Montessori Blogs
April 9, 2024

What is Montessori?

In this blog, learn about what the Montessori philosophy is, how it works, and why it works.

Education Webflow Template - Cambridge - Created by and

What is Montessori?

This teaching philosophy has been around for about a hundred years now, but there are still a lot of people that haven’t heard about it yet. In this video, I’m going to be tackling what Montessori is and how you can apply it into your own home.

The Montessori philosophy originate from a woman named Maria Montessori.

This woman was a genius. She actually studied and became the first woman in Italy to be a doctor. Then she went on to work with childen with disabilities from one of the poorer parts of Italy called San Lorenzo. There she studied these children, working alongside them to develop these beautiful learning materials that are still around today. What’s amazing is that her work with them actually accelerated their academic standing over their peers. People were shocked and amazed. Like, how are these materials, and this philosophy having such a profound impact on these children. So her advocacy for her philosophy, her methods began to reach thousands, and millions of people around the globe.

Eventually, schools began popping up, adapting her methods into their curriculum. Now, this was beautiful. People were finally recognizing how capable children are, and how when proper time and care is given to them, they can excel beyond imagination.

Some of you watching this right now probably won’t believe me if I told you that with this philosophy and method, many children as young as 3 or 4 years old are capable of reading and spelling. I know because I’ve seen it in the children I’ve taught. I’m not saying every child is able to do this, just that when this philosophy and method is executed properly, every child would have such a deep respect and love for knowledge that their natural desire to learn is what will motivate their progress.

So, now you’re probably wondering what are these amazing materials and how can I apply it to my child.

So, let me break down what Montessori is for you.

‘Montessori’ is composed of two major things:

  1. Philosophy
  2. Method

Number 1: The Montessori philosophy

The Montessori philosophy holds four major things to high regard. These are what we’ll call the ‘GUIDING PRINCIPLES’.

  1. Respect for the child
  2. Absorbent Mind
  3. Sensitive Periods
  4. The environment as a third teacher

Respect for the child

Childhood is a journey equal, not subpar to adulthood. During this period in life, the next generations of leaders are forming lifelong habits, morals, and values. Since adults cannot compensate for any damage done in the early years, they must handle this period with the utmost care. The Montessori method does this by respecting the child's right to learn, choose, and be different; having the freedom to explore and make decisions that expand their understanding of the world.

The Montessori philosophy focuses on the idealogy that children are capable, and because they’re capable, there’s a heavy reliance on self-motivated growth. Let me say that again, ‘SELF-MOTIVATED GROWTH’. That means, if you were to go in a Montessori classroom, you will never, or you should never, hear a teacher saying ‘GOOD JOB’. Why? Because those words delivered after a child has done something they already should be doing is causing extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic motivation.

Let me put it this way, if a child is praised with the words ‘Good job’ everytime they clean up their toys, then they may become so reliant on the words ‘good job’ that they won’t clean up their toys unless they know they will receive praise from someone.

What the Montessori philosophy teaches children is that regardless if someone praises your or not, you clean up because it is good for everyone - themselves, others, and the environment. 

Absorbent mind

Many of you have heard of the saying, “Children are like sponges.” That’s because from 0 to 6 years old, children are able to naturally understand and apply information more than any other time in their life.

From 0 to 6-years-old, it is not unheard of for a child to learn three to four languages without difficulty. They can properly use the rules of syntax to order words that make sense to the listener. They even pick up accents associated with the language without verbal or written lessons. 

This is described by the Montessori philosophy as the absorbent mind. Where children’s minds act like sponges, 

Sensitive periods

As people get older, their interests change - a 20-year-old is not as eager to run as a 2-year-old, a 50-year-old is not as keen to learn a new language as a 3-year-old, and a 16-year-old is not as excited about numbers like a 5-year-old. 

Dr. Montessori suggests that from birth to age six, there are six developmental periods, also known as sensitive periods, in which children can develop particular skills more naturally than any other time in their life, resulting in their love for learning. I emphasize the word ‘developmental’ because the exact timing of each sensitive period is dependent on each child’s development.

Let’s go through each period.


Between the ages of birth to 2 years old, children need to have routines, rules and order in the environment to help them make sense of the world around them. This gives them a sense of control over their environment and allows for a higher level of thinking, such as classification – a skill necessary for learning language and math.

When things are taken out of order, a child's sense of security is also removed, possibly resulting in a sudden change in their behavior.


From 0 to 6-years-old, children have the natural ability to connect meaning between words following the fixed language laws and rules of syntax. For optimal language development, talk to children with clear and concise language (no baby talk). Speaking indifferently from the spoken language will only confuse them and may cause language delays.


Studies have shown that an increased or higher duration of physical activity has beneficial effects on cognitive development during early childhood11.

Children’s gross motor coordination can be supported by encouraging them to run, walk, balance, and jump with or without your assistance.

Children’s fine motor and hand-eye coordination can be improved by encouraging their hands to touch, turn, insert, and grasp small items using their pincer and palmar grasp.


A developing child goes through six stages of play, in which they slowly build interest towards playing with others of the same age group.


