Toddler Program (Ages 18 months to 3 years)
Man himself must become the center of education and we must never forget that man does not develop only at the university, but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest intensity during the first three years of his life. To this period, more than to any other, it is imperative to give active care.” – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
The Toddler Program, for children 18 months to 3 years, takes advantage of the toddler’s natural drive to act independently. In a small group of 12 children, the toddlers can learn from and help each other under the careful guidance of a trained teacher and assistant. The environment, as in all Montessori classes, is carefully prepared for these children; all furnishings and materials meet the needs of the young child. Art is hung at child level on the walls and shelves make materials easy to reach. Activities in the classroom foster independence and support speech, language and motor development. In an environment that offers such appropriately sized challenges, children are expected to take on greater responsibility for taking care of themselves and others.
Characteristics of a Toddler Child
From birth to three the child learns through the unconscious mind. His innate focus is on movement, language and the development of the senses. He is a sensorial explorer. Nothing is processed through the intellect that does not come through the senses He is an unconscious learner. This is why children of this age want to touch everything. This is how he develops a relationship to the environment. Primarily his unconscious work is the construction of self.
This is a time that the child is absorbed in the control and refinement of movement and with the development of language. The environment should be designed to meet his needs for love, order and as much independence as he can handle at any given time.
The Toddler environment is divided into several areas, including gross motor movement, fine motor development, and language skills. The exercises of practical life include care of the environment (both indoor and outdoor), care of self, and refinement of grace and courtesy. All activities are designed to develop coordination and independence, and encourage contributing to the group, which leads to increased self-esteem.
Both Dr. Montessori’s observations and today’s brain imaging show that the young child’s brain has enormous potential and promise. Within their first six years, children develop from having no verbal language to fluency in their native language. The toddler environment supports this tremendous growth through the use of language nomenclature cards, books and spoken vocabulary enrichment exercises.
The toddler is given opportunities to explore their independence and connection to the world using their extraordinary capacity for learning.
What comes next
Children’s developmental characteristics change as they come to the end of their stay in the Toddler classroom. They are now ready to continue their exploration in the Primary Program (ages 3-6) that supports their natural tendency and enthusiasm for larger concepts and abstract thinking.