In the past, many people pictured a child’s mind as a blank slate on which adults, through instruction, could “write out” the content of a good education. Likewise, another common metaphor was that of an empty bowl, waiting to be filled with the contents of the school’s curricula. Dr. Maria Montessori demonstrated that both concepts were inaccurate.
The young child’s mind is more like that of an acute observer or scientist who is eager to learn, explore, try new things, and master new skills. But most importantly, she recognized that the earlier we begin a program of intellectual, physical, sensory, and artistic education, the more dramatic the results, as children demonstrate they can concentrate, absorb, master new ideas, and develop new skills.
This is a time of tremendous brain growth in the areas of language, spatial relationships, music, art, social graces, and so much more. If, during this period, the mind is stimulated by the child’s exposure to a rich environment, the brain will literally develop a much stronger and lasting ability to learn and accomplish.
There are four common types of Infant/ Toddler programs offered…
Parent-Infant Programs: These programs are designed to assist parents of very young children in understanding child development and the Montessori strategies for helping parents to respond to the needs they observe in their infants. These programs give parents an opportunity to observe their children and, through discussion, learn how they can best respond to their babies’ needs.
Montessori Infant-Care Programs: For those who need all-day care, there are a handful of Montessori Infant-Care programs, which normally accept infants aged six weeks to fifteen months of age. With infants, the schedule of the day is dependent of their needs. Each baby has a different schedule for feeding and sleeping.
Toddler Half-Day Programs: These programs will normally run for two or three hours a day. Some will accept toddlers from fifteen months and older, although this lower age range may vary due to local regulates and the school’s decision about how it wishes to organize the program. Generally, the low end of fifteen months is followed because by that age, most children are fairly mobile and have become very independent. Most toddler programs will begin with a somewhat older child of eighteen months, or even as old as twenty-four months. These groups will commonly include children up to thirty-six months of age, at which time the child is normally ready to move into a Montessori three-to-six class.
All-Day Toddler Programs: These programs are quite similar to the half-day toddler class, except that children may remain all day (nine to ten hours). Obviously, in these programs, accommodations must be made for napping, meals, outdoor time and play, art, food preparation, and other activities. Because of the luxury of the extended hours, these programs provide more to children.
Why start in an Infant or Toddler Program?
Research clearly show that the most important period in a human being’s educational and emotional development is not, as originally thought, the years of high school and college but rather the first six years of life.
We know, of course, that the brain is not a muscle; however, like a muscle, the brain develops through active use. This is especially true in years of infancy and early childhood.
“At no other age has the child greater need of intelligent help…” – Dr. Maria Montessori