Parent Resource Page
- Fostering Positive Transitions to School
- Stress-Free Toileting
- Montessori Reading Recommendations
- Montessori in the Home
- Reality Based Books for Young Children
- The Art of Spoken Language
- Traveling with Children
- Navigating a New Sibling
- Benefits of a Consistent and Early Bedtime Routine
- Surviving Daylight Savings Time
- Montessori Language Curriculum Night
- Montessori Math Curriculum Night
- Developing Self-Regulation in the Montessori Classroom
- Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence
- A Look Inside The Toddler Community
As the beginning of the school year rapidly approaches, it has been wonderful having the opportunity to meet each Montessori at Flatiron family in their home and we are so excited to welcome the children to their new classrooms. For many of the children attending The Montessori at Flatiron, this is their first experience being dropped off at school. While there is much anticipation and excitement for this new adventure, there are also other emotions that parents may feel during this phase of separation.
Like any major transition in life there might be uncertainty or hesitation about what this new future will hold. Especially for parents experiencing drop off for the first time, it is important to remember that your child looks to you for a sense of security. When a child feels that you are comfortable, happy and enthusiastic for this new beginning he is much more likely to make a quick and smooth transition into his new classroom routine. On the other hand, when a child senses your hesitation, sadness or anxiety about the drop off he is less likely to have a positive outlook about school.
In the days leading up to the first drop off it is important for parents to talk about this new experience in an enthusiastic and positive tone. Your child is extremely sensitive to your words and emotions and will take his cues from you as to the attitude he should have towards school.
On your child’s first full schoolday on his own, remember to make your goodbyes quick and as positive as possible. The best thing you can do as a parent is give your child a hug and kiss, say "I love you" and reassure him that you will be coming back soon. Lingering nearby or extending the goodbye only prolongs the process and can make it harder for the child to transition. As young children so crave order, creating a consistent drop off routine that you stick to will help your little one feel a sense of security and will ultimately ease his transition.
Every child has his own timeline and sensitivities for adapting to a new environment. There initially may be tears or sadness, but when your child feels your security and positive attitude in leaving him at school, it makes his process of adaptation that much quicker. Once your child is in the classroom there will be so much to explore and engage in he will soon forget any sadness.
Remember – this initial period of separation will eventually open your child up to a whole new world of experiences as well as signify a huge leap in his life towards independence! With a little bit of positive encouragement, patience and consistency, you as parents can help guide your child on the path to the most positive transition possible!
The most recent Parent Education night focused on the topic of Separation. Whether this school year is your first experience separating from your child, or you're looking for tips to improve your current routine, these tips are sure to foster a positive experience.
Separation is a natural process, and a necessary part of your child’s continued growth and opportunities for learning and building new relationships. Which is what life is about! Life is a series of attachments and separations and we want our children to experience them as growth opportunities that they welcome with open arms.
Tips for a healthy separation:
- Be consistent! Stick with the routine you create.
- Have a special goodbye ritual, such as two kisses, one hug before leaving. Make it predictable, clear, and reassuring.
- Keep it brief.
- If you have never separated before, test it out with a friend in the weeks leading up to the first days of school.
- Tell your child the facts, no fairytales! Say that there will be other children, they will have a special cubby and a special nap mat. Do not speculate about what they will or will not do at school. Let them tell you about it when they come home! Allow your child to experience school.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
- Have a morning routine which includes a good breakfast.
- Pack lunches and lay out clothing the night before for both you and your child.
- Take care of yourself during this time. As a parent it is always going to be exciting and nerve racking to see your child entering a new stage of development. Just keep in mind that this is natural, healthy and good.
- Encourage your child to walk into their classroom on their own. This empowers your child to make the choice to be in school, which continues a positive separation process.
We are here to help:
- During the day, we are happy to hear from you via phone or email to check in. When you contact us, we will go to the classroom and check on your child and provide a quick update.
- If a child is distressed, your child’s teacher will comfort him and find a favorite activity with which to engage him.
The first day of school is just the beginning of your child’s journey toward becoming an independent, confident, and capable person. When parent and teacher partner together to help the child separate, it often only takes a few days for him/her to begin walking in comfortably. Just think, one day you’ll be taking them to college!
Below we outline 4 steps to help make the toilet training process as stress-free as possible:
- Prepare yourself
- Prepare your child
- Prepare your home
- Go for it! No more diapers, no exceptions.
Your attitude of loving support, acceptance, and encouragement is essential for your child. Think about your readiness as a family before beginning this process. You'll want to be sure that you can approach toileting with a positive attitude and can commit to it with consistency. Do as much reading and reflecting as you need before you start. Forget about quick fixes: prepare, observe your child, and provide support as needed. A 2 year-old that walks well and is healthy should be ready to start the process. Try to slow down your own social calendar when beginning so that you can devote time to supporting your child.
Prepare Your Child
Buy a few books on toilet training for yourself and your child (see Shopping List for suggestions). Start talking about using the toilet and singing songs about toileting with your child (see Talking Points). Bringing your child into the bathroom with you, particularly if you are the same gender, is helpful modeling. The idea is to create understanding and familiarity with the concept before starting. Take as much time as needed for your child to understand that we all used diapers and don’t need them anymore.
Giving your child opportunities for independence and participation are key. Get rid of your changing table and transition to diaper changes in the bathroom so that it becomes a comfortable and normalized place. In the bathroom, change your child’s diaper standing so that she can participate in the process: helping to remove her pants, flushing the toilet, etc. After removing the diaper, see if your child is interested in sitting on the toilet for a short time. Dress your child in clothing that is easy to remove independently – elastic pants are great. Purchase shoes that are machine washable or easy to clean. These are all things you can do in preparation so that small frustrations – such as ruining a pair of nice shoes – do not escalate and disrupt the process. Remember, no treats or rewards are necessary. Your child will be independently motivated to master this process in their own time.
Prepare Your Home
Roll up your sleeves and your carpets! Prepare your bathroom with a small basket of undies so that your child can choose new ones after an accident. Add another small basket of a few of your child’s favorite books to read while on the potty. Start with a small potty for a young child, or a toilet seat insert for an older child. Add a small stool to the bathroom for stepping up to the toilet, resting feet while seated on the toilet, and sitting while changing. Reorganize your diaper bag to contain a few changes of clothes, paper towels, and spray to clean up spills. Purchase a piddle paddle for your stroller or car seat and an underpad for your child’s bed so that cleaning is easier.
Go For It!
Once your preparation is complete, go for it (and don’t turn back)! Finish your last pack of diapers so that you don’t lose your resolve. Adopt the mantra “Underwear or bust!” In an effort to make this step comfortable, you or a trusted caregiver should aim to stay at home for a few days to support your child and give him opportunities to be in a comfortable, familiar space.
The beginning: At this stage you are assisting your child with the idea of underwear and sitting on the toilet. Make sure your child is always wearing cotton training underpants so that they feel the uncomfortable sensation of wetness. You should be the one initiating potty times, perhaps on the hour.
Your language is very important at this stage. Remember that your children are listening and absorbing your attitude and feelings at all times. Be matter-of-fact about accidents and avoid ridicule. Instead say “You are wet. Let’s go get some dry clothes. Do you remember where the dry underpants are?” When your child succeeds, there is no need to praise or offer rewards. This sets up false expectations which are a distraction from the natural process. Instead remain matter-of-fact and say “Your pee went in the potty.”
The collaboration phase: At this point your child is gaining more independence. Allow for this, and help only as much as needed. You may still give prompts and reminders, but your child may also initiate trips to the bathroom.
Toilet trained: Though he still gets wet on occasion, your child is in charge and uses the toilet independently.
The goal is for your child to be toilet trained day and night. It is okay to begin with underpants 100% during the day and a diaper or pull-up at night. Children have small bladders so it is often difficult for them to go an entire night without using the bathroom when they are young. We recommend keeping night time diapers/pull ups in a different location, out of sight out, of mind!
In sum, with the right preparation, attitude, and matter-of-fact language, the toileting process can be one of progress as opposed to stress. As obstacles arise, we encourage you to maintain your resolve. Do not return to diapers! Maintain consistency and warmth in your approach, even as frustrations arise. We wish you all the best as you reflect on and begin this important step towards independence for your child.
There are many rich resources on the Montessori curriculum ranging from original works by Maria Montessori to contemporary books connecting Montessori to current child psychology and neuroscience research. Below is a brief list of reading recommendations compiled by The Montessori Schools staff.
This article outlines some of the key components of the Montessori philosophy.
The Association Montessori International website maintains a nice collection of resources for parents.
Neuroscience & Psychology Research
Montessori Learning in the 21st Century: A Guide for Parents and Teachers highlights connections between children's brain development and the Montessori curriculum.
Dr. Angeline Lillard's book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, is an in-depth exploration of ties between contemporary psychological research and Montessori practices.
Books Written by Dr. Montessori
The Secret of Childhood contains stories and observations that informed the development of the Montessori method. The translation and age of the text make it a bit of a heavier read, however its stories shine through and her observations demonstrate how children are often misunderstood and underestimated.
The Discovery of the Child provides details about Montessori lessons and the reasons behind the materials and teaching style in Montessori learning environments.
There are many simple ways to incorporate Montessori principles in your home. Preparing your home environment to facilitate and support your child’s natural urge to be independent, is a great way to support what your child is learning at school. Typically, the process begins by taking stock of your home, how your child uses and accesses things for daily living and then making simple modifications to increase age appropriate independence. When thinking of organizing a space consider following the simple mantra that “everything has a place, and everything is kept in its place.” By committing to picking a consistent place for everything, it will be easier for your child to help you return something to its predictable spot.
Here are a few tips by room, to help you in creating an organized and stimulating space for your child to participate in daily.
Your Child’s Bedroom
- Organize seasonally appropriate clothing by type, on shelves or in drawers, that are at a low enough level to be accessible to your child.
- Less is more! Keep options (clothing, toys, hats, pillows etc.) to a minimum. By having only a few options available, your child will feel successful when making choices throughout the day.
- Create a chart that outlines the steps your child can do to get ready in the morning. This will establish a clear routine for your child and help them to feel prepared.
- Suggested bedroom toys and activities:
- 5 different types of items out on a low shelf, a collection of books, a map on the wall.
- A calendar to keep track of days and activities – cross them off as they are completed!
- A reading corner that is inviting; your child will want to read and relax in this space.
- An area to listen to music, with a device your child can access and operate on his own.
- Hang low hooks for your child’s jacket and bag.
- Check the weather with your child the night before. Collaborate on any needed snow or rain gear that needs to be prepared for the next day.
- When buying clothing, make sure that your child will be able to open and close shoes and jackets independently. The simpler, the better!
- Remember, one warm coat is easier for your child to manipulate than many layers.
- Mittens are easier for your child to put on than gloves.
- Have a step stool available for your child that allows her to reach the kitchen sink, see on top of the counters etc.
- Hang hooks for kitchen clean up tools such as washcloth, a broom and a dustpan.
- Provide child sized kitchen tools and show your child how to use them safely.
- Use child sized plates, glasses and utensils. Plates should be breakable so that children learn how to handle them with care.
- Family board games.
- Provide manipulative toys and art materials on a low shelf or bookcase.
- A child size workplace or a chair.
- Your family’s main collection of books can be stored in the living room, and the rest dispersed around the house in thematic baskets.
- Keep a collection of books in a basket.
- Provide a small reading nook for your child with a pillow or blanket. This gives them a small space, in your space, to feel comfortable and invited.
Have you ever wondered why our classrooms are curated to contain mostly reality based books? Young children are tasked with understanding how the real world around them works, so books that are based in reality are innately more interesting and of use to them. Recently, NPR published an article based on studies that offer the idea that young children naturally prefer fact over fiction. Read the article here: Children Want Factual Stories, Versus Fantasy, More Often Than Adults.
– written by Miss Libby and Miss Hannah
“Language in itself is spoken language: written language is nothing else than a really literal translation. All the progress of alphabetical writing springs from this point of contact from which the two languages can evolve in parallel. In the beginning the one, the written language, falls from the other drop by drop, and these will later form a distinct stream, words and discourse.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood
Spoken language is one of the most important parts of your primary-aged child’s development, not only for future work in writing and reading, but for the development of your child as a whole. Your child’s character development, her conscious thought process, and her ability to experience and communicate empathy all have roots in the spoken language which she is exposed to each day at this crucial stage of development.
In the Montessori environment, spoken language is purposefully emphasized. Every lesson is designed to give your children as much accurate vocabulary as possible. We have specific language card material, books, stories, poems, and songs. Your child learns vocabulary for the senses, every day objects, geography, math terms, and much more.
Whether your child is inside or outside of the classroom, she needs to be given ample opportunities to learn vocabulary, hear and tell stories, and converse with peers and adults. So how, as parents or friends, grandparents or babysitters, can we help your child satisfy this need for language and reemphasize all that is happening in school?
- What we give, is what we get: Your child will absorb so much of the language that you speak with them. Consider ways to give them even more! If you don’t know the names of the trees or the flowers in your park, look them up with your child and share! Hunt for ones that look the same.
- Speak to your child at eye-level: Leaning over and giving a child a clear image of your face when having conversations and when giving directions or requests is important. This not only shows the child respect but also allows them to see how your tongue and lips move to create sounds and words.
- Speak to your child in complete sentences: Hearing proper syntax will help your child with their ability to tell and write their own stories coherently.
- Don’t overtly correct your child’s mistakes: Mistake are developmental and directly correcting the child’s errors will not build confidence in their speech. Instead, model the proper pronunciation/pronoun/structure in your response. Child: “Her is eatin’ pasketti!” Adult: “Yes, I can see that she is eating spaghetti for lunch today!”
- Listen without interrupting: Interrupting a child’s speech (or finishing their sentences for them) models undesirable behavior and hinders their confidence. Listen to their stories even if they are nonsensical, and when there is a natural pause you can thank them for sharing their story. They will feel proud of their speech. If they weren’t finished, they will be sure to let you know! If a child is struggling to produce speech, be patient and give them time, this is your way of offering your own confidence in their speech, even though they may be feeling unsure.
- Offer observations rather than compliments: Observations can be rich in new vocabulary. This is the difference between, “You look so beautiful!” and “I notice that your dress is plaid and has a zipper down the back with a hook and eye clasp at the top!”
- Who, what, when, where, why, how?—Play the question game! “What did you eat for lunch today? How was your sandwich? Who did you sit with? Where did you eat lunch? When did you have lunch? Why did you leave your apples in your lunch box?” The point of this exercise is to allow your child to practice all the language they are learning and use it applicably in a conversation. Most importantly, this begins the process of understanding the necessary parts of story-telling, essential for when they begin to write.
- Positive and respectful: Language should never be used to bribe, hurt, judge, or manipulate. Adults must model civility and respect to allow children to use language as a bridge to human understanding. Negative: “I’ve told you 100 times not to climb on the couch! Does this look like the playground to you?!” Positive A: “If you’d like to be on the couch, you can take a nice cozy seat right here on this cushion!” Positive B: “I can see you really like to climb. We won’t be able to go to the playground for another hour, but if you’d like to move your body, you can… (do some yoga on the rug, help me carry the groceries over to the cabinet or the fridge, dance to some music, etc.).”
At this age, children are able find the intricacies of our language humorous and joyful. Rhyming, tongue twisters, and clapping games are timeless and fun ways to bide time while your children are waiting in lines or on long car trips. You might remember the language games you played as a child on the playground or just tell your children stories of your own childhood. With the use of descriptive language, anything from a trip down the grocery aisle to a ride on the subway train can become an engaging story. Enjoy exploring language with your child!
Traveling with children is not like traveling alone. It takes planning and patience; however, it is a wonderful way to share your appreciation of our great wide world with them. The experiences they have will shape their perspective on the world, and will add to their flexibility and appreciation for what is out there. It is worth it!
- Take your time, prep with lots of time built in.
- Book ahead- plan your general routine.
- Give them a camera -check out a water proof, shock proof option or for toddlers a Fisher Price tough digital camera.
- Dress for it- research and dress for the weather. If you have the correct outer layers all types of weather are fun. If you are traveling some place cold check out under layers too.
- 2-4 sets of clothing per child in a zip lock, remove the air and roll tight. Use the zip lock for storing soiled clothing. Pack a set for yourself, either to refresh after a long flight or if your children spill on you.
- Give them a bag- backpacks only for kids, bring what they can carry (no rolly).
- Parent- a backpack, (waist bag for passports and cash) only one rolling carry-on per family for extras (keep a few days’ worth of clothing if bags get lost).
- For flights- chewing gum, or a water bottle, or for a baby give a bottle during take-off and landing, to prevent pressure in ears.
- A few snacks, bars, and small packed zip-lock snack size bags.
- Wipes- every type of wipe/diaper wipers/disinfecting wipes/handwipe for all purposes Johnson and Johnson.
- Hand Sanitizer.
- For the car ride or flight: rotate simple, light, small toys. Take out two at a time, per stop.
- Wiki sticks
- Reusable sticker sets, faces, or airplane, or a topic of interest
- Make a mask by mudpuppy, pack colored pencils
- Coloring/ pencils or crayons in a small pencil case
- Travel Journal- drawings, which you label, or for children who can write encourage them to write a caption, or more.
- Light paperback books or an e-reader for children who read
- I-pod with books on tape, and kid songs loaded.
- Child-friendly headphones that stay on.
- Play games that don’t need stuff:
- I spy
- My friend (I’m thinking of someone…give one hint at a time…your child guesses the friend or famous person from your clues)
- Name car plates
- Look for animals, and other sights. Encourage your child to look out the window, of a car, train, or plane.
- Idle thinking time is okay show your child how to get lost in thoughts.
- Tell true stories – about your family or about your child.
- Make up a story together. Take turns adding to it.
- Follow a packing list (attached) and pack only one week of clothing per person, bring powdered soap and wash on the go.
- Know the number of bags you have with you at each stop, count them before going. Number them and tag them with bright luggage tags
- For long flights with connections, make sure not to gate check your stroller to the final destination. Make sure that they will have it for you at each stop.
- Pack medications.
- For travel abroad: bring single serve pedialite in powder form, single serve Tylenol pack full size in checked baggage.
- Get energy out pre-flight: use stairs, keep them moving, don’t sit while you wait, use the plane for sitting time.
- Skip the car seat for flights and gate check it instead.
- When in doubt employ a mantra or two:
- “No matter how bad the flight, it will land, you will exit, and hopefully never see those people again."
- "This too shall pass”
- “I can parent at home, I can parent in the air, I can parent anywhere”
- For overseas: Take photos of important documents, passport, travel insurance, and email them to yourself.
- Notify credit card companies, check fees.
- To beat jetlag, stay up late the first night, stay outside in the daylight.
- Have a plan but stay flexible.
- Let your children walk and explore.
- Keep calm.
by Kathryn Cubage
Welcoming a new sibling into your family is a joyful event, but it is also a huge change in your child’s life. The addition of a new sibling can bring out fear of abandonment, jealousy, and frustration in your child. Preparing for this big event will help the transition go more smoothly. It is important to remember that your child must feel loved and included in the addition of a second sibling.
Clear communication with your child is key. It can be useful to read an age appropriate book about this life change. This is a great way to get the conversation started about how your body will change throughout pregnancy, and it will introduce the idea that at the end of your pregnancy, a baby will arrive. One way to personalize this message is to make a picture book detailing the pregnancy of your first child, along with pictures of your child as an infant. Keep your child involved in the process and allow him to contribute in some way for the baby’s arrival. For example, you could have your child help you choose clothing and toys for the new baby.
Be prepared to acknowledge both negative and positive emotions and actions from your child. If he expresses anger or fear, acknowledge these feelings and recognize the difficulties of such a big transition. If your child expresses his negative feelings through aggression, it is important not to react angrily. Use patience and compassion, and understand that this challenging behavior is normal as your child navigates his feelings about the new sibling. As the adult, you are there to encourage your child to express feelings appropriately and to set limits to prevent inappropriate reactions or aggression. Acknowledging your child’s feelings in these moments can often be the biggest relief for him. This communicates that you are on your child’s side, you care about his feelings, and that he is allowed to feel negatively about the new sibling.
In order to minimize the stress for your child, make changes gradually. It is important to slowly prepare your home for the arrival of the new baby. Do your best to maintain the current routine as your child adapts to the new sibling. This will help your child feel safe and secure.
Ultimately, if you show your child your unconditional love and allow him to communicate his feelings with you, this life change will go smoothly. By allowing for the negative feelings your child may experience, you will also be making room for the incredibly positive feelings of this joyful event!
Sleep is such an important part of your child’s routine. Consider sleep the “food for your brain”. When children lack adequate sleep their ability to concentrate, learn, and problem solving are reduced. Getting a full night of sleep will help your child focus on their work and achieve their full potential in the classroom. Here are some tips to help set up a productive and positive bedtime routine.
- Set a bed time for school night and stick to it
- Try to avoid any TV/ Computer/ Tablet time at least one hour before bedtime, or consider going screen-free during the school week.
- Create a bedtime environment in your child’s room: keep it dark, cool, quiet, and free from electronics.
- Encourage a daily movement activity or exercise. Dancing with your child is always fun!
You can learn more at the following websites: http://sleepfoundation.org, sleepforkids.org, and http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
The time change when Daylight Savings begins or ends can impact sleep, especially for young children. We recommend moving your child’s bedtime routine up 15 minutes a night prior to the change.
Struggling with your child’s sleep habits? For tips on building a sleep schedule, India Schaenen’s book The Seven O’Clock Bedtime is a helpful guide. Check out a short article about the book here.
A few key points about early bedtime routines from the article:
- Research suggests that sleep deprivation is associated with learning problems and causes children to be easily frustrated and cranky. Sleep deprivation also affects short term memory, the ability to organize, and speech development.
- To set your child’s circadian clock most effectively, bedtime should be two hours after dinner.
- Set a routine that is followed every evening. Each family’s routine will be slightly different. An example: dinner, 15 minutes of playtime, 30 minutes for bath and cleanup time, and 30 minutes for reading, tuck-in, and I-love-yous.
- Particularly at first, your child may not fall asleep as early as 7pm. Try giving your child a comfort toy to sleep with, or even Mom or Dad’s shirt or sweater! This will help your child learn to fall asleep alone.
- Tears will happen on occasion. This is a perfectly natural part of setting a routine.
- Most sleep researchers agree on the following sleep estimates based on age:
- 2 year-old: 11-12 hours a night and a 1-2 hour after lunch nap.
- 3 year-old: 12 to 12.5 hours a night; some children will have stopped napping
- 4 year-old: 11.5-12 hours a night; more children will have stopped napping.
- 5 year-old: 11 hours; most children will have stopped naps by this age.
Routine and structure are central to Montessori philosophy, both in the classroom and out. Such structure allows children to take ownership over their own activities and schedules, as they know what to expect when. Sleep routines will not only help children come to school ready to learn, but will help them develop a sense of ownership over their own daily and nightly schedules.
Parents, we are here to support you as you develop bedtime routines for your children. Please feel free to reach out to us with questions along the way!
Language in the Toddler Environment
Language is an important part of the toddler learning experience. Toddlers absorb everything they hear and language acquisition happens rapidly in two-year-old children. It is a goal in the toddler environment to take advantage of this time and create a language rich environment in three ways:
1. Presenting new vocabulary
Children are given new words through structured language lessons. Children are first introduced to new vocabulary through sets of concrete objects and replicas, and then work with more abstract representations using sets of cards with images. We bridge the gap between concrete and abstract by playing matching games with sets of objects or replicas and matching cards.
2. Books, songs, poems, rhythmic language
Books in the toddler classroom are reality based, age appropriate, and contain realistic illustrations. These qualities help children connect stories to their own experiences. Songs and poems expose the children to rich vocabulary and allow them to practice new words as they recite the poems and sing the songs.
Conversation and storytelling are important parts of the toddler day. Communal mealtime is one of the best times to encourage conversation and self-expression.
When communicating with a child, teachers model giving their full attention. They face the child at eye level and model clear and courteous language. Teachers model conversation etiquette, using active listening and turn taking. You can do this at home too.
Language in the Primary Environment
In the Primary classroom, teachers encourage accuracy and confidence in language development. Children must know that their thoughts and ideas matter. Getting on the same eye level as a child and giving them your full attention shows respect to the child which gives them confidence to communicate with you. Things you can do at home to encourage accuracy and confidence in language use are engaging in conversations, taking turns to speak and listen, showing interest by asking questions, and summarizing what you heard your child say, writing down your child’s explanation of a picture they created, and modeling true storytelling with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Why do we start with writing before reading?
Sounding out a word that a child wants to write involves breaking down the desired word into sound parts and then finding the letters to represent those sounds. There are fewer cognitive processes at work for writing, and there is a natural progression going from writing to reading. It is easier for your child to write down words or thoughts already in their mind, rather than reading someone else’s words or thoughts out of context. After much practice with sounding out words and phrases, your child will have a moment of self- discovery when they realize they can read the word. Teachers in the Primary classrooms know children are ready to begin reading when they start reading back what they have written. Reading a written word requires a child to first recognize the letters for the sound they represent, repeat all the sounds and fuse them together to gain meaning.
Why are a lot of our materials in cursive?
Cursive writing lends itself to the most fluid initial writing. The curves often seen in drawings created by children are naturally curved. Forming a cursive lower case “e” is much more fluid than accurately printing a capital letter “E.” Because words are fully connected and there are only spaces between words (and not within), cursive writing can be easier to read and write for many children. We offer an opportunity to write in cursive, but if children come to school printing, we will not make them switch to cursive.
