“Help me to help myself!” – Independence

Cute girl helping father with shopping

The Montessori Guide published an eloquent article about “Independence and the Montessori Philosophy.”

“Montessori saw education as a means whereby children might develop their personalities so as to eventually achieve a mature and independent adulthood.”

(Mario Montessori, Education for Human Development)

Isn’t that what each of us wants? For our child to become an adult who can make good decisions, who feels confident and knows herself? Who can both accept her reality and work to make the world a better place? The fundamental foundation for this independence is laid at the beginning of a child’s life. (Please click here to continue reading the article at Montessori Guide)

Every aspect of a Montessori school – the cubbies, the chairs and tables, the shelves, the furniture, the prepared environment, and all the materials – are carefully selected to foster this independence and the freedom that accompanies it.

The children are provided opportunities to experience freedom and independence from the moment they arrive at school, through all the daily routines, and up until dismissal. Below is a video from the Montessori Guide’s “Capturing Ordinary Days: Child Time and Child Space,” which beautifully demonstrates all these transitions in action.

Some Ideas for More Independence at Home

One of the principal aims of an early childhood Montessori education is to encourage the development of the whole child so that they may be prepared for life. This includes helping to develop the child’s physical self in conjunction with their mental and social selves. This all occurs while allowing the child numerous opportunities to be free and do for themselves. Children naturally want to do as they observe in their environments. They learn through experience and are eager to participate. The following section shows a few materials and items found in our Montessori classrooms that foster independence and may provide inspiration for setting up routines at home.

Snack Time

The daily snacks are set out with all that is needed for the child to be able to serve him or herself.



The classroom is equipped with numerous items to aid the children in tidying up their environment. Not only does this allow the child to assist peers and adults in cleaning up messes, this also allows the child to gain confidence and pride in caring for their environment. An innate sense of responsibility for their surroundings is developed.

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“Please allow me to help!”

In the classroom, children who would like to may help set up lunch. The adults or older children role model and demonstrate, the children follow by example. This can be done at home during any meal time and can be a great familial and communal experience.


Children may also assist in the preparation of snacks or meals, depending on the child’s interest, age and stage of development. Children can help mix batter for cupcakes, chop vegetables for soup, slice fruit to share, or simply help gather ingredients and tools to the kitchen counter. Photographed below is the “Serving an Apple” activity from the Practical Life shelves, complete with apple cutter, cutting board, and apron.


“I Can Dress Myself”

The very first thing children do upon arrival to the school involves their footwear and clothing. With the variety of fasteners involved in clothing, children learn each step gradually through their early childhood years as their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination strengthens. Our Montessori classrooms are equipped with a variety of dressing frames representing these various fasteners – including buttons, zippers, buckles, snaps, bows, laces, and safety pins.


There are numerous opportunities throughout the day for children to participate and even take charge of daily routines. Each child is eager to be able to do for him or herself. It is our job as educators and parents to answer the child’s desire to “help me to help myself.”

“How does he achieve this independence?  He does it by means of a continuous activity. How does he become free?  By means of constant effort. …we know that development results from activity.  The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 84)

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