Cubbie Bags, Backpacks, and Toys from Home

Children should bring a bag full of extra clothes on the first day of school. These clothes will stay at school, and we will inform you when additional clothing is needed. 

In order to minimize exchange of germs, backpacks will not be allowed to come in and out of the building each day. 

We will send home plastic grocery store bags daily with your child’s work, thus avoiding cubbie bags going back and forth. 

Please donate grocery bags to the cause. 

Please do not bring toys from home as this encourages sharing of toys and germs. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

Drop-off and Pick-up Procedures

Drop Off

We will institute a temporary car-pool drop-off from the parking lot between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00. 

If you arrive and no one is visible to take your child, please call the school for someone to come and get your child from your car. 

You are asked to drive past the entrance, turn around, and pull up to the walkway that leads to the west front door. 

Someone will be there to take your child’s temperature (using a contactless thermometer) and the parent/guardian will be asked about any potential health symptoms within the child’s family and close contacts as discussed in Health Check

This information will be necessary BEFORE a child will be taken into school. When all checks are performed and the child is confirmed to be fever free, they will be taken from the back left side of the car, along with their disposable lunch and snacks, walked to the CHMS door, and passed to someone that will be waiting inside to take them downstairs, sign them in, have them wash hands, and move to their classroom. 

Please be patient as this process may take some time to coordinate. Students MUST arrive by 9:00 as by this point the instructional day has started. 

If you arrive after 9:00 due to a prearranged absence, please call the school for someone to come upstairs and go through this procedure with you. 

Pick-up for part day before lunch and after lunch will be similar to our full day pick-up procedures below. Please call the office when you arrive in the parking lot for upstairs pick-up arrangements. Please do not come into the school. 

Pick Up

Pick-up for full day students will be from 4:00 – 5:00. 

School will remain open until 5:30 for those occasional times when you need a little extra time. but we strongly urge you to pick up by 5:00 so teachers can concentrate on the extensive cleaning and preparing of the environment required by the CDC to be ready for the next day. 

Parents will be required to pull up outside the building in the same manner as morning drop-off and stay in their car. 

Please call the school when you arrive and someone will bring your child to you. 

Due to state safety laws, parents will need to get out of their car, put their child into the back seat, and buckle their child into their car seats. 

Staff members are NOT allowed to buckle children in. 

Please be patient as this process may take some time. Parents are urged to pick up before 5:00 and all children must be picked up by 5:30. We thank you for your understanding. 

Our intention is to minimize the number of adults that come into the building. If you need to pick up at any other time, such as for a doctor’s appointment, please call the office to make arrangements for someone to bring your child to you in the parking lot. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

Health Check

As required by the Virginia Department of Social Services, families are required to inform the school if they have symptoms of any illness. COVID19 symptoms will require us to report it to the Virginia Health Department to receive next step instructions on possible exclusions or temporary closures. 

Children will receive a health check daily before leaving their car. 

Their temperature will be taken with a touchless thermometer, and they will be excluded with a temperature of over 99.5. The baseline temperature for admittance is specifically without the aid of medication. 

Parents will be asked if their child has had a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. 

If any of these are present, the child will be denied entry until these symptoms have been resolved and/or the child is under a physician’s care with adequate documentation to provide proof of care and eligibility to return to school. 

Children who show signs of COVID19, or any other illness, while at school will be isolated and parents must pick up from school immediately and/or appoint an emergency contact person to pick the child up if they are not able to do so. 

Parents must keep the school informed of the progression of the illness and if the symptoms develop into a positive diagnosis of COVID19. The Virginia Department of Health is requiring us to contact them for further instructions on management at the school level. 

The same procedures will be applied to the adults in the environment, including health checks and exclusion for symptoms. 

Our main goal is to keep our school community a safe and healthy place to be. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

One Day Closer to “Normal” and Here’s What We Know

As we inch closer to reopening businesses and schools, we are all trying to anticipate what our new normal will look like. Will we all be wearing masks to school and checking temperatures upon arrival? Do we need to forgo hugs and handshakes when we greet our students for the first time in months? Will class sizes be limited in number or schedules be determined by a variety of factors? We don’t know yet, but there are a few things we do know and we want to share them with you.

