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Montessori Education for Children with Special Needs

There are many ways in which the Montessori classroom can benefit a child with special needs. Special needs children may have developmental, social, and academic needs that differ from the average child. The materials, setting, multi-age groups, and calm focus of a Montessori education are just a few examples. Montessori education is beautifully beneficial for any child, especially those who might need a little more support.

Hands-on Materials

The Montessori classroom is jam-packed with beautiful hands-on learning materials. This gives special needs children the opportunity to work with their hands and explore their environment. Montessori learning activities are also focused on enhancing fine motor skills as well as developing independence. Students are encouraged to follow their own interests when it comes to all academic subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. It is this peaceful freedom that allows special needs children to thrive and flourish.

Working at Their Own Pace

Just like any other Montessori student, special needs children are encouraged to work at their own pace. No child is alike in their development. It is important that each child is given the freedom to learn at the pace that makes them most comfortable as well as providing a rich educational experience. This eliminates the worry and stress that many children face in a traditional education setting. Students are given the tools to build self-confidence and a positive self-image.

Multi-Age Groups

Children in a Montessori classroom are paired with students of a three-year age gap. This encourages a sense of community and hones social skills. Multi-age groups also eliminate the anxiety of needing to “keep up” with peers. Special needs children will worry less about keeping up and more about participating and enjoying classroom life. Older students can help a special needs child who is struggling and an older special needs child can build confidence by teaching younger kids.

Emphasis on Respect

Children are highly respected in a Montessori educational setting. There is no separation between “special needs” and “normal” children. Here, we work as a family and help each other learn and evolve as human beings. All Montessori children are given the tools to become helpful, respectful, confident, and loving people.
A Montessori learning environment is beneficial for ALL children, including those with special needs. Having a wide-ranging and developmentally diverse group of children working together is what Montessori education is all about.

May 29th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

How to stimulate even the youngest infant

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Many of us have heard the term infant stimulation but don’t know what it is or why it is important.

Infant stimulation is using specific activities to arouse babies’ senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. This helps in improving their attention span, curiosity, and memory which enables them to reach developmental milestones faster.

Recent research on children’s brain development has shown that infants’ environments have a dramatic effect on their growth. This impacts how well they think and learn as both children and adults.

There is no need for special training or products to stimulate the young mind. As parents and caregivers, we have several simple, free opportunities throughout the day to satisfy children’s natural desire to learn.

Make eye contact. Infants start recognizing faces much earlier than you think. You can make the most of the time when their eyes are open by maintaining eye contact with them. Talk to children while changing diapers and make funny faces. Remember, every time they stare at you they are building their recognition memory.

Interact with them. Instead of leaving children with their stuffed toys in the crib, make stuffed animals come to life. How? By giving them a voice and moving them around. This will enhance their imagination and encourage their creativity.

Play peek-a-boo. Lightly cover the baby’s face with a blanket and talk to her, so she can hear even when her eyes are closed. Pull the blanket away with a “peek-a-boo!” This will not only bring a few giggles but will also teach her that Mom may disappear for a while but she always comes back.

Grab a tissue. Most young babies love pulling out tissue from the box. It may be a few cents’ loss for you but tissues are one of the best sensory play items. Young children can crumple them, tear them, or smooth them out. The key is to allow them to explore their environment safely.

Read books. No one can disagree with the importance of reading. Young infants might not be able to follow the story but they will definitely enjoy seeing the colorful pictures and the sound of your voice. Plus, reading is a great way to connect with children and spend some one-on-one time with them.

Point out differences. Choose two pictures that are similar but have a minor difference and display them. Even the youngest infant will go back and forth between the pictures trying to distinguish the similarities and differences. Simple games like this one engage the mind and babies’ natural curiosity.

Let them smell YOU. Avoid exposing young children to artificially scented perfumes and deodorants. Instead, let them get used to your unique smell.  Hold them, cuddle them, and give them lots of kisses in order to enhance their oxytocin, aka the ‘love’ hormone.

