Maria Montessori had a view that education should prepare children for all aspects of life. She believed that each child is unique and must be free to learn at his or her own pace. To support her theory further, Dr. Montessori designed several materials and techniques that are an integral part of the Montessori prepared environment. Each set of materials focuses on concepts that compliment the curriculum.
Visit the prepared classrooms of Montessori Kids Universe Sugarland and you will see several different sets of materials on low shelves. This is because Maria Montessori emphasized giving children ‘freedom within limits.” The materials are easily accessible and children are free to choose one according to their interest. Once the students are finished with their material, they are encouraged to put everything back on shelves before moving on to the next activity.
The greatest advantage of the Montessori materials is that they are “self-correcting,” which means that students will notice their errors and don’t need adult supervision to rectify their mistakes. This improves their problem solving skills and makes them more confident and content with their accomplishments.
Parents who are new to Montessori often find it hard to understand the importance of these materials. To help you out, here is a list of some of the most popular Montessori materials and how they are used in the prepared environment.
Montessori doesn’t teach the alphabet in the traditional way. Instead of A, B, C, the children are taught the phonetic sounds of these letters. Once they are familiar with the sounds, they are transitioned to the moveable alphabet that allows them to recognize the letters they are used to hearing. The main purpose of the moveable alphabet is not to teach children how to read, but to prepare them for writing.
The Golden Bead material is included in the mathematical curriculum and introduces the children to the decimal system. Initially, children around the age of four use the golden beads as an introduction to counting. As the child progresses, the same set of material allows them to perform sums of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The Pink Tower may look like an ordinary set of blocks to any person who is not familiar with the Montessori curriculum. However, it is one of the most recognized Montessori materials and teaches children a variety of skills including coordination and dimension. Most importantly, the tower is self-correcting since the child is immediately able to grasp his or her mistakes when the tower is completely built.
Similar to the Pink Tower, the Brown Stairs is another sensorial material that teaches children the different dimensions. As the name suggests, the children use the blocks to build “stairs” starting from the broadest to the narrowest. This allows them to further enhance their learning of sizes and shape.
The World Map puzzle instills geography knowledge and skills. The cutouts of different continents teach children the name of seven continents as well as the names of their countries, their capital cities, and their demographic location on the globe.
An advanced mathematic material, the Checkerboard helps children learn multiplication. The checkerboard material contains colorful beads and a large painted board. However, unlike the traditional methods that force children to memorize the multiplications table, the Checkerboard teaches abstract mathematical skills that allow them to calculate large numbers without counting.
As discussed in previous blogs, Montessori emphasizes practical life skills that help children in their daily routine and make them more independent and resilient in the future. The practical life materials are a norm in Montessori classrooms and include the basics such as broom, dustpan, mop, and duster. Each item is child-sized so the children can conveniently access the items without asking for adult’s assistance. Children are also assigned duties during the school hours such as cleaning the shelves, watering the plants, and giving food to the class pet. This makes the children more responsible and instills them with a sense of pride for their contribution.
Montessori materials, while seemingly simple, can be used in a complex manner and through every stage of a preschooler’s development. More importantly, the materials develop a love of learning, advanced critical thinking skills, and the ability to problem-solve, even at this young age.
manager December 7th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
Tags: child development, children, education, learning, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, school, school age kids, Small Children, sugar land, The Montessori Method, toddlers
A few years ago while scouring for a Montessori for my son, I had the chance to visit several primary classrooms. Apart from the well-organized and attractive classroom environment, I was impressed with the different sets of materials that were being used effortlessly by the children. Another feature that appealed to me was the use of work mats. Although there were quite a few child-sized tables and chairs in the classroom, many children were utilizing the small mats for their individual activities.
At that time, I thought they were given to the children to minimize mess and make cleanup easy. However, I was wrong and cleaning had nothing to do with it. In fact, the lightweight work mats hold significant importance in the Montessori prepared environment.
The Montessori work mat is used to reinforce the primary principle of the Montessori prepared environment – freedom within limits. The mat defines a child’s personal space while other students are taught to respect the classmate’s work and privacy. The mat is considered a child’s sacred space and no one can interrupt the child unless they are willing to interact. Other children make sure to walk around the mat carefully and only join a classmate when given permission.
Another advantage of a Montessori mat is that the children can come back to their activity if they have to leave their work for any reason. For example, a child takes a bathroom break or has snack time. They can leave their belongings on the mat and return to find their work in the same place, undisturbed.
Each activity in a Montessori classroom starts with the mat. Children are trained to first unroll a mat on their desired space after which they can select an activity. Once they have completed their activity, each child rolls back his or her mat, being careful about keeping the edges even, and puts it along with the others in a basket. This not only teaches children order but also improves their practical life skills to help children become more independent and adaptable to society.
At Montessori Kids Sugarland, the work mats are the foundation of everything the children will learn. Visit us and see how the mats are integrated in every activity to create the perfect work space for each child.
manager November 16th, 2017
A Montessori classroom is a child’s second home. In fact, it serves as the child’s first step into the new world. As the child slowly makes this transition, it is essential that he is provided with an environment that not only makes the shift easy but also facilitates learning to the maximum.
