The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
To see other sections of this publication return to: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.html
BIRTH TO THREE - PARENTING & TEACHING
Parenting & Teaching
Because of the need for mother and father to both work early in a child's
life these days we find it necessary to share the information about Montessori
philosophy and practice to both parents and those who nurture young children
in a day care setting. The subjects within these pages have been chosen
as a result of over twenty years of questions from the customers of Michael
Olaf Montessori Company. We hope that they are of value to you in whatever
role you are choosing to give to young children.
Today, young couples need all the help society can give them in the task
of parenting. Geographically removed from family and the wisdom of elders,
isolated from neighbors, tantalized by glamorized pictures of "necessary"
products in the media, and usually trying to maintain a good standard
of living, many couples are just not realistically prepared for parenting.
At the same time it is finally becoming common knowledge that the first
two or three years have the greatest influence on the entire life of a
person. Great strides have been made in preparing parents for a more natural
childbirth, and in alerting them to the importance of breast feeding,
but parents need much more information about the first hours, days, months
and years of the life of a child.
If you are preparing for parenthood, or are a new parent we hope that
the information in The Joyful Child will help you focus on the essentials
and not be distracted, and thus to enjoy more than anything else those
moments together with each other and with your child.
A Gentle Beginning
Physical safety and a healthy diet are essential in raising healthy children.
But just as important is the creation of an environment that will provide
love and security, foster physical, mental, emotional, and social development,
a positive self-image, and joy.
Our goal is to support adults as they get to know their new baby, and
as they discover the unique gifts, needs and patterns of development of
the infant. We highly recommend giving parents two weeks alone with their
new baby and older siblings before he or she is introduced to the
Friends and relatives who want to support this cherished bonding time
can bring food and "leave it at the door" knowing that they
are helping the young couple in a very important way. There is a natural
instinct in the entire mammal community to protect this first time so
if you, as parents, desire this precious period of time with your new
baby we support you.
As parents get to know their children at a deeper level, they also get
to know and understand themselves in a new way. To become a good parent
one must first know oneself, and balance one's personal life, primary
relationships, and friendships. As we learn to call forth the best in
ourselves, we are able to discover ways to call forth the best in our
The Father or Second Adult
A child needs more than one permanent adult in her life. Just as the mother
has a built in daily time with the child because of nursing, the father
should arrange a special time to be with the newborn each dayin
order to develop a strong relationship. This can be time spent caring
for, loving, talking with the child while bathing, changing, or by scheduling
a special daily time to talk, sing, dance or make musicwhatever
pleases them both. The second adult will be building much of the same
habits of mutual love and trust as the mother.
The more time and love that goes into bonding in these ways at the beginning
of life, the happier and more natural will be the gradual separation from
adults as the child grows in security and independence. As we know, there
are many kinds of families in the world. The important thing is not with
whom the child lives, but that the child lives with someone who will be
there through childhood.
A Sense of Order
In the first three years of life children have a very strong sense of
orderof both place and of time. An infant can become very upset
over things that we would not notice; for example the child who cried
because an umbrella which he had seen many times closed was opened for
the first time. A child may become disturbed as a result of being bathed
after a meal when she has become accustomed to being bathed before a meal.
Children do not have any other motive than to try to make sense of the
world, to create order. When the child figures out where everything belongs
and how the day goes, he develops a feeling of security that allows him
to go on to the next stage of development.
A child is born with a clear sense of when to go to sleep and when to
wake up, when to eat and how much. As much as possible if the parent can
take time in the beginning to respect this inner guide, never waking a
sleeping child, and nursing until the child wants to stop, life will settle
into a routine more quickly.
The Changing Environment
The child needs the security of many objects, rituals, systems, in the
environment to remain the same. But at the same time, as the child grows
and changes, the environment must change to reflect his needsnot
only the physical environment but the intellectual, social, and emotional
environments as well. The child constantly grows in independence and responsibility,
and it is a challenge to keep up with this growth.
