Italian Physician, Maria Montessori, developed what we now know and adore as the Montessori method, a philosophy and practice that supports the development of the whole child.
It discourages some conventional measures of achievement, like grades and tests, but it puts a greater emphasis on a child's
independence. The gif above shows a typical scenario where parents are constantly trying to "put out fires" while their child is wrecking havoc every second of the day.
So how in the world does Montessori relate to Professional Organizing? It's easy, a Pro Organizer's job is to create systems where all members of a household can be independent and know without a doubt how to maintain a system. But what's a system? A system is a simple step-by-step, or muscle memory, in which you take action. Like automatically walking through the front door, locking upon entry, hanging up the keys, and washing your hands every time you walk in without thinking about it. It's the simple steps we take without exhausting mental energy to get from point A to point B.
So when it comes to kids and their toys, you can bet that it does not look like the above gif. From my perspective, a Professional Organizer educated in a Montessori style school, and former public school elementary teacher, I have seen it all. It is always with pleasure when I can support parents to create a space for their child to be successful, independent, and have fun.
What does this look like? Here are three practical steps you can take to better support your child to thrive, using Montessori:
1. Let's get into the Montessori approach and how it can be hybridized to ensure that you are not this lady cleaning up after your kid as they make an even bigger mess a second later. Simply put, it is not sustainable. This is where the less or more comes into play. In many studies across the globe, they have found that kids actually get more easily bored when there are too many toys. Yep! Too many toys is more boring than having less toys (Parenting, 2018). Why? Because their is less value associated to the mundane.
Start by reviewing ALL toys throughout any and all rooms throughout the house and let some go. Practice discernment and let go of the ratty ones, the ones that aren't played with regularly, or the ones with the annoying sounds (yes, that is totally fair game!).
2. Are you depriving your kids if they don't have enough toys? Nope! Have you ever noticed that all too true phenomena where you buy a new toy and your kid is more entertained by the box it came in than the new toy? Children will play with what they have, prize their belongings, OH and you won't have to clean up after them because there is less to manage.
So here's the hybrid Montessori model and it is not brain science, but what many stress-free parents have turned to ensure that their kids have access and choice in their play, space to explore their creativity, and don't waste money for a toy that will end up in the landfill: SAY HELLO TO TOY ROTATION!
3. Everything has a home. This is where that independence really comes into play. If you have toys that are stacked taller than your kid, they will always make a mess just trying to get to that one toy. Worse, they will make a mess in other parts of the house because what they want is out of reach. I love to bring in the classic IKEA cube shelving (many brands make their model of this). Now, the Montessori part is to ONLY have one type of toy in each cube. So in a 8-cube shelf, you'd have 8 toys. Perhaps, and this is a maybe, you'd have 4 toys on the top shelf and 4 baskets on the bottom. From there it is all about the categories. You could have one basket with a few puzzles, another with legos, a third with dress up costumes, and the last could be blocks. Don't forget that less is always more, and by following step TWO (toy rotation), it is easy to keep things exciting.
Ultimately, your goal is to create a safe space for your child to thrive. The Montessori approach is to ensure that kids have access and can at minimum be responsible for their play. *Those other skills come with time and are developmentally tied. So when it is time to change from playing with the building blocks, it first means that is time to put the building blocks back into their basket, and the basket back onto the shelf.