Jenny Schatzle

Tracy Grewe

Practical Montessori Based Parenting Tips to Raise Your Infant & Toddler With Confidence

EPISODE: 37   |    DATE: April 8, 2020

“My goal with my classes is to help you fill your toolbox in order to be more confident in the decisions you’re making as a parent.”

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Key Takeaways


  • Tracy Grewe is an AMI Certified Montessori educator for ages 0 through to 3 years, and thus focuses on infant and toddler development.
  • She and her family owned and ran a Montessori school in Arizona for 25 years. They served kids aged 0 through to the 8th grade.
  • Tracy has a parenting company called Nurture Newbies where she offers parenting courses for children ages 0 through to 3 years old. 
  • Tracy also offers a free pregnancy course for pregnant mamas.
  • Tracy believes the more parenting tips you have to fill your toolbox, the easier it will be to make confident decisions as a parent.
  • A baby is born with a blank slate. Beyond the basics (food, love, attention), they don’t actually need anything. We create what they need (i.e. pacifiers, blankets, etc.).
  • From 0-3 months, Dr. Maria Montessori calls it the unconscious absorbent mind. What that means is that everything you’re giving them, they are just taking at face value. They don’t understand conscious decisions. 
  • Children can’t choose to be good or bad until they are about 6 years old. It begins around 3 years old but it’s not until they are 6 that their brain is more like an adult brain.
  • Montessori is more focused on using materials to help children understand more things concretely. Other philosophies, like Reggio and Waldorf, are also focused on learning through play and creativity, but it’s more abstract as compared to Montessori, which uses concrete materials to teach. 
  • In Tracy’s experience, children retain things longer when they learn experientially the way they do in Montessori.
  • Tracy compares it to memorizing something for a test versus remembering something because you’re actually interested in it. Experiencing concepts with materials, the way they do in Montessori, helps children retain things for longer.
  • The bottom line is that kids learn better by doing. So rather than thinking you need to sit down and teach, just think of involving them in the processes of everyday life. You can teach them how to count by having them help you set the dinner table. Tell them how many forks you need and count them out loud. Have them bring back that amount to you, and count out loud again.
  • Montessori is really about integrating teaching into the things we do everyday.
  • In Montessori, it’s believed that if children have purposeful work, they don’t get into as much trouble. Purposeful work makes them feel a sense of accomplishment which helps them feel good about themselves.
  • From 0-9 months, as the parent, you are setting the foundation for your child. The first 8 weeks of life is called the symbiotic period where the baby is getting used to and establishing a connection with their primary caregivers by doing lots of skin to skin contact, and basically spending most of their time together.
  • In Montessori, they believe you need to put mobiles over your newborn from the start, but you need to switch up the mobiles and put them quite close to them so they can see. This helps them begin to work on tracking. You can look up the different Montessori mobiles in the resources section on Nurture Newbies.
  • When Tracy went through her Montessori training, she already had a 1, 3 and 5 year old. When she got back from the training, she reorganized her house so that her kids could be involved in the everyday chores like preparing food, cleaning, etc.
  • Tracy had her kids help prepare breakfast for the week and placed plates, cups and bowls at their level so they could feed themselves. She hung their clothing and towel rods low in their bedrooms and bathrooms so they could get themselves dressed and put their towels back when they were finished.
  • Essentially, everyday chores became an opportunity both for learning, as well as to build their confidence in themselves and their abilities.
  • Children love routines – even babies. They thrive on them.
  • Once your child is walking around, that is the time to begin having them participate in chores around the house. Before that, you’re just setting the foundation. That means that children as young as 1 can and should begin to help around the house!
  • From 18-36 months it’s called the terrific 2s (aka the terrible 2s). That is when they want to do everything on their own but they can’t quite do it yet so they get frustrated and throw tantrums. In Tracy’s experience, this is the time when you want to focus on language.
  • You can talk to them about their feelings: I understand that you feel frustrated because X. Help them articulate their feelings. Give names to emotions for them. Eventually, when they can talk more, they will begin to communicate their feelings with you in words.
  • Another tip is to never ask a toddler a yes or no question! Give them choices. You can do X or Y. That way they feel like they are in charge because they are making a choice.
  • If your child is still not wanting to make a choice when given 2 options, you can tell them that they can choose one of the options, and if they don’t, you’ll count to 3 and choose for them. It might result in some tears and resistance, but after a few times they’ll understand and make the choice.
  • For parents dealing with their child hitting or pushing or any aggressive behavior toward their siblings, it’s imperative that you help them understand the feelings they are having, which is likely jealousy.
  • During situations like that, bring your child over to you and explain to them what they are feeling. Let them know that it’s ok to feel that way, and that it’s not ok to hurt their sibling. This way, they understand the depths of jealousy, and when it comes up throughout their life (which is inevitably will), they’ll have a better relationship with it.
  • Additionally, many times us parents are uncomfortable with our children’s hard feelings like jealousy and anxiety. But as Tracy says, if you are starting a new job as an adult, you’re likely going to have some anxiety about it. It’s normal. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. The same is true for children. Normalize their feelings and give them language and labels to help them understand them.
  • Dr. Maria Montessori talks about using the word No, and to avoid using it unless there is a dangerous situation. The reason for this is because it begins to lose its meaning when used too often, so that when there is a dangerous situation, the word won’t have the desired effect. 
  • Rather than saying No, notice what your child is doing. For example, if your child is playing in the toilet, you can say, “I see that you like to play with water. Let’s find some water you can play with,” and then set them up with a safer water activity.
  • You can also use choices instead of saying the word No. 
  • If you want to get your child involved in cooking, make sure it’s simple. Give them tasks they can accomplish, like taking the ends off of green beans, and give them tools that match their size and skill level. This makes for less mess and helps build the habit of them helping to cook.
  • When it comes to toys, the ones that are bright colored and noisy don’t really have a place in the Montessori way. But Tracy doesn’t see anything wrong with them after the child is 9 months if they are limited. Because they are fun!
  • That said, however, it’s important not to have too many toys out to choose from at once. It’s too overwhelming for a child. Have only a few on the shelf at a time and put the rest away. You can swap out toys each week if you want to switch it up.
  • Tracy talks about potty training versus potty learning. Potty training is parent led. Potty learning is child led.
  • Potty learning can be as simple as having a potty out in the bathroom and having your child sit on it whenever you go to the bathroom. 
  • You can also sit your child on the potty in the morning after their diaper is off to help them get into the habit of going to the bathroom in the morning. Do this again during the bedtime diaper change. And do it before bath time as well. This creates a habit so by the time they are ready to do it, they’ve got the habit.
  • A child cannot use the potty until they know how to dress and undress themselves.
  • While most of Tracy’s parenting philosophies are rooted in Montessori, she strives to empower parents to make conscious choices to raise empowered kids.

About Tracy

Tracy Grewe is an Infant and Toddler Development Consultant with 20+ years of experience as a Certified Association Montessori International Instructor running a Montessori school. Purely out of passion for helping parents feel more confident and knowledgeable she has shared the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori along with her personal experiences as a Mother through parent workshops, while also gathering ideas from the parents she worked with.

Nurture Newbies was created as a digital resource for parents containing the knowledge she has gathered over the years. It is designed to help parents turn overwhelm into confidence, preparing them to be one step ahead of their child’s development and to consciously support the development of independent and empowered kids. 





Resources in this episode

Episode with Dax Shepard and Adam Grant

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