The Montessori Toddler

by Simone Davies

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: March 12, 2024
The Montessori Toddler
The Montessori Toddler

What are the big ideas? 1. Montessori education emphasizes not just independence but also acceptance and understanding of children as individuals: The book highligh

Want to read ebooks, websites, and other text 3X faster?

From a SwiftRead user:
Feels like I just discovered the equivalent of fire but for reading text. WOW, WOW, WOW. A must have for me, forever.

What are the big ideas?

  1. Montessori education emphasizes not just independence but also acceptance and understanding of children as individuals: The book highlights that Montessori education goes beyond encouraging independence in children. It also values the importance of accepting children for who they are, seeing things from their perspective, and fostering a strong connection with them. This approach makes it easier to set limits and cooperate when needed (Chapter 5).
  2. Montessori activities for toddlers encompass a wide range of experiences: The book suggests offering various activities for toddlers in different areas such as practical life, sensory exploration, arts and crafts, language, and outdoor activities. These activities aim to develop essential skills while providing opportunities for exploration and creativity (Chapter 3).
  3. Setting clear and consistent limits with flexibility: Montessori teachers set up consistent limits but also maintain flexibility in their approach. They understand that toddlers need structure but also have unique individual needs, interests, and personalities (Chapter 1).
  4. Encouraging curiosity through hands-on learning: The book emphasizes the importance of hands-on experiences for young children and encourages parents and caregivers to follow their child's interests while providing a rich learning environment that fosters exploration and discovery (Chapter 5).
  5. Nurturing cooperation and responsibility in toddlers through active listening: The book provides an effective method called "active listening" when addressing conflicts or misbehavior in toddlers. This approach involves listening attentively, showing empathy, and offering solutions that encourage cooperation and problem-solving (Chapter 6).


CHAPTER 1: Introduction


  • Toddlers are authentic and direct individuals who need independence, movement, exploration, freedom, limits, order, consistency, communication, and mastery.
  • Montessori approach accepts and supports a child's need for autonomy, sets up spaces for safe exploration, teaches daily life skills, allows children to contribute, and establishes consistent limits with flexibility.
  • Toddlers need help processing requests, have a strong sense of order, repeat actions to gain mastery, communicate in various ways, and experience emotions intensely.
  • Montessori parents act as gardeners, observing and adjusting care as needed while allowing children to grow at their own pace.


“They may do something to get a reaction (Let’s drop this cup and see my parent’s reaction) or be frustrated that something did not go their way. But they are not mean-spirited, spiteful, or vengeful.”

“What seems to be a lack of flexibility (“I can’t eat breakfast without my favorite spoon!”) is actually an expression of their strong sense of order. What looks like a battle of wills is actually your toddler learning that things don’t always go their way. What looks like repeating the same annoying game over and over is actually the child trying to gain mastery. What appears to be an explosive tantrum is actually the toddler saying, “I love you so much, I feel safe to release everything that I’ve been holding on to all day.” What seems to be intentionally going slowly to wind us up is actually them exploring everything in their path.”

CHAPTER 2: Introduction to Montessori


  • Montessori education emphasizes self-directed learning and independence in children from an early age.
  • Montessori teachers observe children closely and adapt their classroom materials and activities based on each child's individual needs and interests.
  • Montessori classrooms are designed to be safe, orderly, and aesthetically pleasing environments that encourage exploration and discovery.
  • Montessori materials are specifically designed to help children learn practical skills and concepts in a hands-on way.
  • Montessori education emphasizes the importance of respect for the child as an individual and encourages positive interactions between children.
  • Montessori teachers model respectful behavior and communication, and encourage children to use respectful language and manners.
  • Montessori education values the role of play in children's learning and development.
  • Montessori education emphasizes the importance of hands-on experiences and sensory exploration for young children.
  • Montessori education encourages children to take care of their environment and develop a sense of responsibility for their own belongings and actions.


“When a child shows a particular interest in one area—for example, movement, language, math, reading—it is known as a sensitive period. This describes a moment when the child is particularly attuned to learning a certain skill or concept and it happens with ease and without effort.”

“If a toddler is interested in climbing on the table, they are likely in a sensitive period for movement and need to practice those skills. Instead of allowing them to climb on furniture, we can create an obstacle course with pillows, blankets, things to balance on, and things to climb.”

“Responsibilities because, as Dr. Montessori points out, a sponge can absorb dirty water as easily as it can clean water. A child will pick up negative experiences as easily as positive experiences.”

“A child will pick up negative experiences as easily as positive experiences. They can even pick up our feelings and attitudes, for example, when we drop something and get frustrated with ourselves (as opposed to forgiving ourselves) or if we have a fixed mind-set that we are bad at drawing (as opposed to a growth mind-set where we might show that we can always keep improving our skills).”

“At home, we can give them freedom to choose what they want to wear (as long as it’s appropriate for the season), the freedom to make their own snack (as long as they sit down to eat), and the freedom to express themselves (as long as they do not hurt others or objects in the home).”

