Montessori for a Busy (Poor) Mom

Martha from "Fabrics and Fun" (an excellent blog on raising little ones and nurturing a domestic Church!) had a great question in response to the last post. Martha writes:

My biggest issue with Montessori is that you either have to have quite a bit of money or time (or both!).

How do you find the time to make these things? Maybe I am just a horrible time manager, but I am really unable to see myself having time to make and then use the materials. 

We do follow a Montessori approach to learning but I find that I have a hard time making time for everything. Tips? 

I happen to know Martha personally, and I know that she is a fantastic mom! So, I'm going to address this question to Martha and all those moms like her - wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent mothers...with toddlers and babies swarming them! How is a mama to get anything done?!

First of all, if you're thinking about doing Montessori anything with your toddler you're already way ahead of the game! Secondly, "doing Montessori" is something that truly just be "Montessori-inspired," in which case you don't need perfect materials or anything...just a little bit of knowledge about what your goals are.

The main categories in a Montessori education for little ones are (I'm going to link these to a fabulous website that can explain them better than I can!):

Practical Life

(This website really is phenomenal, and she even offers a free Montessori curriculum if that interests you...if you find it to be a helpful resource you may even want to click the "donate" button she has in the corner.)

Another really fantastic resource to buy or borrow is the book Mommy, Teach Me!, which gives a simple way to incorporate Montessori principles in your home without needing to buy any special materials. If you would like to see a way to incorporate some of those materials in a modified way, I'd highly recommend How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, or even Teach Me to Do it Myself. The former gives you an overall view of Montessori education for young children (with few words and tons of pictures...a mother of small children's ideal read!) and the latter gives more concrete ideas for activities (activities that accomplish the task of a Montessori goal but do it using materials that are more readily accessible to the average parent). 

All that being said, once you have an idea of what Montessori Materials look like (these are way out of my budget, but they're beautiful pictures and that's all we need to accomplish our goals on a tight budget!) you can go about adapting them as needed to make your Montessori inspired education.

Some examples:

Sandpaper Letters
This mom made her own version of sandpaper letters using cardstock, markers, and a hot glue gun, another mom used felt and a glue gun (she put hers on wood, but you could do it on cardstock), and yet another way is just to write with glitter glue on cardstock/poster board (both of which can be found at the dollar store!).

Pink Tower
Spoiler alert! The picture in the last post is the beginning of our Pink Tower. Although you can find them cheaper than at that link, they still run at least $30-$40. We glued together some blocks we already had (second-hand from a thrift store and rummage sale) and will trim them down and paint them. But, if I wanted to go an even easier route, I'd just make my own pink tower with pink posterboard. (I'd cut out the dimensions needed maybe tape the sides together with pink duct tape.) That'd be super easy and super inexpensive! You also (and I remember reading this idea somewhere...probably from one of the aforementioned books) could use basic stacking cups that you may already own! (We have a set like this in bold primary colors and Sister Stinky loves them!)

Color tablets
I've seen a number of tutorials online that make the Color Tablets using paint sample strips from a hardware store. You could laminate them, or glue them to posterboard to make them sturdier.

Those are just a few of the most iconic Montessori materials, but the options go on and on. Basically, if you want to give your little one a Montessori inspired education on a tight budget and with little spare time, just look over the various Montessori materials you find online, read a little bit about what their purpose is, and then try to duplicate that experience as best you can. Will it be "authentically" Montessori? Probably not. But will it still accomplish the goals that Maria Montessori set out to accomplish. Probably! Remember, the main goal is helping your child to explore and discover for himself or herself in such a way that he or she is treated with dignity and respect. Are authentic materials beautiful and wonderful to use if you can afford to spend the time or money on them? Absolutely. Will your child suffer if you can't use authentic materials? I doubt so!

For a great take on this, hop on over here to read more. And definitely check out Montessori Candy!

Don't despair...get creative and use what little time you have to do what you can. A very small amount done is better than nothing!

The best thing you can do (which the recommended books above agree about) is to incorporate your child, as much as possibly, into your everyday life. Let them cook with you or clean with you (both excellent ways to acquire practical life skills) or let them be part of your creative process (maybe let them explore fabric as you excellent sensory activity). Most of all, just...

Help them to explore with their senses...

...gain a sense of competence, and a sense that they are valued members of your family...

...and always encourage a sense of wonder!


I'll try to re-visit this topic in greater depth in the future, but hopefully that gives you some food for thought!

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  1. WHAT a great mom you are...keep it up and thanks for the prayers!


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