The Toddler Environment
Maria Montessori believed that “The development of the child during the first three years after birth is unequaled in intensity and importance by any period that precedes or follows in the whole life of the child.” With this belief in mind, it seems only natural to want to provide the youngest of children with an environment that will help them develop to their fullest potential. The Montessori Toddler Classroom provides such an environment, and so much more.
A Montessori Toddler Classroom is unique in that it is specifically prepared for the children that it serves, not the adults in the environment. The focus of the classroom should be on the children. After all, they are the reason that the toddler classroom even exists.
When you walk into a Montessori Toddler Classroom, you can almost immediately sense a difference from other classroom environments that you have visited. There is a sense of calmness in the classroom, and the children are content and happy. The furnishings are child-sized to allow the children to be as independent as possible. The materials are beautiful, because the children deserve to have the loveliest environment that the teacher can create. The environment is prepared in a way so that it follows the children, and they are able to move freely, and to make their own choices in the selection of activities. The environment is prepared to facilitate the development of independence.
The activities that are part of a Montessori Toddler Classroom have tremendous value for the development of children. The environment may seem like it is filled with toys that are there for no other reason than to entertain the children. However, because it is a Montessori classroom, there is a developmental purpose behind each material. In the toddler classroom, many of the activities focus on preparing the children for a more independent life.
The Montessori Philosophy fosters the children’s developmental growth in both the emotional and cognitive domains. The activities in a toddler classroom focus primarily on the following areas of development:
Practical Life – The activities in this area can be divided into four categories: Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, Food Preparation and Grace and Courtesy. The aim of the Practical Life activities is to aid in the development of order, concentration, coordination and independence. The skills that are acquired in this area will stay with the children for a lifetime, and provide them with a foundation for further learning and development.
Movement – Each of the activities in this area is designed to aid in the development of gross and/or fine motor skills. Montessori discovered that movement is imperative for learning, and that children who are not allowed to move are not able to make as many neurological connections. Therefore, the toddler classroom is arranged so that movement can easily take place.
Sensorial – These activities aid in the refinement of the senses. In a toddler environment, there are activities that develop visual and auditory discrimination, and refine the senses of touch, smell and taste. The materials in this area are very concrete so that the children can “see with their hands”. Young children learn from their senses, which means that they must be able to handle and manipulate the materials.
Language – These activities aid in the development of vocabulary and verbal communications. From a very early age, children are experiencing language and how it works. Therefore, it is important that they be in an environment in which they hear and experience correct language and grammar. Adults can foster language development by giving children the words that they need, exposing them to new vocabulary, naming objects, being consistent with the names of objects, and encouraging the children to use words instead of pointing and grunting.
In addition to fostering these areas of development, the Montessori Toddler Classroom conveys the feeling that it exists only for the children that it serves. The environment makes the children feel that they belong. It teaches them how to have a sense of purpose and responsibility in their lives. Unlike an adult who admires the environment, children actually absorb their environment.
The Montessori Toddler Classroom is prepared so that children can develop to their fullest potential.