mental disabilities. This is the basic foundation to her future educational work, which we now call as the Montessori education.

She was very fascinated by the studies and research of the physicians and educators in the 19th century like Itard and Sequin, who heavily influenced her work. She later went on to name some materials she created after them.

1st Montessori school

The 1st Montessori environment was created on Jan 6, 1907 in San Lorenzo, Rome by Dr. Maria Montessori. There were about 50 children on the first day, between the ages of 2 or 3 and 6 or 7. These were children of the construction workers and other daily wage earning workers, that nobody really cared much about. She described the children that came to the school as undernourished, dirty and uneducated & said she was amazed by their innate ability to learn. Dr. Montessori found an older woman to assist her to watch the children. These children had no toys to play with.

Initially, the classroom was equipped with a teacher’s table, a blackboard, small stove, small chairs and group tables for the children and a locked cabinet filled with materials that Dr. Montessori had developed at the Orthophrenic school.

In this first classroom, she observed behaviors in children which is the basis of the Montessori system of Education. Children had deep attention and concentration, repeated activities and a deep sense of order. Given a choice, the children gravitated to more ‘real life’ purposeful activities than to toys. They also didn’t seem to be interested in external rewards. Their motivation seemed to be internal and spontaneous.

She replaced the heavy furniture with light weight child sized tables and chairs, neutral color shelves and included many purposeful activities for children like sewing clothes, washing floor, food preparation etc. These tasks helped children become more independent and later became a hallmark of the Montessori philosophy that remains evident to this day.

Growth of the Montessori system of Education

Dr. Montessori combined her knowledge of medicine, scientific studies of the brain and child development, experiences of working in the psychiatric clinic and observation of children in her care at San Lorenzo to create a prepared environment to help meet the needs of the child for them to grow and reach their full potential. Within 6 years of opening her first school, there were numerous teacher training sites and Montessori schools on 5 continents. Her 1st book, “The Montessori Method” had been translated into 10 languages.

Though some originally believed her theories were too radical, the social and education reforms of the 1960’s helped pave way for it to become more popular and develop in the U.S and many other countries.The ‘Whole child approach’ backed by scientific research makes the Montessori method very attractive to parents.

She strongly believed that “What the hand does, the mind remembers”. All Montessori materials were created with natural materials and are aesthetically appealing to the child. They provide hands on learning opportunities for the children, which helps them internalize and cement the knowledge.

Dr. Montessori went to write many books, gave speeches and lectures, provided training to many people around the world to become a “Montessori guide”. According to the Montessori philosophy, children have the natural desire to learn and the ‘adult’ should watch upon them and observe them to create a prepared environment for them.

She later went on and founded the International organization called AMI(American Montessori Internationale), which was managed by her son, Maria Montesano Montessori for a long time. This organization currently works on upholding the integrity and authenticity of her philosophy and educational method.

Montessori’s Famous Quotes

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed”

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child”

“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education, all politics can do is keep us out of war”

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help develop in them”

“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world”

“The child making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future”.

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence”.

“The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge”.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment”

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration”

“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself”.

“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole, which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future”

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength”

Books authored by Dr. Maria Montessori

She wrote some amazing books that serve as a great resource for parents, educators, caregivers and anyone who wants to learn more about the Montessori method of Education.

Some of the books are as follows:

The Absorbent mind

The Montessori method

The Secret of Childhood

The Discovery of the child

Spontaneous activity in Education

Dr. Montessori’s own handbook

The Child in the Family

Education for a New World

To Educate the Human Potential

…….and so much more.

Resources

Want to learn more about Dr. Montessori and her contributions, check out these great websites mentioned below.

https://montessori-ami.org/

https://amshq.org/

http://montessori-namta.org/

https://montessori-mint.org/

https://livingmontessorinow.com/about-montessori/montessori-resources/

https://www.montessori.org/

http://www.michaelolaf.net/maria.html

https://www.montessoridaoshi.com/single-post/2019/03/30/Teacher-Talk-Misconceptions-and-the-Elevator-Speech

Maria Montessori, the trail blazer, revolutionary thinker who changed the course of Education for generations to come ….

Interruption to a child’s work

Imagine you are preparing for a very important meeting at work, figuring out logistics in your head and making notes, when all of a sudden a co-worker calls out for something or your phone rings: it disrupts your focus. It breaks the continuity of the momentum. The flow of thoughts or the rhythm is disturbed. For many adults, it takes a long time to put things back in their mind and get back to task at hand with 100% commitment.

