The Sensitive Periods
Montessori used this term to describe those periods of special sensitivity to certain stimuli that result in the child acquiring particular skills and characteristics. Just as sometimes it happens that the young child's growth is hindered by inappropriate feeding or lack of nourishment, so the wrong environment may interfere with the child's learning and cause difficulties.
The Prepared Environment
The Montessori environment gives the child a setting where everything is the right size for him/her and that everything is useful, appropriate and interesting. The child soon realises that this environment is one he can trust. He sees other children engaged in activities and finds that he can have companionship whilst being engaged independently. The child is not confused by the quantity of objects belonging to adults, whose use he cannot understand. The arrangement within the setting is simple and orderly. The atmosphere is quiet (although not silent) and calm. There is a feeling of purposeful activity.
There may be some young children who are already exhibiting the signs of difficult behaviour. Some are timid and cautious. Some cling to their mothers and cry. Some are domineering and they shout and run into other children. Some are reluctant to try to take off their shoes or put on their coats. These attitudes were probably adopted quite early in infancy, but have not become apparent or have not been acknowledged.
The Montessori environment, together with the encouragement of a true co-operative partnership with parents - helping them to understand the paths of development and the sensitive periods for learning - will be able to guide the child towards a continuation of positive development.
The positive encouraging tone of voice, the body language and general behaviour of the adults, together with the calm purposeful atmosphere of the nursery setting should achieve the required outcomes if challenging situations arise.
Preparation of the Teacher
The first requirements for good management of a Montessori setting are:
- deep understanding and application of the Montessori philosophy
- knowledge and understanding of the Montessori materials and activities
- knowledge of the sequence and purposes of the activities