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February 03, 2020

Montessori at Home - Siblings and Concentration

Concentration has been on my mind a lot lately. Not only because it's a super important Montessori concept, but because there seems to be nothing better than a baby concentrating to attract small children. Seriously, if you want all of your children to come find you at any given moment, just let the baby settle into some work. It's like a moth to the flame. Whenever Theodore starts to deeply work, children come out of the woodwork to try and interact with him. 

I appreciate how much they love their brother, I really really do. And, believe me, I fight the urge to to kiss, cuddle, love on, and talk to all of my children all day long. But, in the end, I know that moments of concentration are so so important and I show some self control. But, it's harder to explain that to an excited 3-year-old, or even my older 5 and 8-year-olds. 

Some tips for protecting concentration when you have multiple kids in your Montessori home

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to concentration and siblings.

Protect the Concentrating Child

This is my number one goal - protect the child that is currently concentrating. That could be any of my children - baby, toddler, older child - doesn't matter. My protect will always switch to the one that is more deeply concentrating on their chosen work. 


I think it has become easier for me to identify when my children are concentrating with a lot of practice. Things to look for are purposeful movement (could be lots of concentration in hauling around objects, for example), engaged mind and body, and a general lack of awareness over what others are doing. 

Block and Redirect

Once I know that a child is concentrating, I will physically block and redirect any other child that tries to distract the one concentrating. I gently stop and redirect that child to another activity or even part of the house (depending on the situation.) I try to take them away from the concentrating child before explaining the situation. Depending on the child who is interrupting my language will change. For a young child it might be as simple as "let's choose something from your shelf" or "would you like to come help me do..."

The older a child is the more detail I would add. Pointing out that the other child is working and asking them to find something else to do on their own. Basically just giving them more agency in noticing those around them, and working on those self-control skills. 

Physical Limit

If I notice that it is becoming a constant problem, then I start to look to my environment and see if a more direct physical limit in the environment is necessary. It might mean putting an older child's work in a new location, or closing the door for awhile so that they can work in peace. Or it might mean rearranging the room so that a younger child has their own work space. It really just depends on the situation, but often the prepared environment can be used as a natural limit on its own. 

It Won't Be Perfect

Finally, I think it's important to mention that you can do everything right and sometimes that concentration will still be broken, and that's ok! Children are resilient and the world can be a loud, messy place and they will get used to it. Babies will cry, toddlers will grab work, older kids will go love on the baby, you will drop something, someone will sneeze. It happens. It is not the end of the world. We can't sacrifice our own happiness to try and keep everyone perfectly concentrating all of the time. We can only do the best that we can do, and let go those times we can't control. For me, it's a win if the children are getting some time to concentrate, not every available second. 
Some tips for protecting concentration when you have multiple kids in your Montessori home

How do you protect concentration with multiple kids? 

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