The child whose attention has once been held by a chosen object, while he concentrates his whole self on the repetition of the exercise, is a delivered soul in the sense of the spiritual safety of which we speak. From this moment there is no need to worry about him – except to prepare an environment which satisfies his needs, and to remove obstacles which may bar his way to perfection.” (Dr. Maria Montessori,The Absorbent Mind)

What happens when we interrupt a child’s work? How do they feel? Does it interfere with their process of building their inpendence?

Children right from birth are experiencing most of the things for the first time and they need their space & time to explore them to internalize it, save them in their memory to build on for future learning. A young infant may look at a bird outside in the garden very intently and observe the finer details/color etc. In that scenario, what does interruption look like? Apart from the bird flying away from that spot, which could probably be the most common outcome, the interruption usually comes from the adult who is with the child and observing the bird too.

The adult curious to know what the child is learning from the bird, might start bombarding them with questions like Hi baby, what are you seeing? Are you watching a bird? Even make some noises like a bird and ask/state the color of the bird and on & on …..

The adult may think they are helping the child learn, but in this case with a young infant – the adult is “interrupting” the child’s learning by asking the questions.

If the child were able to focus on the bird without any interruptions from the adult, they would have created an imprint of the bird in their memory and built on it by learning more about it in future interactions.

Children are still developing and building their focus & concentration skills, they would experience the same kind of obstacles like an adult would, if they are interrupted. Building attention is a process, doesn’t happen overnight. When children are focussed on an activity, do provide them time to do so. Attention span in a young child may be small, but it is still important that it is not broken. When an infant is observing a bird or looking at designs on their hat or stroller, ‘watch them’ and wait until they look away from it on their own, to ask or say anything to them. Words can be extremely interrupting to their focus at that time if done before they look away from it.

When an older child is building with their blocks or figuring out the lock frame or puzzle, wait until they ask for help or move away from that activity to say anything. It is extremely critical to respect and protect those moments of concentration especially those that are independently chosen by the child. This will allow it to increase with time and consistency over the child’s growth process.

Similarly in a Montessori classroom, the adults observe the child and prepare the environment to suit their developmental needs to achieve their full potential. A prepared environment to foster independence without any or minimal interruptions goes a long way in helping a child build focus & concentration, eventually leading to self-actualization or normalization. That’s why Montessori guides do everything in their capability to protect and safeguard the work cycle which provides for enough uninterrupted time for a child to work with different materials, refine the skills based on their developmental needs, build concentration to aid in their overall growth.

How can adults help to promote concentration?

Adults knowingly or unknowingly are the primary cause of interruption for a child. Avoid rushing children or asking questions when they are focussing on something or even asking them if they need any help.

Model concentration and attentiveness.

Avoid technology or other distractions when playing with child.

Avoid multitasking as much as possible in front of children.

Quietly and gently touch a child on their shoulder/head/hand(something that you have discussed earlier) and wait for them to acknowledge if you have to interrupt for some reason.

Avoid calling out your child from another room or from across the room when they are engaged in an activity.

Practice technology free meal time

Give full attention to child when interacting with them

Prepare environment to ensure safety and success of the child and avoid using words like ‘be careful’, ‘watch what you are doing’ etc when the child is in the middle of the activity. This causes more interruption and break in concentration than anything else.

In summary, a prepared environment with almost no/minimal interruptions is the best way to help child realize their full potential and be successful in the classroom & in real life.

Also, remember even a young infant has the ability to build impressions in their brain from what they observe which could lead to them learning more about it, taking it up as a passion or even a profession. Nothing is too small or too short for the child at that time. The best thing we can do is to avoid or minimize interruptions.

“My aunt was a science teacher. Her son, my cousin would look at her books when he was a young child and was extremely fascinated by picture of trees. He would observe them repeatedly in his childhood and later learnt that they were called ‘sequoia” trees. Those images stayed in his mind well into adulthood and when he visited California recently, he visited “Sequoia National Park” to internalize that image from the book and match it with a real life experience.

Unique Features of Montessori Materials

Montessori materials were created by Dr. Maria Montessori out of natural materials, especially wood. These were scientifically designed after hours of observation. These materials are not like the commonly available toys /blocks in the market. They have some very unique features embedded in them which reinforce the Montessori principles of fostering independence, building focus and concentration & helping the child reach their full potential.

Montessori materials are ...

Simple, aesthetically beautiful and complete

Very inviting to the child

Minimalistic: Simple, clean lines, devoid of excess features, orderly and utility in teaching the skill.

Isolation of difficulty: In order to refine and encourage the child to master a specific skill at a time, each Montessori material follows this feature of isolating it. For example, Pink tower has 10 cubes- all of which are made of wood and are pink. The only difference is in the ‘dimension’ of each cube. So, the child needs to focus and learn only the ‘concept of big and small/dimension’ through the pink tower. So, there are no distractions or added features to it. This encourages the child to hone in on that skill and master it comfortably.

Each material has a set of similar items exploring the same property in various increments- the child is then stimulated to use their hands and mind to make the comparisons. In most cases, this hand on exploration of ‘1 specific trait’ encourages child to work with the material for extended periods of time to figure various ways to decipher it. This in turn builds focus and concentration in the child.

Extensions: Montessori materials are designed for the multi-age grouping seen in their classrooms. Almost all the materials can be used by a young child like a toddler or 3-year old and can also be extended out for an older child who is 5 or 6 years old. Different areas of the curriculum can also be combined to extend out the use of the materials.

For example: The Pink tower in Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom has 10 cubes made of wood, are pink and differ only in the ‘size’.

A young child can bring the cubes to rug and create a tower from big to small. You could also use it to make designs that are 2-D or 3-D. They can also be traced on paper and painted pink. Child can trace and pin prick the cubes on a pink construction paper – they can just glue the pieces from big to small to reinforce the skill. Pink tower can be combined with other sensorial materials like brown stairs, knobless cylinders etc to make lovely designs. Older children can also write the terms, ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘Pink tower’ etc on the paper. Staying true to the Montessori philosophy of basing the lessons on the child’s ability and not on the chronological age, a material introduced to the child can be extended out to provide the right amount of challenge for them to master the skill.

Provides opportunities for creativity and imagination: Montessori materials are colorful and aesthetically beautiful. This encourages the child to explore them using their creativity and build/design different things with them, enhancing their artistic abilities and imagination. Especially the Sensorial materials call out to the child to use them creatively in turn helping build a variety of skills in the child. You could observe towers, trains, bike, castle etc built from the Sensorial materials.

Purposeful: Montessori materials are built after hours of observation and understanding of the skill it should teach and removal of any obstruction in the path of the child to learn it. Most materials especially the sensorial materials encourage ‘Movement’ which is very important for children in the 1st plane of development(especially for those in the 3-6 years of age). For example, the Pink tower has 10 cubes, the child carries one cube at a time from the shelf to the work rug. This means for the child to complete the activity, they would make 20 trips from the shelf to the work rug to bring the materials, build the tower and return it back to the original spot so it would be ready for another child.

Control of error: This is probably one of the most defining characteristics of Montessori materials. The material has a way for the child to correct themselves. It is almost as if the child receives instant feedback about the progress they are making, allowing them to recognize, correct and learn from an error with any intervention from adults/other children in the classroom. This helps the child see it visually and correct it independently.

This aids in fostering independence, building self-esteem and self-discipline eventually leading to confidence.

One of the greatest examples of ‘Control of error’ in a Montessori material is the Knobbed cylinder. There are 4 cylinder blocks, each having 10 cylinders in them. They have different width, diameter, height etc.

Child won’t be able to fit all the cylinders properly even if one cylinder is out of place.

If you are building a DIY Montessori material , ensure ‘Control of error’ is embedded in it. It can simply be done through color coded ribbons or stickers at the back.

Last but not the least, each component of the material is there for a reason and satisfies a specific need in the child’s development. They provide awesome opportunities for hands on learning.

What the hand does, the mind remembers”

Dr. Maria Montessori

Ideal Montessori School

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment” – Dr Maria Montessori

The term ‘Montessori’ is not trademarked nor is there a patent on it. So, any school can call themselves a ‘Montessori school’. American Montessori Society(AMS ) and American Montessori Internationale(AMI) are the organizations that help promote and maintain quality of Montessori education across the globe. Schools that are accredited by these organizations are expected to implement the fundamental principles of the Montessori philosophy and are held accountable by them through the years. On top of that, if a Montessori school is AMS/AMI accredited or affiliated, they are bound by their regulations to implement the philosophy effectively.

The location – country, state, city, county etc. may have certain provisions in place that govern how schools should function. In USA, the state licensing governs how and if all the mandatory regulations for child safety are implemented effectively in the child care setting/school.

Now the question is … If you are looking to enroll your child in a ‘Montessori’ school, what should you look for?

There is not a specific checklist for an ideal school, as every child, parent, family is unique and their needs could be different. What each family looks for in a Montessori school would vary on their specific child and their own parenting styles. But, the list below can serve as a guideline and if most or at least a few are checked at the school you are touring, that could be a good Montessori school.

*The first and foremost thing is for a school to have a ‘home’ like setting with neutral painted walls.

Children spend most of their waking time with the guides at a school, so a nice beautiful home away from home would work perfect to serve as a great Montessori school for ages 0-6.

*Classrooms with Montessori materials, big enough to accommodate about 20+ children without restricting their movement.

