You can see the shelf, and also the pull up bar and mirror we added to encourage standing and walking. There are other commercially made ones available, this diy set up was $15 though.
This week we are getting to peek into the home of Pamela of Instagram account Totally Montessori (@totallymontessori). She was once a Montessori child and is now a Montessori guide and parent of two children. I can personally connect to her interview as I can see how the Montessori experience as a child has stayed with her and positively influenced her career and parenting. Reading her answers and looking at her home, it is apparent how highly she values the prepared environment. The calmness, simplicity and natural light in her photos is what I find appealing. Pamela has very practical advice for parents interested in also having a Montessori Home. I also think she deserves a medal for making all of the Montessori baby mobiles herself...they look beautiful! I hope you enjoy the interview!
Tell me about yourself...
Hello! My name is Pamela, I am married to William and we have two precious children, Kate (2.5) and Michael (4 months). I enjoy running, sewing, reading, and perusing Instagram for new materials to make for my children or for my Montessori classroom.
How old are your children?
Kate is 2.5 and Michael is 4 months.
A view of the whole room, you can see the low artwork and how the shelf is visible from the movement area to give our non-mobile infant incentive to move towards it. Our daughter slept in a Moses basket until we transferred her to the floor bed full time at 6 weeks old. Our son took longer to transition because he had reflux, and slept in his rock and play until 3 months. The mirror helps coordinate body movements and gives more perspective of what the room looks like.
What is your experience with Montessori and has the philosophy influenced your parenting at all?
I am a Montessori guide for 3-6 year olds, credentialed through AMS. Almost more importantly, I was a Montessori child with a remarkable teacher who truly embodied the spirit of Dr. Montessori. I remember how wonderful it felt to just be with her and to be free to make discoveries in the classroom she had so carefully designed for us. It makes me very sensitive to the language I use with young children, and I try to take special care to only put things that I love into my classroom because my memories of that time are so vivid.
When my husband and I decided to start a family I knew I wanted them to grow up with Montessori and decided to become a credentialed teacher. I thought it would improve my parenting, and it has paid off more than I expected! I know it has shaped the way I talk to my children, no baby talk, respectful, kind, firm. And it gave me a “script” of sorts to fall back on when I would otherwise be at a loss for what to do.
One of the infant mobile series, the octahedrons.
How have you created a Prepared Environment in your home?
We read "Montessori From the Start", "Understanding The Human Being", referred to the blog "How We Montessori" frequently, and that is how we designed our children’s infant space. We have an activity space, a baby gym with mobiles, a mirror, a low shelf, a floor bed, and a dresser. All of the artwork is low so it is at their eye level.
Now that our daughter is a toddler we are branching out into other areas of the house to make them all appropriately accessible for her. In the kitchen she has a learning tower, her own shelves for her dishes, and a water pitcher she can pour on her own.
In the bathroom she has a stool and a child-sized toilet to use.
Standing diapering station that we transitioned to after Kate started walking, the mirror helped her see what was happening and the bar steadied her. We will do this again with Michael when he starts walking. Being oriented the same direction as when they start using the toilet seems to help expedite the process. We used the book Diaper Free Before 3, and Kate started using the toilet at 18 months. At 2 and a half I would say she has mastered the skill, but we still bring a change of clothes wherever we go.
What are your top 3 activities to do with your children or to watch your children do?
For my daughter:
1. Read books together, right now our favorites are "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, "Chu’s Day" by Neil Gaiman, "Tidy Up" by Gwyneth Swain, and "When I Grow Up" by Weird Al. Recently we started reading "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe", I was surprised by how taken she was with Lucy.
2. My favorite thing to watch her do is imaginative play when she doesn’t know that I’m watching. She is such a little mommy to her babies, it is cool to see how she loves, comforts, and even chastises them in the same way I talk with her.
3. Hearing her observations about the world from the stroller, from the colors of passing cars, noticing crosswalk signs, seeing ducks near the pond, etc.
For my son:
1. Read books together! He is surprisingly into it already and coos and kicks his legs through all of "Green Eggs and Ham".
2. I like to watch him observe his hands and feet, his eyes get very big and full of wonder at these funny things at the ends of his arms and legs.
3. I also love to watch him play with my husband, there is something unique about the way dads play with their children, a little tougher and more physically demanding. At 4 months he just lights up when my husband starts to nuzzle him with his whiskery face!
Early toddling, enjoying her most recent toy rotation.
How do deal with toy/activity/material storage and rotation?
We rotate toys weekly. They are stored in the bedroom closet when not in use, lately I’ve been having my daughter help with the weekly selection process, she chooses 3 toys and I choose the rest. It helps me know what her favorites are and makes her part of the process.
In addition to her room, we do activities at the kitchen table and she has a shelf for her art supplies.
My son is still working on rolling over so he uses a variety of tactile mobiles and we rotate his toys weekly as well.
What is your favourite part of your child’s play/work space?
Their shelves. I love how there is a space left when my daughter takes something out, she is adamant about returning it to the same place when she is finished.
A more recent toy cycling evolution, you can see the toys are becoming more complex.
How do you help foster independence in your children?
So many ways!
For my daughter I ask her questions to re-direct her behavior. For example, say she is setting the table, finishes putting out the plates, and starts to wander off. I would say “I see you’ve put out the plates. What is the next step?” Usually she will supply the correct answer and it brings her back into the task at hand while encouraging her problem solving and sequencing skills.
I try to make the house not just childproof, but child-friendly. Everything she uses is accessible to her and has a place where it belongs. It can be jarring to guests when she pulls out a butter knife to cut up her bananas, or drinks water out of a real glass that she poured herself rather than a sippy cup handed to her, but after being carefully instructed on how to use a tool, we do keep items where she can reach them.
For my son, I would say the floor bed and movement area are two of the greatest ways we foster his independence. He has a clear view of his surroundings and the ability to move his body around. For the sake of being transparent, the floor bed is actually a fairly recent transition for him, we started using it around 3 months. He had quite a bit of reflux as a young infant so he slept on an incline in the rock and play for my peace of mind because I kept having nightmares that he would choke laying flat on his back.
What is some advice you have for families who are interested in setting up a "Montessori Home"?
1. Before you start adding toys that are “Montessori” I would advise donating toys that don’t meet your needs. (I find most electronic toys to be over-stimulating, annoying to my adult mind, and lacking a clear concept of cause and effect so those are usually kept around for a month and then donated) Less is more, and the toy rotation makes old things seem new again to young children. You’ll be surprised by the new ways they use the same toys as they grow!
2. Post a daily routine for your child and make it in picture format so they can refer back to it. Then instead of repeating “clean up your room” multiple times, you can physically point to the routine and say “we finished play time, now what is the next step?” And they can refer to their pictures to help. They thrive on routine and love knowing what to expect next.
3. Ditch the toy box in favor of a shelf. It’s more aesthetically pleasing and encourages the child’s sense of order and their ability to care for their things, rather than dumping them all on top of each other.
I made the infant mobile series, we used these when our babies were new-news.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m just so grateful for Dr. Montessori’s work, it has been such a blessing in my life and I’m honored to continue it with the children in my life.
To learn more about Pamela, follow her on Instagram (@totallymontessori) and read her blog.