Montessori for ages 3 to 6

Children are natural learners Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) pioneered a learning model based on the theory that children instinctively know what they need to learn. To further this theory, Montessori also proposed that when children are surrounded by the right hands-on materials, they can educate themselves independently. Each child proceeds at his/her own pace and develops skills for independence and academic knowledge.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” — Maria Montessori

Montessori programs are designed based on specific teaching principles, key learning, and educational materials. In a Montessori environment, children are at the center of the classroom where teachers observe and offer guidance. Classrooms consist of children ages 3 to 6 blended as one so that the younger children can learn from the older, and the older children can develop a sense of leadership.

Teachers create lesson plans for each individual child based on their interests and developmental needs. The learning environment is created to maximize a child’s learning ability through what Montessori calls “sensitive periods.” During these periods, children are more receptive to learning specific skills and in specific ways.

The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature. – Maria Montessori

Montessori materials are sensory-based learning tools that are designed to isolate one skill or concept. Each Montessori material is designed with a visual control of error and is designed to be done in one specific way. Children spend as much time as they want to on a particular activity, called “work.” and may move onto a new choice when they are finished. Activities are designed for a child to work on alone or in very small groups.

Classrooms are prepared environments that are designed to optimize learning. Characteristics include: low open shelves, left to right display of Montessori materials in progression order, defined curriculum areas, child-sized furniture, freedom of movement and freedom of choice.

Montessori principles include respecting each child as a unique individual and understanding that children follow different pathways to learning. The first 6 years are the most critical in a child’s development. It is during these early years that children establish an understanding of themselves and this world. Montessori environments support children in this process by providing them with learning experiences that promote their sense of belonging, confidence and independence.

Practical Life activities help children learn how to care for themselves and their environment. These activities help the child to become more independent, leading to greater self-confidence, and the ability to face new challenges. Practical Life exercises include lessons in grace and courtesy, care for self, and care for the environment. The purpose of these activities is to enhance co-ordination, concentration, independence, and indirectly prepare children for writing and reading. Activities often include cleaning, food preparation, polishing and watering plants.

Sensorial materials were designed by Doctor Maria Montessori to help children express and classify their sensory experiences. The purpose of sensorial activities is to aid in the development of the intellectual senses of the child, which develops the ability to observe and compare with precision. There are sensorial materials that focus on visual perception, tactile impressions, auditory sense, and olfactory and taste perceptions. Activities often include matching and grading materials that isolate the sense of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Mathematics concepts are introduced to the child using concrete sensorial materials. Initial explorations with sensorial materials encourage children to understand basic maths concepts such as learning number recognition, counting and sequencing of numbers. Sensorial work prepares the child for a more formal introduction to mathematics, and the introduction of abstract mathematical concepts such as the decimal system and mathematical operations.

Language materials are designed to enhance vocabulary and explore both written and spoken language. Through language-based activities, such as the sandpaper letters and the moveable alphabet, children learn phonetic sounds and how to compose words phonetically. They progress using concrete materials to compose their own written work, read the work of others, and learn to communicate their unique thoughts and feelings.

Culture activities lead the child to experience music, stories, artwork and items from the child’s community, society and cultural background. The areas of geography, science, zoology and botany are all included in this area. A range of globes, puzzle maps and folders containing pictures from different countries all help to give the child an insight into different cultures. The culture area encourages children to develop their capacity for creation, and develop fine motor skills. Whilst learning to freely express themselves. Through cultural activities, children develop an awareness and appreciation of the world around them.