#1: We are excited to see your children again

We have already missed over two months of their young lives! They’ll be taller when they come back. Their hair will be different and someone will have lost a tooth by now. They’ll have new stories to share and lots of things to tell us. You may not have been traveling or on some grand, family adventure, but there are still memories being made.

They’ll tell us about your family walks and how you had ice-cream for dinner that one time. We’ll find out that Daddy makes good pancakes and Mommy does all the voices when she reads books at night. And, yes… they might even spill the beans about how many times they watched Frozen II! We’ll listen to their stories, just happy to hear their voices and see their faces again, in person, with no screens between us.

#2: We are anxious to be part of your routine again

Remember routines? Remember getting up, getting dressed, making breakfast, packing lunches, and heading out the door? We do! We love routines and we know how important they are for young children. We’re anxious to get back on a schedule and into a routine that includes you and your family! We’re ready for lessons and circle time, playtime and our daily Virtue pick. We can’t wait to get back to work!

Will the routine be different? Of course it will, but “Flexibility” is one of our favorite Virtues, so we’ll be calling on it in the weeks and months to come. We’ll find “imaginative new ways to do things” and “adjust when something unexpected happens.” We hope you will help us as we all adjust to a new normal.

#3: Classrooms weren’t meant to be silent

A typical morning in a Montessori classroom is busy! Children are working, some are quietly independent, others are talking to their friends. You might hear a teacher giving a lesson or the running water from someone cleaning out their paint cups at the sink. The sound of footsteps, the scrape of trays on tables, and the clinking of glassware from the Practical Life shelf create the buzz and hum of daily life.

Right now the silence is deafening and the classrooms feel cold and empty. We’re ready to put new work on the shelves, open the windows, and bring back the chatter and laughter we have so missed. There’s a quiet that happens during the Great Period that we absolutely love. It’s the quiet that falls when everyone is concentrating, working hard on their chosen lessons. The classroom gets quiet and, sometimes, you could hear a pin drop. That silence is amazing, but this silence? It’s not the same and we’re ready to be done with it.

#4: The playground has been lonely

Playgrounds without children are lonely places. We are ready for laughter and shouting! Bring on the dinosaur roars and the butterfly dances! We’re ready to spend time outside! Our gardens need tending, our sand area needs digging, and our treehouse deck is waiting to be swept.

We’ve missed spring at Children’s House! We’ve missed flowers blooming and the lacy green leaves appearing on the trees. There have been baby birds hatching and fawns in the forest and we’ve missed them all. Summer will bring it’s share of delights — the butterflies, alone, are worth it — but nothing beats spring!

While we’ve been safe at home, our clematis has been busy blooming without us!

Additional Resources:

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We are currently closed, but are available to conduct VIRTUAL tours and IN-PERSON tours Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm. All tours are by appointment only and masks are required for in-person tours.

Spaces are filling up quickly! Please call 703-481-6678 and leave a message or contact Cinthia ( or Keturah ( to schedule your tour today.

For more information: COVID-19 Precautions: Preparing to Open Safely in the Fall

Montessori During Quarantine: Everyday Life Lessons

There’s a reason Maria Montessori called the first school, Casa dei Bambini. It means “Children’s House,” because a Montessori classroom is meant to replicate a child’s home. The classroom is set up to allow children to experience and practice common life skills — the area of the classroom called “practical life” is, in fact, dedicated to it. The children practice pouring without spilling and transferring small items with spoons and tweezers. They scrub chairs and tables and they water plants and feed classroom pets.

In these COVID-19 pandemic times, many families are coming to realize that Maria Montessori was onto something! From sweeping the floor, to setting the table, and preparing food, it turns out that the family home is the ultimate classroom. So let’s take a look at some ways that you can tap into that Montessori philosophy, while staying safe at home.

Everyday Activities Count as Learning

Laundry: Still doing laundry? Of course you are! Your child can help match socks, count socks, organize socks, and fold socks. They can put away their clothes, they can load a washing machine, and they can empty a dryer. Let them. And if they don’t want to? It’s okay to insist that everyone participates to some degree. You’re not the maid and your sanity matters. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation!

Dishes: Need to empty the dishwasher (again!)? Call in a helper. Depending on their age, most kids can manage what ends up in the average family’s dishwasher. Knives and glassware are at your discretion, but a step stool in the kitchen is the great equalizer, so walk your child through the process and show them where everything goes.

