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Infant Community

Cambridge Montessori Infant Community Environment 1


Our activities

In Montessori education, we call the children’s play activities ‘work’. This is because we recognise and deeply respect that each child is creating all their basic human characteristics during the first 3 years of life.

Our activities are fun, enticing and engaging with lots of emphasis on independence and creative thought. Staff encourage each child to choose their own work and begin developing focused attention on one activity at a time. We help and support the children to finish a complete cycle of activity before beginning another.

Our indoor classroom has designated areas for:

1.
Practical Life: real-life skills (food prep, cleaning, washing, polishing), large motor skills (sweeping, washing, mopping, digging),
    independence (self-care).

2. Manipulative toys: fine motor skills and logical thought processes (puzzles, matching, sorting, grading).

3. Art and Crafts: wide variety of media (including paint, chalk, clay, glue, crayons, pencils).

4. Songs and Music-making: child-friendly CD player and CDs, percussion instruments, xylophone and glockenspiel.

5. Language activities: reading corner, vocabulary enrichment games, opportunities for meaningful conversations.


We also have a smaller, covered outdoor area that is only accessible from our I.C. 

1. Natural construction blocks and logs

2. Dressing up and role-play

3. Car track with a variety of vehicles

4. Quiet area for reading

5. Small parachute, ribbons and other sensory exploration


Mealtimes

We value mealtimes as social, communal and nutritional experiences. Meals are collaborative with the children involved in all stages of setting up, serving and clearing away. We use flowers, quality tableware and individual place settings to create an appealing area where the children love to eat.

Whenever possible, we want the children to experience food in its natural form. For example, buying a whole melon and experiencing its weight, texture, smell and then taste after preparation. Or baking bread and being involved in the whole process, including all the delicious smells.

We give the children the basic skills for preparing fruits and vegetables to eat. For example, cutting carrot tops off, washing the root vegetable, cutting it into pieces and cooking it in different ways.

There are many movements involved in preparing food, which aid the refinement of motor skills. Language opportunities include naming foods, implements and actions. These are words based in common, daily, real experiences so the children absorb and internalise them easily. Cognitive skills are also enhanced through this work. For example, every time a child sets the table he experiences one-to-one correspondence, which is important in mathematics.

Meals are a celebration of our community life. Like everything else, we prepare the children with presentations and work collaboratively until they are gradually able to take on more independent responsibilities.


Toilet Learning

In the I.C. we have a gentle toilet learning policy: all the children wear cotton training pants during their awake time with us. We use pull-ups during nap times and the children change back into training pants upon waking.

Children are developmentally capable of beginning toilet learning as soon as they can walk confidently. At this time, your child will be able to gain control of their night bowel movements, followed by daytime bowel movements and then daytime bladder control. This happens around 12-18 months old and lets us know they are ready to enter the I.C.

Of course, as with all aspects of our care, this is a gradual process like learning how to walk or eat independently. We encourage the children to take regular toilet breaks during the day that help them begin to recognise the physical signs of needing to use the toilet.

Our main aim is to help your child associate the bodily sensations preceding any elimination with feeling wet afterwards and wanting to get changed. It is important for your child to experience the whole process and be in control of their own body.

Consistency and repetition are the key to success in life; if you are happy to continue using training pants at home, your child will find it easier to leave their nappies behind during awake times.

If you feel cotton training pants are too inconvenient we are happy to suggest manageable solutions, such as using a nappy service or putting a nappy over training pants during long journeys.

“Parents often tell me about their twelve- to twenty-four-month-old babies ‘going crazy’ during diaper changes, trying to escape, screaming, and trying to arch their backs or squirm away. As we pin them down and wipe their bottoms off, maybe we should consider the idea that this is their sign of potty training readiness.” (Diaper-Free Before 3, by Jill Lekovic)

You can read more about how we approach toilet learning on the excellent Michael Olaf Montessori website, and in this booklet by Sarah Moudry: Toilet Awareness.


Preparing Children to Transition to the Children’s House

The I.C. activities of Practical Life are an important way to help children prepare for life in the Children’s House from 3 years onwards. Learning gentle ways to complete cycles of activity, taking care of the activities and helping others will allow the children to transition successfully when we observe their needs changing.

Our small groups and individual lessons allow each child to feel valued and confident in their own abilities. They learn respectful ways to sit together, make choices, share and help as needed.

Each child will leave the I.C. at a slightly different age, depending on their individual needs. Some may be ready at 2 years 8 months and others at 2 years 11 months. We look for their interests changing towards more sensorial work and deeper exploration. Social and language skills increase and we see your child is ready for a new challenge.


A Pedagogical Overview


Montessori said that the first period of development (from birth to 6 years) is split into 0-3 years for acquisition of important skills and 3-6 years for refining them. She called the child during this period the Psychic Embryo; someone with great potential but not yet completely developed.

In utero the physical embryo develops all the necessary physical parts. After birth the psychic embryo is developing all aspects of the species, to adapt to the specific time, place and culture. This is a remarkable period of self-construction during which the child explores his environment using all of his senses.

“The first and third periods [of life] are periods of huge transformations. They are times of great difficulty, times when character is formed… If education is to be based on life, it must be adapted to all these differences.” (The 1946 London Lectures, Dr Maria Montessori)

The change in each human being from the beginning to the end of each plane is a kind of metamorphosis. One is completely different physically and psychologically at the beginning compared with the end. Like a caterpillar and butterfly, there is dramatic change and the person is almost unrecognisable.

In the I.C. we value all aspects of development equally and include many opportunities for language, movement, independence, social development and self-discipline.

We offer a variety of activities, all with slight variations so they keep your child’s interest. For example, adding gradual challenges using different hand grasps, placing alternative rings on to pegs, increasing the number of objects or variations such as discs, cubes and spheres.

All our activities require judgment, calculation and help each child perfect motor skills. The children become more confident; they gradually develop an awareness of the power of their hands to act on the environment and transform it through purposeful activity.

“The child goes from one conquest of independence to another. All phenomena of childhood, walking, talking etc. are conquests of independence. Children must move and act… [the] environment must provide a great deal of mental food and warm, loving treatment. So in our plan for the education of little children we must create an attractive environment. Into this environment we must put everything that is good for the mind, along with an understanding and affectionate person.” (The 1946 London Lectures, Dr Maria Montessori)