Here at Cathedral Hill Montessori School, we believe it is important to develop joyfulness, independence, concentration and a love of learning early in a child’s life. That is why we are proud to have a Toddler Community at our school! We have created a beautiful environment that is specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of children 16 to 33 months. Our Toddler Community is full of purposeful materials and provides a loving atmosphere in which children are given the freedom to choose and engage in activities based on their interests.
We begin by encouraging children to practice independence by refining their practical life skills. Practical life materials lay the foundation for any Montessori environment and help create a bridge for the child between home and the community. There are several areas of practical life, including:
- care of the self
- care of the indoor and outdoor environments
- grace and courtesy
- movement of furniture
- food preparation
These activities aid children’s development of movement, language, and concentration, while helping them learn to sequence a series of actions and adapt to the culture of a community. In addition, the natural outdoor play yard engages their sense of exploration and sensitivity toward nature. We offer children experiences in the reality of life, which fosters self-esteem by sending the message that they are valuable contributors to their community. Children spend much of their day joyfully dressing and undressing, washing hands, learning to use the toilet, watering plants, sweeping, scrubbing tables, and preparing food in order to practice the skills needed to be independent.
Our Toddler Community is a language-rich environment. Adults speak directly to children and consistently use clear articulation, precise grammar, and specific vocabulary. Children at this age have a special ability to absorb language and we provide them with the best example of it during this sensitive period. In addition to how speech is modeled, we also include books, poetry, song, nomenclature objects, and picture cards to develop language usage and vocabulary. Adults create a framework of trust and interest in which children want to communicate and to share with others as well.
In the Toddler Community, art is presented as creative expression and merely a means to generate a product. These materials are always available for children to work with and include drawing, various forms of painting, chalk, and clay. Opportunities for sewing, using glue, and cutting with scissors are also presented. Another form of self-expression, music, is ever-present in the toddler community. A musical environment is prepared that includes listening to recorded music, playing instruments, and singing. Both art and music also provide extensive possibilities for broadening language and vocabulary.
Children are able to move about the environment freely, within limits, which allows them to develop and refine large motor coordination. Inside there are opportunities for movement games, yoga, and dancing, while outside there are climbing boulders, a bridge, tricycles for riding, wheelbarrows and wagons to push and pull, a balance beam, and plenty of space to run. We also introduce seasonal activities like shoveling snow, sweeping, and raking leaves. In general, movement is very meaningful in Montessori environments because it is integrated with the use of the materials. Children are allowed to use free, purposeful movement, enabling them to learn concretely.