100 Days of Montessori – the first 10 days

Getting Started

If you’ve been following along you know that I started the “100 Days of Montessori” challenge for myself this year. And you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much. I’ve wondered if I should do a daily post on the Facebook page or write it all in a blog. So I’ve done a little of both but not much of either. Finally I decided to post in chunks instead of daily. Here is an overview of the first 10 days/steps on my challenge.

What’s great about making Montessori changes in my life shortly after my daughter’s second birthday is that she isn’t in the “ready for school” period Maria identified in her work, which occurs closer to age 3. So that means I was able to start slow with small yet measurable changes in my life and my home. It was also helpful that I was already employing some Montessori principles – which is a large part of what drew me to this method in the first place.

What makes it difficult is that I’m not a stay at home mom, so some days I don’t make any changes at all and some days I make several changes. Most of the early changes I had to make were mental/outlook adjustments and while I’m listing them as “days” they are more ongoing struggles I’m addressing.

Day 1: Let her do it herself. I was already practicing this in many areas, but I noticed that I was frequently interfering with her efforts because I didn’t want her to do it wrong. Dressing herself, blowing her own nose, washing hands – these are all things that she wants to do herself and may just need a “touch up” here and there after she makes a mistake. What’s great is that now she comes to me when her shirt is on backwards rather than being forced into “the right way” before she could even try.


Day 2: Involve her in household chores. In Montessori this is just “practical life” but I wasn’t doing much of it because everything takes 8x longer with a two-year-old “helping”. Practical life activities I now encourage are emptying the dryer into a basket, handing me items to help empty the dishwasher, and cleaning up all her messes, including throwing away garbage, wiping up spills and putting away her own laundry.

I remember when, shortly after moving into a new house with a dishwasher, I’d often find her piling unwashed plates (that she’d removed from the dishwasher) in the living room and taking clean plates from the cupboards to put in the dishwasher. She’s needed a little redirection in her efforts but is very enthusiastic about helping out.

Day 3: Limit toys. This took me a while to figure out, but I finally realized that when people do away with the toy box they don’t give their kids unrestricted access to all toys. It means instead of 50 blocks, 15 might do. And instead of every toy and activity the child has ever enjoyed, a rotating assortment of 5-20 options may do. I’m finding my daughter likes around 10 in her room and another 5 in the kitchen or living room on the lower shelves and cabinets.

Day 4: Gentle discipline. This is something I’ve been practicing since birth – the operative word being “practice”. I’m a yeller and I’m working on it. I don’t believe in “practice makes perfect” but I prefer my brother’s phrase “practice makes permanent”. My gentle discipline improves and is newly challenged every day.

Day 5: Cut out the empty praise. This is another daily challenge. I’ve gone from saying “good job!” 50x a day to about 10x a week. Improvement! (If you’re wondering why, read this article.)

Day 6: A trip to the thrift store. I went to the store after feeling inspired by photos of other people’s thrift finds and looking at this list of things to buy, but the trip was a partial bust because I wasn’t really sure which items would be age appropriate or what I should use them for. I did find some good things in the toy section, like a cloth busy book, a cloth farm with animals, a memory game, and items to make lacing cards in the craft section. I have since gone back to get small pitchers for a pouring work and lots of baskets for storing activities and organizing my household in general.


Day 7: ACTIVITY- pipe cleaners in a strainer. This was a good 10 minutes of entertainment.

Day 8: Cutting with safety scissors. This was a big fail, and it turns out there are all kinds of activities I could have tried first to “train” cutting skills.IMG_4802

Day 9: ACTIVITY- Q-tip jar.

Day 10: Activity fail- ugly glitter bottle (this one looks like the recipe to replicate, though I don’t want to make it for time outs).

Disclaimer: this blog is about MY journey and the things I’ve done on my challenge. Since I’m far from an expert I can’t claim any of it as an example for others to follow and, as I frequently share, many of my attempts have ended in failure. I’m really interested in hearing about the first ten Montessori steps YOU implemented in the comments below or on the Facebook page!


Reading Montessori Blogs has Led Me Astray

If you’re a Montessori blogger, please don’t be offended by that admission. It’s really not you, it’s me. Because I’m trying to find ways to engage and teach my child, and sometimes that quest leads me to focus more on what other people are doing and less on what my child needs.

I have let my desire to DO get ahead of my understanding of what needs to be done. I have a burgeoning Pinterest collection of Montessori activities and dozens of blog posts and pictures bookmarked in my browser. I belong to a few Montessori facebook groups and I’m frequently looking in there for age-appropriate lessons and activities. I’ve lost sight of the first rule of Montessori.

Follow the child.

That phrase is a nightmare for those of us parents who are new to Montessori. You mean there’s no list somewhere of all the things we should do???

