Top 10 Montessori Principles for Natural Learning

Here are my top 10 Montessori principles that can be used whether or not you own traditional Montessori materials. These principles are relevant for any preschooler. To me, they fit with natural learning because they meet young children’s natural needs without requiring a specific material.

A windowsill converted into a nature table. (Photo from The Montessori Child at Home)

1. Follow the child. The. Most. Important. Principle. For any age. Individualize learning for your unique child’s needs and interests. In Montessori, this is done by observing your child to see what your child’s needs and interests are and by respecting – honoring – those needs and interests.

2. Respect and encourage your child’s absorbent mind and sensitive periods.

3. Allow your child the freedom to explore indoors and outdoors – as long as your child is safe and using the freedom in a positive manner. Independence and self-directed learning are important concepts/goals of Montessori education.

4. Give your child as many opportunities for hands-on learning as possible. It’s important that your preschooler has concrete, hands-on experiences before learning abstract concepts.

Washing salad greens for the family's dinner. (Photo from The Montessori Child at Home)

5. Emphasize practical life and sensorial activities in the preschool years. Practical life activities for care of self, care of the environment, control of movement, and grace and courtesy help your child develop order, concentration, coordination, and independence. Activities to refine the senses give indirect preparation for later academic learning.

Basket of child-size utensils kept in the kitchen for a child to help prepare dinner. (Photo from The Montessori Child at Home)

Basket of child-size utensils kept in the kitchen for a child to help prepare dinner. (Photo from The Montessori Child at Home)

6. Provide child-size materials (and real child-size tools) wherever possible. Place materials on trays on low shelves, allowing your child the opportunity to choose his or her own work and to repeat activities as often as needed.

7. Don’t interrupt your child’s work cycle. Let your child develop an ever-increasing ability to concentrate. Competition, tests, rewards, and punishments aren’t necessary. Your child will develop a sense of satisfaction over work well done.

8. Make your child’s environment as orderly and attractive as possible. An orderly environment assists your child in developing mental order and intelligence.

Child's toys neatly arranged on low shelves in the family's living room. (Photo from The Montessori Child at Home)

9. Demonstrate how to do an activity. Don’t expect your child to automatically know how to do something or to know the appropriate behavior without having it demonstrated first.

10. When you offer an activity, check that one quality is isolated (for example, it helps if only the color – and not the shape – varies if you’re introducing your child to colors), and there is a control of error (instant feedback built into the activity) whenever possible.

If you follow Montessori principles, you will help your child naturally develop many positive skills and traits that provide a strong foundation in life – skills and traits such as independence, self-discipline, and love of learning.

UPDATE: To take the next step, please read How to Start Using Montessori at Home.

Photo Credits: Thank you to the families who have so kindly shared ways they apply Montessori principles in their homes through Cynthia Dyer/The Montessori Child at Home.

How have you observed Montessori principles at work in your child’s life?

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This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama ( March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists). This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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