The Three-year Cycle

The three-year cycle refers to an essential element of Montessori education. Children from 3- 6 years are able to stay in the same classroom, with the same teacher, the same classmates and as a result are able to build a strong, cohesive community. They move through the stages of development experiencing different roles, responsibilities, and lessons and having their developmental, social, intellectual and emotional needs met at each stage they pass through.

The physical changes that we witness during this time are obvious but the mental and emotional changes are visible through close observation of the child. This ‘metamorphosis’ of a 3 year old to a 6 year old is so dramatic that it can be likened to the caterpillar, changing from a pupa into a butterfly.
In this paper I will be specifically looking at the changes that occur in the third year or the Kindergarten year that child experiences in a Montessori classroom and how these changes represent the fruits of the child’s labor, and the formation and perfection of traits that will serve the child throughout his life.

It’s easy for everyone to understand how the child of 3 benefits from working in a community with older children. The child is able to observe the more advanced work the older children do, something the child will be aspiring to do some day. He can witness the grace and courtesy modeled in regard to how to resolve a dispute, how to express frustrations and how to use our words effectively. If the child struggles with work he has chosen, then an older child will be ready and eager to help. What’s not so easy to see immediately is how the older child of 5 or 6 benefits from the mixed-age community. Parents have asked me why their child would benefit from staying in their Montessori classroom for the child’s Kindergarten year. I tell them, you have built a house with strong foundations, an excellent structure, and a beautiful interior. You wouldn’t decide to finish you work without building the roof, would you?

It is during this third year that the fruits of all the child’s labor begin to grow.

  • Repetition with the materials have led to perfection of skills
  • Ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
  • Perseverance from working with materials that require the child to follow a lengthy sequence and complete a cycle of challenging work.
  • Problem solving skills from the child’s interaction with materials and situations that allow the child to resolve a situation independently.
  • Making positive, independent choices.
  • Long term practice of constructive, purposeful work.

The practical life exercises that engage and fascinate the younger children, for example folding, washing, polishing, the dressing frames, evolve into a way of contributing and caring for your community for the third year child. The third year child will be folding the napkins and placemats so they are ready for snack, preparing snack and sweeping up the crumbs left behind after snack. The third year child is taking conscious responsibility to perform tasks that keep the classroom beautiful and modeling this for all to see.

In the area of language, all the work he did during the first two years with the sandpaper letters, learning the sounds and the symbols of the letters, and building words with the moveable alphabet by breaking them apart into individual sounds, now forms the foundation for reading. And it’s not just the
task of acquiring fluency and comprehension in reading that occupies the third-year Primary child. There’s also work with nouns, articles, adjectives and verbs, etc, the foundation of grammar, perfecting cursive handwriting and writing one’s own stories and so much more.

In the math area, the work that the child of three and four has done to count first from 1 to 10, then to 100, then to 1000, and her concrete experience with the decimal system prepares her well for the beginnings of abstraction in the third year of Primary. Now she can work with the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a variety of ways and she can memorize math facts.

We all know your child will undoubtedly learn to read and write and will learn to do the mathematical operations and these are all important skills, but I believe that these are not the most important things a third year child will learn. The greatest skills or gifts that the third year Primary child receives are the qualities of character the child creates. Self-confidence, self-motivation and responsibility for the community among others. These character traits are practiced and perfected each day, practicing empathy, showing love and affection for others of all ages and for oneself, exercising leadership skills, and being a positive role model to others.

As a Montessori Primary guide, I feel sad when I hear that my third year children are leaving the community for traditional school. The third year is the opportunity to complete the full cycle of activity with the classroom materials and curriculum, and the chance to be the leaders that they themselves had looked up to those previous years. With your guidance, they have laid the foundations, built the structure, made their interior beautiful and now it’s time to put the roof on their house.

Polly Goode

Primary Guide in Thyme class

The Importance of the Uninterrupted Work Period

We wanted to give you a little bit of background on why we are such “sticklers” about arriving on time to school. We do understand that life happens and sometimes things are out of your control. Our intention is not to punish parents and create conflicts and stress. We hope that this background information helps you.

