Maria Montessori termed this time in a child’s life to be the period of the “absorbent mind” because a child effortlessly absorbs knowledge, language, and culture through the senses. This is the time when children are using their bodies, senses and their emerging problem-solving skills to learn about and make sense of their world in the ways most meaningful and effective for them. We at MEC are committed to these important years and strive to provide a program that serves the needs of the toddler by focusing on the processes of independent exploration, learning, and, most importantly, the joy of discovering the world. The prepared Toddler environment is a place where the very young child is able to act upon his/her natural energies and curiosity.
The Toddler environment is not only beautiful and nurturing but rich with materials that stimulate conversation and the acquisition of language, sensory exploration, pre-math materials, science and nature exploration, and activities that develop large muscle movement and fine motor exercises for hand-eye coordination. Children are able to experience art and music from other cultures as well as plenty of opportunity for their own creative expression. Practical life exercises, such as pouring, sweeping, dusting, plant care, buttoning, zipping, and table setting, are introduced to give children the opportunity to care for themselves and their environment. It is also often their first social experience away from their family. This is a time for them to learn how to cooperate in a group. Social harmony is achieved through guiding the children on moving with purpose, putting materials away, and respecting another child’s work. Grace and Courtesy is practiced daily to help toddlers learn to share things and be considerate of others.
The Toddler environment is adapted to the needs of our smallest constituency in size and scope. The environment is not heavily furnished so as to minimize distraction and allow for broad movements. The minimal furniture serves the physical needs of the small child in its size and function. For example, there are small shelves that house beautiful Montessori materials and fine art is displayed at a small child’s eye-level. We prepare the environment with a wide variety of materials so young children can explore everything in their surroundings through their senses. Children in the Toddler program are given freedom in the indoor and the outdoor environments to select activities that satisfy their needs. We encourage this autonomy within appropriate limits.
The Toddler teachers are facilitators in a child’s exploration. They help the child towards functional independence: physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The teachers become part of the environment and not the focus of it; they are not there to continuously entertain the child or initiate activity. They step in when needed, but, when children can do it on their own, the teacher steps back. Their primary focus is to observe the child and create and prepare an environment that fosters independence and exploration. The teacher follows the child and gently guides them into purposeful activity.
*Toddler program available at Main campus only.