Posts Categorized: Toddler
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
Practical life is the heart of any Montessori Toddler Classroom and plays a major role in the development of children for years to come. Practical life offers several major benefits to the child: the acquisition of a practical skill, the development of focused attention, and preparation for writing and reading.
The acquisition of a practical skillOver the course of the two-year cycle in the toddler classroom, your child will have the opportunity to develop his/her skills in increasingly complex fine motor activities, care of self activities, care of the environment activities, and water activities.As a part of the care of self curriculum, your child will be learning to dress him/herself, hang his/her own coat up on a hook, as well as use velcro, buttons, zippers, and snaps. Threading beads and lacing work offers preparation for more complex dressing skills they will work on in the primary classroom (such as lacing and tying shoes).The care of the environment and fine motor skills curriculum is vast. Your children will have the opportunity to learn opening and closing various containers, spooning items from one bowl to another, dry pouring, pouring of water, transferring items by hand and with tongs, dusting, hammering, carrying a chair, folding a variety of cloths with a variety of folds, washing cloths by hand, washing dishes by hand, washing a table, sweeping, using a dust pan & brush, mopping, setting a table, and many more!
It is important to note that these are the opportunities every child will have in the toddler classroom, but every child will not master every skill. Because the children have the freedom to develop themselves, there will be a great variety of skill acquisition. However, there are only good choices of activity in the classroom, so you need not fear that your child will spend hours idle. All work is important work, and we get to see how each child uniquely unfolds!
The development of focused attention
According to the material originally designed by Dr. Montessori, the child will first develop focus in the practical life areas. Toddlers, as well as 3 and 4 year olds, naturally gravitate to these areas. Dr. Montessori noted this and developed the curriculum so that the activities start simple and slowly increase in difficulty, with specific areas of focus. The child will learn to concentrate well by spending much time in practical life. With this foundation in toddlerhood and up to around 4 (or sometimes 5), he or she will be ready to spend focused time in other ares of the classroom, becoming much more competent in these more abstract areas when they are developmentally ready for them.
New life brings us hope and joy. As parents we have so many dreams for the new addition to our family. Dr. Maria Montessori has talked about the newborn child and how a newborn should be treated by the adult to facilitate her psychic and physical development. Following are the suggestions taken from Secret of Childhood by Dr. Montessori.
At birth the child enters an alien environment. This period should be carefully studied. She must be handled and taken care of properly. Child initial care should come from the mother. She should not be clothed but put under mother’s warmth for natural source of heat. There should be sufficient awareness of what is required by the newborn child. Newborns should not only be shielded from harm, but measures should also be taken for her psychic adjustments. The child’s room should be calm and quiet, shielded from outside noise. There is no need for any luxury for the child but simple measures should be taken for her psychic growth.
Needs of a newborn child are different from the adults, thus special care must be taken for the newborn. The newborn should not be looked as a sick (which we normally feel about an adult), but one who is trying adjust psychologically and physically to the surroundings.
The newborn must be handled with care so that she does not feel any anxiety and fear. It should be gentle. The care to the child should be guided by the need of her assistance, not by the fact whether the child is aware about its surroundings and people. For example, the newborn should be handled with care without ever justifying a rough handling by justifying that she doesn’t really feel or is aware about what is happening.
“The child is both a hope and promise for mankind.” – Dr. Montessori.
…I believe I was created with a unique potential to love. My work and play are the development and expression of my love towards myself, others, and my environment. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe I am an amazing soul with a body and a mind. My favorite experiences and relationships captivate all of me. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe I am an important part of an incredible world. Becoming myself is my life. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe who I’ve been, who I am, and who I will be…is beautiful!
…I’d like a school that respects what I believe.
To me, this quote brings out two main thoughts regarding work and belonging. First, work is fundamental to the prepared environment in Montessori. Children often see Montessori work as a game, something fun and challenging that engages their attention to detail. Children are allowed to express themselves through their work because they are allowed the time and space to make their own conclusions. The beauty surrounding a child’s work is the whole process, from being prepared by the directress to the execution of work by the curious child.
Secondly, each child belongs. Each child has an individual soul, a beautiful experience unique from all others. If each child feels the way the above poem suggests, we as a Montessori community have achieved our goal: instilling character, curiosity, and purpose into each member.
What we believe about children is foundational in our Montessori experience. Not everyone will agree at all times about the most important aspects of Montessori, but we should all acknowledge that a child has a set of established beliefs that has an impact on the way we educate.
The Montessori School of Huntsville, Hampton Cove
A changing environment conducive for learning is implemented in our classroom.
Seating: Seating is arranged in such a way to reduce stress level. Seating locations, materials, location of bathroom etc. can influence the learning outcome. Research shows that well designed chairs can reduce health and cognitive problems. Row seating arrangements are more effective than group seating because it avoids excessive peer-to-peer chatting and waste of time and energy. Some suggestions: provide unattached chairs and movable desks, positioning students in different ways, allow students to stand occasionally and eliminating incorrect posture, etc.
Temperature: It has been shown in research that reading comprehension declines if room temperatures become too warm (above 74 degrees Fahrenheit). Classrooms kept between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit are best suited for effective learning.
Building design controlling lighting: Our classroom utilizes natural lighting as much as possible. Sources of glare have a negative impact on learning. Reflected sunlight enhances the mood of the students. It has been found in research that students in brightly-lit classrooms perform better compared to students in dimly-lit classrooms. The following principles should be followed: maintain a constant and adequate level of bright lighting in the classroom, maximize exposure to daylight and minimize the exposure to darkened classrooms, hold class outside in the nature occasionally, etc.
Noise: Classrooms should be properly designed to reduce noise from echo effect, reverberations and other acoustical problems. Noise levels should not exceed 45 decibels in the daytime and 35 decibels at night. Some suggestions: identify the noise source and take official actions if the noise is a serious problem, use appropriate use of soothing or white-noise or music, etc.
– Inspired by Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen.