The aim of childhood of any species (man, dog, bird etc) is to become an independent adult. During childhood the young learn the skills that they require whilst being protected and sustained by the adults. They learn skills as quickly as nature allows and then they function as independent individuals. In every instance where they have the capability to do something by themself, they will want to do it.
“The child’s first instinct is to carry out actions by himself, without anyone helping him, and his first conscious bid for independence is made when he defends himself against those who try to do the action for him” Montessori (2007a)
Consider the below:
- Encouraging independence builds a child's self esteem and self confidence. Support them to do things by themselves as early as practically possible.
- Children take risks in the process of learning. Give them experiences, space and opportunities to explore by themselves and to take risks.
- Children use their senses and experiences to understand their world. They make connections. Without these connections the world is a series of confusing, unconnected events. An experience-rich early start would support this.
- Children, especially babies, are at the mercy of things they do not understand. If they cannot cope then someone will need to help them and they make sure very loudly (crying), Sensitive parenting (secure attachment) will let them know they are safe and their needs will be met.
- Mind mindedness is putting yourself in the mind of the child. Calm me, soothe me, feed me or change me. When ready interact with me, imitate me or play with me.
- Children do not realise things continue to exist when out of sight (object permanence) until beyond 10 months old. Separation anxiety occur before then. Play peek-a-boo games to support their understanding
- We are tribal and if the child doesn't know you or you are not part of their tribe (family and close circle) then as a stranger you may be dangerous to them and so they will fear you. This is a normal self protection mechanism.
Maria Montessori was born in 1870 and worked with disadvantaged and special needs children, however, her approach is used directly and indirectly in many high quality child care settings today. Much of her approach is found in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Providing freedom of movement and choices support a child's need to be an independent, competent, responsible and caring individual. It is not about teaching a child to read and write at 4 yrs old but to support a child in their own learning and development so they are able to teach themselves through a whole range of acquired skills and rich practical experiences.
Important elements of a Montessori setting include:
The Enabling Environment
Movement: Single most important factor to support children's early development. From learning to walk, skip, jump and move around to choosing things for themselves without asking an adult. To have independence and free flow between rooms as well as indoor and outdoor.
Trips to interesting places in the wider community.
The Prepared Teacher
The Materials and Resources