Meals and Groceries: Making your grocery list or setting up an online order? Older children can help plan meals, create a food inventory, or organize the snack cabinet. Any child can help prepare meals and most kids are quite capable of fixing their own bowl of cereal, so give them a chance to be a little more independent in the kitchen. And the messes? They get to clean those up as well. The goal is not perfection, it’s participation.

Cleaning: Ready to do ALL the organizing and cleaning? Kids love to dust and a six year-old with a vacuum is a whole new level of parenting unlocked. You’re all living in the house and making messes! Everyone gets to help clean up!

A Friendly Reminder: Consistency Still Matters

Children thrive on structure and consistency. It’s how they organize their day and develop a sense of time. Maintaining some degree of structure to your daily life will help everyone know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Get your child up at the same time each day and maintain regular meal times. Get dressed (at least most days) and get outside, when you can. Make outdoor time and movement a priority — except for Fridays and rainy days. Those are for pajamas!

If you haven’t already established a few weekly “traditions,” it’s not too late to start. Maybe Sundays are “breakfast for dinner” days and Wednesdays are “living room picnic” days. Spontaneity can be fun, but so can routine. And it helps pass the time, for sure!

Follow the Child

Your child will show you how best they learn and where their interests lie. “Follow the child” means listen to them, pay attention to what they say, how they play, and the questions they ask. It doesn’t mean “let them do whatever they want,” but in the Age of Pandemic, it does mean that it’s okay to NOT follow a rigid homeschool schedule.

Playtime is learning time and there are lots of ways to incorporate learning into everyday life and activities. Or not. We hereby give you permission to “follow the parent” and cut yourself some slack. Some days are hard and other days are harder.

So, don’t fret over “homeschool” and workbooks and online learning. In the Montessori world, home is school. So, just live the pandemic life — keep everyone safe and sane — and find ways to include your child in the home/life process in a way that works for you.

Additional Resources: (From the American Montessori Society)

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We are currently closed, but are available to conduct VIRTUAL tours and IN-PERSON tours Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm. All tours are by appointment only and masks are required for in-person tours.

Spaces are filling up quickly! Please call 703-481-6678 and leave a message or contact Cinthia ( or Keturah ( to schedule your tour today.

For more information: COVID-19 Precautions: Preparing to Open Safely in the Fall

FAQs Answered: Closures, Tours, and the Upcoming School Year

Spring has sprung, and although Children’s House is currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak and Virginia statewide shutdown, we are optimistically looking toward the future and anxious to get back to school! 

We hope you are all safe at home, keeping your distance, and washing your hands! If you are a first responder or healthcare professional, we thank you for your service and appreciate all you are doing to keep our community safe!

As we look to the future, we’d like to address some questions we have recently received. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out (from 6’ back, of course!) and ask!

Are you closed?

Our building is closed, but our key staff are working remotely from home. We are able to access email, voicemail, and Facebook Messenger, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, or just to say “hi!” 

We make twice-weekly trips to school to collect the mail and check on the fish in our fish tank, but are careful to maintain strict social distancing guidelines. Don’t worry — the fish are fine!

How are you currently serving your families?

At CHMS, we have been able to take advantage of the many resources online and create our own schedule to connect with our students and their families. We provide services in the form of online learning platforms such as Zoom and Seesaw.

Seesaw allows us to post activities, record stories and lessons, share general resources and provide support to parents and students. Students are able to post their responses to activities and teachers can comment on those as well.

Additionally, we have students connect through daily Zoom meetings for a variety of activities, such as story time, sharing and lessons together. We are also using Readworks with our Kindergarten students to provide more in depth reading and comprehension work. 

While we never imagined a situation like this we are truly lucky to be living in the time of technology so that we may connect, in a small way, with our school community during this difficult time.  

When do you plan to reopen?

It is our intention to reopen once the restrictions are lifted and we are able to safely return to work and school. Although we can not predict when that will be or what that will look like, we are continuing to enroll for the upcoming school year. 

As a small business, we find ourselves in the same financially challenging situation as many. We are grateful to our current families who continue to support us through this trying period.

Can I schedule a tour?

We are not conducting in-person tours at this time, but are happy to talk with you over the phone and answer whatever questions you may have. We can also do virtual tours via FaceTime! We also encourage you to check out past videos on our Facebook page to get a glimpse into life at Children’s House before the shutdown.  Ms. Cinthia did a number of Facebook live videos this past year, sharing Specials, circle time, special events, and playground time. Be sure to check them out!

