Magazine article Montessori Life

Toddler on the Road

Magazine article Montessori Life

Toddler on the Road

Article excerpt

We like to think of ourselves as normal parents. We are raising our 2-year-old daughter, Coco, using Montessori ideas. To non-Montessorians that might seem abnormal, but if you are reading this, you probably think a floor bed and open shelves of materials are the norm. However, we spend about 6 months of the year on the road, which is unusual. We own two businessesone an event-planning business, the other Montessori 123, a Montessori materials company. We find ourselves traveling between 7 days and 3 months at a time, for trade shows, conferences, school visits, and working events. Over the course of more than 300 days of travel with Coco, we have developed systems to keep everybody happy.

You might not travel as much as we do, but we hope the tricks we've learned will help you on your next trip with your Montessori child.


Life on the road is full of surprises. No two days will be the same, but your philosophy of child-rearing can remain intact.

The Montessori philosophy teaches us so much about what to expect from each of the sensitive periods. Many great books and articles let you know what will engage your child, what your child needs right now, and how you might react in various situations. Montessori from the Start, by Lillard and Jessen, has a graphic timeline to help with ideas. Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting reminds you to think from your child's perspective and helps you decide what is and isn't important.

On a recent trip, Megan faced judgment from other parents about how she responded to Coco at a mealtime. Our ideal is to follow Coco's needs by preparing the right environment and, within that, allowing Coco to choose her path. This works well with eating. We offer a mix of what we are eating and what she requests. She chooses what to consume (which, in this case, was close to nothing). Megan felt judged by other parents because she was honoring Coco's refusal to eat, rather than forcing food on her. But because she realized she was acting in a way that was consistent with our ideals, Megan was able to wave off the external judgments and carry on.


Having everything you need on hand is great, but part of traveling is learning to do without the luxuries of home. Who really wants to travel with three large duffle bags?

As Coco grows, we are getting better at bringing less and trusting that we will figure out how to manage when we get there. This applies not only to the essentials (diapers, clothes, Giraffey) but also to play (toys, materials, books). Our goal is to balance Coco's sense of security with familiar items while still traveling light (with one small bag for her).

On a trip when Coco was a year old, we were rushing around a hotel room getting ready to go out. Coco found a full container of cotton swabs and did what any toddler would do: she used her fine motor skills to open the box, emptying the entire 250-count contents on the floor. It was Q-tip nirvana. Megan immediately thought of a toddler development workshop on put-and-take materials she had attended at an AMS annual conference. She began scheming. How could she make something to inspire Coco to pick up the mess? Spotting a large yogurt container, Megan poked holes in the lid just large enough for a Q-tip. 20 quiet minutes later, Coco filled the container.

We have re-created this material at rock-climbing areas with pebbles and a salad bar container. This can be adapted on airplanes with straws, small feathers, and a small yogurt tub with lid. The yogurt tub serves as built-in carrying case, and the additional puzzle of fitting feathers inside straws gives Coco a good 15 minutes of focus in an airplane seat.

We value exercise and recognize that, when we travel, finding the time to get a workout keeps everyone happy. A trip to Salt Lake City, UT, for a regional Montessori conference found us with a free afternoon, so we headed off to the climbing gym. Coco's naptime was approaching, and she fell asleep on the way. …

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