Learning does not end with the regular school year. Montessori preschool children will enjoy keeping their educational interests going with any of these summer games. Some of these are more fun played by groups but they can all be played by a single child and a caregiver who want to have a little fun together.
Have a Nature Hunt
Discovery is a big part of Montessori preschool, but you can continue the process at home. Start by exploring the yard or a park with your little one. You can either start out with a list of insects, plants, and animals to find or simply jot down the names of them as they are discovered. The idea is to find as many living things as possible. Make up your own variations for groups or special occasions.
You can use heavy construction paper to make letters for a yard-sized game of Scrabble. Stick the letters to the ground using sticks or stones, or make a list of familiar words to use as the object of the game. If you have a large room, this game can transfer indoors if the weather turns unpleasant.
Rainy Day Number Find
This game is great for indoor play, but it can go outside as well. The idea is to make labels with numbers from 1 to 10 along with labels which name common-- or not so common-- objects. One at a time, players pick one number and one item label and then try to find the specified number of that item. Use picture cards for small kids, and let all of the children work together to achieve each goal.
Preschool children will enjoy playing this variation on the classic tile-turning game. Draw 2 of every letter of the alphabet on pieces of construction paper and lay them out in rows and columns. Each child then picks to cards and tried to get a matching pair. This game can be played with one child or groups of several children, teaching letter recognition and improving memory retention.
The possibilities for summer educational games are nearly endless. You can modify popular games to fit your needs, make up new games of your own, or find board games or outdoor game ideas online. The important thing is that your little ones keep learning all summer long.
For those considering Montessori pre-school or elementary school for their child, there are three significant differences in Montessori schools as compared to traditional schools to explore: the class teacher, environment, and schedule.
The Class Teacher
One of the biggest shifts outsiders will observe in Montessori classrooms is the role of the teacher. Many Montessori teachers consider learning guides as a more accurate characterization of their work. This concept of a guide instead of traditional teacher stems from the priority placed on the observation of students and the one-on-one consultation and facilitation based on observations that Montessori teachers provide for each of their students. Emphasis is placed on individual motivation and progression through a learning topic, instead of an entire classroom being required to engage and move through subjects at the same pace. The mixed age groups of Montessori classrooms further this student-led approach, allowing students to teach and mentor younger students or their peers. Ultimately, though, Montessori teachers aim to cultivate self-motivated and independent learners, meaning each student is their own teacher in their own right.
The Class Environment
When Dr. Maria Montessori was in charge of her own classroom, one of the first things she did was move the straight rows of desks that dominated the space to the edges of the classroom. Instead of relying on this traditional classroom configuration that required young, wiggling bodies to be still, and that positioned the teacher at the front of the classroom as the sole source of learning, Dr. Montessori arranged the space for students to be active learners. Today’s Montessori classrooms also forego the traditional layout and instead create a deliberately prepared environment for student-led learning. The prepared environment utilizes open spaces for students to work independently and in small groups, keeps the room uncluttered and connected to the outdoors, and features organized, easily accessible shelves around the perimeter of the room that is stocked with Montessori learning tools that correspond with the program curriculum and the students’ learning interests. Montessori teachers take great care in constructing the prepared environment, and it evolves based on their observations of the students that use it.
The Class Schedule
Unlike traditional schools and their daily schedule of rigid subject time blocks, Montessori elementary school prioritizes uninterrupted student “work” or learning projects. To achieve this, Montessori schools structure the day around large segments of time where students can engage the prepared environment and its learning tools. Furthermore, the organization of the broad topics of the Montessori curriculum aligns to the students’ developmental stage. The breadth of the topics, like the Five Great Lessons, allows the curriculum to encompass myriad academic disciplines and avenues of education and will enable students to accelerate, slow down, or go deeper into subjects based on their needs. This approach aims to foster self-esteem through students’ personally-motivated learning and pursuit of efficacy and to cultivate, most importantly, a love of learning.
Research indicates that naptime is as important to Montessori preschool students as play-based learning or being given the freedom to pursue personal interests. For the sake of simplicity, you can think of nap time as a chance for a young child’s brain to reset, storing learned information and processing associations which have been encountered during the early part of the day.
Naps Promote Better Health
Naps are a crucial step in Montessori preschool. Young children who are allowed to nap once or twice during the day exhibit better health and cognitive functioning. Children who do not take naps may display less self-control, become aggressive or overly emotional, or have difficulty remembering concepts and social etiquette. Naps allow the body and mind to recuperate, and that promotes better general health.
Learning and Sleep
Insufficient sleep can have unwanted effects on young children. Not only is it more difficult for them to be alert during study time, children are also less capable of learning new concepts if they are tired. Lack of sleep can have other impacts, as well, including making it more difficult to get to sleep at bedtime.
Sleep and Behavior
We have all seen how children can become irritable or emotional when they are tired. Taking morning or afternoon naps help children recharge their emotional balance, which benefits them as well as the classroom as a whole. For teachers, nap time helps maintain order in the classroom by reducing the amount of disruptive behavior the children express.
Naps Process Learned Information
Cognitive associations are enhanced by children taking a nap immediately after being presented with new information. By shutting down many of the mind and body’s voluntary functions, the brain is better able to process and store memories. Better yet, naps seem to allow better information storage so that the things children have learned can be accessed more quickly.
