MONTESSORI AT HOME: THE FIRST STEPS TO SETTING UP YOUR HOME
So you have decided that Montessori seems like a child-rearing method you agree with and would like to begin making your home more ‘Montessori-aligned’. Where to begin? Let’s discuss what Montessori looks like at home and how you can get started on your journey.
First and foremost, remember that Montessori at home is less about what’s on your shelf and more about the child. We want to give our children the physical space to develop and grow as independently as possible. This means opening up our home for our little explorers as well as making our home accessible at low levels and for little hands and feet.
When thinking about giving your child ‘free-range’ of your home most of us immediately think - SAFETY! Do what you feel is necessary to make your home safe, whether that means the basics of covering outlets and securing furniture to the wall, or further steps such as using child locks on specific drawers/cupboards where potentially dangerous tools (knives, scissors, etc.) and substances (soap, detergent, pesticides, etc.) are kept. Really, this is up to the parent to decide which way you want to go, the safety of your child is paramount and each parent deals with this issue differently. Remember, however, that we want to give our children the freedom to explore and really be part of the home while trying to avoid enclosed play spaces or limiting their experiences.
YOUR CHILD'S SPACE
Now that you’ve opened your home to your child it’s time to set up space according to some Montessori principles. In Montessori, we truly believe, less is more. In your child’s prepared space, this is especially important and more easily controlled. While we may enjoy colorful artwork and zany fabrics, we can make our child’s space more calming. Choose an open shelf that has space for either toys or low baskets to be laid out. In the beginning, use lower shelves to make everything easily accessible for your child. We recommend limiting what is placed on the shelves, keeping the choice of activities between 4 and 6. To add to the accessibility of the space, we recommend placing books front-facing. This can mean placing books on any shelf you already have displayed with covers facing out, or choosing a Front-facing Bookshelf to display books. As with the activity shelf, this often means not ALL the books you own will be displayed at one time, but instead a selection of books that can be rotated as your child’s interest changes. Our Montessori shelves & bookshelves are designed to be accessible to your child to foster that sense of independence and control over their own learning. Your child can choose what to work with, access it independently, clean it up when finished, and put it back in its proper place.
As we look around our home, it’s important to think from the perspective of the child and imagine - how can I make this home more accessible as it already is? For some of us, this means getting child-sized furniture, for others, this means getting safe step stools or learning towers. When deciding what is right for you and your home, much of this comes down to space. If you have space and would like to opt for child-sized furniture, keep in mind that the main purpose of these pieces is for getting your child involved in your daily routines if they show interest and for giving them independence.
A small table and chair for eating meals or snacks allow your child to set up their table space, access it independently, and clean it up when finished eating.
A self-care station in the bathroom is another place your child can learn responsibility and gain independence. By giving your child access to their toothbrush, diapers, or washcloth when needed your child learns how to care for themselves and take pride in being responsible.
Think about other areas in your home that you could adjust to make it more accessible to your child. However, for some of us who live in big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, we know what tiny living is all about small apartments. The thought of cramming more furniture into an already cluttered home may be overwhelming to some. If this is you, there are options! Perhaps the most useful thing to invest in is a good learning tower. This would allow your child to access the kitchen counters when helping with food preparation, or access the sink in the bathroom to brush their teeth and wash their hands. A small stool and low coat rack near the entrance of your home can take up a little space, but give your child that sense of belonging in the home and the tools needed for being more independent. Take a look around your home and think how can you make it more accessible for your little one to join you in everyday tasks or to be more independent in completing tasks on their own.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Organizing your home, and especially your child’s things help them to learn where everything goes- giving them more confidence and independence when helping out and cleaning up. As long as things have 'a place’ in your home, your child will learn this and learn where to put things back. For example, if you always keep your shoes lined up neatly next to your door, your child will follow suit and quickly learn to respect the shoes and put them back in their place. If your child’s books are always placed neatly on the shelf, your child will learn to respect the books and use more care when looking at them as well as when putting them back. Toddlers especially appreciate order and quickly develop a keen sense of order. Help them by creating routines and rules about putting things in their place, and be consistent in teaching them to clean up after themselves- it pays off in the long run!
As you take all of this in and look around your own home, remember that with Montessori the child is part of the family. You don’t need to change your home to become your child’s home, instead, you should change your home to be a home for the whole family including your child. Make your current home accessible to your child and your child will learn to respect the home as belonging to all members of the family.