Include them. Whether you are going somewhere or trying a new food, engage children by telling them everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You may not realize it, but this gives children endless vocabulary-building opportunities.

Always remember, stimulation works best when babies are alert and giving you their complete attention. If you find your infant losing interest or acting tired, it’s time for less stimulation and a rest.

By applying these simple tips regularly, your baby will not only grow intellectually but will also grow more in love with you. Nothing can replace quality time together, so make the most of your time with your infants.

 

May 19th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Encouraging Independence – 9 Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Preschool shoes

“I’ll do it myself!” If you’re a parent of a preschooler, you’ve likely heard this a thousand times.

Of course, it’s usually when you are running late that 4-year-old Cathy decides to put on her own socks and shoes. So you help her – but this time only!

Preschool experts say that children should be encouraged whenever they wish to exert their independence. Even though they may need plenty of parental help, preschoolers are typically able to do more than we expect from them.

So how can we as parents encourage their independence?

According to Diane Kinder, PhD and a professor at the University of Washington, “It takes more time in the beginning to teach independence, but in the long run, it benefits both parent and child.”

Here are some tips to encourage independence in young children:

  1. Expect more. At Montessori Kids Universe, children are expected to clean up after themselves, hang up their jackets, and pour their own water at snack time. However, when they leave the classroom…they change! The thumb goes in the mouth and the lunch bag is handed over to the parents. Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the expectation bar a bit more and allow children to stretch and meet it.
  2. Resist doing it for them. It might be quicker and easier for you to help them put on their shoes, but in the long run it won’t help children become more self-sufficient. Instead, ask them if they can do it themselves or if they need help. The words will work like magic and most children will take pride in doing it on their own.
  3. Assign chores. Assigning children age-appropriate chores not only builds their confidence but also helps them feel more capable as contributing members of the family.
  4. Don’t redo. Resist the urge to help children between tasks or “fix” their work. Praise them for what they have done well. If you redo their work, you might discourage them from trying in the future. If you find your child getting frustrated with a task or having difficulty, don’t just take over. Instead, say, “Wow, you did a great job and we’ll do it again tomorrow.” Don’t let them give up. You want them to learn perseverance and dedication to a task.
  5. No ifs. Most of us have a habit of saying, “If you clean up your books, we will go to the park.” How about saying, “When you are done cleaning up, we’ll go to the park.” Give it a try and see how a minor change in the sentence transforms children’s attitude.
  6. Let them work it out. Kids often get into mini squabbles about petty issues, and you won’t always be there to referee. Stand back and let kids work out their own problems (unless the mini tiff has turned into a beating competition).
  7. Involve them. If your daughter has colored on the walls, have her help wash it off. If she knocks over her friend’s block tower, tell her to reconstruct it. Include her in righting her wrongdoings.
  8. Lighten up. We parents also get frustrated easily. It’s okay if your children are not perfectly setting the table or buttoning their shirts. They are young and still learning. Let them learn at their own pace and make mistakes along the way.

As parents, we struggle when our children struggle. But have patience, take a step back, and watch from the sidelines so your children can learn new skills – regardless of the time it takes.

May 3rd, 2017

Posted In: Tips

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The Hands-On Approach to Learning

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Hands-on learning is one of the attributes that distinguishes a Montessori classroom from a classical educational environment. Students are encouraged to learn by touching, feeling, and doing rather than typical mundane worksheets. Dr. Maria Montessori said; “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” Useful information can be better committed to permanent memory by learning hands-on than in any other way. Repetition and manipulation is key!

The Traditional Approach

In a traditional learning environment, children sit in rows of desks and listen to the direction of their teacher. They are given very little choice as the mindset is collective – what is best for the group as a whole. They are told what to complete and when, making learning a dull and forced experience. When it comes time to take a test, students dump what they have recently learned onto a piece of paper and forget much of it soon after. But education is not “one size fits all.” Each child learns differently and develops on a unique spectrum. A Montessori classroom provides the apparatus for this to take place.

