Our Toddler Communities are designed to meet the developmental needs of very young children, beginning at 18 months. These young students need to move and explore everything in an environment where we can trust that they will be safe. They are still in the parallel play stage, so while they enjoy being around others, they do not naturally engage in group activities. Toddlers absorb information from sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes without formal lessons. The design of the learning space takes those two factors into account using self-directed, individual activities which can be done with little or no intervention from the adult.
Hands-on learning materials are placed in sequence throughout our beautiful, spacious classrooms and garden areas to enhance the toddler’s ability to be independent, use fine and gross motor skills, recognize sensory impressions, and increase language and cognitive skills. They use manipulative materials, which demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships and one-to-one correspondence. Children are encouraged to use language to express their needs and to begin to understand others. Engaging developmental art, music, and rhythm lessons are available throughout the day.
The activities of Practical Life encourage the children’s independence by helping them learn to care for themselves and their surroundings, prepare and serve food, and the lessons of grace and courtesy. The lessons of grace and courtesy set Montessori programs apart. Through the adult example, children learn appropriate, respectful actions and words to use with the people around them.
Everything in the toddler community is a lesson: be it a greeting or changing a diaper. We allow children to take care of themselves as much as possible. These activities aid the development of concentration, coordination of movement, order, and independence and help to integrate the child’s personality, developing trust and feelings of self-worth. These activities appeal to children in their sensitive periods for order, imitation, and self-awareness.
Practical Life activities also involve toddlers in the care of the environment. Students dust, dry spilled water, and water plants. They also enjoy sweeping, mopping, table washing, table waxing, metal polishing, clothes washing, folding, flower arranging, sowing seeds, and raking leaves. Traditionally, toddlers are not allowed to do these activities for themselves. The key is to scale the activities down and to make it possible for them to care for themselves and their environment independently. The daily maintenance of the toddler community can (and should) involve the children’s work. They take great delight in this work, especially if it involves water.
Children are involved in all aspects of food preparation and serving, both at snack time and at lunchtime. Food preparation helps foster independence and coordination during these sensitive periods. Activities include self-feeding, using a cup and spoon, setting the table, serving and cleaning up, pouring water, preparing food, spreading crackers, cutting fruits and vegetables, and washing dishes.
Our Toddler Communities are prepared so that children are not controlled but supported and encouraged to have the highest chance for success in aiding their development.