We’re very excited to bring you an interview with Kylie of the wonderful blog, How We Montessori, which details how she incorporates the Montessori method into the daily lives of her two sons Caspar (5), and Otis (18 months). She’s even written a book on cooking with children called Kids in the Kitchen. Kylie is also going to be writing a guest series on Montessori for Hellobee, so stay tuned!
How did you decide the Montessori method was something you wanted your family to follow?
After the birth of my first son I felt really lost. I realized that I didn’t know how to be a parent. Sure I knew how to wash and feed him, but I didn’t know how to play with him or how we should spend our days. He was only six weeks old when I enrolled him in every class available. We started swim lessons, baby music, baby gym and playgroup. We were really busy but we were stressed and miserable. I knew there was a better way.
I spoke to a friend about my parenting struggles; she suggested that I look into Montessori. I was instantly hooked. Fostering independence, following the child, order and consistency – it made sense to me. I went to the library and took out all the Montessori books. I started talking to Montessori families and made changes in our home straight away. I visited a Montessori school when my son was eighteen months old and I then knew that Montessori schooling was for us too. Montessori is a natural fit for our family.
What are some of the biggest ways you incorporate Montessori into your daily lives?
One of the obvious ways is to empower our children to do things for themselves. From getting dressed to pouring a drink, I want our children to learn that they are capable people. We have set up our home with child-sized furniture and low shelves so they can reach things and can sit comfortably at their own tables. If my son wants to draw he can find his own pencils and paper. If he wants to use play-dough he can do that too.
Another way that is significant, and I feel is missing in many people’s lives, is that our children contribute in a meaningful way to the running of our home. We respect our children as contributors to our family life. In our home this may include setting the table, helping with the washing or simply helping a younger sibling with his shoes.
Can you tell us how you’ve set up your Montessori bedroom for your two boys?
My 18 month old son Otis sleeps on a floor bed (no crib), so the room needs to be totally childproof. We’ve worked hard to make the room visually appealing to each child with low artwork and lots of colour and texture. One of the main features of the bedroom is that each child can reach their own clothing with baskets on low shelves and a low rail in the wardrobe for hanging clothes. The room also has many books. Each child has a book basket and we have a small bookshelf in there too.
I’ve written a post on my blog including tips on creating a Montessori bedroom. I hope that many people find these tips helpful as the bedroom is a space that needs to be adapted to suit to each child.
How can you incorporate Montessori into an infant’s life?
In infant Montessori there is a strong focus on freedom of movement or allowing your child to move as much as possible. This is why in a Montessori nursery a child will sleep on a floor bed and play on a movement mat.
Rather than being restricted in bouncers or rockers, Montessori children are placed on the floor to play. While the child is on the floor or movement mat, they may like to observe themselves and the world around them though a wall mirror or play with developmentally appropriate toys. Once a child starts moving and crawling they are able to reach their toys and materials on low shelves.
As with an older child there is also a focus on nature. We are encouraged to take the infant outside and allow them to touch plants, feel the breeze, and observe the natural world. We are also encouraged to use beautiful natural fibers around the home including for the infant’s clothing, bedding and toys.
Throughout a child’s life Montessori tells us to follow the child and never rush or push them developmentally. Through their environment the aim is to allow the child to reach their full potential.
You recently cowrote a book about cooking with kids ages 18 months – 9 years called Kids in the Kitchen. Why is cooking with our children important?
Cooking with my children is one of my favourite things to do. It serves many purposes. Firstly we are spending time together. Usually this time is uninterrupted and filled with laughter. The children are learning life skills in the most practical way. A child as young (or younger) as eighteen months can learn to wash fruit and vegetables, to cut, pour and spread.
My children are learning what real foods look like, feel like, smell like and taste like. While discovering new foods they are widening their tastes and improving their vocabulary. Older children can measure and count. Cooking can also add to a cultural experience or celebration. I love teaching my children how to cook the basics and make foods like pasta and bread from scratch. Perhaps the most important to me personally is that they get a feeling of pride and satisfaction when they make a cake or prepare a snack to be enjoyed by others.
