One of Montessori education’s basic principle is that of the “prepared environment” the calm, ordered, nourishing space designed to meet the developmental needs of the child.

It is now confirmed through research that the first three years of life have the greatest influence on the entire life of an individual. Maria Montessori observed that the child moves to adulthood through a series of developmental periods which she called the Planes of Development. Each period is different but is built on the foundation of the previous plane with the Montessori environment and approach tailored to meet the child's needs at each stage.

There are four planes of development. In the first plane from birth to age six, the child is in the plane of the 'absorbent mind', absorbing all aspects of their environment, language and culture. Montessori compared the mind to a sponge because the young child absorbs everything in its surroundings. Using his senses the toddler creates himself by absorbing his environment.

Montessori education provides support in all areas of development, physical, social, emotional as well as cognitive and intellectual development. This whole child approach assures that an individual’s entire development is attended to.

Montessori referred to the child’s play as her “work” to offer respect for the fact that a child’s play is as important to him as our adult work is to us. Work purposeful and full of process involving the mind and the body instills a sense of order, coordination, concentration and independence.

The toddler environment is filled with realistic models of objects for naming and describing as this reinforces language development. Materials that are made to manipulate, provide opportunities for fine motor development. Items used for everyday care of the environment add a valuable opportunity for the toddler, washing windows, sponging tables, sweeping crumbs all provide large motor activity and a chance to learn about the respect and care we contribute to our world.

A Montessori toddler environment in a home or school setting has toddler sized shelving and furniture with areas that are orderly and uncluttered. Baskets and trays display the “work” on low shelves easily accessed and restored to the orderly arrangement. The work of the young toddler is that of “dumping” they cruise the environment upturning baskets and containers at this first stage of exploration. Eventually through observing the adult models and the model of the older children in the environment they learn to independently restore order to the environment.

The outside environment is just as important as the indoor space, nature calls the toddler to explore, to master the garden path, to accept every challenge the different terrains offer. Purposeful, delightful activity is the desire of every individual from birth through adulthood. The foundation for this lifelong pursuit is set in the first years of life.

 

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