Montessori observed that a new sensitive period of growth emerges around the age of 2.5 to 3 years. She called it, “the sensitive period to the analysis of movement”.
This is very helpful to our attempts to hold the child’s attention. At last you might feel the child is actually listening to you! And watching you. It indicates that she is ready for How To lessons.
You can introduce the education and refinement of the senses at this stage. The Montessori sensorial materials refine the senses and heighten the child’s perceptual abilities.
Practical Life exercises continue to benefit the child in many ways, and children naturally return to them through the whole 3 to 6yo period. However, there is a change from experimentation to attempting precision in doing a task.
When the behaviour of a 2.5 to 3yo becomes disruptive it can be an indication that work should be presented. Behaviour will become more settled as a result. This could start with chores where everything is set up for the child to spontaneously “do it herself”.
Your little one may have already been attempting to imitate you doing a chore, but now is the time to show her in a step-by-step way how to do it. These practical life exercises are set up in a methodical way, ensuring that all the materials needed for the chore are available.
The child may have taken the small broom and whizzed around the floor with it as a toddler. Now is the time where the point of interest in this exercise becomes the motivating force.
In sweeping, we draw a circle in chalk on the floor and have the child sweep all the dirt into the circle.
We also show in a clear way “How To Sweep. Show the steps from the time we take the broom to the time we take the dustpan and brush, to when we complete the exercise by putting away all the materials.
Demonstrate How To and let her see the steps clearly and then invite her to try.
Routine chores that care for the environment or animals are beneficial to include in the daily routine. For example, watering pot plants, wiping down a low table, or feeding birds.
The child may have sorted and transferred all sorts of materials as a toddler. Now we show her how to sort in a different way.
Introducing the words “SAME” and “DIFFERENT”.
Start the demonstrations by getting a commitment from the child.
Would you like me to show you “how to…? Ready?
Show one concept at a time. The short, simple demonstration is often done in silence so it doesn’t distract from the clear way of doing the steps.
Parents are often keen to start showing their child letters and numbers as a first step. Doing this too early means the child can get a fragmented knowledge of the subject.
Montessori recommended a certain preparation.
What is the work of a 3 year old?
- Exercises that improve spoken language and vocabulary.
- Exercises to strengthen the hand muscles and improve fine motor skills.
- “How To “ lessons.
- Drawing and Painting.
- Play and ensuring the child has playmates.
- Introduce Montessori sensorial materials.
- Sense of smell – smelling bottles.
- Sense of touch – touch tablets.
- Sense of hearing – shakers.
- Sense of taste – presenting different tasting foods.
- Sense of sight – colour tablets.
When the child uses the sensorial materials he judges is it longer, shorter, larger, smaller, rougher, smoother, heavy, light, thicker, thinner etc? Developing the skill of judging these properties helps the child decipher the written symbols.
Preparation for writing
The child uses a finger in sand as the first writing tool. The next choice should be chalk on a blackboard or on pavement. Crayon and pencil come next.
- The metal insets improve pencil hold.
- Games to aid perception.
- Match shapes and feel around shapes.
- What’s Missing? – see blog What’s Missing?
- Mystery Bag. – see blog Montessori Game for Kids.
- Guessing games.
- Vocabulary games.
- Saying the days of the week and months of the year.
- Poetry and rhyming songs.
- “Same” and “Different” cards.
- Matching and grading material.
- The “Sound Game” – see blog Sound Game.
Free movement and settling exercises make an ideal atmosphere for learning.
“Walking on the line” and “The Maze” are two used in the Montessori classroom.
- By using the touch tablets the child experiences the lightness of touch.
- The shakers or sound boxes make the child more aware of the nuances of sound.
- Colour tablets help discriminate tone and shade.
These sensorial experiences help the child as he sees, hears and feels the letter shapes.
Presenting the sandpaper letters using the Montessori 3 Period Lesson is also an important step.
When done in the way Montessori prescribed the phenomenon of spontaneously bursting into writing comes about. This usually happens at around 4yo. When you educate the child’s power of discrimination and refine her senses she has a greater chance of grasping the complexities of written language.
The child can absorb complex concepts and she can gain an understanding if the work is interesting to her. It must match the child’s sensitive period, then the learning will be effortless.
Montessori designed materials that are attractive and self-corrective and are essential to these exercises.
Dr Montessori astounded the scientists of her day by demonstrating young children’s capabilities. She based her education method on her observations of the natural and universal rhythms of child development.
This blog follows on from my previous blog – Montessori Education For A 2yo.