Who is the 3 – 6 year old child?
Children between 0 – 6 years are operating with an absorbent mind; they literally take from their environment to construct who they are to become. The child focuses on a sensorial exploration and classification of the world. The 3 – 6 year old is generally content to know what something is, along with a simplistic explanation of its function.
Children of this age have:
High levels of concentration – Dr Montessori was amazed to observe the length of time that very young children would choose to attend to tasks which interested them.
Love of repetition – children choose to practise things they are trying to master.
Love of order – Dr Montessori found that young children have a natural inclination for organisation and orderliness. This natural inclination can be helped and developed if we foster it.
Freedom of choice – children like to choose the things they do. If materials are set out for children so that they have easy access to them, they will choose, use and return them without assistance from an adult.
Children prefer work to play – Dr Montessori found that play was a substitute for what the children really wanted to, but could not do. For example, children like to play ‘house’, pretend to cook, bake pies, clean the house etc. If given the choice, children prefer to be in the real kitchen with their mother or father, learning how to prepare real food. In fact, children have a natural drive to work in order to develop. The child’s great task is to create an adult.
No need for reward and punishment – Dr Montessori discovered that children are intrinsically motivated to work. They do not need external rewards and punishments. What they need is help. The adult can help by carefully showing the child how to do what he or she is trying to accomplish. Accomplishment, competence, and being a contributing member of society are the rewards that each child attains in a Montessori environment.
Lovers of silence – although it is easy to think of children as noisy, Montessori discovered that young children enjoy finding out how quiet they can be. Children like to listen to silence and to soft sounds. It is a game to see if they can move a chair without making a sound. Visitors to a Montessori classroom are struck by the orderliness and calmness of the children. There is a buzz of conversation and activity, but not to the extent that one child or group disturbs another. Maria Montessori found that this calm atmosphere arose naturally when children were provided with an environment appropriate to their needs.
Sense of personal dignity – just like adults, children have a deep sense of personal dignity. They want to be capable and held in high regard. They want to be able to do things for themselves. A child would rather tie his own shoe laces than have them tied.
Desire to read and write – Dr Montessori was astonished by how the children seemed to ‘burst spontaneously’ into writing and then reading if provided with the right materials and sufficient stimulation.