Editor’s Note: Although Montessori’s Nido program is not offered at all Montessori schools, it is specially designed for infants.
Relationships, collaboration, and community are pillars of Montessori Nido programs. As an infant guide, I know that secure attachment with children under the age of three lays a foundation for social and emotional wellness for the rest of a child’s life and I am equipped from my training to gracefully accomplish this heavy feat within the classroom. I also know that parent partnerships are equally important to the success of my students, but the reality of working parents and Covid restrictions have made this challenging. In a post-pandemic world, the task of reconstructing communities is made harder by the difficulties for people who are adjusting to the new experience of parenthood. This is something that I sought to support for the parents of my students this school year.
I decided to find a way to connect the parents not only with the school and teachers but also with each other. The time constraints of the school day were simply not conducive for this task, so I sent out a poll to my parent community and asked if they were interested in gathering together and when they were available for such a thing. The consensus was a Saturday afternoon and 100 percent confirmation that they would love an opportunity to get together! So I set out to organize a once-a-month social for all the families in my classroom. On the first Saturday of every month at 1:30 pm, I open my classroom for an hour to any family or assistant teacher who is free and interested to join me. I organize a simple developmentally appropriate activity such as art exploration, music time or a sensory experience that can easily be recreated at home. I prepare the environment like I would for any normal day and open the doors.
The first month I made some pumpkin applesauce and was met by two families on the playground. They chatted together with each other about the school, their children, and the trials of parenting toddlers and infants, all of whom attend our school. The parents asked me casual questions about their child’s interest in trying new foods at school, like the pumpkin applesauce, and even noted how amazed they were at the capabilities of their infant on our playground structure as their nine-month-old climbed up the stairs and slid down the slide all on her own. “I didn’t know she could do that!”
With each month more families joined, and after each event, I received multiple emails thanking me for taking the time out of my weekend to open the classroom to them and for connecting them with other families. It is so wonderful to watch the classroom full of activity between parents and their own child and families who have so much in common but no other time to connect. I also felt so privileged to watch my students amazing their parents each time with their capabilities and independence. The home environment is so different from that of a Montessori classroom for many reasons, but these events helped me to think of ways to share the philosophy and make it accessible to young families. I will be continuing my Saturdays-in-the-Nido tradition, and I invite you all to try it in your Montessori environment too!
Allison Gerlach is the Lead Directress and Infant/Toddler Coordinator at Magnolia Montessori School (Whitehouse Station, NJ). She will be completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Administration from Purdue Global University this year, holds an Associate’s Degree in Education (P-12) from Raritan Valley Community College and also completed her Infant/Toddler Montessori certification in 2021 from West Side Montessori School.