Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Founder of Monty's Play Hub, former Primary School Teacher, winner of an outstanding teacher award, proud home-educator, experienced childcare provider and Montessori advocate.
I'm tempted to call Emma Huggett an expert on child development but that implies she isn't still always learning - and I know she would hate that. Instead, let's just say that Emma is a highly experienced human who has spent years working in various educational settings, observing the children in her care and growing her own understanding of how children learn and develop best.
I asked Emma a few questions and I'm thrilled to share her words of wisdom with you below.
Picture-This Books: What does imagination mean to you personally, and what is the Montessori take on it? Emma Huggett: For me, imagination is dreaming! It is thinking about all the things we wish to do, all the places we would love to go and all the fun we can have along the way! In Montessori, imagination actually is something people tend to get mixed up, especially in the early years when fantasy is discouraged. Before the age of 6, Dr Montessori recognised a child's need for real experiences, as the child cannot distinguish between things that are real and things that are not. With this in mind, in Montessori, with children under age 6, we stick to imaginary games that are based on real life events - things like imagining we are going to the beach or to the farm, perhaps pretend play at the shops or the theatre. Picture-This Books: Do you have any tips for encouraging children to step away from their screens and get creative?
Emma Huggett: Honestly? My biggest tip is to have really consistent boundaries around screen time, and minimising it as much as possible. In my experience, parents struggle to find alternatives to screen time, and often feel that they need to entertain their children constantly. But I really believe in allowing our children to experience boredom on a regular basis. From boredom, children create, and in that creation, wondrous things happen! I often hear parents telling me they like the screen time but they feel guilty for it. My personal view on this is that if you feel guilty, either change it up or let go of the guilt and get okay with your choices around screens.
Picture-This Books: How do you foster a love of reading from an early age?
Emma Huggett: Reading to your child from birth, for me, is an absolute must. Your child gains so much from hearing your voice, the sounds, the vocabulary, the plot line and your enthusiasm too. I whole-heartedly believe that reading opens doors to all kinds of worlds for our kids. In the beginning stages of our kids learning to read independently, my biggest tip is to ignore the mistakes. It sounds odd but when we are constantly correcting our kids, they begin to believe they can't do it, and therefore believe that reading isn't fun. If we see patterns in their mistakes, we can make a mental note to re-visit at another time. For me, it is really important to protect a child's confidence with reading, and anything in fact!
Picture-This Books: You home-school your own children. What was the deciding factor in making that choice and what does a typical school day look like for your children?
Emma Huggett: Oh this is a loooooong story! But I'll keep it as brief as I can. You know, we had decided, when my son was 3.5, that home education was for us. But other people's negative views gave us the wobblies and we ended up sending our son to school after all. Two terms in and lockdown happened, which thrust us into "emergency" home education and gave us the chance to prove it worked. Our son thrived at home and we made the decision not to send him back! It was one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make, but the best one in the world. Our lives are so enriched, every single day. The freedom we have is priceless: we attend forest school and my son goes to parkour lessons, we meet friends weekly and spend time with family too!
A typical day for us starts after breakfast. We plan our day on a big whiteboard in our play room. We start by writing down where we are going (we go out every day) and then any important tasks we want to get done too. That includes things I want to teach my son and things he wants to do more of as well. We usually go out in nature in the morning, then head back around lunchtime. My daughter then naps and my son has some screen time and we have lunch. I use this time to rest too - I believe this is really important to model to my children. In the afternoon, we often do an activity that I have planned, in line with Montessori curriculum, and we play, play, play! Around 3pm we have tea-time, where we share stories or poems and drink milkshakes (coffee for me!). At around 4:30pm, we will make dinner together. My daughter often helps out but my son prefers not to. Then it is bath and bed!
Picture-This Books: What are you buying your children this Christmas?
Emma Huggett: We are quite eco-conscious in our house and I love to buy second hand where possible. I also like to stick to the 4 present rule: want, need, wear, read so we aren't filling our house with unneeded stuff. It also means there are more choices for family members to buy presents. So my children will be getting some books from my favourite indie book shop @bookalicious and some clothes. My son is almost 6, very into science and will be getting an electricity set, some LEGO and a magnetism kit. My daughter is 2.5 and she will be getting a gardening kit (she loves planting seeds) and some puzzles. She is also into small world play so she will be getting a campervan and some people to go inside.
Emma is on a mission to Grow Happy within the home and she runs various parent courses and workshops, including a Montessori Masterclass for beginners and 1-1 services. Hear more from Emma on Instagram @montysplayhub - on Facebook @ Monty's Play Hub - and @ www.montysaurus.co.uk