Back to school the Montessori way – Part 2: Routines 

The Summer days are counting down. At home we are well on our way to settling back into our school routines. As we spoke about earlier here, clear, consistent gentle rhythms will easy your child into the morning and nightly school routines. 

More importantly though, it will help prepare your child for the routines of their classroom. 


One of the easiest things to do is use routine cards. We love these free printable ones. They are not too childish, easily understood and large enough to be gripped by small hands. Laminated with a small dot magnet on the back and stuck on Quentin’s fridge, they have held up for years of daily use. He can easily see the order of his tasks and he has the ability to change the order should he choose. 


Books can help prepare kids for what to expect in the classroom as well. These are some of our absolute favourites and you can find out more about them here

The more routine you implement before your child goes off to school the better they will be prepared for their days. 

Don’t wait to until the first day of school to start getting up early. Start today. 

Here’s our tips: 

  • Figure out what time you need to get up to get everyone fed, clothed and out the door. Then set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than that! 
  • Get up even on the days you don’t need to. Even if it’s just a little bit earlier. It will help your young child keep that routine going. 
  • Get dressed every morning, even on holidays or weekends. Don’t wait till noon. This is a common mistake. 
  • Practice, practice practice your child’s self care tasks. Your child will need to know how to change their outdoor footwear, recognize their name, open their lunch containers, put on their jacket and use the bathroom completely independently. As a 3-6 Montessori teacher, I implore you to give them the confidence they need to get through their day without you by making sure they can do these task independently.
  • Set a bedtime routine that is gentle, allows for lots of family closeness and above all calm. We like to make sure that Quentin has a bath with some lavender essential oils and a warm towel to dry off with Then afterwards we sit with a candle and an essential oils diffuser going before getting him into his bed and reading together. This entire process can sometimes take two hours. It means that we need to make the conscious decision that his needs must come before our own. It ensures that he is truly calm and feeling reconnected after his busy day away from us. 

Lastly here’s some gentle words of caution:

  • Swimming lessons, sports and outings are very important but in the first weeks of school can create extra stress. Consider putting them on hold for the first month at least.
  • Your excitement may not be shared by your child. Be prepared for anxiousness and crying. Keeping the same routine every day and reassuring your child you will come back and get them will help. 

Back to school is a big transformation for any family regardless of if it’s your first time or not. Instilling routines that help prepare your child for separation, independence and the rhythm of your day will go along way to decreasing anxiety for all those involved. 

Back to school the Montessori way – Part 1: An overview

Autumn has crept up on us. Many children have already returned to school and with our own first day less than two weeks away I thought I’d share our Montessori essentials for back to school. 

The benefit of being both a mother and a trained Montessori Guide is that I live in both the home and school environment. So I’ve compiled a list of Montessori back to school essentials both from a veteran parent and teacher perspective that I’ll come back to and do separate posts on in the upcoming days. 
Let’s start from the beginning:

Routine

This is the absolute most important part of a smooth transition to school. Children especially those from 0-6 years thrive on predictable family rhythms. If your day (especially the morning) is lacking the routine required for a successful start to the school day here’s our suggestions on how to get everyone on track:

  • Pick a time in the morning that everyone should be up by in order to get out the door on time. Then add 15 minutes and set the alarm for the adjusted time. 
  • Make sure your child is going to sleep at a time that will allow for them to wake up rested. 10pm Summer bedtimes DO NOT WORK for the school year. 
  • Don’t wait until the first day of school to start this. Start it ASAP, even if you aren’t going out the door today. It will take awhile for your child to adjust. 
  • Make setting out clothes the night before part of your child’s bedtime routine. Make sure they are clothes your child can use the bathroom independently in! Speaking as a teacher, overalls, skinny jeans and long dresses just don’t work for a young school child. 

I’ll get into more detail about routine in an upcoming post but those are the basics. 

Lunch essentials 


Just like at home, independence in the Montessori classroom is essential for your child’s success. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Shop to ensure you have variety for the week. Variety will help your child’s lunchbox come home empty
  • Too tight thermoses filled with tomato soup are a disaster waiting to happen. If your child has trouble eating a particular food at home don’t send it to school
  • Your child will need to open their own containers. Choose ones your child can open independently and help them practice in advance. 
  • Make sure you know your school’s food/nutrition policy. Many schools have zero junk/zero waste policies or allergy policies. If you are unsure about what to send contact you school or pack a variety of nutrition rich foods in reusable containers. 

I’ll get into what we pack and how we pack it later this week. 

Above all respect the child


This is an emotion filled time for any child. Some children are looking forward to it, some are more anxious. Some will have changing feelings in the upcoming weeks as they transition into their classrooms. Just like we spoke about here, give your child lots of space, love and encouragement. 

