Montessori 101

If you’ve spent any amount of time scrolling Instagram or Pinterest looking for playroom and nursery inspiration, you’ve almost certainly double-tapped on some “Montessori-inspired” rooms. The clean, natural look of a Montessori classroom fits right in with the light-and-bright aesthetic that is so popular right now, especially all those beautiful wooden toys! But Montessori isn’t a design aesthetic; it’s an educational philosophy with more than a century of history behind it. 

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, philosopher and educator who believed that children learned best when recognized as individuals and empowered to be independent and self-directed learners. Montessori schools feature classes that are “student-led and self-paced,” organized with multiple ages per group, and with an emphasis on collaboration and community.

As for that beautiful Instagram aesthetic? That’s part of the Montessori method, too. Montessori classrooms, play spaces and homes are deliberately set up to foster a child’s independence. Organized, open shelves located at eye level help children select the toys they want to play with and make it easy for them to clean up after themselves. Everyday items like towels and toothbrushes are located in places children can easily reach for themselves, and step stools in bathrooms and kitchens help them reach the sink to easily wash their own hands or get their own drink of water. In a Montessori bedroom, the furniture is low to the ground -- the bed may be a mattress directly on the floor, for example -- and clothes are hung low so children can learn to select their own outfits and dress independently.

From the outside, Montessori is often mixed up with Waldorf education, but the two educational philosophies are actually very different from one another. One thing they do have in common: beautiful, sturdy, engaging playthings made from natural materials. While Waldorf toys are designed to foster imagination and fantasy, Montessori toys are based in practicality and selected to serve a purpose or offer some kind of practical enrichment. (And yes, some toys do both -- you may find some of the same items in Montessori and Waldorf classrooms!) 

One more reason Montessori spaces speak to us: Simplicity. The Montessori philosophy takes a “less is more” approach to toys. Too many choices, and a child is overwhelmed. Montessori speaks to all of our minimalist instincts.

With its focus on natural materials, organized spaces and clean, kid-friendly environments, it’s no wonder Montessori is a source of inspiration for many of our Ruggish moms! 

Learn more about incorporating Montessori principles into your home:

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