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I started noticing that my son’s backpack was full of what I considered trash: broken rubber bands; the inner ring from a roll of tape; and bits of string. I asked him what they were for, and he just said that he needed them. I cleaned out any insect-attracting items, such as broken crackers and left the rest for whatever he had in mind. Then I noticed items moving from the recycling bin to his bedroom: egg boxes; milk cartons; and cardboard boxes of various sizes.

He said he needed them all. So, we agreed that he would keep them in a designated messy area in his room, then I took a deep breath and went with it. One day, he emerged with a “smoothie shop” made of cardboard and trash, each part thoughtfully glued together. With grace and courtesy, he took our orders, and we played along. He was so proud, and I silently thanked his Montessori teachers for showing us how to let him follow his interests.

— Tara, mother of John, aged 7 years

Reprinted with permission from DK Publishers – Montessori for Every Family: A Practical Parenting Guide to Living, Loving, and Learning by Tim Seldin and Lorna McGrath