Posts Categorized: Toddler I
by Ms. Becky
Toddler Co-Lead Teacher
A child does not learn because he is taught by a teacher. A child learns because he wants to learn. A teacher cannot will a child to learn. What she can do is prepare an environment, which invites him to want to learn. An environment that does this is one that is rich in stimuli. This kind of environment will kindle his desire to learn and explore through his senses. A material that evokes a child to use his senses “provokes auto-education” (Montessori 169).
In her book, The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori writes that her materials “are adapted to cause the child to exercise the senses” (168). Montessori taught that children in their early primary years, ages three to six years, were in a state of absorbent mind. In this state they are taking in everything that surrounds them. They are sponges soaking up the world to which they are exposed. During sensitive periods children are apt to be drawn towards using one of their senses over the others. This is why it is crucial for a teacher to prepare an environment rich in sensory experiences. This type of environment can cater to all of the children in it, and to whichever type of sensitive period each one may be going through in their individual way.
Academic work has its own place and time, and it will come eventually. However, a child in these years “is attracted more by stimuli than by reason” (Montessori 144). If the child is rushed past what he is craving it will be hard, if not nearly impossible, to back track at a later time to fill in the gaps. When given the proper environment in which to learn through his senses a child may choose to experience a material repeatedly. Through his senses he takes in any task he is doing, and it is also through his senses that he experiences self-correction.
I had the opportunity to observe in a primary classroom. I watched one of my students from the previous year, who was newly three, take a final knobbed cylinder block from the shelf. She sat on her rug and repeated the exercise from start to finish five times before returning it to the shelf. Each time she began she removed all of the cylinders and placed them on her rug. One by one she picked them up and dipped her finger inside of the holes along the block. It appeared that she was testing the depth of the holes before placing the cylinder she held in her hand in the hold she thought it might fit. When one was too tall or too short she took it out and continued her task of looking for the perfect fit. I am not aware if she had had a lesson on this material or not, but her concentration and method of correcting herself caught my attention. “A man is not what he is because of the teachers he has had, but because of what he has done” (Montessori 172).
Montessori, Maria. The Discovery of the Child. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1967. Print.
Every August brings the beginning of a new school year. It is a fresh start. Children return to the classrooms. Some of them are veterans of the class, having been in the room for one or two years already, and some of them are entering a new environment for the first time. Whether returning or new, each one of these children will be phased into the classroom.
Over my many years as a toddler teacher I have had a few parents ask why we follow this “phasing-in schedule.” It is true that slowly bringing the children into the new school year can cause a bit of a juggling act for parents. Work schedules may need to be altered for the week. Childcare may need to be arranged. In the end, all of that teeter tottering about is worth it. The children are the most important work, and their most important work is starting a new school year off successfully.
In every one of my first emails to our toddler parents, I give them their child’s phasing-in schedule. I also write that this schedule is the key to success. Children need a gentle introduction. They need time to adjust to new things, new places, and new people. It is through this process that they gain trust in everything and everyone around them. Their brains are allowed to assimilate what is new and what is old in a seemingly unrushed manner.
Have you ever noticed how your child is more tired at the beginning of the school year? I have. My son is fifteen years old and still took a nap every day he came home during the first week of school. School is a child’s work. It is serious business for them. When you allow a child to move at their pace you are listening to them and their needs. You are helping them to succeed. So, why do we phase our children in instead of putting them directly in the classrooms for full school days? My answer is, why not?
Toddler 1 Co-Lead Teacher
South Huntsville Campus
A toddler is a fluid being. Between the ages of eighteen to thirty-six months there are many changes that take place in a child. He is moving toward his independence, but the reassurance of his parent, or caregiver is still something he relies on greatly. The toddler’s capabilities and desires to do for himself physically, emotionally, and socially are moving full steam ahead.
Toddlers unconsciously absorb everything in the world around them. Their minds are sponges, and their fingers are the means of soaking information into the sponges. They love to touch and do things to explore what will happen. “What will happen if I put the ball into this hole?” Physically a toddler cannot wait to try out a new activity or test a new-found piece of independence. They are hungry for information about the world around them.
Moving away from a parent or caregiver and into the emotional realm of learning who he is as an individual is how a toddler begins to find his identity. Comfort and encouragement from the adult in his life will still be necessary, but perhaps not as often as it was when he was younger. He begins to find his own voice as a result of his transition toward independence. “No” is often a favorite word in a toddler’s vocabulary. It is important to not always see this word as having a negative connotation. This word is the child forming his own opinions, and as difficult as it may seem, it should be treated gently, but with limits.
When toddlers move into a community with other children their age, they begin to expand their social circle. They are suddenly seeing that other little people their same age exist. When parallel play with the same material takes place, parents and caregivers often urge toddlers to share or not to touch one another’s work. Before offering an intervention, the adult should watch the children who are engaged in the activity. The adult may ask himself, “Is there truly a need for my mediation?” The answer to that question may be surprising. Of course, there is a need for guidance in the toddler community, but the guidance often comes most effectively through the caregivers’ modeling of appropriate behaviors in the classroom.
Helping toddlers smoothly adjust to the transition of moving away from their dependence and toward their independence is a charge given to parents and caregivers. It is a charge which should not be taken lightly. An environment that provides safety, security, and above all the ability to move about freely within limits should be the ultimate goal of the parents and caregivers. Toddlers are going to transition toward independence; how successful they are at obtaining this freedom in a positive manner is up to the adults in their lives.
February is Parent Observation Month here at MSH. Our toddler parents will be observing through the videos the teachers have recorded, while parents at other levels will be observing by sitting in the classrooms. While observing try asking yourself these questions: