This article was originally published here. We agree that encouraging kids to spend more time outside, being creative, away from screens, is one of healthiest things you can do to encourage your child to think and develop.

Screen time, in its multiple forms, will be part of your children’s lives at some point. But parents must ask themselves how early and to what extent?


Some parents think they’re giving their child an educational edge like Susan who bought her 6-year-old son John an iPad when he was in first grade. “She thought, ‘Why not let him get a jump on things?’ John’s school had begun using the devices with younger and younger grades – and his technology teacher had raved about their educational benefits.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s foremost addiction experts who counseled Susan and her son John, writes, “She started giving John screen time to play different educational games on his iPad. Soon, he discovered Minecraft, which a teacher assured was “just like electronic Lego.” She remembered how much fun she had as a child building Legos. At first, Susan was pleased. John seemed engaged in creative play. She did notice that the game wasn’t quite like the Legos she remembered – after all, she didn’t have to kill animals and find rare minerals to survive and get to the next level with her old game. But the school even had a Minecraft club, so how bad could it be?”

“John became more and more focused on his digital game, losing interest in baseball and reading while refusing to do his chores. As his behavior continued to deteriorate, Susan tried to take the game away but John threw temper tantrums. His outbursts were so severe that she gave in, still rationalizing to herself over and over again that “it’s educational.”

But it’s even worse than we think.


There’s a line; cross it and parents may actually unintentionally be doing significantly more harm than good.

“Tablets are the ultimate shortcut tools: Unlike a mother reading a story to a child, for example, a smartphone-told story spoon-feeds images, words, and pictures all at once to a young reader. Rather than having to take the time to process a mother’s voice into words, visualize complete pictures and exert the mental effort to follow a story line, kids who follow stories on their smartphones get lazy. The device does the thinking for them, and as a result, their own cognitive muscles remain weak.” ~Liraz Margalit Ph.D

Digest the information below on screen time, even though it might feel uncomfortable, and arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage screen time is capable of imparting – particularly in a young, still-developing brain.

“There’s a reason Steve Jobs was a conscientiously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Montessori or Waldorf schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.” (source)


We now know that smartphones, iPads, and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex – which controls executive functioning, including impulse control – in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic – as much as sex.

Victoria L. Dunckley M.D says, Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain.

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can't Pay Attention, limiting online time, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, addiction expert, child counselor, educational games, iPad, electronic Lego, Legos, creative play, find rare minerals, Minecraft club, digital game, gaming, behavior, temper tantrums, outbursts, refusing to do chores, tablets, smartphone, shortcut tool, images, spoonfeeding, lazy learning, dumbing down, mental effort, developing brain, low-tech parent, Steve Jobs, Silicon Valley, no-tech Montessoru schools, Waldorf schools, Xboxes, brain imaging research, science, frontal cortex, impulse control, executive functioning, cocaine, dopamine levels, technology, feel-good neurotransmitter, addiction, sex, Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley, exposure, sensory overload, lack of sleep, hyper-aroused nervous system, electronic screen syndrome, impulsive, moody, can't pay attention, rewire, train, delayed gratification, bored time, creativity, set limits, monotonous work, early years, work ethic, parenting, Victoria Prooday, strengthen brain, 

But what about kids who aren’t “addicted” per se?

Let’s be clear!

Even in children with “regular” exposure, we should be aware that screen time is creating subtle damage considering the “average” child clocks in more than seven hours a day (Rideout 2010).

Jackie’s Note: here is a printable list of 30 more ways to help your kidsAs a doctor, Dunckley observes that many of the children she sees suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what she calls electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention – much like the damage seen in these scans above. (source)


Unfortunately, screen time has replaced the outdoor time and become a kind of babysitter. Children used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.

And like the story of Susan and her son John, we need to get our children back to playing with Legos and toys that don’t think for them!

Scientist know we can train and retrain the brain. It is moldable. Through our environment, we can make the brain weaker or make it stronger. Despite everything we might think is good – like electronic ‘educational’ games – we have unfortunately remolded our children’s brains in the wrong direction.

We can rewire and retrain the brain by being intentional. It’s so much easier to start young!

Victoria Prooday, OT writes:

1. Train delayed gratification.

  • Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
  • Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
  • Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games

2. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

  • Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
  • Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life.
  • Limit constant snacking. Parenting is a hard job.

3. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”.

  • Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed (source)

4. Have fun with your children.

  • Read aloud, wrestle with your kids, make a Mexican or Italian meal together, do a family game night or a treasure hunt in the house or yard. Push the table aside and dance with them, laugh about what they did when they were really little, take walks and look at the clouds! (source)

Jackie’s Note: here is a printable list of 30 more ways to help your kids“Kids will change when parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your children succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!” ~Victoria Prooday

Remember, parenting is about progress, NOT about perfection! You are reading about this because you are a parent who wants to do all you can to help and advance your child in the right direction.

