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Maximum Effort


Maria Montessori developed this educational system through lots and lots of observation of young children. She noticed qualities common among children under six, and one of these qualities she called Maximum Effort.

As is so often the case, this term seems a bit mysterious, but once there’s an understanding, it’s crystal clear.

Maximum Effort is especially apparent in the toddler years.

maximum effort montessori

This is the toddler dumping a box out, replacing contents, dumping out, replacing contents again and again and again.

It’s the almost-walking child pulling to standing, falling down, pulling to standing, falling down, again and again and again, until finally achieving a moment of balance.

It’s the child in the Montessori classroom, tongue stuck out, brow furrowed, buttoning and unbuttoning the dressing frame again and again and again.

The purpose is not to button and unbutton. The purpose is the manual dexterity, the concentration, the mastery the buttoning develops.

maximum effort montessori

This child is all about Doing and Being, all about the Process, not the End Result.

Any time we find ourselves sitting on our hands, biting our tongues, thinking, “why don’t you just…” we’re probably witnessing a child exerting Maximum Effort.

Maximum Effort allows a child to devote herself wholeheartedly to mastering a task, never tiring, never discouraged, never distracted, not until the task is done, but until something is satisfied in her development.

We worry about being efficient. We analyze every step to find the most effective way to do something. We actively recall, now, what was that process, and worry about getting it “right.”

Children exerting Maximum Effort jump right in, they just start, and the process will unfold. They do not Analyze, they Do.

Here’s a podcast about Maximum Effort.

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Written by:

Charlotte Snyder

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