Beginners (Toddlers) Program
Our Beginners (Toddlers) Program at Summit is specifically designed to meet the needs of very young children (21 months-3 years) who are in the developmental stage Dr. Montessori described as that of the “absorbent mind”. During this period children are specifically and sensitively attuned to learning through direct experience in the environment. They take in each new experience in a holistic way, embracing sensory experiences, movement, newly acquired language skills, and the social environment as their most potent teachers. The Beginners environment is specifically designed to nurture these very young learners, supporting growth of the “whole child”: social, emotional, physical, psychological, and cognitive.
Building relationships of trust is of extreme importance for our Beginners; we therefore staff our Beginners environment with well qualified, nurturing and supportive adults. The environment is quite intimate and the social grouping specifically small, with a maximum of 9 children enrolled and a 9:2 child/teacher ratio.
In order to support the Beginners’ developing senses of consistency, order and routine, they are enrolled 5 days per week. Children may attend on either a half (8:15am-noon) or full day (8:15am-3 pm) schedule.
The Beginners Curriculum is designed to support the very young child’s natural quest to explore the world in a vigorous, hands-on way. It is a “learning by doing” environment in which each child’s independence is fostered and supported. It is also a social environment in which two-year-olds begin to gain a sense of community.
The Curriculum includes:
- Practical Life activities
- Sensory exploration and discovery
- Language experiences to support the young child’s “sensitive period” for language development
- Pre-math skills & concept development
- Exploration of the natural world
- Physical science activities
- Art and music experiences
- Large motor activities
- Daily contact with the outdoor world
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
The Practical Life area constitutes the cornerstone of the Montessori early childhood classroom and prepares the child for all the other areas. The emphasis here is on process rather than product. Children learn by doing and in the process develop and refine basic skills and habits (order, coordination, concentration, independence) that will serve them a lifetime.
The toddlers are drawn to daily living activities because they are simple and familiar. The children have watched many of these activities carried on in their homes and have a natural desire to imitate them. Activities such as sweeping, scooping, hand washing, food preparation, and plant care are rotated on a routine basis in order to maintain interest and challenge.
Toddlers show an irresistible tendency to touch and actively explore everything. It is during this sensitive period for touch, movement, and processing of sensory stimulation that we introduce Sensorial materials to give order to incoming sensations. Activities in this area include color matching and naming, sorting (by size, shape, and color), matching textures and shapes, and grading according to proportion. Children explore new tastes through daily tasting activities and become attuned to sounds through rhythmic activities, games and music.
Very young children are in a “sensitive period” for language development, eagerly soaking in new vocabulary and learning to use language as a powerful tool to negotiate the social environment. Our Beginners classroom is language-rich, but not language over-loading; the teachers carefully introduce new vocabulary and invite children to flex their language muscles every day. Activities include naming objects and people, playing rhyming and “I Spy” games, story telling and book sharing, classified object baskets, and many matching, patterning and sequencing activities. Children are playfully exposed to the sounds that make up words, developing their auditory discrimination skills in preparation for sound/symbol awareness.
Various oral counting games and other concrete materials expose the Beginners to the world of numbers in a hands-on and enjoyable way. Children at this age are forming basic and essential “pre-math” skills and concepts such as order, sequence, one-to-one correspondence, sorting, directionality, gradation, and visual discrimination. They are also learning to count by rote through songs and number games. Eventually they begin to quantify and to associate a specific quantity with a symbol. Pre-math and Math activities in the Beginners classroom include counting objects and children, matching and sorting activities, grading by size, making visual comparisons, transferring materials from one containers to another (volume comparison) and singing counting songs.
Young children are in a sensitive period for movement; they must move in order to fully learn. The Beginners are involved in vigorous movement experiences, (developing both fine and gross motor abilities) as an integral part of every day. The freedom to move in the classroom (as well as outside of the classroom) is absolutely crucial, for physical movement is intimately bound up with mental activity as patterns of learning are mapped out in the brain. Examples of the way that motor development is incorporated into the Beginners program include: daily playground or indoor vigorous play time, incorporation of large and small muscle movement into cognitive activities, inclusion of movement activities during circle time, inclusion of slide, climber, spinner, balancing activities in the classroom.
Very young children are active scientists with an avid quest to directly experience the world around them. Dr. Montessori felt strongly that children- especially those who reside in urban communities- must be given access to the natural world. She advocated the need for plants and animals in the classroom for which the children have connection and a sense of responsibility. From these activities, even the youngest children develop respect for as well as knowledge of living things.
The toddlers are like little physicists in their cognitive explorations of the world around them. Thus, in addition to the materials and activities that expose them to living things, there are also works in the classroom that explore concepts of physical science.
Routine Science activities for the Beginners include: daily exposure to the natural world through playground time and nature walks, observation of wild birds (bird feeder), plant care, handling natural objects (object basket), sink/float activities, and color mixing.
Both the visual arts and musical experiences offer our Beginners the opportunity to express themselves, explore with various media, and savor rhythms, melodies, and movements. Daily classroom experiences include such activities as easel painting, rock painting, shaping play doh, gluing, tearing and cutting, singing, movement, and rhythmic activities. All such activities are process rather than product-oriented.