Spoken/ Oral Language
The Guides in the classroom model clear spoken language. They avoid using “baby talk,” for example “choo choo train.” Rather, they use specific language, like locomotive.
During grace and courtesy lessons, Guides model polite language and show how-to lessons for positive social interactions and encourage the children to solve problems independently.
Materials and activities in the classroom inspire advanced language abilities. The pink tower and brown stair are hands on materials that demonstrate a specific concept. After, the young child experiences language like small, smaller, smallest, and thin, thinner, thinnest. There are language cards available to follow your child’s interests and teach specific vocabulary. For example, there may be a set of pictures of horses. Your child will view the different breeds and then play a fun game to learn the names for Pinto, Clydesdale, and Thoroughbred. Your child also plays sound games to notice the beginning and end sounds of words. (I spy with my little eye something that ends with the /s/ sound.) Eventually your child will be able to break down all words into each individual sound. (Let’s say all the sounds in playground. /p/l/ay/g/r/ou/n/d. That word has a lot of sounds!) This is a game you can play with your child at any time, and will help your child when they begin to write. Stories and poems are also an important part of the Primary curriculum for language development.
Before beginning to write, children prepare their hand using many tools in their prepared class environment. The knobs on the geometry cabinet require the use of a three finger grip. Tracing the rough and smooth boards with the middle and index fingers prepares the hand for writing. This work leads to the sandpaper letters. Using the sandpaper letters, children learn phonetic sounds while tracing letters. Once a child knows 10-12 letters and their sounds, they are introduced to the moveable alphabet. Using this material, which is a box of wooden letters, children practice building their own words using the phonemic skills they have acquired from the sound game and sandpaper letters. Finally, there are many mediums available for children to write: a sand tray for tracing letters, chalkboards with chalk, and paper (strips, lined pages, books) and pencil. Tracing within the metal insets prepares the child to stay within a designated space.
When the child begins to read their own writing, it is an exciting moment of discovery. Guides lead the children along by breaking down all the skills needed to be strong readers into playful lessons. Using the phonetic object box, children match a label to an object. Soon they begin learning blends, when two letters come together to make a new sound (/ar/ in car and /ai/ in pail) with the phonogram object box. They practice sight words too. The language lessons continue into parts of speech and word families.
From the language materials to the graceful and courteous speech and conversation skills modeled by the Guides, to storytelling, singing, and poetry, the Toddler and Primary classrooms are rich with language learning opportunities.
Math in the Toddler environment
In the toddler communities we introduce counting and number concepts as a part of daily life. That’s what makes math so fascinating, after all—it is truly all around us! Counting is an activity that happens throughout the day. We count to take attendance, we count when setting the table, and we sing songs and read books that involve counting. The children have the opportunity to explore one-to-one correspondence when setting placemats at the tables for snack matching the number of children present to the number of mats that are needed. When working with manipulative materials such as the peg box or shape sorter, children are exploring mathematical concepts.
Sequencing is internalized through practice of lessons including nesting dolls, which demonstrate sequencing from large to small and offer an introduction to comparatives and superlatives. Sequence is also an important aspect of many of the Practical Life lessons, which are carried out by following a logical sequence of steps. Weight and measurement are explored purposefully through activities including bead stringing,flower arranging, and sorting.
Many lessons incorporate math concepts. For instance, when following a logical sequence of steps to prepare a flower arrangement, a child must measure how much water will be needed and pour the correct amount from the pitcher, through the funnel into a vase, enough so that the stems of the flowers will reach the water. The more water that is added, the heavier the vase gets, but too much water will make the vase overflow! As a child selects flowers to place in the vase, he often counts them.
Exploration of numerical concepts, counting, and especially sequencing which occurs in the toddler communities builds a foundation for logical-mathematical reasoning that allows a child to delve more deeply into math when in Primary.
Math in the Primary Environment
In the Primary class community, math exploration begins with lessons involving concrete materials and moves towards the abstract use of only numbers. Concrete exploration of numbers 1-10 helps the children understand quantity and prepares them for the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is important to note that quantity is taught before symbol, so the idea of six is taught before linking it to the numerical symbol “6.”
When children learn the symbols for numbers, they first trace sandpaper numbers. Tracing these numbers offer a visual, tactile, and auditory experience, which additionally develops the muscular memory of each number.
Children explore the decimal system using the golden beads, a concrete material. One bead is one unit, there are beads linked together to make a 10 bar, a square of 100 beads, and a cube of 1000 beads. The cube of 1000 is heavy, providing a concrete feeling of mass and weight to emphasize the grand number 1000. When a child knows those quantities, they play games to match the symbols 1, 10, 100, and 1000. Children build large quantities and use them to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. All of the operations are experienced as collaborative activities. Children also count and create numbers with teens and tens. They work with subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. They are given the vocabulary for each number they make.
There are many lessons in the math area. All follow the process of first introducing a concept while using a concrete material to express the concept, and then build on it to reinforce the lesson and offer more opportunities to practice the concept.
Math is fun in the Primary classroom and the group games appeal to your child’s social nature. Children play games like the Addition Snake Game and use addition and subtraction booklets to internalize math facts.
