MONTESSORI FOR TODDLERS
Our Infant Community program focuses on five main areas: practical life skills (care of self, care of the environment), motor development (gross and fine motor), language development, art expression, and music.
Our toddlers spend their day in an environment designed for them, a true "infant community." Classrooms include simple shelves that display Montessori activities such as sorting, beading, and puzzles. There are also bookshelves, toddler-sized chairs, easels, sinks, clothes hooks, and tables for washing up dishes or art materials.
Not only is the environment toddler-sized, but the speed of the day is also slowed down for young children to learn daily tasks independently.
LEARNING SELF-CARE SKILLS
At AIM, every small activity is a learning opportunity. For example, when your child arrives at school, they remove their outside shoes and put on their slippers. Over time, they will learn to master it with the help of their teacher. The teacher will sit behind the student, carefully demonstrating how to hold the shoe at the heel, firmly, while they slide their foot inside, and pull up the back strap. Your child may take 10 minutes to get one shoe on at first but we provide the time for them to try until they succeed. This will be practiced every day. Other skills your child will learn include dressing themselves, keeping up their hygiene, putting on sunscreen, and organizing their clothing in their cubby. For toddlers, these skills are a huge milestone. Many toddler tantrums result from the child’s urgent need to do things for themselves and being frustrated by their inability to achieve their aim. Children who can take care of their own needs gain tremendous confidence.
INDIRECT PREPARATION FOR LATER ACADEMIC SKILLS
All of the activities in the toddler program have both a direct purpose (the visible skill being learned) and an indirect purpose, which is often longer-range, and in many cases constitutes a foundational skill for later academic success. For example, when children use watercolors at school, they go through the whole process of setting up their workstations with water, paper, and colors themselves. After painting, they learn to remove the wet paper and clip it to a line outside to dry. Then, they proceed to clean up after themselves, place the items where they belong, and reset the workstation for the next child to use. Children learn work cycle steps, motor skills, how to multitask processes, how to problem solve (e.g., to clean up if they do spill water), and the feeling of taking pride in their surroundings. The Infant Community environment abounds with this type of learning, with activities that children love to master, that give them immediate critical skills, and indirectly prepare them for later academic work!
SOCIAL AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTION SKILLS
One key task of learning to grow up is respecting the feelings and rights of others, and being able to control one’s impulses in order to live harmoniously with others. Our Infant Community students systematically learn these skills. For example, we only offer one item for each material. There’s one clay dough box, one easel, one reading chair, and one wash basin. When one child is engaged in another activity, no one else may take it. Only when the activity is returned to the shelf may another child use it. Learning to abide by this rule is hard for toddlers! We guide the children to stand with their hands behind their backs. Knowing positively what to do ("stand with your hands behind your back") is more powerful in helping them control impulses than telling them "don't do that." We also use words to help children understand each other’s feelings. For example, if someone falls, we may say "It looks like Max is hurt and crying. Mary, do you think you could go get a washcloth so we can clean his knee?" Children learn quickly how to process emotions and what they can do to fix the problem. That’s social skills in action – and it exemplifies the feeling of benevolence to each other that is the spiritual essence of our Infant Community program.