Children especially those in the 0-6 years of age are in the big developmental phase for movement. A classroom that helps the child move their body freely without overwhelming them at the same time would be a perfect bet. Authentic Montessori materials made of wood or other natural materials. Less or almost no plastic is preferred.

*A real kitchen, preferably with a dishwasher, oven, counter space to comfortably include cooking/baking as part of the curriculum

Food preparation activity is an integral part of the Montessori Practical life. A classroom with real utensils, baking supplies, counter space to make snack/bake simple things etc would be a great component of a lovely Montessori classroom. Use of real utensils, cloth placemats and napkins, family style lunch are such lovely concepts of Montessori environment.

*Large windows and Good natural lighting in the classrooms

This is important to maintain a good mood inside the room and also for children to do window washing, observe different color objects etc by the window, look outside to see nature etc.

*Nice backyard for children to run around and play.

Even if play structures are not present, there should be activities to promote movement, imagination and curiosity. Wheel barrow to move dirt around, gravel pit to scoop and play , balance beam etc are great additions to have to a play ground area.

*Indoor live plants and outdoor gardening area. Beautiful real flowers for children to do flower arranging.

Indoor plants in the classroom can provide for great Practical life activities like watering the plants, Leaf polishing etc. Gardening both indoors and outdoors is a great way for children to understand and contribute to care of environment.It helps children learn the process of plant care, germination, life cycle of fruits and vegetables etc.

Flower arranging is a great Practical life activity that teaches the child care of environment, cutting skills, math skills to estimate volume of water required to fill vase, purposeful movement to take vases to the tables etc. Real flowers in a Montessori classroom make it very exciting and inviting to the child.

*Neutral wood tables and chairs. Child size shelves. Simple art on the walls representing nature/world we live in.

*Pets in entry way/library/ classroom is optional but would be nice to have.

Care of pets is a great practical life activity for children- it also helps teach Grace and Courtesy & respect for other living beings.

*Montessori trained teachers who are passionate and have a deeper understanding of the philosophy: Most importantly those that love , respect and believe in the child are a big asset to a school.

*Uninterrupted Montessori work cycle which helps child build their focus and concentration, leading up to self-actualization and Normalization is a critical component of a great Montessori school.

*Personal touch offered by school administration and teachers to welcome all families at the school. This is a key concept of inclusion and helps child understand the concept of living in harmony and peace with all.

*Schools that incorporate Peace, study of all cultures, include music and art in their core curriculum is a really nice feature of a good Montessori school.

If a child is respected and loved in an encouraging environment that is prepared to meet their developmental needs,where mistakes are treated as learning opportunities and they are motivated to learn respectfully, that is the ideal place for the child to be in their formative years.

What are some things you look for in a Montessori school? Let us know your thoughts on the list and points discussed in this post.

Explore through the senses ….

“First the Education of the senses, then the education of the intellect.”

Maria Montessori

In the book, “The Montessori method”, Maria Montessori writes that her materials are “adapted to cause the child to exercise the senses”. Humans by nature are ‘sensorial’- we absorb, learn and feel emotions through our senses. From a young age, from the infant stage, we want to explore things through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting what’s around us. Exploring the environment through the senses gives us a “feeling of comfort and belonging” to it. Senses help us gather information which in turn promotes our development and creative explorations.

In her book, “The Absorbent Mind”, she states that, “The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge. Our apparatus for educating the senses offers the child a key to guide his explorations of the world, they cast a light upon it which makes visible to him more things in greater detail than he could see in the dark, or uneducated state”.

Eduard Seguin was a French physician and educator, who specialized in working with special needs children and had developed a series of exercises that helped train the child’s senses. His work influenced Dr. Maria Montessori in understanding the importance of senses in child development, which encouraged her to create the beautiful, didactic sensorial materials used extensively in the Montessori Primary classroom to teach children dimensions, colors, geometry etc.

Eight Sensory categories

Montessori sensorial materials helps a child get a complete understanding of things that he sees, touches, hears, smells, tastes, weight and temperature explorations and the significant experiences gained by using a blindfold. The concrete sensorial materials are broadly divided into 8 categories:

Visual materials: Help visually discriminate between objects and introduces vocabulary like larger, smaller, longer etc to describe what the senses are understanding.

Tactile materials: Refer to materials that child explores with their hands like rough and smooth boards.

Stereognostic materials: Refers to materials the child is able to figure out what something is without seeing, smelling or hearing it. This strengthens the other senses. Mystery bag is a classic example for this category.

Baric materials: Learning to distinguish differences in weight. Weighted objects are used to teach this, with control of error focused on color, size or shape.

