Montessori pedagogy

The Montessori pedagogy is based on Maria Montessori's work in understanding the developmental needs of the child. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) was born in Italy and was one of the first female Doctors in Italy. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times in 1949, 1950 and 1951. Today Maria Montessori is seen as one of the most influential thinkers on childhood education for the 20th and 21st century. Her methods and philosophies are still being practised over a 110 years later in Montessori schools world-wide. Maria Montessori's theories and understanding of brain development in childhood is now being scientifically proven with the help of modern technology. Our growing understanding of how a brain develops is resulting in more and more new ideas on how we should be educating children where Maria Montessori had already spoken about these exact theories over 100 years ago. The Montessori method of education aims to foster within the child independence, self discipline, self motivation, concentration, self esteem, confidence, a love of learning and respect for all forms of life and nature.

Needs and tendencies of man:



Maria Montessori observed that children of all races and cultures develop along the same path and have the same developmental needs. These needs she classified as the needs and tendencies of man. Montessori schools incorporate these needs and tendencies in all aspects of the child's school life. The needs and tendencies of man are universal and experienced by all people all over the world.







Manipulation (of the environment)





Formation of man

Development of man


0-3 yrs

Absorben mind


3-6 yrs

Absorben mind


Help me do it myself

Physical and biological


Exploring the environment

through the senses


Weak health

Great physical and psychological changes


Reasoning mind

Help me think

Intellectual independence

Strong health

Uniform growth

Exploring ideas

and information



Humanist mind

Help me think with you

Social, economical and

emotional independence

Transition from family life

to life in society

Weak health

Great physical and psychological changes


Specialist mind

How can I help you?

Moral and spiritual 


Strong health

End of uniform growth

Self-knowledge and 


Maria Montessori divided human development from birth to adulthood into different stages. These stages are called the 'Planes of Development' and are broken down into 0 -6 years, 6 – 12, 12 – 18 and 18 – 24years, each plane focuses on different aspects of development. Maria Montessori saw different characteristics, learning modes and developmental needs active in each of these planes, and called for specialised educational approaches that specifically cater to each period of development.


First Plane:

The first plane of development extends from birth to around six years of age. During this period Maria Montessori observed that the child goes through the most physical and psychological (brain) development. The first plane child is seen as a concrete, sensorial explorer and learner, engaged in the developmental work of psychological selfconstruction and building functional independence. IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST PLANE – THE PERIOD FROM BIRTH TO SIX YEARS OF AGE IS THE FORMATION OF THE PERSONALITY. Montessori introduced several concepts to explain this work, including the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and normalisation.

Absorbent Mind:

In the period from birth to six the child has an absorbent mind, meaning that it absorbs all the information and impressions that come through the senses, like a sponge. It is also said that the child does not just absorb these impression but that they become part of who the child is, part of their soul. There are two stages of the absorbent mind: The unconscious/ psychic/ spiritual embryo – is the period of inner creation. This is from birth to age three. This is when all impressions received by the absorbent mind are stored in a supreme unconscious memory called the 'mneme'. The child is driven by an unseen force called the 'horme' to adapt and gain independence and to take from the environment only what is needed for development. So in other words in this stage the child will absorb all information offered by the senses to develop the different faculties, and in terms of language the child will only absorb the sounds of the human voice. “The child does not “remember” sounds, but he incarnates them” by Maria Montessori.

The Absorbent Mind. The conscious/ social embryo – that develops and integrates every thing from the first phase. This is from three to six years. In the second phase the child still has the absorbent mind but is moving from the unconscious to the conscious. The inner driving force 'horme' starts to hand over to the conscious will. Here the child begins to use every thing that was stored in the first phase in full force.

Sensitive Periods:

Sensitive periods are when the child is attracted to a particular aspect of the environment to the exclusion of almost everything else. Just as the absorbent mind soaks up information from the environment, it is the sensitive periods that focus the child's attention on only those aspects needed for development. Sensitive periods are temporary and if the child does not gain the required stimulation in the environment they will have greater difficulty correcting this in later life.


  • Scquisition of language—from birth to around six years old

  • Order—from around one to three years old

  • Sensory refinement—from birth to around four years old

  • Interest in small objects—from around 18 months to three years old

  • Social behaviour—from around two and a half to four years old

  • Novement – from birth to six years old



Finally, Montessori observed in children from three to six years old a psychological state she termed ‘normalisation.’ Normalisation arises from concentration and focus on an activity which serves the child’s developmental needs, it is characterised by the ability to concentrate and leads to; spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others”.

