Infant and Tot 0-24 Samples
The Treasure Basket Lesson
Age: 6-12 months
Indirect Aim: Promote independence, enhance curiosity, and develop focus and concentration.
Direct Aim: Explore different objects.
Materials: shoe box, wicker basket, or plastic container up to four inches high filled with different objects of various shapes, colors, sizes, and textures.
For younger infants, begin with only three or four objects small enough for her to pick up but not swallow, and that are easily seen in the basket. Older infants can have as many as ten objects that they can sort through.
Before introducing this activity to younger infants, place only the container in the environment for the infant to explore. After a few weeks, begin adding various objects for her to extract.
Change the objects every three or four days (or at least once a week). You can keep any favored object in the container, however. Clean objects as needed, or place them in the dishwasher (if dishwasher safe).
When introducing the treasure basket, sit facing the infant and take out one object, explore it, then return to basket (without talking!). Continue until infant begins to take objects out of the basket, then move away.
For younger infants who cannot yet understand the concept of choosing objects to explore, offer her two objects (one in each hand) for her to grasp. Eventually, after days or weeks, she will choose them herself out of the basket.
When infant loses interest, place the objects back in the basket and place back on shelf (or where ever you keep the basket). Make sure the treasure basket is accessible to the infant to go to whenever she wants to.
You can keep one treasure basket in each room that the infant is allowed to freely play in. If making a trip to grandma's house, and you are using a playpen or play yard, you can place a smaller treasure basket in the pen (a plastic container with a lid is handy!).
Extension: at age 12 months (or when child shows interest in vocabulary) you can begin naming each object, slowly, one at a time, holding it up for the infant to see. Eventually, you can ask for an object by name to see if the child remembers it! END
Pulling Scarf Game Lesson
Age: 9-12 months
Indirect Aim: Coordination and balance control
Direct Aim: Social development through cooperation (playing a game)
Materials: A long colorful scarf or sock, a basket or container for the scarf.
Place your baby in front of you, take the scarf out of the container, and put one end of the scarf in your baby's hands and the other end in your hands.
Allow the infant time to examine and explore the scarf, and when she pulls or tugs on it, pull it towards you.
If the infant cannot hold onto her end of the scarf, you can tie it around her wrist.
If the infant lets go of her end of the scarf, place it back into her hands to grasp. She may also want to mouth it.
Create a gentle motion of pulling back and forth between you and the infant, smile, sing a song, and make it fun! Keep playing with the scarf, offering it to her if she drops it, then put it away when she loses interest.
You can also use language for this game, "pull," tug," and "push." You can also begin the game by saying, "We are going to play the see-saw game or tug-of-war (or peace) game."
When you are finished with your activity, place it in a basket in a nearby place for future play/lessons.
From time to time, replace the object.
Other objects you can use: a stuffed animal, paper towel tub, or an envelope. END
Phonetic Sound Objects for 18 to 24-month-olds: photo gallery here
Infant Fine Motor Development
In Montessori infant development, emphasis is placed on the use of the hands as an extension of brain development (hand-eye coordination, hand-brain coordination) beginning in the first few months of life and continuing on into infancy and well into the toddler and preschool years, as the brain continues to grow and develop.
An infant, when grasping an object for example, is receiving information about that object and sending it to the brain, creating a "continuous feedback loop of hand-to-brain-to-hand." And it is for this reason that the infant be allowed to explore (safe) objects as soon as three-to-five months of age, when grasping for objects becomes intentional. Throughout infancy, the baby's continuous reaching and grasping for objects will also aid in his development of depth perception, the pincer grasp, and his own sense of self, apart from mother and father.
The key, then, in Montessori infant development, is to find the right balance between the hand and the mind, a unity: "the level of muscular skill and coordination [that] matches the level of mental development"; otherwise, a mismatch, a disunity, will occur.
