The goal of early childhood…
by Maria Ingram, Toddler I Parent
Maria Montessori said “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” When I read this it made me think about some students I taught in high school who were completely lacking in curiosity. When I asked students why they thought something happened or was a certain way, I got “It’s not in the book.” When I asked, “What do YOU think?” They seemed almost startled I wanted their opinion. How do kids reach that point? How does one child get from the “why” stage we are familiar with to a glazed over blank stare when asked for their opinion?
They get there because they are given facts to memorize, told what the right answer is, and are never asked their opinions or allowed to explore. If we let them use their natural curiosity, and just get out of their way, kids will be curious and they will want to learn.
A toddler wants to know everything. What something is, how it works, why it Is that way. Once they learn these things they are so excited about the discovery, and want to make sure you know about it too. If we allow them to move at their own pace rather than imposing our hurried pace on them, they will explore their environment and everything in it. They won’t be able to stop themselves.
We may tell a child not to touch something, but we need to think about why we are saying that. Will it kill them, hurt them? Or is the “no touching that” for our own convenience? If they open and close the drawer in the bathroom 12 times while you’re trying to brush your teeth, the question is, why? Maybe they want to see how the sliding mechanism on the side of the drawer works. If we let them slow down and figure it out, not only will they be happier and able to move on with their lives, we will get to brush our teeth in peace. Because, as well all know, toddlers don’t just let things go when they want an answer.
Too often I find myself trying to hurry, but a toddler won’t allow it. They are too busy taking their time. Allowing for extra time helps them and me. Having a house that’s free or limited in its “untouchable” items or restricted spaces makes every space in their world a place where they can learn and be curious. Montessori’s quote isn’t just an inspirational one for school, it’s an inspirational one for life.