This prepared environment is designed for children ages 18 months to 3 years.
Dr. Montessori observed that the human mind evolved to learn naturally from the immediate environment. The Infant Community is a prepared environment that nurtures the physical and mental development of children and enables them to explore their full potential.
The environment helps children connect mind and body: As the body guides the mind in making sense of the world through hands-on exploration, so the mind gains better control of the body as exploration occurs. All activities provide critical stimulation for whole-body development. Stimulating both mind and body at the same time results in the following: the development of strong neurological connections for later intellectual work; the acquisition of meaningful language experience through daily interactions and communication; the development of the ability to concentrate and carry out a task in a sequence of steps; and the development of the capacity to care for oneself and care for the environment.
A Pathway to Physical Independence
The Infant Community offers a rich environment that supports the young child's physical, sensorial, intellectual, and social development. The furniture and learning materials are specifically crafted to suit the developmental needs of this age group. The combination of visually pleasing materials and close interaction with adults who speak their native language (English, Mandarin, or Japanese) provides children with myriads of opportunities to absorb stimulating sights and sounds, to explore freely, and to connect body and mind as part of the same learning experience.
In the outdoor environment, the children have a safe, developmentally inviting outdoor play area, which they visit daily for an extended period of gross motor activities. Gardening, such as planting, watering, pulling weeds, and harvesting, helps cultivate a connection with nature. Raking leaves, sweeping, and washing outdoor equipment nurture the habit of taking care of the environment.
Gardening also offers enjoyable activities, such as planting, watering, pulling weeds, and harvesting, all of which help cultivate a connection with nature.
Picking up leaves, sweeping, and washing outdoor equipment nurture the habit of taking care of the environment.
Movement is the key to the development of the self and starts with the child building a trusting connection with her environment. The child becomes aware of herself and develops control when she is able to move freely in her environment. She also discovers that she can change the world around her through movement. This discovery provides the child with a fundamental understanding of her own power and leads to the development of a sense of worth. The child's movement is stimulated by an interest motivating her to reach for the object. From this, a basic trust in the self develops that is fundamental to independence.
Aids to Psycho-sensory motor development in the Infant Community:
Activities for visual, tactile, and auditory experiences
Activities to refine hand-eye coordination
Activities to support the refinement of equilibrium
Activities to develop the stereognostic sense
"The work of the child consists of creating the human
being that it has to become. The adult works to improve his environment, while the child works to improve himself." ~ Silvana Q. Montanaro, M.D.,
Understanding the Human Potential, p. 109
Language offers children a tool to express themselves in relation to their environment. The language acquisition process in this environment is all about connecting sounds to meaning. The children acquire languages not only from specific language activities and interaction with the adults narrating what they do, but also by absorbing sounds and phonemes spoken in the environment throughout the day. They develop vocabulary by learning the names of the objects they work with and hearing the description of the object's or material's qualities as they explore using their senses.
Practical Life activities enable children to acquire the skills and competence to become contributing members of their community. There are four major areas of focus: Care of the self (eating, hand-washing, buttoning, etc.); Care of environment (washing, sweeping, dusting, watering plants); Development of movement (walking, sitting, balancing, dancing); and Grace and Courtesy (serving, greeting, showing gratitude to, and respect for others). By engaging in activities that are meaningful, children become interested and personally invested in their community. The intricate movements and multiple steps refine their motor skills and deepen their concentration. The children form their characters through refining their movements, developing their will, through adaptation to the environment, concentration and independence.
Care of the Self
Hand-washing, dressing, and undressing help the child develop functional independence and observation skills. Through repetition, the child develops the confidence, coordination, and capability to care for him/herself and others.
Care of the Environment
Dusting leaves nurtures the child's respect for nature and furthers her independence. Through the careful coordination of her movements – wiping with a lightness of touch – she makes a connection, in her mind and body, between controlled movement and accomplishment. The child comes to understand that by being careful, she is able to take care of not only plants, but of her environment, more generally. Through frequent repetition, the child acquires a deep sense of personal gratification and responsibility.
Grace and Courtesy
Children in the Infant Community have the opportunity to observe social behaviors and cultivate grace, compassion, respect for others, generosity, and self-confidence. Even a simple gesture, such as offering a tissue, requires awareness of one’s surroundings, empathy for another individual, and coordinated movement. The lightness of touch to get and deliver a crisp and clean tissue requires connection between body and mind.
Development of Movement
The environment offers myriads of purposeful activities through which children can develop gross and fine motor skills, such as loading the dishwasher. Children learn from adults modeling how to move gracefully even as they carry and move heavier or more delicate items such as tables, or plates for the lunch clean-up. This is important for children to practice, as order and safety in the environment are contingent upon the children's ability to move purposefully and with awareness of their surroundings. Moreover, putting away one's own dishes cultivates independence, while collaboration in handling fragile items furthers the sense of solidarity and goodwill.
Daily singing, playing with rhythm, and moving with music help develop listening skills, motor coordination, and appreciation of music.
Use of the toilet is a normal, natural function of civilized human beings; this is no different in the Infant Community. From the beginning, children wear cloth underwear and are assisted in a non-judgmental change of clothing and toileting process as soon as the need arises. These children usually learn to control their bodily functions within a few months. PRINTS utilizes a diaper service to ensure that there is a proper quantity of clean underwear for the children. Potties and child-size toilets are kept clean and hygienic at all times for the children to use freely in the environment.
Area for Sleeping
In the Infant Community, we help the children develop the ability to fall asleep by themselves. They rest on low beds, allowing them independence of action.
The children assist with setting up their beds for nap and are free to rest at will. This freedom helps to develop self-regulation and the executive functions.
"We all know the sense of comfort of which we are conscious when a good half of the floor space in a room is unencumbered; this seems to offer us the agreeable possibility of moving about freely."
~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Children are naturally drawn to food; this innate attraction presents valuable opportunities to encourage the developmental work of the hand. They prepare lunch for the community using nutritious, organic foods that are easily managed. Eating, as well as food preparation, develops coordination, concentration and control; it instills balanced nutritional habits and cultivates the adoption of gracious manners during meals.
Schedule & Routine
Routine is very important for young children given their sensitivity to a strong sense of order. When a consistent routine is followed, the child learns to trust the environment, people around him/her, and him/herself. Trust of self is fundamental to independence.
The adults are links between the young child and his environment, and must never be an obstacle hindering the child's ability to learn. The child's development is compromised when convenience for the adults precedes the child's interest and needs. The adults in the environment must be attentive and patient in their observation of the children so that they may gain an understanding of each child and better support his needs.
Collaboration with Families
Communication with families is extremely important to PRINTS' Assistants to Infancy (trained AMI caregivers in the Nido and Infant Community). In addition to frequent discussion regarding the child's developmental progress on understanding Montessori education and the materials used is vital for the complete development of each child.
Community Involvement Nights (CINs) offer a broad overview of Montessori philosophy and developmental milestones. They are also a valuable opportunity for discussions with the guides and for parents to share their experience.
Parent conferences are held twice yearly. Additionally, frequent updates help strengthen teacher- parent collaboration as a means to ensure the child's optimum development.