By: Virginia Kamp, Lead Teacher, Penfield Montessori Academy

Imagine for a moment what the world must look like to the toddler.  They watch as adults move around, and everything seems to be so easy for us… but for them, it can sometimes feel as though everything they want to explore is just out of reach!

Creating Montessori spaces for your toddler or preschooler doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.  Rather, the goal is to think of ways to increase your child’s independence in his home environment.

Children are interested in exploring themselves and their world!

Young children are fascinated by everyday details, so providing simple, realistic materials encourages children’s natural curiosity.  Here are a few materials that may encourage exploration.

  • Hang a mirror securely on the wall at the child’s standing height. Especially as children are first starting to walk, they are fascinated by observing their body as they move.
  • Childproof every room that your child will be in so that he can explore freely without always having to hear, “No!” This increases his confidence by letting him know that it’s safe to explore.
  • Offer simple, real materials. Remember that children value the most basic things in life as much, if not more than, expensive or complicated toys. A toddler can take pleasure in something as simple as using a paintbrush to paint water onto a sidewalk on a warm day, and watch it slowly evaporate.  Your child might look for tiny insects in the grass, roll a small ball on various surfaces at home, or help set the table for dinner.

Children feel more confident when their environment is orderly and predictable.

Our children are learning so much so quickly that we sometimes forget that the world is such a new place for them!  “A place for everything and everything in its place” makes the child feel more secure.  Here are a few suggestions for creating an orderly environment for your child.

  • Put out just a few favorite materials at a time. You might have a low shelf with three or four of your child’s favorite activities so that your child can more easily choose for himself what he’d like to play, work, or explore with.
  • Give each toy or material a designated place. Model putting away the material in the same place every time it is done being used, and then begin to encourage your child to do so as well.
  • Involve the child in cleaning up messes. Spills are an inevitable byproduct of exploration.  When they happen, model how you clean and, when your child seems ready, involve them in helping.  He may not yet be able to wipe up spilled milk as well as you, but he will soon take pleasure in helping out!

Children feel calm when they have opportunities for movement.

Children have so much energy, and the more we provide opportunities for them to move at home the happier they’ll be!

  • Provide objects for your child to manipulate and carry. Unlike adults who like things to be done as quickly and easily as possible, children take joy in carrying the heaviest object they can muster, or opening and closing a particularly tricky container.
  • Whenever possible, invite your child to help with caring for themselves or their environment. Is it possible for them to wash their face or brush their teeth with less assistance from you?  Can he help transfer clean laundry from the machine into the basket?  Always make sure the materials you are providing are child-safe and child-sized so that children can use them independently.

Have you created Montessori spaces in your home?

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