Child's drawing of Giraffe


From Birth to Age Twelve

Newsletter #2: January, 2010

Provided by Michael Olaf Montessori

See below for information on linking or sharing


In the Montessori tradition it is the child's own original and unique art that is preferred over adult-generated forms to be colored in.
This gives the child not only a very good self image, but skill at both observation and draftsmanship.
As Dr. Montessori said, we cannot teach a person to be an artist but we can help him develop an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, and a soul that feels.

ART for 0-3

Child pasting

ART for 3-6

shaping clay

ART for 6-12

The Dot

The First Year
In the first days and months of life the child's attention is on the environment. Since the infant cannot yet move about, he is exploring visually. There was a small print that I had brought back from India taped to the wall next to where my second child spend the first weeks of life. Then it was packed away. When it was unpacked many years later she remembered and said that she loved that kind of art all her life. I am sure that it was imprinted on her idea of what should be in the environment, what is "beautiful" in just those first few weeks.

So let us provide the very best for the youngest, not only the pictures on the wall, but the mobiles that a child will watch, and any toys or rattles he will use in this first year. Here is the site for the loveliest mobiles and most beautiful toys that instill an appreciation of beauty early in life: mobiles and toys.

AGE 1-3

At this age children are capable of many forms of art, including cutting and pasting paper (as in the picture above), drawing with chalk, black and colored pencils and beeswax crayons, painting with water color and poster paints, and molding clay. Avoid felt pens, paints, and clay or other modeling materials that have a strong smell as they may be toxic or contain strong dyes and ingredients that are too harsh for the very young and sensitive child.

It is fun to do special art projects in the home and infant community, but even at this young age children benefit from having a variety of art materials available to them at all times and a space to work, uninterrupted, when they are inspired.

It is important to provide the best quality that we can afford—pencils, crayons, felt pens, clay, paper, brushes—and to teach the child how to use and care for them, and especially how to clean and put everything away so everything— the work space, the table and chair and the art materials—will be ready for the next great creative urge.

The quality of the first toy rattles and mobiles is the first intrinsic lesson of art appreciation for a child.

The same is true of the choice of toys, posters and other art work on the wall of the child's room and in the rest of the house, the dishes and cutlery, and the way objects are arranged in baskets on shelves, or hanging on hooks—creating order and beauty. Every part of the home influences the child's developing sense of beauty and balance, shape, and color.

Reproductions of great masterpieces inspire an appreciation of beauty at any age. Great plant and animal art collections can be made from old calendars. These can be hung at the child's eye level in any part of the house—bedrooms, bathroom, even the laundry room and garage.

In the lesson we clearly show the getting out of the materials, the handling of them (softly moving the paint brush o the page instead of "scrubbing") and the washing and putting away. But the creation of the art is the child's work, not the adult's.


Please feel free to link this site to any educational website providing the following information and link: "This link is provided by Michael Olaf Montessori")

The text was based on the Michael Olaf Montessori overviews and catalogues (The Joyful Child and Child of the World) written by Susan Mayclin Stephenson:

The truth is that when a free spirit exists, it has to materialize itself in some form of work, and for this the hands are needed. Everywhere we find traces of men's handiwork, and through these we can catch a glimpse of his spirit and the thoughts of his time. The skill of man's hand is bound up with the development of his mind, and in the light of history we see it connected with the development of civilization.
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD

Art is essential in the environment of the child from birth on. It is a way of approaching life, of moving and speaking, of decorating a home or school, of selecting toys and books. It cannot be separated from every other element of life.

The Montessori art curriculum for ages 3-6, for use in the classroom or in the home,and other art materials for this age can be found here: 3-6 art curriculum & materials.

Individual art work connected with other subjects is more creative, noncompetitive, and successful than group projects or models created by the teacher for children to imitate. Children should not learn to imitate the creations of an adult, to turn out products that all look alike. They are shown carefully how to get out the clay, for example, to use each of the tools, to form basic coils and slabs. They are introduced to clay sculptures in museums and books. It is the child who will decide when to work on clay, and exactly what to make. This is true of all art activities.

Just as any other activity in the 3-6 class, each art activity is kept complete and ready for use. If a child is interested in painting for example, he will find an apron, paper, paints and brushes, all clean and ready. After watching a seed grow into a plant a child might be inspired to draw the plant, to make leaf rubbings, to make a sculpture of a plant, or to create an original work in watercolor or tempera paints. Building with blocks, visiting a museum, listening to or making music, eating ethnic food, any activity can lead naturally to an artistic creation by the child.

Children benefit from having a variety of art materials available to them at all times and a space to work, uninterrupted, when they are inspired. It is important to provide the best quality that we can afford—pencils, crayons, felt pens, clay, paper, brushes—and to teach the child how to use and care for them.

Reproductions of great masterpieces, as prints, cards, or in books, inspire an appreciation of beauty at any age. We hang the pictures at the child's eye level, and provide art postcards to sort into groups, such as by artist.

Stories about artists, especially as children, are interesting for children. Good art books, even art books for adults, can engage a child for hours.

At home or in the classroom, we can designate a "museum" table or shelf where beautiful art objects can be placed as a temporary art exhibit. Since everything else in the room is available for handling, this gives practice in just looking, as in a real museum, and allows close exposure to special items and beautiful objects that the child might not otherwise have.

This also introduces the idea that most "art" objects in museums were used in daily life, soup bowls, jewelry, tools, and other useful and decorative creations.
Whenever possible we give the best examples of art and the best art materials, at the youngest, most impressionable age.

This is the link to 3-6 art materials

Imagination does not become great until a person, given the courage and strength, uses it to create. If this does not occur, the imagination addresses itself only to a spirit wandering in emptiness.
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD

All of the academic work in the elementary class is connected with and expressed by means of the arts. Instead of unrelated art and music lessons for the few, the techniques of creating in all areas (art, music, drama, dance, etc.) are taught by the teacher (often with the help of parents or specialists, but only when called upon by the students, for a reason), and then used to make learning exciting. There might be a play acting out the process of photosynthesis or the population of the world, a quilt made with squares of leaf shapes as a school fundraiser, or a series of beautiful watercolors demonstrating the principles of geometry. Just as in all areas, the teacher is in charge of teaching the tools and the students of designing and executing the work.

When we look at the curricula of the past, the Greeks and the Tibetans for example, we see that music and dance, and the arts in general, were an important part of the classical education. This was developed over many years of trial and error. It was considered "back to the basics," perhaps because they had discovered that purely mental learning did not stick in the mind, and that the arts allowed a student to enjoy learning, instead of just cramming in facts for a test. Maybe they discovered that learning that was fun and creative was remembered and that children who look forward to enjoying school have a better chance of being successfully educated. When information is processed in some active, musical or artistic way—graphs, posters, drawings, creating maps, songs, plays, and so forth, the knowledge becomes permanent and it strengthens the creative part of the brain. Processing means The Arts!

A student becomes interested in a topic, with the teacher or a few friends she designs the research, then settles down to read and gather information. Most projects are, in the end, presented to the group in some form. Part of the group plan may be to decide who will do the art, the costumes, the music. Or an individual may work on something and present it as a song or poem, or a sculpted model. The work, whether it be in the field of geography, biography, history, math, or language takes the form of a project where the head and hand work together toward a creative, artistic expression. In order to learn in this way the child needs the tools and uninterrupted time. The adult supplies art materials, the model, such as exposure to good music or art, long blocks of uninterrupted time, and respect for the child's ideas and expression.

When a child learns by combining academics and the arts the whole understanding of life—and development of the brain—makes a giant leap. There are no limits to avenues of creativity.

Not only are famous artists and musicians studied, but ordinary people who bring the arts into their everyday lives. A child might interview parents, teachers, grandparents, to see what art forms they pursue as hobbies, what they did as children, and what are their dreams. One school we know selects a group art creation every year and auctions it off to raise class trip funds. Studying the creations of other cultures, experiencing their dances and music, studying the reasons why different architectural forms developed, and clothing or language, gives a child an understanding of the universality of human needs and expression.

When elementary-aged children reach adolescence they enter one of the most creative periods of life, and will create based on those talents they have begun to develop in these earlier years. The period of life between the age of six and twelve is the time to explore as many creative forms as possible.

Art materials for 6-12 include most of the things introduced in the 3-6 section, and here are more just for 6-12 art materials

List of All Michael Olaf Newsletters:

#2 Montessori Art, January 2010
#3 Montessori Cultural Geography, May 2010
#4 Montessori Parenting/Teaching, August 2010
#5 Montessori Home Environment, November 2010
#6 Montessori in Sikkim, January 2011
#7 Montessori Math, April 2011
#8 All 2009-2011 Newsletters, May 2011
#9 Montessori Grace and Courtesy, August 2011
#10 Montessori Biology, May 2012
#11 Practical Life, Real Life, Aug 2012
#12 Happy Children for the Holidays, Dec 2012
#13 New Book, Child of the World, Mar 2013

MONTESSORI INFORMATION, for more information on Montessori in general, see the main page


MONTESSORI SHOP: toys, books, games for homes or schools: Shop


SHARE BY EMAIL Forward to friends


Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+, 170 page book with 40 black and white pictures of children from the author's work around the world

From Michael Olaf: 3-12+
From Amazon, 3-12+ (3-12 years)
From NAMTA: 3-12+

The Joyful Child,
a catalogue that is no longer being printed but valuable as the 0-3 overview and suggestions of materials for this period of life.

From Michael Olaf: 0-3
From Amazon, 0-3