Your Montessori preschool teachers will tell you that developing fine motor skills is crucial for young children. These skills are necessary for everything from holding a spoon or fork to tying shoes, fastening buttons, and much more. As soon as your infant has mastered the ability to grasp an item she is ready to start developing fine motor skills, and learning early gives her a headstart in developing control over her muscles and manipulating items in the world around her.
A montessori preschool student has a lot to learn from piggy banks of all sorts. Placing coins in a slot is great for improving fine motor skills, for example. Start off by learning to place a single coin in a slot on top of the bank, and progress to holding multiple coins in the hand and inserting one at a time. As the skill develops, progress to a bank with a slot on the side. The same activity can be used to learn to count coins and later to count money.
Once your little one can hold a crayon, she can begin using them to draw. This develops fine motor control over the fingers and and hands, and is the first step in learning to write. While it could happen, you shouldn’t expect your infant or toddler to produce masterpiece drawings. What you will see, however, is a progressive development where random scribbles begin to take on shapes and then resemble actual items. Once a degree of control is being exhibited, move up to connect-the-dot pictures and then to drawing shapes, letters, and numbers-- in that order.
Stacking, Filling, and Dumping
Stacking blocks is a wonderful activity for developing fine motor skills, and one that is used commonly in Montessori preschools. Variations on this activity include filling a container with objects or dumping containers into other containers. Begin with large, easy to grasp objects and then reduce the object size as motor skills develop.
As motor skills develop, encourage your children to learn new activities such as using scissors, pasting objects on construction paper, and real-world activities such as fastening buttons, using zippers, and tying their own shoes. Even digging holes and planting seeds will improve coordination. Talk with the teachers at your Montessori daycare and coordinate the activities you use at home with ones which are being employed at school.
One of the defining characteristics of a Montessori pre-school or elementary school classroom is the everyday presence of hands-on, student-driven learning. This approach to education is called the Montessori method and is guided by the principles of child education developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Dr. Montessori was a researcher and educator who pioneered this method in the early 1900s and trained a generation of educators across the world in the practice. Today, there are thousands of Montessori schools in dozens of countries with millions of students and passionate adherents to the concept of learning by doing.
Experiential learning and the prepared environment
The concept of experiential learning, or learning by doing, in itself is not unique to the Montessori method. Many educators understand the value of a learning process that starts with a tangible experience, provides space for reflection on that experience, encourages the conceptualization of those reflections into an individual’s knowledge framework, and then allows for testing of those concepts in further concrete experiences. This cyclical learning process, however, finds a uniquely nurturing medium in the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom. The foundation of the Montessori method is the prepared environment, which is the physical space of the classroom that is designed with student-driven experiential learning at its core: learning tools are available and accessible to motivate students' engagement, furniture and items needed to manipulate the environment are engineered for students’ cognitive and physical developmental stage, and teachers are observers who offer guidance in learning with minimal disruption to a student’s experimentation.
Self-teaching and love of learning
Learning by doing in a Montessori elementary school classroom has two valuable outcomes: skills in self-teaching and a love of learning. These outcomes are part of the larger goal of Montessori education to teach the whole child with the aim of growing into a self-aware, capable adult. The independence and agency students gain in their learning process comes from the confidence and efficacy they develop in an unfettered experiential learning program. Unlike in traditional classrooms where external factors direct the content of learning, the pace and ways of engaging that content, and the measurement of mastery of that content, Montessori classrooms recognize that a student’s innate curiosity and drive to understand and contribute to the world around them is the most authentic, enduring, and ultimately empowering, way to learn.
Montessori elementary school is significantly different than the public school system. It focuses on the entire child, promoting self-esteem and responsibility, life in the real world, and encourages a love of the learning process. Since the Montessori method involves every aspect of the child’s life, your role as a parent is part of the process as well.
Encourage Your Child
Offering moral support and encouragement is one of the most important things you can do for your child. Talk about her Montessori elementary school experiences and offer her guidance and advice. You are her most important role model, and how you react to her questions and daily routines will promote enthusiasm and build her self-esteem.
Montessori is a holistic approach, meaning that it involves everything about your child and the world they live in. Including your children in your daily activities gives them a sense of belonging and helps them feel important to both you and the community at large. Your children are the most important thing in your world, and they need to feel like it.
Courtesy and Community
Through your actions, your children will learn to respect others and demonstrate grace and courtesy to others. This in turn will help them prepare for larger roles in the community such as helping those in need and doing what is expected without being told to do so. Be what you want your children to be, and they will follow suit.
A Child’s Space
Set aside part of the home as your children’s domain. Furnish it with child-sized desks, tables, bookcases, and place pictures on the wall at the children’s eye level instead of your own. This gives children a better sense of belonging, and encourages them to be more comfortable in the tasks they take on. To get a better idea of how the children’s house should be arranged, take a tour of your child’s Montessori elementary school.
The Montessori Method relies on a triad of participants: The child, the teacher, and the parents. All three have distinct roles to play and the process will only work when everyone participates. Unlike traditional public schools, a Montessori education is about embracing the learning process and discovering the wonders of the world as part of that world rather than an outside observer.
The Montessori Method extends far beyond your child’s Montessori preschool. It is more of a way of life than an educational program, including waking habits, sleep routines, and everything in your children’s daily routine. Sleep is crucial to proper development, and these tips will help your child learn and grow in a holistically healthy manner.
A Consistent Routine
Just as Montessori preschool students take naps at the same time every day, your child should have a regular sleep routine at home as well. You do not have to follow the same routine as your friends and neighbors, but it is crucial that the routine you set is followed regularly so your child knows when it is time to sleep and accept bedtime as a matter of course.
A Child’s Environment
You have your own bed for resting, and so should your child. A child-sized bed promotes a feeling of comfort and safety and reminds the children that even when little they have their own special places. Make the bed easily accessible so your child can get in and out of it without your assistance to promote a sense of personal accomplishment and empowerment.
Promote Freedom of Movement
Even an infant can benefit from her sleeping space by placing her mattress on the floor and eliminating confining cribs or railings. When she is able to get in and out of bed or crawl around on it to find the most comfortable spot or position, she learns that she has control over her environment and the freedom to be where and how she wants.
Patience and Persistence
Be patient as your little one adjusts her own sleep space. You may find yourself having to place her back in bed after she falls asleep on the floor, for example. But be persistent, knowing that every morning when she wakes up on her floor bed she is one night closer to understanding the purpose of the bed why she belongs there during the night. Children learn by doing, and your patience will help her learn faster and without fuss.
Not every child will adapt to a floor bed right away, but with your help they will get the idea and acceptant the routine fairly quickly. As with other aspects of the Montessori Method, avoid showing displeasure when crawls out of bed, yet praise her when she willingly lays down for a nap.