By Misty King
Exploring freely with purpose is the child’s work. Work, by definition is “to be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result”. The toddler classroom is set up for the ever-changing toddler to encourage development to the fullest potential.
Children take pride coming into a place that is set up for them. The furniture is just the right size and the materials are made to meet their developmental needs by setting them up for success. A snack area is prepared with real glass dishes to give toddlers the concentration of using care in the environment. There is plenty of space to allow for movement and opportunities for physical, language and social/emotional development. The shelves are uncluttered and the materials are pleasing to the senses. Deep concentration is welcome and easy to come by in a natural place.
We have seen so much growth already these past few months. As soon as a child enters the classroom, there is a friendly greeting with a handshake if wanted, school bags are hung, hands are washed and the day begins. Toddlers are constantly absorbing and taking in the environment. Where one child might be choosing one material after the other, another toddler could be observing and taking it all in. Work can be done at the shelf or taken to a rug or table. The attention and concentration have increased since the first few days.
The allowing for independence means fewer power struggles with toddlers. Toddlers naturally want to do things for themselves. Making their own snack and pouring their water is so fun! They really enjoy being able to wash their own dishes after as well. Changing diapers standing up encourages the child to help with the process. Helping take care of the environment gives the child a sense of belonging. We see such self-confidence with independence.
“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play… it is work he must do in order to grow up.” Maria Montessori