In Montessori, there is a strong connection between intellectual activity and physical movement. There is an emphasis on creating opportunities to pursue independent, precise motions. These form the basis for later intellectual endeavors.The Toddler Community is a nurturing environment where very young children experience their first structured contact with other children. This sense of community allows them to interact with toddlers from ages 24 months up to three years. As the young ones observe and learn from their older peers, the older children develop a sense for the caring of others. Toddlers have a strong desire to be independent, but at the same time they need our love, attention and understanding. Our goal is to help children “do it themselves.” The Toddler class provides an opportunity for growth to occur in a safe environment designed for toddlers’ particular needs. Tables and chairs are smaller and teacher/child ratio is lower. The environment offers toddlers a special atmosphere of understanding, respect, and support.
The classroom is a prepared environment, carefully maintained with lessons and activities designed to stimulate the child in a constructive manner. A consistent schedule is maintained throughout the toddlers’ day, and limits within the classroom help the children to respect each other, the environment, and themselves. The teacher observes the children to determine which lessons should be given to each child, based upon the child’s interest and readiness, and helps to enforce the limits of the environment simply, gently, and consistently. Her ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the children develop.
|Daily Schedule||Toddler Program|
|7:30am – 8:450am||Opening & Morning Work Time ( breakfast offered until 8:45am)|
|8:45am – 9:00am||1st Toilet Training Time|
|9:00am – 10:30am||Montessori Work Period Time (Snack offered throughout morning)|
|10:30am – 11:10am||Outside Play Time and 2nd Toilet Training Time|
|11:15pm -12:00pm||Lunch Time|
|12:00pm – 12:30pm||Clean Up and 3rd Toilet Training Time|
|12:30pm – 2:45pm||Nap Time|
|2:45pm – 3:00pm||Clean Up and 4th Toilet Training Time|
|3:00pm – 3:30pm||Circle Time and Afternoon Snack Time|
|3:30pm – 4:15pm||Outside Playtime|
|4:15pm – 5:00pm||Afternoon Work Period Time and 5th Toilet Training Time|
|5:00pm – 6:00pm||Outside Dismissal / Pick Up Time|
In the Toddler Community, children work with materials that help them in their development of particular functions:
From birth, an infant is surrounded by and aware of sensory stimuli. In fact, four of the five senses are fully developed while the child is in utero. The infant refines his senses through use of them, and it is through the senses that the child learns unconsciously through the work of his absorbent mind. The senses thus become the means of information transfer between the outside world and the child’s mind.
At first, the child takes in sensory impressions as a whole, without organization or differentiation in importance. However, as the child grows, he becomes more conscious of the impressions that surround him and is more readily able to organize and classify these sensory stimuli. The child’s tendency to sort and classify his impressions allows for the formation of a framework for his further intellectual development and later abstract thought. Because sensorial refinement is integral to the child’s intelligence, we offer sensorial material within the prepared environment in an effort to help the child refine his senses further.
There are three main purposes for the inclusion of sensorial materials in the Montessori environment. First, the materials help the child in the work of refining his senses. As the child gains more sensory impressions and is able to refine his sense organs to interpret those impressions, his interaction with the world becomes much richer. Secondly, the sensorial materials aid the child in classifying sensory impressions. The sensorial materials are designed to help refine the child’s ability to classify, beginning with broad classifications and continuing to more subtle. Thirdly, the sensorial materials lead the child toward abstract thought. It is necessary for an individual to have concrete experiences with objects in his environment in order to be able to abstract about those same objects.
Montessori stressed that movement in human beings, and only in human beings, is a creative process directed by inner tendencies. As our consciousness increases, we can decide which movements we desire to perfect. Movement and intelligence are indelibly linked. Montessori called intelligence our means for movement, yet our intelligence is formed by our movements. Therefore, movement and intelligence form a cyclical process that allows both to function in our lives.
All of the activities and materials in the Montessori prepared environment require movements directed by the mind. Children are not passive observers of the material but must use movement to interact with it and learn from it. Many of the practical life exercises are designed to help a child perfect his coordination in both large and small movements. It is through practicing with the materials that children gain coordination and equilibrium, which Montessori calls “the key to perfection of movement.” Through continued use of the materials, the child will come to integrate the mind and body, leading to balanced movement and coordination.
In the Toddler Community, children are given many opportunities to perfect large motor skills, such as walking, going up and down stairs, and jumping, and to perfect small motor skills, such as those requiring small movements of the hand and fingers. This work is very important to children at this age, not only because they are still perfecting their balance and coordination in walking, but also because their bodies are still growing at an exponential rate, and such balance and coordination are daily struggles as a result.
Practical life exercises are the actions people take in order to create or maintain the environments in which they live and work and comprise such activities as cleaning, decorating, gardening, cooking, and taking care of the body. While many adults find practical life activities to be tedious, children find them to be greatly interesting and will spend much time perfecting their skills in this area. These exercises fulfill the need of children to participate in the active life of their environment, both at home and at school.
Rather than having as their direct aim the perfect accomplishment of a household task, the exercises of practical life are primarily concerned with fostering coordination and control of movement, concentration, and independence. As children repeat the activities, their concentration and coordination increase, and they become more independent in their ability and desire to do things themselves.
Practical life exercises indirectly promote the gaining of practical skills, an adaptation to the community’s culture, and a responsibility toward the child’s environment.
It is during the toddler years that children come to speak their first words, phrases, and sentences. Some children begin our program already able to speak, while others are still in the pre-verbal stages. Therefore, the language materials and exercises of the Toddler Community take a high priority in the classroom environment.
The Toddler Teacher is much more vocal than the Primary Teacher. Throughout the day, you will hear the Toddler Directress as she converses with children, sings songs with them, asks them questions, reads books, and converses with her Assistant, using natural, not “dumbed-down,” language or baby talk. As the children hear new words and new phrases used in context, they learn vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and syntax, all through the work of their absorbent minds. Conversation is augmented through the use of special language materials, including language objects, classified cards, and books. Songs and poetry are also part of the language curriculum.
Social and Emotional Development
One of the characteristics of the Montessori prepared environment is that it encourages the development of both the child’s intellectual capabilities and his social character. Through interaction with the environment, including the people that inhabit it, the child becomes normalized, able to find solutions to his problems single-handedly and within a group, independent in his abilities and work, respectful of those around him, interested in all aspects of the world that surrounds him, and imbued with a strong sense of community spirit. As much as we strive to help the child achieve physical and intellectual independence and growth, we are also as much, if not more, concerned about the child’s social development, as it is this development that lays the groundwork for the child’s future dealings in the greater society.
In the Toddler Community, social development takes a high priority, as this is sometimes the first experience children have with others of their own age and abilities. Learning how to interact with others in respectful ways comprises much of the unstructured work of the environment. Grace and courtesy lessons, in which the Teacher play-acts various situations and shows proper responses, are given to individuals or small groups during neutral times. Expectations of respectful behavior toward others extend beyond the classroom environment to include others in our school community, our families, our visitors, and our church neighbors. Each child and member of our staff has the responsibility to encourage respectful behavior in others and to end instances of disrespectful behavior.