“Observation is the basis of the Montessori approach. As part of my Montessori training, we observed babies and young children for 250+ hours.”

“We were training ourselves to unlearn the desire to analyze, jump to conclusions, have biases, and form preconceptions about a child or a situation.”

CHAPTER 3: Montessori Activities for Toddlers


  • Offer a variety of activities in different areas: practical life, sensory exploration, arts and crafts, language, and outdoor activities
  • Practical life activities help develop fine motor skills, concentration, independence, and self-care abilities
  • Sensory exploration activities stimulate the senses and promote curiosity and understanding of the world
  • Arts and crafts activities foster creativity, hand-eye coordination, and self-expression
  • Language activities help expand vocabulary through objects, cards, and books
  • Outdoor and nature experiences offer opportunities for sensory exploration, physical activity, and connection to the natural world.


“With young toddlers, we can first model where things belong and introduce putting things back as”

“If our child is interested in opening and closing, collect old jars and rinse them out so our child can practice taking the lids on and off. Use old wallets or purses with different clasps. Hide some fun things inside for them to discover.”

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” as the Scandinavians like to say.”

“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.” —Dr. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child”

CHAPTER 4: Setting Up the Home


  • Reducing clutter in the home by storing away less frequently used toys and activities
  • Creating cozy spaces with comfortable seating, plants, and personal touches
  • Setting up spaces for independent self-care, arts and crafts, and kitchen help
  • Making outdoor areas accessible for exploration and gardening activities
  • Adapting the home environment to make it easier for toddlers to navigate independently while ensuring safety.

CHAPTER 5: Raising a Curious Child Who Feels Seen and Heard


  • Encouraging curiosity in toddlers involves trusting them, following their interests, providing a rich learning environment, encouraging hands-on learning, taking time, including them in daily life, ensuring safety and security, going slow, fostering a sense of wonder, and helping them help themselves.
  • Accepting our child for who they are means seeing things from their perspective, being their translator, allowing all feelings but not all behaviors, giving feedback instead of praise, and avoiding roles and labels.
  • Allowing curiosity and acceptance provides a foundation of connection and trust with our child, making it easier to set limits and cooperate when needed.


“Five ingredients for curiosity 1. Trust in the child Dr. Montessori encourages us to trust that the child wants to learn and grow—and that the child intrinsically knows what they need to be working on to develop as they should. This means that if we provide them with a rich environment to explore, we don’t need to force them to learn or be worried if they are developing “differently” from their peers. We can trust that they are developing along their unique path, in their unique way, on their unique timeline. We can also trust them to learn the limits of their bodies for themselves. Toddlers are curious learners who want to explore the world around them. There may be accidents along the way that we cannot prevent (and maybe that we should allow to happen). After all, that is how they learn. And we will be there if they want to be held. “Ow. Was that a shock? It’s hard to see you hurt yourself. I’m so glad your body is made to heal itself. Isn’t it amazing?” Are we constantly worrying about how our child is developing or whether they will hurt themselves? Can we practice setting aside those worries about the future and enjoy where they are today, on their unique journey? 2.”

“With a foundation of the five basic ingredients, we can apply seven principles to help them become curious human beings. 1. Follow the child—let them lead. 2. Encourage hands-on learning—let them explore. 3. Include the child in daily life—let them be included. 4. Go slow—let them set their own pace. 5. Help me to help myself—let them be independent and responsible. 6. Encourage creativity—let them wonder. 7. Observe—let them show us.”

“In Montessori we have a phrase for this: “Teach by teaching, not by correcting.”

“Allow all feelings, but not all behavior We might think, If I accept them for who they are, see things from their perspective, and allow all their feelings, do I have to accept all their behavior? This is absolutely not the case. We step in if necessary to stop any inappropriate behavior. As the adult, we often need to act as our toddler’s prefrontal cortex (the rational part of their brain), which is still developing. We can step in to keep them safe. To keep others safe. To keep ourselves safe. To show them they can disagree with others in a respectful way. To show them how to show up and be responsible human beings. Examples: “It’s okay to disagree, but I can’t let you hurt your brother/sister. You sit on this side of me, and you sit on the other.” “I can’t let you hurt me/I can’t let you speak to me that way/I cannot let you hurt yourself. But I see something important is going on, and I am trying to understand.”

“Instead of always leaving the eldest in charge, for example, while we are in the bathroom, we can get children to look after each other, regardless of their age. We can make sure that younger children also take on age-appropriate responsibilities rather than leaving everything to the eldest.”

CHAPTER 6: Nurturing Cooperation and Responsibility In Our Child


  • Accept all feelings, even when they are difficult or ugly
  • Help your child calm down before addressing any misbehavior
  • Once calm, help them make amends for their actions
  • Set clear and consistent limits while maintaining love and understanding
  • Encourage cooperation through problem-solving and giving choices
  • Practice patience and acceptance as your toddler tests boundaries.