One of the things that sets Montessori apart from other educational philosophies is the emphasis on the child’s freedom within a prepared environment (the classroom). The Montessori teacher, or “guide” is there to entice and invite the children to explore with the learning materials rather than dictate what to do. Children should be presented with information when they are interested and developmentally ready, and not according to the schedule or time of day. In order to allow for this exploration, the uninterrupted work period of at least 3 hours is required. Through much trial and error and observation, Maria Montessori found this to be the necessary amount of time and so it has been the standard in true Montessori schools for over 100 years! The purpose of this block of time is to allow children to select materials freely, and to become absorbed in their work. They are absorbed because they have the freedom to choose to work with something that is fascinating to them in their particular stage of development. The children are also hesitant to choose challenging work if they are not expecting to have enough time to complete it. Any interruption to the child’s work period disrupts the fragile focus, concentration, critical thinking, problem solving, and exploration which is being developed.

For this reason, our drop-off policy has evolved. In order to allow time for a beautiful classroom community lunch and outdoor playtime, the work period must begin by 8:30 and continue without disruption. Each child deserves this opportunity, and a late arrival to the class not only takes away from that child’s experience, but disrupts the others as well. Each child wants to pause from his or her work to greet and welcome the friend or see whose “Mommy” or “Daddy” has come. Our goal is not to make parents feel stressed or guilty when arriving late, or to charge fees. It is our top priority to have this uninterrupted work time for the children to have the best opportunity for learning and development. Please help us with this commitment by bringing your children to school on time!

We consider our parents as partners in providing the best environment for the children and truly have a great desire to work with you in a harmonious way. Please let us know what we can do to assist you in any way.

Montessori as Preparation for Later Learning

By Jesse Paul, Head Guide of Willow Class

Frequent concerns of parents who choose Montessori schools often fall into two categories. The first is: what is my child learning? And, the second is: are they just doing whatever they want? It is also often the case that these concerns come out of a background of assumptions about the nature of education, which are very dominant in our culture. Since, Montessori schools break with these traditional assumptions parents are quite reasonably worried about “where the child is” or “if they are being prepared for later learning.” It’s hard to get a grasp of what exactly is going on in the classroom, and what kind of results one should expect.

So, it is understandable that the most popular question was exactly that: how is this preparing my child for later learning? Before I answer that question directly, however, I think it is important to understand why this question often comes up. A large factor driving these concerns is simply the fact that eventually the child in primary will enter a traditional school and so the worry is about this transition. Is this preparing them, and how do I gauge whether or not it is?

Now, the almost instinctual way to go about this is to look at other curriculums. And so, many people look at what is being taught in a traditional school at a similar age, or at a later age, and they compare that with what is going on in a Montessori classroom. And, at this point they have a minor heart attack!

What’s going on here? The kids in this school already know addition on paper, and the children at the Montessori school are playing with colorful bead bars, building pink towers, and waddling in circles! What is this hippy stuff anyway?

Well, it is this exact chain of reasoning that I want to unpack. The crucial assumption here is that children must know certain facts at certain points in their life if they are to successfully transition to the next level, and if they are to be successful in general.

But, why do we think that? It’s as if we believe the child’s mind is a blank slate onto which teachers must imprint facts at certain stages. When the child has internalized the right facts and ideas, they can then proceed to the next stage, for more thoughts and ideas to be imprinted onto their minds.

It almost sounds crazy when said explicitly, but it is the dominant view of education in our society, and I think it has a large effect on how we think. It’s powerful in part because it’s an old view, about 150 years old, coming out of the industrial revolution. So, we’ve become accustomed over the years to thinking in these terms.

It’s an interesting history, but to summarize a great deal, as more and more of human life became mechanized, we started to look at schools as essentially giant factories.

We divide children up based on their age, or date of manufacture. We send them through a Ford style production line. We ratchet together new pieces of knowledge onto their minds at each stage, and then we ship them out into the world to find a job.
And so everything in school is seen as a step for something else. Instead of the pursuit of knowledge being an end in itself, or human beings being ends in themselves, knowledge and human beings are seen as means for other ends. In other words, we go to kindergarten to go elementary school, we go to elementary school to go to middle school, we go to middle school to go to high school, we go to high school to go to college. We go to college to get a job, we get a job to make money, and so on and so forth.