Thermic material: Learning to distinguish difference in temperature. With safety considerations, this is taught using different materials that are warm or cold to touch.

Olfactory material: Learning the sense of smell through matching, sorting and classification of spices, essential oils, smelling jars etc

Gustatory material: This is introduced by tasting of different materials – as a specific activity or at snack/lunch time.

Chromatic material: This is introduced to enhance the sense of identifying and perceiving variations of color.

Sensorial materials in a Montessori classroom not only help refine the senses, but they also help prepare the child’s Mathematical mind.

Each of the materials that teach the sense of dimension like the Pink tower, Brown stairs etc have ’10’ pieces to complete the work. this helps prepare the child for the Decimal system.

The Red rods which teach the concept of ‘long and short’ are a precursor work to the ‘Number rods’ work in Math. they both are made of wood, are of the same dimension. The smallest red rod and number rod is 10 cm long and the largest rod is 100 cm long. Each rod in both the works increases by increments of 10 cm in length, again laying a strong foundation for the Decimal system.

Sensorial materials also help bring out the creativity and imagination in children. The lovely colors and the carefully designed Montessori wood materials encourage the child to build so many different things- you could see them build a tower as tall as they are, create a whole town with the knobless cylinders or even a bike complete with a seat and handle. All these help create the spatial and logical reasoning in the child’s mind.

In Summary, Montessori Sensorial materials help with the following:

  • Refine the senses
  • Prepare the Mathematical mind
  • Create opportunities for purposeful movement
  • Build creativity, imagination and problem solving skills
  • Improve vocabulary
  • Create spatial awareness through the geometry works.

How to introduce “Sensorial activities” to the child at home?

Provide exposure to different textures

Do fabric matching

Name the different types of clothing materials like cotton, silk etc

Use felt or puzzles to introduce geometry

Go on a scavenger hunt for color matching

Taste different textures of food

Smell spices

Create shapes using household items

Use flash light to introduce concept of color grading on tissue paper

Listen to different frequency of music

Classify ‘Sound’ and ‘No sound’ using materials like cotton balls & bells.

The list is endless….. Provide lots of opportunities for children to touch, feel, smell, see and taste different materials to help stimulate the senses.

Art in Early Childhood and beyond ….

“The Earth without art is just ‘eh'” – Demetri Martin

The above quote is so true. It has been and continues to be totally relevant in our society.

Art gives us a medium to express ourselves- our emotions, values, culture, helps us be open to new ideas and experiences and overall gives a new perspective to our life. Art enhances the mind and helps build creativity. This can be applied in other mainstream subjects and help children master a concept.

  • Montessori Map Making - Healthy Beginnings Montessori House

“The activity of art is based on the capacity of people to infect others with their own emotions and to be infected by the emotions of others. Strong emotions, weak emotions, important emotions or irrelevant emotions, good emotions or bad emotions – if they contaminate the reader, the spectator, or the listener – it attains the function of art.”– Leo Tolstoy

Is Art important for young children?

How much or how little exposure to art should be provided to young children?

Children 0-6 years of age have an Absorbent mind. This combined with Sensitive periods in child development will make it easier for a child to learn an art form, way quicker than when they are older. Exposure to art forms without any pressure or judgment should be provided to the child to observe their strengths and also provide a means of self-expression.

According to Dr. Maria Montessori,” Language is the most powerful instrument of human progress”. For young children, ‘art’ is a form of self-expression even before they can begin talking. Babies respond to music, sounds in nature, visual images, observe smaller details in everything around them. Toddlers enjoy the process of finger painting, mixing colors, playing with play dough while the older preschoolers try to create an image of their family or friends, use nature to make designs, observe what colors are light and which ones are dark etc.

How to start

Create a “Self- Expression” shelf or corner in a room.

What can it include

(Size and number of materials to be adjusted based on age/ability of the child. Adult supervision recommended)

Sketch pad

writing materials like color pencils/crayons

paint

paintbrushes

different texture add-ons like stickers, glitter, play dough, pom pom etc.

When to start

Can be started for Infants, as young as 6-9 months

Focus on “Process art” over “Product art”

Rather than having a child recreate someone else’s art form or pitching in to help complete their work- let the child create their own “masterpieces”using materials provided.

A child’s art should be representative of their age and be their ‘own’ work. This can also help measure how much progress they have made or what skills they have refined over the course of time.

