When we finally settled down in our home I wanted to present my daughter some Montessori activities in a more « formal » way. We had a « Montessori philosophy » in our house since she was born and I always improvised some Montessori activities for her but this time I wanted « to do it right » ;)
So I started to present activities on trays and use some of the ideas I found in my Montessori books and on the Montessori blogs. And I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had no interest. Zero. She either just ignored the materials I presented or she tried to unbuild it or even « destroy » it. Were my activities of no interest? Was I presenting them in the wrong way? Was Montessori not for her?? I really believe in Maria Montessori's way of education so I didn't wanted to give up.
I did a bit of research: I talked with parents who had their kids in Montessori kindergartens and found some of the schedules the Montessori kindergarten use to structure their days. I went back to Maria Montessori’s books.
Out of my little research here are the 3 keys I found. Since I started using them to structure my daughter's day and her activities we have a lot of fun.
1. « Gros activities first, then fine motor activities ». Maria Montessori wrote it: « « Movement helps the development of the mind, and this finds renewed expression in further movement and activity. »
One mother in my « circles of moms » confirmed it too. Especially with children that have a high level of energy like mine!), first you encourage them to climb, jump, slide, crawl, swim (gross motor skills) then they can sit down and concentrate to fine motor activities (sorting, matching, playing with dough, etc…)
Now we start our days at playground or with a walk in the nature. She can make good use of her energy and build her gros motor skills. When we come back home she can focus much better on things like stackers, sensory baskets or shape sorters.. I have noticed that fine motor activities work well also after an afternoon nap
2. The best Montessori activities are created by the children themselves. My daughter amazes me how she designs her own « Montessori activities » when she explores the garden, the playground or the walking paths in our neighborhood. I look at her and my mind goes like « oh, this looks like that activity in that book! ».
For example, yesterday I saw her taking one of her wooden animals, a horse, and then flipping through one of her books until she found the image of a horse. She then put them together. I was completely amazed: matching images and objects is one of the most common Montessori activities.
I truly believe that we don’t need to teach children much. We need to hold the space for them so that they can learn. But if we really want to offer them some activities then we need to seize these moments and design an activity based on the child interest of the moment. I know now that it's probably the best time to present her images of animas that she can match with her wooden animals
3. Let it go. I remember when I started to search for Montessori activities on blogs and books I became so frustrated because very often my daughter did something completely different with the materials. Then I tried to used my « coach attitude » . I kept telling to myself: « be an observer and hold the space for her ». This lead me to a « framework » that works really well for us:
- First, I present the activity. As an example for a « transferring activity » I show her the two bowls: one full (with beans, or cornmeal, …) the other one empty and the spoon on a plate. I transfer some beans from one bowl to the other, only once.
- Then I let her do the activity, however she wants and how long she wants. I don’t talk, I don’t interrupt. I just stay behind and observe, take some notes and some pictures.
“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” Maria Montessori