The important point is that the Montessori view breaks with this notion in a radical way. Instead of seeing education as some cog in the wheel of a larger machine, Montessori saw education as a help for life. In other words, the primary function of education was to help human beings develop in their richest diversity and potentials.

Montessori’s ideas were very much influenced by her profession. She was a biologist, anthropologist, and physician, and so she was in awe of the fact that a tiny group of cells held the potential to differentiate into a human being, with an enormous range of biological and cognitive capacities. Movement, art, music, math, and science were all seen by Montessori as ultimately deriving from biological development. And so, a school in her view is tasked with basically two goals. One is to transfer all of the accumulated cultural knowledge from the past to the present generation, who will carry civilization forward. And, the second goal is to do this in a way, which is specifically geared to developmental needs.

Needs will differ at different stages, but in Primary the child is going through major growth in terms of motor coordination, ordering stimulus in the environment, language development, cultural absorption, and the development of concentration.
It’s a cliché in science not to generalize from a few examples, but luckily no one has explained this fact to infants, because somehow a tiny child will internalize, based on hardly any data, the culture they are being raised in. So, a baby here will have a sort of California culture, but raised in Manhattan will grow up with New York accent, if it was raised in Japan it will speak Japanese and in Boston it’ll park the car in the Harvard yard. The child will learn all of this based on the most impoverished and scattered data, somehow. And so, contrary to the dominant view, the mind just can’t be a blank slate. The child has to contain within it the potential to develop these astonishing capacities and the real question is how can we make sure that these capacities flourish?

This is why we can’t make the comparison between traditional schools and Montessori schools in the knee jerk way. When another school is visited and we see kids doing math on paper, it doesn’t mean those children are more advanced or are being better prepared for later learning. What it means is that they have been trained to accomplish a certain task, and probably at the expense of cultivating other human abilities. We want to make sure that after a full Montessori experience in the first and second planes of development, the child will be a fully developed person capable of solving a whole range of problems, and not only the ones they’ve been trained to do. Also, we want to cultivate the inner discipline needed to master things that require training and skill. And so it’s more important, from this point of view, to be worried about the natural developmental process instead of the conventional linear process where children have to know things at a certain point in time. Humans go through growth spurts, and plateaus. We have ah-ha moments, and we have moments of laziness. The natural cycle of development is not a linear one and so even though public schools are based on this linear view, and we may feel in a kind of knee jerk way that the child ought to know such and such by a certain age, biologically it’s just not true.

The best preparation for later learning is to make sure the child’s natural capacities are developed to their fullest, and that’s what a Montessori school will do. In short, Montessori prepares the child for later learning because it cultivates the whole growth of the child, social, emotional, physical, and intellectual.

3 years in a Primary Classroom

In Montessori Primary (3-6 years)

Year One:

Students begin the Practical Life area, developing concentration, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and logical sequencing skills, through purposeful work. Students are also working in the Sensorial area, developing the ability to use each sense with intention and to discover the world. We also build vocabulary and develop phonemic awareness (awareness that words are composed of sounds) in the Language area. As children develop this awareness, they are learning the letter-sound correspondences that lead to spontaneous writing, which will be followed by reading. The children’s work also includes concrete exploration of quantity (size, weight, etc.) and changes in quantity- the foundation for mathematics.
Young children are also learning through observing their older peers, receiving some lessons from them, as well as guidance for how to behave.

Year Two:

Children are continuing to develop reading and writing abilities, continuing to work with phonetic sounds with increasing accuracy and with words of increasing complexity. They are also continuing their Sensorial exploration of complex concepts, including geometry and geography. In the early stages of Math, we work begin with the hands on materials to teach quantity, the symbols we use to represent quantity (numerals), then the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Children are also continuing to work in Practical Life, as the sequences of activities lead the children to work that is appropriate for their developing skills. As their ability to remember long sequences of steps, or complete activities requiring very precise fine motor skills, they will be introduced to an activity that continues to challenge them to further develop these abilities.

As second year children, students will begin to take on more of a leadership role and start to do more work with others that requires an increasing amount of independence and practicing social skills.

Year Three:

As reading and writing skills continue to develop, children are improving fluency by learning alternative spellings (ex: ‘ie’ can be spelled ‘igh’ as in ‘high’, ‘y’ as in ‘sky’) and sight words. They also learn grammatical concepts and explore the ways that different words function in sentences. Through reading and writing stories, comprehension skills are developed. In the Math, children continue to move from concrete, hands-on materials, to those that are increasingly abstract. When this comes together, children discover that they can solve large math problems or word problems quickly without the use of a material or their fingers. Their knowledge of quantity increases from 9,000 to 1,000,000 and they also work with fractions. In Sensorial and Practical Life, children are using the materials with more awareness- using the Puzzle Maps to find a country they are reading about or using the Baric Tablets to measure and classify the weights of other objects, or taking greater ownership in maintaining the classroom.

As the elders, they are guiding younger children, gaining confidence and a strong sense of self. Secure in the knowledge they are gaining and with a sense of pride in their accomplishments, they share what they have learned, academically and socially, with others.

Through observing the children’s work and assessing their skills, the guides provide support where needed and show the next lesson in a sequence when appropriate. As each child is unique, each will have their own challenges and their own strengths. This overview is a general outline, explaining the pattern of development as the child moves through the classroom.

Summer Activities

Summer is often a chance to spend more time together as a family and for children to take some time off from school. During this time, some parents may wonder how to help fill their child’s new free time in ways that support their physical and intellectual development. We have put together some suggestions as a school, which may be helpful. As always, providing these experiences as options for your child to freely choose helps to develop internal motivation and will encourage greater periods of concentration.

Language Development:

  • Build vocabulary with books (children can read books independently at their level or higher level books with an adult, an older sibling).
  • Practice sounding out words using the Sound Game (“I spy something that starts with __ and ends with __.” This can be done at home or anywhere- on a car trip, running errands, or exploring the outdoors.
  • Build handwriting skills through coloring activities and writing practice. Allow children to choose their own topics to keep writing joyful, rather than forced.


Children practicing math at school can continue this practice at home with any large quantity of objects (beans, beads, etc.) that they can count and use to explore addition (putting things together) and subtraction (taking things away). Mathematics is a natural part of our world and as children interact with the world, they are constantly experiencing math. Allowing children to measure things in the house, yard, or park, or inviting them to bake following simple recipes provides these opportunities to our children. Children may enjoy practicing tables of math facts, but please keep in mind that the choice to do so should come from the child to allow them true ownership over their work and greater focus.


Providing simple materials (water, objects for floating, sinking, or mixing, colored dye, etc) allows children to explore. If you need ideas, the children’s sections of libraries and bookstores will be full of resources!
Children can have their own space in a garden or pots on a balcony to raise plants. They can also help build bird feeders or baths and observe the birds that come ( They are capable of building and creating with cardboard or wood and screws.

Physical development:

Children develop their physical skills through practice, just as they develop intellectual capabilities. Providing balls or beanbags to toss can help to develop accuracy, as well as build muscle and burn off energy. Children can use yoga and dance to exercise their bodies and use their bodies as a form of expression.


Developing a child’s creative mind not only gives them tools to express their emotions and ideas, but also helps build problem-solving skills. Imaginative play helps the child’s mind to solidify what it has learned and to play through different situations and different possible outcomes. Creativity can be expressed artistically through indoor and outdoor art areas with paint, colored pencils, chalk and chalkboards, bubbles, sewing materials or playdough. Children can sew or create their own puppets, sets, and create their own stories. Children can create their own obstacle courses and scavenger hunts in the backyard- all they need are the materials, the time, and freedom to explore!

You will notice that many of these involve the child’s body and hands, as well as their mind. During this age, children are capable of learning complex concepts through their direct experience. Even if we do not sit down and explain the physics behind what they experience dropping different objects into water, the child’s experience will help them understand this concept when they study it in school down the road. Let your child’s interests and senses guide you as choose activities for them!  And remember, that they are learning constantly. Allowing a small amount of choices for activities will not overwhelm them and will help them to develop the ability to self-direct as they learn and discover.

