by Laura Berthiaume December 14, 2021 2 min read

We are obviously a Montessori business BUT we also see the value in a Waldorf education and really any other approach whose focus is child-led.

Both Waldorf and Montessori believe in respecting the child and allowing them to freely pursue their interests. 

The specifics of the classroom approach may be different but both are based on a foundation of developing respect between children and their educators.

Point being, no matter what educational approach you decide on, (or not, you may choose to not put an emphasis on any!), there’s no wrong answer as long as your relationship with your child is built on respect and communication. 

The Differences

Toddler watering plant, Montessori

The one main difference between the two is that Montessori is rooted in real life experiences, while Waldorf focuses more on fantasy and imagination. 

For example, in a Montessori classroom, you’ll see a lot of practical life activities (cleaning, food prep, plant care), books based on the real world, and an overall lack of fantasy elements, i.e. no talking animals or fairies. 

Dr. Montessori believed that children under 6-7 years old had a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. She believed they should first understand the real world around them before introducing abstract concepts. This makes it easier for them to navigate an already complicated and often confusing world. 

In a Waldorf classroom, you’d see more fantasy elements, like fairy houses, wizards, and gnomes, believing that magical elements enhance the imagination and overall childhood experience. 

The classroom setups also tend to differ. Montessori believed that purposeful activities, those with a clear beginning, middle, and end, gave children a sense of satisfaction and confidence. 

In a Waldorf classroom you’d see more open-ended play setups, like loose parts or silk scarves. Waldorf focuses more on imagination and free play, leaving out the more academic lessons until children are over 7 years old. 

Toddler in Nature, Montessori versus Waldorf.

The Similarities

While there are some big differences, they do share many similarities. 

Both Montessori and Waldorf follow the child. They allow children to choose how they want to spend their free time throughout the day. 

They are also both deeply connected to nature and believe that children should have ample exposure to the outdoors. 

Both will also offer natural toys and materials as much as possible, believing in the richer sensorial experience for children of wood and other natural materials.

Which is right for your child?

This is a completely personal decision that we truly feel has no wrong answer, especially in the home environment, where we encourage parents to let go of the idea of a perfect classroom setup. 

In our home, do I offer a spray bottle and squeegee to help with window cleaning and a learning tower to help with food prep?

YES!

But do I also read books with talking dogs and buy open-ended toys?

ALSO YES!

You won’t go wrong with a respectful, balanced, child-led approach, so try not to sweat the details too much. 


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