What I liked most about The Montessori Toddler was how organized and beautiful the book was. This really follows the whole philosophy of Montessori and makes it easy to read and navigate. Each chapter starts with a list of all the headings within that chapter. This lets you easily see what the chapter is about, and move forward to the part you are interested in, or as guidance to know where the chapter is headed. The book also features cute images throughout, stories and pictures from real families, and links to places to learn more about material and furniture. As well as information charts of how to phase your responses and a feelings and needs table.
Toddlers are not giving us a hard time. They are having a hard time.The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies (quote by Jean Rosenburg)
The book starts as an appreciation for toddlers. Simone wants us to change how we think of toddlers as difficult and instead reshape our understanding of them. She wants all parents to see that toddlers are amazing, they are sponges that learn without effort, and are intent on doing for themselves because as much as we don’t realize sometimes they are very capable little humans. Toddlers are innocent and don’t hold grudges, and they can teach us a lot about being present in the moment. So why are toddlers so often misunderstood as being difficult? First of all, they have needs, like movement, and discovery, but also order consistency and limits. She wants us to remember that toddlers are still developing, and because of that can be impulsive, and need time to communicate and process our requests. The remaining of this books provides ways we can foster learning and make an environment for toddlers to thrive. The ways we can do this is through activities, home environment, art, and language. We also want our children to have a lifetime love of learning, and to do that we need to foster their curiosity. To develop emotionally toddlers need to feel significant and accepted. This involves how we speak to our toddlers, how to help them when they are having a hard time, how to handle strong emotions.
The Montessori Toddler is not just a book about Montessori education, but an entire book full of advice on how to raise children. She has helpful advice on eating, sleeping, toilet training, siblings, sharing, and self-care. Honestly, this book touches on everything. I highly recommend it as a starting point for any parent on a journey to learn about child education and development.
The Physical Space / Environment
There are some main principles of Montessori, on how to set up a space to best suit the child. The following are some ideas to make your home more accessible, I bolded what she considers the basics in a Montessori home.
- Objects should be at their eye level, such as toys artwork, and plants.
- Shelves are an easy way to store toys at their height. You can place your objects on the upper shelves and your child’s on the bottom shelves
- Child-sized furniture like a table and chairs. It is more comfortable and easier for them to use themselves. In the bedroom, a floor mattress or toddler bed is easier for a child to get in and out of
- Have a place for everything, to make it easy to clean up and put away activities
- The space in your home should be simple and clutter-free
- Hooks and baskets are at their eye level to make it easy to put away their clothes. Place a mirror at their level too, at the front door or in their bedroom
- Use real glasses and plates
- Have step ladders or a learning tower for the kitchen, and stools that can be used in the bathroom or elsewhere
- Have child-sized tools like cleaning equipment, brooms, mops, gardening tools, kitchen tools, and aprons.
- Make an art and craft area, and a reading space for them to enjoy books
How to Foster the Desire to Learn
Simone teaches that toddlers learn with their hands. So we need to keep learning integrated and tactile. One idea I really liked is introducing math first with materials. She describes a toy that teaches math with beads. A single bead represents 1. There is a string of ten beads to represent 10. and I mat of 10 rows of 10 beads for 100. This is a great idea, and something I would like to create in my own house.
In the classroom, children are given the freedom to choose what they want to work on. Montessori believes that all children have a desire to learn if we provide the right environment. Nature is a free and great environment for kids to learn in. They can climb, listen, see, and touch the world around them. If we observe children and see a skill they are practicing, we can provide them with ways to further their development. Some of the activities she recommends are listed below. When we let our kids learn and develop at their own pace, we need to trust that they are learning what they need to at the right time for them, and not worry about if they are at the proper place for their age. It is also important to give them time. When she speaks of time she means unstructured time as well. Let our kids get bored and see what creativity that sparks. Another thing that Simone mentions reminds me of The Power of Showing Up, which speaks of providing a safe place for children to return to. Emotionally we need to be there, when they are having a hard time, and acknowledge their feelings.
