Montessori at Home: Sensory Work, Practical Life, and Restoring Order
Get Montessori influencer Blanca Velazquez-Martin's top tips for implementing Montessori-at-home. We've rounded up some excerpts from her Instagram page, used with her permission.
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Meet Blanca, mom to a toddler at Guidepost Montessori. She is a licensed clinician (LPC) who has committed to raising her child in a bilingual and Montessori inspired home. She also has an amazing Instagram page, @whole.child.home, that you’ll want to follow to see her Montessori journey.
Since schools closed in mid-March, she has really stepped up to provide her son with an amazing prepared environment at home so that he can continue learning and growing. Today, we wanted to feature some of her ideas found on her Instagram page in hopes that it gives you the confidence to try some of these in your home as well. The following are excerpts from her Instagram page, used with her permission.
Sometimes We Use a Sensory Table, Sometimes We Bake
"Recently, I posted a sensory table activity, noting how we try to balance those prepared play opportunities with PURPOSEFUL exploration through the senses. This is ONE example:
Baking is part of our weekly practical life work. He is always thrilled to participate and engages in each step—children crave purposeful work.
Just like a sensory table, baking provided him with opportunities for refining motor skills, problem-solving, practice language, and more practical life work (clean up). The difference? This purposeful activity lets him enjoy the process from the beginning to a delicious end. It always brings a sense of pride and accomplishment. It leads to mastery, and to learning through all senses while engaging in a practical life activity.
"It’s all a balance, of whatever works best for you, for your child, and for your family 💛"
No Need For Expensive Materials
Many families ask about how you can do Montessori at home without all the materials that they typically have in their classroom. The great news is that you do not need to go out and buy a full set of Montessori materials to prepare a meaningful work environment for your child. He loves to do color matching by pairing up clean socks (and we are certain that Blanca appreciates having a helper for laundry!)
"Sock matching! Free, easy to pull together and great source of language opportunities 🧦 Pares de Calcetines: gratis, fácil de organizar y una herramienta súper para lenguaje. ⬇️ESPAÑOL en comentarios .
We’re great at laundry but folding... not so much 😬 This means there are lots of opportunities to find socks for matching! He’s been taking them to his rug for work but we have mostly done this on our room or bed! .
We initially saw this done by @howwemontessori and it’s a popular activity with so many Montessori families.
For us it has evolved from having a basket with a couple of clothing items for labeling when he was an infant, then sorting which were socks, to working with increment number of pairs. This can later evolve to folding this and the rest of your laundry. .
Why we love it:
⭐️ Repetition is important to master a skill and continue supporting brain development (we do it a lot!)
⭐️Children experience joy from achieving such mastery and sharing it with us!
⭐️ Opportunity to expand language work. For us right now is expanding colors and now noticing stripes and different prints. We label and also play “I spy...” chatting about colors and patterns. ⭐️ It nurtures his need for order with something that belongs to him."
Speaking of Laundry…
It is no surprise that toddlers love to empty and fill containers (i.e. completely emptying the contents of mom’s purse or the diaper bag, pulling all of the tissues from the box one at a time, filling a pair of shoes with toys, etc…)
Putting the clothing into the washer and dryer provides a challenging and purposeful task for children to meet this need to empty, transfer, and fill. Toddlers are small but they are not too young to participate in this household task!
"The videos show him now at 20 months and ALSO when he started doing this at 11 months. This now looks pretty and is part of our routine but it wasn’t always like that! For every child, it is a gradual process that includes your modeling, practice, patience, and continued offers to participate. Sometimes it works, other times he wants nothing to do with it, and that’s okay! The key is to continuously offer opportunities for your child to be part of your daily life and be prepared to do that.
This is a good activity to incorporate both gross and fine motor work, maximum effort (transporting step stool and laundry basket), and language—we label each item, its color and he chats a lot about whose it is!
Prepare a stool, a laundry basket doable for their size, and a small towel for clean up (he also pours detergent in). They can later help transfer clothes to dryer practicing the same skills. Older children can also help sort laundry and fold... extra practice for them and help for you!"
When Order Becomes Disorder
Even the most prepared and well-meaning parents will face a time when their perfectly ordered home succumbs to disorder! Yes, this even happens in Montessori homes where the children are used to everything having a place and restoring order when they finish a work. The quarantine has heightened this for so many of our families for the simple fact that we are home for so many more hours than we ever have been before.
So, what do you do when this happens in your home? We love Blanca’s thoughts:
"New to Montessori at home? Stressed out because your child will not clean up? Our’s doesn’t either, not all the time #21months. We’re at a stage of testing boundaries and the current circumstances just being home are not typical, so he often declines to clean up each material after use. The house environment will not function the same as the school environment. And that’s okay!
Every child is different, every stage of development needs time, and stages of compliance come and go—and that is perfectly normal.
Our absolute bottom line is that we clean up everything during transitions—before leaving the house, before walks, before meals and before bath. That has been the routine since he was an infant. If you are consistent, they will follow—children crave routine and order.
“Remember our pretty shelf and rotated materials? LET’S GET REAL—those are still there but, after four weeks home, things are looking a bit different. We have an active and curious toddler and we have expanded our materials at home as we navigate strategies for this new way of life."
And Sometimes We Adapt Our Environment Completely
"'A place for everything and everything in it’s place.' — QUARANTINE EDIT 🥴 “Un lugar para todo, y todo en su lugar” — en tiempos de cuarentena
So the balance bike is now indoors. Always 😬 And it’s getting harder to keep everything 'in its place' and expect our child to put everything back. We continue modeling, we continue encouraging, most of the time he cooperates, but the added clutter is getting to us. And while these are times to give ourselves a break and focus on what’s working right now, we can’t forget that children DO thrive in routines, knowing what to expect, and maintaining a sense of order.
So we pulled the painters tape and built a parking lot. It’s in our living room, it’s not ideal, and we very much hope is not permanent. But for now, this is how we’re keeping ‘order’.”
Thank you, Blanca!
If you enjoyed this peek into Blanca’s Montessori at Home journey as much as we have, make sure to follow her on Instagram @whole.child.home for more wonderful Montessori inspired ideas!
Ashley is an elementary educator who has taught children aged 5 – 12. She is also a parent of two elementary-aged boys and incorporates Montessori parenting principles into their home. As a former public-school teacher and life-long learner, Ashley is inspired by Maria Montessori’s scientific and evidence-based approach to education.
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