Children in the Montessori programme

At the heart of Montessori pedagogy is the child; the programme begins with the needs of the child. Every being, both animate and inanimate which exists, exists for a purpose. Respect for the child is very important.

The aim of upbringing is to provide an education which enables everyone to find their role, their place, their goal and to provide the opportunity to achieve this.

Respecting the child

The anthropological understanding of a child leads to the offering of partnership help for self-development – "thinking about the child him/herself" – about his/her own genetically determined programme of development, which does not have clear boundaries. The child grows in an environment which is exemplified by his/her possibilities and which, within clear boundaries, enables free development.

  • Adaptation of the teaching style to the structure of the child's personality
  • Readiness of Montessori teachers to change
  • Observation of the child's behaviour and intuitive enjoyment of his/her world
  • Offering indirect help for self-development: help to the extent and when it is needed, by creating conditions, help to become independent and self-sufficient, giving security.

The Absorbent Mind

Up to three years of age, the child unconsciously absorbs what it intensively experiences in his/her environment. The child picks up those types of behaviour which are necessary to him/her to survive and build him/herself up. The tendency is towards independence and self-sufficiency. The important things are going through and gaining early experiences. For this, an environment where the child is accepted, where he/she feels understood, which offers warmth and love and offers support for development are essential. Upbringing is not teaching, but support for physical and mental development. The child, with its senses, unconsciously absorbs signal from his/her environment – without limitations, tiredness or any particular choice.

From 3 to 6 years of age, the child's conscious absorbent mind is typified by the phenomena of awareness, will, language improvement and the appearance of skills. The child shows a conscious "hunger for knowledge and improvement of complex skills".

  • The child makes efforts to adapt to the environment in which he/she is growing up
  • Improvement of speech
  • Development of mental structure for writing and calculating
  • Progresses in developing creative skills

This is a gradual and slow process. Mental development is understood as an extension of biological development and is governed by the same laws of development; the environment provides "food" for the development of mental structures.

  • Sensory development
  • Strong internal motivation for learning
  • Need for activity
  • Getting to know one's own strengths
  • Development of concentration

Dutch researcher De Vries discovered the periods of particular sensitivity to certain types of support; Maria Montessori applied this knowledge in educating children. It is genetically determined, and is an internal process in which drives encourage the child towards certain activity. We find these periods in the early stages of development; they are limited to the development of certain capabilities; they allow the Montessori teacher to notice the events happening inside the child.

These events happen at a particular time period. If the child is then held back, he/she will always lose the possibility of creating the optimal development of some of these abilities. The child learns with ease, joy, will and delight. The internal sensitivity is what leads the child towards CHOICE in different environments, of what is necessary for his/her development, by making him/her sensitive to some things and indifferent to others.

Characteristics of periods of special sensitivity

  • Universality
  • Overlap
    • Present in each child's development
    • They overlap time-wise, but they never reach their maximum at the same time
  • Time limitation
  • Perceptibility
    • They have their own time and when they pass it is harder for the child to learn in that area
    • It is perceptible that the child learns with ease, without weariness and joyfully
  • Sensitivity for speech: - this appears earliest and lasts longer than the others
    • Without conscious teaching from outside, the child learns the speech of its environment
    • From four months a baby makes a universal repertoire of sounds regardless of culture. At six months, it makes sounds from its own culture. From one year of age it says its first word. From two and a half to three years it expresses its own thoughts. From three to three and a half, speech helps the organisation of its awareness. From four years, the child learns how to write. From five, he/she learns to read. From seven to nine, it has sensitivity for grammatical structure.
  • Sensitivity to order: this appears in the first and second years of life

    Natural law allows the child to build up its own internal order. The child learns that everything in the outside world has a reason for existing and has its own place in space. The child, through his/her senses, receives pictures of the outside world and classifies and orders it.

    Sensitivity to order means:

    • A caring environment
    • Harmonious relationships
    • Good habits
    • Rules that children can understand
    • Consistency which provides security
    • An environment where the child can move around "with his/her eyes shut"
    • Understanding of the relationships between things
    • Understanding of the relationships in the social environment
    • Order between things
    • This is the first orientation in a space
  • Sensitivity for dexterity of movement – need for movement

    The child improves his/her ability to walk "by walking" – he/she starts to walk because of an insatiable internal powerful impulse. The child walks in order to develop his/her functions; he/she does not have a goal, and is attracted by the things he/she is surrounded by. Movement is connected to development of intelligence. In order for the child to collect important elements for his/her first mental constructions, he/she needs to move and carry out activity with his/her hands with objects in the relevant environment.

  • Sensitivity for spotting small parts of a whole:

    In his/her second year, a child is attracted to small objects; he/she takes the object, lifts it up, looks at it – it is his/her attempt to understand and work out the world; the child concentrates on the details of a certain whole.

  • Sensitivity to development of senses: the necessity of finding out

    The child is an observer who actively records pictures of his/her environment through the senses. The child is an active being in whom the senses are active, absorbing images and feeling an insatiable attraction to light, to vivid colours and to noises. It is necessary to provide the child with an environment in which he/she will practice and improve sensory capabilities.

    Adults must observe and follow the needs of the child:- they should introduce as few changes as possible into the environment of young children and their daily routine, apply correct speech and behaviour, allow free movement and enable the child to gain experience – in all, to do everything so that the child makes the most of the period of special sensitivity.

Child's Activity

Movement is not understood as gymnastics, but as a philosophy of movement. All children want to learn. A child is an active being – he/she learns through his/her senses. The child needs to see things not only with his/her eyes, but also with his/her hands, to smell them, to touch them and prod them. Education of the senses is the foundation of Montessori pedagogy on which a child's physical and mental development is based. Education of the senses is based on correct coordination of movement of fine and gross motor skills during activities. Movement is an elementary need of the child, which needs to be met while the programme is being completed. In the Montessori kindergarten, children freely move around, the child chooses his/her own place to work and the things to do, the child moves when he/she brings or puts back the materials, and when he/she is practicing movements.

Development of the child's self-sufficiency and independence

"Help me to do it on my own" – the principle of independence is, according to Maria Montessori, seen in the natural yearning of the child to be as independent as possible during his/her development: "self-sufficiency is necessary for the child to be able to follow his/her own inner drive for activities which will be useful to him/her." The feeling of self-sufficiency is directly linked to success in the family, in kindergarten, school and life. Montessori teachers support the development of self-sufficiency from their secondary role: they reject an overly possessive or protective attitude towards the child and wait for the child to come to them when he/she needs to, and do not lay down rules authoritatively. Teachers are not overly lenient in their attitude.

Page updated: 28 December 2013


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