In Montessori education, the concept of kinesthetic learning—learning through movement—is fundamental. This approach is rooted in the belief that “what the hand does, the brain remembers,” as stated by Dr. Maria Montessori. Through my own experiences in Montessori classrooms, I’ve observed that children, particularly boys, require movement that goes beyond just using their hands. They need opportunities for whole-body movement and the freedom to move throughout the day.

The Importance of Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learning in the Montessori classroom involves engaging students in activities that require physical movement. This method not only helps in refocusing energy but also enhances learning and retention. Many Montessori materials are designed to incorporate kinesthetic movement, aligning with Dr. Montessori’s philosophy.

Whole-Body, Heavy Works

Some Montessori activities involve whole-body movement and are physically demanding. Examples include:

  • Gardening: Digging, planting, and watering plants.
  • Shoveling Snow and Raking Leaves: Seasonal activities that promote physical exertion and cooperation.
  • Vacuuming and Washing Windows: Practical life skills that involve repetitive, meaningful movement.
  • Pounding Nails into a Stump: An engaging activity that develops hand-eye coordination and strength.

These activities provide an excellent way for children to channel their energy constructively.

Creating a Flexible and Active Environment

The Montessori classroom is designed to offer numerous opportunities for movement and flexibility. Here are some ways to incorporate non-distracting movement:

  1. Flexible Workspaces

    • Floor Work: Children can work on the floor, allowing them to spread out and move more freely.
    • Varied Seating Options: Pillows, rocking chairs, and other comfortable seating arrangements accommodate different needs and preferences.
  2. Freedom to Move

    • Unrestricted Movement: Children can move around the classroom at will, gather materials, have a snack, or take a break with friends.
    • Fidget Tools and Pocket Toys: Allowing children to use these tools can help them refocus. For instance, modeling clay or a “Koosh” ball can be used discreetly to manage restless energy.
  3. Breaks and Outdoor Time

    • Permission to Take Breaks: Children are allowed to take breaks as needed, staying within sight of the classroom. This helps them work off physical energy and return to tasks with renewed focus.
    • Indoor Alternatives for Inclement Weather: Keeping a tub of Lego building blocks or similar activities available provides an outlet for movement when outdoor play is not possible.

The Detriment of Restricting Movement

One of the worst things you can do to any student is to punish them by restricting movement. Have you ever taken away recess or gym class because a child couldn’t settle down? This approach is counterproductive, as the children who struggle to stay still are often those who need movement the most. Restricting their physical activity can lead to increased behavior problems and diminished concentration.


Movement is a crucial aspect of learning in the Montessori classroom. By providing opportunities for kinesthetic learning, educators can help children channel their energy positively, enhance their engagement, and improve their overall learning experience. Ensuring that children have the freedom to move, use fidget tools, take breaks, and engage in whole-body activities supports their development and well-being.

Incorporating movement into the daily routine of a Montessori classroom is not just beneficial but essential. It fosters a dynamic and engaging learning environment where children can thrive. By embracing the principles of kinesthetic learning, we can help students develop a love for learning that is both active and enduring.

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