Easy Ways to Use Montessori At Home

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While homeschooling looks a little different these days for our family, the Montessori approach still influences our home. Maybe you’re looking into a Montessori school or you just want to include some Montessori principles in your day. You can create a welcoming, child-friendly home environment no matter your teaching style.

I received so many requests for more learning/homeschool articles after my post about how we set up our homeschool classroom. I use Montessori-inspired learning stations in our classroom, but you can also incorporate Montessori at home in any room.

Montessori Learning for All

Even if you don’t homeschool, these ideas are wonderful for early childhood or for a more engaging play area for older children too. You can be like us and mix the Montessori philosophy with other parenting ideas for your kids. Some parents prefer to take a purist approach to Montessori parenting.

The beauty of homeschooling (and parenting!) is that you can tweak your child’s education to do what works best for them. Maybe that means finding a classroom with Montessori teachers and the learning materials provided for them. Or it could mean turning your playroom and living room into a prepared environment that facilitates learning.

So many homeschooling parents (and parents of young children) are jumping on the Montessori bandwagon. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either for your young child to benefit from a Montessori-inspired education. While most of us think of preschool when it comes to the Montessori way, you can do Montessori with kids of all ages.

What is Montessori?

The Montessori Method was created by Dr. Maria Montessori, one of Italy’s first female physicians. Her background in the sciences and medicine gave her a unique perspective on child development.

Through her direction, meticulous observations, and work with children in low-income apartment complexes in the early 1900s, she refined the use of experimental materials. Montessori created a revolutionary way to teach children that’s still used worldwide.

Simply put, a Montessori environment allows children to learn about the world around them through their senses. The goal isn’t to stuff them with facts but to cultivate a life-long love of learning. This helps them develop self-motivation even at a young age.

Montessori materials often focus on a single function. These individual concepts build upon one another rather effortlessly. Concrete objects help children easily understand abstract ideas. Children work independently and focus on one task at a time.

Kids have the freedom to participate in their own environment which fosters creativity and the love of learning. Instead of gold stars and flashy reward charts, they naturally develop a deep pride in their work. You can see how excited they are to dig deeper into a topic that interests them.

Can you Mix and Match?

I can certainly admire and respect the Montessori “purist” view of having everything exactly as Maria Montessori described. However, anyone can benefit from using some of her ideas at home.

Adapt for Your Family

Montessori classrooms group children of similar ages together. For homeschooling moms with a wide age range that’s not really practical to do.

When my youngest child was very little, I had a large gated-off section in the schoolroom for her. This way she could safely play at her own pace without getting into certain things. With open shelves in the schoolroom, messes can happen fast with a 12-month-old!

This allowed my older kids to work with small manipulatives, ceramic bowls, and glass cups without worrying about the baby choking. When she was a little older I reconfigured that area into a Montessori toddler zone. This way the kids could freely move around and observe or help each other.

Now that my kids are older we still use some of Montessori’s principles, like self-motivation and using practical life activities to teach. You won’t find as much child-sized furniture in our home anymore though.

Our homeschool is always evolving as the kids change and get older. While I don’t claim to be an expert, here are some Montessori fundamentals you can try.

Child Size Furniture and Materials

Montessori workstations you can use at home

Montessori is child-led learning. Maria Montessori stressed the need for freedom and independence. She said the absorbent mind of children really takes in their environment. Parents can carefully prepare their home environment so kids can have spontaneous discoveries and natural learning.

Creating spaces and using objects that are easily accessible to your child is key. Some pieces to think about acquiring are:

  • Low shelves – Openly displaying the work materials, instead of in big bins or out of reach. Show your child that these materials are special and how to care for them. What you choose to put on these shelves will vary depending on the developmental level of your child and how much space you have.
  • Small tables and chairs – Chairs and tables shouldn’t hinder learning. If the chairs and tables are lightweight, your child can freely move them into different rooms fostering independence. It’s neat to see this in action. Kids can use them to prepare, serve and eat their snacks. They can also help do the dishes, fold laundry, get art materials to make artwork early in the morning, and get really creative with playing pretend. Don’t have the budget? We repurposed an old coffee table from the thrift store.
  • Various-sized trays or baskets – One work or activity goes on its own individual tray. Once a work is introduced by the parent, then the child has permission to take the tray to their work table. They can work on the activity for as long as they want. Once finished they return the items to it’s designated spot. The key here is they need to be able to carry the tray or basket around easily. The natural wood ones look lovely, but you can find inexpensive options at thrift stores too.
  • Small pitchers, bowls, scoops, small measuring spoons, and small tongs – These tools are all used on a daily basis in the practical life skills area of Montessori as well as the pre-writing area. For example, transferring dried lentils with a small measuring spoon from one small bowl into another helps develop fine motor skills. You want these tools to aid your child in their work, not frustrate them, so try them first before putting them on the shelves.

