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How to have happy kids—the Montessori way

3 words: Freedom within limits.

How to have happy kids—the Montessori way

In Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, Maria Montessori observed that children in her schools had a certain calmness and quiet joy. She concluded that this positive change in children’s disposition resulted from two things: organization of work and freedom.


Organization of work

The ‘prepared environment’ is a hallmark of any Montessori school. Maria Montessori believed that the children’s classroom environment should be carefully designed to spark their curiosity and empower their own inner teachers, to help them find purposeful work.

Purposeful work provides a positive outlet for children’s energy and brings them a deep sense of satisfaction.

Work in Montessori classrooms is also designed with a control of error—that is, the children themselves can see whether it has been done correctly so they don’t have to rely on a teacher to correct them.

A simple example of this is a puzzle where each piece fits in one space. A child doesn’t need to ask an adult if he’d done a puzzle correctly because the pieces either fit or don’t fit. This is how Montessori work is designed. Thus, when he is working, the child is working toward his own self-improvement, rather than to please a teacher, which brings a sense of purpose and happiness.

Freedom

Within the prepared environment, Montessori children have the freedom to choose their own work. They do not all work on the same thing at the same time as in many traditional schools. They also have the freedom to engage with the work at length and with creativity as long as it is respectful.

In addition to intellectual freedom, Maria Montessori wrote about the importance of generally avoiding interference in children’s affairs unless it was really necessary. She wrote, “We leave children free in their work, and in all actions which are not of a disturbing kind” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook).

Montessori found that when given choices and purposeful work, children no longer needed to rebel, and reached a state of happiness and improved character.

The science of happiness

Montessori’s observations of the children are supported by modern scientists’ studies of society at large. Manipulating Happiness: Maria Montessori, Biswas-Diener’s study in the International Journal of Wellbeing, asserts that Montessori strategies can, in fact, make children happier.

There is of course no one definition of happiness, but Biswas-Diener discusses several happiness theories that include factors such as autonomy, mastery of new skills, and connections with others—all of which are emphasized in Montessori classrooms.

He also cites many research studies regarding how personal choice and freedom increase happiness in people in general. Children are no different.

Biswas-Diener goes on to point out that, while freedom is essential to happiness, too much freedom, or limitless choices, can actually hinder happiness. Essentially, freedom within limits fosters happiness.

This means children have the freedom to move around the classroom and choose where to sit, but not to run through the classroom or trample on someone else’s work.

They have the freedom to choose what to work on, but not to only choose math all day every day and neglect reading—the teacher would help guide them to a different choice in this case.

They have the freedom to express themselves, but not in a way that is disrespectful to others. Freedom within limits.

How to do this at home

It’s very possible to incorporate these principles at home to help your child be happier! Try these things:

Try thinking of your child’s room as a prepared environment.

Organize it simply and fill it with things that spark his creativity and concentration.

If she’s misbehaving, try engaging your child in purposeful work.

Invite her to help you make dinner or ask her to rake the leaves in the yard. Work brings satisfaction and a positive sense of self.

Take a step back.

Before you tell your child not to do something or interfere in an argument he’s having, ask if it’s really necessary, or if you can give him the freedom to work through it on his own. Watch for a minute and see if it’s really dangerous or harmful, or if you’re just stopping him out of habit.

Autonomy and purposeful work help bring children happiness. It’s wonderful if they can have these things in school where they spend so much time, but you can certainly offer them at home regardless of how they spend their school days.

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.

$30

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

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.

$40

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.

$120

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

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