Unlocking Montessori – Key #1: Movement

Hi there! Here we are with the first post in our series on Montessori methods. The purpose of this series is not to strictly define the principles, but to just chat about the heart of Montessori and unlock a little of the mystery. 

Let’s jump in — Montessori Key # 1: Movement

Anyone who has tried to complete a stationary activity with a child knows how difficult it can be to get them to sit still. Turns out, this is a good thing! Research in child and human development is increasingly showing the interconnectedness of movement and cognition. In other words, kids learn best when using their whole bodies.

The Montessori method encourages giving children opportunities to move their bodies in purposeful ways, leading to concentration and a sense of calm. Montessori tasks usually involve manipulating objects and sometimes even using one’s whole body. Isn’t this good news for preschoolers? 

Children are not meant to sit still and research increasingly shows what Dr. Montessori knew to be true — movement and cognition are closely linked. Worksheets and long periods at a desk are not beneficial for learning or for child development. However, being still for learning works for the Lockean (John Locke – tabula rosa) and behaviorist (child is taught through rewards and punishments) models of education —  “it is easier to pour things in empty vessels or to write on blank slates if they are still” (39) — as well as the factory model of the class completing a lesson in-sync. In fact, “the factory and empty-vessel models seem to preclude any sizable portion of school learning occurring through movement” (39) (quotes from Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius* which is a great overview of the research). Ie, worksheets and sitting still until recess is best for the school system – not the child.

As parents and educators of small children, it can be hard to feel like we’re “doing enough” with our children academically. The temptation to print out a dozen worksheets and line the fridge with the proof of our child’s “school work” is very real. While worksheets and displayable activities are sometimes fun and can be great tasks to work through together, I want to encourage you to embrace your child’s energy – that maddening inability to stay quiet and still – and use it! 

Only a small part of learning takes place at a desk. It is a wide, wonderful world – don’t be afraid to explore it! And who knows, you might learn something too! 

*Note this is a link to the publisher and not an affiliate link. It is cheaper new directly from the publisher (compared to Amazon), but you can find it used places like amazon.com and abebooks.com for even cheaper.


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