> About Montessori


  • What is Montessori?
  • The Montessori Method:
  • The Prepared Environment:
  • The Role of the Teacher:
  • The Montessori Materials:
  • Advantages of Montessori:
  • Frequently Asked Questions





Montessori is method of education which emphasizes the child’s natural abilities to gather knowledge from his/her surroundings, along with a natural eagerness to learn. The main idea of Montessori is that every child is treated with respect, given freedom with limitations in a carefully structured environment, and develop naturally at their own pace. It was developed by Maria Montessori.




Who is Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle in Italy in 1870, and was expected to grow up to fulfill the traditional role of the Italian woman. Instead, she pursued a degree at the University of Rome and , after battling against the prejudices against women at the time, graduated to become the first woman doctor in Italy. As a doctor interested in pediatrics, she began working with children with special needs, labeled “idiot children” and through her observation of these children, she became aware that these children were not “idiot” children, just that their minds had never been stimulated. She began working with these children and saw vast improvements in their learning abilities. Some of these children sat the state exams and passed with higher grades than the so-called “normal” children. This achievement became known as “the first Montessori miracle”. Because of her success with these children, Maria Montessori was asked to start a school for deprived children in Rome, which opened on 6th January, 1907, and which she called “Casa dei Bambini” or Children’s House. The phenomenal success of this school sparked the opening of many more and a worldwide interest in Montessori’s methods of education.






Maria Montessori drew her ideas about how to handle and educate children from her observations of them at different stages of their development. She identified specific characteristics and these characteristics form the theory upon which the Montessori method of education is based. They are summed up as follows:

1. All children have Absorbent Minds:
A child is different to an adult in the way he learns. He/she has an "Absorbent Mind"; a mind like a sponge, which unconsciously soaks up information from the environment, therefore learning about it a rapid rate. This unconscious absorption lasts for the first six years of the child's life, more or less. It is therefore evident that every experience is of vital importance to a child, particularly in the first stage of the Absorbent mind, birth to three years, when conscious learning has not yet emerged. Take, for example, how a child learns language. His/her parents don't teach him/her. It is learnt without any effort, literally sinks in, so that by around 4 years of age the child has learnt to speak, form sentences and understand the basics of grammar. In comparison, how many of us studied a language as a school subject? We will never speak that language as fluently as we do our mother tongue.

2. All children pass through Sensitive Periods:
From her observations, Montessori noticed that children pass through periods during which they are more sensitive to one aspect of their environment that any other. Once he/she has acquired sufficient knowledge of the world, the phase passes. Montessori identified 6 such sensitive periods.









Sensitivity to order

Sensitivity to language

Sensitivity to movement

Sensitivity to social aspects of the environment

Sensitivity to small objects

Sensitivity to learning through the senses


3. All children want to learn:
Maria Montessori observed that children have an innate desire to explore and learn about their world. Therefore, there is no need to force them. In the Montessori classroom the children are guided in their learning, in their number work and in their letter work but they are free to work at their own pace.

4. All children learn through work:

Children work for a different reason to an adult. The adult works to perfect the environment, the child works to perfect him/herself. Montessori found that if allowed to complete tasks they had freely chosen they respond with initiative and their own natural love of learning.

5. All children pass through several stages of development:
Montessori observed the children and, taking into account the stage of development each was in, presented them with exercises accordingly. In this way the child learns quickly and easily as the interest in the work he is doing is there.

6. All children want to be independent:
Children crave independence and the Montessori method and materials teach children to help themselves, encouraging the natural development of independence.

Based on these observations, Maria Montessori designed the materials for education which are still used today.






The Montessori classroom is designed and prepared with the child in mind. Allthe furniture is child-sized and in proportion to the child. All shelves are at the child's level, helping the development of independence as the child can take his/her own work from the shelf and does not have to wait for an adult to help him/her. This, in turn, leads to the development of self-confidence.

There is only one of each set of materials in the Montessori classroom. This encourages the development of self-discipline and patience, as the child learns to wait his/her turn.

All materials are clean and intact with no pieces missing. It is aesthetically pleasing, attracting the child, so he/she wants to work with it.

As the child of 3-6 years is highly sensitive to order, there is order in all aspects of the Montessori classroom. There is order in the daily routine, ie. Free time/work-time/snack-time/circle-time/home-time. All the materials are placed in a particular order on the shelves, moving from simple to more complex, from exercises that involve the use of the whole hand to those which involve the use of the pincer grip.

The children quickly learn that there is a place for everything and everything must be returned to that place.