You can save money and make many of your materials at home. Make them even more durable by laminating them. (An amazing resource online with Montessori printables that are free or very budget-friendly is Montessori Print Shop).

Inspire a Love of Nature

Maria Montessori put a huge emphasis on fostering the connection between children and nature. Our homeschool room had a class plant for many years. Montessori teaches kids to care for plants and animals, and places value on creating aesthetically-pleasing surroundings.

While I love our homeschool room, we prefer to spend a lot of our learning time outside.

Create a Nature Table

Montessori nature table ideas

Fill different-sized baskets and bins with a variety of natural materials that your child can touch and arrange. You can change it monthly or seasonally. While the majority can be organic matter, throw in some meaningful miniature objects or artificial plants as well.

In our house, some of the best group discussions and interactions happened around the Nature table.

Some Seasonal items that can be used are:

  • Fall: Gourds, pumpkins, apples (real or fake), leaves, sunflowers (artificial or real) for flower arranging, mums, acorns, sticks, leaves, art cards of fall landscapes, cards on the life cycle of a pumpkin, dried corn, lentils, books on fall, fall leave rubbings, etc.
  • Winter: Evergreen, images of winter landscapes and hibernating animals, bare branches, white table cloth to look like snow, snow globes, plastic icicles, paper snowflakes, wool snowmen, animal figurines who don’t hibernate, pieces or pictures of winter fur on animals.
  • Spring: Seeds, small indoor plants, small water pitcher, Assorted flowers (real and artificial), miniature birds, nest, eggs (fake), twigs, spring landscape art cards, frogs, the life cycle of frogs or butterfly cards, bugs, magnifying glass, books on spring, rocks, petals, moss, green leaves, leaf rubbings, miniature dinosaurs, etc.
  • Summer: Shells, starfish, ocean animal figurines, small figurines of boats or lighthouses, cards on whale species, plants, images of summer landscapes, flowers, bowls of fruit, herb garden, painted wooden fish, cards on the lunar phases, pictures of constellations, planets, etc.

If you don’t have space for a nature table, try a nature tray. And if you’re pressed for space, use the nature tray as your dining room table centerpiece. You can also put small plants throughout your schoolroom with small pitchers beside them for your kids to use.

Let the Child Self-Correct

So your child didn’t grasp the concept right after you gave a lesson? They might not be ready. Relax, and let it go for the day. I’ve introduced lessons 3-4 times before my child positively responded.

Most Montessori materials are either self-correcting or include a control of error. So when the child is doing the activity, they can always test themselves to see if they did the work correctly. The motivation to get things correct then comes from an internal drive to learn. Instead of from external consequences like getting a treat if they get the problem right or being punished for a mistake. We often learn more from failure than success!

It can be easy to correct something before the child has recognized their own mistake. Montessori puts teachers as more of an unnoticed observer. They can write down the child’s progress for records. Be encouraging and allow the progress to naturally unfold.

You can keep daily records of all the work your kids do and where they are in the mastery of a skill. Try writing (i) when introducing a skill, (p) when the child is actively practicing a skill, and (m) when the skill has been mastered. This way you can know when to move to a new skill in your sequence of lessons.

Stress Courtesy

So you now have at least a vague idea of how to start setting the stage for a unique learning environment. Beautiful shelves filled with inspiring material aren’t any good if our children don’t first know how to respect the space. We can show them how to respect their work (and others), how to use materials appropriately and show courtesy to others.

Create a unique classroom culture by modeling politeness and respect. You know that old saying more is caught than taught? I love that my kids can work independently, but this also comes with some responsibility.

You can use role-playing scenarios and simple concentration activities (like practicing quietly pushing in a chair). The child learns how to respond with good manners and this reinforces polite behavior in various situations.

Here are some classroom guidelines that can help you have a more peaceful learning time.

