Even Montessori teachers fail at Montessori sometimes

I was trying so hard to follow the rules that I forgot to follow the child, which is a basic principle of Montessori.

Even Montessori teachers fail at Montessori sometimes

When I first became a mom, I thought I didn’t have a parenting philosophy, and that was fine with me. I just wanted to do what came naturally to me, to watch my beautiful new baby, and build a relationship around love and trust.

I slowly realized, though, that all I had learned through my career as a Montessori teacher heavily influenced my parenting style. I love and believe in the Montessori philosophy and way of treating children, so naturally, it was how I wanted to parent my child too.

I’m certified as a Montessori teacher for children ages 3-6, but not for infants and toddlers, so I started to read. I read books and articles and blogs, all about Montessori parenting.

However, I realized that I wasn’t absorbing just the information, I was also absorbing guilt. Even as a Montessori teacher, I read about things I wasn’t doing the “Montessori way” and it made me feel guilty.

I realized I didn’t want to post certain things on my blog because they didn’t necessarily conform to the Montessori ideal. I questioned basic decisions I was making for my family. I resisted what I knew was best because it didn’t fit the perfect picture I had read about.

Things finally changed when I asked for help.

I tend to process things internally and don’t often talk about my struggles. I finally got so frustrated with how I was feeling that I had to reach out. I talked to both my own mother and my old boss and mentor and they both encouraged me to trust myself and reminded me that I know my son best, not a book and certainly not the internet.

Each time I made my own choice, whether or not it aligned with my “parenting philosophy,” and saw the positive results, I became a little more confident as a mother.

I want to share the Montessori parenting ideals that I “fail” to do well because it’s so important to sift through all of the information, all of the opinions, all of the noise, to find your own parenting style, to find what works for you and your family and your precious child. I never want to add to others’ feelings of failure or not doing enough and through sharing my failures, I hope it helps someone else to find her own voice.

1. Montessori floor bed

This was something I struggled with so much.

Traditionally, Montessori babies sleep on a floor bed (basically a mattress on the floor), rather than a crib. This allows them a more complete view of their environment, and also encourages freedom of movement and independence. We set up a floor bed for my son, and he started using it the first week we brought him home.

Fast forward six months when he became mobile, and everything changed.

He was able to roll off of his bed and roll around the room, but he could not yet get back into bed. While he had previously been falling asleep independently, I now needed to stay with him while he fell asleep or he would simply roll around the room and play. This wasn’t terrible but felt like a backward step in independence to me.

Most importantly, he was SO eager to play and explore, that he started only taking 30-minute naps. When his sleep cycle transitioned, he would simply wake up fully and start to explore.

Every time. For weeks.

I really tried to make the floor bed work. Trying something else felt like giving up to me because it wasn’t the “Montessori way.”

Eventually, not wanting to face the poor sleep situation in conjunction with travel, I decided to try this travel bed. It felt like a hybrid because it is still on the floor and I could leave it unzipped during the day so he could go in and out, or choose to rest. He started taking long naps again from the very first day in his new bed, and we’ve been using it ever since.

I was trying so hard to follow the rules that I forgot to “follow the child,” which is a basic principle of Montessori.

2. Montessori-specific toys

There are so many beautiful Montessori-specific toys for children, starting from birth.

For infants, this includes a beautiful progression of mobiles. They are specifically designed to appeal to an infant throughout his developmental stages and offer an early opportunity for building concentration.

I was gifted two lovely Montessori mobiles, but I did not make or purchase the rest because they are expensive and I am pretty much the worst at anything crafty.

Still, when I watched my son entranced by one of the mobiles or saw beautiful pictures on Instagram of Montessori nurseries with the mobiles we were missing, I felt guilty, like I had somehow failed my son.

This is so silly though. I let him observe the world without interrupting him to build concentration. I made sure he had beautiful and interesting things to look at, whether that was a sunny day through the window or a black and white image propped up nearby. There is no one-way to meet a developmental need, and I’ve tried to remember this as my son has grown.

There are many beautiful Montessori toys that I would love to get for him. However, I also need to consider how much they cost and how long he much he will realistically use them. His room doesn’t need to look like a page out of a Montessori catalog to meet his needs.

3. Anthropomorphic books

Montessori-friendly books for young children depict images and stories from the real world. This excludes things like talking animals or unicorns. It also excludes a lot of the classics like Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh.

The purpose of this is to aid children in discovering and understanding the world around them. Very young children are still figuring out what is real and what isn’t, so having books full of talking animals wearing clothes can be confusing.

I love books about nature and real people, but I also really love some of the classic children’s literature that isn’t so realistic. We read Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, despite the bunnies in clothes. I like to explain, saying something like “animals don’t really wear clothes, but this is a pretend story.”

I’ve become pretty confident about this balance, exposing my child to plenty of real images and descriptions, and also including the less Montessori-friendly classics. It may not be fully Montessori, but I love these books and want to share them with my child.

4. A fully Montessori home

I am pretty much in love with the beautiful Montessori kitchens that I see on Pinterest. These child-friendly setups have a child-sized workspace, a water source for children to get their own water, and low shelves with kitchen tools and snacks for children to prepare for themselves.

I very much want to create something like this in our own home, but simply haven’t had the time. That held me back for a while, but then I decided that there is no need to wait until we can craft the perfect setup.

Instead, I cleared out a low drawer for all of my son’s things (glasses, plates, forks and spoons, a sponge for cleaning, etc.). For now, he can get things from his drawer. It’s not beautiful or Pinterest-worthy, but it does encourage his independence.

Sometimes it’s okay to simplify and work with what you have, even if it doesn’t live up to the images on social media.

While each of these things felt like a failure to me, they’ve also helped me think more deeply about the kind of parent I want to be. I do consider myself a Montessori parent. But being a good parent to my specific child, in my specific family, means so much more to me.

No matter what your parenting philosophy, it can be hard to sift through all of the “shoulds” out there, but it’s okay to be a little bit brave and craft your own style, your own way of doing things, that is just right for you.

You might also like:

  1. Montessori at home: 8 ways to peacefully transition into toddlerhood
  2. 7 key phrases Montessori teachers use and why we should use them, too
  3. My mornings are hectic—and other confessions from a working mom

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

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