According to the Montessori Method, a Montessori classroom should be planned and equipped in such a way that children adapt easily to the environment without compromising their learning process.We are all familiar with the setting of the traditional classroom where young students are provided adult-sized furniture while the shelves and cupboards are placed so high that the child is always in need of an adult’s assistance. Additionally, in a traditional classroom, children are usually confined to their desks while the teacher dictates the same lesson to the whole class.
However, Maria Montessori was contrary to the traditional learning environment and believed that, “The child, making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future.” Her desire was to provide the children with a learning space where they had the freedom to explore, learn, and experience at their own pace and desire. This led her to create the Montessori Method which focuses on shaping the child as a whole being while making the learning process pleasant by equipping the classrooms with a variety of different materials.
The focus of the Montessori prepared environment remains on the six basic principles – Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social Environment, and Intellectual Environment. Here is a brief description about each of the principles and why they hold importance in the child’s learning and developmental process.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
The prime principle of the Montessori prepared environment is freedom. Just imagine how you would feel if you had to take assistance for the smallest task or were limited to the same task daily without any challenges. Our children are the same way. They have the potential that we, as parents, oftentimes ignore.
The Montessori Method is based on the belief that children who are given freedom can learn with their own natural instinct. The prepared environment of the classroom allows children to choose the activity according to their own preference and pace while enhancing social interaction amongst peers.
Structure and Order
Parents of preschoolers will agree that a temper tantrum can be expected whenever their child’s routine is disrupted. This is because children between the ages of one and five pass through a sensitive stage. Montessori believed that during this phase, children should experience order, consistency, and familiarity in their environment. Since children of this age have limited verbal skills, any disorientation can create chaos which can be avoided by having a consistent schedule and ground rules.
The Montessori method meets the child’s need for order by providing a space that is organized and structured according to their needs. Materials are in the same place every day while lessons and activities are conducted at the same time. The school day ends with children placing all the materials and their completed work in the given space. This sense of order enhances children’s understanding of the world and allows them to organize their time and space efficiently.
Visit the MKU classroom and at first glance you will notice how well-organized the environment is. Everything is beautifully displayed while the classrooms are neat, uncluttered, and orderly. Maria Montessori emphasized the aesthetic appeal of the Montessori classroom and always encouraged teachers to decorate classrooms in such a way that learners come eagerly to learn and work. The environment should reflect peace and tranquility while the arrangement should always be well-maintained.
Nature and Reality
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 60 minutes of unstructured free play daily is essential for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, studies show that children are spending less time outdoors than they were 20 years ago. However, Dr. Montessori agreed with the benefits of outside play and always emphasized that educators should take children outside as much as possible. Children don’t like to sit inside, and keeping them confined in one room can make them cranky and sluggish. Giving them outside time daily enhances their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
In Montessori classrooms, children are grouped with different ages. This structure allows children to share and work cooperatively while enhancing empathy and respect towards each other. Multi-aged classrooms allow older children to develop leadership qualities and younger ones to learn to return the favor in the coming years by being in the same spot as the elders.
The last but the most important principle is the Intellectual environment. The Montessori Method claims that children develop a love of lifelong learning when they take responsibility for themselves and their education. The intellectual environment moves students from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. Each Montessori material can be used in multiple ways to enhance learning, whether it be through language, sensorial, life skills, math, culture, or art.
When all the principles of the Montessori prepared environment are combined, the child develops independence, focus, adaptability, self-confidence, self-discipline, and patience. The freedom to fully learn not only helps the child succeed in academic endeavors but also in practical, everyday life.
manager October 24th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
Tags: academic, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, school, school age kids, sugar land, toddlers
Most of us have a fixed mindset of a teacher’s role in a classroom. She stands in front of the room and dictates material while the children listen intently. The students, regardless of their pace and interest, are required to follow the lessons according to the teacher’s academic plan.
Although this method of learning has been practiced effectively for centuries, Dr. Maria Montessori had a different theory. She believed that the teacher, student, and the environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher with activities and materials according to the child’s learning abilities and interest. The students make use of the environment and develop various skills while taking guidance and support from the teachers when needed.
Her belief is that the focus should remain on the children’s learning and not on the teachers’ teaching. This is why Montessori teachers are not the center of attention in the classroom. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to spot the teacher in a Montessori classroom as she often steps back,allowing the children to learn from their own discoveries and draw conclusions. Rather than giving children answers to the many questions they ask in one day, the Montessori teacher asks them how they would solve the problem while actively engaging children in the learning process and enhancing critical thinking skills.
A prepared environment
Montessori teachers provide activities based on six areas of learning: practical life activities, sensorial activities, numeracy, literacy, understanding of the world, and creative abilities. The children are given the freedom within limits to choose the activity according to their interests and abilities.They are allowed to spend as much time as they need on one activity, and while the Montessori teacher will not interfere in their working, she will be readily available to guide them as needed. By following this approach, children of Montessori become more confident about their ability to understand what they are learning. This also limits the necessity of coercion, which often increases feelings of stress and inferiority in children.