  1. “One work at a time” – You can choose from the variety of materials, but you can only choose ONE at a time. You can carefully take the tray with its materials anywhere in the room or house to work (except on the shelves themselves, which would deny other children easy access to the other materials). Once the child is finished, he/she carefully brings it back to its original spot.
  2. “Go slowly” – while walking into the room, taking a tray to your spot, and doing the work without rushing. This helps maintain concentration and purpose in our actions.
  3. “Keep the room tidy” – Each child cleans up their own messes and helps keep the space tidy. At the beginning and end of each school day, they can do things like dust the shelves, push in their chairs, throw away scrap papers, bring the snack dishes into the kitchen, and water the plants.
  4. “Quiet Voices”– This can be a constant struggle in some homes. Try to create new games or activities to help your kids become sensitive to volume. And if you’re outside as much as possible they can often be as loud as they want!
  5. “Be Gentle” – with how they handle the materials, with how they speak to their siblings, and with how they care for the plants and animals they interact with.
  6. “Use your words” – We still deal with issues with personal space in our house, but growing in grace and courtesy has really helped. Hello teenage stage. Kids can use their words to express their feelings in a clear and calm manner. This is where role-playing activities can come in handy.

Examples of Scenarios to go over with Your Kids

  • What do you say when you first meet someone?
  • What do you do when a guest leaves your house?
  • What do you say or do when you need to apologize?
  • How do you ask someone to play?
  • How do you tell someone no?

I want the kids to know that the environment is a special privilege. Grace and courtesy are a big reason why Montessori classrooms have that “magical air” about them. If you go to a Montessori open house you’ll see what I mean!

Whether you’re a hard-core Montessori purist, or if you just want some fresh ideas for a creative learning atmosphere, I hope these simple ideas will inspire you.

Resources that Gave me the Confidence to Move Forward

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of what to teach, how to give a lesson or display the materials on the trays, and what to buy vs. what to make, here are a few of my favorite resources to help you dig deeper.

Helpful Blogs/Websites on Montessori

  • Livingmontessorinow.com – the writer is a Montessori educator who homeschooled her children through high school. This is an excellent place to browse for links to printables or to go to when you want to make a unit study and need ideas.
  • Montessoriprintshop.com – a go-to in my classroom for making materials at little to no cost, as well as a deeper look at Montessori theory.
  • Justmontessori.com – offers a no-cost Montessori curriculum with links to downloads and pictures.

Do you incorporate any Montessori at home with your children? Will you try any of these ideas?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


15 responses to “Easy Ways to Use Montessori At Home”

  1. Rachael Avatar

    I have a question I’m hoping you moms and dads out there might help me with, I’d love to do the majority of our schooling at home, and prefer a Montessori approach and have been learning all I can about it. Is it a must to have the Montessori book curriculum or is it better to observe Montessori class rooms? I’ve set up a class room in our home based on great ideas from successful Montessori home schooling parents, I’ve been working with both my children (5 and 3) since birth doing things very similar to Montessori as I was home schooled myself and understand the importance of one on one time, communication and free time for children to learn how and when they are ready in a safe and educational environment. I’m still very new to this and appreciate any help!

  2. Jessica Avatar

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  3. Jennifer Avatar

    Thank you so much. As a first time mom who is away from home 50+ hours of week for work (and without Montessori schools nearby) I am really struggling to incorporate some of these ideas into our daily life. Fortunately once my daughter is 2.5 I will be able to work 4 days in stead of 5 (it will be “my turn” then as we have rotation at work). I value sites such as yours which help me to incorporate these ideas into our busy lives.

    My one “negative” comment is with regards to Dr. Montessori’s status as Italy’s first female physician. I am not sure if that is quite true, especially since today on hearing a podcast of ” a book which I would never lend” featured the Trotula. To say that Dr. Montessori was a pioneering female physician from Italy would perhaps be more correct.

  4. Tami thompson Avatar
    Tami thompson

    I love everything about your site! I have been following you for years and never knew you homeschooled. That,s so amazing! I have been teaching in a public school system for seventeen years and have one kid in college who attended a private catholic school and now I have decided it most beneficial to homeschool my second child. I see many more benefits, a relaxed learning environment for my child to explore and test his many talents. I love having hands on learning throughout our learning experience and the Montessori style has been around for years and still wins!