You can do it!!


Celebrating Montessori Education Week!

This year, Montessori Education Week is February 25th through March 3rd, 2018. We want to celebrate by not only honoring Dr. Maria Montessori, but also by thanking our Trent parents (both past and present) for believing in the Montessori Method and choosing to give your children a Montessori education.

Throughout history, Montessori has touched the lives of children and adults around the world. By recognizing the child’s own ability to learn, teachers have been freed to gently guide the child along the path of knowledge. A mutually respectful working relationship develops where guide and child work together to help develop the construction of knowledge. This early independence develops creative minds, capable of intense problem-solving. Indeed, some of today’s great thinkers, artists, and politicians were Montessori educated: Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google); Julia Child (chef); Will Wright (video game pioneer); Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia); Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Literature Nobel Prize); and Jeff Bezos (CEO In addition, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) all advocated and helped start Montessori schools. (Paragraph originally found here:

As we celebrate Montessori Week and reflect on the impact it has had in our lives, why not share those thoughts? We’d love to hear from you and your children why Montessori is important to you!

Raising overcomers: How to teach your kids to do hard things

I haven’t taught any of my children to ride a bike. Not one of the four.

I’ve helped, for sure. I’ve held on to the seat and steadied them while they will their bodies to balance and their feet to push the pedals, but my husband has always been the one to let go of the seat and enable their independence.

This never even occurred to me until I was working with my youngest on riding sans training wheels last month. My husband had been gone for the weekend and sensing my little guy was ready, I took the training wheels off and started coaching him along. When my husband arrived home he put one steady hand on the back of my son’s bicycle seat, lingered for a mere second and sent him on his way. Just like that, he was riding a bike.

And I realized, it was the letting go that was hard for me.

If my husband hadn’t come home, I might still be scampering along behind that little boy’s bike—holding him back, rather than watching him soar.

Ever wonder how to teach your kids to do hard things? How to fight fear, to live brave and overcome hard things? Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Life is full of hard things. Full of them. Learning to walk is tough. Growing up is challenging. Learning to become a good spouse is no easy feat, settling into the role of mother is hard. Hard. Hard. Hard. So why wouldn’t we want to prepare our kids to handle hard things well—to not balk at the pressure? Why shouldn’t we seek to give them eyes that see beyond what’s right in front of them, intentionally training them and equipping them with the tools to handle hard things?

Here are 5 things I want to be intentional about in raising kids who can do hard things, kids who are overcomers.

1. Let them fail

Really. Our home is a training ground for life. And so is yours. It’s a place where our children are loved no matter what, a place where their worth is not based on performance, and the safest place for them trip and fall and learn about what it takes to get back up again.

As the supplier of band-aids and ice packs this can be hard for a mama to do. My natural tendency is to smooth out all the rough spots, champion my children to success and just continue holding on to their bicycle seats for a good long while. But this does not help them in the long run.

A cut-throat workplace or college class are not the best place for our kids to be learning these lessons for the first time. Be intentional about giving your children a safe place to mess it all up, to crash and burn, to learn consequences and forgiveness and exactly what it takes to get back up and try again.

2. Equip them

Watching our children deal with hard things give us the opportunity to teach them how to respond well. Recently my daughter took two weeks of group swimming lessons—something that was new to her. Although she was scared, she made it through the first week quite well. She conquered some fears and by the end of the week she was having all kinds of fun.

However, after a long weekend she began to fear swimming lessons again and didn’t want to return for the second week. Through tears she told me how much she hated swimming. And I quickly understood this wasn’t really about swimming anymore. She was being seized by fear. She loved swimming just a few days earlier and now she was believing a lie, believing her fears.

One thing I’m learning is that no matter how irrational, improbable, or ridiculous it may seem to someone else, fear is real. We all fear different things, but when you are in the midst of it, it becomes your reality. Minimizing someone else’s fear is not helpful.

I remember having a math teacher once who seemed to think all of math was easy. Which was great for him, but it did not change the fact that it was NOT easy for me. Ever. I fought for every good math grade I got. It never got easy, but I was able to learn the principals well enough to get through it and avoid it for the rest of my adult life. (I’m kidding…partly.)

The same strategy applied to my scared swimmer. Telling her swimming is fun and not scary would not be helpful, but teaching her how we handle fear, how we fight lies that can eat away at our hearts, is quite useful.

3. Talk truth

While we try to re-shape hearts and complaining attitudes around here we don’t shy away from calling things hard. Learning to swim is hard. Pulling weeds is hard. Keeping a tidy home is hard. Sure it is, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

As my kids get older we talk more and more about the hard things of life, because they don’t ever magically go away. We talk about their dad’s job and the hard things he does there. We talk about paying bills and taxes, we talk about being treated unfairly or unkindly.

