I’ve been asked what “Montessori inspired” means and what sorts of activities qualify as “Montessori inspired.” I’m both a progressive Montessorian (rather than a purist) and a homeschooler (rather than a classroom teacher, although I used to be a Montessori teacher and school owner).
To me, the term helps differentiate what is classic Montessori and something that might only use a number of Montessori principles. I also use the term to help protect both the name “Montessori” and parents who are sincerely trying to use Montessori at home even if they don’t fully understand Montessori education.
Since I started blogging in 2010, I found that parents who were criticized for the way they were using Montessori ideas in their homeschools often turned away from Montessori. They were more likely to be criticized if they use the term “Montessori” rather than “Montessori inspired.” The criticism seemed to take the joy out of Montessori for them. I’ve seen amazing things happen with Montessori done improperly by parents who were excited and in love with Montessori philosophy.
Montessori homeschools are by nature very different from Montessori schools, so often activities work well that wouldn’t be appropriate in a Montessori classroom. As a Montessori teacher, I had a number of different practices from what I did as a homeschooler and what I might do as a Montessori grandma. Themes and other interest-based activities can be very helpful in a home environment, and they might include activities or images that aren’t totally “Montessori.”
So I use “Montessori-inspired” most of the time in the hope that parents will use that term instead of “Montessori” for activities that aren’t authentic Montessori activities or at least wouldn’t be found in Montessori albums. Many of my activities could be called Montessori extensions, and that’s the term I would be more likely to use as a Montessori teacher.
But in the home, we have greater freedom to meet the interests of each child we care for. That sometimes requires a bit more leeway in the materials we prepare. And, because we don’t have the peer pressure of a classroom of Montessori children working through the Montessori sequence, we might need more games and other materials that are higher interest for many children.
I hope we would all give parents the same respect we’d give a Montessori child by avoiding criticizing them but instead appreciating their efforts and showing them how to do it a better way if needed. For example, after a number of parents wondered what control of error meant, I published a post about control of error. After I saw lots of activities without isolation of quality, I published a post about isolation of quality. And I publish posts on the 15th of each month that show the ideas of preparing attractive, orderly trays and using printables to create hands-on activities rather than using them as worksheets.
I love to see interest in Montessori growing. I’m wishing that someday Montessori classrooms will be commonplace in public schools. Even now, I know many parents who started with a love of Montessori through Montessori-inspired activities and went on to send their children to Montessori schools. Others have studied Montessori books and online courses for their homeschooling or even taken Montessori teacher training and gone on to become Montessori teachers.
Traditional Montessori Materials
Traditional Montessori Materials and Presentations
If you’d like to know more about Montessori philosophy, I have a number of posts about Montessori principles.
DIY Montessori Materials
Tutorials for DIY Montessori materials are especially helpful for the many homeschoolers. I have roundups with many creative variations of Montessori materials as well as more traditional DIY Montessori materials.
Activity Trays with Hands-on Activities
Activity trays (or baskets) with hands-on activities are a great way to start using Montessori-inspired activities. You can be creative with your activities.
You might want to turn a craft or another activity into a Montessori-inspired activity tray. (See “Turning Valentine Crafts into Montessori-Oriented Activities.”)
You might create activity trays for a unit study, season, or holiday. (See “Montessori-Inspired Unit Studies + Seasonal and Holiday Activities”)
Using Montessori Printables or Printables That Work Well for Creating Hands-On Activities
Montessori printables such as 3-part cards are traditional Montessori materials.
But I find that many other printables can work well for preparing Montessori-inspired activities. For ideas, see “How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities.”
Practical Life Activities
There are practical life activities for care of self, care of the environment, control of movement (fine-motor and gross-motor skills), and grace and courtesy. They should help children develop order, concentration, coordination, and independence.
Some purist Montessorians only have practical life activities that reflect work with a real-life purpose. For example, tonging pom poms is great for fine-motor skills, but it isn’t an activity you as an adult would do. Yet I like this pom pom transfer activity using quick sticks when red is emphasized, such as for Chinese New Year. The quick sticks are a good introduction to using chopsticks. Some might call this a Montessori-inspired activity since it doesn’t have a direct use in daily life.
