What is Montessori?
The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method is an educational approach developed by Dr.Maria Montessori in Italy in the early 20th century. It is characterized by providing a prepared environment where each object exists to help the development of the child. The prepared environment provides the child opportunities to commit to interesting work which he/she chooses freely. Children work with concrete materials that were scientifically designed, which provide them the keys to explore our world and develop basic cognitive abilities. The materials are designed to allow the child to recognize the error by him/herself and become responsible for his/her own learning. The adult is an observer and a guide - helps and encourages the child. This allows children to act, want and think by themselves, and helps them grow up to become a confident disciplined adult.
The Montessori Environment
The Montessori environment is a spacious, open, tidy, beautiful, simple, real place, where each object exists for a reason in order to help in the development of the child. The environment is proportional to children's height and size. It has low shelves and tables and chairs of different sizes. Materials, toys and equipment are exposed on the shelves for easy independent access, allowing great freedom of movement. Have a look at our Teddy Bookshelf which puts on display your child’s favourite books. Each child uses his chosen material/activity by taking it from the shelf and putting it back in its place when finished. This is a routine instilled from early on which promotes order and organization. Which parent doesn’t dream of having a clear, organized house! A clutter-free environment promotes the child’s independence in the exploring and learning process. Freedom and self-discipline makes it possible for each child to find activities/toys that respond to their interests and developmental needs.
The Child and the Adult in the Montessori Approach
Dr.Montessori believed that the adult should "follow the child", recognizing the developmental needs and characteristics of each age and providing the appropriate materials/activities to respond to these needs. The adult should provide a choice of appropriate materials/activities, however it is the child who decides what material/activity he/she would like to use. This free-choice brings out long periods of concentration that should not be interrupted. The adult should allow the child to act, want and think for him/herself which helps him/her to develop confidence and inner discipline. Children's development emerges as a need to adapt to his/her environment: the child needs to give a meaning to the world that surrounds him/her, and he/she constructs him/herself in relation to this world. The adult should observe from a distance and intervene only when strictly needed. As a parent it can be wise not to put out all the toys/activities at one go and instead take out an average of six toys/activities and implement a daily roster of activities/toys that are made available to your child. This allows your child to have the free-choice of toy/activity but within a range of toys/activities that are appropriate for their development.
The Montessori Materials
Montessori materials are scientifically designed in an experimental context within the classroom, paying special attention to children's interests based on the developmental stage they are going through and with the belief that manipulating concrete objects helps the development of knowledge and abstract thinking. These materials allow children to investigate and explore in a personal and independent way. They make repetition possible which in turn promotes concentration. They have the quality of "isolating the difficulties", which means each one of these materials introduces only one new concept, isolating it and leaving the other concepts without modification. These materials have a "control of error": the material itself will show the child if he/she used it correctly. This way, children know that errors are part of the learning process. Some examples of self-correcting activities are the Shape Sorting Cube, Montessori Shape Stacking 4-1 Set, Montessori Shape Twister & See and Spell. They teach children to establish a positive attitude towards them, making children responsible for their own learning and helping them to develop self-confidence.