The Montessori Approach

There are no desks in a Montessori classroom. In this learning environment, children are encouraged to move around the room and choose from the vast array of activities available to them. Once they choose an activity, they bring it to a floor mat or child size furniture and complete their work comfortably. They are free to explore their materials and make discoveries for themselves.

When children work with their hands, information becomes concrete and difficult to forget. Learning is designed to be an enjoyable experience instead of something children dread. Instead of relief when a lesson is completed, students find excitement in moving on to the next level.

Hands-on Materials

While any subject can be learned with a pencil and paper, the Montessori classroom presents educational subjects through colorful, engaging materials. Examples include:

  • Math. Rods, beads, and sandpaper numbers are used to learn basic counting and arithmetic. Students use their hands to manipulate materials and work out problems in a sensory way.
  • Reading. A moveable alphabet allows children to move letters around and learn their sounds. They can choose what words they would like to learn and gradually evolve their reading ability.
  • Writing. Montessori classrooms use painting and tracing exercises to fine tune the pincer grasp and integrate reading and writing.
  • Science. Challenging hands-on experiments allow children to learn about the world around them in a beautiful and sensory way.

When it comes to a rich education, a hands-on approach is the way to go. This is the most effective as well as enjoyable way for children to learn. When a student moves up in their education they will remember what they learned through their experiences and apply those lessons throughout their life.

April 20th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

How to stop kids from hitting and biting

kids fighting

You are enjoying a sunny afternoon at the playground when suddenly you hear a loud wail. Imagining it is your toddler, you rush to the area where children are playing and are horrified to find your child’s playmate sporting a teeth-imprinted arm while the mother of the victim gives you (and your kid) cold stares.

As much as you want to sink into the ground with embarrassment, you remain (somewhat) calm, apologize, and remove your child from the scene.

Surprisingly, biting and hitting are normal parts of childhood development. By the time children are in preschool, most of them have bitten or hit at least once and have also been on the receiving end of an unfriendly blow.

Why Children Bite And Hit?

Children become aggressive for a number of reasons.

  • Expressing emotions: Since young children can’t talk, they use biting and hitting to express anger, fear, frustration, or even love.
  • To seek attention: When children feel ignored, they use biting, hitting, or other aggressive measures to get noticed – even if the attention they receive is negative instead of positive.
  • Coping with change: Has another sibling entered the family? Are you moving or have you started a new job? Children become frustrated when they are coping with change and ultimately resort to hitting and biting as a way to express their fear over the changes happening around them.
  • For defense: Young children hit and bite for defense. If another child is hitting or biting them continuously, you can’t expect your toddler to stay quiet, right?
  • Teething: If your baby is teething, then it’s likely that he or she is biting to get that irritable itch out from their gums.

How To Stop Biting and Hitting?

In all instances, don’t throw a tantrum or spank children when they behave negatively. Using the retaliation protocol can teach children that violence causes violence. But of course, don’t leave the issue as it is – children should know that their behavior is wrong and should not be repeated.

  • Remain calm: We know it may be difficult but don’t lose your temper. Take a deep breath, make sure the other child is okay, and take your children away from the scene. No blaming or punishing during the first phase!
  • Talk it out: When you feel that your child has simmered down, ask about the cause behind the biting. Explain that it hurts their friend and we don’t hit/bite when upset.
  • Teach them problem-solving methods: Use imaginary play to teach children how they can resolve issues. You may pretend to be a friend with your child’s favorite toy. Teach them to express their emotions with words like, “This is my toy” and “Please give it back.”
  • Give attention: If you feel that your children are acting out due to lack of time with you, give them plenty of love and attention throughout the day. If you are a working parent, set aside an hour or two each evening for uninterrupted one-on-one with them.
  • Talk to the teachers: Make sure that the behavior is not being repeated at your child’s preschool. Talk with the teacher and find out about the preschool’s environment and whether or not some other children are biting, hitting, or teasing your toddler.

