Melissa is 16 years old and doing a Level 2 apprenticeship in childcare. She’s training to be a nursery nurse whilst working in the baby unit of a Montessori day nursery. Here, she explains what the Montessori system is and how it filters through to teaching activities at her setting:
What is Montessori?
The Montessori education system is a philosophy based on two important developmental needs of children. Firstly, the need for children to be given freedom to develop within safe limits. Secondly, an environment is provided to allow children exposure to explore materials and experiences within a natural environment. This method of education is designed to take advantage of the children’s desires to learn and their own natural ability to develop their own capabilities.
How did Montessori education develop?
Maria Montessori was born on August 31st 1870 in Italy. On completing her secondary school education, Maria decided to become a doctor and attended the Medical School of the University of Rome.
Maria began her career working with disabled children and it was through this work, studying and reading the work of other eminent doctors and her observation of these children that she was able to develop a form of education that she believed would enable all children to discover and attain their full potential, through the exploration of their environment and their day- to-day activities.
What teaching styles and activities are carried out at a Montessori nursery?
Montessori teaching strategies are based on the idea that, given a developmentally appropriate learning environment, children are capable of teaching themselves by selecting activities of interest, and investigating them in groups or as an individual.
Within the baby unit environment, staff plan activities to take place inside or outside. Inside play includes activities such as finger painting, exploring the touch and feel of different natural materials, threading big beads and rice or pasta pouring. Rice pouring is good for developing a child’s fine motor skills.
Outside activities include a nature walk through our very own forest garden, where we allow the children to collect sticks and stones. The children then bring the sticks and stones back to the baby unit.
To adapt the children’s learning further, we create an activity such as painting the sticks to create a hanging display or stone painting using a paintbrush and water. The babies also love creating a mud painting, using mud from the forest garden that they collected!
The other two activities that the children also enjoy is washing the toy cars outside and painting the walls using soapy water. The baby unit concentrates on the development of early skills. During their time with us, the children are taught the essential skills of language development and also manipulative skills [this is the ability to move and position objects within one hand without the help of the other hand].
Within a Montessori nursery, staff need to ensure that they create an environment that follows the children’s interests, whilst the teacher also ensures these interests follow all aspects of the EYFS curriculum.