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Once Arianna turned 2, I knew that I wanted to incorporate more homeschool type activities into our day. It was super hard with the new baby so we paused some of our normal learning to get used to this ‘new normal’. I am now starting to research preschool for her so that, in the fall, she can get some good socialization and I can get a few hours of steady work time during the day (wohooo!)
There are a few main preschool ‘schools of thought’ floating around, and one of the ones that always intrigued me was the principles behind the Montessori Schools. I wasn’t too familiar with them so lucky for me, my friend, fellow blogger, and presenter at the 2018 A Purpose Driven Mom Summit, Holly Daniel of This Toddler Life is super knowledgeable about all things Montessori! She wrote the e-book “A Montessori Inspired Life” where she walks through all the basics on how to start incorporating the principles into your day to day with your little one!
I read through the book and tried some of the activities she listed and was pleasantly surprised at how we were already doing some “Montessori things”.
Things we were already doing (or I’d be willing to start)
Respect your child
Okay well duh. Obviously we are all (hopefully) respecting our children but the one thing that Holly mentioned that I really loved was talking TO the child and not AT them. I rarely use baby talk with my kids (okay maybe I pretend to each their chunky little legs but have you SEEN them?) and my husband always laughed at me when I spoke to them so properly and would speak like they could answer back. I really think it’s what helped Arianna’s language develop so well and plan to do it with Isaiah as much as possible since it really models how they should be speaking.
Allow your child to make decisions
This is one of those areas I know I need to work harder at because I’m kindaaaaa a control freak. I will ask her what she wants to eat or what to play with but I find that sometimes, I may give her TOO many options or make the choice for her. Holly recommends giving them 2-3 choices only to help with confidence and independence so I’m going to work on that more!
Let your child help you
This one falls in the category of “I try really, really hard to do this but often am too impatient”. I read this Facebook post the other day from the perspective of a 2 year old and how all they want to do is help and learn and it really hit me in the heart and there may have been an ugly cry. Since then, I work hard to let her pull up her chair to help in the kitchen because she LOVES to help cook. This way I can teach her safety and the proper ways to do things, even if dinner takes forever. I also let her help fold and put away the laundry even if it makes a bigger mess and anytime she says “I want to help”, I make sure to take a pause and let her help even just a little.
Follow their lead
This is probably the biggest of all the Montessori principles I see and that’s to let them do them. Follow what they want to play with and when they are done with something. You should let them pick and choose and explore more. I love this idea a lot! I can picture my daughter trying to move from one activity to another and me stopping her to finish the puzzle or book and realize how much more independence it would give to allow her to do her thing. We most definitely need to work on enforcing cleaning up after each activity, because otherwise I foresee some MAJOR messes (or what my playroom looks like already!)
Things I’m still unsure about committing to
Ditch the Plastic:
Okay I’ll be honest this is the #1 reason I always stayed away from even learning about Montessori. We have A LOT of plastic toys (like 95% of them!) Holly says that the reason behind this is to “create a prepared environment for your child to excel in” and I get this. I think that a lot of these toys can be super distracting and I’ve definitely noticed that too many toys and decisions = overwhelm for my kids. It also equals a HUGE mess for me! I actually have their toys separated into 3 rooms and every other month, I rotate which room they are in so they seem like ‘new’ toys. Even with ⅓ of the toys in the playroom, I am overwhelmed by the mess and the noise so I can see why this is important.
But for now… I’m not ready to make that plunge.
Try not to say NO
Okay, okay before you attack me I pretty much agree with this 75% of the time. In her book, Holly gives a great suggestion on how to create more ‘yes’ spaces and use redirection instead of saying no. But I do think there are times, particularly with my daredevil of a child, where I want her to be safe and NO is one way she knows to stop before there is too much danger. But all in all, I think the redirection of “we don’t do that, let’s do this instead” is great to add to our vocabulary!
The activity we tried
In her book, Holly gives some incredible list of practical day-to-day tasks you can do with your children and I printed them out to use as a reminder. She even divides them by age which was super helpful. There were a few things on there I hadn’t even thought of letting her try like using safety scissors (we don't even own a pair) and I want to go grab some so we can start!
We completed one of the activities she listed (there are almost 10 in the book) which was as body part activity.
I had Arianna lay down so that I could trace her body which went well… just as well as you’d expect it to! She wouldn’t lay still, was concerned about marker on her clothes, and super into watching me but we somehow got a really good silhouette.
After, I cut up the words (since you know… no safety scissors) and realized we didn't even have a glue stick so we used regular glue to identify her body parts. Ari really liked this part, particularly squeezing the glue.
Once we reviewed them and were all done (I might have done more ‘teaching’ than I should have from a Montessori perspective but, since I was a teacher for 8 years… it’s in my DNA) she wanted to color her ‘paper Ari’ and put stickers on it so I followed her lead!
All in all we had major fun with our morning craft, and I learned a lot about ways I was already using Montessori in my home. Holly’s book is basically an excellent Montessori for beginners! So if you’re a mom who is looking to see if it’s an approach that would work in your home, already doing it and wants more activities, or just looking for something fun to do to keep your kids from tearing up the house, I would highly recommend you grab a copy!
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