    Have you ever heard of Minds in Motion? I attended a homeschool convention last month and heard a speaker present it. It focuses on specific physical motions to do daily to increase the maximum academic performance. Brain function strengthens with these specific tasks. It reminds me of your eye exercises you used to do to strengthen you vision. If you haven,t ever checked this out you might like it. I can tell you are like me in the sense of always researching for best practices for our homeschooling community whether it be at home or in a co-op. Thanks for reminding me of some things listed on your site. It,s always nice to read your ideas. You are an inspiration. We have a tree house too. Lol

  5. Taylor Avatar

    Okay…just found your blog through because of a Facebook group. You also follow a Montessori approach?! How awesome, I love you 10x more now lol! Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas and recipes! Can’t wait to learn more.

  6. Patricia Diogo Avatar
    Patricia Diogo

    Hi! This great post was just in time to help me, my 13 month kid goes to kinder garden here in Portugal but now that he started to walk, he started to destroy the house! I’ve read this article and the blogs you sugested. In the next morning at 5 AM I changed the house set up Montessori style and by magic he was happily playing 🙂 I have a ton of new exciting ideas for him. Thank you for your help once again!

  7. La Toya Avatar

    What a wonderful article! The Montessori Method was used on me in my early childhood education and it has led to lasting results. My mother also teaches this method and I grew up around similar classes like the one pictured here. It is so empowering to know that there are so many positive options for giving your child the foundation they need to succeed in life. Thanks for posting.

  8. Harmony Avatar

    These are fantastic ideas that I will definitely be integrating into our learning area/routine. This article comes at a time when I’m, right now, struggling with whether to homeschool or not. My husband is supportive of either decision- he doesn’t want to push homeschooling for fear it’ll sway my decision BECAUSE he pushed for it. Outside of him – there is NO support from friends or family. Though this isn’t surprising to me, it certainly adds to my insecurities on doing it. How do you decide whether to do it or not? How do you accommodate for the social aspect? How would I even know where to start with the curriculum? Just a few of my questions in this decision making process…. My oldest wouldn’t start school until next September (if he goes) so I have a little time to figure all this out. The only thing I am certain of is the sick and twirly feeling I have in my gut when I think about putting him on that bus and watching it drive away … To a place where I longer have ANY control over what he may be exposed to all day long, day after day! Ugh!! The one & only positive point I can come up with is I have the option to send him to a French school- which here in Canada would be advantageous as we’re a bilingual country as well as the smaller class sizes etc. I am not bilingual and this is one thing I could not teach him.
    Any feedback would be welcomed.

    1. Julie Avatar

      “How do you decide whether to do it or not?” Explore your possibilities. Ask to sit in on the classrooms in the schools your child could attend. Start reading material on homeschooling and begin planning your home school program. By getting involved you will accumulate much more information on which to base your decision. And remember, whatever you choose, it’s not necessarily permanent–if it doesn’t work out you will have learned from the situation and you can always switch to another form of education for your child.

    2. Lea Avatar

      Hey Harmony,
      As a home school mom, I would say the biggest factor should be what YOU as a parent feel is best for your child. You cannot make the decision based on what others think, either way! This will set the stage for all the choices you’ll need to make for your child. No one else is his/her mother, you are!
      You really can trust your gut, and you can always change course if you have a change of heart!
      The way I get my hubby to give me a real answer is to ask, “If I wasn’t here, (like I died etc) what would your desire be?”
      Hope that helps ?

    3. Tina Avatar

      If he doesn’t start school for almost an other year, this gives you time to test out if homeschool could work for you. I love the Montessori method and while I’m just learning it myself, I see the time before my son has to start some type of school as a phase to get into a school like routine including preparation of materials, occupying the younger brother while giving lessons etc. I want to homeschool but wanna feel like I can handle it before I commit to it. This gives me plenty of time to organize home, school and social life and to try out different ways to do it. Talking about socializing: we made some friends at a Gymboree class and while all of them are now attending preschools we meet them once a week for a field trip. I just tell everyone what we do and who can will come. We usually have at least a few kids and our group is growing.
      Hope this helps! I can totally understand your concerns.

  9. Matt Grantham Avatar
    Matt Grantham

    Great stuff. butas the movement grows, I would expect we might also begin considering some of the ideas of Paulo Freire on community education. Many will probably equate him with Marxism, but at some point we have to compare the present system to what a community based system could look like

  10. Mariana Avatar

    Love this article! My only daughter is only 19 months old and we haven’t enter the homeschooling subject yet, but I am getting so much inclined to it. Now thanks to your article, I am thinking again about Montessori as a good way to start homeschooling not only for when is time for letters and numbers, but for her current development. Thank you!!!

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