Friday, March 26, 2010

Montessori Musings: Development of Movement and Motor Skills in Children

Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur. ~Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
NAMC montessori development movement motor skills in children infant
When my son was born fourteen years ago, I remember my mother and I watching him sleep quietly in his crib. She commented on how he never kept still, even in his sleep. As helpless as a newborn seems, they have many reflexes and protective movements. As the baby grows and develops, the inherent need to be independent manifests itself in many new ways. Holding the head up, rolling over, sitting up, creeping, crawling, standing, walking and running are all nature’s way of helping babies establish their independence. Being able to move freely, without artificial aid is the child’s first step toward independence.

Montessori understood that children must experience the world through their senses in order for the brain to develop. Being able to see, hear, smell, feel, and yes, taste their environment, is critical. Through movement and sensory input, children develop neural pathways, shaping their emerging minds and gaining control of their bodies. The Montessori philosophy embraces the idea that in order to fully engage with the environment, the child must be free to move.

Montessori Musings: Development of Movement and Motor Skills in Children

Development of Movement
I was fortunate to be able to stay home for the first two years after my son was born. When the time came for me to go back to work, I toured the recommended local daycare facility. The infant room was full of cribs, playpens, and high chairs. Movement was restricted and controlled. I left in tears, vowing I’d never place such restriction on a child.

It is amazing to think that within the first three years of a child’s life he accomplishes all major movement milestones: using their vocal chords and mouths to cry, coo, mimic sounds, speak and sing; using their bodies to hold their heads, push up, creep, crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, hop, climb, and dance; and developing their hands to reach, grasp, point, hold a spoon, and write. Development of movement is cephalocaudal – from the top down. In general, children reach important milestones around the same time. It is important to remember, however, that not all children progress at the same time and a caregiver must make careful observations about each child’s developmental milestones. Montessori caregivers must encourage children to extend themselves as they gain independence of movement.
  • 7 weeks – able to hold head erect when held upright
  • 2 ½ months – holds head steady when sitting up
  • 6 months – sits alone
  • 8 ½ months – pulls to standing position
  • 9 months - crawls
  • 12-15 months – walks
NAMC montessori development movement motor skills in children
Montessori believed that “what the hand does, the brain remembers”. Current brain research shows that the hand is indeed the child’s strongest link to the developing brain. Development of the hand is proprioceptive. That is, it develops from the inside out. A baby must place her hands in front of her to push up from her tummy before she is able to grasp a block put in front of her. Thus, sitting alone is a major milestone as it leaves the hands free to explore. At first, hand movements may be unsteady or uncoordinated. Babies don’t even realize they have hands until at around 6 months, they instinctively grasp objects. (Prior to 6 months, babies use the palmer grasp reflex to close their hand around objects such as a rattle or adult’s finger). Now, the choice to grasp objects is present and the baby learns that his mind can control his body to do his will.

In upcoming related blogs, we will look more specifically at independence in the Infant/Toddler, Preschool/Kindergarten, and Elementary Montessori environments.

Here are some links to other NAMC blogs related to Infant/Toddler and movement:
See our other related blogs in this series:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, March 26, 2010.

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