How to Talk to Children – Montessori Style

Children from birth to 6 are like sponges that absorb everything they are exposed to – their experiences, their environment, the people they are surrounded by, and the language they hear.

As we all know, communicating with the child under 6 can be an art – one that is practiced and developed and tweaked for each individual we encounter. Below are a few handy examples of phrases we use in our classrooms:

Instead of praise and giving the child external validation, state observations and allow the child to feel inner pride.

Acknowledge the situation and help if needed.

Remind the child that words should be used to communicate his or her wants or needs. Help the child along with problem solving. Provide support. Back up the child who has said stop and acknowledge the strength in that.

Communicate expectations for everyone as situationally appropriate.

Focus on the action. Help the child find alternatives such as phrases to use (e.g. When you don’t want someone too close to you, say “No thank you, give me space!”) or other outlets of emotions (e.g. hitting a pillow, stomping a foot, sitting in a safe space until they’re calm).
Breaking down steps into “First… and then…” phrases helps a child through transitions.

“First… and then…” phrases can help in many situations. Some examples:

– First brush your teeth, and then we can read a story

– First put your plate in the bin, and then come join the circle

– First put the toy away, and then you can colour

A few of these key communication tools help the days go smoother for both children and adults alike. As children are learning from us and all their peers, it is key to keep that in mind to strive daily to be positive role models for all children in our classrooms.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Joanna Faber & Julie King is an excellent resource filled with communication tools for children aged 2 to 7.

Simone Davies, author of The Montessori Toddler and The Montessori Notebook ( has also put together a very handy chart summarizing many points of the book below.

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