Freedom is allowed in the Montessori classroom. This is not to say that the children can run riot. Freedom is allowed with limitations. At all times the child must show respect to his/her peers, the equipment in the classroom and his/her teacher.

The child is free to sit where he/she wishes, alone, with someone else or in a group. He/she can choose to work with whichever exercise he/she wishes, provided he/she has been shown how to work with it correctly.

The child has the freedom to repeat an exercise as many times as he/she wishes. Repetition is the key to perfection.

The children are free from interruption. No child, nor the teacher should interrupt the child at work. When a child is interrupted from deep concentration, he/she will be unable to regain this concentration and so, the exercise he/she is working on will be incomplete.





Teachers of the Montessori method are referred to as Directresses. The Montessori teacher directs the child, helping him/her to learn. She is trained to observe the child carefully, and, taking into account his/her age, interests, stage of development he/she is at, sensitive period he/she is in, presents him/her with materials accordingly.

The Montessori teacher never interrupts a child at work (unless the child is messing or at risk), even if he/she is doing an exercise incorrectly. If a child does an exercise incorrectly it is re-presented in the correct way at a later stage.

The Montessori teacher at all times has respect for the child. In turn, the child shows respect for his/her teacher, peers, environment and him/herself.

When presenting an exercise to the child the teacher brings the child to the shelf to take the exercise. This reinforces the idea that each exercise begins and ends at the shelf. The teacher then accompanies the child to their table and does the exercise first, from beginning to end. The child is then asked if he/she would like a turn. They may say no, which is fine, unless it becomes a habit, but generally the child will be eager to try new work. The teacher sits with the child until the exercise is completed. The child may wish to repeat the exercise. When he/she is finished, the teacher accompanies the child back to the shelf to put the exercise away. Once a child has mastered an exercise, he/she is permitted to work with that exercise whenever he/she wishes.





The Montessori materials for education are divided into 5 sections:


Practical Life:

The Practical Life exercises are simple, everyday exercises that we tend to take for granted. They are exercises which deal with the care of the child and the care of the environment. They involve everyday movements with real materials and the work is real. Children love to imitate adults, and the Practical Life exercises give them the opportunity to do this by allowing the child perform tasks which he/she has observed adults doing, and, therefore, wants to imitate. The Practical Life exercises are designed to encourage the development of the child's sense of order and also helps him/her make an easy transition from home to school, as the work is not new and so not intimidating. On the Practical Life shelf there is only one of each material, indirectly helping the child to achieve self-discipline, as he/she learns to wait. The child will never take an exercise from another child's table, another lesson in self-discipline. The materials are aesthetically pleasing—they attract the child. Therefore he/she wants to work with them. There is a place for everything, and everything must be returned to that place, encouraging a sense of order. Each exercise has a built-in control of error which becomes the point of interest for the child. He/she can identify his/her own mistakes and correct them him/herself. This encourages the development of independence and self-esteem as the child does not have to wait for an adult to intervene. Each exercise offers the child the opportunity for repetition. Montessori believed that "repetition is the secret to perfection". The more a child repeats an exercise, the more perfect he/she becomes at performing that exercise.


The Practical Life Exercises are sub-divided into 4 categories:


Elementary Movement; which includes spooning and pouring exercises, peg-bowl, tweezers exercises, folding, carrying a tray. All these exercises involve deep concentration, and so aid the development of the child's concentration. They also help to develop hand-eye co-ordination as well as strengthening the muscles of the fingers and hands which will hold a pencil later
Care of the Environment; which includes polishing exercises, setting a tray, encourage an awareness of the environment and a sense of responsibility towards it.
Care of the Person; These exercises involve exercises which develop a sense of independence in the child. The dressing frames enable the child to master the skills required to dress him/herself. Other exercises in this area include blowing the nose and washing hands properly.
Grace and Courtesy; The Grace and Courtesy exercises are not presented to the child, as such, but are introduced as a situation arises, such as saying "please" and "thank-you" at snack-time, closing the door without slamming it, saying "excuse me" if they wish to speak. The Grace and Courtesy exercises encourage good manners and social awareness.




Maria Montessori believed that children learn through their senses which is why she introduced the sensorial group of materials, designed to stimulate the five senses. Through working with these materials the child learns to contrast and discriminate different sense impressions. Every set of objects can be grouped or paired and the principle of isolation is very important. That is to say that all aspects of the sensorial materials are identical, except the quality being taught. For example, the coloured tablets are used to teach colour. All the coloured tablets are exactly the same shape and size. They differ only in colour, ie. the quality being taught.
The sensorial materials enable the child to form concepts—heights, lengths, weights, colours, sounds, smells, shapes and textures. This helps the child develop his understanding and language.
Children educated through the Montessori method of education tend to read and write very early. This is due to the simple approach used to teach language, and to the phenomenal ability a child possesses to absorb language. In the Montessori classroom, children learn to read phonetically, ie, the sounds of the letters of the alphabet are taught using Sandpaper letters. Every child works at his/her own pace and, gradually, through practice, develops reading, writing and communication skills on a daily basis.


