Dr. Montessori believed that education must begin at birth, and she regarded the first two years of life as vital. She noted that without the facility for language, children use an innate sense to learn directly from their environment. They learn to adapt to their surroundings and begin the foundation of their own distinct personalities.
Preparing the Infant/Toddler Environment: Traditional Montessori Materials for 0 to 2 Years Old
She also observed that children around the world learn language in approximately the same manner and at the same time. They do not learn through formal lessons but by absorbing the vocabulary and speech patterns of those around them.
Because of this, she reasoned that “education is not something which the teacher does, but … a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences … The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” (The Absorbent Mind, page 8.)
So, what kind of activities can Montessori teachers prepare for infants and toddlers to help them learn? Montessori said that since education is preparation for life, we should teach according to the laws of development, providing children with activities that are developmentally appropriate and appealing to the sensitivities of the child.
(The Absorbent Mind, page 24.)
To the infant, everything is new. Every smell, sound, sight, taste, and touch is new and exciting! We can enhance and heighten the infant’s awareness of his environment by providing materials that engage and strengthen the child’s senses. These traditionally include:
- Montessori Mobiles
- Mirrors hung at the child's eye level
(The Absorbent Mind, page 26)
From being completely immobile and relying on adults, the infant begins to move by holding her head up on her own. Progressing to rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, and finally walking, the infant learns to move and begins to discover her environment. Using her hands to touch and hold objects, she carefully examines and processes information in through her senses. She also learns that through movement she can alter her surroundings. Montessori materials for movement include:
- Wooden push toys and walker-type wagons
- Object permanent boxes
- Imbucare boxes (from the Italian verb meaning to mail or post a letter)
- Simple shape puzzles
- Discs and cubes on vertical and horizontal dowels (Also know as infilare puzzles, from the Italian verb meaning to thread)
- Infant dressing frames
- Wooden child size table and chair
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, July 16, 2013.