Provide a variety of materials/mediums for child to work with- let them get creative, learn problem solving skills as they put stuff together using their imagination.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Water painting: Use water and paintbrush. Draw images, letters and numbers on sidewalk using them and magically watch them disappear due to Evaporation.
  2. Finger painting: A great sensorial activity for young children to dip their fingers into paint and make tiny prints on paper. Makes a cute keepsake and gift for different occasions.
  3. Use old catalogs/sale papers to cut out images and create a collage.
  4. Use nature to create different images
  5. Use Kitchen paper towel/Toilet paper rolls for making different designs
  6. Paint pistachio shells/draw on it with marker for a relaxing calming project.
  7. Hold pom poms/cotton balls with clothespin, dip into paint and make designs.
  8. Paint on shells
  9. Open up a cardboard box outdoors: put some glue on it and have child spray colored sand/salt/powder on it. Super fun
  10. Tape resist technique: Put masking tape on a paper or trace a leaf & fill in veins using masking tape. Paint using water colors. Let dry for a bit and gently take off the tape.
  11. Paint with q-tips
  12. Try Vertical painting: Hang up a paper on the wall or from a window and have child paint on it. This helps with strengthening the wrist for writing preparation and bilateral coordination for holding things/turning pages in a book etc.
  13. Make and decorate cookies/cakes
  14. Try homemade or store bought stamps
  15. Paint with balloons(great outdoor activity)
  16. Make design using bubble wrap and paint over it or put paint on bubble wrap design and press down on another blank paper
  17. Paint rocks
  18. Color on top of leaves with markers and press down on paper to make lovely leaf impression
  19. Place white paper on leaf and rub crayon on it(take off wrapper before doing so) for a colorful leaf design.
  20. Place white paper on coins and rub gently with color pencils to make impression.

The List is endless …… Let children explore, experiment, be imaginative, be creative, relax and calm themselves through ART.

In addition to providing materials and opportunities for children to express themselves through Art, read books on different art forms & artists, visit art museums, Observe other artists’ works, take a family art class to bond.

Let’s not forget …

“Every child is an artist, The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up” – Pablo Picasso

Meal Time: Tips and Tricks to make it Peaceful

“The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.”

– Judith Martin

Mealtime is a special time both in the classroom and at home. The primary focus at that time should be on the food being eaten, without distractions of technology or multitasking.

Dinner with young children can be tough sometimes as they could still be teething, figuring out how to chew, trying most foods for the first time etc. Adult preferences and reaction to child’s eating patterns could play a big difference in how the child would react to the food. When a child resists the food by showing no interest to self-feed themselves or by playing with it, adults may get upset and either yell or force feed the child. This would create a negative connection between the child and the food. Over a course of time, this could build and cause the child to be a picky eater.

Why do children sometimes seem like they are not interested in eating lunch or dinner?

There could be several reasons for it:

  • Ate a heavy breakfast or too much snack right before lunch/dinner
  • Child was playing or in the middle of an activity- they consider mealtime an interruption
  • Different mealtime schedule
  • Teething
  • Figuring out their taste buds
  • They are upset because its not their favorite food
  • They feel restricted in their chair
  • and much more ….

Want to make Mealtimes peaceful and more meaningful?

Here are some Montessori inspired tips to help achieve it.

Get child involved: Based on age and ability of the child, get them involved in one or more ways in meal preparation. Montessori Practical life includes activities like Food Prep, Table setting, dish washing etc. Get children to set a table, place dishes on placemat, pour water/juice, place serving utensils on table, wash fruits and vegetables etc. They would feel part of the community and feel more inclined to eating

Montessori weaning table: When child is eating a meal by themselves including a snack, offer a Montessori weaning table. It provides independence to the child by giving them an opportunity to climb into and out of the chair themselves while encouraging their participation in the process of eating. This can easily by substituted with a high chair at the family dinner table, when the child is eating a meal with the family.

Use a placemat: Encourage child to set the table and help them with the order of utensils to be placed on it, this helps give them a sense of order

Use child-sized tableware: Provide real china, glass and metal tableware in child size. This will make it easy for the child to handle while also helping them learn real life skills.

Short mealtime: Keep child’s age and ability in mind while planning family mealtime: keep it short to avoid meltdowns.

Portion and Textures: Offer smaller portions of a variety of food textures to help meet the child’s sensory development. This will help child explore and be open to different food items without the pressure of finishing big portions of the same food.

Encourage self-serving: Have child serve themselves- this will help them understand the concept of “self-regulation” and reduce the chances of overeating. This also offers some amount of independence to the child and prevents wasting.

Use appropriate words: Avoid words that might pressurize the child and prevent a positive correlation between them & the eating process. Phrases like “you need to try one of the two”, ” you have to finish it” or “take one more bite” can be replaced with ” You tried it even though you were not sure about it”, “looks like you are done” etc.

