How to Raise Curious, Responsible Toddlers the Montessori Way

This podcast focuses on how to raise a curious, responsible, kind toddler using the Montessori methods. From setting up a calm, paired-down environment to supporting your child while setting limits, this interview with Simone Davies, author of The Montessori Toddler gives strategies and scripts to help parents and toddlers thrive together. No more terrible twos—and much more terrific toddlerhood!

Special guest: Simone Davies

Let’s face it. When people hear the word; “toddler” it often conjures up thoughts of “the terrible twos,” torrential tantrums and tirades that feature the word “NO!” in big capital letters. There are frustrations about toddlers not listening, not eating fruits and vegetables, not sleeping, not listening, not allowing parents to go to go out on a date or go to the bathroom without their company. But what if I told you that by looking at life through a toddler’s eyes and using the methods developed by Dr. Montessori, you can learn the peaceful way of raising a toddler to become a curious, responsible, kind individual? That is exactly what we are going to do today with our next guest.

Simone Davies is the author of “The Montessori Toddler”, runs parent-child Montessori classes in Amsterdam at her school Jacaranda Tree Montessori, and is mother of two young adults. She also has a popular blog, “The Montessori Notebook”.

Finding Montessori helped her so much when raising her own children and it’s now her passion to help other parents introduce these ideas in their homes too. She was looking to find a way to be with her kids that wasn’t about bossing them about, threatening them and bribing them. Or giving them free reign either. And she wanted them to have a positive experience of school, not just to pass tests, but to love learning.

The podcast provides:

  • How to view toddlers differently than the terrible twos
  • 3 things we really need to know about toddlers
  • What is actually happening when children seem to be battling wills, tantruming, repeating the same joke or story over and over or taking a long time to get out of the house.
  • How to design home spaces that would help with learning, inspiration and positive development of a toddler
  • How we can understand and allow for the feelings but still correct the behavior
  • Ground rules and then putting them into action.
  • How to “co-solve” problems with your toddler.
  • Why observing your child is so important in knowing how to respond and support him/her.

Important Messages:

  • Toddlers don’t want to be terrible- nothing is built in their size 
  • Sponges- they pick things up so quickly. The prefrontal cortex isn’t as developed but memory is strong.
  • Crisis of independence.
  • Toddlers need to learn how to say no. They are their own person. Acknowledge what they want to do. It’s our job to decide whether it’s a safe choice.
  • Toddlers need to move. So they need a playground with a clear barrier so that parent can be relaxed but toddler can do what s/he needs to do. Or they always want to get up on the table- reframe to see how you can create a great obstacle course so they can get the same sensation.
  • Toddlers need limits. Things are not always going to go their way.
  • Translation.
    • Looks like a battle of wills is actually- the toddler is saying I really want to do this and the parent saying I can’t always let things go your way.
    • Looks like a repeated story over and over is actually- a toddler practicing and mastering a skill.
    • Seems like our child trying to be as slow as possible is actually our child living in the present moment and exploring.
    • Seems like an explosive tantrum is actually an honor because the toddler feels safe to unleash with you.
  • Designing a thoughtful environment created with a toddler in mind. A place for everything and everything in its place. Hooks by the front door. Strip it back. Less is more. Only the things that are useful. Have fewer things out. Rotate the toys. Set up the environment for success. Wardrobe from 2 t-shirts and 2 shorts. Step stools. Travel size bottle. Help in kitchen- learning ladders. Become very capable. Prepare meals. Plates and bowls down low so they can set the table. Clothes to the hamper so that they know they’ll be washed.
  • Sometimes you need to act as the toddler’s prefrontal cortex. Allow for feelings but correct behavior. Doesn’t fully develop until their 20s. (Remember Dan Seigel “Flip their lid”). Let them express all their feelings. Helps to close the lid. Then they need to restore and repair. Punishment makes people resentful and more angry.
  • “I’m going to separate you because you are hurting each other and we’ll come back together when we are all calm.”
  • Ground rules: Not too many rules—but enough rules to feel safe and still be able to make choices for self.
  • “We eat at the table” because it’s practical- no mice and bugs—and it’s social- people gather. “It looks like you want to go and run- we’ll keep the food here because food stays at the table and it will be here when you come back.” Age-appropriate.
  • Levels of sibling rivalry: Play fighting. Make self seen but let them sort out at low level. Rule- someone says “stop,” needs to stop right away. “Does someone need to say ‘stop?’ Gets to the point of hurting each other- sit in between the toddlers. Older- “I see 2 kids who are really angry with each other- we’re going to separate and get back together when we feel calmer.”
  • Making amends- so important. Care for them. How can they make the person feel better? How do we show we care?
  • Problem solving: Alfie Kohn. Work with the kids! “You really want to stay at the park and I really want to go home and cook- what can we do to solve the problem?” Count to 10 in your head. Might need to present a few ideas. “I see 2 kids who want the same toy…how are we going to solve the problem?”
  • We don’t always have to interfere- kids can often solve their own problems.
  • Use some of these Montessori approaches- calmer, how can I support them? Building trust. Takes time. Benefits whether or not they go to a Montessori school.
  • Observe your child without judgment: objective. How can I support them? Strip back expectations to see the child for who they are. Can be more helpful. See patterns so you can use that information to respond instead of being so reactive.
  • See your child for who they are, unique human beings, and support them in expressing what they love and then build skills based on where they need them.
  • Conversations with toddlers: Give them rich vocabulary. Name things- not just “dog” but “Labrador.” Not “woof woof.” Toddlers pick it up so easily. Every dinosaur name or vehicles. Feelings. Emotional intelligence.
  • Move from empty praise. Not “good job.” Feedback. “I saw you packed your bag for preschool- that’s what I call independent!” Rich vocabulary.
  • (1) Set up your home. Two things- not really playing with and can put away. Box of stuff that can be given away. (2) Notice how many times you interfere. (3) Set up bedroom. What have they been asking for help on and what can you put into place so they no longer need your help with that?
  • Try to see the world through your toddler’s eyes and you will see that they are not trying to give you a hard time or run away or slow us down. They may need skills or time. What are they trying to accomplish? How can we support that?

Notable Quotables:

  • “In the Montessori approach, we are more like the toddler’s guide than their boss or their servant.” 
  • “Toddlers need to learn to say no as they are going through what we call a ‘crisis of independence.’ Then it is left up to us to decide if it’s something we can give them the freedom to do or is it a case where I need to keep them safe and I’m going to set a clear limit here in a kind way.”
  • “Toddlers need to move. We get frustrated when they try to get out of their high chair or climb on top of the table- but it’s not about asking ourselves; ‘how can I stop them from moving?’ but how can I find them a way to move that is okay for me and for them?”
  • “Toddlers need limits and we need to set limits with love.”
  • “Sometimes you need to act as the toddler’s prefrontal cortex.”
  • “The more we interfere to solve the kids’ problems for them, the more the fighting seems to escalate.”
  • “Observe your child so that you can see patterns and respond instead of being so reactive.”
  • “Try to see the world through your toddler’s eyes and you will see that they are not trying to give you a hard time or run away or slow us down.”


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