A Model, Mentor, and a Guide
In a traditional classroom, the teachers present the lesson to a large group of students who are expected to listen and take in all the information provided. However, in a Montessori environment, the teachers work with only one or two students at a time while the learning material is provided on the basis of children’s interest.
If a child is not interested or making an incorrect association, the Montessori teacher does not force the child to learn. Instead, she gives the child time to clear the air and continues the topic another day. The Montessori system believes that pushing a child to learn will only make them frustrated while allowing them to learn at their own pace with patience will empower them to learn more.
The most important role of a Montessori teacher is of an observer. The Montessori teacher makes careful observations of each student while they work. The teacher does not interfere or disrupt the students while they work, nor do they give out punishment or rewards.This allows the teacher to understand when a child has mastered a specific skill or concept, thus moving them on to an advanced curriculum. Progress notes are shared frequently with parents and caregivers.
We at Montessori Kids Sugarland believe that children are full of curiosity. By giving them an environment to learn with freedom, they can grow up to be intelligent, independent, responsible, and contributing members of society.
As Maria Montessori would say,
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say: The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
manager October 3rd, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
Today, let’s take a look behind the scenes in the classroom to give you some ideas for Montessori-style activities you can recreate at home. Montessori teachers refer to them as “practical life activities”
Practical life activities in the classroom
As the name suggests, practical life activities focus on skills children use on a daily basis. Children observe these activities in their own environment and gain knowledge through the practice of daily duties.
Some typical activities that are implemented in most Montessori classrooms include:
Ideas for the home environment
It’s quite easy to incorporate any of the above activities at home for your child. Simply remember to keep child-sized objects ready for handling various tasks. For example, if your child is helping you butter toast, have a small amount of butter ready on a separate plate.
Other ways you can incorporate life skills at home are:
When applying practical life skills at home, always remember:
Don’t allow your children to sit in front of the TV or play iPads while you perform various tasks around the house. Instead, encourage them to join you and help out. Children love to stay involved with their parents and with some simple activities, they can gain life skills at the same time.
Remember that the main reason we at Montessori Kids Universe teach practical life skills is that we value children and the contribution they can make to the family, and later, the world. We believe they are capable of doing so much more than what the media tells us. They can handle breakables if they’re taught how. They can take responsibility for themselves if we teach them how. In other words, they can learn, if we give them the room to grow.
manager September 20th, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Tags: 2 year olds, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, Small Children, sugar land, toddlers
Your preschooler is busy spreading different colored paint on paper. Trying to be encouraging, you ask her, “What are you making?” and she shrugs. Until you mentioned it, she hadn’t given any thought to what she was making or how it will end up.
Little kids are masters of the moment. They love the way different colors turn up on paper and unlike you and me, they are least bothered about the finished product.
Art – whether it’s in the form of drawing, painting, theatres, or music is a natural activity that allows free play in children. The unstructured play and the freedom to manipulate different materials give children lots of opportunity for exploration and experimentation.
These artistic activities are not only fun but educational for children as well. Apart from increasing their chances of becoming the next Picasso, children can benefit from art in a number of ways, including:-
Fine motor skills –
Grasping pencils, making dots, mixing colors, cutting with scissors, rolling playdough, tearing paper, and controlling a glue stick – all these tasks require a lot of dexterity and coordination. Yet these activities are fun and children usually wish to do them again and again and that too without your encouragement – hence improving their motor skills over time.
Writing skills –
Scribbling is the precursor to writing. The random scribbling your child does on paper will able them to control the crayon better and with time, the doodles will turn into shapes and eventually alphabets.
Math skills –
Art helps the children learn and understand different mathematical concepts like sizes, shapes, counting, and making comparison.
When children create something, they like to show it to everyone. As they describe their artwork, their vocabulary also increases. You can also encourage their language skill by asking open-ended questions in return.
Problem solving skills –
Which color should I use? How to make the color darker, should I press harder on the crayon? How to stick the legs on the clay figure?
When children are given different materials to work with, they learn to solve their own problems and make a choice – which thus enhances their problem solving abilities and enables them to gain more confidence.
Outlet for emotions –
Art allows children to express their emotions in a safe way. They learn to control their emotions and recognize that they can express both – sad and happy feelings through a positive medium.
How to motivate creativity?
These were just some of the benefits your child can gain from art. Here are some tips on how you can inspire creativity in children.
Remember, children learn through trial and error. So as long as your child is playing in a safe environment, let them explore by themselves.
manager August 2nd, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Tags: academic, art, benefits of art, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, sugar land
“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:
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.
manager May 3rd, 2017
Posted In: Tips
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.
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.
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.
manager April 17th, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Tags: 2 year olds, behavior, biting, child development, children, education, family time, hitting, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Method, Older Children, parenting, pre-school, school, school age kids, Small Children, sugar land, toddlers
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:
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:
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.
manager March 10th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
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:
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?”
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!
manager February 10th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education