Twin Parks Montessori - Largest Accredited Montessori Program in Manhattan

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Montessori and “Follow the Child”

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“Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in. The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly not to “learn”; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognized and developed by its means.” – Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori used her advanced skills of scientific observation to understand how children learn. She learned many useful lessons that hold true today. The first lesson is that children learn through their senses and they absorb knowledge through their surroundings. Children have an incredible interest in manipulating materials and tools with their hands. Given time to explore and discover, they can teach themselves more than adults imagine.

One of the first Montessori classrooms

One of the first Montessori classrooms

The second discovery Montessori made was that children have sensitive periods when they are at their peak learning capacity and are tuned into certain skills like learning to walk, talk, toilet, skip, read, write, and learn mathematical concepts. The development of materials for each curriculum area came from her knowledge of sensitive periods. Sensorial materials help develop the senses. Practical life work develops eye-hand-mind coordination, control, concentration, independence ,and order. Language and math areas continue the work on discrimination skills that begin in sensorial and practical life. Using the sense of touch with Sandpaper Letters develops muscle memory for later writing. Math concepts begin with one-to-one correspondence and objects of varying sizes promote the concept of greater than and less than which leads to linear counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Montessori teachers prepare the classroom with each student in mind and to anticipate the next steps that each child will take and the materials necessary to assist with those steps. Children are encouraged to follow their interests and independently make decisions about the work activities they will do. However, the teachers also have a plan to introduce the next steps in the child’s learning. Montessori followed each child’s interests and growth and development. Children were permitted to work with the same activity until they determined they had completed the work.

A Montessori classroom today.

A Montessori classroom today.

Following the child for teachers follows a cycle of observation, analysis, planning for the child and then observation again. Through observing the actions of children, teachers can determine what children need to do. If a child is throwing things, give him objects that are safe to throw and a container to aim the throw into. If a child is climbing, encourage a time and place to climb safely. As long as children are interacting with the materials in the environment and being respectful of the materials and others, the teacher can stand back and observe without interfering. Following the child gives her the freedom of choice and the ability to be independent.


“Trust in the child, take your lead from the child, support the child, entice the child, don’t rescue the child.”

Margot Garfield-Anderson, The Montessori Foundation


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What is Montessori Sensorial Education?

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Maria Montessori was a trained scientist. Her ability to observe children’s behaviors and their responses to materials in classroom environments led to the development of Montessori Sensorial Education materials. Montessori understood that all learning comes through our senses. Most of the activities designed by Maria Montessori focused on training children to discern similarities and differences in size, shape, composition, weight, sound, taste, temperature, and feel.

For instance, the Pink Tower and Broad Stairs are both geometrically and mathematically perfectly proportioned cubes and rectangular prisms that change in size and stack on top of one another. Children learn the descriptive language to use with words like larger, smaller, longer, shorter. A teacher may ask the child to find “the next largest one” from the cubes remaining.

The Montessori sensory materials are designed to help children focus their attention more carefully on the physical world and their ability to discover subtle variations in the attributes of objects. The absolute beauty and joy of the Montessori sensorial materials are in fact the discovery that many of the materials have attributes in common or can be linked in some way. For example, the Pink Tower and Broad Stairs share common dimensions. The cubes have equal sides, the rectangular prisms have two equal sides and a third that is longer.


The Pink Tower and Broad Stairs side by side.


The Pink Tower and Broad Stair in combination.


Some of the ways children discover how they put the Pink Tower and Broad Stair together.










The pieces of various triangles in the triangle box match the pieces of the skittles in the fraction skittles.

A child working with Montessori triangle box.

A child working with Montessori triangle box.

• all of the sensory materials were designed with the same conceptual learning in place.

• all of the materials isolate one quality to be presented, explored and learned

• all of the materials have control of error built in so children can make mistakes and learn from the mistakes to correct their work

• all of the materials are beautiful, they are attractive to children and children can manipulate with ease within their hands

• the teachers prepare the classroom making sure all materials are complete so children can work from beginning to end

• all of the materials can be extended with additional related activities

The Montessori fraction skittles.

The Montessori fraction skittles.

Through work with the sensorial materials at Montessori schools like Twin Parks Montessori, children are able to classify things around them and experiment with the environment. This work helps children organize their intelligence which leads to increased comfort and adaptation in the classroom, and in the world.

Kathy’s Insights