One way to keep the hand and brain development in sync is to allow the infant enough time to repeat his exploration of the same objects, so as to allow lots of time for the hand and brain to create those "feedback loops," rather than to overwhelm the infant with a continuous stream of new toys and objects.
Rotation, then, is what is needed for the infant: a rotation of objects, activities, and toys each week, or each month, for the infant to explore. We must limit the infant's choice of toys, activities, and objects so that he will 1) repeat his interactions with them, 2) gain knowledge of them, 3) develop is fine motor skills, and 4) create those feedback loops to the brain (so the knowledge sticks!).
Secondly, we want his interactions with the objects in his environment, and his toys and activities, to be challenging: not too easy so as to cause boredom but not too hard so as to cause frustration; we want to match his mental abilities with his fine motor abilities.
To know when an activity, toy, or object is just right for your infant, spend a few moments each day observing him: which activity or area in the house does he go to first? Which activity or task does he seam to repeat the most? What are his favorite objects or toys? If he continuously ignores certain objects or toys, he could be bored with them. If he throws certain toys and objects, or acts frustrated and cranky upon interacting with them, perhaps it is because they are too challenging.
Our ultimate goal for the infant, when he reaches early toddler hood (fifteen months) is to "stay with a focused task." We therefore want to build his attention span, his focus, and his concentration during his infancy, so that when he is a toddler, he will not flutter from one activity, toy, and object to the other, unable to focus and concentrate on the task and skill at hand.
Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen months of age, your new young toddler will begin to slow down a bit, he will stay with certain toys and activities for longer periods of time and show a preference for certain ones. Perhaps he will spend more time playing with his trucks and his balls (or chasing the cat around the house!).
After the infant reaches early toddler hood, he will instinctively want to be involved in the daily chores and tasks (the "fundamental needs") of the family, requiring a certain level of attention and focus: dressing and dressing as in care of the self, food preparation like pouring and spooning, caring for the environment like watering plants or feeding the pets, as well as helping out with household chores. The infant-turned-toddler wants to copy the adults in his environment in their daily activities, doing what Montessori termed, practical life activities, or the "practical work of life." This is a transition from the learning exploration by the infant to the doing and working by the young toddler. END
Sample Lessons for Twos and Threes
Open and Close Using Zippers and Snaps
Aim: a practical life activity for fine motor movement development and using a zipper and snapping.
Materials: Four objects that zip and snap, a tray or basket to hold them, and a mat or small rug. If you have an older child who is 36 months or older, you can use six or seven objects. (The younger the child the fewer objects you want to use!) Objects you can use: a small make-up bag, a coin purse, a key holder, a lipstick holder (the kind that snaps and has a little mirror in it).
This activity works best on the floor.
Sit next to the child, place the tray on the left, and the mat next to the tray or on the right. If you are using a large rug, you can place the tray on the rug. If you are using a small mat (as seen in the picture above) you can place the tray off the mat and to the left of the mat.
Take out one object using both hands, and place it on the mat (at the far left of the mat). Ideally you should have the objects placed in the middle of the mat, so as to have space to work on the mat at the bottom, which is easier for the child to reach (rather than the top).
Zippers: Hold the object up (so the child can see the zipper) with your left hand and unzip it with your right (or your dominant) hand. Say, "Open."
Now zip it back up and say, "Close." Place it back on the mat.
Take out another object using both hands, and place it on the mat (to the right of the first object--you are going from left to right as you place each object on the mat).
Hold the next object (that zips) with your left hand and unzip it with your right (or your dominant) hand. Say, "Open."
Now zip it back up and say, "Close."
Continue with all the zipper objects.
Snaps: Take out an object that snaps. Place it on the mat. Hold the object down with your left hand and unsnap it with your right or dominant hand. Say, "Open."
To close it: Use your left pointer finger and place it just below the snap…
Use your right or dominant pointer finger and place it on top of the snap.
