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Excerpts from "Extending Montessori in the Home"

September 2021

Have you ever walked into the Montessori classroom and watched as children sweep under the table after eating, return a material to the shelf when finished using it, or gently rest a hand on their teacher’s arm to politely interrupt when they need help? Do you often wonder why things may be different at home and whether or not the Montessori principles are appropriate for the home?

Maria Montessori speaks to this issue when she says, “we must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself; a little wash stand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait patiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.” The attached information excerpted from the article entitled “Extending Montessori in the Home”, printed in the March 2009 issue of Tomorrow’s Child Magazine, gives some simple, useful strategies of incorporating Montessori principles into everyday living at home. So try one, or many, and hopefully begin to witness at home some of the same behaviors your child demonstrates at school.

Excerpts from “Extending Montessori in the Home”

By: John Moncure, Ph.D.

Parents frequently ask me an important question: “What can I do to help my child progress at home?” While school and home serve different purposes, they should compliment rather than contradict each other. Montessori educators believe that children naturally want to learn, and that they do so at their best pace. If they appear not to be learning because they are not doing, the most likely explanation is that they are observing, evaluating, and internalizing – all very important steps in the learning process. The vital contribution of the Montessori Method is to inculcate a love of learning. The exceptional academic results are a function of that love (rather than drilling on mathematics or vocabulary) for the cleverly designed materials in the classroom.

When a child returns home from a very busy day of work at school, she is probably energized from the mental exertions of the day and certainly will not need what we traditionally think of as “homework”. She may want to show you what she has learned in indirect ways, which reinforces her learning as she recites it to you, and you can show appreciation for her new knowledge and understanding in equally subtle ways. The suggestions below represent the contributions of the members of the faculty at Eaton Academy – Palm Springs. They can serve as a cafeteria of ideas that are consistent with the Montessori approach, from which parents of Montessori children can choose activities to allow them to reinforce the lessons they have learned at school. Your child is only young once, and she loves you taking interest in her world and letting her explore yours with you. Enjoy it!

General- Help your child develop independence with some Montessori fundamentals:

  • When you walk with your child, instead of taking her by the wrist, ask her to take your hand when negotiating obstacles or climbing stairs.

  • Begin warning sentences with “If….” (describing the behavior you wish to see) and end with a clause beginning “…..then…..” (explaining the unhappy consequences): “If you put your hand on the stove you will burn yourself,” instead of “Don’t put your hand on the stove.”

  • Create very clear rules and explain why they exist. The explanation needs to be simple and understandable to the child. “We always wash our hands before meals so we don’t get dirty germs in our mouths” or “We always put our socks in this drawer so you can find them and so they have a home.” Later, when your child forgets (or ignores) the rule, you can gently remind him that it is the rule that must be followed instead of the parent who must be obeyed.

  • Within reason, allow your child to do things for himself instead of having an adult do it: putting on socks, taking dishes to the kitchen, etc.

Provide your child with his own work area with a table and a few sturdy objects to work with. Introduce each new activity slowly and simply. Allow enough time for the child to become familiar with that activity before introducing another.

Arrange your child’s room neatly and simply. Have shelves for toys, and display only enough toys at a time that can be displayed neatly. Rotate items from time to time.

Have child-sized furniture in the child’s areas, low hooks and rods for clothes, and a light switch within reach.

Allocate space for the child’s own belongings and mark it in a recognizable way.

Provide the child’s own accessible cleaning material: dustpan and brush, sponge, cloth.

Have mirrors placed at the child’s eye level. Give the child the possibility to see outside through a window.

Help your child learn the names of all objects in the home environment.

From the age of two onwards, encourage your child to walk at his own pace (instead of being carried or using a stroller).

Provide clearly designated storage facilities for toys, books, etc. so that your child knows where to find and store things. A color-coded classification system can be useful for younger children.

