Many Montessori families speak of the rhythm to their daily lives. For some, rhythm resembles a timetable of attending educational settings, social outings and completing house-hold tasks. For others, rhythm is a natural pace of daily life not guided by the clock and with flexibility to that’s day’s interests, unexpected events and everyone’s temperaments. Many Montessori families sit somewhere in between this continuum.
Rhythms are built on the Montessori concept of trusting and ‘following the child.’ A child-led approach attuned to the sensitive period of order offering predictability of a child’s surroundings and parent/caregiver interactions. By focusing on rhythm, days can be relaxed and industrious with equal scope for spontaneity and creativity.
So what does a typical Montessori family rhythm and routine look like?
Montessori spoke of a child’s day broken into ‘work periods’. Sections of activity building up to three hours where a child tunes-in for activity and concentration and tunes-out for fulfilment and respite. Transitions are supported by giving everyone plenty of time e.g. using songs and/or pictorial rhythm wheels as indicators for change. This allows a child to feel control over events and is helpful during challenging times, such as at bedtime or leaving the house.
With the day broken down into three hour segments, it becomes much more manageable.
6am – 9am: For many families early starts are the norm. Some parents find waking up before their children makes for a better start for all. Mornings are also important for emotional connection such as eating breakfast together or reading stories. For families leaving the home, the prepared and minimalistic Montessori environment is a lifeline in facilitating dressing and collecting items in a stress-free mode.
9am – 12pm:Morning times are typically when children are alert and you can present new materials along with allowing independent play on familiar tasks. There is no need to disrupt a focused child so take the opportunity to observe and consider how you can further support them.
Montessori discussed at length the value of Practical Life skills, so invite your child’s participation in household tasks where suitable such as emptying or filling the dishwasher, loading the washing machine or folding laundry.
12pm – 3pm:Preparing lunch can include your child whether laying the table or making a sandwich. Children can take 45 minutes to eat a meal so allow ample time before nap time. Rest time is important for older children, with audio books or quiet materials and parents must also aim to use this down-time to recharge.
3pm – 6pm:Afternoons often include pick-ups, enrichment activities and visiting family and friends. Try to not overfill your child’s days but invest in quality experiences with plenty of outdoor play. On return home, preparing and eating dinner together is a wonderful opportunity for connection and conversation.
6pm – 9pm:Evening times are for simple play, bath and stories before bedtime routines. Evenings also allow parents time for preparation for the next day, possibly individual work and self-care.
It is never too later to start a Montessori rhythm and routine, begin with small periods of the day and be flexible to you and your family’s needs.