Montessori normalization is one of those phrases bandied about by Montessori guides but do you know what it means and how to do it at home?

Whether you have never heard the Montessori term “normalization” or you have but don’t really understand what it actually means, and whether you can apply it at home. Then today’s post is for you.

Although it’s not my favourite term, as it conjures up all kinds of weird connotations, it was actually derived from the field of anthropology and means “to become a contributing member of society”.

But what does that mean with respect to the classroom and the home?

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What is Montessori Normalization?

Normalization is the single most important result of our work. (The Absorbent Mind, p.204)

Have you ever seen the children inside a Montessori classroom two months into the school year? What are the common traits seen with these children?

They are calm and happy. They enjoy being in the classroom doing their work.

Even if these Montessori classrooms are placed all over the globe with different teachers, the children have the same traits—calm, serene, joyful. This is what Montessori has described as a “normalized child”.

Whether you are doing Montessori from home or at school the philosophy still calls for a normalized child. Which is defined as a healthy, well-adjusted child who learns effectively in any situation. Maria Montessori is describing a state of children where they exhibit real behaviour and character as children. 

In other words, a normalized child is a child who is doing what she is supposed to be doing. In order to see this, we have to learn the real characteristics of childhood.

What are the Characteristics of a Normalized Child?

  1. Love of Work

The prepared environment is an environment where the materials are displayed on the shelf with the child in mind. It is displayed in a way that would be attractive to the child. With that said, the child is free to choose whatever material they would love to work on. Children are more likely to enjoy doing the work and love repeating the work until they master it when they can choose what they want to do and when. Read more about the importance of the child’s environment here.

  1. Concentration

You will see that the child is absorbed in their work and is not easily distracted by what is going on around them. 

  1. Self-Discipline

The child has the ability to carry out the work from beginning, middle, up until the end. For example, the first thing is to unroll a mat, carry the tray of materials onto the mat, do the work, and then finish with returning the material on the shelf all on her own. Read more about introducing the work cycle here.

  1. Sociability

Sociability for the child would entail sympathy and respect for others. The child is able to wait for their turn and be assertive as well in communicating that another child can wait for her turn when they are still using the material. They are respectful of the work of others and try not to cause a distraction to others’ work.

So what might help you and the child get to the state of normalization? The following are some bases you can cover but keep in mind that the child has their inner teacher within them that frees itself when the child is in a supportive environment.

Small girl assembling Montessori cards

What is the role of The Adult in Montessori education?

The parent, the Montessori guide, the Montessori teacher–all these are what we call The Adult. Contrary to the traditional belief, the purpose of the adult in a teaching relationship is not just to supply information and to correct the behaviour of a child so that the child is well-behaved. The adult is there to help set up motivations for the child that are developmentally appropriate.

One thing that can help the adult in this process is to keep in mind how a child develops. We must understand and anticipate how a child might behave at a certain age and utilize this knowledge in communicating with the child. 

We need to prepare ourselves to have the patience and grace for the child’s development. Sometimes, working with a child can trigger a range of emotions in us. It helps when we understand that the child is not being naughty or an attention seeker or that the child is being bad on purpose. When this happens, this could mean that the child’s needs are not being met and as the adult, we need to figure out what those needs are. (And that’s usually the tricky bit!)

Practising a pause before reacting can go a long way. Trying to put aside our emotions is not easy but pausing can help us to first think about what the child may be going through at the moment. That whole “Count to 10 before you react” advice is solid, simple as it is, it can make a world of difference to the way you react to a situation.

Why is Observation is an important step in Normalizing the child?

Observation does not only apply to the child. We must also observe our reaction when working with a child, what triggers us, what creates inner calm in ourselves. Reflecting on certain events will also help in learning and continually “bettering ourselves alongside the child” as Dr Montessori said in one of her famous lines. 

Kids playing with Montessori puzzles with their mom watching

How to set boundaries positively

You’ve probably heard that the children are given freedom in a Montessori environment. This doesn’t mean the child can do whatever they like. In Montessori, it is “freedom within limits”. The limits here are set and enforced by the adult. 

During the first month or so of a young 3-year old child in a Casa classroom, the child might have the urge to disturb others’ work, roam around endlessly not knowing what activity to do, or make loud noises. This is a good time to step in to inform or remind the child of the ground rules. This can go on for a while but don’t be discouraged because this is expected of a new child in a new environment. When the child sees our consistency with the rules, the sense of order within the child will start to help you get to the normalized state. 

It is the same thought at home. If you continue to set a rule, the child will understand this. For example, if the rule is:

  • They can’t open a bag of crisps and wander around the living room eating – “You CAN prepare your own snack and sit at your table to eat”
  • No hitting – “You CAN throw softballs at the wall if you are upset”
  • No shouting – “You CAN talk softly indoors”
  • No running indoors – “You CAN run around outside” 

We consistently communicate to them positively, telling them what they CAN do instead.

Activities and Materials

Children will try to get their own way. When they feel that you are trying to get them to do something, they get defensive. When a child is showing defensive behaviour like disturbing other children or being destructive with the materials, we want to interrupt them and direct their attention and energy to more productive activity and so having backup activities that might pique their interest is a good idea. For sensory activities, I have 50 ideas here and another post with fine motor skills activities here.

Some good activities are singing a song with matching actions, using their creativity with art materials, doing an outdoor activity like caring for plants and you can have a couple of the activities in from my free library here, printed and ready to go when you need something quick to whip out.

Any activity that will get their attention and utilizes both their mind and their body together is a good way to redirect their attention from the unwanted behaviour to something more acceptable.

All these can give a little help with working with a child. Remember, “normalized” is not just being well-behaved or being silent. It is being calm and focused. No hostile behaviour. The child is in a supportive environment wherein the materials and the setup of the environment are focused on facilitating development.

To wrap up

To help get your child into a normalized state remember to…

1. Stay consistent.

2. Talk to the child using positive language.

3. Observe what the child might be needing and your own reactions to what the child is doing.

4. Redirect any unwanted behaviour.

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