How is Montessori Different?

There are many differences between Montessori early education and play-based childcare. The core differences stem from the Montessori Curriculum, Montessori Materials, educator roles, and the Prepared Environment. Montessori Education is designed to provide children with the optimal learning environment to nurture their full potential.

What is the Montessori Difference?

Unlike traditional preschools and childcare centres, Montessori early learning centres are designed to nurture children’s complete development by providing them with the optimal learning environment, educational materials, and teaching guidance to discover their potential.

Montessori learning is largely active, individually paced, often self-correcting, and tailored to the needs and interests of each individual child. The ultimate goal of Montessori education is to prepare children with the knowledge and skills to become confident, independent, and courageous life-long learners.

Key Differences

Montessori Education

  • Individualised learning tailored to each child’s stage of development,  interests, and needs
  • All learning styles addressed
  • Montessori materials encourage hands-on learning through repetition and practice
  • Montessori Curriculum focuses on educating the whole child
  • Prepared classroom environments
  • Montessori Work Cycle
  • Freedom of movement and choice
  • Emphasis on learning through repetition and practice
  • Focus on intrinsic motivation
  • Freedom within limits

Traditional Education

  • Education Programs solely based on the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the transfer of the National Curriculum
  • Group paced lessons
  • Largely play based and project based learning
  • Children learn by playing with available resources
  • The classroom offers play-based learnings experiences
  • Children’s learning is assessed against developmental milestones and  EYLF
  • Classroom structure changes
  • Focus on praise and external motivation
  • Classroom rules

What is the Montessori Difference?

Individualised Curriculum

Montessori learning programs are personalised to each child based on their unique stage of development, interests, and needs. Lessons with the Montessori materials are presented one-on-one based on each child’s academic progress. Educators track each child’s progress and support them as they progress through the curriculum.

Prepared Environment

The Montessori classroom is referred to as the ‘prepared environment’ because it is purposefully arranged by a trained Montessori educator to create the optimal learning environment for children. The environment is characterised by beauty, order and accessibility. Furniture, learning materials, and sinks are child-sized to support children’s independence. Shelves are open and accessible to invite interest and exploration. Everything has a purpose and a place.

Montessori Materials

Montessori materials are hands-on learning tools that guide children to discover key learning outcomes through repetition and practice. Montessori materials isolate one concept or skill and are designed with an in-built control of error. This allows children to discover the outcome of the material through independent exploration at their own pace. As children progress through the curriculum, the Montessori materials increase in complexity, providing opportunities to extend on learning.

Educating the Whole Child

Montessori education is focused on nurturing each child’s potential by providing learning experiences that support their intellectual, physical, emotional and social development. In addition to language and mathematics, the Montessori Curriculum also covers practical life, sensorial, and culture. All aspects of children’s development and learning are intertwined and viewed as equally important.

Prepared Environment

The Montessori classroom is also known as the prepared environment. This is a carefully prepared learning space where everything has a purpose and a place. There is a distinct sense of order which assists children in developing logical thought processes. The fundamental idea is “order in environment and mind.” Within this space, children are free to follow their interests, choose their work, and progress at their own pace.

Freedom of Movement and Choice

Doctor Maria Montessori observed that children learn best when they are free to move, free to choose their own work, and follow their interests. In a Montessori classroom, children are free to move around the prepared environment, work where they feel they will learn best, and discover learning outcomes through hands-on experience. Montessori learning is largely active, individually paced, often self-correcting, and tailored to the needs and interests of each individual child.

Intrinsic Motivation

The Montessori approach takes the view that learning is it’s own reward. In the Montessori classroom there’s aren’t any gold stars to reward children’s learning. Instead, children derive a sense of accomplishment from completing an activity and learning to do it for themselves.

Work Cycle

The Montessori work cycle is an extended period of “free choice” when children explore the prepared environment and work with intuitive Montessori materials without interruption. The Montessori work cycle encourages students to deeply engage in their own learning process.


One of the core principles of the Montessori Method is the concept of auto-education. It’s based on the belief that children are capable and willing to teach themselves if they are provided with interesting learning stimulus. Montessori materials were developed to meet this need and empower children with the ability to direct their own education. Montessori educators provide the prepared environment, guidance, and the encouragement for children to educate themselves.

Freedom Within Limits

Freedom within limits refers to the ground rules of the Montessori classroom. Children have the freedom to follow their own interests, move freely, and choose their work, as long as their behaviour is reasonable and acceptable.

Teacher Roles

The role of the Montessori educator is to observe, track, and guide each child’s learning progress. They observe children’s interests, direct them towards activities suited to their stage of development, and create a positive atmosphere for learning. They present individual lessons that are brief and precise, and allow children to discover learning outcomes on their own, and in their own time.