Praise versus Encouragement

” Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments….in order to foster in him a spirit of work and of peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts.”

( 2005: 172 taken from Montessori 1967)

Maria Montessori, like many of us, had reservations and concerns surrounding the idea of a child developing confidence, self belief and esteem without extrinsic rewards and praise as a motivating factor and a means of influencing behavior long term.

Montessori stated that by providing encouragement, an environment that supports a child’s needs, and being able to withdraw and let the child show you what he needs means that the child has the opportunity to develop his own sense of self, without having to be dependent on praise from an adult. Montessori believed that excessive, long-term praise can inhibit children from gaining independence because they rely heavily on the praise of those in authority positions. As an alternative, encouragement can be empowering. There are no conditions and it isn’t judgmental. The receiver is encouraged to make judgments of his own behavior, work, and ultimately, self worth.

In contemporary society and education, the adult is generally seen as the center of a child’s learning and development. In the Montessori philosophy, the adult is the facilitator and the guide in the child’s learning and development. Montessori believes adult centered learning, as found in conventional education dampens the child’s self esteem and fosters dependence rather than independence.

When I reflect back on my childhood, I was always striving to be recognized via praise from both my parents and my school. I defined myself by this and I now see that that has hindered my progression as I found it very difficult to make choices unless my parents approved of them, validated them and as a result validating me as a person. As a result of my time studying Montessori I have developed and felt a sense of achievement in my own work and cultivated friendliness with error. This has enabled me to feel proud of my achievements rather than wondering what everyone else thinks, says or feels. This is a liberating development!

We know that children have natural innate drive to internalize, absorb and manipulate what they experience in their environment, much like mathematics and language. We know that the child’s reward is not in the teacher reinforcing that he did a good job in finding the answer to a mathematical problem, but it is in the process itself. This process requires concentration, a strong will and perseverance and the joy the child experiences in recognizing his hard work or the child’s joy at tying his laces is about what he did, his achievements.

Surely, if our focus as teachers and parents is on the rewards, then it becomes less about the process or about the journey of reaching the goal and more about the end product. If you need to provide the reward to get the end product then where is the innate motivation to learn clearly evident in children? In the long term it has been replaced with learners or workers driven by external measures to get a desired result of what someone else wants. Surely the joy is of learning and growing for you.

Alfie Kohn (2001) summarized what we can do and say when a child does something impressive, and although it may go against many of our own experiences in the home and in school, it is important to consider and think about these suggestions.

  1. He advices us to say nothing. Many people believe and insist a helpful act must be reaffirmed and reinforced because if we don’t do this then the child may not respond in this way again. Giving the child a verbal reward is deemed as the best way to encourage good behavior but Kohn suggests that this is an artificial reason and is unfounded and therefore praise may not be necessary.
  2. Secondly he suggests say what you saw. A simple, non judgment statement where you recognize the child’s work such as “You did up your coat by yourself” or “You did it.” This shows you are noticing the child’s efforts and hard work and allows the child to take pride in their achievements. This can relate to you noticing an action and how it affects another person positively. For example if a child helps another child then you may comment how the other child is feeling. “Can you see Joe’s face? He seems happy that you helped him clean up the spill.”
  3. Finally he asks is to talk less, ask more. Converse with the child and ask questions. For example, if a child has drawn a picture ask the child what part he liked the best or what was the most challenging rather than telling him what you like the best. This is likely to stimulate interest in a topic rather than saying “Good job!” as research proves that his may in fact have the opposite effect on the child. Kohn goes on to elaborate further and say;

“This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life — or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head.” (2001: 2)

We know that children are driven by an innate interest in learning and it is our role as the educators and parents to support this. We have heard how praise and rewards undermines independence and esteem and how praise and rewards are often used to manipulate children to behave in a particular way. I know I personally have been bought up in a loving, supportive family who praised their children with the best of intentions, but once you start to see praise for what it is and what it does as well as the motives for praising, giving and receiving it, I personally am looking at praise with a more critical eye. Surely it is more delightful to hear a child say, “I did it!” and the pleasure she must feel from this accomplishment. By offering the child the support and encouragement without judgment, at home and in the classroom, we are supporting the child to do things for themselves, the ultimate goal in life.