What’s the best way to contact you?

You can send an email through the form below, call us at 703-481-6678 and leave a message, or send us a message through our Facebook page. We will make every effort to get back to you by the end of the next business day.

Are you accepting applications?

Yes! Although it may feel like time has stood still, it will be August before you know it! We are currently accepting applications for the 2020 – 2021 school year and are excited to welcome new families to Children’s House!

You can fill out the application online but please touch base with Cinthia so she knows to look for your application. 

We’ll get through this!

We are a small school community and we are missing our families, greatly! We can not wait to get back to normal and move forward, together. If there is anything we can do to help please reach out and let us know. We are here for you and looking forward to the day that we can welcome you back to Children’s House!

Quick Links

Kids and Quarantine: A Few Thoughts for Parents

We are at the beginning of what could be a very long period of one of the strangest times in our shared history. We are fighting an invisible enemy with no end in sight, and dealing with uncertainty, confusion, and an overwhelming amount of information. So many families are home now with young children, trying to balance school closures, cancelations, work obligations, and a million stressors in between. For what it’s worth, and at the risk of getting lost in the shuffle, here’s our two cents about parenting during a Covid-19 quarantine.

Routines and Schedules are Still Important

Kids need order amid chaos. They need structure, routine, and schedules, but that doesn’t mean that every minute of your day needs to be allocated to some enrichment activity or another. We have a long haul ahead of us. It’s unrealistic to expect to maintain a colorful “schedule of the day” that you found on Pinterest – especially for weeks at a time. There’s a lot of talk on social media right now about homeschooling; don’t feel like you’re under some parental obligation to duplicate your child’s school experience at home. You can’t and no one is expecting you to.

Young children get through the day in blocks of time: morning, lunch, nap, afternoon, dinner, bed. Keep those times consistent and reliable. This is not a vacation or an extra long weekend; it’s a new normal with an unknown end date.  You get to decide what that new normal schedule looks like.

Our advice? Keep the basics consistent: wake-up time, meals, nap / quiet time, and bedtime. The details are flexible, but the structure stays the same. Take it day by day, chunk by chunk. This, too, shall pass.

Be Mindful of Your Words 

Your children are listening to everything. Every news briefing that plays in the background, every Facebook post you read out loud to your spouse, and every phone call, FaceTime chat, and conversation with the neighbors. Your kids are trying to figure out what is going on, so keep your explanations simple and age-appropriate. 

  • Focus on language that expresses concern for others, personal responsibility to the greater community, and service. 
  • Turn off the news around children and keep adult conversations private.  
  • This is no one’s fault. Avoid words like “we’re not allowed to” or “we can’t.” Instead, focus on how your actions, as a family, are helping keep others safe. Be the helper, not the victim.
  • Answer the question you’re asked. There’s no need for longer explanations when kids are little. They don’t need all the details. Use small explanations, in small amounts.

“Why is school closed?” Because everyone is being asked to stay home for a while. 

“But, why?” You know how germs make people sick? Well, there are germs right now that are making some people sick and, if we stay home, it makes it hard for the germs to spread around. 

“But why do we have to stay home?” Because we don’t want to accidentally get someone else sick. We’re healthy and can help others stay healthy by doing our part and staying home.

“But I want to go to school.” I know you do. And you will, I just don’t know when. We’ll go back as soon as it’s okay for everyone to do that.

Keep it Simple

You don’t have to “homeschool” your three-year old. Your four-year old will be fine. Your kindergartener will, too. In the grand scheme of things, these next few weeks (months?) are a blip in their lives. Focus on what’s important: their sense of safety and security, and your sanity. Keep it simple, let them have fun, and don’t strive for perfection.

Read together as a family, build a pillow fort, bake cookies, take art supplies outside, and go for a walk. Just don’t do it all on the same day! Pace yourself. There are a million resources out there for online activities. Bookmark the ones that sound interesting and get back to them later. You have time. Plenty of time.

You also have our permission to plop your kids in front of the TV so you can get some work done. They’ll survive. Kids are resilient (and, psst! so are you.) You’ve got this!

