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February 03, 2023

Montessori Parenting: Responding to Concentration at Home

There's something new happening in our house lately, and it's really exciting. I'm seeing moments of deep, deep concentration. As a Montessori parent, concentration at home is something that is really important to me. I want to give my children opportunities to concentrate from birth and the ability to really refine that power throughout their early childhoods. With these powers of concentration, children can develop themselves with joy. 

3-year-old Montessori child sits at work run deep in concentration and works with Montessori knobbed cylinders

Concentration in Montessori Toddlers

Concentration, however, looks differently in toddlerhood than many adults expect. It happens through big-movements, through short bursts of activity, and lots of active participation in tasks with an adult. Then, the child shifts around age 3. Their mind changes, and concentration can start to look like those still, repetitive, and focused work that many have come to expect with Montessori. 

"Through concentration important qualities of character develop. When the concentration passes, the child is inwardly satisfied, he becomes aware of his companions in whom he shows a lively and sympathetic interest." Maria Montessori, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents

That's what we are starting to see here with Theodore. Movements are slowing down. Things are being repeated and he is finding himself more and more in a still and deeply concentrated state. At 3-years-old he is making the shift to the conscious absorbent mind, and with it his work changes. The other day, I brought his lunch to him and he didn't even notice for 20 minutes because he was so interested in building a puzzle over and over again. 

Montessori toddler at home deep in concentration squeezes a lime into water after slicing with a nylon knife.

How Should Montessori Parents Respond to Concentration

So, what do we do when we notice these new powers of concentration bubbling up in our once busy toddlers? How do we support our children as they enter this new phase of childhood? 

We need to get sneaky! We need to remove ourselves. We need to fade away into the background. It's hard after so many needs in those early toddler years, but the truth is they may just need us a bit less. We may want to sit in awe and watch our child like we did when they were babies, but often that is just as distracting. Take a step back, observe at a distance in quick bursts. Make mental notes when and where you can, but don't linger.  

"Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him, or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to see what we are doing. The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it." Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind 


Then, protect that concentration. Protect it from your own curiosity (and maybe need for control) but also from siblings, pets, and other distractions of daily life in your Montessori home. This really becomes such a big work for us as parents as our children move into this phase of their development. 

With Teddy in the lunch situation, it looked like me going ahead and eating my lunch next to him as normal. Not interrupting, engaging, or otherwise making a fuss. It was just acting how I would if he wasn't there at all. When he was done with the puzzle, he looked up and engaged me. Then, I once again interacted. 

Three-Year-Old Montessori toddler sits at table in Montessori home concentrating on a puzzle.

Now, I don't want to place more value on this form of concentration than the busier movement-based concentration of the younger toddler years. Both are so important. But, our role as the Montessori parent in protecting concentration at home will change over time, and understanding that role is important. As hard as it is, step back, fade in to the background, and let your child do their thing! 

Montessori parenting shifts overtime to meet a child's concentration needs. Here are some tips to respond to concentration in a Montessori home.

Have you noticed this concentration shift in your 3-Year-Old? 


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