By far, not the least important is this: Unlike adults, children are working to master each activity, to perfect their abilities and to understand the order of things. Show your child by demonstration rather than by explanation, and allow your child to make mistakes. Not only does an error frequently demonstrate to the child what doesn’t work better than having it pointed out by a parent, it also provides an opportunity to ‘re-present the lesson.’ It is also healthy to remember than people are different--even children from their parents--and sometimes a child may find a surprising solution to a problem!

Specific Suggestions: Allow the child to do some of the following Practical Life activities:

  • Place own order at a restaurant or decide own meals

  • Pour beverages at mealtime

  • Set or clear the table

  • Wash or rinse mealtime dishes

  • Wash the table after meals

  • Wash fruits and vegetables

  • Water plants and flowers

  • Fold and sort laundry

  • Clean mirrors or windows

  • Dust furniture or floors

  • Polish brass, silver, furniture or shoes

  • Weed the garden

  • Sweep

  • Rake leaves

  • Take care of a pet

  • Brush/Comb hair

  • Put away own clothing

  • Dress and undress with little assistance

  • Choose own clothing for the day

  • Brush teeth

  • Wash hands

  • Shake hands for a greeting

  • Offer something to a guest

  • Use the telephone courteously

  • Make own bed

  • Tidy own room

  • Prepare simple foods

  • Help unload groceries and sort them

  • Allow child to clean up own spills

Allow the child to do some of the following Sensorial activities:

  • Invite your child to taste or smell condiments once and then do the same ones blindfolded.

  • Let your child organize shirts or socks by color.

  • In a park, ask your child which tree is tallest/shortest (or downtown in a big city you can do this with buildings).

  • Cut an apple, pear, banana, peach, orange and strawberry (or other fruits). Show them to her, mix them up and have her taste them blind-folded and guess which is which.

  • Sit on a bench near a busy street with your child facing you, and ask your child to guess which sound is which (person walking with heels or sneakers, motorbike, car, bus truck, etc.)

Allow the child to do some of the following Mathematics activities:

  • Put numbers on a wall.

  • When your child helps set the table, ask him to count the flatware or chopsticks.

  • Ask your child to count the steps as you go up or down stairs.

  • During a visit to a park, count flowers, bugs or whatever else appears often enough to count in small numbers (leaves in the fall, obviously, are too numerous).

  • If you count something you can gather (like white stones), you can drop one and say “Oh dear, I have dropped a stone! How many do we have left?”

  • At the grocery store, ask your child to get some number of an item you need to buy.

Allow the child to do some of the following Language activities:

  • Give your child enough time to learn the names of objects.

  • Put the names of objects on cards and tape them to the wall or shelf where he can see them.

  • Encourage your child to talk to you about their interests. Show interest and ask questions that show you were paying attention.

  • Read to your child every day. Reading the same book every day for weeks on end, at your child’s request, is fine. Encourage your child to ask questions about what you have read or ask

  • “What do you think may happen next?”

  • Read books with rhymes and traditional stories.

  • As your child learns rhymes, say them with her and leave the last word for her to fill in. As a variation, you can be silly by replacing the word your child knows with a word that rhymes with it.

Allow the child to do some of the following Cultural Studies activities:

  • When your child finds a frog, bug, moth or ant, offer a magnifying glass to look at it closely.

  • If your child sees a bird’s nest, give her binoculars to see better, and ask her to guess what might happen to the baby birds.

  • Offer measuring tapes, rulers, thermometers, balance scales, clocks, measuring cups, etc. to measure everything in their world.

  • When a child asks “How does this work?” help them find out by disassembling non-functioning clocks, toasters, CD players, etc. Make sure they have safe screwdrivers, pliers, etc. and show them how to use these tools safely.

  • Watch the wind by observing flags, leaves, clouds. Ask your child what he thinks causes the movement. Ask “What is wind?”

  • Connect pieces of plastic pipe and roll marbles or pour water through them; change the angle to see what happens.

  • Plant a garden and watch plants, flowers and vegetables grow. Measure growth each day or week.

  • Keep an atlas in the house, and when a show on television takes place far away, or when a visitor from out of town comes to the house, look up in the atlas where that place is. Discuss with your child what language is spoken there, and how long it would take to get there by different means of transportation.


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