Ms. Goode
January 2013

Further reading

  • Kohn, Alfie “Punished by Rewards” New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993 a
  • Polk Lillard, Paula and Lillard Jessen, Lynn “Montessori From The Start” New York: Shocken Books, 2003
  • Kohn Alfie, “Five reasons to stop saying ‘Good Job” Young Children, September 2001
  • Bronson, Po, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids. The inverse power of praise” New York News and Features, February 11th, 2007.
  • Bronson, Po and Merryman, Ashley. “Nurture Shock” New York, Twelve, 2009 b


The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Children

Compiled by Mrs. Margaret Gisonni with the support of the KHM staff.

There’s no doubt about it: Children can be picky eaters. Some children only want to eat one type of food, some children won’t try any new foods and some children won’t eat any foods of a particular color. Is your child a picky eater? Well, there’s some comforting news. According to Dr. Leann Birch, Professor and Head of the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Penn State University, “Most children who are perceived as picky eaters probably have adequate diets. What parents often perceive as picky eating simply reflects their children’s normal response to new foods.”

Children are naturally “neophobic,” which means they have an innate fear of trying anything new or foreign, and this includes food. It is normal for children between the ages of 2 and 5 years to resist eating new foods, and may have about four to five favorite foods that they readily accept. Learning that this is a natural part of your children’s development can help you relax a bit about what your child chooses to eat or reject. So if your child is a picky eater, here are some tips to try!

You should know that there are some effective ways you can help make healthy foods like fruits and vegetables all-time favorite choices in your home. Children should be allowed to decide what and how much they eat, but it’s the parents’ responsibility to make healthy foods available to their children to choose from and eat.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Earlier is better.
  2. It’s important to expose your child to healthy fruits and vegetables at a young age. Food preferences that children develop in their early years remain fairly stable and are reflected by the food choices they make in later childhood.
  3. Be patient and keep trying.
  4. Parents who get discouraged by children who are picky eaters often stop trying to give them new foods, which could lead to future health problems. Research has shown that in most cases, parents can help their children learn to like new foods through multiple exposures (between 5 and 10) to new foods and opportunities to learn about food and eating. Just offer new foods often, asking your child to try a bite in a positive and supportive way. Although it doesn’t always happen, studies have shown that children will eventually learn to like the new food.
  5. Be a role model.
  6. A recent study found that 2 and 3-year-old children’s food preferences are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked, disliked, and never tasted. So, the more excitement and enjoyment you express about fruits and vegetables, the more likely your child will want to eat them too!
  7. Don’t restrict certain foods.
  8. Research also shows that not allowing children to eat certain foods only raises their desirability for that food. So help children learn that healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are “all the time foods” that they can eat anytime, and that foods like candy and desserts are “sometimes foods” that they can eat once in a while.
  9. Make healthy foods available
  10. As long as you keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables around, your child can learn to like and choose them!
  11. Prepare foods in healthy ways.
  12. Small modifications in the way you prepare meals and snacks can make a big difference in improving your child’s diet: Bake instead of fry, choose foods with whole grain or whole wheat instead of refined grains, give your child water or low-fat or skim milk instead of juice or soda, etc.
  13. Don’t force food on a child.
  14. As a parent, you know it’s your job to feed your child. If you set a plate of food in front of your child and they don’t eat or only eat a few bites it can leave you feeling frightened and wondering if he received enough food. You may find yourself resulting to techniques such as: feeding him when he’s old enough to feed himself, following him around with plates of food, demanding that he eat all the food on his plate, bribing him to eat, getting angry or threatening him to eat, pestering him by repeatedly telling him to eat and forcing food into his mouth. Well, how’s that working for you? Children naturally don’t eat very much. They eat less than half the calories of an adult.
  15. Children are more in touch with their natural appetite than adults are. Eating when they aren’t hungry can feel disgusting or painful. Respect their natural sense of hunger. If your child can maintain this natural sense of eating when he’s hungry and stopping when he’s not, he will have a powerful weapon against the culture of recreational eating that he will encounter when he’s an adult.
  16. Pressuring children into eating may make them eat less.
  17. Researchers conducted an experiment where they told one group of children to “finish their food” and let another group of children eat as much as they wanted. The children who were told to finish their food actually ate less than the ones who were left alone! They also made more nasty comments about the food.
  18. Pressuring children into eating more may make them hate food. Adults with food aversions often track their aversion to a time when an adult forced them to eat a food they didn’t like. Researchers found that 72% of adults who were forced to eat a food when they were children said that they permanently refused to eat that food for the rest of their lives! Some children may rebel against the pressure to eat by refusing to eat anything, or only eating certain foods. It gives them a measure of control against the scary prospect of being forced to eat a food that they are on unfriendly terms with, or of eating more food than their stomachs feel comfortable with.
  19. Notice what triggers you into pressuring your child to eat. As a parent, you naturally feel anxious if your child is doing something that you think is unhealthy, like not eating “enough.” Reassure yourself that in all but the rarest of cases, children will eat enough food to survive and be healthy. Notice the times when you feel tempted to pressure your child to eat. Relax, take a deep breath, smile, and say to yourself “His brain knows how much he needs to eat.”
  20. To get your child to eat at mealtimes, try these techniques:

