September 22, 2021
Archive for Transition Montessori Toddler to Casa
In our previous blog posts: The Transition from Toddler to Casa, Parts 1 and 2, we discussed some of the characteristics of the Casa child as he/she gains more independence, an increased vocabulary and the connection to the meaning as well as the importance of practical life and how it helps the child to help him/herself. In Part 3 we will focus on how you can implement practical life and language development in your everyday life.
Working on this in the home and as a natural part of your life is easier and more rewarding than one might think. It doesn’t take ‘set-up’, time or even cost – it takes forward thinking and an understanding of seeing the home, the grocery store, the park, etc. – through your child’s eyes. It can be interjected into everything you do with your child/children.
One thing to always keep in mind is that it is the process not the product that counts. Looked at from a scientific perspective, you are giving your children the tools for them to construct themselves. Through implementation and repetition they will be guided towards mastery. It is the process, the “struggle” that gives them great pride and a sense of accomplishment, it also helps them develop drive and concentration.
A child of this age is always wanting to help in the home. It is a need, a desire to feel a part of the family and to know they have a place in the family. They are in effect seeking to be part of a community.
There are always language opportunities as we engage in daily activities. Do not hold back on using proper terminology with your children. They are taking it all in. A bird need not simply be a bird. Is it a cardinal? A blue jay? Children at this age are hungry for language and the words which help them classify their impressions.
In the home children want to do as you do, and activities like collecting laundry, sorting and putting it away actually helps them organize their minds. You can be at the grocery store for example counting apples, placing them gently into the bag so as not to bruise them, having your child hold the bag while feeling the weight of it as more apples are added. Ask for their help when you get home and put the apples away together. This way your child will know where to find them when they want one.
This is much like the Montessori classroom, everything has its place. The physical space is prepared in a way that the children know where to retrieve things so their minds are free to do great work with the great concentration which will follow.
If children have to adapt everyday to changing circumstances, it takes great work on their part to decipher and understand. This too will contribute to how much they are able to process and to how they are able to organize their minds.
Consider having accessible areas in every part of the home to allow your child to do as much as they can for him/herself. Create opportunities for conversation, get down to their level, ask them questions and wait patiently for the answer. Read to them on a daily basis, perhaps before bed, and role model reading in your home. They benefit so much simply by seeing you reading too.
Have the outdoors accessible to them on a daily basis and go for walks exploring plant life, offering the language if you have it. If not consider a trip to the library or perhaps you have illustrated books at home to help. Help your child to see the connections between what you discover in books and what you have seen in the world.
Take the opportunity as a parent to step back and observe, see how you child’s mind works and what engages him/her. In this way you can help support their self-construction in the best way possible.
“The reality of human existence is that life is full of transitions… Transitions are opportunities for development.”
Dr. Silvia Dubovoy Ph.D. AMI Trainer
Our first blog post in this series focused on independence and the child’s work in constructing him/herself in order to become a contributing member of the Casa community. We will now delve a little deeper into the areas of language and the importance of what Montessori termed practical life.
The Toddler child acquires language by taking in that which his/her surrounding environment provides. Upon this foundation, the Casa child explodes into the spoken, and then written word. Vocabulary previously taken in is now used, and used with a greater understanding of both meaning and context. Vocabulary becomes notably more precise as a consequence of a more refined awareness of the world. The desire to acquire new and more expansive vocabulary is insatiable.
Casa children become consciously aware that language is a tool to express not just concrete objects but also emotions and thoughts. It has grammatical structure and the same word used in a different context or placement can take on a completely different meaning. Language for this child becomes something more than just an ability to name his/her world. It is something to play with, to explore and to take great delight in.
The Practical Life activities, those activities performed in daily living, help to foster independence. In the preschool environment they are very much an extension of the home. Practical Life activities, at both the Toddler and Casa levels aid the children in adapting to the environment with ease, while the role modeling of the adults furthers the children in their physical and social independence. The Casa child then is able to take these tools to further him/herself personally (fix one’s shoes when they don’t feel quite right, pour a drink when thirsty), and also ultimately contribute to the community for the benefit of the group (set the table for lunch for example). Independence allowing for interdependence.
It is interesting to note that recent neuroscience research strongly supports the importance of practical life activities in executive brain function. Brain development, as we know, is experienced based, and executive functions are the processes within the brain responsible for mental control and self-regulation.1
1 “The seeds of self-control begin in learning to control one’s own body. … Practical Life is the first step for each child in building a foundation for a better brain, in the Montessori environment and beyond.” Dr. Steve Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN For a fascinating look at Montessori and brain development we highly recommend: http://www.goodatdoingthings.com and http://www.BuildingBetterBrains.com (https://vimeo.com/stevehughes)
Who is the Casa child?
Casa children are working towards becoming even more independent. One of their tasks is to gain social independence among peers and ultimately become a contributing member of their community. They observe and imitate to construct themselves in order to transition from being an individual within the community towards being an integral part of that community. With this comes a fulfilled sense of belonging and purpose.
Like the Toddler child, they are still in a sensitive period for order (internalizing patterns and connections from the impressions of their environment). Having now entered the second half of what Montessori coined the first plane of development (0-6 years of age), they are moving from being the observer who takes in all impressions from the environment indiscriminately, to the child who can direct his/her attention towards specific interests and aspects of the environment.
They take in patterns of language and mathematical concepts, refine the impressions their senses receive (colour may now be perceived in shades for example), note how human beings conduct themselves socially and absorb many other components of their world. A child of this age is constantly striving towards mastery of his/her environment. This is an extension and further development of their will.
There are more materials in the Casa classroom in response to developmental necessity. Their senses are becoming more refined, new psychological characteristics emerge, they become more mindful and like their toddler peers are capable of great developmental work.