The child's hands and fingers are being prepared for writing through use of various sensorial materials, then later, they learn to control a pencil when using the insets for design, which allow the child to practice drawing the shapes which compose the letters of the alphabet.

Most children know the rhyme; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. However few understand the meaning of these words. In the Montessori classroom, children will learn to recognize the numbers 1-10 using the sandpaper numerals. He/she will then learn the quantities and soon will be able to combine the quantities and the symbols. By giving the child objects to hold, count and manipulate, he/ she builds up his/her concept of numbers and is later able to learn the fundamentals of simple addition, subtraction, fractions etc. By using Montessori materials, the facts are understood, not simply memorized.

In the Montessori classroom culture is studied under the following categories: History, Geography and Science




The History programme allows the child to gradually absorb the idea of the passage of time through the use of calendars, clocks, seasonal charts etc. We use a "day in the life of a child" frieze to help the child to develop a chronological concept of his day as the frieze gives the daily activities in the order in which they happen. The nature table also is of huge benefit to helping the child develop an awareness of time passing, as is a birthday/special occasion frieze and the clock.





The Geography programme is also very simple. Children learn about their local environment, the area they live in, different countries in the world, nationalities, races and cultures. Globes, maps, flags, land and water forms and country/ continent topics all introduce the child to the idea that he/she lives in a wide wonderful world.





Science: Life cycles, parts of animals and plants, planting seeds are some of the exercises introduced to the children in this section. The purpose of the exercises in this area is to help the child understand that all life is inter-related and to encourage an awareness and a sense of responsibility towards his/her environment.






Love of Learning:
The child develops a life-long love of learning through a pressure-free environment.

Self-Esteem and Confidence:
Because the child is developing at his/her own pace and through his/her senses instead of a fixed way of learning, their confidence in their own ability is dramatically increased. This in turn, will increase their self-esteem.

Emphasis is not just placed on strictly academic means. Objects, nature and everyday tasks are all used, creating a greater understanding in the child.

All of the learning modules at Montessori compliment each other, giving the child a greater understanding of everyday learning and living.

Good Habits:
Good habits are being reinforced at such an early age and becoming a permanent part of the child's development. In the Montessori classroom, the child achieves greater life-long learning experience in a relaxed environment. The child develops at his/her own pace while developing everyday skills that compliment home life along with maximizing their academic learning. All in all, the Montessori method is unique. It helps the child to reach his/her full potential on all levels of growth—physical, social, emotional and intellectual.





Is Montessori just for special learners?
The methods used in Montessori schools are highly effective for children with learning disabilities. However the Montessori method is for all children, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic level or intellectual ability.

How can a young child deal with "freedom"?
Montessori is based on the principle of free choice of purposeful activity. If a child is being destructive or using materials in an inappropriate way, the teacher will intervene and re-direct the child to either more appropriate materials or to a more appropriate use of the material.

If a child is allowed to choose his own projects, won't he/she do the same thing every day, or do nothing at all?

The Montessori teacher is trained to observe children as they work. When a child has mastered an exercise, the teacher will give the child a lesson that is more challenging, giving special attention to the age and interest of each child. And because the environment is so stimulating and exciting, children seldom do nothing.

Do Montessori Schools push children too far too fast?
Central to the Montessori philosophy is the idea of allowing each child to develop at his/her own pace. In the carefully prepared environment where children are allowed to work at their own pace and with activities that suit their age and interests children will learn quickly and with ease.

How will a child adapt to mainstream education once he/she leaves Montessori?
Montessori education provides an excellent basis for traditional education. Research shows that students, teachers and parents generally agree that Montessori pupils are independent workers, have good work habits, and adjust well to new situations. They rate well for their reading, writing and math skills. They also display an enthusiasm for learning and the ability to work independently as well as in groups.

Are Montessori children successful in later life?
Research shows that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standard tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, showing enthusiasm for learning and adapting to new situations.


Contact Information

Little Learners Montessori School
Coney Hall,
Phone: 041 9827890
Mobile: 086 8667132
E-mail: info@littlelearnersmontessori.com