All the activities connected with looking after yourself and your surroundings, such as getting dressed, preparing food, laying the table, wiping the floor, clearing dishes, doing the dusting, etc., are activities belonging to what Dr. Montessori called ‘Practical Life,’ and are precisely the tasks that adults like least. But between the ages of one and four years, children love these jobs and are delighted to be called on to participate in them.
-Dr. Silvana Montanaro, MD, and Montessori Teacher Trainer
The first three years of a child’s life is a period of continuous growth and development. The thoughtfully prepared Montessori Toddler environment allows the young child to experience and explore an environment designed to meet their specific development needs. As the child maneuvers the environment and engages in purposeful work, he realizes his potential. Through opportunities to work in the development of language, art, music, sensorial and practical life, the toddler gains independence, confidence, control of movement, and begins to realize patterns of order and sequencing. Real life, focused activities and experiences assist the toddler in becoming grounded in reality.
The Toddler Community consists of a maximum of 12 children with one Toddler trained Montessori Guide and a qualified assistant, maintaining a ratio of 1:6. The adults in the environment understand, respect and appreciate the simplicity, yet significance, of the toddler’s needs. They celebrate the child’s joy and excitement in performing various tasks, independently. It is essential that each child be recognized for their individuality.
The environment is designed for the toddler that is walking independently. The room is intimate, inviting, and flexible with regard to planned activities so that the needs of the children are adhered to at all times. The daily program consists of individual work time, group time for reading, dancing, and socializing, outdoor time, and eating lunch and/or snack. Individual work time involves activities that include the use of language enrichment materials, eye-hand coordination materials, and practical life materials that allow the children to engage in exercises in care of oneself, others and the environment.
Toileting is an important part of the daily classroom routine. By the time a child is walking, the body has physically developed the muscles needed to control bodily functions-all they need is consistent practice. Children in the Toddler Community wear cloth underwear to facilitate easy use of the bathroom. Bathroom routines are developed (scheduled visits are established-upon arrival, before snack, before and after rest time, before leaving. etc.) and the children learn to use the toilet and sink. As the child becomes accustomed to the daily routine they begin to recognize their body’s needs and attend to the toileting process more independently.
The Toddler Community is designed to be a half day program. However, MMEC offers a full-day option for families that require care in the afternoon. The full-day program consists of lunch time (children participate in arranging the lunch area and eat together), rest time, classroom time, more outdoor time and group activities.
The Montessori Toddler Community is an enriched, peaceful environment. The toddler is trying to, and needs to, make sense of the world to create order. The environment and adults protect and nurture the child in this precious formative period of life.