Apple Montessori Blog
How the Montessori Philosophy Grows Confident, Independent Students
From the moment a baby is born, they begin striving toward independence. This is why most children are naturally driven to learn to crawl and walk on their own. They want to explore the world on their own terms!
Similarly, many toddlers go through a stage of exclaiming “I can do it all by myself!” This independence in turn builds confidence. How can we encourage and foster this independence?
The Montessori method makes independence a priority. Here’s how:
The Montessori Environment
When you walk into a Montessori classroom, you’ll notice child-sized furniture, low sinks for handwashing, and low shelving. Kellie Capatasto, a Regional Director at Apple Montessori Schools, says that these classroom features facilitate independence. When children can move their own chairs and reach the sink, they can perform tasks without help from adults.
In the classroom, students also make choices, which builds their independence and confidence. Whether it’s choosing where to work, selecting a material, or picking out a book, these choices build executive function and independence.
Plus, in the Montessori classroom, teachers follow an important rule initiated by Maria Montessori herself: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” While teachers demonstrate how to perform tasks and provide support, children are encouraged to do activities on their own. Teachers often observe carefully from a distance and only offer help if necessary.
Practical Life Activities
Dr. Montessori believed so strongly in the importance of helping children build independence that she created a whole curriculum area focused on it. This area is called “Practical Life.” In these activities, children learn basic skills such as how to fasten a button, how to sweep, how to spoon beans, and many more. These skills help children dress themselves, clean up after themselves, eat on their own, and more!
Through practical life activities, children gain independence. Students also improve their fine motor skills and build their ability to concentrate.
Discovering Independence at Apple Montessori Schools
Mrs. Capatasto has had the pleasure of observing children grow in independence at Apple Montessori Schools. One particularly memorable moment was when she “watched a child serve themself snack without spilling and the smile across their face was priceless,” she says.
Throughout the 3-year-cycle, children grow and change immensely. Mrs. Capatasto remembers a particular student and shared how she grew. “I remember when a child started with us at two years old and she was so shy that her parents considered taking her out of school because they didn’t feel as if she was grasping the concepts or fitting into the environment. I watched her grow academically, socially, and emotionally into an extremely confident and outspoken happy Kindergartner.”
The attention spent on fostering and facilitating independence makes this kind of growth possible.
How Families Can Foster Independence at Home
You can help your child achieve independence at home as well! Mrs. Capatasto suggests allowing children to pour their own juice or water, zip up their own jackets, and choose their activities. These actions help children recognize when they’re thirsty and develop important fine motor skills that will later help them with writing. Around the house, you can also look for ways that your child can help. For example, asking your child to help set the table, slice cucumbers for supper, or to dust the living room helps your child feel more and more competent.
It can also be helpful to make your home more accessible to your child. The simple act of placing a step stool in the bathrooms and kitchen will make it possible for your child to wash their hands independently. Or, you might place cups, bowls, and snack supplies in a low cupboard so that your child can get their own cup of water or prepare a simple snack.
Another important way that families can help is by encouraging children to try and fail. “We all make mistakes and we learn from them,” Mrs. Capatasto says. When we create a safe space for failure, children are more likely to try new things. Instead of viewing mistakes as failures, they’ll view them as opportunities for learning.
Finally, it can be tempting to step in and help your child. Whether you want to put on their coat for them, cut out a picture more quickly, or butter their toast, it’s easy to step in and say “let me help you!” However, by only stepping in when your child is in distress or asks for help, you show your child that you believe in them. You provide them the chance to try out their skills and practice doing hard things. So, when possible, try to wait before stepping in.
Focusing on building independence from an early age “helps children to be more focused, confident, successful learners, and better humans. The messages we are sending are so profound – ‘I believe in you’ and ‘I respect you.’ These unsaid messages are very powerful,” Mrs. Capatasto explains.
Are you interested in having your child grow their independence with us? Get in touch with us today to learn more about our programs.