I’ve already written about Little Jack’s Montessori bedroom here. Montessori bedroom design was something we had always planned on doing as a family. However, when we began Montessori school, we participated in a parent night where we learned about how to integrate the principles into the entire home. I don’t know why I didn’t think of these things before, but it makes so much sense!
Living Montessori means that you allow the child to explore their entire environment in a safe manner. Children should be allowed to participate in the practical life-skills that they see in the world around them on a daily basis. This is because independence and self-directed learning are crucial to development and children learn best with hands on experience. Materials that provide a sensory experience are helpful, as they emphasize and reinforce coordination and direct feedback about their use.
So let’s move into the kitchen!
It was scary to me to think of providing unfettered access to a variety of supplies in the kitchen. I think we are so programmed to keep latches on all drawers and cabinets that we feel unsafe allowing exploration in those areas. In our new house, we haven’t put any safety latches on drawers and cabinets. The girls are free to explore, even though there is some Pyrex (shatter resistant) glassware in some of our lower cabinets. They know to interact with the glassware carefully and only with permission. Little Jacks loves to have access to that cabinet for measuring spoons and pouring activities. You might think we are crazy to allow that, but I love the quote by Maria Montessori, “To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” So, we put our money where our mouths were and gave our children some kitchen choices that were higher risk to us (and them).
We also, however, created one drawer that is the girls’ “special” drawer that houses all their kitchen materials and “works.” This includes our bento supplies, snacks that they can access on their own without permission, and their own kitchen-ware for pouring, eating or other practical life activities.
They also have access to a broom and dustpan and towels so that they can clean up their own messes. We have some activity mats laid out on the kitchen floor where they can conduct their activities. Some day the area of our kitchen that currently houses the mats will instead have a large kitchen island, but for now the mats are far more practical!
With this set up, we try to let them explore with limited direction. (You can ask @Honeybee about the garlic powder incident! Let me just say that it involved a large container of garlic powder and some cookie cutters to make shapes in the powder, and some smelly girls … And not by the choice of the mamas!) Little Jacks knows that if she takes work out that she needs to put it away, and if her activities create messes that she needs to clean them up. (This sometimes requires some prompting or help. I always try to demonstrate a method of approaching these tasks if it seems like something that she hasn’t figured out or is resistant to doing). We have an adage in medicine that we also enforce at home, “See one, do one, teach one.” I bet Maria Montessori would fully endorse that philosophy!
We didn’t stop in the kitchen, though. We created an area in the dining room as well where kids could easily eat at their own table and have access to their play kitchen where they can safely mimic our kitchen work.
We had our Montessori teachers over for dinner recently and they were delighted with the thought we put into making the kitchen and dining areas safe and accessible to the girls. I need to get more proactive about changing out the works available to the girls so that there are new tasks for them every couple of weeks, but it is a start!
Next up, I’ll show you our Montessori bathroom.
Have you extended Montessori into more than just your child’s bedroom?