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What Is the Montessori Approach to Kindergarten?

If you are wondering about what the Montessori kindergarten years look like, you're in the right place.

In this article, I'll go over the basics of Montessori kindergarten and compare it to traditional kindergarten for you.

The early years of a child's life are critical for later health and development.

From birth to age five, a child's brain forms more than a million neural connections every second.

This is the most critical stage in a child's life, and there's no other stage in life when their brain will be so focused on learning or influenced by the natural environment.

In fact, experts say that 90% of a child's brain develops by age 5.

After the first five years, your child's brain loses its “plasticity power,” and it becomes much more difficult to influence how they learn.

That's why choosing the best learning environment for your child before age five is critical.

You want a program or environment that will lay a strong foundation for their learning, guide them, and nurture them as they begin their education journey.

Montessori kindergarten is designed to achieve precisely that.

So, what is Montessori kindergarten? And what does this learning model look like?

Most importantly, how does it differ from a traditional kindergarten?

Let's figure it out.

image of a montessori kindergarten teacher showing a child a puzzle map.

What Is Montessori Kindergarten?

Montessori schools are institutions that employ the educational philosophy espoused by Maria Montessori to guide their practices.

This philosophy is premised on the fact that children are active learners, and given the opportunity, environment, and guidance, they can learn and develop without their teachers' influence.

Most kindergarten classrooms are multi-aged and include children aged 2 ½ to 5 years.

And while teachers guide learning, they are not the only instructors.

Kids are encouraged to learn from each other.

This promotes self-learning and interactive learning.

The classroom environment is also very important in Montessori philosophy.

Montessori uses hands-on learning materials such as puzzles, blocks, golden beads, and educational items.

A typical Montessori class will have a kitchen space, an art area, a reading area, and more.

Kids take work materials from these areas to small tables or on mats on the floor, where they practice and learn.

The curriculum focuses on five key areas.

  • Practical life – Kids learn to do everyday tasks such as dressing themselves, cleaning the floor, putting on a jacket, washing hands, etc.
  • Language arts – Kids engage in pre-reading and early reading and writing activities. These are presented in fun and unique ways.
  • Mathematics – Kids use hands-on materials to learn mathematical concepts. For example, they will use tiny golden beads to learn the 4 operations.
  • Cultural topics – Kids learn their origin, cultural heritage, and what being a good citizen means. They also learn about other countries' cultures through music, arts, food, dance, and literature.
  • Multisensory learning – Kids use their senses to learn about the things they interact with daily and the academic concepts they are being introduced to. In a traditional kindergarten, kids mainly use their sight to read and look at texts and pictures. In multisensory learning, kids engage all their senses. For example, they may visually examine, touch, smell, and even taste fruits as a part of their learning.

One of the Montessori values is that learning should be child-led.

It puts children in charge of their own learning, which fosters their cognitive abilities since children are naturally curious.

Nothing is rushed and the teachers closely observe each child for their readiness for new challenges.

What Does a Montessori Kindergarten Look Like?

Maria Montessori thought of classrooms as “prepared environments.”

Montessori classrooms are set up in a way that kids can learn independently and in the best way possible.

What does a Montessori kindergarten look like?

Here are some of the things you might see in these prepared learning environments.

  • An area where kids can eat and prepare their own snacks
  • Space for students freely move around and work
  • Several areas for kids to work, like tables, open floors, and cushions
  • Kids' height sinks and counters, as well as child-size furniture
  • Orderliness, simplicity, and purpose

Note that classrooms, also known as learning environments, are essential to Montessori learning.

You can't do Montessori without a prepared learning environment.

What are Some Montessori Kindergarten Activities?

As mentioned, Montessori encourages sensory learning.

Kids are also encouraged to be actively involved in learning.

As they move about the classroom, children can take part in the environment in an explorative way and take full control of their learning.

As such, hand tasks are the most important activities within a Montessori classroom.

Physical activities allow kids to use their hands to discover the world around them and complete daily tasks that enable them to develop physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Examples of hands-on activities kids do in a Montessori kindergarten include:

  • Practice washing
  • Cleaning windows
  • Sorting items by color
  • Sorting items by size
  • Brushing hair
  • Using the restroom
  • Buttoning, zipping, tying laces
  • Preparing and serving food
  • Using a stapler, scissors, glue, and other craft items
  • Folding clothing, pairing gloves, matching items, and hanging clothes
  • Language activities (alphabet sound recognition with small objects, letter matching games, word walls, etc.)
  • Science activities (learning parts of plants, living vs. non-living sorting, animal scavenger hunts, etc.)
  • Math activities (decimal activities, number memory games, counting using wooden rods, etc.)

These activities help prepare them for the next stage of their education journey.

Differences Between Montessori Kindergarten and Traditional Kindergarten

Montessori kindergarten differs from traditional kindergarten in many different ways.

The table below highlights the key differences between them.

Montessori Kindergarten vs. Traditional Kindergarten Table

 Parameter Montessori Kindergarten Traditional Kindergarten
 Mode of learningChile-led – kids take control of their learning, and self-learning is encouragedTeacher-led – A teacher directs what kids learn and when
CurriculumFlexible – subjects are structured, with greater flexibility to individualize learning based on each kid's timelineStandardized – subjects are taught based on a rigid curriculum
AgeMixed-age classrooms, with children grouped by stage of developmentStudents are grouped by age and move up each year
Teaching TechniquesHands-on sensory materials are introduced. Learning is more engaging and practicalMainly workbook-based – Books and worksheets are more common in this learning model, with little hands-on learning

Wrapping Up

Montessori education is a learning model that encourages children's participation in learning activities, as opposed to traditional kindergarten, which mainly focuses on textbook learning.

This learning model promotes self-learning, where children take charge of their learning and actively participate in outdoor activities that improve their cognitive abilities.

This philosophy is premised on the fact that children are active learners, and given the opportunity, environment, and guidance, they can learn and develop with their teachers' influence.

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