Monday, August 29, 2011

Parenting in a Montessori way

Montessori's view of child is so refreshingly simple and insightful that if you could practice those principles at home it will hugely benefit your child. So here are seven ideas that can be used to develop your child ( if he or she is less than 6 years).

1. Help the child to do his own activities.
Before this can be done, it is important to arrange important artifacts, which the child uses, to suit the child's size. For instance, keep the child's toothpaste and toothbrush at the height where he can easily reach. Keep her clothes in a 'separate shelf' which is compatible to her height. ( You will be surprised to see that the child loves order, especially at 3) Use child's commode seat in the bathroom. Get him tools that match with his size, such as spoon and fork.

Once the infrastructure is set in, let the child do activities by herself. If the child is willing to dress himself, let him do. If the child is willing to eat by herself, that is a better option. Although these activities take too long a time, and often create lot of mess, the trouble is worth the effort.

This is helpful in two ways. One, it allows the child to co-ordinate his hands and body easily. Mastering this coordination of body is an important milestone in the child's development. ( if you watch a mentally handicapped child, you will realise the importance of promoting child's body-coordination). Two, it makes the child independent.

2. Engage child in actual physical games,not virtual games:
Engage in activities where his body coordination is important, for instance climbing the slide. As coming down the steps is more difficult than climbing the stairs, coach the child to do on her own. Let the child commit mistakes infront of you, rather than behind you. In the same way, help the child to engage in difficult games, such as rope climbing. This hastens the body coordination of the child.

4. Use toys that compel child to engage with it actively.
Engaging a child in a 'purposeful' activity ( that makes the child understand the end of the activity) helps the child to focus his wandering attention and apply his intelligence and 'body coordination' together, which is another Montessori principle of developing your child.
For instance, use picture puzzles of animals so that the child can 'make the animal' by fitting different pieces.Even while taking a balloon, take 'empty' balloon and teach child to fill 'air' by mouth. Children typically like to 'color'. Provide him all the material to colour and paint. If you observe your child really 'concentrating' in painting ( or any of his activity), leave him alone for as long as he wishes.
Because of the above principle, there are many 'do nots'. For instance, avoid using passive toys like cars, because they are not 'purposeful'; they can be dropped at any moment by the child. Even TV watching is very passive and should be discouraged by using innovative tricks. Cartoons, by the way, needs to be avoided because it tends to promote imagination, before the mind is 'developed'. This in turn introduces child in a new pattern of engaging in 'fantasies'.

5. Respect the child's identity:
Listen to the child by being in child's shoes. For instance, do not feed child until she says she is 'hungry'. Force feeding at a fixed time prevents the child to 'sense' her hunger.
If you have promised something, please keep the promise until a pattern is set in. If you can't bring him something due to lack of money, be sure to 'explain' it. Children surprisingly understand the constraint of money better than we think, i have found.
Because of the choice given to child in Montessori to do ( or not to do) an activity, child's identity gets created slowly in Montessori House of children. I have heard of a child in a Montessori, who refused to do any activity in a school for one year. And yet after 3 years, he was a normal child.

6. Use every instance to enrich child's vocabulary:
Child at the age of 3 is fascinated with language. Child however understands word through sounds ( i.e phonetically), not through alphabets. Therefore do not hasten to teach child to 'spell' the word; instead offer her the 'sound of words' whenever practical. Try to categorise words in sections, because that helps child. For instance, introduce 'kitchen' words separately than 'bathroom words'. Words help child to classify objects and make sense of the chaotic impressions that are bombarding him.
Montessori method introduces language phonetically. Only after the child can replicate the sound of words, alphabets are introduced. And then grammar is introduced.

7. Introduce numbers when child shows inclination:
Below 5, the absorbent mind of child absorbs concepts as 'concretes'. Numbers are concepts. Therefore always introduce numbers through concrete instances, like 1 marble or 2 marble. Both marbles should look same. Child cannot 'understand' that the same number is applicable to chocolate, kilometer, or money. Even when additions have to be shown, add 1 marble+ 2 marble and show it as 3 marbles. Montessori uses spindle rods to introduce the concept of counting and uses 'beads' to help counting.

Every child is distinct, and therefore you will have to adapt the above ideas accordingly for your child. If you have a good Montessori House of Children near your house, it is a good idea to take help of a Montessorian in devising specific strategies for developing your child. For children who are above-average curious or active, or who tend to listen to adults meekly, a Montessorian is required to adopt a different style and method.

Please remember that these ideas are not to make your child more intelligent. Intelligence definitely assists development, but at this young age, it may also bypass it. Rewards and punishments are powerful tools of development, but which require large space to set the context. We have therefore not dealt with it here.


Anonymous said...

-A well thought off article. seems to be genuine & well intended.
- Technically speaking as a Montessorian i feel like fine tuning the article. few basic expressions needs to be clarified.
-It would have been nice if the conclusion is drawn by connecting the contents with the title of the article.
-But I recommend for every parent to get the essence of this well organised & expressed article to become worthy of their child.


Veena said...


* The topic is well covered and makes me feel proud to be a montessorian.
* It gives a clear picture to parents to understand the needs of the child and how they should be a assistance to the child.