My daughter wants to do everything herself but gets very frustrated when she can’t do it, and even more upset if you try to help her. I found tips in this book about encouraging curiosity and independence very helpful. The first tip I found helpful was how to teach a skill. Simone says that breaking it down into small steps, and showing them slowly is key. The part I never thought of before is to not talk and demonstrate at the same time. Be silent as you show the steps so they can focus on what you are doing. The second thing I found helpful was when you see that a child is having a hard time, don’t rush in to help, wait to see how much they can manage, and then offer you help. I need to remember to only help when she wants it.
We can stop what we are doing, look them in the eye, let them take as long as they need, and – hard as it is – try not to finish their sentences.The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies
Simone describes Montessori activities/toys as having the following characteristics.
- Target one skill
- Made from natural materials, like wood
- Have a beginning, middle, and end
- Are complete. No missing pieces.
- Are organized attractively on trays or in baskets on shelves. They have all the necessary tools available, including those needed for clean up.
- Are presented undone
- Can be mastered through repetition. Not too difficult or too easy
- They have the freedom to choose the activity
Some Montessori activities are developed to increase eye-hand coordination in toddlers. These activities will help develop their grasp, and practice working with their hands, and refine their fine-motor skills. Some examples are threading, opening and closing, sorting, and puzzles.
The easiest activity for your toddler to do is to help you with everyday tasks. Anything that we think of as a chore, is an activity for a toddler to learn. It might take longer with their help, but it will teach them independence. Doing things together like the laundry or grocery shopping will create a connection between you, and help them feel like a contributing part of the family. Simone lists several things that toddlers can learn to do around the house, like preparing food, self-care (brushing their hair, getting dressed) cleaning, and setting the table.
A Montessori classroom also creates lots of art and crafts. The difference is that “the process takes precedence over the product”. Drawing, painting, using scissors, chalk, and play dough are all great activities. She has a few tips when doing art with a toddler. When giving feedback, be descriptive, her example is saying “I see you made a line over here in yellow” instead of “Good job”. And when you are demonstrating how to do an activity don’t create something that they can not replicate, like drawing a perfect flower.
Music, Movement, and Language
When music is part of the classroom, toddlers are encouraged to play with age-appropriate instruments.
We all know how much toddlers like to move and are full of energy. Toddlers should be given the opportunity to move every day. Take your kid outside, to the backyard or a playground. If you have to stay indoors, some classrooms have climbing walls.
The last type of activity that is used in Montessori teaching is language. When children are young they learn from real objects first, then replica objects (like toy animals). Once they have learned that a picture represents real objects, we can introduce vocabulary cards. She suggests organizing them into themes, like vehicles, or tools. Another way to teach language, of course, are books. There are some interesting ideas about books that I didn’t think of. One, was for kids under six, not to introduce fantasy. A Montessori classroom will not have books about witches or dragons until children learn the difference between reality and fantasy. Having a conversation with your child also helps develop their language skills. Describe the world as you walk around outside, or are cooking dinner. Giving names to all the trees birds and food will teach them a lot. Instead of saying just bird, say robin or sparrow.
The remainder of The Montessori Toddler gives parenting tips, that are very helpful, but not exclusive to a Montessori home or classroom. She speaks about gaining cooperation in a positive manner without threats, bribes, or punishment. As well as how to set clear limits. Her advice is similar to books such as How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen, and The Whole-Brain Child. When it comes to daily life she has advice on Eating, Sleeping, toilet training, siblings, and pacifiers. She briefly touches on all aspects of a child’s day, and the struggles they may have, and how to solve them in the Montessori way. Although I won’t summarize this part, because her views were not unique to this book, it is all great advice that I’ve seen supported in other books about positive parenting.
I would really recommend this book for anyone interested in what Montessori is, and how to implement it in your home. Her overall parenting advice was useful and informative, which would make this a good first book or introduction to parenting practices.
If you Liked this Book…
I’ve read both of the books below, which support Simone’s advice in The Montessori Child. They are both very informative easy to understand parenting books. I recommend both of them and learned a lot from them.
How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen has some of my favorite and most used advice, about how to talk to kids. What you say when their emotions are high, has a big impact on how they respond and listen to you.
The Whole-Brain Child is a more technical, and scientific book that teaches a lot on how the brain works and is developed. It really helped me to understand what is happening inside a child’s brain. This book introduced to me “flipping their lid” and what this meant, and how you should respond when it happens.