We all want to give our children the best start in life—which is why it’s worthwhile to explore the many benefits of an early childhood Montessori education. With a unique philosophy, highly skilled teachers, and beautiful classrooms, Montessori schools deliver a superior learning experience. If you’ve been wondering why Montessori education is so special, read on to find out.
Caring and Child-Based
While many early childhood programs claim to be child-centered, Montessori schools focus on the needs of each individual child, tailoring the approach to his or her developmental stage. The teacher doesn’t dictate the course of each day; instead he or she finds out which activities each child is interested in, and then provides the necessary materials and guidance for exploration. Foremost and always, a child’s innate curiosity is nurtured and respected.
In this way, the teacher is a guide, the children, leaders. Instruction time is not a one-subject-fits-all proposition. Whether your preschooler is interested in a math activity or crafts, a Montessori education guarantees his day-to-day interests will be gratified.
Structured for Socialization
An early childhood Montessori education also superior when it comes to promoting children’s social skills. Unlike other schools, the classrooms feature mixed-age groups, in which 3-, 4-, and 5-year olds play and learn side by side. The advantages of this unique classroom structure are numerous: The older children learn empathy and leadership skills, while the younger children have a sense of security and ever-present role models.
As the children play together, gathered around communal areas such as an outdoor sandbox or an indoor water-play station, they learn the building blocks of socialization, including cooperation and compromise. Their language skills, too, are enhanced by these interactions. Yet unlike at many other schools, children are not forced to play in groups or restricted to just one area of the classroom during play. In this way, they are allowed to socialize at their own pace.
“Real Feel” Classrooms
Walk into most early-childhood classrooms and you’ll be greeted by a sea of plastic, from the furniture to the toys. But not at an early childhood Montessori school: Here, the furniture is made out of natural material. Even the dramatic play area features real fruits instead of plastic ones. At snack or meal times, real utensils are used. The reason? The school aims to give children the skills they need to be successful in real life, and also aims to create a seamless home-to-school transition, so children are provided with true-to-life materials whenever possible.
A side benefit of this philosophy is the extraordinarily beautiful environment it creates. Real plants and real drapes grace the classrooms, and tables are adorned with real placemats and sometimes flowers as well. Furniture is child-sized. Since children are encouraged to explore, an early childhood Montessori classroom also is never cluttered. Instead it is a spacious and safe setting.
Of course, parents want their young children to learn courtesy as they grow. An early Montessori childhood classroom is the ideal environment for acquiring proper manners. Instead of approaching common courtesies as a chore, Montessori teachers integrate them seamlessly into each day, modeling the behvariors by saying “please,” “thank you,” and “no thank you” to the children. Through constant repetition, the children incorporate these phrases into their own repertoire.
Structured playtimes, too, give children ample opportunities to practice their manners. In the gym, for instance, children will interact with one another through games like jump rope, kickball, and bean-bag toss. In the cooking area of the classroom, children can use their “please” and “thank yous” as they make a batch of play clay. At the same time they are learning math and science, and being creative, they are refining their social finesse.
Just as children in an early childhood Montessori classroom are given control over their curiosity, they are encouraged to learn self-control as well. If they do something that affects another child negatively, they are urged to think about the consequences of their actions. (“How do you think Susie felt when you grabbed the ball away from her?”)
Early childhood Montessori teachers aim to give each child the tools he or she needs for self-soothing and regulation. A very young child who bites, for example, might be shadowed and given toys safe for teething. Transitions from one activity to the next—say, play to snacktime—are announced repeatedly in advance, giving children the chance to finish what they are doing, so they do not feel interrupted. In this way, children are given control over their own bodies and mental states—something that helps raise their self esteem.
Schooled for Success
In all, an early childhood Montessori education sets up young students for success in the upper grades and in life itself. It’s about giving children the skills they need to excel as older students, and ultimately as grown-ups. Learning things through trial and error ensures the lessons stick—children are allowed to play with dirt and sand; to get messy; to figure things out for themselves. The end result is that children grow up to be creative self-starters, instilled with a lifelong love of learning.
What kind of children do best in an early childhood Montessori classroom? The answer is simple—all children.