The Montessori Method: Enhancing Early Learning at Home



· 5 min read
Montessori at Home: A Guide to Early Learning

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

Introduction to Montessori Education

The Montessori method of education was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, in the early 1900s. Montessori opened the first Casa dei Bambini (“Children’s House”) in 1907 for children living in poverty in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. There, she discovered that children learn best in an environment tailored to their developmental needs (1).

The key principles of Montessori education include (2):

  • Independence - Allowing children to choose their own activities and become self-sufficient.
  • Sensitive periods for learning - Capitalizing on times when children are primed to acquire certain skills.
  • Prepared environment - Carefully curating the learning environment with child-sized furniture and developmentally appropriate materials.
  • Autoeducation - Trusting children to guide their own learning and discovery with minimal adult intervention.

Montessori schools provide multi-age classrooms and hands-on learning materials to foster independence, exploration and socialization. The method aims to develop the whole child - intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically (3). Montessori education has spread globally, with over 22,000 schools worldwide.




Montessori Learning Environment

A key aspect of Montessori education is the prepared environment. This refers to the physical space and materials that are specifically designed to encourage independence, exploration and uninterrupted concentration in children. The Montessori classroom contains child-sized furniture, open floor space, and orderly shelves with a variety of hands-on Montessori materials. Everything has a purpose and is meticulously organized to create an environment of beauty, order and accessibility.

The prepared environment allows children to learn through their own experience and exploration. Materials are arranged invitingly on low, open shelves allowing children to freely choose activities. The environment is designed to foster independence by allowing children to do things for themselves, such as hanging up their own coats and pouring their own snacks. Child-sized furniture enables children to push in their own chairs, reach materials easily, and feel comfortable in the environment.

Order and beauty are also key principles seen in the prepared environment. Materials are neatly organized from the simplest to most complex, building on skills in a logical progression. Displays of nature objects along with plants bring elements of beauty into the environment. This order and beauty allows children to focus, promoting meaningful learning. The Montessori environment thoughtfully integrates all of these key elements to support child-centered learning and development.


A key principle of Montessori education is cultivating independence in children from a young age. Children are given the freedom of movement within the classroom and the independence to choose their own activities. This allows them to learn self-directedness and take ownership of their education early on.

Montessori classrooms are specifically designed to promote independence. Low shelves allow children to access materials without help. Materials are organized logically to encourage children to put them back properly after use. This gives children responsibility for their environment.

Teachers act as guides, allowing children to develop independence in daily tasks. Children are encouraged to do things for themselves like pouring water, buttoning clothes, cleaning up spills, and feeding themselves. Mastering these practical life skills builds confidence and capability.

According to the Montessori guide "Independence in this stage is less about mastering movement and physical capabilities, and more attuned to reasoning, comprehension, morality, and community."Independence in Montessori allows children to gain problem-solving abilities, focus, coordination, and care for themselves and others.

Sensitive Periods for Learning

Montessori identified sensitive periods as crucial windows of opportunity in a child's development when they show an intense interest and ability to acquire certain skills or knowledge. These periods are optimal times for learning specific tasks. According to Montessori theory, the most important sensitive periods occur between birth and age six.

During sensitive periods, children are able to absorb information from their environment with ease. As Maria Montessori stated, "When a child shows interest in a particular activity, we ought to immediately respond." It is critical that parents and teachers recognize and support children's sensitive periods by providing developmentally appropriate activities and materials that satisfy their urge to learn.

Some key sensitive periods that Montessori identified include order, movement, language, refinement of senses, and mathematics. For example, from birth to one year, infants are sensitive to order and language as they learn to recognize patterns and absorb native speech sounds. Between ages two to four, there is sensitivity and aptitude for developing fine and large motor coordination. From four to six years, children display a mathematical mind able to understand quantitative relationships and abstract concepts.

By tuning into a child's sensitive periods and innate drive to learn, parents can direct activities at home to take advantage of these crucial windows of opportunity. Following the child's interests not only makes learning joyful, but enables them to reach their full developmental potential.

Montessori Materials

A key component of Montessori education are the specifically designed multi-sensory materials that allow children to learn concepts through hands-on interaction. Rather than relying on workbooks or worksheets, Montessori materials are designed to teach specific skills and directly appeal to children's senses.

Some examples of popular Montessori materials include:

  • Practical life materials - Materials like pouring exercises, sewing cards, and table washing activities that allow children to develop coordination and independence through real-world activities.
  • Sensorial materials - Materials like the pink tower, color tablets, and geometric solids that allow children to refine their senses and understand concepts like size, color, shape, and texture.
  • Language materials - Objects, cards, and books that build vocabulary and reading readiness.
  • Math materials - Bead chains, sandpaper numbers, and spindles that introduce counting, numerical order, and basic operations.

