When you’re at home with your child, figuring out how to introduce language and literacy activities can be a challenge. While there are tons of resources and tools out there, not all of them are going to be helpful. That’s where the Montessori method comes in. By employing some of Dr Maria Montessori’s wisdom in your household, you can promote language learning and literacy throughout the day.
If you are looking for Montessori language activities for home, you’re in the right place.
The Sensitive Period of Language Learning
Before we start discussing the activities you can introduce at home to your child, it’s important that you understand the foundation of the Montessori curriculum and why some lessons are set up as they are.
The Montessori curriculum is founded on the idea of sensitive periods, where children can learn at an incredibly fast rate without much effort. During these sensitive periods, their development progresses with leaps and bounds.
Dr Maria Montessori stated in her writings that the first six years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of development. They learn about the world rapidly, and their minds are incredibly absorbent, which is why children can easily learn multiple languages while adults struggle.
Tips to Support Your Child’s Language Learning
Keep these in mind as you work with your child at home:
- Work on the foundational skills of language learning first. Listening to spoken language plays a critical role in language development. Even when your child is just a baby, don’t stop talking.
- Sing, read, and talk to your child whenever you can.
- Focus on letter sounds before letter recognition. Children spend a lot of time figuring out sounds and develop phonetic awareness before ever recognizing letters and words.
- Skip the learning apps and toys. Face-to-face interactions with their family is infinitely better than screen-based games and apps. In fact, these apps can interfere with your child’s development.
- Keep the activities as hands-on as possible. Children learn best when they can use their senses to learn.
- Speaking clearly when introducing new vocabulary to your child. Give them time to repeat the word, too.
Recommended Montessori Language Activities for Home
Here are several activities that help children learn how to speak, write, and read at home:
Don’t underestimate books. Spending a bit of time each day reading to your child is one of the best things you can do for bonding and teaching language. You can read to them in the morning upon waking up, at bedtime, or anytime throughout the day. You might even want to make it part of the routine to visit the library once or twice a week.
Aim for books that have illustrations and only a couple of words per page. Picture books that relate to everyday life are the best. Try to stay away from fantasy for now.
You should also search for books that introduce onomatopoeia, rhymes, and other interesting uses of language.
As your child’s listening comprehension strengthens, you can purchase books with harder vocabulary.
2. Tracing Letters
A concept of Montessori that can be difficult to understand is that writing is taught before reading. Traditional education does the opposite—reading is favored ahead of writing. However, the Montessori curriculum has done an excellent job of proving that learning how to write first helps with language development and literacy skills.
In the Montessori classroom, the children are shown a letter in lower case. The teacher gives them the sound of the letter. Then, the students trace the letters with their fingers. Usually, these letters have a unique texture, such as sandpaper, to make the letters more tactile.
This is vital. The child sees, hears, and feels the letter, which helps with writing skills and reading, later on.
You can do this at home by cutting out some paper letters and going through the alphabet a few letters at a time.
3. Language Cards
You can make language cards by printing out some photographs to teach new vocabulary. These can be flash cards, or you can make your own. Put together groups of objects or things that children will often see together. For instance, you might have a stack of landmarks around the world, a pile for farm animals, different kinds of fruits, and so on.
These cards are an excellent way to introduce more than new words to your child. They can learn about the world, colors, and places. Slowly introduce the cards to your child. Make sure they are acquainted with only a small number before expanding.
Once your child has familiarized themselves with a set number of cards, you can start introducing other activities, such as matching pictures and objects.
4. Discovery Baskets
This is a fun and creative way to introduce letter sounds to your child at home. Gather up a couple of baskets, maybe for 2-3 letters at a time. You also don’t have to go in the order of the alphabet. Your child might enjoy learning about the letters in their name first, for instance.
To make a discovery basket, put items starting with the same letter in the basket. For example, if it’s the letter C, you might put in a cat toy, a cookie, and a crayon. For the letter T, you could add in figures of a tree, tiger, turtle, and picture of tulips.
The first time your child explores the basket, make sure you sit with them and run through the names of everything. Talk about the items and let them repeat after you once you say what something is. Let them touch and explore for as long as they want.
5. Labeling Objects
Have you heard about other Montessori families putting labels on everything? You might be wondering if that works. Even if your little one doesn’t yet know how to read, getting a visual of what letters and words look like can help with association later on. This helps the child see the word and assign it to an object, so when they see it in the future, it helps them understand the word faster.
Use a label maker or chalk labels on some objects that your child regularly sees. This exposes them to print early on.
Sticky notes are a fun, less permanent option. You can also use sticky notes to gamify learning a bit. For example, write “chair” on the sticky note then tell your child, “This says chair. Can you place this sticky note on a chair for me?”
You don’t have to put labels on everything, just the objects and items that your child interacts with regularly. You don’t want to create visual clutter, because your child will start to filter out the print.
Language learning at home doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as you keep the activities simple but fun, your child will absorb more knowledge than you thought possible. Conversations, reading, and games will improve your child’s language skills rapidly, and you will make memories while doing it.