Observation is the key. Parents who learn to observe their children will
be able to tell if a toy is still appropriate, or if furniture is still
of the correct size for their growing child. They will recognize when
the child is ready for the next step toward participation in family life.
Adults who are trying to learn to be good parents are doing so because
they care about others. No matter how much we all try to be perfect we
must learn to be easy on ourselves, to not waste time wishing we "had
only known," to learn to laugh, pick up the pieces, begin again.
The Parents Needs
I can think of several busy, professional men and women desiring also
to be good parents, who were extremely pleased to find that it was beneficial
for their children to join them in traditional homemaking activities.
What a pleasure it has been for them to revive and share cooking, making
gifts, holiday baking, sewing and knitting, gardening, making valentines,
fixing and oiling furniture, arranging flowers, building and cleaning,
and so forth. Life has become richer for these families by carrying out
tasks with the children. Even the child under three years of age can participate
in these activities if we give them a chance.
We know that these first years are the most important for any child, but
only happy adults can give what is needed. We must not be too hard on
ourselves as we try to balance our busy lives. No matter how much parents
know, or how much time they give, they are not alone in feeling that it
is not enough.
We suggest that prospective parents begin to get in touch with the natural
intuition of parenting by spending time with families, discussing, and
reading long before starting a family. The first year of the childs
life is not the easiest time to begin to learn what it takes to be a parent,
and many of us are ill-prepared by movies, TV and lack of contact with
real families. We all need each other.
It takes a village to raise a child. African proverb
Parents who observe carefully, who listen, and, as they do so, imagine
themselves in the place of their infant, will learn that a child is a
unique, thoughtful, and creative individual, even before the age of one
year. This is truly one of the most joyful discoveries of parenting.
You may give them your love
but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts. Kahlil Gibran
Educational Materials for 0-3
A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to
work, concentration, and joy. A crowded or chaotic environment can cause
stress and can dissipate a child's energy. Natural materials are always
safer and more pleasing than plastic.
Before the age of six, a child learns from direct contact with the environment,
by means of all the senses, and through movement; the child literally
absorbs what is in the environment. The toys and materials in the home
and school should be of the very best quality to call forth self-respect,
respect and care from the child toward the environment, and the development
of an appreciation of beauty.
Montessorians are very cautious about allowing children to be guinea pigs
for the use of new inventions such as computers and televisions. Recent
brain research reveals to us that computers and television may have far
more negative influences on our children's development than positive.
They affect the child so much more because of the inordinately large amount
of time spent in front of them in some situations.
We are finding out that even such relatively simple objects as pacifiers,
swings, and walkers get in the way of optimal and healthful development.
Using the ideas in The Joyful Child has been compared to making sure that
the soil in an organic garden has everything necessary for the optimum
growth of a plantand then stepping back to see the unfolding of
the perfect plant.
The Michael Olaf company has been compared to "a health store for
the body and mind." The text in these pages is just a short introduction
to the birth to three ideas available to parents and teachers today.
We hope you are inspired to learn more, of course from authors and experienced
adults, but most of all from your own child.
You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this
world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have
to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence,
we won't have to struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions,
but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all
the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which,
consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.
M. Gandhi, 1943
Dr. Maria Montessori, MD
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870, and in 1896, became the first
female doctor in Italy. She based her theories on the direct observation
of children, accepting no preconceived opinions or theories about their
abilities. She never attempted to manipulate their behavior by reward
or punishments toward any end, and constantly experimented and developed
materials based on the interests, needs, and developing abilities of children.
Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker.
Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child
by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments,
such as gluttony, vanity, or self-love, in order to foster in him a spirit
of work and peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who
is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts.
I then urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary prizes and
punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and to confine
themselves to directing them gently in their work. Dr. Montessori
The Montessori 0-3 Program
Over fifty years ago Dr. Montessori realized that working with children
older than three was too late to have the most beneficial effect on the
life of a human, and she initiated what was to become a two-year, full-time,
course for adults living or working with children from birth to three
years of age.
For more information on the Assistants to Infancy course, please go to
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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)
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