Take your right or dominant thumb and pinch, hold the snap so the bottom of the snap and the top of the snap are on top of each other, and push the snap closed with your right or dominant pointer finger WHILE keeping your left pointer finger just below the snap--this serves as a marker for closing the snap as the child can no longer see the bottom of the snap as she is about to snap (it) closed. Practice it yourself several times!
Continue with each snapping object until they are all lined up on the mat.
Put everything back on the tray, from right to left, one at a time (a lesson in itself!).
Now say to the child, "Your turn!"
If you see your child having trouble, you can say, "May I have a turn?" and then show them again what to do. END
Write Sandpaper Numbers 1 and 0 on Chalkboard: photo gallery here
The Sensitive Periods in 3-6 year olds an excerpt from COSMIC EDUCATION by Ursula Thrush
The sensitive periods are transitory periods in the child's life during which she is prompted by an inner urge to focus her attention on certain elements in her environment. The activities and impressions resulting from this activity help the child to form a faculty with which to fulfill a tendency.
"Children pass through definite periods in which they reveal psychic aptitudes and possibilities which afterwards disappear. That is why at particular epochs in their life, they reveal an intense and extraordinary interest in certain objects and exercises which one might look for in vain at later age. During such a period the child is endowed with a special sensitivity which urges him to focus his attention on certain aspects of her environment to the exclusion of others. Such attention is not the result of mere curiosity, it is more like a burning passion. Keen emotion first arises from the depths of the unconscious and sets in motion a marvelous creative activity in contact with the outside world, thus building up consciousness" (The Secret of Childhood, Montessori).
When a sensitive period is at its height, we may compare it to a searchlight coming from within the mind and illuminating certain parts of the environment, leaving the rest in comparative obscurity. The effect of this luminous and selective ray is such that where before there was confusion and chaos there now comes into being order and distinction. The intense and prolonged activity which is aroused and sustained by a sensitive period does not cause fatigue, on the contrary, it energizes!
"It comes for a moment, but its benefits last for a lifetime." Montessori
After a spell of work done at the imperious bidding of this inner urge, the child, or individual, feels better, stronger, calmer--simply because he has been creating herself. A sensitive period has a beginning, a high point, and a fading out phase. It has a period of building and a period of perfecting.
It was Dutch biologist Hugo de Vries who first discovered the periods of sensitivity. They are observable in animals whose development has to go through several stages or metamorphoses as in the case of the butterfly.
"Like a good mother, the female butterfly instinctively lays her eggs in a sheltered spot at the angle formed by a branch with the trunk of the tree where they will be safe and sheltered. What will tell the tiny caterpillars when they break out of their shells that the tender leaves which they need for food are above them at the end of the branch? It is light! The caterpillar is extremely sensitive to light. Light attracts it, fascinates it, and as a consequence the tiny worm inches its way up to the end of the branch where there is the most light.
"There among the tender leaves it finds food to satisfy its ravenous hunger. The remarkable fact is that just as soon as the caterpillar has grown large enough to eat coarser food, its sensitive period passes and it loses its sensitivity to light. . . (The Secret of Childhood).
The Sensitive Periods are:
Language & Writing
For a certain period of his life, the child is endowed with a special sensitivity toward a certain element in his environment, language. It enables him to establish a new faculty--speech. the faculty of speech fulfills his tendency of communication.
The infant absorbs the language spoken in his environment, that is, the sensitive period for language has begun long before the child can speak. At four months he watches the mouth of the speaker. His muscles begin to vibrate in harmony with the spoken word he hears but it is only the human sounds which attract him in this manner. At six months he makes sounds--these are the elements of the words to come. These sounds exercise his vocal cords, that is, they prepare and animate the organs of speech.
"When the child is born, the sounds in its environment form a confusion, then suddenly this mysterious urge begins in his soul, this inner flame of interest is lit up and is turned outward as a light upon this dark exterior confusion under its influence sounds separate themselves, though as yet language is not understood. Nonetheless, these sounds have become distinct, fascinating, alluring."