Opportunities abound—that grumpy grocery store clerk who seems to be having a hard day, discuss it with your kids. That construction worker who is sweating up a storm in his hard hat, talk about it with your kids. Talking truth with your children, rather than sugar-coating life lessons, conditions them to understanding that hard work is a part of life and not something we shy away from.

4. Start training them

Have you ever considered intentionally training your children to do hard things, to push past their will and what they see right in front of them in order to learn the value of perseverance? You can be intentional about helping your children develop faithfulness and tenacity.

Try taking on a big challenge as a family. Help your kids engage in conversations outside of their comfort zone or offer an apology even when it feels awkward. Show them how to serve others or what it might look like to give sacrificially. These things don’t come naturally for most children, or adults for that matter. Walk them through it intentionally and give them opportunities and new environments in which to practice it. Make sure they see you doing the same.

You can practice hard things at home as well. If your home is like ours there are plenty of jobs and chores my husband and I do out of habit or because it’s quicker and cleaner if we do them ourselves, but allowing our children to do the work grows and shapes them.

Let them fold their clothes, let them weed the flower beds, teach them to clean up the kitchen, to sweep the steps and wash the windows. The tasks will grow with age, of course, and you can even make some of the bigger and more challenging chores paid jobs, but only pay for a job well done. It all takes effort and oversight on your part, but slowly they will begin to learn the value of hard work and doing hard things. And, hopefully, your house will be getting cleaner in the process!

5. Follow through

Similar to discipline, follow through is key and is often the hardest part as a parent. Recently, my husband was working on training my son in the area of responsibility and before leaving for work one morning he said to me, “We had a talk last night about responsibility and I told Tyler that I expect his chores to be completed by the time I get home from work. Please don’t give him any reminders today.” No reminders. Can I tell you how that about killed me as mama?

9:00: Chores weren’t done.

11:00: Chores weren’t done. And I may have developed a nervous tick trying to keep my mouth shut. Thankfully, by the time my husband got home the chores were finally done and I can honestly say I did not give any reminders. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

This parenting gig, this training kids thing, is hard. It’s work.

You love those kids like crazy and if you’re anything like me, you tend to let them off the hook too easy at times. But that is not parenting brave. Parenting brave requires the very same thing of us that we are trying to train in our kids, making decisions not based solely on what is right in front of us, but with the end result in mind. In this case that would be responsible and capable adults.

A version of this article was originally published on I Choose Brave.

5 Tips in Teaching Your Kids Respect

1. Demand Good Manners

Acting polite isn’t merely a formality, says psychotherapist Ingrid Schweiger, Ph.D., author of Self-Esteem for a Lifetime. “When kids say ‘thanks’ after something is given to them, they acknowledge that there’s a mutual exchange going on, a give-and-take,” she explains. And by going through the motions, they eventually learn not to expect the world on a silver platter.

Even toddlers can learn to say “please” and “thank you,” while preschoolers should be expected to look people in the eye when they greet them and to say “hello” and “goodbye.” Be prepared to give plenty of gentle reminders. “When my boys were younger I was constantly cueing them to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Excuse me.’ Now, as a result, it mostly comes naturally to them,” says Debbie Oser, of North Wales, Pennsylvania. But sometimes a nudge isn’t enough: If you’re taking your kids someplace that requires a specific kind of behavior (say, your office or an upscale store), make sure they understand what’s expected of them. “Before we go out to eat, we review proper manners and warn our kids that if they don’t act appropriately, they’ll be removed from the restaurant. And we make sure we follow through with that — even if we really want to stay,” says Sarah Natividad, a mom of four in Tooele, Utah.

When your kids successfully mind their p’s and q’s, reinforce their behavior by offering praise — and mentioning why those good manners mattered so much, says Dr. Schweiger. “I tell my boys, ‘It was very nice the way you thanked Tommy’s mom for the cookies. I know it made her feel appreciated for all of her hard work,'” says Patricia Rossia, of Tampa Bay, Florida.

2. Dealing with Rudeness

Don’t Tolerate Rudeness

Bratty behavior and back talk are so common these days that it can be easy to just roll your eyes when your kids call each other names or your daughter throws a fit after you announce that TV time is over. But a child who’s allowed to speak that way to his family may come to believe it’s okay to sass other people too, so it’s vital that parents respond to the behavior immediately.

