As a parent of a Montessori child, you know that we follow the teachings of a woman named Maria Montessori, but you may not be aware of how Maria Montessori came to her conclusions resulting in a worldwide educational philosophy. Maria began her career as a scientist and doctor before also earning a degree in anthropology. She then used her knowledge of scientific observation to examine the needs of children around the world and concluded that not only children, but all people, universally exhibit eleven human tendencies. She then used the eleven human tendencies to drive the curriculum needed for children to develop to the best of their abilities. Montessori believed that when human tendencies are addressed and are allowed flourish, natural human development and the acquisition of knowledge will take place.
One of the most vital human tendencies is ‘the need to work the hands.’
“The hand is the instrument of the intellect.” -Maria Montessori
Children who only have the opportunities to look and hear will not develop the same capabilities of the brain as children who can manipulate objects with their hands. There is a direct correlation between the connections in the brain and the use of the hand. During the first three years of life, it is imperative for children to be able to have a freedom of movement to explore and touch and handle materials in order to acquire information as they learn about the world around them.
“The child can develop fully by means of experience in he his environment. We call such experiences ‘work’. – Maria Montessori
The more hands-on experiences the children are offered, the more knowledge they acquire and the more connections are made in the brain. In the classroom, the children are welcome to explore, being drawn to the beautiful materials. We try to use as many natural products as possible in order to provide a more tactile experience. We use glass, metal, wood, and clay to enhance the sensorial experience. We also encourage the children to spend as much time as they need manipulating the materials because the longer they work, the more an inner need is being met and the more information they are absorbing, all while developing their ability to concentrate.
“The child becomes a person through work.”-MM
At any moment, you might observe toddlers rubbing their hands together in the dish washing station creating bubbles with a bar of soap or squeezing a sponge full of water at the sink. You might see toddlers painting their fingers, their hands, their arms. You might witness a toddler trying to open and close a buckle on a friend’s shoe over and over again. All of the information they are acquiring can not be learned from merely talking about it but only experiencing it.
“Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements.” – Maria Montessori
We encourage you to not just talk to your children about experiences but actually let them explore, touch, create, struggle, and succeed with their hands. Next time they are playing in the dirt and making a ‘mess,’ take a breath and say to yourself, “My child is getting smarter. My child is getting smarter.”
Ms Liz and Ms Victoria