The child's mind now listens voluntarily to the spoken language. Again, first we have psychic factor and then the corresponding physical activity. This is the building phase of the sensitive period for language.
At around two years, the child explodes into speech with the "absorbent mind" he has absorbed and fixed the language spoken in his environment, and now he reproduces it in its totality down to the smallest detail.
From 3 to 6 years is the perfecting phase, during which time the child perfects his own language and increases his vocabulary through experiences and practice. During this phase he can also absorb other languages without any effort. He easily learns the two other factors of language: writing and reading.
In a Montessori environment, we cooperate with the sensitive period for language by offering many nursery rhymes, songs, poems, stories, plus experiences with the correct language to express them. The classified cards, language with the materials, the "I Spy and Question" game and the news period all aid the child in perfecting his language and increasing his vocabulary. The sensitive period for language lasts from birth to 6 years.
The sensitive period for order reveals itself when the child reaches his second year and it lasts for about two years. Its high point is at 3 years. At this time the child has a passionate interest in the order of things in time and space. Everything has to be in its proper place and the actions of the day have to be carried out in an accustomed routine. A child of 2-1/2 years is upset by not getting his usual spoon, or cupboard door [is] left open, or the corner of a rug turned over; or a story being retold with different words or turns of events. Small children can be driven frantic by such infringements [changes in] established order, and they often protest with temper tantrums. The adult might not know what caused the tantrum but the child can not live in disorder. He needs the stability and the security that order gives. [Think how you would react if you went to work and your desk was gone--moved, or you return home and the stove is in the bathtub! I can’t stress enough the importance of order for 3-6 year olds!]
The order in the child’s environment is his foundation he absolutely needs it for orientation. First, for physical orientation to find his way around, and later in mental orientation and for classification, this sensitive period establishes within him the rhythm he needs in order to fulfill his tendency for order.
In [a Montessori environment] we meet the child’s need for order by giving every piece of material its proper place, by presenting materials in the same order of sequence and by teaching the child to replace materials in order and ready for use by someone else.
As the child passes into his 4th and 5th year, the sensitive period for order becomes calmer and his reactions toward disorder are not as violent and disturbing as before. This period lasts from about 2 to 4 years old.
The special epoch of sensations pertains not only to external sensory impressions but also to the child’s physical actions. This need is fulfilled by "grace and courtesy" exercises. If we leave these things to be taught at a later age, the special spontaneous interest will not be there. It will have vanished to give way to other interests of a more intellectual nature.
This is why you must really make use of a sensorial periods--don’t stress the intellectual [for ages 3-5]. The sensorial lays the foundation for the intellectual, which comes after six.
Beginning in their second year, children are drawn by a particular fascination to tiny objects in their environments; objects so small that they are often missed by adults. These can be bugs, specks of color in a painting, seeds, anything shiny.
"The children have revealed to us that there exists an early epoch of fundamental importance for mental culture in which many cognition penetrate through the senses and through movement in a most efficacious way, and can be stored in the memory in a wonderful manner remaining there until a later stage. So when the moment comes for reasoning on these images they already form a part of their mental equipment, almost as if they were innate ideas. This leads, at this later stage, to a quicker and more accurate comprehension on the abstract level" (To Educate the Human Potential, Montessori).
At age five, children are curious about the world outside their home and school, different animals, people, the solar system, lots of intelligent "why" questions. We give them a sensorial foundation of culture through geography and science, music and food and folk tales of other lands, to build on and give them a concrete experience of "differences." END
Samples for Fours and Fives Program
The Montessori Adult’s Role [in the 3 to 6 Preschool Environment] an excerpt from COSMIC EDUCATION by Ursula Thrush
Consistency and continuity are the backbone of the Montessori environment. They are the order which brings security and allows the child to really unfold. The adult’s role in general is to
1. Prepare and maintain the environment
2. Be the "dynamic link" between the child and the environment.
a. Introduce her to new materials and activities
b. Help her make progress and advancements as necessary
c. Make learning fun and enjoyable
What is needed first and foremost is a great love and respect for the child; to be able to follow the child’s interests; and to be able to withdraw one’s own personality sufficiently from the learning environment (so as not to draw too much attention and focus on yourself versus the activities and the child’s interaction with them).
