Montessori atmospheres: which Montessori activities for which age? Like any mode of education, Montessori pedagogy has its own vocabulary, which can sometimes be confusing. Steiner has its kindergartens, Reggio has its 100 its gifts, Montessori pedagogy has its atmospheres.
A Montessori atmosphere is first and foremost a grouping of children (the famous “class-group” of National Education), in an age group large enough to ensure a mixture of ages and promote cooperation between bigger and smaller. It is also a space prepared with specific equipment, but above all it is an atmosphere, a setting, which brings together the educator as well as the physical room and the children there. The primary role of an educator is to “set the mood”, which should be conducive to work and concentration.
We say that a child is part of a 3-6 year old atmosphere or a 6-12 year old atmosphere, but there are many others!
The common point between children of the same atmosphere is that they share common needs, common sensitive periods (if the term “sensitive period” is unknown to you, I refer you to this post where I explain everything to you). The boundaries between
environments are therefore linked more to developmental milestones than to a specific age, as we will see below
What are these different atmospheres and what activities are practiced there to meet the needs of children? This is what I will endeavor to answer in this article.
The nido: “Help me to be by myself”
The first of these atmospheres is the nido (nest in Italian). You will often hear that the nido is only for children 0-15 months (or 18, or 24). But in fact the criterion for moving to the next mood is not that of age, but of confident walking.
In the nido, there are very simple activities, mobiles, small rattles, a few first exercises to develop motor skills or eye-hand coordination. But above all, we help the child to structure himself by separating the spaces (for sleeping, playing, washing / changing, feeding, etc.) and by establishing a routine, always respecting the child’s rhythms ( we avoid waking him up for example).
Indeed, if your child walks confidently very quickly, this will free his hands and all his motor skills. He will be able to do very different activities and at that time, he will move on to the children’s community. Again, the key is not to set an age barrier, but to tailor the mood to the specific needs of children, which change
We also don’t forget to awaken the senses with beautiful images, starting with high contrast black and white images, as well as singing a lot with the child. The child will learn to move around using a brachiation bar or going up and down a series of steps. In terms of language, we can offer him classified images, only orally, around everyday objects.
Once assured walking is acquired, the child can move on to the children’s community (which includes children roughly between 15 months and 3 years old).
Practical life is all the everyday activities that allow the child to become more autonomous and independent. In the children’s community, we will isolate these activities and show him an orderly way to perform them, so that he can practice.
The interest of the framework is to decontextualize learning: in general, when the child is asked to button his shirt, we are in a hurry, or at least we have an objective (going out, taking the children to school, receive a visit from someone…). There is no time to practice, to repeat things several times, to button and then to unbutton and button again. And if he trains one day on a shirt, the next day he will have another one, with larger or thinner buttons, and the buttonhole in the other direction, and he will not find his benchmarks of the day before.
But the practical life is not only intended to allow the child to dress and undress on his own: he will learn to pour water, to wash his hands, to put away, to clean, to take care for the environment …
By taking care of himself and his hygiene, he will also realize that he is important, that he is valuable, as well as everything that is living around him: pets, plants etc. that needs to be taken care of if you don’t want them to die.
The Children’s House: “Help me to do it for myself”
At the same time, he will discover the Sensory Life: thanks to a specific material which isolates the senses one by one, he will refine his sensory
This is a fantastic discovery for the child of his immediate world! Through his senses, he begins to perceive, classify and understand everything around him. All these concepts which seem obvious to us: sweet, hot, square, red, acute, small, large, light, rough… require a real learning because they are abstract concepts.
He will continue to manipulate a lot, for example thanks to puzzles, small boards to screw and unscrew or to slide rings on rods, he will continue to develop his language, but above all he will begin to discover practical life ( basically from 2 years old, but it depends a lot on the children).
I am often asked what is the point of clothing frames, for example: Couldn’t the child just practice buttoning his shirt on himself?
The advantage of the frame is that we give the child time to train, without any pressure (besides, it does not matter if he puts the frame away without having buttoned everything) and that ‘he always keeps the same benchmarks, until his gesture is perfected and he can move on to another frame.
So when he breaks or spills something, he will no longer feel helpless as he can sweep or mop up and fix his silliness. And the effort he has put in will make him treat things with more respect …
This Practical Life is so important that it continues in the following atmosphere and for years!
Between 2 and a half years / 3 and 6 years old, the child enters the Children’s House. It was the name of Maria Montessori’s first school, the Casa dei Bambini. There, he will continue his practical life, but doing more and more complicated things, such as sewing, gardening, DIY …
perceptions such as taste, hearing, smell, vision of colors or shapes, thermal sense, the perception of weight, texture, resistance, stereognosis sense (i.e. the ability to recognize a shape only through touch) etc.
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