Additional Resources:

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How to Find a Good Preschool: Questions, Observations, and Red Flags

It’s almost springtime here in Northern Virginia, and many folks are looking ahead to summer and then to the upcoming school year. If you have a two-and-a-half to three-year old you might have already started mulling over the big P-question. No, not the “pee” question — we’re not talking Potty Training —  the Preschool Dilemma. When to start? What kind of program? Can we afford it? The questions have begun! With so many options, it can feel overwhelming, so we’re giving you our recommendations on how to find a good preschool for your little one.

Before You Start: Research

Let’s start with the elephant in the room — to Montessori or not-to-Montessori, that is the question. Obviously, here at Children’s House MONTESSORI school, we are a little biased.  We believe that the Montessori educational philosophy is pretty darn great, but you should do your research and see if Montessori is a good fit for you and your family. There are tons of options out there and many different approaches to early childhood education. Do your research and see what’s available in your area. 

Step 1: Make a List — Location, location, location!

Sounds pretty obvious, but that’s probably just because it’s the obvious first step. Make a list. A quick Google search will tell you which schools are in your area or closest to the area you want to be in. Maybe you’re looking for a location close to work or somewhere midway between work and home. Map out your options and make a list of the schools that fit your location criteria.

You don’t want to get your heart set on a school only to realize later on that it’s 20 minutes out of your way or would put you (and your younger children, if you have them) in the car for an hour or more each day. Google Maps is your friend!

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Is it close to home or work? 
  2. How much time will it add to your commute?
  3. Is the location within a reasonable driving distance for other care-givers who might pick up on a regular basis (like a nanny, babysitter, or grandparent)?
  4. Drive by a few of your top choices on your way to work and see what it’s like to add that stop to your morning or evening commute.
  5. If your child will be attending a mornings-only program, how much time will you realistically be left with after drop-off and before pick-up? Are there shops and amenities nearby to make it easier to run errands or take younger siblings to classes or playgroups?
  6. How do you feel about the location? Is the area busy? Does it feel safe? 

Step 2: Read Reviews

You wouldn’t buy a pressure cooker without reading a bunch of reviews first, right? Do the same for your child’s school. Check out the schools’ Google listing, find them on, or check Follow their Facebook page and read up on what people are saying about your child’s potential school. Ask for recommendations from friends and co-workers. Where do your neighbors take their kids? 

Keep in mind that reviews come from a place of emotion — good or bad — and remember that children and families can have vastly different experiences at the same school. Weigh the positives and negatives and keep an open mind.

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Gut check: what stands out when you read them? Is this a place you want your child to be?
  2. For negative reviews, how old are they? Do they seem very specific to one family or was there a larger issue that the school could have addressed by now?
  3. Look for recent reviews, as those reflect the current atmosphere, staffing, and curriculum of the school. 
  4. In general, are the reviews positive or negative?
  5. Check several websites and compare reviews, you’ll notice a theme or trend — time for another gut check.

Step 3: Call and Ask Questions

We spend SO MUCH TIME on our phones these days, and yet somehow we forget what they’re actually for: making phone calls! Pick up the phone and call your top three choices! Talk to a person! First impressions matter and your first impression should come from one of the people you’re likely to interact with on a daily basis, once your child is enrolled in a program: the office manager, school director, or other administrative personnel. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Are they friendly, professional, and courteous?
  2. Do they take the time to speak with you about your questions and concerns?
  3. Do they ask you questions about your child and seem interested in learning more about your family and your needs?
  4. Did they answer the phone or return calls promptly?
  5. Gut check: how do you feel after you hang up the phone? 

Step 4: Tour and Observe

It’s all well and good, if your number one top pick is in the perfect location, has great reviews, and a friendly phone manner, but nothing beats an on-site tour! This is your chance to see for yourself what makes this school a great fit or a “nope, next!”  Bring a list of questions and get them answered. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Gut check: How do you feel walking through the space?
  2. How would you describe it to a friend? 
  3. What are the three to five adjectives that come to mind?
  4. Is the staff friendly? Do you feel welcome?
  5. Are the children actively engaged in their activities?
  6. Are you touring and observing a typical school day?

Step 5: Visit with Your Child

Once you’ve done your research, narrowed the field, and picked your favorite, it’s time to take your child for a visit. This is such an important step and shouldn’t be dismissed. While you, as the parent, are going to make the final decision about where your child goes to school, your child’s opinion (and reaction) matters. If you’re looking to enroll and start in a short timeframe, it’s especially important that your child have a chance to visit, meet their teacher, and spend time in the classroom. If their start date is further out, this is just a chance to interact with the teachers and get a feel for how your child will adjust. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Do you feel good about how the teachers and staff interacted with your child? Were they respectful and compassionate?
  2. If relevant, how did the staff handle your child’s hesitation, confusion, or anxiety?
  3. Is your child happy at the end of the visit? 
  4. Will the school accommodate additional visits closer to the start date? This is especially important for children who struggle with transitions.
  5. Gut check: is this THE place? By now, you’ll know.

Your child’s preschool experience matters! Do some research, ask around, call, and visit! Depending on where you live, you might feel like you have a million options or none. There’s a great school out there, we promise — keep an open mind and do your homework.

Additional Resources:

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Interested in visiting CHMS? What to Expect During Your Tour

4 Important Lessons Kids Learn in Montessori

Children are learning every day. They learn by experience, by example, by formal instruction, and a million ways in between. They watch, listen, experiment, and repeat. If they’re lucky, they’ll even be allowed to fail, to mess up, make mistakes, and figure out solutions. Learning is an ongoing process and it’s not always black and white and quantifiable. Here is our list of 4 important lessons kids learn in Montessori. (Spoiler alert: Reading, writing, and math didn’t make the cut!)

Lesson #1: I am capable

Montessori kids learn from the very beginning that they are capable of more than they think. The words “I can’t do it” are countered with “show me what you mean” and they are challenged to take a second try, ask for help, or figure out an alternative. Montessori kids learn that teachers are there for guidance and support, but that they, themselves, are the ones who will ultimately do the work. A child who steps aside while a well-meaning adult intervenes, does not learn the same lesson.

Lesson #2: I am trustworthy

Glass pitchers, porcelain dishes, sewing needles, and a teeny, tiny pink cube are just some of the items in a Montessori classroom that can get broken or lost on a daily basis. Yet they rarely do. A funny thing happens when you draw a child’s attention to the delicate nature of the glass they are holding or the diminutive size of the object in their hand; they straighten up and pay attention. When we let them use breakable materials, we show our children that we trust them to use gentle hands and mindful movements. Accidents happen and things do break, but more often than not, they don’t.

Lesson #3: I am a valued member of the community

The mixed-age aspect of the Montessori classroom is, truly, a thing of beauty. Younger and older children interact as they would with their siblings, looking up to each other or looking out for one another. When it’s time to clean up and get ready for circle time, there’ll always be at least one kindergartener stepping in to help a younger friend put away their work.

And if a three year-old needs help tying their shoe or zipping their coat, they know they can ask an older friend for a hand. Montessori kids learn that friends who work together, go further — together! On a larger scale, this translates to a global community, as the Montessori cultural curriculum emphasizes respect for others, an appreciation for diversity, and an ongoing quest for understanding.

benefits of a mixed age classroom: a child helps another tie her shoes

Lesson #4: I am respected

The Montessori philosophy encourages parents and teachers to see their children as human beings, worthy of respect. Montessori kids learn that their voices matter, that their opinions matter, and are encouraged to participate in classroom life as a valued member of the community. Take a peek into Montessori classroom and watch the teachers speak with the children down at their level. Watch them listen to the children and engage with them in a way that is respectful and genuine. Children are listening and learning all the time; respectful language matters.

Child working on opening and closing work

Four simple, but oh-so-important lessons to be learned! Every day offers opportunities to teach our children that they are capable, trusted, valued and respected. Be mindful of your language, look for teachable moments, and watch your child blossom!

Additional Resources:

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Clean Up Time: The Importance of Completing the Work Cycle

If your playroom, basement, or family room looks like a toy shop exploded in it, that’s okay! In this post we’re talking about the importance of completing the work cycle in a Montessori classroom and offering tips to help you get a little more clean-up cooperation at home. 

The Montessori philosophy emphasizes order, simplicity, and purpose. We do things in an organized manner, with a streamlined process, and with intention. Everything — from how the children serve themselves a snack to how they wash their paint cups at the easel — operates under the same framework.

Montessori children are taught (from the beginning) that cleaning up is just part of the lesson.  With a few simple adjustments, you can use this framework at home to make clean-up time less stressful and more fun.