There isn’t, much as we try to create one. I’ve found that nearly every list of appropriate activities for two-year-olds includes a color sorting/matching task. My two-year-old loves sorting and refuses to sort by color. In fact, I have no idea if there is even a pattern to the way she sorts things. Is there something wrong with her? Why won’t she do the things other kids her age have been doing for six months?

SortedPomPoms (1)

Nope, there’s nothing wrong with her. Something’s wrong with me. It’s the unconscious need to prove to myself that “my kid is SO advanced!” She didn’t walk until 17 months, didn’t show much interest in talking until nearly two years but she is far beyond her years when it comes to figuring out how to destroy things. So maybe her activity list should be less constructive than the average Montessori student. Less building block structures and more knocking them over, listening to the sound they make and watching the way they scatter. I haven’t seen that on Pinterest but doesn’t it sound like a good task for a two-year-old?

“Is this toy Montessori?”

I see this question posted frequently in Montessori forums and I always find the responses enlightening and edifying. It was in this way that I learned about control of error and how it helps toddlers learn. I appreciate the thought process behind the question and I often wonder along those lines myself when I go thrifting for toys. But I also wonder whether the answer to the question is truly relevant when it comes to parenting. When shopping for a Montessori classroom, sure. But if I’m asking whether I should bring it into my own home, it must be because I saw a toy that I think my child would truly enjoy and I’m willing to make the investment. So – from that perspective I should go for it!

So I’ll follow the child.

I’ll continue the long, confusing task of trying to understand what she sees and how her brain is processing the tasks she finds for herself. And maybe I’ll learn to simply contribute what is needed – as much or little as that may be.

I’ll continue to find help in Montessori blogs along the way.

What am I up to now?

Right now I’m focusing mainly on practical life improvements rather than activities.

Cleanup Station     Stepstool Bathroom     Laundry Basket

A toddler-sized cleaning station, tall step stools to reach sinks, personal laundry basket and wall art at child level (we have repeatedly verified that all the pictures have ears, eyes and noses).

100 Days of Montessori

Step 1: Admitting the Problem

I’ve started noticing some odd sights around my house. Well, that’s not quite right. I’ve noticed them for a while – but now I think I have a name for them. These things I’m noticing are the “activities” my daughter creates for herself when I’m not paying attention to her. Things like this:


When she took all the puzzle pieces from the puzzles and put them in a basket. And:


Sorting the bottle of calcium supplements repeatedly, into every container she could find (the rusty wagon that I’m repainting was just one “container”).  She’s also constantly sorting and transferring her raisins and other snacks.

So yeah – she’s a bit odd. What the heck is she trying to tell me? Well, I think the answer started over 100 years ago with Maria Montessori. If you have a few minutes, read this short list of her accomplishments. She was a remarkable woman. Some of Maria’s principles I’ve been practicing for a while. “Respect for the child” is something I try to accomplish through gentle discipline – and letting my child get bored is not a problem for me.

“The prepared environment” is something I never considered. This is the idea that we should focus on creating a home where children can learn to care for themselves – a “baby friendly” house. I always tried to make my house baby proof instead of baby friendly. Things are up high or locked away so I can control the amount of mess, and she has a select few kitchen cabinets with baby toys and books to play with. The cute pictures in my daughter’s room are all at adult level. Books, toys and clothes are somewhat accessible but they’re mostly arranged in a way that’s convenient to ME. And I closed off access to the counters because she has a habit of turning on the water  or climbing up to sneak snacks and play with/throw dishes (other things Montessori encourages us to use as teaching moments).


So now that I know about some of the things I’ve been keeping from my daughter I want to incorporate them into my life. Of course I have nothing important going on and I can spend a day transforming my house and my life and my outlook on parenting, right? Ok, that’s unrealistic. Let’s make it 100 days. Oh, and I’m still too busy for that so those 100 days are over the course of one year. I’ll introduce a new Montessori activity or concept into my home 100 days of the next year. Want to join me? Stay tuned to the blog and visit my facebook page. I want help from new or seasoned Montessori parents/teachers on my page – I’ll be sharing your ideas and activities there!


For making it to the bottom of this post here’s an activity reward!

Day 1: The Q-Tip Jar



  1. Handful of Q-tips
  2. Mason jar
  3. Cardboard
  4. Drill (or hammer and nail/pointed scissors – something to make a hole)

I cut my cardboard into a circle and fitted it to the jar lid. Then I drilled a hole in the top, just large enough for a q-tip. The drill left a rough edge on the hole, which added an extra step of pushing the q-tip all the way in. Still, it was quite an easy task for my daughter – and yet provided at least 10 minutes of stimulation.

Variations: a hammer and nail should work just fine for making a hole if you don’t have a drill. You could even use the tip of a pair of pointed scissors. If you have an empty spice jar laying around, use the holes in the lid for this activity as well!


Challenge them! another variation includes using toothpicks in even smaller holes! You can also substitute pipe cleaners for friction (there are also variations with beads on the pipe cleaner) or straws. I’ll be trying new variations and adding pictures.