-- General Colin L. Powell, Founder, America’s Promise – the Alliance for Youth.
So much of Dr. Maria Montessori’s original theory and philosophy concerning early childhood development and education remains relevant today, over one hundred years later. Montessori claimed that education begins at birth. Simply stated, it is the family that serves as the most important environment for a child. Families today may look different from what they did in the time of Dr. Montessori – single parents, working parents, grandparents as parents – but they still serve the same important function, to love the children in the family, protect them, and to nourish them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Importance of Infant - Parent Interaction in the Montessori MethodIn the first plane of development, children up to the age of around six years old possess what Montessori called “an absorbent mind”, that is, the child relies on his/her senses to create himself and his personality by absorbing the very details of all he/she encounters. “The things about him awaken so much interest and so much enthusiasm that they become incorporated in his very existence”.1 Studies show that children who are well-adjusted, competent, and self-controlled had positive, healthy family relationships.
The best advice I ever had from my mother was a few hours after my son was born. She simply said “You can’t hold him enough. Don’t worry about spoiling him. Babies aren't spoiled because you hold them too much.” Indeed, Montessori teaches that The child must remain as much as possible in the first few days in contact with his mother. There must not be too much contrast, as regards to warmth, light and noise, with his conditions before birth.2 Simply lying close to the parent’s body, and being nourished and comforted builds a loving bond between parent and baby in the early days of her/his life.
Children openly and unconditionally love their parents. Who among us hasn't smiled when a toddler rushes to bring you a handful of crushed dandelions and ceremoniously presents them with a resounding kiss and a simple “I picked them just for you!”? It is this love and affection that must be returned just as unconditionally.
- Eye contact – by maintaining eye contact with your children, you are letting them know you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.
- Physical contact – keeping infants close to your body, holding a toddler on your lap while reading a story, sharing hugs and pats, giving piggy-back rides at the zoo or park, holding hands when you for walks, sharing whispers and giggles while playing on the floor, give a massage when tired or cranky, cuddling for no reason other than to be close, all of these physical expressions go a long way in developing healthy psyches. (Rough play, such as tickling, throwing a child in the air, should be discouraged as it is not respectful to the child).
- Give focused attention – read stories together, play ball, go to the park, make cookies, play games, plant and water flowers, rake the yard, wash the car. One-on-one activities make your child feel that she/he is important, that you've taken the time to spend time with just her/him.
1 Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967. p.14
2 ibid. p.15
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, July 7, 2009.