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Very Young Children and Montessori

August, 2010
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Montessori education is for the youngest child. Early childhood educators know that from birth, children learn from the world around them.

Montessori teachers know this too, and they have created classrooms where even the youngest children “learn” and receive more than simple “child-care”. Montessori classrooms are environments filled with love and security for all children, including the youngest children who now can begin school at 3 months old. Infant teachers, like all Montessori certified teachers, are wise, and have received special Montessori training. The teachers know how smart the children are, even the youngest ones! A beautiful classroom provides these children with an opportunity to learn while the teacher enhances this learning.

mss-infant-1s1Very young children, known as “Infants and Creepers”, come to a Montessori school develop in many of the areas that can later make the children excellent students. A trained Montessori Infant teacher knows how to increase children’s vocabulary and encourage their attention, how to nurture children towards independence, and how to have children learn to listen to an adult when the adult is speaking. These skills are the foundations for success in any school!

An Infant Creeper room has certain characteristics. Educators know that television can never substitute for quality interactions between an adult and a child, so there should never be a television in the room. There must be opportunities for the child to hear, listen, and respond to language that is slowly and carefully spoken by adults.

There must be an excellent ratio of children to adults; for example, no more than 3 children to every 1 adult. There must be at least one Montessori teacher who is certified by the American Montessori Society, or by another qualifying organization.

The classroom must be safe and inviting. There must be space for the child to move, to freely explore, and for cognitive challenges. The “toys” and the classroom must be cleaned every day and the toys must be beautiful so that children will be drawn to explore them. The toys should be carefully selected and be both safe and interesting to young minds.

The atmosphere in the classroom must be calm, and nurturing. There should be very few bright or neon colors and the room should be in inviting with soft, quiet shades of colors which will help the child stay focused and alert.

Here in Shanghai, the children will hear both English and Chinese in the classroom because parents want their children to understand and speak both languages. There should be songs and story time, snacks and lunch, which all opportunities for listening and developing a child’s ability with language. There will be time for naps. There should be time for going outside to see the world, to discover grass and flowers, and to touch them with fingers and toes.

These very young children will be in a school setting so that they can watch, and be interested in the playing and talking of the older children around them. The older children in Shanghai usually do not have younger brothers and sisters and so many of these children are delighted to talk to and smile at the “babies”. There is a range of ages in a Montessori school, which is especially significant in a culture where parents are encouraged to have only one child. Having an Infant Creeper Program provides all the children with important opportunities educationally, socially, and emotionally.

The Montessori School of Shanghai has just begun the first The Infant Creeper Program in Shanghai. The teachers love these children and take great pleasure in being with them everyday. The children are growing and learning, and are extraordinary little people. Parents with children in this program know that their children are beginning school in one of the best and most loving educational settings possible: a Montessori school.

 

By Judy Townsend,

Head of School of Montessori School of Shanghai

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