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Montessori ways to prepare your child for preschool

Whether or not you are looking at Montessori preschools, using Montessori methods at home can be a great way to create a productive learning environment for your baby before school begins to help ease the transition.

Here are some tips to help you and your little one feel confident about—and prepared for—this change.

1. Learning starts at home.

Try to engage your child in play right from birth or as soon as you are ready (it's not too late to start if you have a toddler!). A significant component of Montessori is the prepared environment and the adult's role within it. Observing your baby while they are playing and adjusting the environment as they learn new skills and develop new interests will help to engage your little one in interesting and developmentally appropriate play.

For example, if they are learning to walk, encourage this curiosity by providing a bar or stable shelf to pull up on. Creating an environment that feeds their innate interest and desire to explore will build their strength, confidence, and independence.

2. Start with a low shelf with no more than eight toys or activities.

This gives your baby the freedom to choose what they want to play with without getting overwhelmed. Also, the order and simplicity of their space will allow the two of you to maintain it more easily. Choosing toys that aren't overstimulating, have a clear purpose and require your baby to engage with them to be interesting will instill an attitude of perseverance and engagement from a young age.

A flashy, "battery operated" toy with lots of lights and sounds might capture your baby's attention, but its purpose is mainly entertainment. As Dr. Montessori said, "The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." The more children are able to use their hands to engage with "child operated" toys, the abler they will be to solve problems and experience their environment, and the more they will discover.

3. Work on practical life skills.

A few small additions to your home environment can build your child's confidence and ability to do things for themselves. For example, add a few low hooks and baskets in your entryway. Once your little one is a confident walker, collaborate with them to put on and remove their coat, and show them how to hang it on the hook.

Offer help taking off their shoes and hat and show them which basket to put them in. Remember to only offer two or three choices of each item of clothing so that she isn't overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Putting in the time and patience now to support them in this process and others like it will empower them to do it on their own. And they will grow to love taking on this responsibility.

4. Practice independent eating.

You can raise a confident and independent eater by practicing at home before preschool begins. Put away distractions to create a calm and relaxed environment during mealtime. This helps your child develop positive associations with food. Allow your little one to practice eating independently, with either their hands or a utensil when they're older. This will help develop vital oral and motor skills, like hand-eye coordination, and teaches healthy eating habits as they learn to regulate bites.

Allow your baby to make a mess, even when it's tough! Babies learn through their senses, and giving them opportunities to experience the natural consequences of their actions helps them learn and grow.

Give your child the chance to be part of the whole process of mealtime, including setting their place when they're ready to eat, pouring their cup of water, cleaning up, and washing their hands.

5. Create a language-rich environment.

Reading, singing and conversation are all wonderful literacy tools that can begin right from birth. The more language you can expose your baby to, the better. They will absorb all the language they hear, so try to use real words with them. Using real language and names for objects will build your baby's vocabulary so instead of just "doggy" try "black lab," and so on. When your baby is starting to use their own words, restrain yourself from correcting them and instead just repeat back what you know they're trying to say.

For example, if they say, "Pass me my wa wa," you might respond, "Sure, I'll get you your water." This reinforces the correct pronunciation of the word without making them feel like they made a mistake, which could damage their confidence and interest in speaking.

Be consistent with the language you and other adults in the environment use. If you use a word to describe something, try to stick to that description. This will make it easier for your little one to make connections as they learn language.

6. Encourage embodied learning.

All learning at this age is done through the senses. This means that your child learns by doing. Focus on creating active ways for your child to learn and use language to give these activities context. Children at this age can memorize quickly because their minds are so powerful and absorbent. But memorization won't lead to understanding. Learning happens by doing.

It's more important that your baby understand the world by living it with their senses—smell flowers, feel the raindrops, taste the lemon, count footsteps, listen and speak with sounds that will give context to the alphabet. This deep understanding of the world around them, as well as practice with linguistic and mathematical concepts, will provide an excellent foundation for learning letters and numbers in preschool.

7. Set routines for your day that are similar to that of a school day.

Creating a schedule for naps, mealtime and play that mimics that of the preschool your child is going to attend can ease the transition from home to school. Children adapt to new schedules very quickly with consistency. This process won't happen overnight. Introduce the new schedule gradually over a few weeks so that their routines won't be completely thrown off when they begin school.

Getting started with Montessori learning at home is pretty easy. These products can help.

Janod shape sorter

Janod shape sorter

With multiple ways to play and an open invitation to play their own way with the colorful blocks, this foundational toy is a great addition to a minimal toy shelf.

$28

Wise Elk flexible tower

Wise Elk flexible tower

Simple, engaging and timeless blocks are a Montessori must-have. This colorful tower can be stacked like a puzzle or in any creative way they can imagine.

$20

EKOBO bamboo kids meal set

EKOBO bamboo kids meal set

Independence at meal time benefits everyone. This sustainable bamboo set features high sides that make it easy to get food onto the ergonomic spoon.

$25

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall 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 outside-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.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden 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.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective 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.

$40

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.

$30

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.

$100

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.

$40

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.

$121

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.

$100

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.

$45

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.

$179

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.

$100

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.

$33

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.

$88

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!

$75

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.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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