Setting the Expectation from Day One

From their very first day in the classroom, Montessori kids help clean up! They are joining a community of teachers and children who are active participants in maintaining order in the classroom environment. The expectation, from the beginning, is that they, too, will help keep the classroom clean and tidy. The space is for everyone, and, therefore, so is the responsibility.

They learn early on to:

  • push their chair in after they get up from the table
  • return their work to the shelf where they first found it
  • roll their work rug up and put it away in the rug container
  • fold or roll their apron or paint smock

In a busy classroom with so many children working on a variety of different lessons, there’s a constant flow of activity. It takes time, practice, and patience, but after a few weeks, the children are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to cleaning up. 

It’s not unusual to peek inside a Montessori classroom and see children cleaning up a spill on the table or floor with a sponge, mop, or broom. You might spy someone washing their paint containers at the sink, making sure the easel, cups, and brushes are clean and ready for the next person. And you’re sure to see a child bringing their paper scraps to the recycling bin, returning a tray to the shelf, and rolling up their rug. 

Teach the Full Sequence

If a child is invited to a lesson and the teacher has already brought the work to the table, the child won’t know where to put it back when the time comes. If a child gets up and walks away at the end of the lesson and the teacher puts the work away, that child will repeat that sequence again the next time.

When introducing a new lesson, the teacher will take the child to the shelf to see where the work belongs. The child will take the work to the table or rug, receive the lesson, and return the work to the shelf, under the direction of the teacher. This way, he knows where to find it the next time he wants to do it, and how to clean it up and leave it ready for the next person.

When children first join the classroom, their lessons are shorter and more concise. As they get more confident with the materials and the lay of the land, lessons get longer, more involved, and require multiple steps. Montessori teachers are trained to know how much is too much and when to add those extra steps and challenges. The children learn, from the very beginning, that cleaning up is part of the lesson.

At Home: Hitting the Reset Button

If your kids (and you!) have gotten into some poor habits when it comes to cleaning up, don’t despair! It might not be Day One, but it’s never too late to start implementing some new expectations around picking up toys and helping out at home. 

Keep the Montessori framework in mind: order, simplicity, and purpose. Address one area at a time, get it under control, and move on to another area. 

For Example: If the bookshelf is overflowing and books are shoved in every which way or piling up on the floor around the bookshelf, deal with the bookshelf. The rest of the toys can wait.

Order: Organize the bookshelf.  Clear out older books your child has outgrown and sort out what’s left.

Simplicity: Bring in a basket and keep 10 or 12 books out for them to have easy access to. If they’re not yet able to properly return books to a (possibly) still-crowded bookshelf, take that element of stress out of the situation and make it easier for them to be successful. A basket just might be the answer!

Purpose: “This is our new book basket! We are going to start taking better care of our books. Books are special and we want to make sure we can enjoy them for a long time. We can choose books from the basket to read and when we’re done, they go back in the basket.”

Practice that today, tomorrow, and again until the books and the bookshelf are no longer an issue. Set the expectation that “this is how we treat books now in our family” and stick with it. If you give up too soon, you’re teaching a totally different lesson! Don’t give up!

Use Language that Includes Everyone

Use inclusive language that sets the expectation that EVERYONE in the family participates in cleaning up and EVERYONE benefits. Children want to be recognized as valued members of the family; they don’t want to be singled out as the reason the room is a mess! 

Instead of 

  • “This room is a disaster!”
  • “You need to clean up”
  • “I already cleaned the kitchen, this is your job!”
  • “Where are you going? You’re not done!”

(Can you feel your blood pressure rising yet?)


  • “It’s clean up time! We sure had a lot of fun in here!”
  • “In this family, we all work together — everyone helps!”
  • “Everyone had fun playing, and now everyone can help put things away” 
  • “This room looks so nice! Now we can see where everything goes!” 
  • “When the bookshelf is tidy, it makes it so much easier to find the books we want to read”

Remember that children behave differently at school than they do at home. Home is their safe space and where they will be the most relaxed and laid back. Chances are, you’re already dealing with a lot more whining and complaining about cleaning up than your child’s teachers do! Be patient, but persistent! It took three, four, or more years for your current habits to set in — it will take a while to undo them. 

  • Keep it simple by addressing one thing at a time.
  • Create order and make it easy for your child to know what’s expected.
  • Be purposeful in your language and actions.

And then do it all over again tomorrow. 🙂 

Additional Resources:

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