18 Months – 3 Years(Potty Training Not Required)
The Absorbent Mind
Montessori described the young child’s unconscious creative state as, “The Absorbent Mind.” She compared the mind to a sponge because the child literally absorbs information for his environment. This quality allows the child to see the world using his five senses as tools. In the same way a two-year-old child absorbs his native language and reproduces it perfectly without ever being taught, the child in a Montessori environment is given the opportunity to have “hands on” experience with his world. The toddler is not interested in academic pursuits; what he is interested in is his world. In a Montessori toddler environment he is given the keys to its exploration through the materials offered to him. It is the real world that we give to him, because it is in the real world he is going to live.
The Prepared Environment
Rest and inactivity are foreign to the toddler’s nature; something that every parent of a toddler knows first hand. The prepared toddler environment is a place where the very young child is able to act upon his natural energies and curiosity. We all know the toddler is in constant motion and objects just seem to leap up into his hands. The toddler is encouraged to touch and handle and explore everything in his surroundings. His attention span is limited, so the prepared environment provides a wide variety of materials. The child is given freedom in the indoor and the outdoor environments to select activities that satisfy his needs. We encourage this within appropriate limits.
We also encourage independence. The toddler wants to do things by himself. Unfortunately, in today’s hurry-up pace, there is not always time or patience to allow the small child to complete the job at hand all by himself. The toddler prepared environment and program are designed to be convenient for the child. The prepared toddler environment is his place, a place to feel at ease and at home. It is our aim, as the aware adult, to remove the obstacles that frustrate the child by building furnishings to his size and having materials at his arm’s reach and at his eye level.
The Aware Adult
Another difference in a Montessori toddler program is the teacher, or the aware adult. The Directress is not continually entertaining the children nor does the Directress consistently initiate activities. Instead the Directress is an aware observer of the children and their needs and prepares and maintains an appropriate environment and atmosphere. The Directress respects the child and guides him into purposeful activity. When the Directress is needed the Directress is there, but when the child can do it on his own, the Directress steps back.