Avoid bribing: Food should be eaten when someone is hungry. Bribing defeats the purpose of what mealtime should be all about. Don’t associate specific food types like sugar, candy, icecream as special treats that are provided when the main meal is done. Everything in small portion should be available to the child without any preferential treatment for one or the other.

Include child in meal time prep, offer some options for independence, be consistent with the schedule and enjoy mealtime with them.

Another key thing to consider while doing “mealtime with children” is to keep children off the screen while eating. Child’s work at mealtime is to eat and experience it. When the TV or ipad/phone or any electronic gadget is placed in front of the child , they become disconnected from their food. The hand and body coordination is restricted preventing the child from bonding and making a positive connection with the food.

Want to buy some child sized kitchen tools: Check out http://www.montessoriservices.com

Resources:

https://www.montessoridaoshi.com/single-post/2018/10/09/mealtime-in-the-first-plane-0-3

https://www.mother.ly/child/montessori-at-home-7-ways-to-a-more-peaceful-dinner-table

Science

“Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”

– Stephen Hawking

In a nutshell, Science helps us understand the world we live in. Young children are generally curious and inquisitive about things. Trying to build on it by encouraging them to ask questions, researching answers together, hypothesizing, exploring and experimenting will help create a deeper understanding of how things work. This may also create a sustained interest for a child in a specific scientific topic and encourage them to take it up as a career in the future.

The Montessori method of teaching encourages children to see the science that is all around them. It introduces children to advanced topics in the early years, preparing them for a lifetime of discovery. Topics range from how the world began to the basic principles of astronomy, botany, chemistry, physics, and zoology.

Children as young as babies observe things for long periods of time because something about it fascinates them or makes them curious. When they become verbal and can move along, they try to pick up things and ask questions like “why is the sky blue”? “Is the sun a star or planet?” “how big is the planet” etc.

When parents, educators and caregivers provide answers or research together to find out how things work or what they are made of etc, children tend to have better verbal skills, reasoning abilities and a sustained interest in Science when they are in elementary/middle/high schools.

Does Learning about Science involve doing experiments all day? Does it involve buying expensive materials? Should the parent/caregiver/educator have extensive knowledge of Science concepts to teach young children?

Teaching young children about Science does not involve experiments all day /buying expensive materials . It doesn’t require the adult to have extensive knowledge of Science either. Children are perfectly fine when adults tell them that they don’t know something and would be interested to find the answer together.

How and Where to get started?

The best place to start scientific study is “Nature”- inexpensive, available for all in small or big proportions depending on the place they live, exciting for children, tons to explore , comes with a variety of seasons and months to study different things.

Invest in 2 simple things to introduce “Science” to a young child- especially when out in nature.

1.Magnifying glass

2.Binoculars

Take a nature walk with children. Encourage them to use their magnifying glass and binoculars to ‘observe’ things. Answer their questions if you know them or note them down in a journal to get back home and research.

Go on a scavenger hunt to find things that are living and non-living.

Talk about different types of living things- plants vs animals

Talk about different types of trees

How do plants help us live? Photosynthesis/Chlorophyll/ Food prep etc are good starting points to talk about this topic.

The questions are endless ….. opportunities to explore and learn are infinite……

Some simple ‘Science’ activities to do with children at home

  1. Sink/float: Drop cranberries in water and observe what happens. They have air pockets inside them which make them float. Similarly, try with an orange. Drop orange into pitcher filled 3/4 with water- observe what happens. Then take off the peel and try. Orange with peel is less dense than water, so it floats. Once the peel is taken off, the air pockets are gone which makes it more dense than water, hence orange without peel sinks. This sink and float experiment is super simple and requires only basic explanation based on age & ability of child.
  2. Magnetic vs Non- Magnetic: Collect household objects and have children use a magnetic strip/wand to classify them. Elaborate on what makes an item magnetic as an extension to the simple classification.
  3. Walking water experiment: Simplest science experiment that needs only water, food coloring, paper towels and cups. Fill cups with colored water and place paper towel strips one end in one cup and the other in the other cup and so on. Observe how water moves from one cup to another and makes the paper towel a different color.
  4. Skittles candy experiment: Place skittles on the edge of a white or light color plate and gently pour water in the middle.Observe how the colors separate out from the candy and make a rainbow pattern into the middle. It is based on the concept of solubility.
  5. Apple slices: Cut apple slices and place on a plate outside, it will turn brown due to oxidization. Put a slice in water, vinegar, lemon juice etc and observe what happens.
  6. Carnation experiment: Place white carnation flowers in cups filled with colored water and observe their transformation into colored flowers. This explains water transfer through plant stems.
  7. Hand washing experiment: Fill a deep dish with water, Put some pepper in the water. Put a drop of soap on finger and touch the top surface of water. It will immediately push out the pepper , showing the importance of hand washing with soap to prevent spreading of germs.
  8. Classic Baking soda/vinegar experiment can be done in many ways to teach the concept of solid and liquid combining to form gas.

