Lower School Blog: Montessori and Freedom of Choice

Lower School Blog: Montessori and Freedom of Choice

Why is freedom of choice so important in the Montessori environment? Children are born with a natural curiosity and a desire to learn and connect with the world around them. Montessori education supports the child’s innate need to explore their environment by providing children with the opportunities to make independent choices. 

Executive function is one of the predictors of a child’s success in life. It can be developed and influenced through education at a very young age. Research shows that making choices reinforces the development of executive functioning. With every choice, a child exercises their free will, understands their needs, and follows their interests. Choices allow children to practice and strengthen their decision-making skills. In Montessori environments, children choose their activities and the skills they want to develop on a daily basis. They can choose where or with whom they want to work. They are guided by their teacher, but they feel empowered to make choices by themselves.

Freedom of choice helps children feel confident in the process of making large and small decisions. Giving children the freedom of choice allows them to feel involved in the decision-making process of their lives, gain a sense of independence, and build self-esteem. At first, when young children join a Montessori classroom, it is hard for them to make choices and they need the teacher’s help—but as they grow older and adapt to their environment, they feel confident to make choices independently.

Freedom of choice can reduce resistance and strengthen adult-child relationships. When the child feels a need for some power, they often push back against any request. Offering choices empowers children while still maintaining boundaries.

There are many opportunities to give your child freedom of choice in your day-to-day life. Promote independence and child-led decision-making when you can. You can invite your child to select from a small group of clothing to wear, give them a few options for snacks or what to prepare for lunch, allow them to choose how they want to help out around the house, or which toy they want to play with.

Examples of choices:

  • Would you like to have pancakes or cereal for breakfast?
  • Would you like to wear blue pants or red pants?
  • Would you like to hop to the car as a bunny or fly as an eagle?
  • Which park should we go to? The big one or the little one?
  • Would you like to read a book or paint?

Things to remember when using choices:

  • Give limited choices. Too many choices are overwhelming for a young child.
  • If your child doesn’t make a choice within a specified period of time, make the choice for them. If they don’t or can’t pick between the two, don’t offer a third.
  • Offer choices before your children become resistant, not after.

When we let children make a choice, we acknowledge their worth, offer them ownership, and allow them to feel empowered. These small decisions lay the foundation for autonomy. After all, a child doesn’t learn how to make decisions by following directions, but by making their own independent choices.


Katia Kozhakova

Dogwood Lead Teacher

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