Alba León reviews The Montessori Toddler: Creating Activities, Setting up Your Home, Planting the Seeds to Grow a Curious and Responsible Human Being and describes how trying some of the book's suggestions worked in her house.
A new mother, like me, learns pretty quickly that everyone has an opinion about how to raise their child. From food to sleeping habits and from toys to nappies, “the best way” is always somebody else’s way. Sifting through all the well-intentioned advice is often exhausting. But then, along comes a book like Simone Davies’ The Montessori Toddler: Creating Activities, Setting up Your Home, Planting the Seeds to Grow a Curious and Responsible Human Being.
The book itself is an oasis of calm. When I opened it, I felt like I had taken a very deep breath and I instantly began to relax. And that feeling, as anyone with toddlers can attest to, is difficult to find. As Simone takes you step-by-step through the Montessori philosophy, the beautiful, minimalistic design and pictures clarify at a glance what each chapter is about.
When I opened the book, I felt like I had taken a very deep breath and I instantly began to relax.
I had heard about Montessori before, but I had never really given it serious thought. It sounded like a completely chaotic method, with children running amok and refusing to learn maths. That would never work for my family. But the book takes you through the way this educational philosophy developed and shows that this is far from the case if the method is applied well.
After reading, I would say the book is set up the way I now think a Montessori room would be set up. It begins with the easiest things – the basics about how most children behave, the main reasons they tend to behave that way, and what and how they can learn. The most difficult subject is the finale: how to be a supportive and encouraging parent without losing yourself and your sanity.
The book begins with a very simple, yet often forgotten piece of information: toddlers are misunderstood humans. From there on, everything seems to fall into place. Toddlers are not out to get us. They are human beings, with needs and wants, who do things in specific ways because the world is a big place and they are learning to navigate it. They like regularity because once they’ve mastered the routine, they can break it, shape it, and learn new things. It is up to us, the adults, to provide that orientation and guidance, and it all begins with space.
Toddlers are not out to get us. They are human beings, with needs and wants, who do things in specific ways because the world is a big place and they are learning to navigate it.
Simone not only tells you how you can create a Montessori space, she shows you - down to the position of chairs, tables, toys and cutlery. As they say though, the proof is in the pudding. I decided to try turning our small toy area into a play space following Montessori guidelines. We live in a small apartment. Not all things can be converted to a Montessori space, and to be fair, compared to the families in the book our house could be in an episode of Hoarders.
Whether it worked because I took away the “extra” toys that made it difficult for my child to decide what he wanted to play with, or because as a family we are more relaxed there since we are no longer stepping on the odd toy left lying about, the little experiment worked. My child is learning really quickly where he can find things, and he decides whether he needs my help or can play alone, still supervised but much more independently. The space is less stressful because there is less clutter, and we all seem to be enjoying playtime a lot more.
Some of the advice is hard to follow and certainly requires more guidance than just reading a book, no matter how good the book is. But on the whole, we are doing some things differently at home now. We notice this is helping our child grow more curious than he already was, while helping us grow into our role as responsible parents in a way that works for us.
Alba León is a new mom, a creative writer and a researcher who hates doing the dishes more than anything in this world. Her background in international relations and law paved the way for a career in sustainability, with a heavy side of communications.