“the task of the child is the formation of man, oriented to his environment, adapted to his time, place and culture.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
From early infancy, our children are preparing themselves for the more complex works and materials in the toddler and primary communities. In Montessori, we believe that “the task of the child is the formation of man, oriented to his environment, adapted to his time, place and culture”. Therefore, it is our job as Montessori educators to protect the child’s “task”, aiding in their development as they continue to form the person they will be for the rest of their lives. In order to do that, we need to understand the purpose that each Montessori material holds, and recognize the important role that they will play in the child’s development. For instance, the pink tower, while simple in appearance, helps prepare the child for a diversity of life skills, such as visual discrimination of dimensions in height/width, and adding the cubes together (math), refinement of voluntary movement which helps control muscle movement as they grow older, they’re also learning visual-motor coordination which is called upon to concentrate. This lesson goes far beyond introducing them to math. That is how many of the materials in our school work; they introduce and build upon lessons that the child will receive as they grow older. Each one serves a specific purpose in the child’s development.
“Sequence of materials gives the child an experience of orientation in cause and effect.” (Lillard, Montessori Today)
The Montessori pedagogy is an educational philosophy based on scientific study. Maria Montessori was a doctor and a scientist, spent a lifetime observing and assessing children, and developed an educational approach based on how the child’s brain works. We’re not training our children to learn and act as we want them to; we’re allowing them to grow and learn following their “natural flow” and rhythm of development. Dr. Montessori studied how the child’s brain works and developed an entire pedagogy based upon her findings.
As Dr. Montessori worked with young children and young adults in the following years, she gradually recognized that there were specific stages in human formation. Eventually, she identified four such planes of development, and of these four planes, she discovered that there were three things happening: (Lillard, Montessori Today)
- there is a specific goal in development
- there is a readily identified direction being followed to reach that goal
- there are specific sensitivities given to human beings in each period of development which facilitate reaching the definitive goal for that plane.
Understanding the characteristics and needs of the child at each stage allows the adult to support the natural unfolding of life. (Montessori NW, The Four Planes of Development)
From the very first day of life, the child learns to work with his hands. “He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (The Absorbent Mind)
In our Infant Nido, our babies are constantly working with their hands, using their senses to touch (and taste, because, yes, little ones need to experience the materials by putting them in their mouths!). Handling materials such as these will help refine their gross motor skills, and help them control their muscles as they later learn to hold a pencil, paintbrush, book, and so forth. They’re also learning a great deal of concentration and focus. They then take their concentration, focus, refined muscle movements, etc. to the toddler room, where they can apply these skills to a variety of new works.
At approximately 2.5 to 3 years of age, they graduate to Primary, where their work continues. They’ve spent a lifetime preparing themselves for the challenging works and activities in the primary community. The program’s curriculum is designed in a three-year cycle. Much of the materials in the first year help lay the foundation for their second and third year. The works become progressively smaller, as the child has already mastered handling such materials through their fine motor development. They’re able to easily recognize the underlying purpose of the work through their muscle memory.
The child’s Montessori journey is long, yet gratifying. Our duty to the child is to give them the opportunity to complete their Montessori journey in full, helping them to reach their ultimate goal; the formation of man.
(visit http://www.healthybeginningsmontessori.com for a more in-depth look at our infant, toddler and primary programs!)