Dr. Montessori recognized that toddler aged children absorb great amounts of knowledge from their environment quickly and effortlessly. The Montessori toddler classroom is thoughtfully prepared to foster the growth of this unique and extremely important period of time and is a nurturing and rich learning environment.
For those of you who haven’t seen a Montessori toddler program in action, you are in for a treat. This environment is beautiful and amazing; teachers supporting the child’s abilities, choice of work, development of practical life skills, and satisfaction in growing independence applied at this young age. So many physical and cognitive skills are just coming online and the whole world is opening up to them for their exploration and mastery. To have this happen in a Montessori prepared environment tailored to their size, abilities, and interests is a gift!
“The first kind of linguistic assistance that can be given to the child is to speak clearly and correctly.”
– Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being
Language represents an important piece of the Montessori toddler curriculum. Teachers in the Toddler Room speak to children without “baby talk”; this helps children learn the most effective way to communicate with others. The Toddler Room has a wide array of beautiful and engaging language objects and cards. We use realistic and recognizable objects, as well as some more obscure objects. Maria Montessori discovered that the young child had an amazing ability to remember the names of even the most obscure objects when given a three-period lesson, which is a cornerstone of the Montessori language curriculum for young children.
In addition, our classroom supports the child’s natural love of music, with instruments available for use. Toddler teachers love to sing and lead children in music and movement activities. Our music curriculum is also supported by our beloved music teacher, “Baba” Jay, who visits our classroom once a week.
Maria Montessori, along with Adele Costa-Gnocchi, developed several materials to support the child from birth to age three in the development of fine motor skills. These “psycho sensory motor” materials engage the child and encourage repetition. They are beautifully and specifically designed for the acquisition of skills that will aid the child to become independent, self-sufficient, and confident. The child tends to find these materials intuitive and satisfying to use.
Practical Life activities are such fun to explore with toddlers! Children do not have the same preconceived notions as adults. We may think that washing the dishes is a wearisome task, but the child delights in the tangible cause and effect, the sensory experience, and the pride of taking care of one’s home, classroom, or community. We also find that young children especially love to eat food that they had a hand in preparing. The Toddler Room is equipped with all manner of cleaning and food preparation materials, prepared at the child’s level.
“No one can be free if [they] are not independent, therefore, in order to attain this independence, the active manifestations of personal liberty must be guided from earliest infancy.”
– Maria Montessori
Toddlers enjoy nothing more than the intrinsic satisfaction gained from becoming self-reliant. In the Montessori Toddler Room, we look to support the child’s independence in every aspect of life. Children in our classroom learn to dress themselves (even in Vermont-hardy winter gear), wipe their own nose, use the bathroom independently, and choose independent activities. The toddler seeks this information for themselves; a trained teacher simply helps guide them towards it with the help of the prepared environment.
Maria Montessori considered that the early years of life were integral to the child’s future social contribution. The child who cares for oneself quickly learns their value as a capable, helpful, and kind member of society
Toilet learning is a part of our curriculum in the Toddler Room! Children in the Toddler Room are free to practice wearing underwear and sitting on the potty as soon as they are interested. Children are offered an opportunity to sit on the potty or toilet each time their diaper is changed, as well as a choice of whether to wear a diaper or underwear. Children in the Toddler Room are always changed standing up, which gives them an opportunity to engage in this process of self-care.
Children are encouraged to take ownership of their toilet learning process and become independent as soon as they are ready. Teachers offer gentle reminders and assistance as necessary. Our goal is to allow the child a space where toilet learning can unfold naturally, with no shame or coercion.
In this video, you see a Toddler Program student utilizing fine motor skills and concentration as he is fully absorbed in his work, regardless of external stimuli.