What is the Maria Montessori method?

The Maria Montessori method is a child – led approach to learning where the children are free to choose the activities they want to do.

Children will be able to make their own choices and learn at their own pace, which builds both their confidence and self-esteem. The Montessori method is a holistic approach to learning. This helps to develop children’s thinking through exploring the world around them, encouraging them to use their imagination.

What is the Maria Montessori method and how is it applied?

Montessori schools and nurseries will allow children to learn through play using specially designed Montessori toys and other equipment. Children will be guided by the trained teacher/carer rather than lectured, and have access to self educating practical play. This will  encourage the child to ask their own questions and discover their own answers. 

maria montessori method

Photo credit: Paige Cody Unsplash

Who created the Maria Montessori Method?

Maria Montessori founded Montessori teaching in 1907. She was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator who was invited to create a childcare centre in San Lorenzo; a poor, inner-city district of Rome. Here, she began work with some of the area’s most disadvantaged, and unschooled children. While it did initially take some time for the children to settle, they were soon interested in working with puzzles, learning to prepare meals, clean their environment, and taking part in hands on learning experiences. Dr Montessori saw that after a while, the children demonstrated calm, peaceful behaviour, deep concentration, a sense of order and care for their environment. The children absorbed the knowledge and started teaching themselves.

“Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.”

What does a Montessori classroom look like?

Montessori classrooms are minimalistic. Nothing is unnecessary and everything has its place, so it’s easy for the children to access. In a Maria Montessori classroom, children will enjoy everything from flowers and plants to wooden toys. All Montessori resources are created using naturally sourced materials to promote sensorial exploration. Natural materials include wood, glass, bamboo and cotton. All different textures, weights and sizes.

Montessori classrooms are unlike most nursery and preschool settings

In a Montessori classroom you won’t see any bright, loud posters on the wall or any colourful blocks and toy boxes. Instead, everything is simplistic, and calming.

How do nannies use the Maria Montessori Method?

Like a Montessori teacher, a nanny will work to aid the development of independence and help the child to follow their interests. The learning environment will be prepared to enable children to do things themselves. For example, toys are in labelled cupboards and boxes to allow children to access everything they need and to encourage them to put them in the right place afterwards. 

A nanny will observe the child they care for whilst they play and interact; they will also allow the child time to watch how other children played, as this is where most of the learning occurs. 

Applying the Maria Montessori Method

The Maria Montessori method does not limit and group by age. Instead, nannies attend groups/classes and meet with each other and the children they care for.

Following the child’s interests is important

Following interests is an important part of the approach and something that a good nanny will notice and follow too. For example, plan activities around interests, go on visits to the library to find books about the interest, go on visits to places which are connected to the interests.

Giving children time to do all the above is really important. If a nanny is just looking after just one family, they have the time to spend and allow the children to explore and learn through their play and activities. They will not be as restricted as other care providers in wider settings such as nurseries.

Montessori promotes connection to nature

Maria Montessori saw the outdoors as an extension of the classroom. The Maria Montessori method will support the whole child-body, mind and soul experience, which is also important for wellbeing. This is especially important in today’s world where children are often around screens, which are also used in other nursery settings.

Dr Montessori believed the inclusion of both indoor and outdoor to study how all things are interconnected. This is a great way for children to be able to study subjects with nature.

The Montessori method inspired indoor activities for little ones

  • Window washing – All you need is a small water bottle mixed with white vinegar, a small squidge and a sponge.
  • Sorting buttons – (This activity is not suitable for children under 3 years old) Give your child a selection of buttons differing in sizes and colours and your child can sort them into different bowls and organise their colours.
  • Matching socks – this is a great activity for learning colours, and it gives the child a sense of responsibility.

The benefits of learning in nature

Having regular opportunities outside is essential for childhood development. It is proven to have a positive effect on children’s physical health – as well as the physical effects of learning outdoors, being outside with nature can help alleviate feelings of anxiety and low mood. Connecting with nature has been proven to lower stress, which will help with learning. A change of scenery will also have a positive effect on the mind and reignite a passion for learning, which also improves motivation. By connecting with nature, children will also become more environmentally responsible, which flows from childhood to adulthood.

Here are some examples of how the Montessori method is applied outside

Gardening – This is a wonderful opportunity to engage all senses. Children will set up their own vegetable patch and grow herbs and vegetables. You only need a small area to be able to do this.

Count the different materials – Take the children for a walk and collect natural materials along the way that can be used for counting. Examples of materials include acorns, conkers, stones, and pinecones.

Outdoor art- Use outdoor materials such as sticks, mud, flowers, and petals to create pictures, faces or animals.

Treasure hunts – Kids love this one; and it can be done in the garden or while out on a forest walk. Clues will be placed at different points leading the child to the next spot.

Cloud spotting – Find a dry spot on the ground and ask the children to lay on the ground and look at the clouds and the different shapes in the sky. Ask them if they can see any particular shapes?

What do Montessori parents say?

“The Montessori method is unique, and I personally enjoy the children-led approach. It allows my children to explore the world around them and use their imagination, because there are less boundaries which I believe can restrict their learning and play.” Mother of two boy, toddlers

The Maria Montessori method isn’t for everyone

Here are the cons of Montessori education.

Learning independently isn’t everything.

The Maria Montessori method focuses on independence and self-guided work. However, not all situations are like that. It’s also great to work as a team, too – something that the Maria Montessori method doesn’t promote.

The open flowing Montessori environment can be daunting for some children.

Most children will thrive on routine, structure, and enjoy having clear boundaries. Even desks lined up in a row can be comforting for some children. The Maria Montessori method allows movement and flow. A day nursery will be a better alternative for a child who thrives in a structured environment.