Even with the best prevention methods, incidents will happen until children grow out of the phase, which most children do after a certain age.  So stay firm and keep teaching children empathy. Give your kids the tools to deal with conflict constructively.

 

 

 

 

April 17th, 2017

Posted In: Tips

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Bringing the Montessori Method Home

The Montessori method encourages order, independence, self-respect, and overall learning. Montessori classrooms are carefully designed to train young minds to care for themselves and learn from their environment. Students gain an “I did it myself!” attitude that pushes them to excel in all aspects of their lives. The Montessori experience doesn’t have to stop at the end of a school day. There are many ways that you as a parent can instill the Montessori method in your own home!

Provide an Organized Environment

Children generally respond positively to order and structure. Make sure there is a place for everything on a child friendly scale. Your children can find what they need and know exactly where to look for it. They also know where to put an object once they are finished. This promotes self-discipline and independence. An organized environment also gives fewer opportunities for distractions, allowing the child to focus on tasks. A few ways you can provide an ordered environment are:

  • Low shelves. Make your children’s belongings accessible to them. Low, child-height shelves and a lower curtain rod, for example, show children they can do things on their own.
  • Step stool in the bathroom and kitchen. This encourages children to use the bathroom by themselves as well as wash their hands.
  • Keep toys in low, open shelves. Organize all toys and learning activities so each item or type of toy has its own place. This makes cleanup time less of a hassle and your child will need less help from you.
  • Access to food. Keep healthy snacks and drinks on a low shelf so your children can help themselves make healthy choices.

Teach Practical Real-Life Skills

Never underestimate what your children are capable of doing on their own. Basic chores teach children to help others as well as care for themselves when they are older. Responsibilities make kids feel like they are valued members of a family and community. Washing tables, doing laundry, helping younger children, and preparing simple meals are perfect examples of ways your child can learn basic life skills.

Children are most willing to work and learn when they feel that their work has value. Bringing the Montessori method home builds pride and confidence from within a child. A parent can help nurture children’s inner enthusiasm by expressing encouragement and appreciation for their work. Children who take pride in their actions will learn to continue to produce work that brings even more pride.

April 13th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

Summer Matters – The Importance of Learning All Summer Long

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Summer is just around the corner and we all know what this means – warm sunshine, outdoor activities, maybe a vacation, and best of all – freedom from SCHOOL! Undoubtedly, kids get up early to work hard at school approximately nine months a year, so they deserve a fun-filled break to recharge their batteries. They should be able to enjoy their summers, just as adults do.

But where do academics fit in? Should we press “pause” on all learning materials and expect children to just pick up where they left off when the new school year starts in the fall?  Is summer vacation all about sleeping until late morning, watching TV, playing video games, and hanging with friends?

According to education experts, children are in constant learning mode when they are in school. But as soon as the final bell rings, their focus changes and the academic skills they acquired throughout the year simply slip into the background. This results in an academic loss that hurts them when they return to school. To make matters worse, teachers must then spend countless days reviewing previously learned material, time that could be better spent learning new concepts.

This is why it is important for parents to stay involved with children during summer holidays and set aside a specific time each day when they can review and enforce what they learned throughout the school year. Summer months are also a great opportunity for students to strengthen the areas in which they are weak.

The same goes for preschoolers. Since they are just developing various social, mental, and emotional skills, the summer months are a great time to polish and strengthen these skills so children don’t forget their newly acquired abilities.

Learning is a lifelong process and should not be pushed aside for TV shows, video games, and long slumbers. The beauty of the summer months is that they give children a chance to have fun while learning.

Summer Learning Tips:

Read, Read, Read

The summer holidays are a great time to catch up on reading material with children. Plan to visit the library and allow children to select books of interest. Consider participating in a library reading program that rewards children for reading.

