The 5 principles of Montessori

pre-k day camp toddlers

Preschool teachers implement the Montessori Method in childcare settings across the U.S. according to five foundational principles.

These principles are:

  • Respect for the child
  • The absorbent mind
  • Sensitive periods
  • The prepared environment
  • Auto-education


Respect for the Child

Montessori in New Paltz

 Respect for the child is the foundation upon which all the other Montessori principles rest.

As Montessori says,

“As a rule, however, we do not respect children. We try to force them to follow us without regard to their special needs. We are overbearing with them, and above all, rude; and then we expect them to be submissive and well-behaved, knowing all the time how strong is their instinct of imitation and how touching their faith in and admiration of us. They will imitate us in any case. Let us treat them, therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them”

(Montessori, 1965).

Respect is shown when Montessori teachers help children to do things and allow them to learn for themselves.  Children are able to develop self-esteem and the skills needed for learning autonomy when they’re given appropriate choices

The Absorbent Mind

That children educate themselves was a core belief Montessori held:

“It may be said that we acquire knowledge by using our minds; but the child absorbs knowledge directly into his psychic life. Simply by continuing to live, the child learns to speak his native tongue”

(Montessori, 1966).

This is the absorbent mind in action.

Montessori’s main thesis is that children learn as a natural part of their development.  All children are born with the innate capacity and desire to learn; children are essentially self-contained learning systems.  It is the teacher’s role to encourage this natural inclination by providing stimulating environments and experiences


Sensitive Periods

Montessori taught that there are sensitive periods when children are more receptive to certain learning behaviors and will learn particular skills more easily:

“A sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. Once this trait or characteristic has been acquired, the special sensibility disappears.”

(Montessori, 1966).

Even though all children experience sensitive periods (e.g., a sensitive period for math concepts), the timing and sequence will vary for every child.

A critical role of the teacher is the use of observation to detect periods of sensitivity and supply the setting needed for fulfillment.

montessori cooking-camp pre-k day camp


The Prepared Environment

According to Montessori children learn best in a prepared environment.

Children need a place in which they can do things for themselves. A prepared environment provides learning materials and experiences to children in an orderly format.

The classrooms Montessori described are what teachers advocate when they speak about child-centered education and active learning. The essential characteristic of the prepared environment is freedom.

Freedom means children within the prepared environment are free to explore materials they choose and absorb what they learn with them. Maria Montessori was masterful at producing environments for children that allowed them to be independent, active, and to learn at their full potential.



Montessori called the concept that children are able to educate themselves auto-education (also referred to as self-education). Children that are actively involved in a prepared environment and who are allowed freedom of choice educate themselves.

This is what Montessori teachers do; they prepare the classroom so children can educate themselves.


Building Blocks Play Group uses the Montessori Method

At Building Blocks Play Group, we use the Montessori philosophy as part of our educational philosophy for encouraging the love of learning in preschool aged children.

f you need a quality preschool in New Paltz, please consider visiting BBPG and see what we have to offer your child.