Many Montessori schools offer an after school care program for their students. This type of program can echo the Montessori day while still allowing for different kinds of activities and freedoms found in traditional after school care programs.
Follow Montessori ground rules in after school care.
Children crave consistency. Therefore, it is imperative that basic ground rules are maintained in the after school care program. Children should use rugs when working on the floor, and mats on tables. If name cards are used to label a work area, or to mark an unfinished project, then have work names in the after school care room. Have extra tags on hand for when you have a drop-in visitor.
Maintain the same expectations during circle time. Children should sit on their bottoms with hands in their laps and listen attentively. When they wish to speak, the should raise a quiet hand.
Children should walk when moving through the classroom, and not disturb the activities of others. Activities should be carried one at a time, with two careful hands. Voices are going to be a little louder in after school care, but that is okay. Shouting is not permitted.
Snack should be provided; however, children should be allowed to serve themselves. They can even do some simple food preparation activities.
Set up a quiet area for relaxation and personal time-outs. Have a peace table for solving conflicts. Use the same procedures as in the classroom for consistency.
Burn off some energy with free play.
Even though the children have been moving around all day doing their work, they still need to blow off some steam. Come together as a group just long enough to take attendance and review any playtime rules that need to be addressed. Then, allow the children to run and play, either on the playground or in a gym.
Let children play for at least 15-30 minutes before starting some structured games. Classic favorites include “Sharks and Minnows,” “What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?”, and “Mother, May I?” Participation in these games should be voluntary. Play time should last from half an hour to a full hour. Set up quiet areas for children who wish to just relax, instead of running around. Be aware of the children’s energy levels and prepare to bring them back in for circle tie when they seem to be ready. Indications can be embarking on “crazy” running around and non-purposeful play.
Some classrooms end their day on the playground, or doing enough movement activities that having a long free time play is not warranted. It can make for a smoother transition for the after school care staff to meet the classrooms on the playground. Once most of the children have been picked up, then after school care can come together for circle time.
Have a community meeting upon arrival.
Create a community within your after school care environment by starting each session with a circle time. Take attendance. Have children share exciting moments from their day. Read stories and sing songs. If there is going to be a special activity, introduce it. Following circle time, quietly invite the children to go choose work, or to do the special activity.
Have thematic units.
Consider having a theme of the week. For example, center the week’s activities around a book, book series, or author study. Read a story every day at circle time. Then, have follow-up activities available for the children to do during free time. End the week with a big project or by watching a movie adaptation of the books.
Other thematic units in after school care can echo units of study in the classrooms. Also, try doing season projects.
Regularly meet with Montessori classroom teachers.
Set up regular times to touch base with the classroom teachers in the building. Compare notes on the children to establish patterns of behavior. Sometimes parents will remember to tell the classroom teacher something in the morning, but forget to mention it to the after school care staff, and vice versa.
Find out which activities are popular in the classroom. Ask how to set up your activities in a more “Montessori” fashion. They will be happy to help you.
Even if you already have a Montessori background, it is always good to compare notes with colleagues on activities and procedures.