Stories of Discovery

You're viewing articles authored by “Christie Stanford: Infant-Toddler Facilitator”:

85% of Brain Formed By 3: What Are You Doing To Support Your Child?

Categories: Faculty insight, Learning through discovery, Student life
Authored by:
Date posted: March 15, 2019

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the annual AMI-USA Montessori Refresher Course in New Orleans. Being that Montessori for under 3 year olds is fairly ‘new’ to Canada (limited number of schools offer this here) it was very important for me to attend this conference and be immersed in a very vibrant and large Montessori Infant & Toddler community from the US.

There were over 1,200 Montessori educators at the Refresher, ranging from Assistants to Infancy all the way through Adolescent trained teachers. My weekend was spent learning from the highly experienced trainer Sharlyn Smith and collaborating with 120 other Assistants to Infancy trained Montessori teachers.

Our topic for the Refresher was “Adaptation and the Spiritual Preparation of our Work”. Here are some key ‘takeaways’ that impressed upon me the importance of our work with children under three years old:

  • Adaptation is an unquestionable necessity for all human beings and begins at birth. Adapting to one’s place and time is a human tendency and it is through the child’s absorbent mind that she is able to take in everything from her environment in its totality, without any judgement. As the child takes this in, she becomes that environment.
  • 85% of the brain is formed by 3 years old! This neurological construction is done through the child’s experience in the environment, which is driven by her interests. If the child is not interested, she will not be drawn towards those particular things. We know that the child’s greatest task is to become and belong to her environment so we must allow her to participate in everyday life.
  • The child’s experience in her particular environment will teach her many things. This comes with a responsibility from the adults. We must allow for this exploration to occur, while keeping the child safe and healthy.
  • The child must be allowed to experience the natural consequences of her actions. Without this, there is no way for the child to learn, “If I do this, what happens?” This teaches the child how the world works.
  • We should not think of limits as a punishment to the child. Limits help a child to understand what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and ultimately helps the child feel secure, calm, responsible, and confident.
  • One huge component of this ‘experiential learning comes through involving your child in Practical Life activities around the home. Having the child participate in cleaning, cooking, dressing, and other household tasks will allow her to gain an immense sense of positive self-esteem that she will internalize and carry with her for her entire life!

Tips for home:

  • Allow for time. This might not be first thing in the morning when you are trying to rush out the door but plan a time in the evening or on the weekend to involve your child. Have her help load the laundry into the washer, fold the socks together, set the table, carry the plates to the kitchen, sweep the floor, spray and wipe the table, hang up her jacket, put her clothes on/take her clothes off, brush her hair and teeth, spread butter on toast, pour her own milk….the list goes on! Do these activities in collaboration until your child feels confident.


  • Supply some child-size materials. A kitchen learning tower is a fabulous (and safe) way for your child to participate in helping at the kitchen counter. Have some small items for your child to use like a child-size broom, mop, dustpan, brush, spreader, plates, cutlery, cups, etc. Have them accessible to your child in a low cabinet or cupboard.


  • Do not expect perfection. If we learn a new skill, nobody expects us to master it the first (or even hundredth) time so we cannot expect this from the child. She needs to repeat and repeat in order to perfect her movements. By allowing this repetition to occur, you will allow your child the opportunity to practice concentrating, which is setting her up for success for years to come!

Allowing your child to be a part of your everyday life, to participate, practice, repeat, and perfect, will teach her “I am able”. This positive self-esteem and self-confidence will stick with your child so that when faced with challenge in the future, deep down your child will know, “I can do this.”


Keeping Practical Life Practical

Categories: Faculty insight, Learning through discovery, Student life, Uncategorized
Authored by:
Date posted: November 6, 2018

The Practical Life area in the Montessori classroom is one of the key ways to help a child achieve normalization. This area is the basis for all the rest. It directly and indirectly prepares the children for all the Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics activities. The skills that the child learns through the Practical Life activities will help them be successful in everyday life. And, they must begin right away, from the moment the child enters the classroom!


The dictionary states that ‘practical’ is an adjective, meaning:

Of or pertaining to practice or action,

Consisting of, involving, or resulting from practice or action,

Of, pertaining to, or concerned with ordinary activities,

Adapted or designed for actual use.


So in general, we can say that in the Montessori environment, the Practical Life area is where the child ‘practices’ life. What does that mean? For us, Practical Life includes all of the activities that we do to survive.  These are activities that we do to ourselves and to the environment such as dressing and undressing, preparing food, washing dishes, etc. These activities help us to care for ourselves and others, and also help us to provide hospitality and courtesy as a form of human expression.


There are three main purposes of Practical Life:


  1. Adaptation-

Introducing these activities of daily living to children help in assisting their adaptation into their particular environment. Adaptation is one of the main necessities of human beings in order to develop. Without adaptation, the human will not be able to function in his environment. Adaptation is the starting point in our work with the child. The child will be able to incarnate the environment and make it a part of him. The child is making himself Canadian, Mexican, Indonesian, etc., adapting to whatever environment he or she is living in.


These Practical Life activities are present in every single culture around the world. Children show great interest in this and are drawn to these activities. Their motivation is purely for developmental reasons, which produce a positive outcome if they are allowed to participate.


What changes with these Practical Life activities is the way that the different groups of people perform them. Our needs as human beings are the same; just the way in which we perform these activities in our culture differ from group to group.


  1. Independence:

The Practical Life activities have been part of the child’s life since the moment they were born. These activities sometimes were done to the child such as feeding, bathing, or changing, and sometimes were done around the child such as making the bed, washing the clothes, etc.


Through these activities, the child begins to acknowledge his own needs and the particular way in which these needs are satisfied in his own environment. Aided by the Absorbent Mind, the child will then come to understand how to take care of his own needs. He will get the sense “I am worth it”.


The physically prepared environment assists the child’s development of independence in the Montessori classroom. As we can say, external order creates internal order. Our materials are set out logically in order from simple to complex, with each activity being self-contained within itself for greater independence. The materials are child-size, colour-coded, and provide the child with a control of error which lets him or her be aware of when a mistake is made – independently.


  1. Control of Movement:

During the first 3 years of life, the child’s movement changes dramatically. From being basically motionless as a newborn, the child within the first year learns to slither, crawl, pull up, stand, and then walk. Over the next few years the child works at perfecting this gross motor skill, along with finding greater coordination with his or her fine motor ability.


Children need to be active learners, not passive. Children experience their work through doing, especially through the connection between the hand and the brain.


By experiencing the real activities of Practical Life, we are helping the child achieve greater coordination between the mind and the body, which leads to normalization through a purposeful goal.


The Practical Life activities encourage children to develop concentration, which also helps in the refinement on movement. The activities have a set sequence with a beginning, middle, and end, which grow in complexity as the child progresses through the materials.