Monday, August 22, 2011

Montessori on a Budget: Our Freecycle Walking Wagon Alternative

With an unlimited budget, we would likely outfit our house with a full line of “perfect” Montessori materials and equipment.  But, as homeschoolers we choose to “live like no one else so we can live like no one else” (aka Dave Ramsey financial advice).  In other words, more often than not, we make due with what we have.

Making do is not easy when Montessori websites and catalogs temp one to purchase beautiful materials.  It is easy to begin thinking that carefully selected and designed items in them are “needs”, not “wants”.  But, the reinforcement of knowing that Maria Montessori herself worked within her means and within the bounds of the interests and abilities of the children in her charge, help us stay philosophically and financially on track.

Thus, although we would love one of these ideal walking wagons for Jack,

Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon

we have found this freecycled find (a Little Tikes shopping cart) a suitable real alternative.

It provides much the same benefit as an ideal walker wagon by allowing Jack to develop independence at his own paceAnd – bonus – it didn't the bank for us.

Montessori Philosophy in Practice

Within Montessori philosophy are strong tenets for helping a child develop independence and self-motivation.  That means that infants and toddlers should be afforded the opportunity to follow their own internal timetable as they move along their developmental paths.  It should be up to the child himself to know when just the right time has come to begin pulling oneself up to a stand, “cruising” along and walking.* 

A walking wagon, or alternative for one, is a great tool for living by this precept.  When an observant parent sees that a child is pushing things along the floor, that parent might recognize that the child is ready to begin walking.  At that point, it might be time to offer a walker wagon, which can aid a child in the process of learning to walk by giving him something to practice pulling up on when his arms and legs are ready and by offering some stabilization when he wants to begin walking.

Jack’s Steps to Independence

We have definitely witnessed joyful steps towards independence with Jack and our thrifty “walker wagon”.

In June, he was naturally attracted to it, first reaching toward its handle from kneeling.

Then, leaning on it to stand, albeit on his toes.

(In order to stabilize the cart when Jack was at this pull-to-stand stage, we sometimes put relatively heavy, yet safe items in it or asked a sibling to help, as Nina is kindly doing in this picture.)

Once Jack gained comfort in standing,


he pushed it to take some tentative steps.

Before we knew it, he even began walking around and over obstacles, such as balls, which he happily bent and stood to put in and out of the cart.

Now, two months later, Jack takes full command of his "walking wagon" alternative.  He walks about the yard with confidence and glee, enjoying the feat of moving freely in his feet.

He has also begin standing for short periods of time on his own, but we have yet to catch that on film.

What economical alternatives have you discovered for ideal Montessori equipment?  How are you encouraging independence in your child’s developmental path?  Do share in a comment!

This post is being shared at Montessori Monday hosted by One Hook Wonder.

*Note: Just because we believe in the Montessori philosophy of allowing children to progress as naturally and independently as possible in their development does not mean we believe intervention is never warranted.  When we have been concerned about the milestones our children have (not) been reaching, we have sought the help of our family physician and Early Intervention services.  Montessori and seeking help are not mutually exclusive.  Please, follow your gut when following your child! :)


Little Wife Power House said...

Thank you for visiting my blog! I love finding economical Montessori items because I can never afford everything I want. Jack is a cutie!

Deb Chitwood said...

Great idea, Martianne! It's wonderful to find inexpensive alternatives for materials that will be used at home and quickly outgrown. I also enjoyed your thoughts on Montessori philosophy in practice! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at


Related Posts with Thumbnails