I am so excited to share with you my interview Kristien Alquero, friend and Montesorri educator. I was so curious to discover what lead her to the Montesorri method and hear her advice for ways to cultivate creativity at home.
"I was inspired by the Montessori method’s recognition to nurture the whole child - an education that integrates their mind, body, and spirit." Kristien Alquero
What led you to study early childhood education and the Montessori Method?
I was led to this work after feeling lost trying to discover my purpose. There was a point in my life where I was going through the motions. I had this deep yearning to feel creatively expressed, alive, and passionate about my role in the world.
I discovered Montessori accidentally. As I learned about this educational approach, specifically from birth to age three, I was inspired by the Montessori method’s recognition to nurture the whole child - an education that integrates their mind, body, and spirit. I learned that 85% of the brain is formed by age three when the foundation of our sense of self is formed.
I recognized that Montessori is a beautiful approach to nurture a child’s spirit and support them to realize the fullness of the reason they were born. Isn’t the point of education to help us realize our purpose, our passions, and our gifts?
But then I realized there’s no way to create that space for children unless we have done that healing work on ourselves. And that’s why my work is focused on the mother. My curiosity for self-healing led me to study energy medicine, intuition, birth, and sacred sexuality. How do we nourish the whole woman? When we connect to our spirit through embodiment, play & deep acceptance of truth, we can make choices to experience the beauty and radiance that resides so powerfully within. From this space of alignment, our life unfolds in magical ways, and we are able to receive the gifts through all the ebbs and flows of life with ease and grace.
I was inspired by the Montessori method’s recognition to nurture the whole child - an education that integrates their mind, body, and spirit.
What from Montessori has had the biggest influence on you?
The realization that everything goes back to birth and the first three years of life! The first three years of life have a significant impact on how we relate to ourselves, to others and to our environment. I truly believe that we can create a better world starting with our children, by creating safe, intentional environments for them that allow their spirits to soar. When our future citizens grow up feeling grounded in their gifts and purpose, they can live a meaningful life. From this place of inner peace, harmony is created for the greater collective.
Adults can remain to be playful by giving yourself permission to follow your curiosities.
We know children learn tremendously through play—how do you encourage adults to remain playful?
Adults can remain to be playful by giving yourself permission to follow your curiosities. When you get that inspired idea that runs through you, opens your heart, and feels expansive, don’t ignore it! Even if it doesn’t make any sense to you, make the space to explore it. It may be something as subtle as taking a different route home one day, signing up for a class in something that interests you, or saying hi to someone that is passing by. You’ll be surprised what you can learn about yourself and the opportunities that present themselves to you.
Play is where curiosity & pleasure meet. It requires slowing down and being present so you can notice when that spark of curiosity within you lights up. In this state of presence, you start to see the beauty and infinite possibilities around you. Play guides you to discover more of who you are and to live a more joyful life. So, what are you curious about today? How can you make space, even five minutes, to follow your curiosity this week?
What are your favorite activities you encourage parents and children to do together at home?
My work is focused on the child from birth to age three, and it’s amazing to see what a young child is capable of when you present opportunities for them to collaborate with you in their daily living. For example, right now, I’m working with a curious and independent 14-month-old. She is eager to try and do things herself yet is still practicing the skills to do so completely on her own. So we collaborate! She just took her first steps and is practicing working with two hands. She loves nature and putting things in containers.
Example: For a snack, we peeled a clementine together. I held it steady while she practiced her pincer grasp with each peel. She put all the peels into a jar that we later emptied into the compost bin together. We also pick flowers together on our walks. We gather leaves and flowers into a basket. When we get home, she helps me put them into a jar, and we create a flower arrangement together.
Parents can get creative by observing what skills and interests their child is presenting at every stage of their development, and then invite their child to collaborate in the home with their daily activities together. The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies has great tips and illustrations for inspiration. Tip: Slow down and give your child space to explore and do things on their own and in their way. Trusting in the child goes such a long way in witnessing what they are truly capable of.
How can parents support their child’s creativity?
First, by accepting your child fully as the individual, they are with their own unique interests, gifts, and ways of being. This means not making any assumptions or project any ideas on what you think they should be doing, how they should be behaving, or who they’re supposed to be when they grow up. By giving your child the space to be themselves, it allows their essence and creativity to reveal itself and expand. Then all you have to do is prepare an environment that fosters their gifts, interests, and development. ;) This allows for them to experience possibilities and creativity, without limiting their idea of what is possible.
4 tips for creating an environment that encourages a child's creativity?
1. Encourage open-ended play through activities and toys that allow for many ways to play rather than being prescriptive. For example, coloring books ask to be drawn within the lines vs. a blank piece of paper with infinite possibilities of coloring. Another example is choosing wooden blocks or legos vs. a battery-operated toy where you press a button, and it just makes noise.
2. Avoid praise and instead, speak into your child’s effort.
Acknowledge their process rather than the result. For example, “I see you mixed two colors of paint together.”
3. Give your child space to wonder and to be bored. Rather than thinking we must entertain children at every moment, think about engaging them through their environment - Providing beautiful materials for them to play with, presenting it in a way that is inviting, and making beauty part of the home through art, music, and plants. This is a concept the Montessori method speaks into.
4. Allow for exploration and experimentation as a process of learning. From this attitude, we can show children that there are no mistakes but learning opportunities. We are allowing for more confidence and possibilities in the way we can express our creativity.
Your favorite Maria Montessori quote?
“To serve the children is to feel one is serving the spirit of man, a spirit which has to free itself.” - Dr. Maria Montessori
Learn more about Kristien, her practices, and workshops at www.awakenedplay.com
Kristien Alquero, M.Ed, MIM, is a birth+postpartum doula, 0-3 Montessori educator, and women’s spirituality guide. She integrates Montessori theory with embodiment practices such as connecting with intuition & energy, meditation, self-care, and sacred sexuality to support women from preconception to postpartum. Kristien works with mamas to support them in deeply connecting to their spirits so that they feel empowered to create safe spaces for their children’s spirits to soar.