“If you’ve told a child a thousand times, and the child still has not learned, then it is not the child who is the slow learner.” —Walter B. Barbe”

“When we threaten a child with punishment like a time-out, we begin to erode the trust between parent and child. Two things can happen. They can become scared of the adult and cooperate out of fear, or they find a way to do what they want sneakily, without their parent finding out.”

“Rather than issuing commands—“Put the orange peel in the bin, please”—we can give information instead: “The orange peel goes in the bin.” Then they can figure out for themselves that they need to take it to the bin. It becomes something they choose to do rather than another order from the adult.”

“We are kind to each other. This means that even if we disagree, we will not hurt each other physically or tease each other; it teaches children to respect themselves and each other.”

“We contribute to the household. No matter what our age, we help around the house, and our help is valued. • We engage in rough play by mutual consent. This is a mouthful for young children, but they understand its meaning. If someone says “Stop,” they are saying that they are not having fun anymore and the game needs to stop.”

“I love the analogy used in the book The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson—when a child is upset, he “flips his lid.” This means that the upstairs part of the brain—the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that makes rational decisions and allows for self-control—is not available to the child. Therefore, all the reasoning in the world or explanations will fall on deaf ears. We need to first help them close the lid by giving them support to calm down. We can offer them a cuddle; we don’t assume that they want one. Some children like to be cuddled to help them calm down. Some children will push us away. If they push us away, we make sure they are safe and we can offer them a cuddle when they are calm. We are saying it’s okay for them to melt down. Rather than trying to get the tantrum to stop as soon as possible, allow them to express all their feelings safely until they are calm, and show that we are there to help if they need us. And, once they are calm, we can help them make amends if needed.”

CHAPTER 7: Putting It Into Practice


  • Introduce the concept of using the toilet or potty to your child in a calm and supportive manner.
  • Encourage body awareness by letting them go barebottomed at home and gradually introducing underpants for shorter periods of time.
  • Offer regular opportunities to use the bathroom and avoid interrupting their activities with requests to go to the toilet.
  • Gradually encourage your child to sit on the potty or toilet without a diaper or underwear, using positive reinforcement and praise for their efforts.
  • Be patient and understanding if your child is afraid to poop or takes longer than expected to become toilet-trained.
  • Provide alternatives to pacifiers for sucking and offer support in helping them transition away from the pacifier.
  • Prepare your toddler for the arrival of a new sibling by talking about it, involving them in preparations, and spending quality time together before the baby arrives.
  • Offer understanding and connection when your toddler expresses negative feelings towards the new sibling, while setting clear limits on unacceptable behavior.

CHAPTER 8: Being the Adult


  • Practice self-care and self-awareness to be a more patient and present parent
  • Create an environment that supports your child's independence and your own needs
  • Be honest and take responsibility for your choices and mistakes
  • Use your home as a helper by setting it up to support your family's needs and reduce workload
  • Model positive behaviors such as kindness, patience, and self-awareness for your child
  • Practice slowing down and being present in the moment with your child
  • Be your child's guide rather than boss or servant
  • Use observation and reflection to learn from your mistakes and improve yourself and your parenting.


“Who knew that parenting would become an almost spiritual journey? And what a journey it is. Sometimes I wish I had known all of this before I became a parent. Yet, we only know what we know. So I think of how I've grown up alongside my children - that they see me trying and geting it wrong and trying again ad getting a bit better, constantly learning and growing.”

“We can acknowledge the guilt we may feel about putting ourselves first. And let it go. Reframe it instead as being a great example for our children to look after themselves.”

CHAPTER 9: Working Together


  • Grandparents and caregivers can adopt Montessori principles when interacting with young children.
  • Watching the child, seeing if they can work things out themselves, sharing interests, exploring outside, giving feedback about what you see, and giving your presence instead of presents are some ways grandparents and caregivers can apply Montessori principles.
  • When there is conflict in the family, an active listening exercise can help communicate concerns and hear the concerns of others.
  • During divorce or separation, both parents continue to play important roles in the child's life. Stability, honesty, kindness towards each other in the child's presence, and being factual are critical for the child's wellbeing.

CHAPTER 10: What's Next


  • Prepare children for preschool and school by practicing independence, separation, and social skills.
  • Montessori materials should not be used at home during a child's school years to avoid confusion and ensure they have time for unstructured play and involvement in daily life.
  • Infancy (0-6 years): children absorb information unconsciously, lay down personality, and work on physical and biological independence.
  • Childhood (6-12 years): children develop independent thought, explore moral sense, and begin to understand the world with their imagination.
  • Adolescence (12-18 years): a period of enormous physical and psychological change, teenagers work on social independence and ideals.
  • Maturity (18-24 years): young adults primarily want to give back to society and have a reasoning, logical mind.
  • Question the current education system and consider alternative methods for raising creative, problem-solving children.
  • Promote peace by understanding our differences, celebrating commonalities, addressing fears, and recognizing humanity.


What do you think of "The Montessori Toddler"? Share your thoughts with the community below.