These days, keeping up with all the ways you can incorporate learning and engagement in your child’s playtime is complex and often overwhelming. But just as the list of methods keeps growing, there is one format that continues to remain a favourite for parents across the globe – it’s known as Montessori.
This form of education is formed on the concept of hands-on learning, self-directed activity, and collaborative play for the child. In Montessori classrooms, children are free to move about and choose their own activities, using their minds, curiosity and imagination to create their own learning experiences.
A bit about Montessori
The method was developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori back in 1870 – hence the name. It is based on her belief that children are natural learners and are motivated by their own interests and abilities.
In 1907, Montessori opened her first school, the Casa dei Bambini, or ‘Children's House’, in Rome. The school quickly became successful and began to attract international attention. By 1912, she had moved on to travel to the United States, where she later opened a training centre for Montessori teachers.
These days, this mode of learning is still used in classrooms across the world, and is especially popular in early education programs where there is an emphasis on independence, self-motivation, and hands-on play.
So what’s the big deal? Read on to see what makes up Montessori education.
The key principles behind Montessori learning
Like all methods, Montessori is based on a strict set of principles that make it the unique format that it is. These include:
1) Respect for the child - Dr. Montessori believed children are born with an innate desire to learn. They should be allowed to explore and discover at their own pace, without judgement or interference from adults.
2) Preparation of the environment - The learning environment should be carefully prepared to meet the needs of the individual child. It should be safe, clean, and orderly, with materials that are within reach and appropriate for the child's stage of development.
3) Auto-education - Probably the most important principle of all, this factor focuses on the belief that kids are typically willing to learn and teach themselves new things if they are given the right tools and stimulus to do so.
4) Embracing an absorbent mind - In the eyes of Montessori, children have the most ‘absorbent minds’ during the first six years of their lives, so learning should be based on this.
5) Sensitivity - Children go through sensitive periods where they are more likely to take in important information and life lessons. These are windows of opportunity for learning.
6) Educating the whole child - Learning experiences should encompass the physical, intellectual, emotional and social sides of the child.
7) Individualised programs - Learning should be tailored to each child, based on where they are at in their developmental journey.
8) Freedom of movement and choice - Montessori believed that children learn at their very best when they’re able to choose how and when to move around – i.e. enjoy their freedom.
9) Accomplishment by learning - Instead of handing out gold stars for achieving something, Montessori focuses on showing kids they have ‘won’ by learning something new and important.
10) Independence - Children are given the resources and guidance to learn on their own.Overall, Montessori education is a unique and effective approach to early childhood development and offers plenty of benefits to the child, parent and even the learning facility itself. Keeping up the notion that children are natural learners, this mode of learning continues to be a popular format for educators and parents across the globe, with toys and products readily available to help you adopt it.