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What is Montessori for Infants?

Theresa Heiden

The baby is next endowed with an urge, or need, to face the out world and to absorb it. We might say that he is born with ‘the psychology of world conquest.’ By absorbing what he finds about him, he forms his own personality.” - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

A peek into a Montessori infant classroom:

10 Key Montessori Elements: 

Observation: Taking the time to observe the child allows the caregiver to assess the needs of the child - social, emotional, and developmental. In a Montessori classroom, individual observation allows the teacher to prepare a proper environment for each child's development, and to rotate materials and activities as they change and grow. 

Guidance rather than teaching: Unlike “typical” classrooms, the teachers are called guides or facilitators - guiding children toward independence. Guides help children but do not tell them what choices to make or actions to take. Children choose their own materials and activities, and the guides step in when help is needed but not before. 

Preparation of environment: In a Montessori classroom, “the greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist” - Maria Montessori. The idea is that the environment and materials are set up such that children can find their "work" and use it independently. The environment promotes concentration and independence early on. 

Respect: In a Montessori classroom, you'll see only child-sized furniture and carefully arranged environment. The primary aim of this is to show respect for the child. Just as we appreciate nice things, so do infants and children. Guides also show respect in the manner in which they talk to and interact with children - at their level.

Follow the child: The infant or child is the leader, and the adults follow their pace and interests. There is no expectation or pressure for children to learn or behave in a certain way. Each child learns and develops at their own pace, and the guides respect their individual needs. 

Order: Young children are usually happiest when they have order and structure to their day. In Montessori classrooms, everything has a specific place in the environment, and a routine is well-maintained. The idea is that infants and children come to know what to expect and feel more secure with that knowledge. 

Choice: Infants and children are given options rather than told what to do, providing them with a sense of independence and respect while still having structure. Typically a Montessori guide will give a child 2 simple choices, both of which are realistic and productive options. 

Independence: Whenever possible, children are given a chance to do things for themselves. Never do for a child what he/she could do for him/herself” -Maria Montessori. By giving infants and young children the time and opportunity to work and play by themselves, they learn self control and self reliance. 

Intrinsic Motivation: In Montessori education, adults acknowledge accomplishments, but they don’t praise or offer rewards for doing something “good”. The idea is for children to learn how to take pride in their own accomplishments and seek out challenges, rather than only put in effort for an adult or external rewards. Infants and toddlers learn best by using all of their senses, particularly touch. Maria Montessori believed the hands were the most important tool in learning. Montessori classrooms are filled with a variety of textures, and many natural materials and elements.