    • Sit down and eat the same food as your child
    • Children often need to try a food many times before they like it. Feed your child healthy foods for each meal, and be patient in the knowledge that they will eventually like them
    • If your child is easily distracted, you can gently call his attention back to his food. Do this only occasionally, so that he does not feel pestered, and only do it when he’s first starting his meal, so that he does not eat when he is no longer hungry.
    • Finally, don’t worry!!!
  21. Make it Fun!!!
  22. Snack and meal-time activities should be introduced and reinforced in creative, colorful and playful ways. There are suggestions below for some fun and easy ways you can make fruits and vegetables an all-time favorite with your child. While you do these activities, allow your child to explore the various properties of fruits and vegetables by touching, tasting, smelling and hearing. Don’t forget to talk about how they are good for the body, too!

    • Try something new. Allow your child to try a new fruit or vegetable. Jicama! Zucchini! Bok Choy! Mango! Papaya! These foods may sound silly, but they taste great and they’re good for you.
    • Do a taste test or a crunch test! Dip carrots into three different flavors of low-fat dressing or try a crunch test with three different kinds of vegetables to see which vegetable crunches the loudest!
    • Play a guessing game! Prepare several foods for your child to taste while he or she is blindfolded. See if your child can identify each food. Help your child use words to describe what he or she tastes, such as salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, warm, cold, etc.
    • Play “What can we make with this?” Talk about how a certain fruit or vegetable, such an apple, is good for the body. Then, talk about the various foods they can make with an apple.
    • Bake carrot or zucchini muffins together. Discuss how carrots have special vitamins that are really good for eyes.
    • Where do foods come from? With your child, visit a farm to explore where foods come from and how they grow. Can you try planting your own fruit and vegetable? How about a tomato?
    • Make a healthy snack. Have your child pick a variety of fruits to make a fruit salad. As he/she adds each new fruit to the bowl, talk about the colors of each fruit and how they help the body stay healthy in different ways.
    • Involve your children in food shopping and preparing meals. These activities will give you hints about your children’s food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition , and provide your kids with a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they help prepare.
    • After grocery shopping, play a sorting game by grouping various fruits and vegetables by different categories – color, taste, texture, food group, etc.

Good nutrition is incredibly important for children even though maintaining it is often difficult for parents. Proper nutrition is essential during childhood so that a child grows to obtain a healthy height and weight and does not have any nutritional deficiencies.

A child’s performance in school is very much related to the child’s eating habits. For instance, children who eat breakfast have better concentration in school than children who skip breakfast. Good nutrition practices involve eating breakfast every morning so that the child will be nourished and ready to focus. Focus and concentration in school result in better learning, which in turn results in more opportunities in life.

