What does it mean to make your home Montessori? It doesn’t mean buying all or even any of the traditional Montessori materials. Making your home Montessori is all about creating scaffolds to enhance your child’s independence. Scaffolds refer to ways in which you provide access. What does that look like?
Just right tools
Some tools need to be small for a toddler or preschooler to handle them. This includes items like utensils, cups, mops and brooms, or a hair brush. On the other hand, some tools need to be large enough for less dextrous fingers to manipulate them. This includes items like buttons, beads and string, puzzle pieces, or crayons. When it comes to utensils and dish ware, we didn’t buy anything toddler specific; Little K uses coffee spoons, salad forks, saucers for plates, and tea cups for bowls (remember that Maria Montessori advocate the use of real materials and not plastic). When buying child specific items, look for realistic representations. A lot of products out there attempt to look “fun” but small children think concretely and become confused when, for example, their potty looks like a frog. A toilet should look like a toilet, and a small vacuum should look like a mini version of the one you use. You also want to stick to what you actually use at home. If you don’t mop, don’t buy the mini mop. Practical life activities should fit in with the way your home operates.
Provide the opportunity for your little one to reach areas in your home. Step stools can help them use the toilet or wash their hands at the sink. An aquaduck or similar product allows little hands to reach the flow of water from the faucet. A wall switch extension handle can let children turn lights on and off on their own. But actually, I am not a huge fan of these kinds of products. While sometimes helpful, I think we should limit them unless truly necessary. I alternatively use small night lights shaped like a light switch affixed low on the wall for Little K to turn on herself. I like that the switch I have has the same shape and function as a light switch, so a practical life lesson is embedded.
The Learning Tower provides an excellent scaffold for small children to be involved in kitchen prep. It’s nice for both child and parent to be at parent level, rather than you crouching down to model at a small weaning table (but for times you do want them using a child-sized table, you can have them stand and work on the seat of a chair to save space). Yes, you can use a step stool or a chair in place of a learning tower. However, many young toddlers will fall and injure themselves this way, so I believe the learning tower has a place. Personally I zip-tied a laundry basket to our step stool and that worked great. Truthfully, since Little K can’t climb into it herself, it’s missing that element of full independence. On the other hand that aided in safety too.
Follow the Child
Most of all, when making your home Montessori, remember these three words. Follow the child. If you see her fascinated with the buttons on her and your clothing, but not quite able to manage them, it’s time to get some large button work. If she’s grabbing the broom and attempting to sweep, look into purchasing a small sized broom. And if she’s imitating you washing your hands, figure out how she can reach the sink. Observe the child’s natural curiosities and prepare the environment to support them. That’s all there is to it!