A growing body of research has established the universal finding that self-regulation is a crucial indicator of healthy child development. Early development of self-regulation has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive and social competence, school readiness, and grade point average. In fact, early childhood self-regulation has proven to be a better predictor of kindergarten academic achievement than early childhood math and reading abilities. A promising feature of self-regulation is that it can be developed and enhanced over time. The development of self-regulation has always been a key component of the Montessori curriculum. Let’s take a closer look at the issue, defining self-regulation and exploring the Montessori theory and practice that supports its development.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is a broad construct associated with a child’s ability to control his or her own impulses and behavior in view of personal goals and standards. It encompasses self-discipline, delay of gratification, the ability to think before acting, motor control, sustained attention, cognitive flexibility, and task persistence. Self-regulation is often effortful and requires top-down management of impulse, attention, emotion, and stress response systems.
How does the Montessori curriculum impact children’s development of self-regulation?
Montessori is a curriculum whose theoretical background is deeply rooted in the development of children’s self-regulation and independence. Contemporary psychological research shows that the Montessori environment enhances children’s self-regulation in the present and down the line in their adolescent and adult lives. Several Montessori learning conditions contribute to these outcomes.
1. Bounded Choice
Dr. Montessori theorized that the integration of free choice with structure helps children develop independent “mental order.” In practice, students choose their own activities to pursue, move freely about the classroom to work, and independently access materials placed on low, open, child-sized shelves. Integrated into this open environment are elements of structure: the lessons available to children are limited to those that have been presented to them by their teachers based on developmental readiness. Lessons are carried out by children in a specific, goal-directed order that draws on planning and organizational skills. Classroom materials are arranged in a particular order and children are asked to return these materials to their designated spot after using them.
A 2 year-old child practices Plant Watering. He follows several steps including filling up the watering can, carefully carrying the watering can to the plant, watering the plant, and wiping off the wet leaves with a sponge. When he is finished, he returns the items to their tray and carries the tray to the shelf.
Research shows that these kinds of autonomy-supportive learning environments – those that allow students to make their own choices and perceive control over their own learning – result in enhanced self-regulation and intrinsic motivation. At the same time, structured lessons in the Montessori classroom give children support and scaffolding to help them order their minds and their environment. They encourage children to move beyond their comfort zones into spaces that are challenging enough to promote further development of self-regulation but not so challenging that they cause frustration or lack of motivation to follow through.
2. Opportunities to concentrate and persist with tasks
Dr. Montessori observed children’s natural capacity for “spontaneous concentration” when working with self-endorsed, appropriately challenging hands-on activities. In the Montessori classroom, children engage in 2-3 hour open work periods that allow them to become absorbed and engaged in self-chosen activities without interruption. A large body of research shows that children are more likely to sustain attention and concentration – important components of self-regulation – if the task at hand has been personally endorsed. Further, states of deep concentration are promoted by the lessons that Montessori teachers identify as appropriately challenging for each student. These carefully selected lessons ensure children won’t get bored with a task that is too easy, but won’t get discouraged by a task that is too hard. Using individual lesson plans that they design for each child, Montessori educators intentionally present lessons that meet students at this “sweet spot” of challenge. As described in the research literature, a certain optimal level of challenge is necessary to capture children’s attention, engage their concentration skills, and further their learning.
In addition, several Montessori lessons are designed to directly address concentration skills. These include walking along a line taped to the floor without straying and listening to a bell silently until it no longer makes any noise. These games, which draw on children’s focused attention and purposeful task-oriented behavior, have proven in several mindfulness-based studies to increase children’s attention and concentration long-term.
3. Lack of extrinsic rewards
Dr. Montessori found that rewards disrupt children’s engagement with their work by shifting focus from the activity at hand to the reward. She observed that the work itself was often inherently rewarding for children because of its stimulating and challenging content. Montessori teachers are explicitly trained not to hand out rewards such as gold stars, awards, or grades. Overt judgment is not present in the Montessori classroom; teachers are instead trained in positive or neutral framing. Many Montessori materials are self-correcting such that students will realize if they have made a mistake without teacher intervention.
A 3 year old student works with the Cylinder Blocks. This lesson involves fitting differently sized cylinders into their appropriately sized spaces. The material is self-correcting, as students can visually see and physically feel when a block does not fit.
Research has shown that when children independently choose tasks as they do in Montessori classrooms, extrinsic rewards decrease task persistence because children become preoccupied with the end goal instead of the process. What’s more, when children are in reward-focused environments, they are less likely to use self-regulatory strategies – planning, concentration, attention – and more likely to exert the least amount of effort possible to achieve the reward. Reward-focused children are less likely to voluntarily engage in challenging activities because the likelihood of receiving the award is lower if the task at hand is challenging. Montessori teaching practices and materials are carefully designed to intrinsically reward and stimulate children without the need for external bells and whistles.
Through her observations, Dr. Montessori found that repetition reinforces behavior and allows children to transition from dependence (other-regulation) to independence (self-regulation). In a Montessori classroom, children repeat ordered activities in a specific sequence. They decide which task to attempt, carry it out in small, concrete steps, evaluate using self-correcting materials, and repeat the task again and again. They feel a great sense of pride, accomplishment, and joy when they have practiced a lesson to the point of mastery.
