When the subject of alternative pedagogies is broached, the name Montessori comes out quite quickly. We talk a lot about workshops designed for 3-6 year olds or for elementary school students, but there is also a whole section dedicated to babies and toddlers of nursery age. Maria Montessori was indeed interested in the youngest children through what she called the “Nido” and the “children’s community”, periods that affect infants, up to 3-year-old children.
Childcare professionals have thus begun to set up Montessori nurseries. Corn how a Montessori nursery works compared to a standard nursery ? How to recognize a “real” Montessori nursery? If your child is old enough to go to nursery, read on.
What is a Montessori nursery?
If you know the main principles of Montessori pedagogy, you probably know that it is a question of respecting the rhythm of the child, of favoring autonomy or of benevolent education. But concretely, how does this apply in the crèche?
The Nido Montessori and the child community
In Montessori, there are different receptions in which the children will evolve, they are called the atmospheres. For the little ones from 0 to 3 years old, we talk about Nido Montessori.
The organization is generally done by age group: the Nido goes from 0 to 6 months, then the big nido up to 18 months and finally the children’s community which continues for up to 3 years. The children are grouped together and accompanied according to their degree of autonomy, their ability or not to sit down and then to walk.
The activities are carried out gradually, respecting the rhythm of each child. The goal is to support the development of babies and toddlers by working each sense gradually: first hearing, then sight, grip, balance, etc.
The different environments are prepared with a view to facilitating the autonomy and motor skills of the youngest. Specific furniture is used there, divided into 4 well-defined areas: the dining area, awakening, rest and physical care.
Furniture and equipment used in a Montessori nursery
In a Montessori crèche, certain points may surprise you, in particular concerning the furniture and the equipment used for awakening. Beds with bars are absent in the large Nido, because instead of floor mattress to promote baby’s mobility and autonomy during sleep phases. We do not force a child to sleep and we let him move if he feels the need.
The play areas are relatively open and unobstructed, with floor-level mirrors and a reasonable number of games. Avoid plastic materials for games and bright colors on the walls. In a Montessori crèche, we favor an environment with neutral and soothing colorslikely to bring calm and concentration.
For the dining area, high chairs give way to weaning chairs (sort of very low wooden chairs) and low tables.
The learning material is left at the height of the children. On the other hand, the way of using it is strictly supervised by the educators in order to ensure respect for the environment and for everyone.
The educational framework and benevolence
One of the fundamental principles of Montessori pedagogy is the respect of the framework. For this, educators are urged to demonstrate both benevolence and firmness. Children are always encouraged in their successes and progress. On the other hand, when the time comes for first individual workshops, the framework is given from the beginning. The adult presents the activity to the child beforehand and the material must not be diverted from its use. For example, there is a small wooden support on which the child must try to put rings. If, after being shown, the toddler stubbornly throws each ring across the room, the adult observing him must intervene firmly to preserve the equipment and the safety of the other children. Even if it means creating a little moment of frustration, he will temporarily take the activity out of his hands by explaining to him why he is doing it.
What are the different types of Montessori cribs?
Even if the Montessori pedagogy has gained a lot of notoriety in France over the past ten years, the people who really master its principles are still few in number. Moreover, this name not being protected, there is different types of Montessori cribslikely to more or less respect the original principles.
Nurseries using professionals trained by the ISMM
Some Montessori crèches use professionals trained by the ISMMthe Institut Supérieur Maria Montessori, the only French training center approved by the Association Montessori International, itself created by Maria Montessori in 1929.
It is a real advantage to be able to benefit from the services of people certified by the ISMM. This shows first of all a certain seriousness of the establishment, as well as a deep desire to apply and respect the principles developed by Maria Montessori.
This type of crèche therefore does not hesitate to highlight the certifications of their employees by displaying them on their premises or by notifying them on their website. However, if these places of reception are appreciated because one seeks to get as close as possible to the functioning of the Nido as it was described by its creator, one must also consider their cost.
Their sometimes high price is explained by the fact that they are private nurseries whose workers themselves had to undergo relatively expensive training in addition to traditional training for caring for young children. Their skills are both specific and sought after, which entails a cost for the structure that employs them.
In addition, in these Montessori nurseries, noble and natural materials are favored rather than plastic or disposable. Finally, the price can be explained by the number of activities and outings planned as well as the supervision rate which is a few times higher than that of traditional crèches.
Networks of Montessori nurseries and independent nurseries
As said above, since the name is not protected, it is possible to setting up a Montessori nursery without respecting all the principles. Furthermore, there is no legal framework for staff training on Montessori.
You can therefore just as well be dealing with people who have been self-taught, in a few days or for several weeks, face-to-face or not, with the ISMM or not.
So, to find out if the Montessori crèche you are looking for is a reliable establishment, do not hesitate to browse their website, read reviews and, if possible, chat with parents who have already registered their child. Also ask to visit the premises to see how it works, see the equipment and furniture used.
If the establishment is part of a network of Montessori nurseries, each entity may be independent. If this is the case, this must be noted in their legal notices and it is then necessary to be attentive as to the liberties that can be taken by the management in the operation of the structure.
How to recognize a “real” Montessori nursery?
It is important to know how to recognize a “real” Montessori nursery, in other words, which respects the fundamental principles and tries to apply them as much as possible. The idea is to find an establishment that does not seek to take advantage of the Montessori name to attract more families or inflate its prices unjustifiably.
Here are some questions to ask for find a Montessori nursery :
- How and for how long was the staff trained?
- Do the furniture and equipment comply with the principles of a Montessori atmosphere (preferred natural materials, neutral and soothing colors rather than bright colors, presence of activity trays in unique copies, etc.)?
- How are the children distributed (Nido, children’s community, differentiation according to the level of autonomy)?
- Are high chairs and cribs or low chairs and floor mattresses used?
- Are the activities carried out mainly in groups, individually, and what degree of autonomy is left to the child in their realization?
Finally, be aware that it is quite possible to find public crèches and micro-nurseries at reasonable prices who try to infuse Montessori into their practices. Even if the staff is not trained at the ISMM, it is above all the principles of benevolence, respect for the rhythm of the child and autonomy which are to be taken into account.