As a rule, infants and young toddlers should be given two opportunities to nap during the day, while older toddlers may only need one nap as morning transitions into mid-day. You can observe your children’s behavior to determine whether it is time to reduce the number of naps, but do not rush to eliminate nap time completely.
Before a child can learn to read, she needs to grasp a few pre-reading skills. Montessori preschoolers are presented with the opportunity to discover pre-reading skills on a daily basis. These skills are her first acquaintance with stories, books, language, and more. They will allow her to understand the basic structure of sentences and how they exist in the printed form.
The Concept of Books
Before delving very far into reading, your daughter needs to understand the concept of books. This includes understanding that books contain stories and grasping the layout of book such as page ordering and orientation. This type of pre-reading skill is often picked up through observation and gentle instruction in your Montessori preschool classroom, but should also be practiced at home.
Learning the Alphabet
Once your little girl is familiar with how books work she can be introduced to getting information out of them. This includes learning to speak the alphabet, recognize and draw letters, and how combinations of letters form words. Spelling out words in a book by pointing to each letter is a great way to help your child learn.
Language Arts Basics
The meaning of words and basic information about how they interact is the next key step in learning pre-reading skills. Recognizing sentences and the concept that each sentence conveys one primary subject is an important lesson, and will lead to higher fluency and vocabulary.
Storytelling and Time Awareness
Telling and listening to stories helps a child understand how things work in a logical order. This is not so much a matter of learning the tenses of words as it is learning that events should be listed in order of occurrence.
Rhyming and Word Association
The final pre-reading skill is one which may develop even as she is reading simple books on her own. Discovering the way words rhyme is mesmerizing for some children, and necessary for all. This improves phonetic recognition and pronunciation, strengthening the ability to read using word associations.
The best way to teach your child pre-reading skills is to encourage the use of books at home. Read to her often, and in such a way that she can see you are using words on the page to extract the stories you are telling. You are the best example for your child’s interest in reading.
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.
Music education is often thought of as an extracurricular activity with isolated educational objectives and outcomes. But within Montessori schools, even as early as Montessori preschool, music education is held in the same esteem as the other elements of the classroom curriculum.
Music as a learning tool
The founder of this unique method of education, Dr. Maria Montessori, held several key beliefs about children and their capacity to learn based on her years of experience and research as an educator. Montessori felt that children have an innate curiosity and the ability to self-educate that, given the right environment and guidance, develops into independence, confidence, and a love of learning. Montessori saw music as yet another valuable tool in cultivating these characteristics and the Montessori method of education sees the potential in every child to learn, create, and express themselves through music.
The benefits of music education
As any musician will tell you, music education integrates and reinforces many academic subject areas, including mathematics, anatomy, physics, history, anthropology, and even the study of languages. Additionally, there are the social-emotional skills which music education cultivates such as engaging in a creative process and working with a group to create a harmonious collective outcome. Unfortunately, many traditional schools choose not to or aren’t able to support a robust music education program and children are left to discover and refine their innate musical capabilities outside of the shared space of the classroom and on their own time, if they have the opportunity to do so at all.
The Montessori method and music education
Within Montessori elementary schools, music education is woven into the school day and is approached in the same way as the other subject areas. Children are encouraged to choose how they want to engage with music and teach themselves, learn from peers, and receive guidance from a music specialist (who is often someone other than their Montessori teacher). The curriculum focuses on music literacy, singing, movement, listening, and the playing of instruments. Ear training is introduced early on in the Montessori Primary program through the standard classroom tool Montessori bells. For children in the first stage of their music education they will learn in a group setting with their usual mixed-age peers, while students who have progressed in their music education will have opportunities for private lessons with practice time incorporated into their classroom schedule.
Children as young as infants are able to start picking up important math concepts that will follow them through life. Not only are early math concepts taught in Montessori daycare and preschool, but they can also easily be applied to daily household activities. Using a hands-on approach to education makes it easier for kids to pick up these skills, and it may surprise you how quickly your children take them to heart.
The ability to count usually precedes the ability to recognize numerals, beginning even before your child attends a Montessori daycare. Counting begins in infancy, typically with counting fingers or toes, and progresses to the ability to count other objects. Since the earliest counting process uses a predetermined group of items such as fingers, the concept of grouping and sets are included in the process by default. In its simplest form, the basic set is a hand containing 5 fingers.
You can begin teaching children to recognize numerals even before they are able to talk. By the time they are in preschool, most children will have a good idea what the numerals for 2 and 3 look like, and will probably be ready to pick basic numbers from 1 to 9 out of a group of numerals.
More and Less
As children learn to identify their numerals they will also be able to pick up concepts such as more and less even if they aren’t yet able to count the number of items in a set. A group of three toy trucks is more than 1 toy truck, for example, and taking one of the truck out of the set means there are less than there were. This type of association is a good introduction to simple addition and subtraction, and an excellent way for children to compare sets of similar items.
After mastering the basic math concepts, children are ready to start exploring the complexities of math such as adding and subtracting items, dividing a set into equal parts (and recognizing when there is a remainder), and even learning the rudiments of multiplication by adding sets together. Introducing these concepts begins in your Montessori preschool and kindergarten, but the basic concepts they need for learning them starts within days or weeks of being born.