Half-baked Montessori Home | Montessori for Beginners

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Imagine the perfect Montessori home. It’s calm, beautiful, and completely child-friendly. Little Timmy can just toddle around at will, helping himself to snacks, drinks & activities. He is an independent and active part of the family – cleaning up his own messes, helping prepare food, caring for house plants, and being in charge of his own self-care routines.

Sounds, idyllic, but it ain’t gonna happen here!

“But that looks awesome!”

I hear you cry,

“Why on earth wouldn’t you want to replicate that?”

Well… yes, it does broadly fit in with our beliefs about child development and Respectful Parenting. I do love fostering independence, am leaning towards minimalism and unschooling (child-led education) too.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have creative control over our home right now.

We are so, so lucky to be living with my parents whilst we save to buy our first home. We have two rooms that are completely ours: Sausage & Bean’s bedroom, and our own bedroom. In those two rooms my dream of free-range babies can be realised.

But with all shared living arrangements come compromise – the Grandparents are already sacrificing a lot of their personal space in letting us live here – I can hardly insist that they rearrange their whole lives for us!

As such, we are interlopers in their dining/music room (currently dominated by the twins’ monster playpen‘scuse the dishevelled way we left the sofa), which is full of all the things adults love, like wires and low shelves of books and papers and electronics and records and ornaments and… it would take a total overhaul to move/remove all the potential hazards and let them roam free. Which I would happily do, if they were my belongings. They aren’t.

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We have also colonised the back area of my parents’ kitchen. We don’t have any kitchen units for storage, so trying to keep it tidy is the best we can do. But baby-proofed it ain’t!

So, in lieu of our own home, we have jimmied the Montessori method to fit in with our reality!

Which Montessori principles have we kept?

  • The space encourages independence – all the materials are all easily accessible for the twins, and quick to tidy-up.
  • Parents prepare the play space, so the kids find it ready for them. Toys are kept neatly, and their presentation should be aesthetically pleasing – the environment should be calm and beautiful.

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  • You tend to see lots of lovely wooden toys, like these rainbow sound blocks – but it’s NOT exclusively about wood. It’s about long-lasting toys that grow with the child and encourage open-ended play. They should also require active, not passive play – so the toy isn’t doing all the work, ‘entertaining’ the child. We don’t have anything all-singing, all-dancing, or battery-operated, but gravitate to simple toys. The exception is our Jumperoos (forbidden fruit, but a total lifesaver with twins!), although the boys have outgrown them now.
  • Children are encouraged to explore freely with the toys instead of being told how they ‘should’ be using the materials. Thus, they learn their own lessons. Parents should take a back seat, avoiding interrupting or distracting the child from their work.

How have we tailored this approach to make it Bespoke for our family?

Our journey has been about spending less, as well as decluttering. So I’m not about to discard non-Montessori toys if I feel they have lessons to teach my boys, as long as they don’t encourage passive play…

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Like this lovely Little Tikes number, which will teach cause & effect (once the babies realise that they have to push down on the lever). It also produces pleasing auditory and visual feedback (Seriously, it’s addictive!)

Cartoon animals are a big Montessori no-no, where the emphasis is on realism. But I think as long as the twins also have access to realistic animals, they’ll do just fine. Plus the little bees are so stinkin’ cute!

I feel like some of the ‘rules’ of Montessori can be a bit restrictive and, dare I say it, joyless! (Don’t shoot me). Like the cartoon animals thing. Or the insistence that we call their play ‘work’. I understand that it is to show respect to the child, and to recognise the importance of what they are doing.
But I say play IS important, and that things can be both valid AND fun!

Right now, Sausage & Bean don’t get much chance at all to practise the ‘life skills’ category of activities, because of the aforementioned baby-proofing issue. Also, until we get a car sorted (and some more pennies) I can’t shell out for more accessible furniture etc.

I haven’t spent loads on lovely wooden trays and forward-facing bookshelves and natural baskets. I have improvised with shoe boxes and whatever I can find and repurpose! Don’t get me wrong – I do daydream of beautiful toy storage, but have you seen how much that stuff can cost?! I hope to accrue it slowly but in the meantime, this will do. It’s accessible, baby-safe and the books are easy to see & inviting to pick up.

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And yes, I have seen the Ikea spice rack hack, but I am convinced the twins will use them to scale the walls!

Have you managed to master the art of the Montessori Home? Or, like us, have you cobbled-together the elements that best work for you?

Alternatively, is this all new to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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