The Toddler Community
The Toddler Community, the classroom environment for children ages 18-36 months, is filled with all natural classroom materials, most designed by Dr. Maria Montessori, to meet and challenge the stages of development for the young children.
Through scientific observations of young cognitively challenged children, Dr. Maria Montessori, in Italy in the 1870s, developed her theory of child development. From this theory and her observations, she crafted educational materials to meet the developmental needs of the children. Specifically designed to introduce academic concepts in a concrete form before moving to the abstract concepts of mathematics, language, geography, biology, and zoology.
Dr. Maria Montessori called these materials “works”. She championed the child’s journey to adulthood as the work of the child. She said, “The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences "work’”. She continues, “His objective in working is the work itself, and when he has repeated an exercise and brought his own activities to an end, this end is independent of external factors.” The experiences that children are exposed to during their time in Toddler Community support them in their process of constructing their intellect and personality.
Step into the MINE, ME, & US Montessori School Toddler Community…
Enter a bustling room, busy with young children working intently on an array of various activities. Despite the flurry of activity, there is an undeniable organization underlying the seeming chaos. Careful observation reveals that each child, whether working individually or in pairs, is diligently and purposefully working on their chosen work. This revelation leads to seeing the room in a different way.
The beauty of Montessori becomes clear. The organization of the furniture, the meticulous way in which the work on the shelves is placed, each contained in a natural basket or wooden tray, the different areas of the room that promote certain types of activity all promote different types of development.
Several children in the practical life area work on different activities that involve practical skills needed in life. A young girl has a bucket, soap, a sponge, a towel and a water pitcher set up in preparation to scrub a small table. A small boy stands at the floor-to-ceiling window with a spray bottle and squeegee in hand. After each spray and swipe with the squeegee, he methodically wipes the remaining streaks with a clean towel.
A tall girl sits at a table with several friends. They are all pouring, spooning, tonging, various dry objects and liquids from different types of containers on various individual trays. One of the girls spills a ladle of assorted beans, spilling them on the floor. She retrieves the dustpan and hand broom from the designated hook of the wall and sweeps the floor clean of all the beans. After putting the beans in the compost bin and returning the dust pan and broom, she joins her friends and continues perfecting the motions of successfully ladling the small objects. Practical life works allow these children to master the tasks that they see adults do on a daily basis.
This mastery includes exhaustive practice refining minute muscle movements and memorizing and internalizing the steps of each task. Even more significant than acquiring these physical abilities, the children are developing habits and standards of cleanliness and personal responsibility. All of this teaches the children the skills and cultural norms of daily life.
Two boys sit next to each other on individual small rugs in the middle of a large carpeted area of the room. At first glance it appears that both boys have chosen the same work of threading beads on a string. However, looking more closely, the difference in the works becomes apparent. One boy holds a square wooden bead in one hand and a thin rope in his other hand. He struggles to thread the rope through the hole in the bead. After several attempts, he is successful. Beaming, he tries with another bead. With each bead he has less trouble guiding the rope through the hole. The other boy holds a smaller round wooden bead in one hand and a dark shoelace in the other. This boy’s work requires more refined muscle movements and hand-eye coordination. Although he is more comfortable and confident threading his beads despite the smaller size, he still fumbles a few times. When the boys feel a sufficient sense of mastery of the skill at hand, they each put the beads and string back into the baskets that held them and return them to the places next to each other on the shelf.
This is the quiet genius of the Montessori method. Having two works next to each other on a shelf which work on the same skill set (albeit to different degrees of difficulties) allows the children to learn and develop at their own pace. Both boys are not only developing muscular proficiency and hand-eye coordination, but also more importantly developing concentration, determination, and internal gratification.
As a group of children prepare to go outside on a chilly day, they gather their winter clothes from their cubbies. A young girl struggles with her snow pants. After weeks of practicing she is almost able to put them on unassisted. When it appears that she will need help, a teacher gently asks if she needs any help. Without even looking up she firmly states “No, I do it.” The teacher moves back but stays close by. The young girl continues struggling, repeatedly unable to push her foot through the pant leg. Many minutes later she succeeds! Bursting with pride, she yells out “I did it!!” These are the magical words of the Toddler Community. They signify the beginnings of true independence. The concentration and determination it took for her to get her snow pants on helps build her character and strengthen her self-image.
This concentration and determination along with a series of successes, a strong internal reward system, and resilient self-confidence that results from her attempts at independence in dressing herself actually end up endowing her with crucial components of a strong foundation necessary for future success in life.
The infant who is cared for in a loving, serene environment develops trust in the world. With that trust, she begins to hone her gross and fine motor skills. When she moves to the Toddler Community, she is ready to perfect her skills. She increases her concentration and determination and fortifies her self-confidence as she masters the assorted works. Finally graduating to the Children’s House, she is ready to put all these skills and characteristics to use, jumping from the foundation that she built throughout the first three years of her life to embark on her academic journey.
As we all know, infants and young children are quite oral and express this need through mouthing and exploring everything. This can include mouthing other infant’s bodies and may occur between children in other developmental stages. MMUMS teachers remain very aware of the possibility of biting incidents but recognize this as a natural and normal behavior not to be met with any response that would make the child feel shameful.
At MMUMS we manage biting as we would any other need to create a shift in a natural response by first approaching with redirection. If redirection is not effective, we then provide alternatives for your child to satisfy the need to bite. If the alternatives are deemed ineffective as well, we will have the child sit away from other children. It is imperative to understand that this is not a subjection of isolation, but rather an opportunity for space for the child to choose friendliness towards others. This situation requires language such as “Right now you are not being friendly towards other friends, so you may sit away until you are ready to be friendly.” These strategies are developmentally appropriate to discourage this behavior.
Throughout the entire time that strategies are being implemented for biting occurrences, we thoroughly document our observations and actions using a clear and comprehensive written log. As a team, we meet to share wisdom and insight regarding the incidents. In working to avoid creating alarm in parents, they will also be notified throughout the various stages of the process as appropriate to not overburden parents with details.
If the incidences of biting ensues, we will bring in the parents to address alternate plans. During this conversation physical and health related reasons would be addressed in addition to sharing home and school strategies to provide consistency. The continuation of the behavior will require faculty and parents to meet with experts (child development specialists, physicians, etc.). A child will not be asked to seek other educational options until all possibilities have been exhausted and it is CLEAR that an educational alternative that MMUMS is unable to provide is the only solution.
It cannot be emphasized enough that no child should be shamed for exhibiting what is natural behavior. Here at MMUMS we view children and all challenging behavior as an opportunity for growth for the children and ourselves. We are here to serve the needs of the children!
At MMUMS we follow the child as well as adhere to Virginia regulations. Each child must rest on a cot for at least 30 minutes. After a child has rested for the required 30 minutes, they are free to choose work quietly. We do not wake children from sleep at a set time, if they require more rest. MMUMS faculty will work together and with parents to support children in receiving the adequate rest as is necessary for their health and wellbeing.