Montessori in the Toddler Classroom

“From the earliest days of life, the youngest among us are accorded with measures of commitment and esteem that echo our deepest understanding of respect.”

Maria Montessori

Our toddler environment (Ages 18 months – 2 ½ years) is specially prepared to provide toddlers many opportunities to explore the natural world, acquire language, and develop socially and independently.   The Montessori Method teaches children to care for their environment, themselves, and one another with love and respect.

Practical Life

One of the tenets of the Montessori philosophy is to inculcate a sense of independence in the child.  In the Montessori Toddler Classroom, various activities from daily life have been designed into independent work activities.  For example, children spoon objects from one bowl to another – and then find that the same skill of spooning is useful during lunch when they must feed themselves yogurt or pudding.  Aside from the skill of spooning, children are challenged to master concentration by not spilling.

Sensorial

Sensorial materials in the Toddler Classroom are designed to hone the child’s senses – to develop keen perception for the world around her.  For example, a popular material is the Color Tablets – brightly colored wooded planes that are used for matching colors.  However, this is not a simple exercise.  The child is taught discipline and concentration by placing the tablets in an organized way in their defined space.

It’s common for children’s manipulatives to show a simplistic view of the world – a world that is red or blue, large or small.  However, the Montessori Method offers an alternative view – materials are designed to show the complexities of the world we live in – reds and blues come in many different hues are relative based on a comparison.

Mathematics

Mathematics is essential for success in the primary classroom and beyond.  Toddlers practice counting, recognition of figures, as well as how to associate quantity with a figure.  For example, four counters are associated with the figure “4″.  One material is the Spindle Boxes, wooden trays divided into 10 separate sections – like drawer compartments – from numbers 0 to 9.  The child then takes wooden rods and places them in each compartment with its corresponding quantity.  A challenge in this exercise is recognizing the figure “0″ and that it means “none” (i.e. no spindles are placed in the “0″ compartment).

Language

Language materials in the Montessori Toddler Classroom range from matching exercises to learning the sounds of letters.  Matching exercises – such as matching 3D objects or matching similar pictures – help a child practice their vocabulary skills as well as practice order, organization, and neatness.    When a child matches one card with another, he must place the card in a specific order, arranged neatly on his rug.  The teacher will then ask questions about the card, such as the type of animal represented on the card, encouraging the child to use his vocabulary and create logical sentences.

Montessori Beyond the Work Period

In the Montessori philosophy, the building blocks of reading and writing is rooted in the sounds of a language.  Merely learning the visual figure of a letter and its name is not enough.  Toddlers are introduced to basic sounds like “a” in apple or “c” in cat.  Using the object boxes, the children match the corresponding first sound of an object with its appropriate sound written on a card.

The ideas of Montessori extend beyond the work period into recess, lunch and socializing.  For example, while playing outside, children are encouraged to ask questions and interact with one another, unleashing their physical and creative energies by playing basketball, running races, building forts, and even “BBQ’ing” some hot dogs.

Lunch time is an opportunity for Toddlers to assert their independence.  Children are never fed and are encouraged to use utensils, cups, and napkins appropriately without spilling any food.  In fact, the skills needed to eat effectively are first taught in the Practical Life area of the Toddler classroom, where children practice pouring grains from one container to another without spilling.

Toddlers often chat about their day, sitting with friends and proudly showing their lunches.  Given our international student body, Toddlers are exposed to cultural diversity early on through food.  They see and smell their peers’ meals – Indian parathas, Mexican carne asada, and Brazilian plantains.

A day in the Montessori Toddler Classroom is highly active and dynamic.  Children are not just trained in language and math at an early age using the Montessori Method – but also in skills that lead to future academic success like concentration, discipline, and control.