Maria Montessori and Embodied Education: current proposal in preschool education


  • Andrea Ceciliani University of Bologna



Montessori, embodiment, infancy, education, body/mouvement, body/movement


The Montessorian proposal for childhood education appears highly modern and relevant in relation to the development of both motor skills and cognitive functions (Shivji, 2016;), strongly supported by neurosciences’ embodied theories (Roessingh, H. & Bence, M. 2018)), and the increasing wellbeing problem related to childhood (Pate et al, 2014; Ross, 2012).  This review analyses Maria Montessori’s modern educational vision, in light of the emerging needs of today’s children. The contribution reviews existing literature focusing on body and movement, but connected with cognitive, emotional and well-being aspects, which are critical in preschool education, both for educators/teachers (Atli, 2016; Akkerman, 2014; Lillard, 2011), and for school reform policies (Lillard, 2019).


Akkerman, A. (2014). Benefits of movement in a Montessori classroom on children’s behavior and focus. River Falls, WI: University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Atli, S., Korkmaz, M., Tastepe, T., & Koksal Aksoy, A. (2016). Views on Montessori approach by teachers serving at schools applying the Montessori Approach. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 66, 123-138.

Barker, J. E., & Munakata, Y. (2015a). Developing self-directed executive functioning: recent findings and future directions. Mind Brain Educ., 9, 92–99.

Barsalou, L. (2002). Being there conceptually: Simulating categories in preparation for situated action. In N. L. Stein, P. J. Bauer, & M. Rabinowitz (Eds.). Representation, memory, and development: Essays in honor of Jean Mandler (pp. 1-16). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Barsalou, L-W. (1999). Perceptual symbol system. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 577-660.

Bhatia, P., Davis, A., & Shamas-Brandt, E. (2015). Educational gymnastics: The effectiveness of Montessori practical life activities in developing fine motor skills in kindergartners. Early Education and Development, 26, 594-607.

Blair, C., & Diamond, A. (2008). Biological processes in prevention and intervention: the promotion of self-regulation as a means of preventing school. Dev Psychopathol, 20, 3, 899–911.

Cameron, C., Cottone, E., Murrah, W., & Grissmer, D. (2016). How are motor skills linked to children's school performance and academic achievement?. Child Development Perspectives, 10, 2, 93-98.

Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., Barbu-Roth, M. A., Hubbard, E. M., Hertenstein, M. J., & Witherington, D. (2000). Travel broadens the mind. Infancy, 1, 2, 149–219.

Caruana, F., & Borghi, A.M. (2013). Embodied Cognition: una nuova psicologia. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, I, 23-48.

Castelli, D.M., Hillman, C.H., Hirsch, J., Hirsch, A., Drollette, E. (2011). Fit Kids: Time in Target Heart Zone and Cognitive Performance. Preventive Medicine, 52, 1, S55–S59.

Ceciliani, A. (2018). From the Embodied Cognition to the Embodied Education in Physical and Sport Sciences. Encyclopaideia – Journal of Phenomenology and Education, 22, 51, 11-24.

Ceciliani, A., & Tafuri, D. (2017). Embodied Cognition in Physical Activity and Sport Science. In Embodied Cognition. Theories and Application in Education. New York: Nova Science Publisher.

Ceciliani, A. (2016). Giocare al nido: facilitare lo sviluppo da zero a tre anni. Rome: Carocci.

Ceciliani, A. (2015). Corpo e movimento nella scuola dell’infanzia. Riflessioni e suggestioni per itinerari educativi nella fascia tre-sei anni. Parma: Junior Spaggiari.

Christensen, O. (2017). Proving Montessori: Identity and Dilemmas in a Montessori Teacher’s Lived Edperience. Journal of Montessori Research, 2, 2, 35-48.

Cossentino, J.M. (2006). Big Work: Goodness, Vocation, and Engagement in the Montessori Method. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, 36 (1). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

De Simone, M. (2015). La pratica della consapevolezza: a scuola di mindfulness. Studi sulla formazione, 2, 131-145.

Debs, M. C. (2019). Diverse parents, desirable schools: public Montessori in an era of school choice. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

Diamond, A., Barnett, W.S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318, 1387-1388.

Dinehart, L., & Manfra, L. (2013). Associations Between Low-Income Children's Fine Motor Skills in Preschool and Academic Performance in Second Grade. Early Education and Development, 24, 2, 138-161.

Francesconi, D. (2011). Pedagogia e neuroscienze cognitive in dialogo. L’esempio dell’esperienza corporea. Formazione e Insegnamento, IX, I, 179-184.

Francesconi, D., & Tarozzi, M. (2012). Embodied Education. A Convergence of Phenomenological Pedagogy and Embodiment. Studia Phaenomenologica, XII, 262-288.

Gill, S. (2018). Embodied Learning through Virtual/Augmented Realities in the K-12 Classroom. Final Inquiry Project, Denver: University of Colorado.

Glenberg, A.M. (2010). Embodiment as a unifying perspective for psychology. Advanced Review, 1, 586-596.

Griffin, M.M. (1995). You can’t get there from here: Situated learning, transfer, and map skills. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 1, 65-87.

Haines, A., Baker K., & Kahn, D. (2003). Optimal developmental outcomes: The social, moral, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of a Montessori education. The NAMTA Journal 28, 1, 15-52.

Helgeson, J. (2011). 4 Simple Ways to Add Movement in Daily Lessons. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 47, 2, 80-84.

