Children preparing food as part of Montessori at home

Montessori at Home: Learning in the Time of Coronavirus

As you’ve observed your child’s joyful work at Montessori Center School, you may have wished you could “bring Montessori home.” Now that virtually everyone is staying home to cope with this public health crisis, that wish has become much more urgent.

You know your preschooler thrives on routines, but the familiar ones are in short supply right now. Still, there are many ways you can smooth the transition from school-year routines to your family’s “new” routine, however that may look. Here we offer some ideas for implementing key principles of the Montessori method at home.

Beyond Materials

Montessori at home is not about owning all of the learning materials you’ve seen at Montessori Center School. If you had a Pink Tower or Sandpaper Letters at home, these materials would soon lose their special allure for your child.

Rather than a collection of materials, Montessori at home is an attitude and a commitment. It is a love of learning and of connecting with the world, the universe, and each other. Montessori in the home happens when parents embrace attitudes such as taking time, creating order, and following your child.

Take Time

Due to the current national emergency, you may suddenly have extra time on your hands. If you are so fortunate to have extra time, you might use it to slow down to your preschooler’s pace. Montessori at home is about enjoying with your child the small things that catch their attention. If they suddenly drop to the ground when you’re out for a walk, it may be to inspect an interesting leaf or find out where a beetle is off to.

Child counting stones as part of Montessori in the home
Montessori at home is as simple as counting stones on a walk.

In day-to-day interactions, allow your young child several seconds to process what you have said before they respond. Simply put, their brain functions more slowly—by adult standards. That’s because of the enormous amount of growth going on in there.

IDEAS FOR MONTESSORI AT HOME
· Handwashing can be revisited at any age—even adulthood! Show your child how to make a lather, scrub for 20 seconds or more, rinse thoroughly, and dry well. If she is bored with singing “Happy Birthday to You” twice to time the 20 seconds, try the ABC’s, or renew their interest by introducing a kitchen timer.
· Read together! Get books through your library’s drive-up service or online booksellers—or look for digital books available free through Google Books or other websites.
· Birdwatch. Identify neighborhood birds using a book or website.
· Limit screen time. When your child does go online, be there with them. Keep in touch with friends and relatives by FaceTime or Skype. Visit the many museums, zoos, concert halls, and aquariums that are now offering webcams or virtual tours.
· Commune together. Visit your house of worship online.
· Explore outdoors: look for leaves and insects to identify and study. A magnifying glass instantly ramps up the interest level.
· Grow a plant. With your child, start some seeds in a sunny window. Watching their growth from day to day will keep you both future-focused.
· Involve your child in every task you do: They can sort laundry by color, polish silverware, set the table for dinner, fold clean washcloths, feed the cat. Working alongside you, but at their own pace, builds their self-identity as a valuable person with important contributions to make.
Boy exploring nature
Natural exploration is a critical element of Montessori at home.

Create Order

Order is a foundation of the Montessori prepared environment for preschoolers. That is because these children are in the sensitive period for order. Order in the physical environment supports their development of inner order.

Physical Order

Montessori at home means looking at your child’s environment with their independence in mind. Are their snacks on the low kitchen shelves? Are coat and towel hooks within their reach? Is there “a place for everything” so they can easily put belongings away?

Consider displaying toys and puzzles on low, open shelves, rather than tossing them into a toybox. Keep parts together in attractive boxes, baskets, and trays. When you show your child a new activity, emphasize its beginning, middle, and end—from taking it off the shelf to putting it back.

Put out a limited number of choices at a time, rotating items when your child loses interest. A limited selection lets your child practice making choices—a crucial emerging skill you can support through Montessori at home.

Daily Routine

Under the present circumstances, routines are especially important for a young child. Getting up and dressed on a schedule every day gives both adults and children a sense of control. Familiar rituals like bedtime stories provide the security your preschooler needs.

Consistent markers such as “lunchtime” or “rest time” support a young child’s emerging sense of time. If your child is ready and interested, begin to associate these times with the clock.

But don’t expect to have a “school time.” Weave learning into the natural rhythm of your family’s day—just as we do at Montessori Center School.

Children baking as part of Montessori at home
Baking or cooking is a fun way to weave learning into the daily routine.

Montessori at home incorporates open time every day for free play and exploration, including unstructured outdoor time. Open time for self-chosen activity mirrors the uninterrupted three-hour work periods at Montessori Center School.

Follow Your Child

The extended time at home together required by the current pandemic has a silver lining: It gives you an opportunity to really get to know your child. Observe what interests them, what they have trouble with, what they may be bored with. Learn to recognize deep concentration. When you see it, don’t interrupt your child, not even to praise them!

Above all, Montessori at home means trusting nature to unfold each phase of your child’s development at the optimal time. And trusting your child to show you what they need at each step of the journey.


More Montessori At Home Activities

PRACTICAL LIFE

Ages 3 to 4:

  • Meal or Snack Preparation: slicing vegetables, fruit, cheese, etc.
  • Baking: measuring and mixing ingredients.
  • Kitchen Care: loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing dishes by hand, sweeping floors.
  • Pet Care: walking, playing with, and grooming.
  • Dusting: the leaves of plants with a soft cloth or furniture around the house.
  • Nature walks in the yard or about the neighborhood with a list of things to find.
  • Walking on the Line: make a masking tape line throughout the house and walk carefully on the line.
  • Art: coloring, painting, collage, sidewalk chalk.
  • Cutting and gluing: for example find and cut all of the plants in a magazine; glue into a collage.
  • Sewing shapes/pictures onto napkins, hand/kitchen towels, etc.

Ages 5 to 6 — Any of the above plus:

  • Cutting (advance searches: mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.)
  • Baking: reading, measuring and mixing simple recipes.
  • Handwork: crocheting, finger knitting, or sewing words, initials, or pictures on napkins, hand towels, etc.
  • Origami

SENSORIAL

Ages 3 to 4:

  • 2D: Explore the home for 2 dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, circles, etc.).
  • 3D: Explore the home for 3 dimensional shapes (spheres, cylinders, cones, cubes, prisms).
  • Texture: Explore the home for textures that are rough or smooth.
  • Sound: Explore sound by tapping on different objects (pot, glass, wooden cutting board, etc.) with different objects as well (tap with a metal spoon, then a wooden spoon).

Ages 5 to 6:

  • Spices: Exploring spices and attempting to recognize them by scent.
  • Leaf Shapes: Comparing the various shapes of leaves found amongst the house plants.
  • Advanced Shapes: Drawing a picture that includes certain shapes i.e., 1 circle and 3 rectangles, or 1 square and 4 triangles).

LANGUAGE

Ages 3 to 4:

  • Sound Games/I-Spy: Something that begins with the sound /s/.
  • Question Game: Have a conversation using who/what/when/where/why questions.
  • Singing new songs (different languages).
  • Tracing shapes, letters in flour (pour flour in a cookie sheet).

Ages 5 to 6:

  • Letter writing: Write a letter to a friend or family member to mail.
  • List making: Assist in writing list of things to do for a day or a week.
  • Story writing: Write a story or a play and read aloud or act out when finished.

MATHEMATICS

Ages 3 to 4:

  • Scavenger hunt: Count the objects collected.
  • Counting: Different objects (beans, pennies, etc.).
  • Sorting laundry
  • Sorting silverware

Ages 5 to 6:

  • Hopscotch math: All operations can be done, just make your hopscotch go higher than 10.
  • Math facts with dice.