“It is after this that the child, who can now walk and feels confident of his strength, begins to notice the actions of those about him, and tries to do the same things. In this period he imitates not because someone has told him to do so, but because of a deep inner need which he feels.” Dr. Maria Montessori
The Toddler Community, the classroom environment for children ages 18-36 months, is filled with all natural classroom materials, most designed by Dr. Maria Montessori, to meet and challenge the stages of development for the young children.
Through scientific observations of young cognitively challenged children, Dr. Maria Montessori, in Italy in the 1870s, developed her theory of child development. From this theory and her observations, she crafted educational materials to meet the developmental needs of the children. Specifically designed to introduce academic concepts in a concrete form before moving to the abstract concepts of mathematics, language, geography, biology, and zoology.
Dr. Maria Montessori called these materials “works”. She championed the child’s journey to adulthood as the work of the child. She said, “The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences ‘work’”. She continues, “His objective in working is the work itself, and when he has repeated an exercise and brought his own activities to an end, this end is independent of external factors.” The experiences that children are exposed to during their time in Toddler Community support them in their process of constructing their intellect and personality.
Step into the MINE, ME, & US Montessori School Toddler Community…
Enter a bustling room, busy with young children working intently on an array of various activities. Despite the flurry of activity, there is an undeniable organization underlying the seeming chaos. Careful observation reveals that each child, whether working individually or in pairs, is diligently and purposefully working on their chosen work. This revelation leads to seeing the room in a different way.
The beauty of Montessori becomes clear. The organization of the furniture, the meticulous way in which the work on the shelves is placed, each contained in a natural basket or wooden tray, the different areas of the room that promote certain types of activity all promote different types of development.
Several children in the practical life area work on different activities that involve practical skills needed in life. A young girl has a bucket, soap, a sponge, a towel and a water pitcher set up in preparation to scrub a small table. A small boy stands at the floor-to-ceiling window with a spray bottle and squeegee in hand. After each spray and swipe with the squeegee, he methodically wipes the remaining streaks with a clean towel.
A tall girl sits at a table with several friends. They are all pouring, spooning, tonging, various dry objects and liquids from different types of containers on various individual trays. One of the girls spills a ladle of assorted beans, spilling them on the floor. She retrieves the dustpan and hand broom from the designated hook of the wall and sweeps the floor clean of all the beans. After putting the beans in the compost bin and returning the dust pan and broom, she joins her friends and continues perfecting the motions of successfully ladling the small objects. Practical life works allow these children to master the tasks that they see adults do on a daily basis.
This mastery includes exhaustive practice refining minute muscle movements and memorizing and internalizing the steps of each task. Even more significant than acquiring these physical abilities, the children are developing habits and standards of cleanliness and personal responsibility. All of this teaches the children the skills and cultural norms of daily life.
Two boys sit next to each other on individual small rugs in the middle of a large carpeted area of the room. At first glance it appears that both boys have chosen the same work of threading beads on a string. However, looking more closely, the difference in the works becomes apparent. One boy holds a square wooden bead in one hand and a thin rope in his other hand. He struggles to thread the rope through the hole in the bead. After several attempts, he is successful. Beaming, he tries with another bead. With each bead he has less trouble guiding the rope through the hole. The other boy holds a smaller round wooden bead in one hand and a dark shoelace in the other. This boy’s work requires more refined muscle movements and hand-eye coordination. Although he is more comfortable and confident threading his beads despite the smaller size, he still fumbles a few times. When the boys feel a sufficient sense of mastery of the skill at hand, they each put the beads and string back into the baskets that held them and return them to the places next to each other on the shelf.
This is the quiet genius of the Montessori method. Having two works next to each other on a shelf which work on the same skill set (albeit to different degrees of difficulties) allows the children to learn and develop at their own pace. Both boys are not only developing muscular proficiency and hand-eye coordination, but also more importantly developing concentration, determination, and internal gratification.
As a group of children prepare to go outside on a chilly day, they gather their winter clothes from their cubbies. A young girl struggles with her snow pants. After weeks of practicing she is almost able to put them on unassisted. When it appears that she will need help, a teacher gently asks if she needs any help. Without even looking up she firmly states “No, I do it.” The teacher moves back but stays close by. The young girl continues struggling, repeatedly unable to push her foot through the pant leg. Many minutes later she succeeds! Bursting with pride, she yells out “I did it!!” These are the magical words of the Toddler Community. They signify the beginnings of true independence. The concentration and determination it took for her to get her snow pants on helps build her character and strengthen her self-image.
This concentration and determination along with a series of successes, a strong internal reward system, and resilient self-confidence that results from her attempts at independence in dressing herself actually end up endowing her with crucial components of a strong foundation necessary for future success in life.