Practicing tasks that demand self-control has been linked to increased self-regulatory capacity. Expert performance often results from “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice by definition draws on basic self-regulatory skills: planning, breaking tasks into chunks, practicing, self-evaluating, and repeating tasks at levels that gradually increase in challenge. Montessori education is essentially deliberate practice training.
Over 100 years ago, Dr. Montessori infused her curriculum with several practices that theoretically enhance children’s self-regulation: a combination of free choice and structure, learning conditions that engage and promote concentration and task persistence, a lack of extrinsic rewards, and opportunities to repeatedly practice tasks that demand self-regulatory skills. The inclusion of these methods was based on Dr. Montessori’s careful observation of her students’ inclinations and behavior. Since then, contemporary researchers have confirmed many of her core observations, providing evidence supporting the influence of several Montessori practices – free choice, prescribed task structure, a lack of extrinsic rewards, opportunities for flow and concentration, hands-on work, mindfulness practice, and deliberate practice – on optimal and efficient development of children’s self-regulation, a key indicator of healthy development and future success. These methods engage children in purposeful, joyful activities that give them a great sense of independence, pride, and ownership over their own learning.
-Contributed by Meera Sinha
We love this MindShift article on practical ways that you as a parent can help your preschooler discuss and understand his or her emotions. Author Deborah Farmer Kris - a researcher, parent, and former teacher – describes 5 things you can start doing right away to help your child develop emotional intelligence: name emotions, normalize emotions, develop strategies, “read” pictures, and practice simple mindfulness techniques. Building these practices into your daily interactions with your children will help them learn to remain calm, use language when distressed, and exhibit kindness. The future benefits are great too: emotional intelligence has been shown to contribute to future academic performance, mental health, and well-being.
My name is Miss Hannah and I’m the lead guide in Toddler 2. I’m going to share some general information about the toddler program, starting with what a typical day looks like in the toddler environments.
The children arrive at 8:30. When the double doors open, the children walk back to their classroom and a parent or guardian signs them in outside the classroom door with the Associate Guide. Parents say a short and sweet goodbye outside the classroom door and allow the child to walk in to the classroom on their own. Lead guides will be waiting inside the classroom to greet each child with a handshake, they’ll put their belongings away in their cubbies, change into their inside shoes and begin their morning work. During this time, children are free to choose any activity in the classroom that calls to them and they may stay with their chosen work for as long as they like. When they finish with one thing, they return it to the shelf to be sure it is ready for the next child before selecting something new.
During this time, Guides are observing and giving lessons—so if a child shows interest in a new activity, or if we want to introduce them to something that will help them develop or refine a new skill, we’ll give a lesson. We track progress and interest with individualized lesson plans, and we’ll share that progress with you at Parent-Teacher Conferences in November and May.
If you were to peek into one of our toddler environments during the morning work cycle you might see somebody washing a table, somebody creating a flower arrangement, another child stringing beads or putting together a puzzle, a small group of children practicing new vocabulary using little replicas and cards, and most likely several children coming and going from the bathroom, because that’s a huge part of our work!
We end our mornings with community snack—rice crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables, some time for singing, movement, and stories as a group, and play time. We have 3 spaces available to us for play—the indoor playground, the movement room where we do guided movement activities like yoga and dancing, and Madison Square Park. When we go to the park we take those big, 6-child strollers. Each child wears a pinney with our school name to help us safely stay together as a group. At first we just do what I like to call nature walks, staying in the strollers and taking a leisurely stroll, admiring the trees and flowers and birds. Once we know that the children can follow our direction, we go in to the playground and use the small play structure there.
Half day dismissal is at 11:30. The children are brought to the classroom door to meet their caretakers for dismissal.
This is also the time when we begin our lunch service for full-day children. We eat lunch as a community followed by nap time, which starts around 12:15. Children set up their nap mats around the classroom, then we turn off the lights, play some soft music and encourage the children to rest and close their eyes. Sometimes it takes a little while to adjust to the new nap routine, but we set the tone and are happy to sit with children and help them settle. Nap time ends around 2:15. As children wake, they clean up their nap things, try the toilet, and get ready for dismissal which is at 3:10.
As I mentioned, toileting is a big part of our work in the toddler classrooms—and we really do view it as work! It requires practice and repetition just like any other new skill. We will support your children and you wherever you are in the process and help them to be comfortable with using the toilet, wearing underpants, and dressing and undressing themselves. To help us prepare for that process there are two things families can do at home—one is to re-purpose the changing table and begin doing diaper changes in the bathroom, standing up. This is how we change diapers here at school because it allows for more collaboration and increased independence for your children. The other thing is to send children to school in clothes that are easy for them to take off and put on on their own so that their clothing doesn’t become a frustrating obstacle when they try to use to the toilet.
During phase-in, we are in touch with families every day to let them know how their children are settling in, and after that we email daily reports with basic information about how the children do at meal times, nap time, and their bathroom habits. We also send a weekly photo, and then a monthly newsletter with information about the month ahead.
Another important point I’d like to share is that we transition children to primary classrooms as they are ready. Between 2 ½ and 2 years 9 months, children experience a developmental shift and change in their cognitive and socio-emotional capacities. They become ready for a new classroom environment. We let families know when we see the signs that indicate that a child is ready to move up. We fully support the parents and the child throughout the process.