The role of adults in Montessori pedagogy


When I entered these specialized classes, I met children who not only had an intellectual disability, but also great physical difficulties of the hemiplegia, paraplegia, visual impairment, epilepsy seizures types. 

Montessori is revolutionary!

As a result, these children were always accompanied or assisted and very often things were done for them. And I come in and say, “Well, we’re going to stop all this! “I triggered a wave of panic! And suddenly, Montessori became dangerous! I knew we were on the eve of a great revolution! And then I realized that the greatest work to be done is not with children, but with adults. You know, it’s the adults that need to be changed, not the children!

It is true that we currently have a culture of control and fear. The more we want to protect the child, the more we control him. 

And yet, we want the child, where he is now and with what he can do, to develop his confidence.

But how can we promote the child’s autonomous development if we constantly short-circuit his or her development, even in safe situations? How can the child not doubt himself when we constantly intervene to “correct” what we too commonly call “error”? And how can we open up learning spaces for the child in a culture where we have become accustomed to “talking” when we could simply “show”.

Trust is not a feeling, it is about observation

In our culture we think a lot but we observe little. However, careful observation of a situation can allow us to make an appropriate decision. 

However, we ended up blending trust with a feeling. In everyday language we often use this “feeling” when we say, for example, “I feel that I can trust you”. However, the challenge is not to “feel” which would leave a lot of room for risk and uncertainty, but to observe the availability of a capacity in relation to a given situation. Thus observation makes it possible to assess the reliability of an ability to deploy in a situation that can mobilize it.

Example: little girl and the tray.

The child realized 2 things:

  • That dropping the object was not a big deal! She could pick up and then start again. At first she was waiting for us to come. She observed thinking she was going to be scolded, but no, we encouraged her to pick as much as she could.
  • That she could carry the basket alone from one point to another without spilling. 

I couldn’t describe his joy with words! 

Why was this child’s joy made possible?

Because there was minimal or no intervention at all 

Whatever the child’s difficulties, whether to acquire useful knowledge or to develop a skill, children all have their own rhythm and this rhythm must be respected. 

Similar to a plant, their growth can be accompanied by a few favourable gestures. But the push will ultimately come on its own. If you want to provoke it, the harvest will only be compromised.

The teacher followed the same path as the child

We had to stop his momentum to rescue the child more than once!

And then one day, they understood that the child proceeds by trial and error in order to carry out an activity. By repeating multiple times the sum of gestures that can lead to a result, he acquires the awareness of the time required to actualize a realization and the patience to bring it to completion.

Thanks to the observation of the children, the fear has disappeared and especially the false belief that to be a good teacher you have to help the children at all times. 

The atmosphere of both classes has completely changed.

The place of the adult in Montessori pedagogy: what to remember

  1. Trust is not a feeling, it is about observation
  2. No or few interventions unless there is a “real” danger

My gift to you

“Unleash the child’s potential and you will transform the world with him” Maria Montessori

Child development from 0 to 6 years of age


As I promised you, I am now focusing on the first development plan, i.e. on the characteristics and needs of children from 0 to 6 years old.

Characteristics of the child from 0 to 6 years old


Maria Montessori named the child in the foreground “Moebelkind” or “the child – furniture”: for her the starting point of her discoveries is the adaptation of the furniture to the size and strength of the child to free her movement. A child needs to have both feet on the ground to access concentration, to be able to reveal his true nature.

A vulnerable being

The child in the foreground is a vulnerable, sensitive being who must be welcomed in humanity.

He needs order and attention.

A being of communication and language

A baby is a great communicator, he needs to be caught up in a language relationship to develop. Language and gestures are part of the child’s psychic food. 

An observer

The child is a passionate explorer. He needs to exercise his movement to explore. 

He’s a sensory explorer. Everything he apprehends from the world around him goes through his senses. The first organ of discovery is the mouth. From the moment he can sit down, he detaches himself from the ground, the hand is released and takes over to explore by manipulating. Through the senses he builds his inner world. 

He also needs to repeat his experiences to build his psychological and physical life. 

Responding to needs through appropriate environments

To meet these needs, the specific approach of Montessori pedagogy, as we have seen, is to provide adapted environments, known as “prepared environments”. There are 4 environments for the first development plan:

– The home (and yes! it is too often forgotten): from birth to 5-6 months

– The Nido: from 3 months until the guaranteed walk. The assured walk also corresponds to the acquisition of the clamp with the opposite thumb and the first intentional words. It is a real development stage. 

– The children’s community: from walking to 2.5 to 3 years old 

– The children’s house: from 2 and a half years old / 3 to 6 years old

These environments have common characteristics:

Order. Every object, every being has its place and order. The child withdraws his security from order and orientation
Motives for activities = psychic food. These reasons constitute the possibility of work. 
Sensory stimulation tailored to the child’s needs.

They also have differences, which I will come back to later.

Adults are also part of the “environment”

The adult attitude (it is one of my favourite subjects, and I will often come back to it on this blog), must also be adapted, and different at each step:

At the Nido

  • Observation. From birth to safe walking, the adult must observe the child with particular attention. This look helps to support the child’s activity. Observation is part of a search for the child’s new faculties.
  • Attention. He needs to share, to be nourished by the relationship, which allows him to be more and more autonomous by keeping the good memory of the relationship. 
  • Intent. The gestures and the way of speaking to a child are very important because children are very sensitive and certainly perceive intention before meaning. 

To the Children’s Community

  • Observation
  • Attention = COLLABORATION. Adults should never do anything without a child. The child is encouraged to participate in all tasks in the community and at home. Autonomy develops through scaffolding. Any object offered to the child is presented, because the culture is TRANSMITTED. This transmission is formal or informal (the child observes). 
  • Maximum effort. The little child is a hard worker. The adult must provide him with opportunities for maximum effort: carrying furniture and other heavy things builds trust in the child, and shows that with effort, the world belongs to him. 

At the Children’s House

  • Observation
  • Providing an environment that allows sensory experiences, activities with a defined purpose, access to writing and reading in different languages (mathematics, language, music)

So much for the general attitude … but when and how to intervene with the child? This is a big question if we do not want to hinder its development, as Maria Montessori says.

That’s why in the next post, I’ll talk to you about sensitive periods.