Understanding Child’s Developmental Needs
The decisions we make as parents are often based on our own childhood experiences or what our parents did, while we strive to understand our children’s various stages of development. As we gain more understanding of the needs of our children, I hope we can continue to advocate for environments that support the total development of the child.
One aspect of Montessori education that continues to amaze me is how every aspect of the classroom environment is prepared to meet the needs of the child at their developmental stage while allowing them to grow at their own pace. Maren Schmidt talks about this specifically in her recent blog from Kids Talk. See below.
The three to six-year-old is in a period of unconscious learning, absorbing information about his or her time and place from every aspect of the immediate environment. The child is unaware of learning and chooses to place his or her attention on activities that are repeated frequently. The child watches, listens, copies others and learns. This style of learning creates the following distinct needs for the young child:
- A need for an environment rich in language and experiences as vocabulary and story-telling capabilities are developed.
- A need to use his or her hands to connect the body and the brain to the realities of life.
- A need to create an emotional foundation built on the love, trust and respect of surrounding adults.
- A need to repeat activities in order to develop self-mastery and independence.
- A need for direct guidance on how to interact with people–within the family and the larger social network of school, church and other activities.
- A need for opportunities to refine the five senses of hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching and to connect precise language to those experiences.
- A need for truthful and accurate information as the young child doesn’t have a wealth of experiences to discern between fact and fiction, fantasy and reality.
- A need for movement as the brain requires the body’s motions for optimum neural development.
- A need for opportunities to exercise his or her will by having freedom within limits that enlarge as skills grow.
During this period of building foundational skills, the child is laying the groundwork for the adult he or she will become. The child is father to the man.
Through the experiences in the Montessori environment the child develops a love of order, love of work, mutual aid and cooperation, spontaneous concentration, obedience, independence and initiative, spontaneous self-discipline, ability to share freely and the joy of learning. All of these skills come together at the end of their primary experience and helps prepare them for the next stage of development.