The benefits of Montessori
Dr Maria Montessori placed great importance on the mental development in the early years of childhood.
When we are born, physically, our body only needs to be nourished to grow. However, the mind has to not only grow, but has to be constructed. It needs an environment that is conducive to mentally develop.
Montessori education encompasses every area of life. The child must firstly become independent, able to look after themselves. We do this through practical life exercises, which are then followed by the cultural, social and moral aspects of life.
Dr Montessori refers to the mind as the “Absorbent Mind,” it can learn so much without effort or fatigue. Dr Montessori saw the mind of the child as being like a camera, they observe everything in the environment, then something happens in the dark room of the unconscious, and the perfect record is fixed forever. We as adults must help and not hinder this development. Dr Montessori believed that movement, manipulation and the isolated training of each sense develops the capacity for thought, and all her methods and materials exemplify this.
When referring to babies of 0-5 months, their environment is broken up into two parts, physical and psychological. The physical environment has four areas, feeding, sleeping, physical care and movement. Black and white, dark and light are initial contrasts that infants are attracted to. They love to watch a mobile of these tones moving in a breeze.
At around 6-8 weeks you can start to introduce colour. At 10-12 weeks mobiles that highlight more movement and that are varied in shapes and colours can be introduced. At around 3 months babies are reaching and using their hands as an extension of their arm. As the child develops we have activities that aid in their eye-hand co-ordination, placing objects in and out of closely fitting containers.
When a child is able to sit in a chair or stand at a shelf we can offer a new range of challenges. These challenges not only develop their eye-hand co-ordination, but also develop their visual discrimination and control of movement. After we present an activity to a child, we will say, “your turn.” If the child makes a mistake we never comment, we would just say, “I’ll have another turn,” or, “now it’s my turn again,” and will then present it correctly so they may see it again.
In Montessori education we are always careful not to criticise, as the child might lose interest in the activity or feel a sense of incapability. In this age group the children are learning to develop their pincer grip, they start with the palmer grasp and with different activities they develop their fine motor skills to be able to use a pincer grip. The children also learn at 5-12 months the cognitive development of object permanence, the knowledge that an object exists even when it is out of sight. These are also described as mathematical concepts. We use an activity to help with this called the Box with Automatically Returning Balls; this has varying levels of equipment for the children to learn with. Gross Motor development is of course paramount in a child’s early years, the vital importance of unrestricted movement cannot be over emphasised. A mirror that is large enough for the baby to see his body in, is an essential tool for the body development scheme and image.
As the children get older the materials need to correspond to their developmental needs. The materials need to have an intelligent purpose, they should be beautiful and incorporate different textures and substances such as wood, metal, glass and natural fibres. The Montessori classroom consists of different sections of learning. They are sensorial, language, mathematics, culture and science. There are many different activities that the children work on to help them learn and understand. The Montessori materials are designed for the children to be able to completely understand how to achieve a positive outcome. There are activities that prepare the child for writing and to gain control of the pencil, there are many extensions of this activity. The next is the sandpaper letters, these are introduced by a three period lesson. The child learns the sound and shape of the letters of the alphabet and will gain a muscular memory of the shape of the letters as a prelude to writing. There are many amazing activities for the children to learn language, they are beautiful which insures the children will love to work with them. They have an insatiable desire to learn to read.
When learning mathematics we have a number rods activity where the children learn to count to ten and understand the value of each number. Next is the tactile numbers where they learn the numbers by feel. The number rods and numerals are then the next step, they associate numerals 1-10 with actual quantities. We have two aesthetically beautiful activities called the spindle box and the golden beads. These materials are so aesthetically and texturally interesting that the children love to hold and work with them, making learning enjoyable and exciting.
As you can see Montessori is truly an amazing way to learn. Children are in a calm environment and become very involved in their activities and are intrinsically rewarded. This kind of learning aids children intellectually, physically and in their everyday life. Montessori helps children to always strive to be independent and will give them the best start to life.
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0409 649 321 and we can assist.
- Rebecca Grugan