Promoting Independence the Montessori Way

Every parent’s dream for their child is to grow up and become an independent adult one day. Those who choose to have their child follow the Montessori way do so because the method guides a child to grow into an adult who thrives in life and is full of self-confidence. Independence is the greatest gift a parent can give a child – and Montessori promotes that.

The Montessori Method promotes independence by giving a child the ability to make their own choices, providing gentle guidance and allowing them to learn through play at their own pace. The Montessori way removes unneeded discipline and traditional lessons, providing a flexible and empowering learning environment.

The Montessori method will help promote independence in your child by giving them faith in themselves. By no longer being served, overly directed or punished, children learn to figure out things on their own. They will make their own choices, discover the world on their own, and teach themselves along the way.

Promoting Independence the Montessori Way

Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method by focusing on the scientific part of the child’s development. She believed that education should prepare a person for their adult life by giving them the tools to be independent now and in the future.

Montessori’s method is based around the needs of a child and backed by scientific observations.

  • Gentle learning
  • Being supervised but not controlled
  • Untimed learning
  • The ability to make their own choices

Montessori realized a child is capable of far more than many of us assume. When left to make their own choices in an incredibly supportive environment, the child will realize their potential, gain independence, and enjoy increased confidence. Instead of the classroom being taught as a homogenous whole, each child will learn at the pace that fits their individual needs.

Why Montessori Emphasizes Independence

The Montessori way stresses independence because, as Maria Montessori once said: “Educating young children is educating them for independence.” The Montessori philosophy of “Help me to help myself” emphasizes that giving the child room to explore and learn on their own benefits them more than having things done for them.

The Montessori Method essentially says: Help me by giving me independence, so that I can help myself throughout my life.

Examples of Helping a Child to Help Themselves

While a traditional class teaches first and foremost to educate, the Montessori way strives for children to gain more knowledge by allowing them to discover and do more on their own.

  • Each time a child finishes a task by themselves, it lights a spark inside of them. They feel confident and happy, which pushes them to try more things on their own. The more they find they can do by themselves, the more it benefits them in the long run.
  • A parent or teacher gets out of the way of the child and just observes them finding things out on their own; this creates a child who likes to do things on their own. The child learns to have confidence in themselves to complete a task without being guided.
  • Teachers and adults offer a prepared environment. An environment that is mindfully prepared for the young learner’s exploration allows for discovery, learning, and independence.

Waiting on a child hand-and-foot or anticipating their needs before they can find their own solution does not allow them to do tasks they are capable of on their own. In this scenario, even the most loving and well-intentioned adults are stunting what a child’s level of independence could be.

The Montessori Method has a simple outcome: giving independence and confidence to every child.

What Are The Core Principles Of The Montessori Method?

In addition to independence, the Montessori Way includes several other important principles:

ObservationIt is truly quite a simple step. Watching the child, taking in everything they are learning, observing how they explore and have fun learning about the world around them. As you observe the child, you can see how they interact with things and give them gentle guidance and tools to figure things out on their own.
Following the ChildAs you follow the child, they will show you what they need. You can supply them with the tools needed to push themselves and give them a little bit of a challenge.Try not to be too overprotective as the child explores. Ensure they are safe and out of harm’s way, but let them see how high they can climb, how far they can jump, and how much they can carry. Don’t order them around, instead give them choices to make on their own. Take a step back and watch what they do.  
Respecting the Child  Just like many adults, children have accidents, make mistakes, and do the wrong thing sometimes.  Things are spilled, broken, lost, dirtied, stained, forgotten.  Instead of scolding, yelling, or punishing a child when they make a mistake, try to have them help fix the issue. If a child spills their crayons, identify the accident and ask them what they should do or ask them to clean it up. Adults don’t want to be yelled at for a mistake, so why would a child who is still learning, a little clumsier than an adult, and with their brain still developing be yelled at for a simple mistake?  
Prepared Environment  This is an extremely important part; rooms should cater to a child. Small tables and low shelves with materials that are easily accessible to the child. Safe for them to roam and explore freely. An uncluttered space that is not overwhelming. A child will thrive in the right environment that fit their needs.  
Absorbent MindChildren the age of three and under do not need to have an actual lesson to learn. They soak everything in like a sponge. Especially when you think they aren’t listening – children are always tuned in to what is around them. Maria liked the idea of not saying no, they will only repeat it back to you eventually. Instead, the word used is “stop.” This teaches them to stop the behavior they are doing.  

Play Learning is Essential to the Montessori Way

The Montessori Method also feels that learning should be fun and not forced. A child will feel that they are playing simple games or having fun with their toys.

As they play, children are learning from something as simple as putting together a puzzle, playing with wooden blocks, setting the table, or acting out a scene from a book. These activities all seem more fun than a chore – and children grow from them in a way that is different from lessons.

In Montessori, play is voluntary, and activities are self-chosen. There is no prescribed length of time for play – a child can decide when to stop playing and move on to something else.

Whereas an adult feels the need to complete a given task, in Montessori, the task isn’t the goal. It is an activity a child is doing because they enjoy doing it. They can move on at any time, without the need to “complete” it.

In addition to these principles of play, here are a few others from MariaMontessori.com:

How Does Montessori Promote Independence From Infant Age Through Childhood?

