from "The Joyful Child"
Michael Olaf's Essential Montessori for Birth to Three

At this link it is now possible to order the The Joyful Child, which is a 70-page Montessori overview and catalogue of appropriate toys, tools, and materials for the home or school that support the Montessori philosophy for educating the child from birth to three years of age.

Applying Montessori Philosophy
as Parents

Now that we are in our fifties and have over thirty years of parenting experience behind us, we would like to share the core of what we have learned:

First of all each child is unique, and there can be no easy recipes for how to treat her. Intellectual recipe advice is abundant and contradictory in every area of the child's life.

The most important advice we can offer is from Dr. Montessori herself, to Follow the child. Her methods have always been based on direct observation of children, rather than from the intellect or in imitation of the philosophies of various social groups.

Our main goal at Michael Olaf is to help parents and teachers learn to observe children, to discover clues to their unique set of needs and patterns of development. As we get to know our children at this deep level we also get to know ourselves in a new way.

Another area of advice we would like to offer is to think of the whole family when creating a nurturing environment for growth. Balance yourself, balance your primary relationships and friendships, and the balance of the rest of the family will happen much more easily. As we learn to provide an environment which calls forth the best in our children we begin to discover ways to call forth the best in ourselves.

The Changing Environment

As the child grows and changes, the environment will change to reflect his needs, not only the physical environment but in the intellectual, social, and emotional environments. The child constantly grows in independence and responsibility, and it is a challenge to keep up with this growth.

Parents who learn to observe their children will be able to tell if a toy is still appropriate, or if furniture is still of the correct size for the growing child. They will recognize when the child is ready for the next step in participation with the life and work of the family.

Adults who are trying to learn to be good parents are doing so because they care about others. No matter how much we all try to be perfect we must learn to be easy on ourselves, to not waste time wishing we "had only known," but must learn to laugh, to pick up the pieces, and to begin again.

Those who know, have a responsibility to teach, and we hope that you will continue to learn, to enjoy your roles as caretakers of children, and to share your wisdom with others.


The Absorbent Mind

Children in these early years literally absorb the life around them. We can never be too kind, too respectful, too wise, to be their role models. When they are not with us, we must have the highest standard of expectation for any adults with whom they spend time. The environment we create for our young children is the environment they are going to create for their children, and on, and on.

A Sense of Order

In the first three years of life children have a very strong sense of order - of both place and of time.

An infant can become very upset over things that we would not notice, for example the baby who cried the first time a man who was not her father came into the room because she had experienced many women and no other men than her father. Or the child who cried because an umbrella which he had seen many times closed was opened for the first time. A child may become disturbed because she is bathed after a meal when she had become accustomed to being bathed before a meal.

These children do not have any other motive than to try to make sense of the world, to create order. When the child figures out where everything belongs and how the day goes he develops a feeling of security that allows him to go on to the next stage of development.

Wise parents recognize this stage and support the child's internal creation. They put thought into the arrangement of the environment, and into daily routines, being sure that something begun can continue to be done in that way.

Above all they become good at putting themselves in the place of the child to try to understand what he is learning and to be able to respect his pace and needs.

If you would like to see more information on Montessori theory and practice from birth to age 12 and beyond, links to lectures, information on Montessori teacher training, books and other materials for the home and school, and more, go to: The Michael Olaf home page The text on this page is reprinted from several different versions of The Joyful Child, with permission of The Michael Olaf Company.

Copyright 2009, The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
Please E-mail for reprint permission, but feel free to link this page to any site for educational purposes.