Many Montessori homes have most or all of their practical life activities as they occur in the course of daily life. The majority of the practical life activities in my home are those, too. But I don’t mind having some practical life activities that work on a needed fine-motor skill and add interest for the child.
Sensorial activities are very important in Montessori education, although not all sensory activities are Montessori activities. Many sensory activities qualify as Montessori-inspired activities, though, because of their emphasis on sensory experiences. Sensory bins/sensory tables are typically good examples of Montessori-inspired activities. Sensory bins aren’t actually Montessori activities, although I consider them Montessori-friendly. They are different from Montessori activities because they don’t isolate one concept.
They can often include a number of Montessori ideas, though, such as this frog sensory bin/sensory table with a variety of Montessori-inspired learning activities. While I never used sensory bins as a Montessori teacher or school owner, I love having them in my Montessori space at home! They’re absolutely wonderful for both calming and learning activities. They could be very helpful in a Montessori school after-hours program, too.
Even activities focusing on activities such as shapes can be Montessori-inspired. These penguin shape printables are adorable, but they definitely aren’t realistic penguin images!
This owl color matching and Spanish color name basket uses many Montessori principles, such as control of error and isolation of difficulty. But the various colors of owls make the activity Montessori inspired rather than traditional Montessori.
Hands-on Language Activities
Montessori education uses phonics to teach reading, so Montessori-inspired letter and reading activities should use phonics. (See “DIY Beginning Montessori Phonics for Preschoolers.”) I also like to emphasize lowercase letters, since that’s what we introduce in Montessori classrooms.
While many of my language activities (and the activities I prepare in general) would easily be considered Montessori extension activities, I do occasionally use printables that mean I consider the activity Montessori inspired. Here’s an ABC turtle beginning sound work that has a control of error and isolation of difficulty, but it has a turtle image and other images that aren’t realistic.
While this ladybug-themed movable alphabet activity also uses control of error and isolation of quality, the smiling ladybug definitely makes it a Montessori-inspired activity. It is fun to have some activities like this in a homeschool, though.
Hands-on Math Activities
You’ll find many hands-on math activities here.
This frog addition with regrouping activity is one I prepared for a frog unit. With the answers written on the backs of the lily pads, it has a control of error. It even uses Montessori golden beads. But the printable I used has a smiling frog. Montessori encourages reality (and realistic images), so I consider this a Montessori-inspired activity. It is still a fun way to extend the Montessori golden bead work. (Note: The printables my daughter and I design each month do use photographs and other realistic images. But I’m not opposed to using some unrealistic images as well. I call them Montessori-inspired because the activity still has so many elements of a traditional Montessori activity.)
Hands-on Cultural Activities
Most Montessori-inspired cultural activities are in areas such as geography, history, general science, botany and zoology, music, and art. I’m more likely to have Montessori activities that would be considered Montessori extensions rather than Montessori inspired in the cultural areas, although I’ve had Montessori-inspired activities that I’ve loved, too.
What Isn’t Montessori Inspired
Following are some activities that aren’t associated with Montessori philosophy.
Toddler or Preschool Worksheets
Montessori-education emphasizes hands-on education, so worksheets should be avoided for preschoolers. The printables that work best are ones that can be used to create hands-on activities.
Montessori education emphasizes reality and concrete learning experiences in the early years. While many Montessorians (myself included) aren’t against pretend play, pretend play itself isn’t Montessori or even Montessori-inspired. I don’t care if literature-based activities aren’t always focused on reality, though. I think that a Dr. Seuss activity tray or another literature-based activity trays with a fantasy theme can still be a Montessori-inspired activity.
Reward Charts and Activities
Montessori education doesn’t use rewards or punishments. Gentle discipline and using encouragement rather than praise is ideal for classroom or home.
It’s Your Family and Your Home
What’s really most important is that you’re doing what’s best for your children. If you’d like to know more about my thoughts on what’s important for your family, read my post on “How You Raise Your Kids is YOUR Legacy.”
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!
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