Although Montessori has recently found itself in the spotlight, its system is hardly a new-age innovation. Developed in the early 20th-century by physician Dr. Maria Montessori, this educational method is geared towards stimulating creativity and fostering independence.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a unique approach to education that focuses on your child’s creativity. Rather than the monotony and restrictions of a structured curriculum, it tends to be a hands-on approach with more independently operated work (and more importantly? Play!) There is also one consistent marked trait: the child takes the reins. With a little help and guidance along the way, the child is able to steer his or her learning down a path that is comfortable for them. At the same time, they have adapted to ask curiosity-piquing questions and are attuned to accept challenges on the way. Through more consistent use of their hands, their minds, and their social skills, they become more well-rounded and self-assured in many aspects of their life.
As your baby gets older, you’ll have the opportunity to decide whether you want to send your child through the traditional education system or look into continuing the Montessori way. They are both fine choices, but if you’ve been feeling the positive effects that Montessori toys have on childhood development, then perhaps the alternative route is for you.
These days, most people have become accustomed to shorter terms of educational periods. Typically, this will entail a change in classes, teachers, and curriculums about once a year. This can mean that many children feel rushed, fall behind, or as though they are struggling behind their peers academically. On the contrary, other students may feel unchallenged, disengaged, and bored due to a solid understanding of concepts they have already developed outside the classroom.
For some, this can be a one-way ticket to low self-esteem, the development of anxiety at a young age, and the potential to withdraw both in school and their social life as they grow up. Montessori aims to break that mold. Rather than divvying up a child’s education into these shorter timeframes, Montessori classrooms are typically separated into larger age groups, for a longer period of time. This is a great way to allow for some breathing room where children can learn at their own pace.
Additionally, Montessori plans are personalized per every single student as an individual — providing a clear outline of what your child is doing well, and what they are working on learning and improving on. They are fueled by a sense of curiosity that will challenge them while still keeping their comfort zone within arms-reach.
Think of this as a playground for the mind. Not only does this push children to strive to do better, but it also provides teachers and parents the time to slow down and help a child, should a struggle arise in the process. The extra room to help those who need to learn a little differently is a wonderful way to promote inclusivity for those who may have special needs or other needs for different intellectual support.
The Benefits of Being Hands-On
The benefits of hands-on learning are endless! While not everyone has the same learning style, learning by doing is still an exciting way to learn through experience and apply these skills into everyday life. Not only will this both activate and stimulate numerous areas of the brain at once, but it will also help them develop stronger fine-motor skills and explore their senses, which can help them hold onto information better in the long run.
Arguably the most important part about learning through playtime is that it makes learning fun. If your child can look at learning as a fun activity, it will help them learn faster. When learning new things becomes something they want to do, they will seek out ways to learn more and stay engaged throughout the process. By overcoming obstacles and solving problems, they will gain a sense of confidence that no busy-work or mindless video could ever supply.
Montessori and the Brain
It’s no secret that your child’s brain will be in a fast-paced state of development for many years to come. One particular aspect of this period of growth is the overwhelming amount of change occurring in the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the key to basic cognitive skills and the way we interact with the world around us. Our emotions, judgment, ability to problem solve, and memory all reign supreme for the fore-front lobe of the mind.
Making the Most of Playtime
Instead of plopping your little one in front of a TV or handing them an iPad full of mindless videos, consider activities that will keep them cognitively engaged and busy, not just “there.” When it comes to Montessori toys, children are encouraged to learn through hands-on play. Certain types of baby toys that are consistent with the Montessori approach can help children learn cause and effect, develop concentration, and help them to become more independent and open to inquisitive discovery.
Another great benefit of Montessori toys is its simplicity. For one, they can be extremely sustainable. This is especially important to consider because someday your child will grow out of their toys, and reducing waste now means a better planet for your child’s future. These toys are usually made of basic materials like wood, bells, and even fun fabrics, like silk. Oftentimes these materials are recycled or all-natural, so you can leave your worries about harmful plastics and dangerous toy parts behind.
Some might consider this straightforward approach on toys to be old-fashioned, but there’s no harm in avoiding overstimulation, either. Technology and flashy toys of the modern-day are a lot of bright lights and loud noise that is unnecessary when it comes to actions that will actually help your baby’s brain develop. And although babies can learn new ideas themselves through playing with such toys, remember that parent involvement is still crucial when it comes to continuous development and staying on track.