18 months - 3 years old
The aims of the Grace Montessori toddler program are to assist children as they fulfill the basic human tasks of trust, separation, independence, and self-control. The focus is both on curriculum and materials and on helping the toddler respond to the rapid and conflicting changes of this developmental age.
The carefully planned and meticulously prepared class environment beckons the toddler’s strongest desires to make order out of chaos, to move with intention and coordination, and to communicate with others.
In a Montessori toddler environment, the child develops feelings of support, security, and self-esteem. Children are guided toward appropriate behaviors through a non-judgmental atmosphere that offers consistency; children come to understand the balance between freedom and limits. Toddlers need to know that they are safe, both physically and emotionally, and that they are loved for whom they are. The comfort and reassurance of caring adults is never far away.
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 the Town of The Plains. They explore the playground and and church courtyard. Nature is incorporated into the daily curriculum and children are encouraged to make observations and discoveries while outdoors.