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.
The first Italian female ever to qualify as a doctor, which was 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.
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 open-ended toys that allow them to solve their own challenges and get inventive.
Brands like LEKKID and Grimm's are all about interchangeable shapes and elements that allow them to create whole new species and worlds. Maria Montessori actually favoured plain wooden toys for learning, where possible, like the Sumblox Math Wooden Building Blocks that will get them learning basic addition and subtraction as they build.
Right tools, right size
Another Montessori rule is that you ‘set children up for success’ by providing the right materials, in the right size for their hands and their age. A brilliant investment buy for the nursery, or a great joint family gift option, is a Muro Busy Board – which lets you alter the puzzle and play configurations as they grow. On a bigger scale, the Modu Life Size Building Toy Explorer Kits are a genius collection of components for building everything from furniture and assault courses to ride-alongs.
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. Or how about making someone breakfast in bed – perhaps the parent who’s just done night duty?
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 Grapat that make a beautiful additions to any shelf between play sessions.
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.