Early Development and Well-Being from Birth to Age 6

May 10, 2017

“At birth, the child leaves a person – his mother’s womb – and this makes him independent of her bodily functions. The baby is next endowed with an urge, or need, to face the outer world and to absorb it.  We might say that he is born with ‘the psychology of world conquest.’ By absorbing what he finds about him, he forms his own personality.”  Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

From the moment of birth, your child’s brain is developing and growing at rapid speed with the process of discovery and learning in constant motion. You’ll see your child exercise the need and desire for independence and growth, starting with:

  • Movement
  • Need for Order
  • Understanding of Math Concepts
  • Emotional Control
  • Communications
  • Interest in Small Objects and Purposeful Activity

According to Montessori education founder Dr. Maria Montessori in her book, The Absorbent Mind, “The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment.”  That’s why Apple Montessori Schools offer infant and toddler programs for infants age six weeks to 18 months and toddlers age 18 months to 2 1/2 years, as well as pre-school/kindergarten programs for children ages two to six years old.

From birth to six years of age is when children fully experience their “sensitive periods of development” and when they should be encouraged to focus, communicate, concentrate and act independently in a safe, structured, stimulating environment. The welcoming Montessori classroom environment, teachers, and caregivers help build a strong foundation for your child’s self-development, discipline, and happiness, coupled with an intense love for learning.

The Absorbent Mind

In the first three years of life, a child has an absorbent mind.  Like a sponge, he or she experiences and mimics everything seen, heard or touched—including people, sounds, shapes, textures, and movement.

From three to six, a child is more selective in what he chooses to focus on and pay attention to in their environment. This is also when your child starts to express an innate desire to do things for themselves.  You’ll often hear a child say, “Help me to do it by myself.” Allowing a child to pursue their interests and accomplish activities builds self-esteem and confidence. By completing a task to his/her satisfaction, your child is spurred to do more.  “Everything you do for the child that he can do for himself is an obstacle to his development and confidence,” said Dr. Maria Montessori.

Your child’s joy and happiness come from successful conquests in their environment.

What are sensitive periods?

Sensitive periods are spontaneous fascinations between your child and their environment–where there is total rapture and enthusiasm for objects, activities, and concepts. Like a good parent, at Apple Montessori Schools we watch your child closely, focusing on what they gravitate towards and how they completely immerse themselves for hours with an object or an activity. These sensitive periods provide “windows of opportunity” to expose your child to many rich experiences to help fully engage them in learning new concepts and tasks. In fact, studies show that young children can learn a second language better and faster than older children because the brain is more malleable and flexible to grasp the meaning and context of two languages simultaneously,

Development of motor skills

For an infant, being able to move freely in a safe, orderly environment helps develop their gross motor skills—fostering the ability to lift their head, sit, crawl, stand, and grasp objects.  During “sensitive periods” of growth, children will explore opportunities that build the foundation for fine motor movements, such as stacking, sorting and objects, and using crayons and pencils.

That’s why Apple Montessori Schools’ infant and toddler programs use a variety of engaging activities and proven learning exercises that spark interest, as well as baby yoga to help develop your child’s balance, coordination, and control.

Need for order

Starting at approximately six months of age, children develop a profound need and sense of order.  This innate need for consistency, repetition, and to have everything in its rightful place provides security and comfort for your child. Children favor the predictability of surroundings, routine activities, and knowing where they can go to find what they want.  When your child’s sense of order is disrupted, you may find your child acting out in frustration.  That’s why the Montessori classroom is structured in an orderly manner, where everything has its place and each activity ends with the child returning materials to its appropriate location.  It’s the start of good life habits. Many parents are amazed at how organized and disciplined their child becomes after experiencing the Montessori classroom.

Interest in small objects

At about age one, your child becomes fascinated with small objects and is obsessed with reaching out to grasp them. The ability to pick up a small object with just the thumb and forefinger represents a major milestone in your child’s development, demonstrating strength and hand-eye coordination. This sensitive period leads to the development of numerous, fine motor skills which include holding and using utensils, opening and closing fasteners, as well as writing. Many of Apple Montessori Schools’ activities, especially in Practical Life, focus on these skills. You can learn more at: https://www.applemontessorischools.com/preschool_curriculum_and_enrichment/

Communications skills

Research proves that the more we communicate with our children the more they will learn. For infants, the teachers at Apple Montessori Schools use “baby sign language” to help children learn to communicate what they want and need, even before they utter their first words.  This ability to communicate helps reduce frustration for young children, allowing them to express their needs and desire more clearly.  See how at: https://www.applemontessorischools.com/infant/

As more words are introduced and used to communicate, your child’s vocabulary will grow exponentially.  Studies show that in a year:

  • Children in professional families hear an average of 11 million words
  • Children in working class families hear an average of 6 million words
  • Children in low-income families hear an average of 3 million words.

However, it’s not just socio-economic. Within any family, it’s important to maintain a constant connection and dialog with your child at the outset.  Simply narrating every engagement and everything you do with your child helps facilitate bonding, relationship building, understanding, and learning.

As good parents and teachers, we are participating in the development of our children’s brains through constant positive, constructive communication.  According to Dr. Arnold Shabel, former Director of UCLA Brain Research Institute, “Language interaction is actually building tissue in their brains…The language centers of the brain are simply unable to attain full maturity without ample stimulation.”

Sensations, letter shapes and sounds

In the Montessori approach to education, we have found that children learn more quickly and effectively through hands-on application, starting at around age two. The more children integrate what they touch and feel with what they hear and see, the more likely they are to learn. For example, in the Montessori classroom children experience the physical sensation of touching and tracing letter shapes, coupled with hearing the sounds of letters, to help learn the alphabet and construct words. The interactive hands-on approach is more impactful than just reciting letters repetitiously.

Music

Children love music and it’s good for their brain development.  At about three years old, a child experiences a sensitive period for music where they learn rhythm, pitch, and melody, as well as how to listen, concentrate, and create, in a fun, enjoyable way.

Math and academic skills

Research also shows that learning has the power to alter the brain. The brain is “plastic”—it makes new cellular connections and strengthens existing ones as your child gains and comprehends more information and skills. A 2006 Wisconsin study comparing outcomes of children at a public inner-city Montessori school with children who attended traditional schools suggests that the Montessori approach to education leads to children with better social and academic skills. Among the 5-year olds studied, the Montessori students proved to be significantly more prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills

Social and emotional skills

The Montessori approach to child care and education with its collaborative, multi-age school atmosphere fosters self-awareness with respect and politeness toward others. Acting independently with the guidance of specially trained teachers, children build relationships and participate in practical life activities such as making snacks, cleaning up, watering plants, and playing games cooperatively within a structured community—learning life lessons and good habits that they will benefit from throughout their lives. Please see more at: https://www.applemontessorischools.com/preschool-kindergarten/


Resources:

http://ageofmontessori.org/stages-of-development/

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,137214,00.html

https://news.virginia.edu/content/montessori-education-provides-better-outcomes-traditional-methods-study-indicates

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