In the last couple of days I started writing a Child Development series on the Montessori Nigeria Resources (For Parents and Teachers) a Facebook group. The reason behind this is mainly because one of the main reasons why there is such a big gap between what is appropriate for a child to know and learn and our expectations for the said child is caused by our lack of understanding of how a child learns and develops.
Both parents and teachers must learn about child development in order to succeed in what they do daily.
How can we help our children when we do not understand some basic principles underlying their growth and development as human beings.
Montessori really helps to breakdown all the theories of child development in such a way that it is practicable, understandable and transferable to the practice and reality of guiding the child’s development.
To review Child development tit bits so that we have a basic understanding of what we are doing the Montessori way let us review the first 3 periods of a child’s life covered in this series
- The First Year of a Child’s Life: A strong solid foundation of constant love and care is needed. We encourage the strong bond between the child and the carer, be they parent, teacher (a care-giver in the creche). The way you carry the child, change their nappy matters, it gives the child a great sense of self when you handle the child in such a way that security, love and trust can develop between the child and adults in their life. We also recognize that from the time the child is born they are working their way towards independence, so we provide an environment that enables even your young infant to start developing skills to aid this. Training the eyes by the use of mobiles, enabling the child to hold on to objects that develop the grasp and then the ability to let go. Providing freedom of movement by not using restraining accessories, like play pen, high cots etc. How we treat the child feeds into their world view, inconsistent care makes a child withdraw and distrust us even before they can speak. So I hope you can begin to see why even during the first year an understanding of the basic needs of the child and how they develop is so important to have in view.
- The Toddler from 1 to 3 years: We have all heard of the Terrible Two’s when your child is quite headstrong, wants to get their own way, refusing to share, throws terrible tantrums! The truth is that if we understand what is going on we will understand that the times are not that terrible. It’s just part of the passage of development a toddler must go through. They are developing their will power. Trying to understand how to be in the world (meaning how to stand, walk, run, control their bowels, become like they see other siblings or their parents cope). Your toddler needs our support to help them learn the ways to become physically independent. So they do not need us to pile on so much academic expectations and neglect what they really need… physical independence. That is why practical life activities that are age appropriate is always a very good place to start. Allowing the child time to play and move around is so crucial. Helping them to learn language in a natural way by filling the air with language is much more useful for them than teaching them A, B, C, D’s and making them write at such a tender age. Our children need our support and guidance, it should not be a power tussle, instead let us find ways to support our toddle’r growth positively. Let’s try and understand the needs of the child better. This is so important for schools as well as parents to get right.
- The Pre-school aged child from 3 to 6 years: This is the period when the child wants to learn about their environment. I believe as a Montessori teacher that our children truly have an inter teacher. We must learn to be sensitive to the child, what do they really need per time. One of the main problems we face that causes a problem for our young ones is the control, and boxed in education systems we run, with curriculum and lesson diaries planned for a whole class of children without considering the unique needs of each child. Worse is our insistence of either making the children memorize facts or listen to our boring lessons without making them a hands on activity based lesson. We must remember that these children are sensorial learners at this point in their lives. They want us to show them how to do it, then they need us to give them the time to practice and do it. This is why the Montessori nursery school, uses lots of materials, we start with the concrete, we observe work cycles and freedom of choices in work done so that the inner teacher can be satisfied. We know that the cry of the child at this age is ‘show me how to do it’, so we in the Montessori environment have found a way to meet the needs of the child so they can learn the best way they need to in an age appropriate way.
Understanding makes our knowledge whole, it now becomes wisdom as we implement what we know to what we do. Parents and teachers this is a call out to you to understand your children. There is a lot more about child development from where this came from but I hope this will perk your interest to find out more.
Part 2 of this series is coming up soon.