From around the age of around 4-6 months many babies are naturally beginning to settle into some kind of daily routine. For such young babies, 'routine' simply means that they are aware of the difference between day and night and adjust their behaviours accordingly and are showing an early understanding of things that are likely to happen based on their experience (such as hearing the bathwater running and kicking in excitement). As weeks and months go by, babies and then toddlers, will become more and more receptive to having a predictable routine each day and this predictability will provide them with security and opportunities to learn by having a known 'baseline' up which to build new experiences.
In homes which follow the Montessori method of early learning, the daily routines flow through family life in much the same way as many families with young children. From morning traditions, through playtimes and outings, punctuated by eating and sleeping the Montessori family's day is guided by a firm belief in placing the child at the centre of their learning and development. Montessori parents learn the value in observing their child to note their current interests, abilities and areas of development they are naturally driven to work on at any one time and use this information to prepare their child's immediate environment. The prepared environment is a key aspect of the Montessori philosophy; as adults we do not need to intervene in children's play, we do not need to interrupt their explorations, we simply need to provide them with the opportunity to learn based on their unique interests and developmental needs.
What to look out for when observing your child ...
The times of day they are most contented; these are the times to make challenging play and activities available;
The toys they choose to play with most often or for longer periods - do they have any common features?
Household items which seem to fascinate them;
Places they like to visit;
Activities do they do spontaneously, without your suggestion or presentation;
A particular area of development they seem to be putting all their efforts into at the moment;
The ways they let you know they are contented, frustrated, worried, excited etc;
Particular ways of playing such as lining toys up, putting items inside containers, covering objects etc;
Tasks that they can 'almost' achieve independently (eg drinking from an open cup/stacking blocks);
Their current gross motor capabilities - are they rolling? sitting? crawling? standing? walking? etc.
Their current language capabilities - do they respond to words? listen to your voice? use sounds to communicate? etc
Their fine motor skills;
How they interact with familiar people and strangers;
Their attitudes around eating and food;
The extent to which they want to do things for themselves, such as putting on clothing, self feeding with a spoon etc;
All of this information will enable you to make truly informed decisions about how to prepare for the best way for your child to spend their time.
See below for examples of how your day in a Montessori home might look at different stages of your child's learning journey. Of course, your child is like no other child and you know them better than anyone. The examples are intended to simply provide a rough idea.
“Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves, and what area they need to be challenged in. The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly not to ‘learn’; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognised and developed by its means.” Maria Montessori
Typical Day for a 6 -9 Month Old
7.00 - Wake up chats and cuddles
7.15 - Feed
7.45 - Playtime - gentle activities to start the day calmly. Try sensory scarves, soft toys, books.
8.15 - Breakfast (if weaning has begun) with the family. If baby is not having solids at this time, bring them to the table anyway.
8.50 - Nap preparation - calming chats/music/story in baby's room
9.00 - Nap
10.30 - Wake and feed
10.50 - Wash - in front of mirror, one washcloth for baby, one for adult.
10.55 - Dress - Baby choose clothes from choice of two ("These socks or these?"' "This top or this?")
11.15 - Practical Life activity- baby 'helps'/observes/explores with sorting laundry.
11.30 - Playtime - Focus on new skills developing. Eg, if practising sitting offer unrestricted clothing on soft mat
12.00 - Lunch preparation - baby can handle/explore foods and watch as adult prepares
12.10 - Lunch (if baby is having solids at this time). Sit at table and watch adult eating too.
12.30 - Nap
2.00 - Wake and feed
2.30 - Outside trip - baby to choose hat and toy to take with them. Might be meeting friends, shopping, park etc
4.00 - Nap - could be in pram/car.
4.30 - Wake and feed
4.15 - Playtime - chose from favourite toys placed in front of them
5.00 - Tea preparation to watch
5.15 - Tea (if eating solids at this time). If not, watch other family members. Give real cutlery, bowls etc to explore
5.45 - Playtime - nappy free on mat, gentle music, objects to reach out for, tummy time & mirror.
6.15 - Beginning of bedtime routine - calm music, lighting, bath, massage, books.