At home, set a designated reading hour every day where each family member can enjoy a quite reading time.

You can also put together a summer reading list for each member of the family and celebrate the completion of each book with rewards.

Encourage Art Activities

Provide children with space and materials that encourage creativity and imagination. This can be anything from paper and art supplies to Legos and building blocks and even sculpting materials for older children.

Art plays a vital role in children’s development and enhances fine motor skills, problem-solving capabilities, concentration, and even confidence. So give children different art supplies and watch their imagination unfold.

Stay Active

Children not only suffer from lack of academic activities but they also become couch potatoes due to lack of participation in scheduled physical activities. Encourage them to stay active by enrolling them in a team sport, going swimming, taking walks together, and bicycling in the park.

Remember playing outdoors for several hours a day leads to improved concentration and better academic performance.

Take the Learning Outside Your Home

Use the summer holidays as an opportunity to visit all your city has to offer such as the museum, zoo, and the science center. If you are planning a vacation out of the city or state, make a point to tour historical landmarks and teach your kids what makes each area so special.

Plant a Garden

Learning can also happen in your own backyard or in pots on your balcony. Select some seeds and plant a vegetable garden. Take turns watering them daily. Extend the activity by having children decorate or paint the pots to personalize them.

Apart from all the above-mentioned activities, don’t forget to enjoy your fair share of carnival rides, movies, and lazy pool days. A balance of learning and fun will be the perfect combination for the perfect summer.

March 27th, 2017

Posted In: Tips

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What’s your child’s learning style?

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Five toddlers are in a playgroup. Within the group, Emily learns to say the names of the shapes first. Jeff is the first to climb the monkey bars while his twin sister Kim watches cautiously from the sidelines before diving into any new adventure. The fourth child, Steve, can usually be found studying board books in the corner of the room while Jaclyn delights in hands-on play with mud, sand, and water.

Kids of all age groups pick up information in different ways. Educators have long proclaimed that children have their own distinct learning style and the “one-size-fits-all” theory can’t be applied to children in a typical classroom setting.

Researchers have agreed that there are three primary learning styles: auditory, tactile/kinesthetic, and visual. Most children (and adults) utilize a combination of these learning styles while a handful follow mostly one. Understanding your child’s learning style at an early age can help them become better learners and reduce frustrations as they progress to an advanced classroom.

Learning Styles Explained

Auditory: These types of learners prefer listening to explanations rather than reading. They are also more likely to:

  • Have difficulty with written material
  • Remember information by reading aloud
  • Enjoy group discussions
  • Require explanations orally

Tactile/Kinesthetic: The tactile and kinesthetic learners process information through touch and move method. They usually prefer to move around while learning and often “talk” with their hands. They also like to touch objects to learn more about them.

A note to remember: These types of learners are often referred to as “troublemakers” because they are unable to sit still and are often found fidgeting when asked to sit for long periods of time. In the right environment, however, these learners thrive and often become the innovators of the future.

Visual: Just like the name suggests, visual learners pick up information by watching. One of the most dominant learning styles, the visual learning method is the most used in traditional classrooms. Children who are visual learners are more likely to understand new learning material by:

  • Looking at pictures about what they are being taught
  • Drawing what they are learning
  • Writing down instructions

Children who are visual learners are less able to perform well when they are just given instructions and would rather be shown how to do something practically.

Is there a fourth type of learner?

Experts have also discovered a fourth learning style, the logical or analytical learner. These types of learners explore and understand the concept before indulging further. Similar to Kim in playgroup, logical learners ask a lot of questions and are more able to grasp information from a young age.

Discover your child’s learning style.

We sometimes assume that there is only one right way to teach children a particular skill. But if we adapt the learning methods to make them more appropriate to the style children prefer, there is no skill the child cannot learn.

 

March 10th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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A Look Inside a Montessori Classroom

To understand the nature of Montessori education, all you need is to take a look inside their classrooms. Montessori classrooms are enticing and thoughtfully organized in a way that captivates young minds. Every detail that goes into these classrooms is designed to give your child the absolute best educational experience.