The list of simple science activities that can be done without any extra equipment is almost endless, there’s so much that can be taught using commonly available household items. Even if the child is younger, they can listen to the scientific vocabulary, and as they get older, the concept can be expanded accordingly.

Math: An important part of the Montessori curriculum and our life.

What is Math? Why do we need it? Is it required to pass tests or will we use it in daily life?

These are some of the questions people explore as they navigate the world we live in.

Math is everywhere… in all facets of life.

From counting how many fingers we have on our hand to how many place settings to prepare at the dinner table to measuring ingredients for baking to counting the cash to pay for an item ….. Math is everywhere and there is no escaping it.

Math helps build analytical skills and strengthens reasoning ability & problem solving skills.

It helps give us a sense of order and prevent chaos in life.

Most of the basic math skills required for daily life can be learnt in the early childhood or initial years of schooling.

How to introduce “Math” to young children?

  • Talk about Math thoughtfully and beneficially.
  • Encourage sorting and categorizing
  • Count everything
  • Explain the concept of “nothing”
  • Encourage tons of “1:1 correspondence” activities
  • Have a sense of order in daily routine

Rote counting

Rote counting refers to a linear form of counting. It helps the child make sense of the world around us and find out how many of “something”. They count everything from how many cheerios they ate at breakfast to number of buttons on the shirt to how many steps to their room and so on.

Over course of time, with consistent practice, children understand the guidelines of counting. One of the most critical principles of “counting” is 1:1 correspondence.

1:1 Correspondence

It refers to an idea that ” number” corresponds to “specific quantities”.

No matter what is being counted, a “specific” number will always refer to that same “precise quantity”.

Why is 1:1 correspondence important?

1:1 correspondence is a precursor for almost all math concepts. So, if a child is not well developed with this 1:1 correspondence, they will struggle with basic math concepts- which are then foundation for advanced math concepts.

Steps to teach “Math concepts” with the Montessori Method

1.Presentation of Quantity

2.Presentation of Symbol

3. The Association of Quantity and Symbol

A child should be introduced to a wide variety of association activities like shown above to internalize the concept of 1:1 correspondence and be ready for basic & advanced math operations.

What are the broad categories of Montessori Math materials?

1.Number rods, Sandpaper numerals, Spindle box, Introduction to Color beads, Cards & Counters: Teach the basic concept of quantity, symbol and association; Odd and even; numbers tracing.

2. Introduction to Golden beads, 45 card layout/Global view introduce the concept of place value, decimal system and making big numbers

3.Teen boards and Tens board introduce the concept of numbers 11-19 & 20-100 respectively using the decimal system and place value concept.

4. Bead chains: Short and Long chains introduce the concept of Skip counting; square and cube of a number and helps prepare for Addition & Multiplication.

5. Stamp game, Strip boards for Addition and Subtraction; Multiplication and Division boards teach the concept of Math operations

6. Clock, Fractions and Currency studies are also introduced in Montessori Math curriculum.

What are the benefits of Montessori Math activities?

  • Hands-on
  • Sensorial materials introduced early on to the child helps prepare for Math
  • Engaging and inviting to the child
  • Follows a specific scope and sequence
  • Helps build on concept already taught to the child
  • Ensures success

Ways to encourage “learning Math” at home

  • Count everything
  • Involve children in setting snacks, help with food prep, baking etc which involves math concepts
  • Involve Math in daily conversations like “We can read 2 books tonight” or ” We can have ‘1’ sandwich” for snack today”. etc
  • Do the Calendar: Talk about how many seasons there are , how many months in a year, number of days in each month, specific date etc
  • Count toys when cleaning up
  • Use child’s favorite things like legos, shells, dinosaurs etc as counters
  • Involve Math in Art projects
  • Learn shapes and count their sides
  • Sing songs with numbers in them like “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed”
  • Teach the concept of “Measurement”- as its directly tied to Math
  • Sort and count coins
  • Make numbers with a variety of materials like nature, pipe cleaners, lentils etc

“Montessori believed that children were born with a ‘mathematical mind’, which she defined as a natural tendency for exactness, orientation and order, usually manifested in older children as capacity for logical, systematic thinking.”

Some Math facts & trivia

0 was called ‘cipher’ originally

One Googol is the number ‘1’ followed by ‘100 zeros’

‘Abacus’ is considered as the origin of the calculator

‘Forty’ is the only number that has all the letters used in the alphabetical order

Every ‘odd’ number has an ‘e’ in it

“The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics”