The Montessori Method was started over 100 years ago when Maria Montessori opened her first childcare center in Rome in 1907.
The Montessori Method is a whole philosophy and there are several different approaches and organizations in the United States. Since Maria Montessori's day, many of her concepts and methods like self directed learning, experiential play and the use of child sized furniture have been incorporated into the main stream. However, some other specific materials like her mathematical rods are not so well known.
Mathematical rods are designed to enable children to understand mathematical concepts and consist of 10 rods of varying lengths. These rods work on the metric system and increase in size from 10cm to 1 meter. The first 10cm rod is colored red, the next the 20cm rod is half red and half blue, with each 10cm addition being marked in either red or blue. The 1 meter rod is divided into 10 sections that alternate in color red, blue, red, blue etc. With other equipment like spindles, cards, beads and numbers cut out in sandpaper, a child not only learns the numbers but experiences the relationship that numbers have to each other. By combining the rods in various ways, and using other Montessori equipment like the pink tower, a child can learn mathematical concepts at a younger age than traditional methods.
Ideas like music and movement which we are very familiar with today were developed by Maria Montessori and her associates. One idea used in the Method is 'walking on the line'. This is where children place one foot in front of the other, heel to toe, and walk slowly and carefully along a painted narrow curved line while listening to a simple tune. Variations on this include balancing a bean bag on the head, carrying a bell without letting it ring and so on. You can now buy CD's and even a Nintendo Montessori Music game ($30) to allow you to develop musical skills in the children in your care.
Maria Montessori was a great believer in a sensorial approach to learning. She believed in letting children focus on one sensation at a time. To enhance this she would blindfold the children with colorful blindfolds so they could concentrate on the other senses of smell, taste, touch or sound. For example, with the sense of smell, children smelled various scents and learned to identify them only using their nose. In other exercises a child may have found an object inside a full bag, indentifying it only by the sense of touch. Again many of these ideas are used today in a modified form in a regular playgroup, pre-school or kindergarten.
Montessori schools and daycare programs are very popular and you can learn more about the Method or take training courses from one of the Montessori organizations. If you wish to run a formal Montessori day care program you will need accreditation. Online accredited diploma courses ($2000 +) are available for both parents and professionals who wish to use the method with either the 0-3 or the 3-6 age groups. Alternatively you may be able to find an accredited teacher training class in your area.
Even if you don't want a professional qualification there is nothing to stop you using some of her methods or the Montessori equipment in your day care center.
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