Children entering a Montessori classroom for the first time benefit from a gentle orientation to their new space. When they first arrive, the beautifully crafted materials are intentionally enticing to the children, and by their very nature, spark curiosity and interest.
Yet, on the first day, the adults in the room share the news that the children must wait for a presentation or lesson before they can begin playing or “working” with the objects that are calling to them. This news can be frustrating to the children, so we must quickly engage them in something they CAN do!
To meet the needs of new children, we offer a variety of temporary, transitional materials that immediately engage the child in the work of the classroom. These materials are usually familiar to the child and are toy-like, such as simple puzzles, bead stringing, work with Velcro, or shape matching activities.
Although the children almost always know how to use these transitional materials, I introduce them in the same way I present traditional Montessori activities in efforts to help the child understand the concept of receiving a lesson or presentation before they engage with a material. I demonstrate how to carry the material carefully, how to use the activity at a table, and how to return the item to the shelf when we have finished.
These lessons are short and simple, and empower the children to explore with the lessons independently. More importantly, they learn from the first day how to place things back in their proper place.
Over time, the children will be introduced to many of the traditional Montessori activities. As children engage deeply with the classroom materials, they lose interest in the transitional materials, letting us know it is time to remove them from the shelves.
What are some other ways you can think of to offer support to children in times of transition?