Classroom Design

A Montessori classroom has a natural flow that allows learning to be centered on choice. These spacious rooms have many exciting features such as:

  • Learning areas divided by subject. Subjects like math, science, reading, and language-arts are all given their own space in a Montessori classroom. This prevents boredom and gives the children the ability to move freely around the room, effectively absorbing information as they go.
  • The atmosphere is inviting. Natural lighting and soft colors provide a soothing environment. Children in this type of setting tend to be more relaxed and focused, giving them the best chance at an enriched education.
  • There are no desks. The Montessori classroom is anything but traditional. Tables and child size couches are some of the furniture pieces you will find in these rooms. Students also work on mats and rugs on the floor. This adds to the variety of ways Montessori students can learn.
  • Everything is elegantly organized. One of the most striking details of the Montessori classroom is organization. Everything is stored neatly, and all materials have a designated place. Students quickly learn where to go to find what they need for any activity.

Learning Styles

Montessori classrooms offer a variety of learning experiences, so each child’s personal learning style is accepted and nurtured. In a typical day, you will observe:

  • Group learning. Students have the option of learning alongside other children. This hones their sense of friendship and social skills. There is a variety of activities suited for multiple students to participate in at the same time.
  • Independent learning. Montessori students are encouraged to learn independently. Learning on their own builds confidence and gives them the skills to work out problems with a little help. Many Montessori style learning activities are designed to provide opportunities to self-correct and teach themselves.
  • Teacher instruction. Though Montessori students are taught independence, teachers still play a big role in their education. Montessori educators nurture and gently guide students through activities in both group and independent settings.

The Montessori classroom is a learning environment unlike any other. When you take a look inside our rooms, it is not hard to see why Montessori-style learning is so effective and unique.

February 13th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

How to spark creativity in children

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Creativity is all about expressing oneself. It is all about being imaginative and trying new things. There is a misconception that creativity is limited to arts, crafts, music, dance, and writing. But creativity has no bounds and can be expressed in other areas of life as well.

It is sometimes assumed that children are more creative while others lack the talent. However, that is not the case and each one of us (including children) is capable of expressing ourselves in a unique way.

Of course, some children do get lost in the wonders of their imagination easily while others require more prompting. It is up to the parents, teachers, and other caregivers to encourage children and use real life experiences to spark their creativity which makes them more confident and competent learners in the future.

Here are some ideas to spark kids’ creativity:

Ask questions.

Children are born curious. They ask a lot of questions. Listen to them and inspire their imagination by asking them more questions. Make them wonder, “What if” and “What would have happened if we had a dinosaur for a pet?”

Don’t hover.

As much as we want to interfere, it is sometimes better to stand back and watch from afar. Let children play their own games without trying to manage them.

Limit TV and computer games.

TV programs and computer games are enjoyable for some time but children should not be allowed to zone in on the screen for long periods of time. Screen time should always be limited for young children.

Create art pieces with children.

Foremost, parents should keep an abundant supply of art materials in their home. From simple items such as papers and crayons to adornments like rhinestones, gems, and beads, children should have access to all and encouraged often to create pieces of art with them. It is also a good idea to sit down with children once in a while and make crafts together.

Encourage pretend play.

Young children love to play pretend with dolls, costumes, and accessories. Stock up on old dresses, Halloween costumes, hats, jewelry, and any other items that can help children jump into a new role. Keep them all accessible for children so they can enter the world of make believe whenever they like.

Read to children.

Books open a gateway for children to unlock their creative and imaginative potential. Read as often as you can. Make reading fun by changing your tone of voice or dressing up as the character in the book. Ask them to draw characters from their favorite book or allow them to act out the scenes from the story.

Most importantly, be a positive role model for children and enjoy the fun, creative, and imaginative life. If your children seeing you living life, they will do the same!

February 10th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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