We all know the name, but is it any more than just a handy badge for premium playschools? Well, yes, it is. Much more. Montessori has had a major impact on education globally over the last 100 years. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin reportedly credited their focus in life to their Montessori schooling, but what they meant to say was that they owed it all to one amazing woman - Maria Montessori.
Any Montessori toy should be simple, functional, based in reality, and, ideally, made of natural materials.
The first Italian female ever to qualify as a doctor (no mean feat in the 1890s) Maria firmly believed that "the greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth". A lot of her principles will feel familiar: as modern parents, we’ve kind of adopted them naturally. Here's a quick primer, though, plus a pick of some of our favourite pieces from our range of Montessori Toys.
Finding their own ‘learning pathways’
School-wise, we’re probably all familiar with the Teacher-Stands-At-The-Front-And-Tells-Kids-What-To-Do model. Well, Signora Montessori stood that idea on its head. In a Montessori classroom, there’s always a small range of activities to choose from and the teacher acts as a guide to help children select their own ‘learning pathways’.
To recreate the same vibe at home, put out just a few options at playtime, then redirect or assist only if your baby or child gets stuck. Don’t be tempted to hurry them or to ‘help’ finish the tower, puzzle or picture. Completing things in their own way and at their own pace builds a child's confidence. Give them toys that allow them to solve their own challenges and go their own way.
Puzzzle me this
Any Montessori toy should be simple, functional, based in reality, and, ideally, made of natural materials. The puzzles we stock check most or all of these boxes. Additionally, puzzles help your child independently work on a variety of important developmental skills. It doesn’t get much more Montessori than that!
Practical and sensorial
Stimulating their senses is also important, right from day one. Anything that gives them different colours, shapes, materials and textures to explore is perfect – our Teether range is a great place to start. Once they’re a little bigger, Montessori also encourages practical skills, like washing up, scrubbing tables and sweeping. In Pretend Play we have everything from cleaning sets to ice-cream stands to carpenter belts.
Orderly and attractive
At the end of any Montessori lesson, everything should be tidied away to its designated spot for classmates to use later. This teaches the importance of order and thoughtfulness to the needs of others. (What’s not to like?) Use the same approach at home by giving your kids special cupboards and shelves for their stuff that they can reach easily, with their own designated storage they can tidy everything into. Aykasa Crates are great, along with open top storage baskets and bags.
Finally, visual appeal is central. Muted colour schemes and beautiful materials sooth and inspire children, whereas clashing visuals and disorder distract them from learning. When we choose anything at KIDLY, the colour scheme has to be easy on the eye. We love toys by brands like Janod and Tender Leaf Toys that make a beautiful additions to any shelf between play sessions.
Is open-ended play permitted?
A Montessori classroom is structured around helping children gain independence and satisfaction from their mastery of a skill. During and after the process of learning a particular skill, there are plenty of chances for open-ended play to happen naturally. Just a few examples of open-ended play in a Montessori classroom would be:
- A child who understands the contents of a kitchen making and serving snacks for themselves and pals
- Using a wide range of materials—paper, chalk, crayons, paint—to create their own art
- Children teaching each other about subjects they've just learned about
- Making animals or other items out of clay
- Outdoor adventures, like gardening and learning about the natural world
Maria Montessori wanted to make children feel confident in their abilities and curious about the world, by giving them practical, appealing tools to learning. We like to think that KIDLY’s mission - only to bring you ‘design-led and genuinely useful’ products - could have been written by the great lady herself.
And remember, if you need any more guidance, our Live Chat Team is always here to help, 9am-5pm, every weekday. Just hit that purple button, bottom right.