Cognitive development increases dramatically in the toddler years with advances in gross and fine motor skills that enable walking, jumping, exploring and practicing new self-feeding skills. Children need a variety of foods that provide energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals for optimal growth and development and the ability to learn. Skipping a meal, especially breakfast, can negatively affect math scores, tardiness, absenteeism and hyperactivity, according to Eleanor Noss Whitney, Ph.D., and Sharon Rady Rolfes in “Understanding Nutrition.”

Encourage and support your child’s good nutrition decisions, especially eating a variety of healthy foods and controlling portion sizes. It is well worth the time and effort and need not be a frustrating, continual battle. Learn about essential nutrients and monitor your child’s growth. You can compare her growth pattern with that of other children of her age and gender by plotting her height and weight on growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fantasy and Creativity in Montessori

Since I began my journey into Montessori education my mother and I have had many discussions about what I believe is essential in child development. The conversation goes something like this: “I read an article the other day about why it is important to provide children with real life experiences from the time they are born to about age six. And that reading them fairy tales and books about talking pigs and trains hinders rather than promotes creativity.” Research shows that most children before the age of five can not differentiate between real and fictitious characters or situations (Bewley, “Keeping it Real part 1”). My mum usually gasps and says, “So what are you saying? You’re not going to tell your children about Cinderella? I read you Cinderella and you turned out just fine, sometimes kids just need to be kids.”

Now I would tend to agree with my mum and think I turned out just fine, but what my mum is saying without knowing it, is contradictory. Kids are “just being kids” when they are read stories about what life is like on a farm or taken apple picking. Children at this age learn through real life experiences. Montessori discovered what research now confirms, that a child develops knowledge based on impressions fixed in his mind by experiences in reality (Bewley, “Keeping it Real part 1”).

So the truth is, I did in fact read an article the other day about reality and fantasy. A mother wanted to raise her daughter following the Montessori principles, but still wanted to read her fairy tales at a young age. She thought that if she explained that something was not real her daughter would understand. So she read a story about a dragon and said “they aren’t real, right?” and her daughter said with a smile “no, they don’t exist.” This continued on for some time and the mother read stories about fairies and all sorts of make believe characters. Then one day she read a story about giraffes and her daughter looked up half way through the story and said with a grin on her face “mum, we know giraffes don’t exist, right?”

People often use the word fantasy interchangeably with imagination, or even creativity. However the two are very different, fantasy can be defined as “ideas that have no basis in reality.” Imagination on the other hand, “1. The ability of the mind to form new and original ideas that have their basis in reality. 2.The ability to be creative and resourceful.” Children in a Montessori school are given opportunity to explore fantasy through imagination but this happens at the elementary level. Dr. Montessori felt that there would be no progress without imagination and that this was a very necessary process. However, the more she worked with children she realized that imagination needed to be founded in reality. If a child is introduced to concepts and images that have no basis in reality, they can be misled into illusion. This in turn could inhibit the child’s natural development.

One of the most common questions I get about Montessori education is how we provide creative outlets for children. When most people think of being creative they often think of painting or drawing and crafts. What these activities all have in common for children of this age is that they are usually adult directed with one end product in mind. The other thing they have in common is that it is all the same media use.

In a Montessori environment children can express themselves in a variety of ways. A six year old child may be working on descriptive writing, while a 3 year old creates a beautiful flower arrangement. Someone might be sewing a button on her choice of fabric, or composing a song on the bells. The teachers in a Montessori environment provide an example of how to use the material. We provide technique, the creative element is left entirely up to the child. So you can decide which environment provides more room for exploration: where 20 children create the same hand-print turkey for a thanksgiving craft or where they are provided with the tools they need to think, create, dream and explore endless possibilities for their future.

If you would like to find out more about some of the most successful creative minds that attended Montessori, look know further than Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google Founders) credit Montessori education to the success they have had. Page said “I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently.”(Sims, Montessori Mafia). Still interested in finding out more? Then “google” the Montessori Mafia to see who else makes the list.


Works Cited Bewley, Pilar. December 13, 2012 October 10, 2012.

Sims, Peter. “Montessori Mafia.” The Wall Street Journal. April 5, 2011: 1/8. October 9, 2012.