If being grilled by a loved one on all the activities you did at work today is annoying, don’t do it to your child. Instead ask them relatable questions such as “What does your playground have?”, or “What did you do that was fun today?”. Be prepared for your child not to be able to answer “Who did you play with?” “What did you do?” kinds of questions. Also be prepared for them to be exhausted. Show them how much you love and respect them by gently offering help if needed, and allow them time to just “be” when they get home. After school IS NOT THE TIME  for getting out more Montessori trays off your home shelves. It’s time for reconnecting with a loved one, reestablishing trust and closeness and just relaxing. 

Instead of more work simply “Follow the Child” 

Our Montessori Life: Our week in pictures

The weather is getting warmer and school is coming to and end in less than a month for our oldest. Time to start reflecting and looking ahead to what summer will bring. 

This week we:
Spent a lot of time outdoors. 

It’s here that the children can move how they truly need to. “I wish I had half their energy” is a phrase we hear often when at the park. True. But also true is the fact that kids actually do have a tremendous amount of energy that needs to be expelled. It can either happen in a meaningful joyful way or it can come out in the worst way and at the worst times. We choose the joyful way. That means getting off the couch, packing a quick and easy snack and water bottle and heading outside. It could be to the park, a big attraction or simply just our own backyard. As long as we get out. 

This is what he’s looking at. 



Added some new friends to our backyard garden. 

3 Coturnix Quail. Quentin is at the point where he can actively care for an animal with little to no help. These tiny creatures open so many possibilities for him to discover the world around him. He helps collect eggs, feed them and ensures they have clean bedding. 


Spent time together in his school classroom as we enjoyed his Mother’s Day tea. 


Used the Moveable Alphabet to compliment his self directed learning.

There was so much more but these are the highlights. 

How was your week?

 If you have something you would like us to share that is Montessori related, please let us know, we would love to feature it. 

Our Montessori Life: Our workspace at 5 years old. 

Every year, as Quentin’s birthday draws near, we pause to take stock of our space. Specifically our Montessori work space. This year as we observed him, it became quickly clear that Quentin is passing into the Second Plane of Development. It also became clear that his space is quickly becoming obsolete. 

It’s hard to believe we have come this far. 


This is how our space started. There is a post about it here that was written less than a week before his first birthday. It was a space that Quentin, an infant on the movement mat with his bell and ring mobile, and his big 12 year old brother needed to share. Over that first 18 months it worked extremely well. 


A year later we did a major overhaul of the space a year when Quentin turned two. You can read about it here. Just like in any toddler Montessori environment, movement needed to be at the forefront of our focus. He needed a large floor area and items that called to his need to move his body. He also needed more shelf space as he was showing a capacity to sit with table work for longer and longer periods. The space for materials was important because he had not yet started school but was very eager to do tray type activities. Anthony had also grown out of the need to have his things stored in the boxes shown in the first picture. The overhaul worked beautifully and the space continued to be used by both boys. 



A year later a minor overhaul was done again as Quentin turned three. We removed his book basket and installed a book rail so he could display and easily access more titles. Anthony no longer required the space preferring his work table be moved to his bedroom and the space became solely Quentin’s. We also got a new work table set that better fit him and took up less space since he was better at containing his tray work. You can read about that change here


As Quentin turned four only the smallest of changes happened. You can see what our entire house looked like here. We changed the artwork and really started to make use of the new designated art area (shown behind the open backed shelves with second desk and upright cube storage). 

The space still worked but we could see changes would need to be made.

And so, as we sit with Five less than 24 hours away, we have decided we must change the space. 

Here’s what still works in this space:

  • Light and airy
  • Clean lines and clutter free
  • Open space to move around in and lay out a work mat
  • Clearly designated area for art
  • Reading corner still comfortable and a good fit size wise

Here’s what doesn’t work in this space:

  • Cube shelves are no longer required. He knows where his work goes instead of needing an empty cube reminding him
  • Too many cubes. He actually needs less shelving for work materials 
  • Limited display space means collectibles and non work material aren’t always displayed well
  • Work table is too small for some larger works
  • No upright long storage for his Waseca Biomes mats meaning we now lean them against his shelves with his work mat

This and the accompanying shelves shown here from Restoration Hardware seem perfect for us. Some big storage baskets like the large rope one shown above are also appealing but I’m not sure if my inner minimalist will love them in real life. 
We will be sure to post pictures of the reno process and of course you will hopefully be seeing the finished space soon. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you stand back and evaluate a place in your home through the needs of a child. 

December Nature Study: Winter Solstice 

The celebration of the return of the light. 
This is the time of year we focus on simplicity. When commercialism seems to be pushed just a little bit more, we instead look to tread lightly. It’s a time when Montessori Grace and Couresty have an intent focus and when Peace Education is at the forefront. 

Here are some of the things we do to continue our Nature Study in the month of December: 



Making Nature garlands as a treat for our local birds is an excellent way to practice sewing skills for little fingers. We use a tapestry needle for easy grip and sharpness. These can be modified so that even a toddler can help and they make great gifts to bird and nature lovers. 


