Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian doctor and educator who developed what has become one of the most popular early childhood development programmes in the world. The Montessori Method has been used in preschools and kindergartens since it was first applied in 1907 at the first Montessori school in Rome. The method was developed when Dr. Montessori realised during her work and observing children, that they were naturally capable of initiating self-learning and were keen to always discover more. This led to the creation of a child-centred educational approach in an environment designed for natural learning. The Montessori philosophy values human spirit and holistic (physical, social, emotional, cognitive) development.
How the Montessori Method works
Montessori centres (preschools and kindergartens) are extremely popular and are aimed at children aged three to six who are taught by trained teachers. Using tactile materials in hands-on activities, children are expected to get creative and explore. A trademark of the Montessori programme is the multi-age grouping of children, which is done to promote peer learning and where younger children can enhance their learning experience by watching the older ones.
Children are taught to be independent and to embrace their individuality. Hands-on activities are done at their own pace in the belief that children learn best when they are playing and having fun.
Younger Montessori students learn through experiencing via sight, hearing, tasting, touching, movement and smell. It’s all about using their cognitive powers so they can apply their knowledge to real life.
Formal teaching methods obviously work but can be detrimental to a child’s way to thinking and learning. Children are naturally curious and want to learn and this method uses this to instil the foundation for everything from language and mathematics skills to literacy and art.
A typical Montessori day
Once everyone arrives in class, everyone greets each other, sits in a circle and does a good morning song or any fun ritual to get the children in the mood. After this, the children get started on their activities which could include art and craft, games, books or music. Then a mid-morning snack and break before some outdoor fun like water play and time at the playground. Then it’s back inside for more independent learning before lunch. Younger children usually go home at or after lunch, while older ones typically stay till 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
For parents who want their preschool child to have fun while learning independently, the Montessori Method is ideal. As Dr.Maria Montessori once said, “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment,” and this has been proven by generations of Montessori-educated children.