When we look at the young child, we see an innocent little being who is trying to orient himself to the world. This child is using his senses to take in impressions from his environment. He is learning to order and classify these things in order to understand and soon relate to his world. We know that children under 6 need a solid foundation in reality. They need concrete, real examples of the world around them because they are in need to connect and be a part of this world. They want to belong and this begins with the family in the home.
Dr. Montessori observed that humans had specific laws of development which include:
The HUMAN TENDENCIES: These assist in the development of the human being because they push the individual to interact with the environment. Human tendencies operate in all human beings and are therefore the vehicles of the intellect that allow humans to come to an understanding of their environment. The human tendencies are aimed at the satisfaction of basic physical needs that are essential to survival and through the interaction with the environment we will form the person we are meant to become.
The SENSITIVE PERIODS are certain periods in a child’s life where he can focus on developing particular skills. During these times, the child will be drawn towards certain objects and relationships. For example, children from birth have an intense interest in communication. This sensitive period lasts until the child has acquired the language of his culture.
The ABSORBENT MIND is a special kind of mind that the young child has in the first 6 years of life. During this time, the mind allows the child to acquire knowledge instantaneously, exact and indelibly. This special kind of mind gives the children special power that allows them to take from the environment whatever they need to construct themselves. The absorbent mind allows for this process of incarnation and because of this, certain experiences become permanent acquisitions for the child.
THE PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES:
Practical life includes all the activities that we do to survive. They are present in every culture and provide groups of people with cultural identity. Practical Life activities have been done to the child and around the child since birth. Things like washing, cleaning, care of self, etc. The essence of the practical life activities is that they are exercises of life being practical.
In the Montessori Casa class, from the moment of entry your child is involved in the practical life activities. The beauty is that all of these activities are child-size, real, easily accessible, and represent all of the activities they see around the home. When the child is engaging in the practical life activities, they are mimicking the actions of the adults in their environment. While they work on scrubbing a table, caring for plants, etc., children are building up an extensive amount of sensorial impressions to later use for future experiences.
So how do the Practical Life activities aid the child in imagination?
Imagination – noun:
- The faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.
Based on the extensive work the child does exploring his reality, manipulating real objects and learning from his activity, his imagination will flourish. Imagination is based on real, concrete experiences. The more experiences the young child has, the more he will be able to use his imagination later on. If a child has a good grasp of reality (which is being able to perceive and understand the basic workings of the world) then he will have paved the way towards creativity and the use of his imagination.
THE SENSORIAL ACTIVITIES:
We know that creativity stems from a well-developed imagination. One has to imagine something before you can create it. Once the child has taken in all of these sensorial impressions from his environment and from the Practical Life activities, he must then figure out a way to order and classify all of this information. The Sensorial materials have been specifically designed to do this. They aid the child in discrimination of size, shape, colour, smell, taste, weight, etc. The Sensorial materials are designed to give the child feedback when he makes a mistake. This is called the ‘control of error’. For example the 10 cylinders in one of the cylinder blocks have to all go in their right socket or else it isn’t complete. During this process, the child works through his task, persevering, remaining independent, until he succeeds. He grows in confidence, and feels great pride in being faced with a problem and working through it until completion.
Once the child has mastered the basic Sensorial materials (for example building the Pink Tower in the correct sequence from biggest to smallest) he is then introduced to language and games with the same material. The children are given freedom to explore these materials, sometimes together (Pink Tower compared to Brown Stair) as long as the exploration is child-led and purposeful. Through this exploration activity you see a great deal of creativity emerge. How the child creates designs, patterns, etc. with the materials is based on this freedom to explore, without a time restraint or a focus on the end result. Typically there is no ‘paper product’ from this incredible exploration, yet the children have been creatively building and manipulating these materials until they reach a deep level of satisfaction from this activity.
Unfortunately for parents, this amazing work has only been witnessed by the teachers in the class and as they walk through the door to go home they are asked, “What did you do at school today?” And the child replies, “Oh, nothing!” Rather, we know that the child has explored, manipulated, washed, cleaned, created, and used his maximum effort to acquire all of this knowledge from his world. Then, he will use this information to adapt and become a member of his family and community.
“Do you want a creative and imaginative child? Let the child be free and create an environment that supports, enables, and propels the child to greater freedom. When the child is able to move freely about the environment, choose and be absorbed in purposeful work, meet challenges and find solutions, and to do this independently, then you have a child who is ready and capable to be an active participant, rather than a passive receiver, of his own creativity and imagination.” Article: Our Montessori Home