Other than cooking, tell us about some of your favorite Montessori-inspired activities to do with your toddler and kindergartener.
We try to go on a nature walk at least once a day. Maria Montessori was a firm believer in taking children outside and not rushing, but allowing the child to discover nature at their own pace. We walk around our neighborhood and allow the children to explore where possible. We also love to garden. We have a small yard with strawberries in the thin garden beds, carrots in planter boxes and some herbs in pots. We also experiment and have grown things in the kitchen like sprouts.
I try to ensure that my children have as much free play as possible. My kindergartener is a builder so his favorite activity is building and making with recycled materials like boxes and empty cartons. Like most families, we also like listening to music and reading together.
How is a Montessori preschool or elementary school different than a regular school?
The first thing I noticed when visited a Montessori classroom is that the tables and chairs are not in rows and they don’t all face same way. The tables and chairs are placed in clusters around the room. The teacher doesn’t stand in front of the class and give a lesson. Rather lessons are given individually to the child or in small groups. This is because the child learns at their own pace and this is key to the Montessori philosophy.
Each class is made up of children in three year groupings. For example children aged 3-6 years are in the same room. This allows older children to role model and help younger children and it allows children to learn from each other regardless of their age.
Another difference is the materials or the work. Maria Montessori developed a range of materials specifically for her schools. For more information on Montessori schooling you can read the article What is Montessori.
What are some of your favorite Montessori toys and teaching tools, and where are your favorite places to purchase them?
My favorite materials for infants include a small bell rattle, interlocking discs, and ball and bell cylinders from Beginning Montessori. I love the Montessori range of mobiles including tactile mobiles like the Gobbi, Ring on a Ribbon and the Bell on a Ribbon from Goose Designs. I also really like the patchwork ball which can be made at home with some simple sewing skills.
For an older infant who is sitting up I love ring stackers, the object permanence box and imbucare box. I love simple wooden toys for hand development like the Palmer Grasp Cylinder Block, Pincer Grasp Cylinder Block and the Egg and Cup from At Home with Montessori.
For an infant who can sit, one of my favorite materials is the discovery basket. You can put anything you like in a discovery basket as long as it is completely safe for the child to feel and potentially put in their mouths. The idea is the child can discover the items through their senses. Some starting ideas include a wooden spoon, ball of wool, small containers or jars, hair brush or pastry brush, whisk, ribbon, large shells and metal measuring cups.
For a toddler I love tracking toys, puzzles, stacking boxes, building blocks, shape sorters and Schleich animals. My favorite art materials for toddlers include crayons such as Stockmar wax blocks and large pencils like the Giotto be-be Jumbo colored pencils from Craft4kids in Australia.
What are some ways that someone new to Montessori can incorporate it into their lives?
The first thing I would suggest is to observe your child in their play areas. Observe how your child plays; what toys do they play with and how do they use them. Often our play areas can benefit from some decluttering. Montessori would suggest using low shelves rather than toy boxes. Toys with multiple items can be stored in baskets. When every toy has its own space on a shelf it is easier for a child to see (rather than it being buried at the bottom of the toy box), and it’s easier for the child to put it away when they are finished.
Next time you purchase a toy I would consider the benefits of the toy and consider alternatives. We prefer having fewer toys that are higher in quality – think quality not quantity. We rotate our toys regularly and in addition, we provide our children with real materials for practical life activities such as a child sized mop, broom, dustpan and watering can.
Thanks so much Kylie!
Montessori part 1 of 51. Kylie of How We Montessori by Kylie @ How We Montessori
2. What is a Discovery Basket and How to Make One by Kylie @ How We Montessori
3. Storing Toys the Montessori Way by Kylie @ How We Montessori
4. 5 Quick and Easy Montessori Activities for Toddlers by Kylie @ How We Montessori
5. Toddler Activities: Art by Kylie @ How We Montessori