What is the ideal age to begin Montessori school? Age 2.9 to 3! The young child's ability to effortlessly absorb information from his environment is only possible during this window of time. Dr. Montessori observed that during these early months, which she called sensitive periods, a child's entire being is molded: his intelligence itself is being formed!
The child from age birth to six years old passes through three significant sensitive periods; those for order, movement and language.
SUPPORTING A YOUNG CHILD'S NEED FOR ORDER
During the sensitive period for order, a young child needs her environment to be predictable and orderly. If her life has a rhythm and her routine is maintained, she begins to trust the environment. If her needs for food, sleep and bodily comfort are predictably met as they arise, she uses this satisfaction as the basis to feel secure and to explore her world. The three year-old is at the height of sensitivity to ritualistic order; she still needs routines and yet can begin to create her own order. This is the perfect time to model that activities have a beginning, a middle and an end.
COORDINATION OF MOVEMENT
The sensitive period for movement is the time the child develops his coordination and fine and gross motor skills. Allowing your child safe yet challenging movement without interference develops this skill and his self confidence. It's time to jump, hop, skip, and climb, to carry heavy things, to balance objects on a tray. He needs to use a scissors, to pick up tiny objects and to refine his eye/hand coordination allowing his hand to truly become an instrument of his mind.
THE PRIME TIME FOR LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
During the sensitive period for language, the child can hear the individual sounds in words as she learns vocabulary— an ideal time to begin learning the sounds of letters. During this time she will expand her vocabulary immensely. She wants huge words and funny words and rhyming word and words in songs. Our Montessori environments, rich in vocabulary, meet her word hunger perfectly.
When the children's environment is based on and organized around the sensitive periods, the children work with an enthusiasm and sustained interest that is truly amazing. Their development is strong and steady.
Authentic Montessori preschool is a three-year cycle designed to engage children from age 3 to 6 (preschool through kindergarten). The activities in the first year lay an important foundation for future learning. Over the following two years the activities and lessons build upon themselves at the child's own pace. Parents are often amazed when a child "explodes" into reading, writing, and math during the final year. It might look like magic, but it is really the culmination of the first two years in the Primary classroom. By starting at 3 and remaining in the classroom community for three years, Montessori children have an inspiring educational experience.