Social interaction with other children, development of language skills, care of oneself and the environment, food preparation, music and movement activities are integral to the Montessori toddler experience. Through careful observation of the children, the educator is able to link each child to whatever aspect of the environment will enhance the child’s physical, psychological and social development at any given time.
The educator is always looking out for the “sensitive periods” when the child demonstrates an almost obsessive interest in a particular activity that is essential to his or her growth. This is a critical time during human development when the child is biologically ready and receptive to acquiring a specific skill or ability, such as the use of language or a sense of order — and is therefore particularly sensitive to stimuli that promote the development of that skill. The adults in the environment are the children’s models, and they conduct themselves in the way they expect the children to conduct themselves.
Children at this age learn not only through individual lessons and independent practice, but also through their attention to what the adults in their lives do. A Montessori teacher prepares the classroom environment to meet the developmental needs of each sensitive period, with carefully selected, aesthetically arranged materials that are presented sequentially to meet the developmental needs of the children using the space. Well-prepared Montessori environments contain appropriately sized furniture, a full complement of Montessori materials, and enough space to allow children to work in peace, alone or in small or large groups.