6.45 - Bedtime feed
7.00 - Put baby down in cot - calm, sleepy and ready to slowly drift off
Typical day for 12 - 15 Month Old
7.00 - Wake up - cuddles & chats in bed
7.15 - Feed (if still having this)
7.30 - Books and Soft toys in bed
8.00 - Baby in high chair beside adult preparing breakfast. Baby may fetch own bowl & spoon from low cupboard
8.15 - Breakfast with adult. Baby may help by scooping cereal into bowl, adding berries, peeling banana
8.45 - Clean up time - Baby can tip waste into bin, put bowl in dishwasher, wipe high chair
9.00 - Get washed - Wash hands in bowl of soapy water, wipe face with flannel, have a turn brushing teeth & hair
9.15 - Get dressed - Select clothes from reachable labelled drawers, put some clothes on with help
9.30 - Help with chores - toys from earlier away into reachable storage, laundry in laundry basket
9.45 - Nap
10.45 - Snack. Baby to help prepare, eg slice banana, get items from cupboard, put into bowl, pour drink from small jug, ideally at child's small table and chair.
11.00 - Playtime - Focused activities, eg crafts, puzzles, stacking.
11.30 - Physical activities using gross motor skills (home or out), eg climbing, dancing, ride on toys
12.00 - Help with lunch prep - choosing food, setting table, washing hands
12.15 - Lunch at table with adult
12.45 - Help to clear up - leftovers in bin, wipe table, load dishwasher
1.00 - Nap
3.00 - Out to visit friends, shopping etc OR Playtime - baby's choice from shelf and/or prepared activity based on observed interest, eg water play, play dough, gardening etc (NB most of this will be child directed)
4.30 - Tidy up time - put toys away in their place which will be obvious to baby and on their level
4.45 - Into kitchen - either help with meal prep or choose from small selection of quiet activities (eg blocks, stacking, books)
5.15 - Tea, preferably with other family members. Simple chats recapping on the day.
6.00 - Preparation for bedtime - baby can help to undress self, put clothes in wash basket, choose bath toys, squeeze bath bubbles into water, choose pyjamas etc
6.30 - Story and milk
7.00 - Bedtime
Typical Day for 18 - 24 Month Old
7.00 - Wake up - look at some favourite books/quiet toys left at the end of the cot/bed by adult late last night
7.30 - Get up for cuddles and chats in parents bed
8.00 - Breakfast - child to get out bowls, plates etc for family, select from 2 options, pour own cereal using scoop, pour milk from small jug, butter own toast. Talk about plans for the day.
8.30 - Help to clear away breakfast. Wipe own face & hands, wipe table, sweep floor (child sized dustpan & brush), load dishwasher, help to wash up in sink, dry, put away.
9.00 - Wash and brush teeth (adult support) & hair. Get dressed with help from choice of 2 outfits.
9.30 - Either .... Out to a group (Swimming, Yoga, Music, Dancing, Gym etc or playdate with friends)
9.30 Or ..... Playtime at home - choose from shelf which adult has set up according to interests & ability
10.00 - Snack - child to choose, get out, prep. Eat at own small table. Clear up independently.
10.30 - Structured activity/new activity which needs adult to introduce first, eg puzzle, drawing, cutting, water play, painting, sticking, threading, sorting/matching
11.15 - Practical life activities - cleaning windows, polishing shoes, emptying dishwasher, unloading washing machine, folding clothes, sorting recycling, watering plants, feeding pets, sweeping/mopping/polishing/wiping. Where possible provide child-sized equipment.
12.00 - Lunch - same involvement as breakfast
12.30 - Quiet time/story, then Nap
2.30 - Sofa snuggles, chats and snack/drink
3.00 - Either .....Trip out to group/park/shops etc
3.00 Or ........ Physical play in garden eg ride on toys, sweeping leaves, digging, climbing, jumping or Physical Play indoors eg dancing, den building, balancing games, obstacle course etc
4.00 - Free play - child's choice from accessible toy storage (ideally open shelving)
4.45 - Into kitchen to either help with tea prep or one independent activity of their choice
5.00 - Teatime - ideally with other family members. Recap on the day with adult encouraging use of new language
5.30 - Quiet time - books, music etc
6.00 - Bedtime routine - child to help get bedroom ready by closing curtains, dimming lights etc, choosing and laying out pyjamas, choosing cuddly toys and story. Child to help prep bath by adding bubbles & toys. Calm bath with low lights, soothing toys for pouring etc
6.45 - Story and snuggles
7.00 Night night xx
All of the above are only examples of what some children of these ages might do throughout their day but are definitely very flexible according to your child, (particularly their sleep/feeding routines) your family circumstances and your individual plans for groups, classes and other commitments. Many of you will probably recognise a lot of these routines as being part of your family life already. The main difference within a Montessori family is the constant thread running throughout the day - following your child's interests and needs and respecting their immense capabilities to carry out challenging tasks given the opportunity. I really hope this has been useful - let me know how you get on!