Practical Life – Part 2

Today we continue our series exploring the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom, focusing in this post on the ways in which Practical Life skills benefit other curriculum areas. 

Many of the exercises in the Practical Life area are preparation exercises of Sensorial works. The exercises help to fine tune the development of the child’s senses. Many uses of the five senses occur in the Practical Life area: sound, sight, and touch are used in equipment-bases activities, such as bean scooping; smelling and tasting are involved in the preparation of food.

Practical Life not only develops the child’s senses and teaches real life skills, but sets the basic foundation for other areas to come. For example, understanding size, weight, and equal distribution are skills which are vital when the child is introduced to the Math area of the classroom.

Perhaps the most significant is the development of the pincer grip, which allows the child to correctly grip a pencil and begin working in the Language area.

Sensorial – Part 1

Sensorial is an area of the Primary classroom that is uniquely “Montessori.” Many of the jobs hearken directly back to Dr. Montessori when she set up her original classroom for the benefit of the young, unattended children in the housing projects of Rome in the early 1900’s.  Dr. Montessori could see the advantage of having children develop and refine their five senses.  She also understood that if a child was presented with materials where they could check their work themselves, and know visually that the job was done correctly or incorrectly due to the precise way the materials were used, then their level of independence and self-confidence would increase.  Dr. Montessori referred to this concept as the “control of error’’ and it has great significance throughout the classroom, and especially in the sensorial area.

IMG_0084As the child begins to explore the sensorial works, one of the first jobs introduced is called the pink tower. “The pink tower has ten pinkcubes of different sizes, from 1 centimeter up to 10 cm in increments of 1 cm. The work is designed to provide the child with a concept of small and big.” The child starts with the largest cube and puts the second-largest cube on top of it. This continues until all ten cubes are stacked on top of each other. The control of error is visual. The child sees the cubes are in the wrong order and the tower becomes unstable if a larger cube is placed on top of a smaller cube.

IMG_0085Many of the sensorial materials are made with 10 components so that the students get used to counting 1-10 quite naturally.


For instance, the brown stairs is made up of 10 sets of wooden prisms and introduces the concept of thin to thick. “Each stair is 20 cm in length and varies in thickness from 1 to 10 cm. When put together from thickest to thinnest, they make an even staircase.”  After the initial pink tower and brown stair lessons are mastered, both materials can be used together forming interesting combinations.


Join us next week as we continue looking at the Sensorial part of a Montessori classroom. 

Parent Education: Practical Life – Part 1

Today we are looking back at a series that we posted back in the summer, Practical Life. 

In a Montessori classroom, the Practical Life area is one of the first areas that a child explores. This section of the classroom provides the child with real-life materials that help to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order.

Through the exercises of Practical Life, the child learns the skills that enable him to become an independent being. From birth, the child is striving for independence and concerned adults, parents, and teachers should help him on his path by showing him the skills he needs to achieve this end. Having been shown a skill, the child then needs freedom to practice and perfect.

In a Montessori classroom, preschool children learn basic motor skills in the Practical Life areas by teaching themselves and learning from other children rather than by specific adult instruction. As the child becomes absorbed in an interesting activity, he develops concentration. If the activity is appropriate and meets a need, it will be interesting for the child. The longer the child is absorbed by an activity the  better for the development of concentration.

Through activity, the child learns to control his movements. The idea that the path to intellectual development occurs through the hands is a major theme in the Montessori Method. The exercises of Practical Life provide opportunities for the development of both gross motor and fine motor movements. In addition, the child learns to keep the environment in a clean and ordered way, putting everything away in its right place. He is taught to approach each new task in an ordered way, to carry it out carefully, to complete the activity, and finally, how to clean up and put the materials away. Engaging in this complete process encourages logical thinking.

Another great post on Practical Life can be found here as well.

Feeding Your Preschooler: What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for, and hopefully that includes some extra down time at home. Here are some great Thanksgiving craft ideas from Living Montessori Now to do with your children over the holiday.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of love.

The Montessori Method – Process Precedes Content


The Montessori Method is fundamentally about instilling a “process” for doing everything. Process precedes content. If a student is given the proper lesson up front on how a job can be done, they will be able to duplicate the steps and experience the satisfaction of using the materials effectively. As Montessori students receive lesson after lesson where the emphasis is on process, they begin to feel the underlying message of “when work is done in this order, in this manner, the greatest experience can be drawn from the materials and the lesson at hand.”

Concentration is a natural byproduct of using a learning format in an intentional and repetitive way. Not only is a technique learned and a greater sense of independence is felt by the student, but an overall sense of peace and wellbeing flows from a mind fully engrossed in their work at hand. It takes a steady awareness on the part of the teacher (and the parent at home) to keep the course and gently, but firmly, redirect the child back to the process and not be swayed by their natural enthusiasm to get to the end results without doing the vital steps in between.

DSC_5765Once the process is secured in the mind of the student, then the variations or extensions of the work can be introduced. At that point, the student has a “place” in their mind where to store the new information. Then when the need arises to recall the steps or retrieve a more abstract fact, the student has a well trodden pathway in their memory upon which to draw upon. Mastery of process then makes mental storage of facts easier and allows the student to participate more fully in the lessons they are learning. An engaged student is one who is building upon their abilities to function effectively in the classroom, to absorb more and more abstract information, and then to eventually be able to synthesize and analyze the data learned.

