During my time as a Montessori directress, the one particular aspect that continues to surprise me is how quickly children grow and develop and the urge that they have to develop in a specific way. Us as adults, either the parent of the child, a guardian, or in my case the primary care giver in their school environment play an important role in their development as well. We need to be role models for them and give them the opportunity to develop and grow and assist them where necessary as they pass through each of these vital stages.
Think of a child who can crawl and is slowly transitioning to the walking stage, they need to learn how to compensate for their changes in their body and in the centre of gravity when they are learning to stand. To us it may seem a simple task but to them it is a challenging hurdle they are about to face. A child has to have the freedom to move about and be able to at first crawl, then pull themselves up while holding onto something and then be able to walk. They will not be able to walk many steps without stumbling and falling so they need to be in an area where they call fall and not hurt themselves, if a child is cooped up all day in a play pen or in a small room they are most likely to develop later than their norms due to not having the provisions laid out for them.
A child’s physical development is mainly split into two parts, gross motor skills and fine motor skills, gross motor being the ability to move using their whole body and fine motor the ability to perform skills that require hand-eye co-ordination. Not only do I say this because I am a Montessori teacher but a Montessori environment is truly the best way for a child to develop in either of these skills. The carefully laid out classrooms and adequate material allow for the child to explore and develop these skills and the ability to strengthen and use their fine and gross skills.
For example, some activities that refine and develop fine motor skills; transferring beads from one bowl to another using pincer grip, colouring activities, turning pages of a reading book, eating their food just to name a few. A Montessori environment is equipped with a practical life area which gives the child the freedom to engage in multiple activities that will assist them in a fun, inviting and exciting way to develop their fine motor skills. A similar shelf can be laid out in the child’s bedroom or home environment to give them the same opportunity. Our practical life area looks like this;
Examples of how to help a child refine and develop gross motor skills;
As well as many simple every day activities, such as walking, tucking in a chair, carry their schools bags into school there are a lot of other gross motor activities that can help children develop too. In a Montessori prepared environment the sensorial area is the biggest contributing factor to this. This area not only aids children in refining and developing their senses which is the direct aim of this material but indirectly develops their gross motor. Such as, carrying the broad stair from the shelf to their work space, building and carrying the pink tower which teachers children how to grade 10 blocks from biggest to smallest, all these are a simple example. Our sensorial area looks something like this;
In saying all of this it is important to remember that children develop at their own pace and but it is important to know at what age they should reach what normative and therefore aid the child to therefore reach the normative necessary. If one stage is not complete and developed this will hinder the child developing in the next area. Physical development is only one part of development and the child’s vision, sensory feedback and the realisation that the bodies move in space in relation to other people and objects around them all take time, practice, opportunity and most of all support from attentive adults and care givers as I mentioned in the beginning.
It is easy to observe a child’s physical development but it is important to not forget the other key aspects such as social and emotional development. They are all integrated in the reality of the whole child.
Children go through different emotional development and most of the time adults assume they know what each emotions means and the needs of the child. A cry of a baby might seem to an older sibling that need for a toy, or to a father the need for attention or to a mother a need for food, they are all interrupted differently by different care givers. Despite the different interpretations, children and infants are said to be born with certain emotions already in place, such as surprise, disgust and interest. Soon after this the social aspect arises, such as those first social smiles.
A healthy school environment as well as home environment once the child begins at their first school, should impact the child’s social and emotional development in a positive way. It is important to listen to signs of your child showing you that they might not be in happy in their environment and this should be addressed.