But how do we nurture this growth during this important period?
When is the brain developing faster than at any other time of life?
Given a loving, nurturing environment, toddlers learn faster than at any other time in life. Maria Montessori referred to this as the “unconscious absorbent mind.” By this, she meant that they not only have the ability to absorb knowledge but also the capability to teach themselves.
Practical life exercises are introduced early, providing opportunities for children to care for themselves and their environment. Lessons of grace and courtesy are practiced daily to help toddlers learn to share things and be considerate of others.
Each curriculum area of the Montessori classroom emphasizes specific skills, but there is dynamic interplay among the areas, enhancing children’s natural learning process.
Practical Life activities form the cornerstone of the Montessori classroom and prepare the child for all other areas. The emphasis is on process rather than on product. Through the repetition of Practical Life activities, children develop and refine the basic skills that will serve them all their lives. The Toddler classroom offers the early Practical Life exercises, such as Pouring, Opening and Closing, Spooning, Bead Stringing, Polishing and Large Water Activities. These activities are aimed at enhancing the child’s development of fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, balance, sense of order, concentration and independence.
Around the age of two, children’s speech development experiences an explosion of words, soon followed by sentences. The Language materials in the Toddler classroom encourage the refinement and enrichment of language as the first steps on the road to writing and finally reading. Early Language materials and oral exercises like storytelling and reading aloud support the toddler’s need to be immersed in the language. Activities include books, puzzles, naming objects like fruits, vegetables and animals, and beginning sound games.
Sensorial activities assist Toddlers in the great task of organizing, integrating and learning about their sensory input. We all learn through our senses, and this is especially true of very young children who are at the beginning of taking in and understanding the world around them. Sensorial materials include Knobbed Cylinders for practice with dimension, Color Paddles, tactile exercises like Rough and Smooth, Musical Equipment, Sorting, and Shapes.
To help prepare the mathematical mind, Toddlers are exposed to the world of numbers through counting games and concrete materials. These exercises encourage the development of important pre-math skills such as order, sequence, visual discrimination, sorting, one-to-one correspondence, and directionality. Toddler Math activities include stacking and nesting cubes, number blocks and puzzles, and sorting and counting materials.