Article 94: the Montessori method and “The Montessori Toddler”

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When we ask, “How can I get my child to be less shy/concentrate more/be more interested in art/be more active?” and so on, we are not accepting them for who they are. Instead, we can work to show our child we love them just as they are, where they are right now. Really, that is what anyone wants.

Simonе Davies “The Montessori Toddler”

As a child, I had a prehistoric hobby of cutting and gluing, sorting clippings by headings and topics, stacking everything in piles and folders, I’m sure that there is a name for this disorder in psychiatry, or perhaps it was sort of a variation of Aristotle’s desire to organize, regardless ?. Somewhere between those clippings I periodically came across the famous Italian figure Maria Montessori with her ideas about learning which were very close to my love of freedom, and I desperately dreamed of studying in such a school which was not even closely available in Ukraine at the time, but my sad, senseless, hopelessly wasted school days were spent staring aimlessly out the window, at least for that physical freedom. So my humble interest gradually grew into my own sudden motherhood, and now I have a chance, no, not to force the child to self-realize in the place of me, but to help him grow himself, and not to please relatives, society or anyone else.

Montessori toddlers

Montessori method in one sentence is to support the development of one particular individual as it progresses. It means to give a hand when the child doesn’t reach, or provide a paint, when he shows a desire to draw, and so on. It’s a naturalness and non-violence.

“Toddlers are misunderstood humans.” – This is how Simone Daviеs‘ book “The Montessori Toddler” begins. This is a relatively fresh book (2019), which attracted me primarily by its pleasant illustrations – today it’s one of the few ways to make me buy a paper book, so thanks for the aesthetic pleasure go to the illustrator Hiyoko Imai.

Impulsive, uncontrollable, rude, disobedient, restless, hysterical and sneaky! Is everything that bad, and is there no other side of the coin? Toddlers live in a moment, here and now, absorb everything like sponges, can do many things, they are innocent, don’t hold evil, they are authentic and sincere. What seems rude to us is actually a natural course of action and a sign of adequate development: toddlers need to say no, move, explore, they need freedom (albeit some restrictions, order and consistency too), communication, polishing skills, to belong to the tribe (family) and contribute to family activities. They are impulsive because their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decisions, is not yet developed, and, as the author of the book says, ‘we must be their prefrontal cortex’. No, they don’t make fun of us, they just grow ?. And it’s our task is to be polite gardeners, not their’s, because it is us who must take care of the conditions for their growth.

Components of the Montessori method

“They experience peace while they are practicing the activity – and the satisfaction once they complete it.”

Montessori activities:

– eye-hand coordination;

– music and movement;

– practical life;

– art and crafts;

– language.

Principles of activities:

– targeting / sharpening / repeating one skill;

– tasks / activities have a beginning, middle, end and completion;

– materials are as natural as possible, have an order / place (stored in baskets / containers);

– freedom of choice.

Rules of interaction with the child during classes (where play, learning and cohabitation are approximately equal):

– not talking during the demonstration (the child concentrates rather on one thing: the movements and sounds of our mouth or on our movements);

– no interruption of the child’s deep focus;

– avoid quizzing (ask them only when you are sure that the child knows the answer).

“Remember, we want our homes to be ‘yes’ spaces that are safe for our toddlers to explore.”

Creating a Montessori environment means creating a safe and child-friendly space that carefully supports their natural development and is open to exploration. In the end, we have some freedom ?, depending on the circumstances and habits in each family, the main thing is to be consistent in everything, in order not to confuse the child.

Since a child under 6 doesn’t really differentiate reality and fantasy, Montessori’s strategy is to introduce the child to reality, not fantasy, focusing on practical things and skills (read – most of the fairy tales and cartoons).

What can be done differently:

“Humor is particularly useful when we are on the verge of losing our temper. Something as simple as singing a silly song can relieve some tension for us and coax a smile from them.”

– time-out – time-in;

– many words – one word / few words (“put on the shoes right now, how long do I have to wait! same thing every day! ” – “shoes”;

– no choice – a choice of two;

– requests / orders – provision of information / approval / demonstration;

– you can’t / don’t do – you can do / alternative (“don’t throw toys at mom!” – “let’s throw stones into the water?”);

– no – conditional yes (save no for real dangers and serious cases);

– seriousness – humor;

– repetition of the rule – pointing at the note with the rule (notes should not be abused);

– strict tone – treatment with kindness and respect;

– interruption of activity – waiting for the child to complete their work;

– irrational punishments – logical consequences (threw the toy – the toy is taken away);

– naming emotions – trying to guess emotions.

“I have learned from Nonviolent Communication to guess what a child might be feeling rather than simply naming it. (…) Ask them if they are disappointed, make guesses about how they feel (“Are you telling me you’re upset we are leaving the park?”), or describe how they look (“You look really angry right now”).”

Caring for the body

What I really didn’t like about this book is the baby care section. It is objective to talk about the method of natural hygiene and reusable and disposable diapers. But to talk only about diapers is a propaganda, because marketing does its thing, they are everywhere, respectively, how else people can learn about the natural hygiene method if not from books? The part about breastfeeding at night also tensed me, because somehow it smoothly jumped to diluting the milk with water in a bottle, and then there is completely uninformative part about brushing your teeth. In short, it was not worth writing about at all, considering that the book is about Montessori method, and Montessori herself worked during times when modern diapers were just beginning to emerge on the horizon, and what she wanted to see on a child were ordinary underpants. In addition, forget about the era, Montessori had a completely different opinion on this, which is logical in the framework of her philosophy of natural education. In The Secret of Childhood, she talks about muscular memory and the sensitive period in relation to body positions, not to mention the general idea and strategy of observing the child and supporting their development, naturally. I would like diapers and formulas to be taken as a last resort, not to displace natural hygiene method and breastfeeding.

4 phases of child development

Long before this became known to science, Maria Montessori observed that a child’s brain develops before the age of 24 (science says that the prefrontal cortex is formed before the age of 25). She divided this path into 4 phases (planes) of 6 years:

1️⃣ 0-6 years: (we are planting the seeds)
▪️ physical and biological independence
▪️ absorbent mind
▪️ concrete understanding of the world
▪️ sensorial learner
▪️ children work in parallel with a small amounts of collaboration
▪️ rapid growth and change

2️⃣ 6-12 years: (the stem is growing tall and strong)
▪️ mental independence
▪️ developing moral sense (right and wrong) and exploring how things work and relate
▪ moves from concrete to abstract learning
▪️ mode of learning through imagination
▪️ collaborates in small groups
▪️ less growth, more stable period

3️⃣ 12-18 years: (leaves and blossoms unfurl, nearing maturity)
▪️ social independence
▪️ developing social policy (how they would change the world)
▪️ sharing ideas and ideals with others
▪️ enormoys physical and psychological changes (similarities to the first plane)

4️⃣ 18-24 years: (the plant is fully grown)
▪️ spiritual and moral independence
▪️ gives back to society
▪️ reasoning, logical mind
▪️ more stable period (similarities to the second plane).

Do you see what I see?) Endless opportunities to work with a child! We can do a lot, and our number one tool is observation, and our number two tool is balance. Do you see what I see?) Endless work on yourself!

In the end, I will say that the book is quite repetitive, and some things are completely redundant, means it could have been twice more thin; sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the opinion of the author and Montessori herself, but in general the book is suitable for getting acquainted with the method and adapting your own home to the principles of Montessori.

What else

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