Babies discover how their bodies move through repeated movements of different parts of their bodies.


Children play alone and have no interest in playing with others, which allows them to focus on completing tasks at their own pace.


Children begin watching others play but continue to play alone.


Children begin to play alongside others but do not join them.


Children begin interacting with others during play but with minimal interaction.


Children begin to play with others and display interest in the activity with their peers.


Children have an attention to detail that draws them to explore small objects. From 0 to 5-years-old, they begin building their understanding of the world by picking small objects up, looking at them closely, and in most cases, putting them in their mouth.


From 2 to 6-years-old, children are forming schemas of the world, in which they organize categories of information based on their similarities and differences. This is done mainly through their senses.

The Environment as a Third Teacher

My whole life, I’ve had many teachers but very few educators. 

When I say educator, I’m not talking about someone who merely teaches. It’s not a job title acquired from completing a college degree. Educators provide students with instructions that develop their intellectual, moral, and social growth.

There’s no limit to who (or what) an educator can be. The environment around a child, for instance, can act as a third educator. When prepared carefully, children can learn through the environment around them, with minimal to no help from others. The quality of how the environment is designed will affect their mental development, sense of independence, and overall behavior.

The Montessori method offers independence by providing children with an environment that promotes their freedom to explore their surroundings.

This is seen in the materials presented to them, and the structure of their surroundings. Questions Montessori teachers will ask themselves when preparing a child’s environment might be: Is this preparing them for independence? Am I providing something that will require minimal to no assistance? Is this progressing their development? Are the materials challenging enough?

So, if you’re a parent who’s still figuring out how to arrange your child’s environment, you can start off by asking yourself these same questions.

Number 2: The Method

To understand how the Montessori method works and why it works, we need to first discuss a man named Dr. Lev Vygotsky.

Dr. Vygotsky believed that social interaction plays a critical role in children’s learning and stresses the importance of culture in affecting cognitive development. Like Dr. Montessori, Dr. Vygotsky understood that children are their first teachers. Adults are necessary partners in their world, guiding them through rules they have yet to understand, but are actively learning. 

Dr. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory can be divided into three main principles.

  1. Culture and learning
  2. The More Knowledgeable Other
  3. Zone of Proximal Development

Let’s go through each one.


Dr. Vygotsky emphasized that cognitive development stems from social and cultural interaction. In other words, people are shaped by their interaction with others, as well as the culture they live in.

The Montessori method acknowledges this by immersing children in an environment where they are treated with mutual respect and are given meaningful experiences relevant to their culture.

The Montessori environment is designed to be a microcosm of the the world, teaching children how to treat others, how to complete tasks uninterrupted, how to collaborate with others, and how to care for oneself.

Let me see if I can make this a little clearer for you.

A Montessori classroom is typically divided into 5 areas:

  1. Practical Life
  2. Sensorial
  3. Math
  4. Language
  5. Culture

Children are free to roam around to explore each area of the classroom.

In Practical life, children work on skills that will help them be independent in caring for themselves. This includes learning how to button up or zipper fabric, pouring water from a jug, or spooning from one bowl to another.

In Sensorial, children work on enhancing their senses through different activities, like smelling bottles (where they have to differentiate between the different smells), colored tablets (which help them tell the difference between color gradients), or tasting bottles (where they have to differentiate between the different tastes).

In Math, children work on understanding numbers through tactile materials. For instance, they’re not just learning to memorize the times tables, like what I did growing up, instead, they’re provided with different manipulatives that help them to really understand the concept of multiplication, and skip counting.

In Language, there’s a system used to help children read independently by following their natural ability to learn. This is done by using different colored materials that build upon each other.

In Culture, children are introduced to the different cultures around the world through raw materials, and plenty of books, and stories. For instance, if you were to walk into a Montessori classroom, you might notice something that looks like this: This is a Painted Continents globe. Instructors might use this alongside songs or objects to teach children about the names of each continent, or animals that live in each continent. 


The term More Knowledgeable Other’ (MKO) refers to someone with a better understanding or a higher ability than the learner regarding a particular task, process, or concept. The Montessori method acknowledges the MKO as the teachers, adults, peers, and even electronic support systems in a child’s life.


The ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ refers to the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what they can achieve with guidance and encouragement from an MKO. 

Think about how a person learns to ride a bike. They may know how to position themselves on the bike, but certain skills are too difficult for them to accomplish without an MKO present. Until an MKO becomes present, it’s not known what the person can fully accomplish.

On their own, a child can master skills in a matter of months that can take adults years. Yet, to accomplish simple tasks, they still need an MKO to teach them how to unlock skills in their Zone of Proximal Development. 

In a Montessori classroom, children’s full potential is achieved by providing them with minimal to no assistance in order to promote their independence. 

It is by combining all of the elements in Vygotsky’s theory that we can see how the Montessori environment provides children with the optimal learning environment for cognitive growth. 

So, that’s it for this video. I hope this has helped clarify what Montessori is. If you liked this video, you can check out my other videos here. I’ll see you in that video!

Stay Fresh!

Read Related Articles

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.
    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.