Normalisation can be seen in the child when the child shows the following characteristics:

  1.  Love of order

  2.  Love of work for works sake

  3.  Profound spontaneous concentration

  4.  Attachment to reality

  5.  A love of silence

  6.  Independence

  7.  Self discipline

“I was amazed at the change that came over him. He took up one exercise after the other and was thus able to calm himself.” and “Children of a nervous temperament have become calm. The depressed have regained their spirits, and all have advanced together along the path of disciplined work, making progress through the outward manifestation of an inner energy which has found a means of expression.” by Maria Montessori The secrets of childhood.


Education and Peace:

As Dr. Montessori developed her theory and practice, she came to believe that education had a role to play in the development of world peace. She felt that children allowed to develop according to their inner laws of development would give rise to a more peaceful and enduring civilization. From the 1930’s to the end of her life, she gave a number of lectures and addresses on the subject, saying in 1936; “Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education.” Dr. Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

Comparing Montessori to traditional schools

If you are new to Montessori education you might be asking yourself what is it that makes Montessori different to traditional schools? The Montessori program is based on self-direction, non-competitive and cooperative activities that help a child develop a strong self-image, high levels of academic and social competence, and the confidence to face challenges with optimism. Encouraged to make decisions at an early age, Montessori educated children are problem-solvers who can make appropriate choices, manage their time, and work well with others. They exchange ideas and discuss work freely. These positive communication skills build the foundation for skills needed in today's work force.

Has a flexible curriculum
Whole class lesson plan
Individually prepared lesson plan for each child based on their level of development and interests
Has a rigid curriculum
Smaller child to teacher ratio
Larger child to teacher ratio
Multi aged classrooms offering peer to peer learning
Single aged classrooms
Children are treated as individuals
Children are all considered the same
Emphasis is on holistic development: cognitive,physical, social, emotional and spiritual
Emphasis is memorisation and repetition of facts
Children are encouraged and free to make independent discoveries
Teacher limits independent discovery and interests
Teaching method is based on science based research
Teaching method is based on industrial revolution model of education
Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate and help each other
Teaching is only done by the teacher
One on one lessons
Whole class lessons
Learning environment is child centred
Learning environment is teacher centred
Children learn through self correction
Children learn through use of rewards and punishments
Children have freedom of movement and freedom of speech
Children have rigid rules and are only allowed to move or talk with teachers permission
Goal is to foster a life long love of learning
Goal is to memorise and repeat facts

The Montessori philosophy is rooted in the idea that children are naturally inquisitive and eager to learn.

Montessori in the home

The Montessori method is most effective when some basic Montessori principles are implemented into the home.

  • Always treat children with respect and understanding

  • Have set rules and limits that are the same everyday.

  • As far as possible children need a consistent routine.

  • Books, toys and other activities should have a proper home to which the child should return them after use.

  • Communicate with the class teacher any new interests your child develops that can facilitate their 1-to-1 lessons.

  • Provide a box/step in the bathroom to allow access to the basin, towel etc.

  • Allow your child to play an active role in your family: share hobbies and chores, and help them to take responsibility for animals and plants.

  • Restrict the amount of screen time and instead encourage natural interaction within the family daily life and exploring the wonders of the natural world outside

Use child sized furniture in their bedroom
Have low rails on the wall for pulling up and learning to walk
Use low hanging mobiles
Have a mirror next to their bed
Use a floor bed
Make their bedroom child friendly
Baby proof your house
Use baby gates to create areas for exploration
Use child sized furniture in their bedroom
Have a potty or child seat on the toilet
Involve children in the kitchen
Rotate toys and books every few weeks
Encourage packing away toys and books
Encourage helping to make their beds
Keep books and toys on low shelves
Hang interesting artwork at the child's eye level
Casa / preschool
Use child sized furniture in their bedroom
Use a small step for reaching the toilet, basin or kitchen sink and shelves
Involve children in cooking, setting the table, cleaning up
Rotate toys and books every few weeks, less is more
Encourage packing away toys and books
Encourage helping around the house
Have low shelves and hanging space for a few items of clothes for your child to choose from daily
Have a set art area where all art supplies can be reached and used