You're looking for a child care center. But, you want more than just someone to supervise your little one while you're away. You want daycare that also helps to educate your child. That's where the Montessori Method may come in. Montessori schools are founded on the educational philosophy of Dr. Mara Montessori and view children as naturally curious and eager to learn. Schools use a prepared environment (which greatly differs from traditional early-education settings) to help children grow and develop. What can you expect from a Montessori school's classroom environment?
A Natural Look
Montessori classrooms use a natural design scheme. This means making the most of natural lighting and soft, nature-based colors. This isn't to say that classrooms have no artificial lighting. They certainly do. But, they are set up to draw in the sunlight and use it as part of the overall setting. Like traditional classrooms, you might find posters hanging on the walls of a Montessori classroom. That said, you won't see cartoon characters from popular movies or TV shows. Classroom wall décor typically features pictures of natural scenes, the students' artwork, or reproductions of famous works of art.
Everything Is Accessible
Montessori materials aren't locked away in closets or hidden so that only teachers can take them out. Instead, they are displayed on low shelves (or storage units), that are accessible to the children. This allows the children to explore and investigate the materials on their own. They can make choices when it comes to what materials they use and access all of the items independently.
Using "centers" in the early childhood classroom is a popular design method. You'll see this strategy in Montessori classrooms too. This allows the educator to create spaces for different types of explorations or different content areas—such as literacy, math, science, or art. Along with the more traditional content areas, Montessori classrooms may also have a reflection center. This is a quiet space for thinking.
These classrooms have specialized materials. You won't find plastic pieces or "character" toys here. Montessori materials have specific purposes and teach a targeted skill. They are used in very intentional ways to help the child develop. Not only do children have the opportunity to experience the materials in a sensory way, but they also lead to intense explorations—which in turn allow the child to build skills such as fine motor or critical-thinking abilities. Examples of materials you'll find in these classrooms are pink cubes (pink-colored blocks that encourage the child to stack the geometric 3-D shapes) and red rods (10 rods in different lengths).
Child care isn't all the same. While some centers provide babysitting types of services, others offer a more educational approach. Montessori schools are education and learning centers that help your child to develop through an environment that is prepared in a specialized way. From the natural décor to the materials your child uses, the Montessori classroom is a space that promotes independence, learning, and child-led exploration.
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