Using Montessori for toddlers might sound like it requires a great deal of extra work or planning, but it actually is quite natural.
Montessori toddlers are exposed to everyday life activities, chores and tasks both at home and on the go. These toddlers are given the opportunity to participate in the daily tasks of the household, and enjoy using their play time to further advance these skills.
What is the best age to start Montessori?
Incorporating the Montessori method at home is incredibly beneficial for toddlers, and many of these methods can be introduced as early as birth.
Beginning from the moment they are born, children can benefit from many of the Montessori philosophies. Respecting the child, involving the child in every day activities, and preparing purposeful activities for children are a huge component of Montessori life that is easy to incorporate at home.
Designing an environment that promotes development and is accessible to the child is key for Montessori toddlers and babies. Toddlers especially thrive with opportunities to exert their independence and explore at such a young age.
Is Montessori good for toddlers?
Montessori toddlers are exposed to and able to learn many skills earlier than their peers who might not have the opportunity to practice at home. Many simple Montessori activities for toddlers, such as dressing, eating, washing, etc., are well within the developmental capabilities of toddlers.
Implementing Montessori for toddlers, whether at home or at a school, provides many benefits. Children thrive when Montessori practices are used in their environments.
Benefits of Montessori for Toddlers
- Developing a sense of autonomy and independence
- Opportunities to practice developmentally appropriate and appealing activities
- Early independence with self-care: dressing, eating, washing, toileting, etc.
- Participation and engagement in chores and household tasks
- Developing a sense of ownership over the state of their environment
- Learns respect for objects and those around them
- Engages in grace and courtesy at home and on the go
- Fine motor skills develop at an early age with intentional activities and toys: grasping, transferring, reaching, using tools, using utensils, etc.
- Encourages language development by naming objects, engaging in “adult” conversations, etc.
There are so many benefits that come from using Montessori for toddlers. Perhaps one of the greatest is that children develop a sense of autonomy by being allowed to participate in and independently execute many skills and tasks involved in daily life. Toddlers develop confidence, as well as respect for themselves and their environments, at an early age with Montessori practices.
9 Characteristics of Montessori for Toddlers
The Montessori philosophy differs from traditional parenting practices in many ways, and can be easily identified in most situations. Here are a few of the defining characteristics you’ll see in environments with Montessori toddlers.
One key element of any Montessori environment, but especially one that involves toddlers, is that it is prepared. A prepared environment means that it is neat, orderly, and filled with objects and toys that have a clear purpose. Activities are displayed with all materials present so toddlers can easily help themselves to any project or toy.
If you walk into any Montessori environment, you’ll notice that adults spend a great deal of their time quietly observing. Adults need to observe toddlers and other children to take notice of where their interests fall and what skills need practice in order to carefully select materials to display for them.
Choice and Independence
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a Montessori toddler environment is that there are tools and accessories available to allow toddlers to access every part of the home and participate in daily activities. Stools and child-sized versions of household materials are available for children to access any time of their choosing.
Order and Routine
Another defining characteristic of a Montessori environment for toddlers is the sense of order, structure and routine. While children are allowed to choose what activities they complete and when, each day follows a predictable routine and structure. The environment is tidy and predictable, as “everything has a place, and everything in its place”.
Respect for the Child
A Montessori toddler environment is certainly not the only place this can be found, but one of the key elements of the Montessori philosophy is respect for the child – at every age. Montessori toddlers and babies are given the same respect as adults and older children, even when it seems they are unable to reciprocate respect in the same manner.
Motivation and Engagement
Maria Montessori focused a great deal of intrinsic motivation in her observations and careful development of her methods. A Montessori environment provides children with opportunities to work towards goals and activities using their own intrinsic motivation, as opposed to external rewards.
Montessorians follow many of the same gentle parenting practices as others throughout the world. Yelling, screaming, shaming and punishment are rarely, if ever, found in a Montessori environment. Parents, teachers and caregivers understand that toddlers are inherently good, and respect their need to display big emotions and actions without feeling attacked or the need to punish.
Rather than working around strict rules or methods of punishment, Montessori toddlers are exposed to natural consequences to limit their actions. In many cases, the natural consequence of an undesirable action is enough to prevent a toddler from repeating the action.
Discipline, Not Punishment
Traditional parenting methods often confuse discipline with punishment. When using Montessori for toddlers, it is understood that discipline means “to teach”. Even in positive, gentle parenting environments, toddlers experience discipline on a daily basis. However, teaching does not coincide with the use of punishments such as time outs, behavior charts, taking away a favorite activity or toy, etc.
Skills Learned by Montessori Toddlers
A Montessori environment is conducive to the development of various skills, for toddlers especially. When combined with Montessori activities for toddlers, children are able to practice and build upon many skills at an early age. Here are some of the skills Montessori toddlers will learn.
- Problem solving
- Wrist strength and manual dexterity
- Working with others for a common goal
- Building vocabulary
- Arm strength
- Classification of objects
Montessori for Toddlers: Practical Life Activities
Toddlers are often eager and excited about helping in activities and chores that most adults consider to be mundane. The Montessori method encourages participation in these activities as a core component of daily life. Here are a few Montessori practical life activities for toddlers.
- Loading or unloading the dishwasher
- Sweeping, mopping, dusting and vacuuming
- Cleaning windows, spills or walls
- Sorting silverware or other utensils
- Food preparation: smoothies, vegetable cutting, rinsing fruits, spreading jelly on bread, peeling a banana, etc.
- Pouring water or other liquids to drink
- Washing hands
- Brushing teeth
- Getting dressed
- Using a lint roller
Montessori for Toddlers: “Work” Activities
In a Montessori environment, toddlers are often described as “working” as opposed to “playing”. Maria Montessori uses this term intentionally, to remind adults that the activities children involve themselves with are just as important as adult tasks.
Here are some Montessori toddler work activities to prepare for your child and allow them to practice independently.
- Transferring an item with tongs, spoon or other utensils
- Pouring water between glasses or with a pitcher
- Dry pouring rice, beans, oats or other materials
- Practicing buttons, zippers or ties
- Scooping with a spoon
- Sorting two different types of objects
- Folding wash cloths or towels
Montessori for Toddlers: At Home Activities
One of the best things about using Montessori for toddlers is that all of these activities can be practiced at home and require little to no extra materials. Aside from practical life and tray activities, there are plenty of activities you can set up for your toddler that require very little prep.
Try some of these Montessori-friendly toddler activities at home to keep your toddler engaged when they aren’t doing tray activities or practical life.
- Peeling tape from the table or window
- Sorting objects into different bins or boxes
- Filling a basket or box with different “surprise” items
- Taping a line on the floor and inviting your toddler to “walk the line”
- Creating scavenger hunts for “like” objects: objects that are red, start with a “ra” sound, are circles, etc.
- Taking a child-led walk
- Heading outside for a treasure hunt to collect different objects
Applying the Montessori method to your daily life at home and on the go with a toddler actually comes quite naturally. Viewing the home environment and the everyday objects around us with a Montessori perspective helps us realize that nearly every object and activity toddlers participate in has the potential to teach them.
Using Montessori for toddlers means that we, as the prepared adult, are purposeful, patient, intentional and allow our children to guide us and choose how they spend their own time. Setting their environment up to be easily accessible provides them the ultimate freedom to develop the autonomy they so desperately crave.
The Montessori method is a wonderful way to help toddlers thrive and grow during these crucial years of development.