It is also important not to overdo it if the child needs help: teach and encourage her to ask for help when needed by walking over to you and placing her hand on your shoulder, and not to interfere if the child is working through a problem because every unnecessary help is a hindrance in the child’s development and deprives her of an opportunity to experience and find out for herself: "Help me to do it myself" is the child’s motto. On the other hand, it is the adult’s role to establish the standard of the classroom and to maintain it. Than implies that the adult will have to interfere and set limits when the situation warrants it.
The Materials and the Activities
Your role includes knowing the materials and activities, their sequence, and how they progress so that you can not only help the child move forward, but prepare her indirectly for the next step or level.
For example, if you understand that children begin writing at age four to four and a half you can better prepare her for control of a pencil by giving her at age three and three and a half, paintbrush activities, puzzles with "knobbed" pieces, and lots of chalk activities, etc., as well as show her how to hold a crayon--with three fingers (the earlier you show a child how to hold a crayon/marker correctly the better as they form a habit and become rebellious and resistant when the adult intercedes later on to try to change it!).
When introducing a new activity, appropriate words are: "Would you like to work with me?; Would you like to do something fun!; May I show you something?" And if the child says no , that’s okay, you can say, "OK, after you do such and such we can do something fun together." Some children need coaxing, others don’t!
IMPORTANT: It is not advised to give more than one or two lessons per work period/activity time--which is two-to-three hours, or introduce more than one new thing a day, otherwise the child becomes dependent on you and not herself, and may not repeat other activities. This is especially difficult when you have other students, or children who are being homeschooled: you want to build their independence and have them choosing and repeating most of their activities on their own--this is your goal.
It is the adult’s role to prepare the environment: Each morning, before the child arrives, the classroom area should be tidy, clean, and attractive; a place where the child can function independently without having to ask for help constantly. Therefor it should be practical in size and adapted to the child’s needs and the room should be practically arranged so there is at least as much open floor space as that occupied by furniture.
Praise & Criticism
The adult should try not to interfere with nor interrupt the child’s work/activity and try not to overly praise his work. The child does an activity for the joy and satisfaction of it, not to please the adult or for an adult’s approval. In fact, the adult can actually cultivate this need for approval by being judgmental and praising or criticizing....
Adult in the Background
The adult needs to be a part of the surroundings rather than the center of it, letting the child explore the materials, choosing an activity, working with it, and then putting it away while the adult observes from a corner of the room or interacts with another child.
You must also be familiar with the child’s "absorbent mind," "the tendencies of man [humans]," "the sensitive periods," and what aspects they take when linked up with each other.
When introducing a new activity, your role is to "kindle the flame of interest" and then withdraw. Once the child has started to concentrate, no interruptions should occur. The child’s real art is his concentration, and care should be taken that other children respect that concentration.
Another aspect of the teacher/parent’s withdrawal is that she will offer no help if the child is struggling with a task. If the child needs help, she needs to learn to ask you or another child--this aids her independence as well.
The third aspect of the teacher’s withdrawal becomes apparent when the learning environment turns into a humming little beehive, when all the children are working independently. This is when the adult should be content to melt into the woodwork and not disturb the atmosphere/energy. This would distract the children and draw attention once again to the adult. The adult should then be flattered that the children have grown so independent that together they have eliminated the need for her assistance. Besides, this is a suitable time to observe, not only an individual child but the group as a whole.
Montessori Writing: photo gallery here
Language Development: a list of vocabulary words for the Montessori Practical Life and Sensorial materials here