Johnson, M. (2007) The meaning of the body: Aestetic of human understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Johnson-Glenberg, M., & Megowan-Romanowicz, C. (2017). Embodied science and mixed reality: How gesture and motion capture affect physics education. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 2-24.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.

Lillard, A.S. (2019). Shunned and Admired: Montessori, Self-Determination, and a case for Radical School Reform. Educational Psychology Review, 31, 939-965.

Lillard, A.S. (2016). Montessori: The science behind the genius (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lillard, A.S. (2013). Playful learning and Montessori education. American Journal of Play, 5, 157-186.

Lillard, A.S. (2011). Mindfulness Practices in Education: Montessori’s Approach. Mindfulness, 2, 2, 78-85.

Lillard, A.S. (2005). Montessori. The science behind a genius. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lindgren, R., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2013). Emboldened by embodiment: Six precepts for research on embodied learning and mixed reality. Educational Researcher, 42, 445-452.

Lozada, M., & Carro, N. (2016). Embodied action improves cognition in children: Evidence from a study based on piagetian conservation Tasks. Frontiers in Psychology.

Lubans, D.R., Morgan, P.J., Cliff, D.P., Barnett, L.M., Okely A.D. (2010). Fundamental Movement Skills in Children and Adolescents: Review of Associated Health Benefits. Sports Med., 40, 12, 1019-1035.

Marshall, C. (2017). Montessori Education: a review of the evidence base. NPJ Sci. Learn, 2, 11, 1-19.

Marzano, R.J. (2007). Art & Science of Teaching, A Moving Proposal. Educational Leadership, 88-89.

Montessori, M. (1973). From childhood to adolescence. Madras: Kalakshetra Publications. (Original work published 1948)

Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. New York: Henry Holt. (Original work published 1949)

Montessori, M. (1966). The secret of childhood. New York: Balantine. (Original work published 1950)

Montessori, M. (1964). The Montessori Method. New York: Schocken. (Original work published 1912)

Montessori, M. (1950). La scoperta del bambino. Milan: Garzanti. (Original work published 1948)

Montessori, M. (1914). Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook. NewYork, NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company.

Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Wynn, S. R. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 896–915.

Pate, R.R., O’Neill, J.R., & Byun, W., McIver, K.L., Dowda, M., & Brown, W.H. (2014). Physical activity in preschool children: Comparison between Montessori and traditional preschools. Journal of School Health, 84, 716-721.

Phillips-Silver, J., & Daze, M.T. (2018). Cognitive Control at Age 3: Evaluating Executive Functions in an Equitable Montessori Preschool. Front. Educ., 3, 106.

Pironi, T. (2014). Maria Montessori e la formazione degli insegnanti per una nuova scuola. MeTis, 12, 10-45.

Rathunde, K. (2009). Nature and Embodied Education. The Journal of Developmental Processes, 4, 1, 70-80.

Rieser, J. J., Garing, A. E., & Young, M.F. (1994). Imagery, action, and young children’s spatial orientation: It’s not being there that counts, it’s what one has in mind. Child Development, 65, 5, 1262-78.

Roessingh, H., & Bence, M. (2018). Embodied Cognition: Laying the Foundation for Early Language and Literacy. Learning, in Language and Literacy, 20, 4, 23-39.

Ross, S. (2012). The Montessori Method. The development of a healthy pattern of desire in early childhood. Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, 19, 87-122.

Rossini, V. (2020). Maria Montessori. Una vita per l’infanzia. Una lezione da realizzare. Milan: San Paolo.

Rule, A., & Stewart, R. (2002). Effects of practical life materials on kindergartners’ fine motor skills. Early Childhood Education Journal, 30, 1, 9-13.

Scott, C.M., & Glaze N. (2017). Homework Policy and Student Choice: Findings From a Montessori Charter School. Journal of Montessori Research, 3, 2, 1-18.

Shivji, M. (2016). The Effects of Movement Interventions on Focus and Concentration in Toddler Montessori Classrooms. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from

Smith, L.B. (2009). Dynamic System, sensorimotor processes, and the origin of stability and flexibility. In J.P. Spencer, M.S.C. Thomas & J.L. McClelland (Eds.). Toward a unified theory of development. Connectionism and dynamic systems theory reconsidered (pp. 67-85). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sobe, N.W. (2004). Challenging the gaze: the subject of attention and a 1915 Montessori demonstration classroom. Educational Theory, 54, 3, 281-297.

Son, S., & Meisels, S. (2006). The relationship of young children’s motor skills to later reading and math achievement. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 52, 4, 755-778.

Stewart, R.A., Rule, A.C., & Giorando, D.A. (2007). The effect of fine motor skill activities on kindergarten student attention. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, 2, 103-109.

Strongoli, R.C. (2019). The body and corporeity in the context of environmental education with an ecological orientation. Studi sulla Formazione, 22, 465-479.

Tarozzi, M. (2008). Editoriale. Encyclopaideia – Journal of Phenomenology and Education, 23, 5-8.

Thelen, E., & Smith, L.B. (2004). A dynamic system approach to the development of cognition and action. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Tomar, C. (2014). Maria Montessori. Un contributo alla qualità del processo educativo. MeTis, IV, 2.

Wells, S.L. (2012). Moving through the curriculum: The effects of movement on student learning, behavior, and attitude. Rising Tide, 5, 1-17.

Zimmerman, B.J., & Schunk, D.H. (2014). Educational psychology: A century of contributions. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.




How to Cite

Ceciliani, A. (2021). Maria Montessori and Embodied Education: current proposal in preschool education. Ricerche Di Pedagogia E Didattica. Journal of Theories and Research in Education, 16(2), 149–163.