Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Montessori Environments for Infants and Toddlers: How to Handle Chaos

We frequently hear from parents who are trained in Montessori for the Primary class (ages 3-6) that it is impossible to apply Montessori setups and presentations when they work with their own infants and toddlers. All too true! If you do a nice Montessori setup in your home classroom for your infant or young toddler, expect it to be trashed! It's the nature of the child at this age, so we have to adapt.

Here are some tips:

1. Have one or two low shelves in your child's bedroom. On each shelf, put a few books, one or two large pieces of equipment, and a couple toys. Oh, yes, make sure your child can safely climb on the shelves without them tipping over.

2. If you are setting up a home or school room for toddlers, strip down the shelves! If you set the shelves up in typical Montessori Primary class fashion, the contents will be all over the floor in no time. Has this happened already? No need to reprimand your child at this age, just remove items from the shelves when he or she isn't around. Then re-present some of the items -- you can move the shelves a bit, too, so the room doesn't look oddly bare.

3. Infants and young toddlers are too young to learn to work with the mats. You can have one larger carpet (make it thin, so that towers and blocks do not wobble in the shag) in the middle of the room.

4. Put together one nice box or basket with items to explore. Small interesting items can go inside. Make this the only container with lots of small items for now. When your child gets a bit older and starts putting things away regularly, you can add another special box.

5. Keep blocks in a block area with a large box. The box should be more than large enough to hold all the blocks, so your child does not have to figure out how to fit them inside to put them away.

6. Make sure it is easy to put everything away by grouping items on the shelf. Books go on the bookshelf, toys go on the toy shelf, Imbucare material goes on the Imbucare shelf, and so forth.

7. Keep clear floor space for motion! Your child should be able to crawl around the room, roll, scatter blocks, and whatever else might happen without losing things under sofas and damaging anything.

Good luck!


lori said...

You should include this post in your infant to toddler curriculum books dor those of us who started doing montessori later than infancy. After reading your infant and toddler manuals i got the impression that all should be going smoothly with trays and mats once they hit 18months but that does not seem to be the case in reality.

Montessori House said...

Thanks lots for sharing your observation. Yup, we didn't mean that anything would go really smoothly at 18 months! A few notes here -