The Toddler classroom is a prepared environment for children from two to three years of age, which we have fondly named the Sweet Pea classroom. The Sweet Pea classroom is a busy and happy place. It is our great privilege to share this time and experience with the children during this wonderful, dynamic period of their lives.
To foster the child’s independence by facilitating a smooth and peaceful separation from their parents and help them adjust to the prepared school environment.
To assist the child with physical care and allow them to learn and participate in routines including dressing, using the toilet, serving and eating snack and lunch, putting away their belongings, and attending to personal hygiene.
To model appropriate language and social interactions and assist in the language, social, and emotional development of the child.
To ensure the physical well-being and safety of the children enrolled.
To introduce and/or reinforce concepts such as sharing, being kind to others, waiting to take a turn, cleaning up after one’s self, using lessons appropriately in the classroom, respecting oneself and others, and beginning to recognize letters and numbers.
The Montessori Lesson Experience
Experience has shown that young children enjoy and are capable of successfully participating in a large variety of Montessori-like lessons that are developmentally appropriate for their age and ability level. The two-year-old environment provides a combination of lessons that have a defined purpose (puzzles, counting materials, vocabulary lessons, and practical life lessons such as pouring water or using a baster); creative play materials (a doll house or farm or play telephone); art materials (paint, crayons, glue, and paper); and familiar toys or activities (blocks, cars, trucks, dolls, and doll clothes that do not have structure or a defined purpose).
With both practice and gentle reminders, toddlers can be taught and expected to choose and carry a lesson to a table or work rug, work on one lesson at a time, and return a lesson to its place when finished. They can successfully understand the concepts of waiting for someone else to finish their turn; watching, but not touching, someone else’s work; and sharing with friends. They are capable of working on a lesson with focused concentration for long periods of time. They love to imitate and repeat lessons and will often repeat a lesson many times before finishing with it.
Young children often work side-by-side with other children without engaging them in conversation or play. This is known as parallel play. As the child gets older, they become more social and enjoy playing and forming friendships with other children. Toddlers and two-year-old children are able to understand and show respect for others while working on a lesson by using quiet voices and not disturbing others.
Maria Montessori identified the sensitive periods for toddlers to be movement, language, and order. With this in mind, we have prepared the classroom to offer experiences in all of these activities. It is the prepared environment that holds the key to the child’s independence, concentration, and normalized behavior. The role of the teacher is to help connect the child to the environment and assure his ability to use the environment safely and with respect. The teacher observes, determines which lessons are developmentally appropriate, and then gently invites a child to have a lesson and take his turn. She does not intervene when a child is working with concentration and does not offer assistance when a child is capable of doing something by himself.
The Sweet Pea classroom consists of an entryway where each child has a “cubby” for personal belongings, an activity area, a fine motor lesson room, a bathroom with a child-sized toilet, an accessible sink, and a diaper changing area. There is also a large activity room for indoor play and gross motor movement with gymnastic mats and a platform for motor activity. An outdoor fenced-in playground is adjacent to the classroom with a sandbox, swings, climbers, garden, and farm animals. We maintain a ratio of one adult to every four children at all times.
We have assigned each child to a Primary Caregiver to facilitate emotional acceptance and bonding with the teachers and ensure high quality care of each child. The teacher who is the Primary Caregiver ensures that the children in their care are well fed and have water to drink; have their diapers changed or have used the bathroom on a regular basis; and are safe, happy, and learning during the time they are at school. They are also responsible for reporting this information to the parents either in writing or verbally on a daily basis. The Primary Caregiver records which lessons the children have had in the classroom so that this can be conveyed to the parents at biannual parent/teacher conferences.
Montessori Work Period: The Montessori work period provides an opportunity for the children to choose lessons from the low shelves in the classroom and work on them independently or to work with a teacher or friend. This work period lasts approximately two hours and is interspersed with snack time and toileting. Initially, the teachers work with the children showing them how to do a lesson by giving them a demonstration. The children are then free to choose and repeat lessons, as they desire. The Montessori work period and prepared environment sets Montessori programs apart from a day care setting. During this time, the classroom is calm and quiet so that children can concentrate without being distracted. Following the Montessori work period, the teacher turns on a music box that signals to the children that it is time to put their work away, clean up the classroom, and get ready for “Circle Time”.
“Circle Time”: "Circle Time" is a group experience that usually consists of singing songs; playing musical instruments; engaging in movement (marching, jumping, and spinning around); doing finger plays; using puppets or props; doing counting activities; repeating the sounds of the phonetic alphabet; showing pictures or flashcards with vocabulary; and reading a story. Children are invited to get a mat to sit on and join in the circle, but are not required to attend. "Circle Time" lasts from ten to twenty minutes, depending upon the needs and interests of the children.
Recess: Following "Circle Time", the children dress to go outside for 30 to 60 minutes depending upon weather.
Lunch: Lunch is from 12:00 to 12:30 pm. The children are encouraged to eat independently and with good manners, and to eat their “main” food before snacks or dessert.
Nap Time and Half-day Pickup: Half-day children are picked up at 12:30 pm. Those that remain for the full-day take naps from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Afternoon pickup is at 3:30 pm for full-day children.