A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to work, concentration, and joy. A crowded or chaotic environment can cause stress and can dissipate a child's energy. As Montessori education becomes more popular more materials are produced which are labeled "Montessori" and one must be more and more careful in selection. Too many materials, or inappropriate materials can be worse than too few.
Birth to Age Six: Before the age of six, a child learns from direct contact with the environment, by means of all the senses, and through movement; the child literally absorbs what is in the environment. The toys and materials in the home and school for this period of development should be of the very best quality to call forth self-respect, respect and care from the child toward the environment, and the development of an appreciation of beauty.
Dr Maria Montessori developed and designed mathematically precise materials that are now known as Montessori Materials. All Montessori Materials are constructed on these basic principles: meaningfulness to the child, the isolation of the difficulty in a single material, materials that progress from simple to complex, materials that prepare indirectly for future learning, materials that begin as concrete expressions and graduate to the abstract.
These developmental materials are organized into five basic categories:
The exercises of everyday life are the ordinary tasks of home culture. The child is attracted to these activities as they are the ways of the people. They are meaningful, easily understood, creative, and filled with intricate movements. They appeal to his will, lead to greater physical skills, perfection of movement and concentration. They are purposeful and engage his intellect, and he is increasingly attracted to the order and precision that is required to perform them. They help him function independently.
Children, from birth, are driven to explore their world using the senses. The world is a profusion of colours, size, shapes, smells, sounds, touch and tastes.
Montessori sensorial materials are scientifically developed, presented with exactness and used by the child with exactness. Sensorial activates allow his total development through the senses. As the child works with the materials, he compares things on a qualitative level and becomes conscious of each of the physical properties of the environment. This helps the child to order his mind; to classify experiences and to store up the impressions in his “muscular memory”.
The sensorial work is a preparation for the study of sequence and progression: a basis for the development of skills such as music, language and mathematics. By performing these activities the child’s motor movements are further refined, his senses are sharpened, and his intellectual appreciation of his environment is increased.
The child is naturally attracted to the science of numbers. Mathematics, like language, is a product of the human intellect. Sensorial activities and sensorial exploration help the child look at the qualitative aspects of his world. He begins to use clear, precise ideas for expression. He now needs to look at the world around him quantitatively. The mathematical mind tends to estimate, needs to quantify, to see identity, similarity, difference, and patterns, to make order and sequence, and to control error.
Materials are provided to help the child count, to show numeration, place value, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. The child moves from concrete experience towards the abstract.
Preparations for language development gently surround the children from the very first day. He has a variety of experiences and his capacity to talk is mobilised. He hears and is encouraged to use precise vocabulary, one that increases everyday. His pronunciation is perfected. His hands are benefited by motor activities which prepare him for writing.
The three senses of sight, sound and touch help him associate each letter with the sound it makes. He is fascinated with the relationship among letters that form words, the order of words in a sentence and the grammatical analysis of the parts of a sentence.
At ‘Beginners’ Unit of PRG World School, children are encouraged towards higher order experiences. A sensorial and intellectual appreciation of art and music is encouraged.
Music is a regular and lively component of each day with each child given the opportunity to handle a variety of instruments and to express himself through movement. In keeping with Montessori learning which moves from the concrete to the abstract, music and movement sessions begin with movement involving whole body parts, to ﬁner more defined movements of fingers, feet and head, to finally end with pure abstraction where the child's imagination plays an important part.