Cinnamon Stars are easy and perfect homemade gifts. Quentin has been using the hot glue gun for years now but if this is your child’s first time using one, we recommend giving a lesson first and hand over hand helps keep little fingers safe. 

The stars look beautiful attached to the outside of a package too. 

A homemade Yule Log is a classic favourite. Quentin loves making the meringue mushrooms. 


Nature walks on cold, crisp mornings offer a chance to follow animal tracks and see the changes the cold brings to the natural world. On this walk we examined frost patterns on leaves and watch some ducks test the ice before going in. 


We love books in this house and Solstice wouldn’t be complete without curling up together for read aloud times. This book is our favourite non fiction Winter Solstice book for the 3-6 age group. I use it in my classroom and we have used it at home since it was published in 2014. 

This book is also lovely. We enjoy different fables from around the world and Quentin loves making the connection of where the fable originated to the region on his world map. 

This one has been a favourite of our house for years. We began reading it with Anthony on Solstice night years ago and Quentin now enjoys it although it is very much intended for a child in at least the Second Plane of Development. 

Lastly we all sit as a family and light homemade beeswax candles and listen to this amazing Canadian taken all too soon singing about the above fable. It is a beautiful song of a mother’s love for her child and has been Quentin’s favourite since before he could walk (if you follow us on Instagram you may have seen him sing it).

As the afternoon sun fills our house on this the shortest day, we hope that whatever your family is doing in December, it is restful, peaceful and joyful. 

Practical Life:The kitchen

  
Practical Life, the heartbeat of the home. If I had to start all over these 6 are the ones I would rush out and buy. And, as an added bonus, each of them is under $10. 

For anyone just starting out, these 6 favourites will completely transform your child’s role in the kitchen. Your child will now (after a little guidance) be able to make their own snack and help prep family meals. Such an amazing feeling of independence for the child. 

  1. Multi use kitchen tool (our absolute favourite on this list)
  2. Glass Pitcher with lid (we use this for water at Quentin’s drinking station)
  3. Crinkle Cutter knife (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  4. Vegetable peeler (ours is from Kylie’s gorgeous shop
  5.  Egg/Mushroom/Strawberry Slicer (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  6. Strawberry Colander (our newest addition and already a favourite) 

Do you have favourite child sized kitchen tools? Have you found something you can’t live without at your house or classroom? Leave a comment. We are always looking for products to review. 

    Our Favourite Montessori friendly gifts

    Our answers might surprise you….


    Or maybe not if you have been following here for a while.

    Between the ages of 0-6 years, as the child crosses through the first plane of development, it is the experience they seek. Not the stuff. 

    Our favourite and most important gift to give to a child is experience. Because, experience equals time. 

    A day at the beach with family is so much more to a child than a story book about the beach. Playing kitchen with plastic pots and pans isn’t even comparable to the love a child feels when baking with a family member. 

    Each positive experience goes far beyond simple fun. It builds lasting connections in the child’s development that build on each other over time. This in turn leads to a child building stronger Executive Functioning skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and self control. 

    Here is a list of some of our absolute favourite experiences to give a child:

    • Go on a holiday, big or small that is just for them. Spoil them with late bedtimes, pillow fights, sightseeing and lots of together time
    • Annual pass to the Zoo, Aquarium or other live animal focused centre
    • Annual pass to local museums, art galleries, or music conservatories that offer child friendly programmes. 
    • Rec centre membership for endless swimming, skating & kids athletic programmes
    • DIY Coupon book for kids that can include things like “baking cookies”, “movie and popcorn night” “outdoor adventure” etc. 

    If you are looking for a physical gift to give a Montessori child, here are some crucial things to keep in mind:

    • Quality over quantity. One carefully selected thoughtful gift is worth more than an armful of absentmindedly thrown things into a shopping cart. Quality materials although more costly upfront will last for years in a Montessori home 
    • Nature materials over plastic whenever possible. Cotton, wood, steel, stone all feel, smell, taste and sound very different, but all plastic is the same. Children are refining their senses. They must have sensorial input. Giving natural materials also keeps little hands chemical free. 
    • Reality based over fantasy for under 6. Children crave real experience and under 6 are still laying the foundation of the neurological connections about their world. Real tools, lifelike animals and realistic people figures & dolls help them make sense of this world. 
    • Practical Life is always a great idea. The best gifts allow a child to be independent, self confident and take pride in contributing to their family life. They are also incredibly fun for a child. Small working vacuums, brooms, kitchen utensils and yard tools are always favourites. 

    Gift giving can sometimes get a little crazy. We all want to give them everything. But, before we go out and add to the stuff that’s piling up in the corners and across the floors of our homes, maybe we need to remember that adding to the stuff is not really what they want. 
    What they really want is our time.