Make it clear that no matter how annoyed your kid may be, it’s never acceptable for him to lash out at another person. Then help him express himself by making “I” statements (as in “I feel frustrated!”) rather than ones that start with “You” (as in “You are a jerk!”), says Dr. Schweiger. You can also encourage him to put his feelings into words by asking him questions, suggests Hodson. (If he’s making sarcastic comments, say, “You seem upset. Let’s talk about it,” or if he’s yelling at his brother, you might ask him, “You sound really mad to me. Can you tell me what’s going on?”). Giving your child a positive way to express his emotions lets him know that while it’s natural to feel angry or frustrated from time to time, that doesn’t make it okay to insult others or scream and shout.

Of course, little ones are still mastering impulse control and learning how to articulate the things that they’re feeling, so don’t be surprised if it takes a lot of work to help your young child get a handle on her temper and if she slips up quite frequently. Part of teaching respect is teaching kids that when we make mistakes, we say we’re sorry — it shows that you care enough about the person you’ve disrespected to take responsibility for your mistakes, explains Dr. Schweiger. So lead the way by apologizing yourself when it’s appropriate, and urge your kids to do the same, once they’ve calmed down about what’s bothering them.

Teach Listening Skills

By giving someone your time and attention, you let him know that you value him, explains Dr. Schweiger; it’s one of the most fundamental ways to show respect. The first step toward being a good listener: removing distractions and making eye contact. So teach your child to put down the Wii control and focus on you when you’re talking (by the same token, make sure you look up from your iPhone when your kid has something to say too).

You can further educate her in what it takes to be a courteous conversationalist — not interrupting, waiting for a turn to talk — by role-playing. Start with the don’ts; your child will get a kick out of pretending she’s an “interrupter” or someone who looks away when she’s speaking. Then she can tackle the do’s (wait until a person is done talking to comment, follow up on what the other person just said with a question) and notice the difference.

3. Establishing Rules

Setting boundaries teaches kids that the world doesn’t revolve around them; they also have to consider others with their actions. Moreover, “if they can’t follow your house rules, they won’t be able to do it in kindergarten and beyond,” says Dr. Schweiger. “By allowing them to do whatever they want, without consequences, you’re setting them up for failure later on. So it’s important to instill a regard for authority in your little ones, starting at home.”

In order to respect your house rules, your kids have to know exactly what they are, so sit down and explain them (post them on the fridge too). Also take the time to talk about why these rules matter. Your child may not immediately understand the connection between respecting the rules and respecting the people who set them and live under them, but you can break it down for him. (Leaving toys out may seem harmless, but it creates a messy household for everyone; roughhousing might seem like fun, but someone could get hurt.) Next, be clear about what will happen if the rules are broken. Finally, be prepared to repeat the rules regularly and to follow through with those consequences if necessary.

Encourage Open-mindedness

Treating others with respect means taking the time to get to know them and trying to see where they’re coming from — even when you don’t immediately hit it off. “We make it clear to our kids that they don’t have to like everybody, and that not everybody will like them — and that’s okay, as long as they give people a chance,” says Heather Lambie, of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Teaching your kid to keep an open mind will serve her well throughout life — allowing her to discover unusual activities, exciting friends, and fresh ways of looking at things. Start by encouraging her to stretch herself and make a connection with someone new (like the kid who just moved in down the block or a first-time sitter) by finding some similar interests. Sometimes, after spending some time together and hearing the other person’s point of view, kids will conclude they don’t have that much in common. Your job as the parent? To make it clear that even people your child isn’t buddies with deserve kind treatment — and to introduce the important idea of “agreeing to disagree,” says Dr. Schweiger. Kids who understand that there is more than one way to do something or think about something (Jack puts ketchup on everything and Harper hates the stuff, but both ways of doing dinner are okay) will be better problem-solvers in all aspects of their life.

4. Celebrating Diversity

Kids tend to notice right away when someone looks different from what they’re used to — whether it’s their skin tone, body type, or style of dress — and chances are, they’ll say something about it. Though these moments can be embarrassing for parents, teaching your child to appreciate diversity means addressing their comments rather than immediately shushing or dismissing them, says Dr. Schweiger. “It’s important to acknowledge we’re not all the same — and that that’s not a bad thing,” she says. Think of your kid’s curiosity as an opportunity to teach him about respecting differences.

Of course, in order to raise kids who embrace diversity, you’ll need to give them access to a variety of different cultures and traditions, says Hodson, and you can start by making sure the characters in your kids’ shows and books have a broad range of backgrounds. But there’s no substitute for firsthand, real-life experiences, so take your kids to explore new neighborhoods, try a new cuisine, or experience an important cultural event for a different ethnic group.

As you encounter new people, be sure to discuss not only the things that are different but also the things that are the same — for example, how the girl in the head scarf is an avid roller skater just like your daughter, or how the teen with a blue Mohawk loves ice cream just as your son does. By taking a respectful approach and learning to make a connection with people they encounter, Hodson notes, kids will be receptive to exciting new experiences and will eventually come to see the world as a place brimming with possibility for discovery. That’s a pretty powerful payoff.

