Recently, my brother and I were laughing about when we were four and six years old, we would spend hours in our home’s bedroom hallway spinning in circles, chanting “China, China, China.” My mother asked why we did that. We replied, “We are drilling ourselves to China to build a castle.” My brother wondered who gave us that idea that we could dig to China. I said I don’t think anyone told us what to do, we were just having fun with the freedom of moving, spinning, and letting our creativity and imagination develop a story and purpose around what we were doing. We created our own unique activity and entertainment with some very simple, carefree movements.
Learning through Movement
Research shows that children develop their motor skills, cognitive ability, creativity, and imagination more readily when they are active and free to learn by doing. According to Dr. Durand, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital, Philadelphia, freedom of movement is necessary for children to meet their developmental milestones. “Children learn by experiencing the world using all of their senses. The restriction of movement, especially at a young age, impedes the experiential learning process,” says Dr. Durand. Movement connects concepts to action.
That’s why Apple Montessori Schools’ encourages freedom of movement for children ages six weeks to 12 years in its infant care, toddler, preschool, kindergarten and elementary programs. Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori approach to child development and education, believed that movement was integral to the brain, senses, and muscles–stimulating both physical and intellectual development. According to Dr. Montessori, “Movement has great importance in mental development itself, provided that the action which occurs is connected with the mental activity going on.”
Each child’s development is wired by his/her instinctive, internal timetable. Independently, infants will naturally do what they are capable of according to their own physical abilities. That’s why it’s important to allow an infant to move freely, roll from back to tummy, crawl, sit, stand, walk climb, and run at their own pace, with minimal prompting or propping from adults. In addition to the physical abilities and agility gained, your child builds self-assurance and confidence with every physical achievement they master.
The Montessori approach also encourages the growth and development of the “whole child” through movement, focus, and independence. Dr. Montessori believed that the goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn. In an active setting, Apple Montessori provides opportunities to build fine and gross motor skills, as well as language and social skills. Toddler Yoga helps teach balance and body control, while baby sign language provides the visual cues to teach abstract concepts of eating, drinking, and sharing.
In Apple Montessori’s multi-age classrooms, you’ll find that purposeful movement is part of the active learning process. Children are free to move about the Montessori environment because movement is a sensory activity that has direct connections to the brain. Through hands-on activities and experiments, every movement, whether counting objects or stacking blocks, is linked to learning math, science, language, music, art, and practical life skills.
As children get older and begin to work collaboratively with others in teams, the freedom to move about the classroom to pursue their interests and goals further reinforces the educational experience. Recent neuroscience research shows that movement is central to active learning which is characterized by intense concentration and focus, loss of awareness of time, enthusiasm, and full engagement. Children discover themselves and the larger world by moving about and wholeheartedly embracing the learning experience.