The Holiday season is here … there’s so much that goes on at home, school, community etc during the Holidays. It can be super overwhelming when there are so many things to do in preparation for it. If it feels that way for adults, imagine how it must be for young children in our care.
Holidays are so exciting, fun, super busy which most times alters the children’s schedules/routine leading to big emotions and tantrums sometimes.
Simple ways that we can help children co-regulate their emotions especially during the holidays:
Plan and prepare child in advance: Walk them through the event, who will be there, what will be done, what to expect, will parents be around at the event? etc. – in simple language but covering all details in an age-appropriate manner.
Acknowledge and validate child’s feelings: It’s ok for child to feel shy or not say hello right when guests walk in. They may need some time to warm up or soak in whats happening.
Change of environment/Step outside: If you observe child feeling overwhelmed, take a break, step out for a walk or provide change of activity to help ease the emotion.
Fill your child’s tank: Set aside small burst of time before stepping out /start of big event to spend quality time with your child.Hug, talk, read a book or do a simple activity together to help build your child’s love tank. This will help build ‘Connection’ – create a trusting bond between the child and caregiver. Once that’s done, the child will be more receptive to schedule changes or outings/events for the day.
Quality over Quantity: Step back and evaluate ‘Why’ you are planning a specific holiday event instead of wanting to do it all at all times. A few activities where child is involved is better than tons of events that may overwhelm the child.
Before helping child co-regulate their emotions, do take a moment to take care of yourself: the adult(the caregiver)
“Holidaying with kids is more about making memories and spending time together”. Stay in and enjoy the present moment. Happy Holidays !!!
For this week’s Blog post, our school staff shared tips and tricks that work for them while addressing children being emotional or having a meltdown/tantrum and needing help co-regulate their feelings. Key words that help navigate this situation are Listen , Validate, Provide Space and Choices within the framework of Love and Empathy.
Listen to what they have to say or help them find the words while communicating with each other. Ask them what’s wrong and acknowledge that you hear them. Reassure them that its okay and they are safe.
Validate their Feelings or what they are trying to accomplish. Put a name to the emotions they are feeling- this will help them eventually calm themselves down. “I see you are having a tough time”, “You are mad” etc.
Provide Love and Have Empathy: Believe that it truly is a tough time for them sorting through emotions. Even adults have a hard time doing so. A Simple hug goes a long way.
Set Healthy Boundaries: Let them know that you mean what you say. Create a sense of routine and order.
Giving them space when needed for them to work through it or providing a calm space they can go to until they are ready. Offer words of assurance : “I see that you are feeling angry, I am here for you”. “I saw you throw that block, do you want to tell me something?”
Provide age appropriate choices. For a younger child, provide 2 choice and encourage them to choose one. Also, let them know that “If they don’t choose, you will choose it for them and that they can have a turn the next time”.
Offer options like meditation, breathing technique etc.
Suggest change of environment -for example, step out for a walk
Observe your child and their environment, watch for triggers. At this time, plan, prepare and be proactive before situation occurs.
Offer them freedom to express themselves as long as its safe to do so. If they need to cry or laugh, be down on the floor to get calm and its safe to do so, let it be.
When talking to the child, always ensure you are at their level, making eye contact and addressing the ‘behavior’ and ways to handle it. It is important for the child to know that the caregiver is there for them and will help them navigate the situation.
Lastly, its important for the ‘Adult’ to know that whatever behavior the child is expressing is not a way for them to get back at the adult, its not meant for the child to hurt the adult in anyway- it is a way of them communicating and asking for HELP.
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, its our job to share our calm, not join their chaos”
Emotions are simply a class of feelings usually directed towards a specific object and is typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
It is important for adults, especially caregivers to understand the process behind tantrums, meltdowns, big feelings that young children experience. Rather than ignoring them or finding it stressful to handle, adults should strive to help the child learn to co-regulate their feelings.
Raising emotionally intelligent children is critical and can be done by using day-today interactions as opportunities to teach them to balance their emotions. It will not only help them when they are little and make it easier for adults, but it will also help them long term in life to ensure their well- being and stable mental health.
We as adults,get caught up in the fast paced life, handling multiple things, juggling work and family, health etc that we forget to dedicate that small bit of extra time to explain things to the child or help them navigate their feelings. Sometimes adults get triggered when a child has a tantrum due to their own childhood experiences or lack of understanding of the process.
“When a child is having a tantrum or meltdown, they are doing it because they don’t understand it either, they are seeking HELP from the adult.” This is when the adult needs to be calm, take a deep breath and help the child. At this time, being proactive and prepared helps. Also it is important to remember ” Connection before Correction.”
The extra few minutes we as adults take to explain to the child what we will be doing, who will be there, what to expect etc. goes a long way in helping them be prepared for whats to come and will help them be better prepared to navigate their emotions at that time.
A child who feels validated and is able to express emotions grows up to be someone who is able to do it throughout their lifetime, leading to balance of mind,body, and spirit. It is important to acknowledge and allow for ‘ALL’ feelings and emotions beginning in early childhood, so children feel safe in expressing themselves to us.
Vocabulary we use with the child when they are dealing with an emotion plays a big role in how it will proceed.
It is important to ‘name the child’s feelings’ and never say ‘its not a big deal” to the child when they are experiencing a big emotion. It may not be a big deal for the adult, but it is the most important thing for the child at that time. We can try saying ” I can see that this is making you feel upset/sad/angry/frustrated”, based on the situation.
For example, when we tell a child ” You are ok”, it feels dismissive. Instead when we ask the child, “Are you ok?”, we are giving the child opportunity to express themselves, communicate how they are feeling and this goes a long way in helping build a trusting relationship with their caregiver.
Similarly, instead of “Calm down or Relax”, try saying “I see this is really fun, isn’t it?” You are feeling so excited about it.
This week, we covered vocabulary we can use to help children navigate their feelings and emotions. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series next week, where we will share more ways to aid children be emotionally intelligent.
“There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thinking and learning are all linked”-Eric Jensen
“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’?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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”.
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.
Want to learn more about Dr. Montessori and her contributions, check out these great websites mentioned below.
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.
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.
“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.
“First the Education of the senses, then the education of the intellect.”
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
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
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.
“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.
“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” shelfor 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)
writing materials like color pencils/crayons
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:
Water painting: Use water and paintbrush. Draw images, letters and numbers on sidewalk using them and magically watch them disappear due to Evaporation.
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.
Use old catalogs/sale papers to cut out images and create a collage.
Use nature to create different images
Use Kitchen paper towel/Toilet paper rolls for making different designs
Paint pistachio shells/draw on it with marker for a relaxing calming project.
Hold pom poms/cotton balls with clothespin, dip into paint and make designs.
Paint on shells
Open up a cardboard box outdoors: put some glue on it and have child spray colored sand/salt/powder on it. Super fun
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.
Paint with q-tips
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.
Make and decorate cookies/cakes
Try homemade or store bought stamps
Paint with balloons(great outdoor activity)
Make design using bubble wrap and paint over it or put paint on bubble wrap design and press down on another blank paper
Color on top of leaves with markers and press down on paper to make lovely leaf impression
Place white paper on leaf and rub crayon on it(take off wrapper before doing so) for a colorful leaf design.
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