5. Respect That Stuff!

When we teach kids to treat belongings with respect, we’re helping them develop a sense of gratitude and consideration. How to do it:

Explain value. Help kids understand what gives something its worth. So if your son picks a neighbor’s flower without asking, don’t just scold him; mention all the time she spends tending her garden so everyone can enjoy it.

Think less is more. Children don’t need a ton of stuff, and the more playthings they get, the less they’ll appreciate each item. Offer them fewer toys, and try to choose ones that they can use in a variety of creative ways.

Make it clear. Before you hand over a prized object, spell out the rules: “If you would like to use Mommy’s music box, you must be willing to stay seated, make sure you don’t shake it, and let Mommy turn the key.”

This article can be found here. It was originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

How Many Toys Are Too Many? 12 Reasons Why Kids Benefit from Less

This Christmas season, while shopping for toys for your children, keep this in mind — children may actually benefit from fewer toys?! 

This article was originally published by Emily Wade on

Renowned child educator, Maria Montessori said “Play is the child’s work.” She meant that children are not just playing when they play, but they are working. Play is an important part of child development, and the types of toys that a child interacts with shapes their understanding of the world around them. Toys are the tools children use to accomplish their work, but it is best for the amount of toys that a child has to be limited.

Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., writes about the importance of play in his award-winning book Playful Parenting. He states ‘Through play, they (children) practice cooking, cleaning, going to work, fighting, taking care of the baby—every adult activity they see around them. This kind of playful practice, performed over and over, makes them more confident.’ The author also says that play helps children cope with problems ranging from big traumas to little upsets and helps them process the new information they receive every day.

Toys help children play. They also help children self-entertain and become independent. It may seem that more toys provide more entertainment and help the child work, but that is not the case.

Here are reasons why it is best to keep toys minimal and simple:

1. Kids with less use their imagination more. Without many toys, children use their craft of pretending to imagine the scenario in which they are working. Studies show that Einstein was right when he stated that “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

2. Kids maintain focus. Less toys mean less distractions teaching the child to focus on the task at hand. Toys that provide excess stimulation have been linked to ADHD.

3. Kids interact more with others. Communications skills are not innate; they are learned. Having less stuff allows for less to get in the way of social interactions. When children pretend together, they communicate together.

4. Kids learn to respect what they have. A child is more likely to value their work when they know they don’t have replacements.

5. Kids are more educated. When you choose toys like books, blocks, art supplies and puzzles, children work on skills like reading, building, drawing, and writing. Such toys can incorporate lessons about the world that the child is immersed in rather than distract them from it.

6. Kids become resourceful. Kids learns to use what they have to get the job done.

7. Kids share. As parents, we want our children to put people over possessions and to not be greedy. Interacting with others without objects coming between them allows children to value people over things.

8. Kids learn mastery. As a child focuses on a certain toy, they learn to master it and to be proud of their accomplishments.

9. Kids realize they can’t have everything they want. As it goes, “you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” Parents may worry that not giving their child what their peers have may make them unpopular or feel under privileged, but it teaches them that a persons identity is built by character, not possessions.

10. Kids appreciate nature. Children have tons of fun outdoors once they are out there, but it may be hard to get them outside if they have endless entertainment inside the home.

11. Kids learn to be happy with what they have. What a child needs most is love, and they will learn that love and happiness can’t be bought.

12. Kids learn the value of having a tidy environment. A child will not have to dig through toy boxes and dump things about because having minimal toys allows for “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

So what can you do when family and friends flood your house with toys for your children?

Over time, children will get bored with their toys and need more variety, but they do not need all of the toys at once. Toys can be stored and rotated to introduce new toys while keeping the amount of toys in use minimal.

Parents can kindly suggest that family members give toys like blocks, balls, shapes, puzzles and art supplies rather than loud, flashy objects and that require little to no imagination or fine motor skills. You can also request non-toy gifts or encourage the child to give excess to charity.

Original article can be found here.

Sharing: Why We Shouldn’t Force It

Photo by Kidstock/Getty Images

In this article by Christina Clemer, she explains why we don’t actually teach “sharing” in the Montessori classroom. Instead, we try to encourage the lifeskill of waiting. This article was originally published on Motherly.

As you probably know, being a referee for kids is pretty much a lose-lose situation. There is frequently no way to please everyone or make things seem fair. There is often no way to even decipher what happened or who “had it first.”

It’s not your fault, children just have such a strong (and often unreasonable) sense of justice. They want so badly for you to see their side, yet they’re often still learning how to see the other person’s side.

Many of these frustrating little fights pop up because of incidents of sharing, or a lack thereof.

There is nothing inherently wrong with sharing, it’s a beautiful idea and an important concept. The problem is, it’s really vague. There are no set rules and that can be confusing, and very frustrating, to a young child.

Imagine if you were really engrossed in a project on your laptop, but all of a sudden, you had to stop what you were doing and hand over your computer to a friend because it was her turn and you needed to share.

Or imagine you were cooking dinner, but suddenly had to give up your best knife because it was someone else’s turn. What if you couldn’t wear your favorite dress to a party because you needed to share? How frustrating would that be? It’s almost unimaginable, because it’s not the way the adult world works.

Play is children’s work and it is just as frustrating for them. Plus it puts you in the constant role of referee, which is no fun for anyone.

You might be surprised to hear that we don’t really “do” sharing in Montessori schools. In a sense, the children share everything in the classroom, but they are never asked to stop working with something because someone else wants it.

One main reason is that we want children to be able to work with something just as long as their stretching concentration will allow them.

Another reason though is that waiting is an important life skill. Montessori classrooms purposely have just one of most of the materials so that children have to learn to wait, to choose something else to do, when what they want most is not available.

So instead of asking the children to share, we have a simple rule—if someone is working with something, it is not available.

When the children see the material back on the shelf, they know they may choose it. They rarely come to us asking if they can have a turn because the rule is so simple, they know what the answer will be.

Sometimes there is a particularly exciting new material in the classroom and a particularly eager child who can barely contain himself with his desire to get his hands on it. In this case, we suggest to the child that he ask the person using it to let him know when they’re done so he can have a turn. The other child almost always graciously agrees.

We also assure the child that the material will be available for many days and they will get a turn to use it. Then we ask him to go choose something else while he waits.

I think there are times when talking about sharing is useful, like explaining to your child that when you have a guest over, the guest may share his toys. You can help your child put away any toys he is much too in love with to share, to avoid a battle.

You could also talk about sharing what we have with people in need, about how it’s important to help those who need it when we can.

But if you’re facing constant pleas of “Is it my turn yet?” or “She’s had it so long,” you may want to give this a try. Simply explain that the toy will be available when the other child is done using it, but he may use it as long as he likes. Then help your child find something else to do.

It also helps to show you understand the frustration and difficulty of waiting. You could say something like, “It’s hard to wait. This morning, I wanted to shower, but I had to wait until Daddy was done. Waiting is something we all have to practice.” This shows that you’re not dismissing how they feel, but that waiting is just part of life.

Learning to wait for what we want really is hard, but it doesn’t need to be a constant battle. Try taking yourself out of the equation and making a rule simple enough that the children can handle it on their own.

Then you can sit back and contemplate sharing a bottle of wine that night instead, because conquering this battle deserves celebrating.

7 Key Phrases We Use in the Montessori Classroom

This article was originally published by Christina Clemer on the blog, Motherly. We found it so true and very helpful and we wanted to share. This is a wonderful example of the language we use, the environment we strive to create, and the confidence we want to foster in our students. These phrases can also be used at home. This article gives great examples of  how we can facilitate a Montessori environment in how we speak to our children at home.

Montessori can be hard to sum up in just a few words—it is a philosophy on education and child development that runs deep. It’s a way of seeing the world. I think one of the easiest ways to get an idea for what Montessori means is to listen to the language that Montessori teachers use.

Montessori teachers use language that respects the child and provides consistent expectations. Words are chosen carefully to encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers.

Here are seven common phrases you’d probably hear in any Montessori classroom, and how to incorporate them into your home life.

1. “I saw you working hard.”

The focus on process over product is a key tenet of Montessori. We avoid telling the children “good work” or “your work is beautiful” and instead comment on how they concentrated for a long time, or how they wrote so carefully and their work could be easily read by anyone.

Praising your child’s hard work, rather than his results, helps instill a growth mindset where he believes he can improve through his own efforts.

Instead of telling your child, “You’re a good boy,” tell him “I noticed you being kind to your little brother yesterday when you shared your truck.” This shows him you see his good behavior, without placing judgments on him. Instead of telling him, “You’re such a good artist,” try, “I noticed you kept working on your picture until you got it just how you wanted it.”

2. “What do you think about your work?”

In Montessori, the child is his own teacher. The teachers are there as guides to give him lessons and help him but he discovers things for himself through the carefully prepared environment and materials.

Self-analysis is a big part of that discovery.

When your child asks you, “Do you like my picture?” try asking her about it instead of just saying you love it. Ask her what she thinks about it, how she decided what colors to use, and what her favorite part is. Help her start to evaluate her work for herself, rather than looking for your approval.

3. “Where could you look for that?”

Independence is another key value in any Montessori classroom or home. Our goal as teachers is to help the children do things for themselves. So while it’s sometimes easier to simply answer a child’s question about where something is or how to do something, we often answer questions with another question such as, “Where could you look for that?” or “Which friend could you ask for help?”

If your son loses his shoe and you see it peeking out from under the bed, try asking leading questions, rather than just handing it to him.

“Where were you when you took your shoes off? Have you checked your room?” This may take a little more time, but it will be worth it when he starts taking more initiative and coming to you less.

4. “Which part would you like my help with?”

In a Montessori classroom, children are responsible for many things, including taking care of their environment. Children often take great pride in this responsibility, spending time arranging flowers to put on tables, watering the garden, and happily washing the windows and tables.

Sometimes though, a job is just too big and overwhelming. In these cases, we ask the child how we can help. We don’t want to swoop in and “save the day,” sending the message that the child is not capable, but we also don’t want to leave the child overwhelmed.

For example: If your child is tired, but needs to put her Legos away before bed, all of those pieces can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though. Try “which color would you like me to put away” or “I’ll put away the yellow pieces and you put away the blue” to show that you’re in it together.

5. “In our class, we ….” (Or at home— “In our home, we…”)

This little phrase is used to remind the children of any number of classroom rules and desired behaviors. Phrasing reminders as objective statements about how the community works, rather than barking commands, is much more likely to elicit cooperation from a child.

“In our class, we sit while we eat” is less likely to incite a power struggle than “Sit down.”

Like all of us, children want to be a part of the community, and we simply remind them of how the community works.

If you have a rule about walking in the house, instead of “stop running,” try saying “we walk inside our house” and see if you get fewer arguments.

6. “Don’t disturb him, he’s concentrating.”

Protecting children’s concentration is a fundamental part of the Montessori philosophy. Montessori classes give children big blocks of uninterrupted work time, usually three hours. This allows children to develop deep concentration, without being disturbed because the schedule says it’s time to move on to learning something else.

It can be tempting to compliment a child who is working beautifully, but sometimes even making eye contact is enough to break their concentration.

Next time you walk by your child while he’s focused on drawing a picture or building a tower, try just walking by instead of telling him how great it is. You can make a mental note and tell him later that you noticed him concentrating so hard on his creation.

7. “Follow the Child.”

This last one is an important one. It’s something Montessori teachers say to each other and to parents—not to the child. We often remind each other to “follow the child,” to trust that each child is on his or her own internal developmental timeline, that he is doing something for a reason.

This reminds us to search for the reason behind the behavior. It reminds us that not all children will be walking by one or reading by four—they haven’t read the books and couldn’t care less about the milestones they are “supposed to” reach.

Following the child means remembering that each child is unique and has his own individual needs, passions, and gifts, and he should be taught and guided accordingly.

If you can’t get your child interested in reading, try watching what he does love—if he loves being silly, it may be that a joke book is what piques his interest, not the children’s classic you had in mind. Remembering to “follow your child” can help you see him in a different way and work with him instead of against him.

One of beautiful things about Montessori is that it is so much more than a type of education—it is a way of seeing and being with children. Even if your child does not go to Montessori school, you can easily bring the ideas into your home and watch your child’s independence and concentration grow.

For the original article, visit Motherly.

Happy Birthday Maria Montessori

Today, August 31st, is Maria Montessori’s birthday! We are proud to celebrate this incredible woman, and all the wisdom she gave us in the area of children and education. She is still celebrated as one of the finest educators of our time.

Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Anacona, Italy on August 31, 1870. Maria Montessori had a childhood in which her mother believed in discipline. Her childhood had key moment that was prophetic of her future career. As a child Maria Montessori had already showed interest in the poor by doing some knitting for them daily. And one incident at home was that as her parents were having a heated argument, she dragged a chair in between them, stood on it and held their hands together as tightly as she could. This is foreseen as to the beginning of her peacemaking efforts of bringing the adult and the child together. When she was young she had overheard a teacher of her mention about her eyes and as a protest never raised her eyes at that teacher. It is here that Montessori principle of not talking about children in front of them and thus giving respect even to the youngest child.

Montessori method of education stresses the importance of respecting children – “Help me to help myself”.


At Trent Montessori, we strive to uphold Maria Montessori’s foundational truths. We endeavor to respect all children, we believe in their abilities to be successful, and we hope that peace will live in their hearts as they grow and walk into the world. Thank you for all you’ve given us, Maria Montessori!

Read more about Dr. Maria Montessori here:

Fun Summer Learning Activities for your Kids

Summer is here! You made it through the school year, congratulations! We often feel a rush of relief once summer hits, but after a week or two, we need some fun ideas to occupy our kids during those long summer days.

We’ve put together a list of great resources and ideas to continue an active learning environment for your little ones this summer.

  1. Check with your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities. Find out what exhibits, events, or concerts are happening in your town over the summer.
  2. For the Kindergarteners, encourage them to read and write every day. See if they can read a few simple items on your grocery list. Or help them to write a postcard to their grandparents.
  3. Be active citizens. Kids who participate in community service activities gain not only new skills but self-confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Active bodies. Active minds. From the American Library Association, ilovelibraries has suggestions for staying fit and having fun that start at your local library.
  5. Get into geocaching. Everyone loves a scavenger hunt! Get in on the latest outdoor craze with geocaching, where families search for hidden “caches” or containers using handheld GPS tools (or a GPS app on your smart phone). Try a variation on geocaching called earthcaching where you seek out and learn about unique geologic features. Find more details about geocaching plus links to geocaching websites in this article from the School Family website, Geocaching 101: Family Fun for All, in Every Season. Or follow one young family on their geocaching adventure: Geocaching with Kids: The Ultimate Treasure Hunt.
  6. Watch a garden grow. Get outside and plant things together. The kids will love watching their seeds turn to flowers and vegetables. Check out the Kids Gardening website for lots of great ideas and resources for family.
These are just a few resources to get started — for more, check out our Pinterest page or this fantastic summer learning website from NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children).

Characteristics of Montessori Education

We recently attended the Cincinnati Montessori Society (CMS) Conference about the characteristics of Montessori Education. The following content is from Rosemary Quaranta, M. Ed.

“The child is truly a miraculous being and this should be felt deeply by the educator.” Maria Montessori

Authentic Characteristics of Montessori Education

  • Children are inspired through presentations
  • Allows for spontaneous activity
  • Individualized education — education that fits the needs of the child
  • Works from whole concepts and then breaks into parts
  • Children move from concrete to abstract
  • Beautifully prepared environments
  • Development of the whole child
  • Parent, child and teacher work together to support the child
  • Materials are developmentally sequenced
  • Multi-aged classrooms — 3-year cycle
  • Peer collaborative learning
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  • Guided choice of work
  • Specifically designed developmentally appropriate materials
  • Materials are used to teach the concept; not textbooks or pencil and paper
  • Child repeats presentation with materials until a deep understanding is achieved
  • Teacher guides children according to “sensitive periods”

“Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentials.” Dr. Maria Montessori

Social and Emotional Development, Self Development, Cognitive Development

What are self-development skills?

  • Follows directions
  • Responsibility
  • Self-control
  • Exhibits self-confidence
  • Exhibits self-motivation
  • Seeks help and asks questions
  • Accepts guidance and direction
  • Independence
  • Concentration and focus
  • Organization of work
  • Organization of time
  • Able to transition
  • Takes on new challenges

(Stephen Hughes, Executive Functioning Skills)

Prepared Indoor Environment

  • Classroom environment supports group and individual activity and is suited to the needs of the students.
  • Rooms are open and spacious.
  • Children isolate their space on a rug or table.
  • Walls are uncluttered with beautiful pieces of art.
  • Each area of the curriculum is well defined.
  • Design and flow of the classroom create a learning environment that accommodates choice.
  • Environment encourages creative expression and spontaneous activity.
  • Everything is child-sized to support independence.
  • Spaces for large group, small group, and individual work space.
  • Classrooms have a feeling of home: rugs, lamps, flowers, plants, etc.
  • Classroom environment is free of clutter and ordered.
  • The teacher work space should not be in the classroom space.
  • Multiple kinds of work spaces.
  • You do not need a table for every child.
  • Space should encourage no more than two children to work together.
  • Preparation of the environment is done before children arrive or after they leave.

What is a “typical” Montessori student?

  • Independent
  • Responsible
  • Self-Disciplined
  • Self-Motivated
  • Concentrated/Focused
  • Joyful Learner
  • “Normalized”
  • Scientist
  • Respectful
  • Collaborates
  • Thinker
  • Problem Solver
  • Makes Connections
  • Makes a positive contribution to his/her community
  • Peacebuilder

Why Montessori?

  • Individualized education
  • Didactic materials
  • Allows movement
  • Teach to child’s interest
  • Differential learning
  • Have three years in one classroom
  • Have a supportive community
  • Understanding, respectful teachers
  • Teacher, child, and parents work together as a team
  • Teachers won’t ask for educational evaluation
  • Teachers supplement curriculum with new materials

Can we serve children with learning difficulties?

  • Maria Montessori first started with children with special needs.
  • She believed in the possibility of all children.
  • She developed didactic materials that with repetition reinforced a deep understanding of a specific concept.
  • She knew you had to arouse the interest in the child.
  • She said to saturate the children with presentations.
  • Through observation, she would change materials to meet the needs of the child.
  • First, look at your environment, then yourself, then the child.