“The toddler is a reality of the present, yet a glimpse of the future.”
— Maria Montessori
During the beginning weeks in a toddler class, children experience a major transition. To ease this transition, we require a one to two week “phase-in” period. The first day is one hour with a parent in the classroom. Both the parent and child leave after one hour. We try to increase the time by an hour each day and to slowly move parents out of the classroom as children become comfortable with their teachers and environment. After a child has experienced the phase-in process, the best way children can feel comfortable at school is if they see that their parents have trust in the new situation. Consistency in the daily way parents handle the transition away from their child also helps to support the child’s ability to build trust. A tender hug or kiss and a confident demeanor as you leave are routines that help your child adjust to the “newness” of school. To successfully pass through separation anxiety is one of the major learning experiences for the toddler.
Most toddlers quickly adjust to the Montessori environment. Nature assists by offering him or her an insatiable curiosity and a boundless enthusiasm for activity. Toddlers literally propel themselves through their busy day! Out of this newfound freedom of movement, there eventually comes a flourishing of concentration on an enticing activity. Despite minor distractions, children focus and engage in hands-on activity, music and song, group time, and participate both in the daily care of their class and in their own personal care. Patience, self-control, and respect of peers emerge as children participate in community life.
Toddlers also learn to use language skills, both verbal and non-verbal, to solve conflicts in social situations. They quickly grow in their ability to carry on extended conversations and request help. Gestures and physical communication remain valid ways of communicating, but they diminish as the child’s phrases and simple sentences are understood. As words become a primary means of communication, we are careful not to attribute an understanding to the toddler that he or she does not yet possess.
One of the several challenges unique to toddlers is toilet learning. Adults become aware of a child’s readiness to entertain this challenge when the child exhibits certain characteristics, but children must make the decision on their own. As they do, teachers help ease this new routine naturally into the child’s personal care. Children experience independence, self-control, motivation, and confidence in their success.
Our toddlers activate their senses and their awareness of the world around them with daily experiences in Central Park and Riverside Park. They explore the parks and playgrounds and walk to specific destinations like the Turtle Pond, the Hudson River, Crab Apple Grove, the Duck Pond, the Great Hill, the North Woods and the Pinetum. Nature is incorporated into the daily curriculum and children are encouraged to make observations and discoveries while outdoors.