At every step of the way, the Montessori way promotes independence. Letting children learn on their own and learn from their mistakes without worrying about punishment creates a safe environment for them to learn. This starts as young as infanthood, with age-appropriate, independence-building tasks, such as:

  • 5 months old: exploring the home with hands and body
  • 10 month old: exploring the safe outside environment
  • 12 months old: practicing feeding themselves with a spoon
  • 14 months old: practicing washing hands
  • 18 months old: practicing dressing themselves
  • 24 months old: helping to wash vegetables and fruit
  • 2 1/2 years old: helping to water the plants
  • 3 years old: helping to wash the kitchen table
  • 4 years old: helping to set the table

And so on. Every age-appropriate activity that helps a child to do something for themselves – and even help the parent or teacher – is an opportunity to grow and learn the Montessori way.

At all ages, the child can decide if they want to work together or alone, and what task they would like to do. When a child is happy and enjoys a task, they will thrive at it.

Children can pick their activity and work on it at whatever pace they want. Plenty of time is given to finish an activity so that a child never feels they need to hurry and finish their work. They will get more from the task and enjoy doing it.

Is The Montessori Method Just For Young Children?

When a child is young, their minds are the most absorbent. Helping guide a young mind toward the skills needed to become an independent adult is most naturally done in the first six years of life. Most Montessori classrooms work with children of all ages.

In Montessori, children aren’t placed in grades according to biological age. In fact, most classroom groups are mixed-age. It is a much more flexible determination of level based on the individual child’s development. The Montessori Method recognizes four stages of growth:

Infancy/Early ChildhoodBirth to Age 6The absorbent mind
ChildhoodAge 6 to 12The reasoning mind
AdolescenceAge 12 to 18Social consciousness
Early AdulthoodAge 18 to 24The young adult in the world


Activities for the older children in Montessori typically involve helping the younger children. Having to guide someone through a task calls for the older child to learn the activity more deeply, and teaching gives the older child more responsibility and enhances confidence and independence.

No matter how old the child is, starting the Montessori way of teaching can be extremely beneficial.

Main Differences Between Traditional Schooling and The Montessori Method        

Traditional SchoolMontessori Method
Set times to do each activity.Free play, time to do activities at any pace they need to.
Day planned out for the child, and everyone does the same thing.The day is not planned out exactly. Children choose what activity they feel like doing at the time.
Time outs, chalkboard marks, called out in front of the class, detentionNo time outs, no use of the word “no.” Children are encouraged to be positive and productive.
Can be loud, as it is difficult to control the classroom and get everyone doing the same activity.Calm and quiet.  Each child is doing something they picked for themselves.
Walking in a line to lunch, made to stay quiet, stay still.Set their table together and in some classes help serve their own food.
Children can sometimes feel unheard or overlooked.  The class is taught as a whole.Each child has their personal needs met and is heard as an individual.
Children are taught educational, traditional academic subjects. Soft skills and mindfulness are secondary topics.Soft skills and mindfulness are part of every day. Academic subjects are taught in non-traditional ways.

Giving a child a positive, untimed learning environment where they feel in control of their actions greatly helps their confidence to be independent. A traditional school can feel rushed and overwhelming to some children while others feel bored with daily activities. But a Montessori classroom will allow the teachers to step back and let the children learn while making sure their individual needs are met.

“The greatest sign of success as a teacher is to be able to say: “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori

Who Benefits from the Montessori Method?

Truly any child could benefit from the Montessori Method. Because the Montessori way recognizes each child as an individual and encourages each child to grow and learn in different ways, any child can learn at their own pace and thrive.

Traditional Montessori classrooms keep a child with the same teacher for three-year or six-year spans, which provides stability, trust, and consistency. This proves to be very beneficial for children’s growth, comfort, and confidence in the classroom.

What About Children with Special Needs?

A child with mild to moderate sensory issues is likely to feel comfortable in the quiet, individually-paced environment. When the child feels at ease and is provided with a consistent and stable world of the Montessori classroom, they are more likely to learn and take things in when their senses aren’t overloaded.

In the Montessori classroom, each child’s needs are individually addressed, which makes a more productive and less chaotic day for the class. When kids aren’t bored, overwhelmed, stressed, or unheard, they only need to worry about learning and exploring.

Parents Can Help Encourage a Child’s Independence at Home

By letting the child do tasks on their own and venture out to the world to explore with little guidance from you, you’ll see a change in the child and a spark inside of them with just some simple tips on starting. Let your child:

  • Set the table for everyone, or at least themselves. Put silverware and plates within their reach.
  • Put food on their own plate. You can give them a little advice but let them learn on their own how to scoop/pick up and place things on to plates.
  • Clean up after themselves. Throwing away their trash, taking dishes to the sink/ load the dishwasher.
  • Put their socks and shoes on. And put them away after they come off.
  • Choose their own clothing and dress themselves. Even if things get put on backward, just give minimal guidance.
  • Get toys out. And then put them away.
  • Choose what activity they would like to do and for how long. If they want to build the same puzzle for an hour repeatedly, they are still learning and perfecting a task.
  • Bathroom habits: Brush their teeth, clean up the sink, fold their hand towel.
  • Wash in a bath or shower (with supervision for young children for safety.)
  • Clean up any mess they may make without punishment or shame. (Let them make the mess, too!)
  • Help wash clothes. They can put clothes in the washer or dryer or help sort to sort and fold laundry.
  • Household tasks: Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting.

The child will surprise you with what they can do when you essentially get out of their way. Many children assume they are not allowed or big enough to help. When you allow them to help or do it on their own, their self-confidence will grow.

Conclusion

The Montessori Method successfully prepares the child for growing into a confident and content adult. Letting children learn on their own by exploring the world around them allows them the opportunity to develop and bloom by gaining independence and confidence.  The benefits a child gains through Montessori will last throughout their life.

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