DSC_5769At every grade level, hands on use of materials is an intricate part of the Montessori learning experience. Each job has its specific form and process for use. Elementary students are far better equipped to handle higher math functions, when they have have used the golden bead and stamp game materials and have a three dimensional impression of what place value really looks like. Similarly, when Montessori language symbols have been used to define parts of speech, there is tactile memory of each part allowing students the extra benefit of visualizing the part of speech in a more concrete manner.

DSC_5790“Free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes. The child who cannot yet obey an interior guide is not that free being who sets out to follow the long and narrow path toward perfection. He is still a slave to superficial sensations which leave him at the mercy of his environment.”Dr. Montessori observed that students who were clearly guided in the process of using materials began to internalize the proper steps and then in time were able to duplicate those steps independently. A template of learning was being created; and ”manhood is born within him when his soul becomes aware of itself, when he sets himself a task, finds his way and chooses.”*

DSC_5772*”The Absorbent Mind”, Dr. Maria Montessori

You Are Truly Brilliant

We are pulling from our archives today to talk about the theory multiple intelligences.

You may already be familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which made waves in the fields of education and developmental psychology after it was outlined in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. If not, consider picking up a copy

Gardner, a renowned developmental psychologist and Harvard professor, maintained that intelligence wasn’t so black and white as traditional school assessments and public opinion would have us believe. A child who struggled through their mathematical exercises could be a brilliant poet; a child who struggled at all traditional subjects altogether may be a brilliant musician or athlete. No intelligence is innately superior to another, and every person likely has some form of all the intelligences, but may excel in one or two.

(Want to know what type of intelligence you have? Click here and here to take two unofficial tests.)

In 1999, Gardner added another intelligence (naturalistic) to his original seven, and has since proposed a ninth. The intelligences are musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. The ninth, which may or may not be an official addition at this juncture, is moral or existential intelligence. Check out this wonderful infographic by designer Diana Ziv below:

While the Montessori method is not based on Gardner’s theory (Dr. Montessori began developing her philosophy in 1897), it does complement it in that it encourages students to develop their talents, feed their curiosity and learn more about subjects that they are interested in. Gardner is also a fan of student-directed learning and alternative forms of assessment. To learn more about Gardner’s theories and how they relate to education, check out this 1997 interview with Edutopia and visit the official website for information on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI).

Recognizing Developmental Milestones

No one knows a child better than his parent. How your child behaves and the manner in which he communicates offers important information regarding your child’s development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screenings at ages 9, 18, 24 and/or 30 months. They recommend autism screenings at 18 and 24 months. If you have a concern it is your right to ask for a screening or further evaluation

To assist you in assessing your child’s development, please refer to the CDC’s guidelines on milestones at 2 years3 years4 years, and 5 years.

The Two Pillars of Effective Classroom Management

During a recent Friday at school, the students were at home and the teachers were in class. We were learning about “Bringing out the Best in Students and Teachers” from Grace Dearborn, a Mentor Teacher/Consultant. With over 15 years of teaching students ranging in age from kindergarten through high school aged children, Grace was a master storyteller, easily conveying tried and useful information to the FMS teaching staff.



Starting with some of the basics, like “The two pillars of effective classroom management are structure and safety.” The more clearly the structure of the classroom is laid out for the students the easier it is for them to follow the procedures in the classroom. For example, in the primary classrooms, we show students how to roll up a mat so that it is evenly rolled up and tightly done. In the course of the day, if a child haphazardly rolls up a mat and then puts it away, they have not internalized the structure of “how to roll up a mat.” Hopefully, a teacher will see this and gently ask the child to try again, thus giving them a pattern of rolling up a mat that is in compliance with the structure of the classroom.


In an elementary classroom, students might be shown how to do a word sort where they are handed a list of words and are asked to divide up the list according to the specific categories. If the student follows the procedure and separates the list according to the categories, then the child begins to learn the words effectively and this process reinforces their knowledge. On the other hand, if they don’t sort correctly, a teacher would see the opportunity to reteach the process and reinforce the structure of sorting according to an effective standard.



As each child is able to move and operate in the classroom, successfully navigating the rules and expectations within the room, the smoother the classroom runs. Children naturally test the boundaries laid out by teachers (and parents) and most of the time, they are just testing to see how trustworthy the teacher is. The first time they push a limit and a teacher is able to meet the child with “positive love and regard” while redirecting the student to making a better choice, the student’s sense of safety is reinforced. They begin to relax because they know that the teacher is directing the room from a position of strength and awareness.

Naturally teachers are motivated to convey content to their students; the “important information”, like facts and concepts. Yet, an equally important component of teaching is modeling appropriate behavior. In fact, as was reinforced in our training; children come into a classroom wanting to learn appropriate behavior. It is the teacher’s duty to clearly lay out the procedures for appropriate behavior, redirecting a child to better choices when they are testing the limits, and to implement clear consequences for the choices being offered. As children learn to conduct themselves within the framework of the classroom, they begin to develop the skills to effectively be in groups. Since most of our lives are spent working in groups, this is a fundamental skill that requires the attention it deserves.

101 Things Parents Can Do to Help Children

We’re pulling from our blog archives today to talk about 101 think parents can do to help children.

Parents often wonder what they can do to reinforce Montessori principles in their home and daily routines. This list, 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children, was written by Early Childhood Montessori Guide Barbara Hacker, and is full of practical tips for all facets of life.

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children