Montessori is designed to give a child all the tools she or he needs in life in order to succeed by him or herself. It encourages confidence, independence and curiosity through self-directed games and collaborative play. Montessori children make creative choices in order to complete these games and activities.
They play in groups and individually with games designed for them to discover and explore the world and to develop to their maximum potential.
This makes Montessori activities ideal for children from 0 – 6 years old. Young children learn whilst playing with and manipulating objects in their surroundings. Montessori games make excellent use of this fact. They are designed to be self-correcting so that while a child plays with a game they will unconsciously learn something at the same time.
Montessori teachers, also known as guides, help to stimulate the child’s enthusiasm. They guide them through these games without interfering so that the child can discover the world for him or herself.
For more information please see our Science Behind Montessori article.
Maria Montessori’s Timeline
Movement and Learning
Like Jean Piaget, a very influential and important child psychologist, Maria Montessori believed that during infancy children’s mental development is reliant on movement or action. She believed that encouraging infants to move and interact with the world around them would improve their mental development. More traditional educational models do not allow for a great deal of movement, as much of the educating is done by a teacher in front of a large group of students who need to concentrate on the teacher and normally this requires them to be still. Studies of movement during the school day show that children in Montessori preschools spend more time moving around that those in traditional preschools5.
Studies suggest that encouraging movement from a very young age can be beneficial. Babies who are able to interact with objects from an early age and are encouraged to grasp or use tools, such as Velcro mittens to bring objects closer to them, are capable of attending to objects in a wider space around them, compared to infants who are not given this opportunity. Even very young (3 month old) infants who were encouraged to interact with their environment were more likely to recognise other people’s actions as having a purpose6. This finding is supported by studies of the brain that have found the existence of mirror neurons in the premotor cortex. These neurons activate when a subject completes a particular action and when the subject watches the same action being completed7. The aforementioned study using Velcro mittens suggests that babies tend to develop the ability to complete a goal directed action (such as reaching and grasping an object) at about the same time that they are able to see this action as being goal directed when watching another person. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that encouraging babies and children to interact with their environment will help them to learn at a faster rate than if they were just observing.