Montessori materials allow learning to be an interactive, hands-on process rather than passive absorption. They break down complex concepts into discrete steps children can master at their own pace. Using these specialized materials at home can help reinforce Montessori learning.

Practical Life Exercises

Practical life exercises are an integral part of the Montessori method and philosophy. They focus on activities relating to care of self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy. Maria Montessori believed these types of activities help young children develop essential life skills, independence, concentration, coordination, and order (Montessori Guide, 2023).

Care of self activities allow children to practice self-care skills like hand washing, dressing, food preparation, and personal hygiene. These activities promote independence and self-confidence. Children learn to take care of themselves through practical exercises like buttoning, zipping, tying, and pouring (Guidepost Montessori, 2022).

Care of the environment teaches children how to take care of their surroundings. Activities include dusting, sweeping, mopping, polishing, and wiping spills. Children gain respect for their environment and learn responsibility. Grace and courtesy lessons focus on social skills like greetings, proper etiquette, and manners (Montessori Services, 2023).

Sensorial Materials

Sensorial materials are an integral part of the Montessori curriculum. They are designed to help develop and refine a child's senses of sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell. Maria Montessori believed that sensory education is the key to stimulating intelligence.

Some of the key sensorial materials used in Montessori classrooms include:

Visual Discrimination

The Pink Tower, Brown Stair, Red Rods, and Knobbed Cylinders are designed for visual discrimination of dimension, size, and color. Children learn to visually discern subtle differences in size and dimension by working with these materials. For example, with the Pink Tower they learn to build a tower of 10 cubes that gradually decrease in size from the largest cube at the bottom to the smallest at the top.

Tactile Discrimination

Materials like the Touch Boards, Fabric Boxes, and Mystery Bag help develop a child's sense of touch. The Touch Boards have different textures like smooth, rough, soft, and bumpy. The Fabric Boxes contain different cloth textures to feel. The Mystery Bag contains objects of different shapes and textures for a child to tactilely explore.

Auditory Discrimination

Bells and Sound Cylinders are used for auditory discrimination. The bells produce distinct sounds when struck, allowing children to refine pitch discrimination. The Sound Cylinders make sounds like rattles, clicks, and clacks to distinguish differences in timbre.

Using these sensorial materials allows children to isolate and develop each sense through concentrated activity. This sensory refinement provides a concrete foundation for later abstract learning.


Language development is a critical part of early learning in the Montessori method. Teachers introduce various materials and activities to build language skills in young children.

Sound games are commonly used in Montessori classrooms to develop phonetic awareness. Children match objects or pictures based on beginning or ending sounds. Rhyming games are also utilized. These exercises lay the groundwork for reading comprehension.

Sandpaper letters are an iconic Montessori material. Children trace the sandpaper letters with their fingers to become familiar with letter shapes and sounds (Source). This hands-on experience cements letter recognition and phonics.

The movable alphabet provides letter tiles that children can manipulate to build words and simple sentences. This activity directly connects to early writing skills. Children gain confidence in building words before learning to write them.

Language development in Montessori emphasizes concrete learning. Children see, touch, and manipulate materials to absorb concepts. This multi-sensory approach builds a strong foundation for reading and writing.


Mathematics is a core part of the Montessori curriculum. Montessori uses concrete materials to introduce math concepts to children in a hands-on, engaging way. Some of the key math materials used in Montessori are:

Concrete counting materials like counters, beads, and number rods allow children to physically match quantities to numerals. This builds a solid foundation for the decimal system and place value. Materials like the spindle box and golden bead material take this further by representing the hierarchical nature of the decimal system (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.).

The bead stairs provide a visual model for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Children can watch as quantities combine and separate. The golden beads also introduce the 4 operations concretely. Here's an example of the bead stairs:

Using hands-on materials in this way allows children to discover math concepts for themselves. This gives them a deeper understanding and sense of confidence with numbers and operations from an early age.

The Montessori method emphasizes activities that allow children to develop independence and practical life skills from an early age. Here are some recommended Montessori activities parents can implement at home:

Child-sized cleaning tools - Having their own child-sized cleaning tools like dusters, brooms, and mops allows toddlers to participate in cleaning and develop coordination. Assign specific cleaning jobs around the house that your child can take responsibility for.

Pouring exercises - Let your child practice pouring water or dry beans back and forth between containers. This strengthens concentration and control over motor movements. Use unbreakable pitchers and glasses.

Object matching games - Gather pairs of identical objects and have your child match them by shape, color, or size. This builds early math skills like classification and seriation. Start with very distinct pairs like a red pompom and a blue pompom, then increase the difficulty over time.

More Montessori activities can be found at


About Davide

Davide is not just a co-founder of ProKids; he's also a dedicated father who understands the joys and challenges of parenting firsthand. Passionate about games and child development, his mission is to make parenting a more enriching and ...

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