Montessori Philosophy & Practice

AGE 1-3 YEARS—People: The World is My Home

The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
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What does not exist in the cultural environment will not develop in the child. - Dr. Shinnichi Suzuki

Daily Life
Today the world is becoming a small community, and the attitudes toward those people who have different skin color, language, foods, and songs are more important than ever. These attitudes begin to be formed in the first years of life, as the child absorbs the feelings in the home or infant community.

We can foster a healthy and loving introduction to the cultures of the world by providing, whenever possible, exposure to a variety of music, food, songs, clothing, celebrations, dances, houses, languages, means of transportation, tools—in the home and in the community. In large cities this is an easy task; just walk around downtown and you will hear the accents and languages, smell the food, even sometimes find the dances and the songs.

But even if we live out in the country it is possible to experience the music through tapes and CD's, and to cook the foods and explore through books. Through such simple and casual introductions children come to understand that all humans have similar needs and experiences. Repetition of exposure and opportunities for conversations on culture can be provided by picture books at this age.

This is the time of the "absorbent mind," the age when a child literally becomes all of the impressions taken in from the environment, it is the time to casually introduce these experiences, not with lessons or lectures, but experientially and sensorially. Use the real names of the food, songs, tools, so the child builds up a vocabulary to match her experiences. Later she will build on these early impressions to make sense of the history and cultures of the world.

A Globe
Why not have the first balls be globes? Large and small soft globe balls are favorites in Montessori communities, not for formal lessons, just for practice rolling and throwing a ball. The shapes of the geographical features will become familiar to the child and make studying geography later like coming back to an old friend.

Near the end of the third year it is a good idea to have a real globe and/or a wall map of the world in the home so reference to places can be made in a tangible, physical way for the child. The child will not understand the scope of space and distance, but will be interested in the colors and shapes and in attaching names to them: "Africa," "Indiana," "The Amazon," etc.

Eventually the real globe or map should be kept in view in the family area, rather than in the child's room, so it will be seen as a real piece of important equipment used by the whole family.

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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (
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