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Follow the child

Providing Experiences that Match your Observations

If you have been around Montessori for long, you have probably heard the term, “following the child”. For anyone not Montessori trained, you may not know exactly what is meant by this. In essence it means that we observe the child and then take our direction from our observations by providing them with experiences that fulfill their inner drive.

Observe first

My son has been very keen on carrying our keys around and putting them in any place they will fit in an effort to unlock things. Expertly, he is imitating what he sees. If we hold him up to a lock and give him the correct key, after some time, he can get the key in the hole. He is also capable of taking it out.

Providing Activities Based off of Observation

While this real world experience pleases him tremendously, it also is a minor burden on us. First off, there have been several times that we have been on the way out the door only to discover that our keys were not where we left them. Fifteen minutes later, they were discovered in some overlooked crevice. Because we are in a foreign country and don’t have access to all the same toys. We were unable to purchase a ready made lock box for children for just this purpose. Instead we improvised and purchased a padlock which we locked to a chair in our living room. The keys went on a keychain and now Orion has his own set. We ended up putting them on a lanyard so he could wear them around his neck. He is quite keen right now with putting and taking things off his head/neck.
boy learning fine motor skills keys locks

Allow Child to Independently Work with Activity

After we secured the lock so that it was parallel to the floor, thus easier for him to access, we showed him how it was done. He immediately became focused on this new task and sat for over 20 minutes with this activity. The first time he succeeded in getting the key in the lock, he clapped. He was so proud of his accomplishment. And just like a scientist, he experimented more, in the attempt to achieve the same results. Which he did, time and again. While absorbed in this activity, you can see that he is further developing his hand-eye coordination and his fine motor skills. Children are externally drawn to activities and materials that help them to further create themselves. It is our job to make sure that the objects they need to fulfill this internal drives are available to them.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article and have a little clearer idea of what it means to follow the child. You can read more on following the child here.

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Following the child

I have never considered introducing, “Walking on the Line”, until the other day when my 2 year started walking on the line created for a football field. Once he saw it, he was instantly drawn to it and made a beeline for it. It was wide which made it really easy for him to follow it while being able to stay on it. Walking on the Line is an activity done in the Children’s House, the Montessori 3 – 6 environment. It involves a series of lessons to assist the child with achieving coordination of movement of the whole body, development of equilibrium, opportunities for normalization, social cohesion and development of the will (self-control and self-discipline).  

This event further pressed upon me two things. First, the fact that children will use whatever is available to them for their own self construction and two, the importance of following the child. From a Montessori perspective, young children, aged 0-6, have an internal drive to be the master of their own development. This drive is largely unconscious and driven by Sensitive Periods, Human Tendencies and materials they can manipulate. Maria Montessori’s observation of children in an asylum rubbing food crumbs between their fingers led her to conclude that children will use whatever is available to them to aid in their development. This is why she created the materials that are now well known components to the Montessori Environment. It is also the reason why we, as the adults in children’s lives, should offer them a variety of experiences and materials to explore because we can not always be fully certain what they will utilize and why. In this way, the child is a wondrous unsolved mystery to us. In the Montessori prepared environment, the materials were chosen by the children under the supervision of Maria Montessori and all authentic Montessori Programs use the same materials. In the home, I believe that we have a bit more freedom of what we can offer our children. Sticking to the basic Montessori principles of a material will ensure that we are staying true to the Montessori pedagogy. Here is a bulleted list with short descriptions:

 

Characteristics of Montessori Materials

  • Kept clean, complete (no missing parts) and in good repair: If something breaks or goes missing the whole activity should be removed until the item is replaced
  • Aesthetically pleasing and attractive: Use a variety of natural materials such as wood, metal, ceramics, glass, grasses, cloth, etc
  • Appropriately sized: ergonomically scaled for child’s size and use, not too heavy to lift
  • Breakable items: support natural and logical consequences
  • Easily accessible to the child: everything a child needs for the activity is accessible to the child so the child can do the work without outside assistance. Some exceptions such as boiling water for tea
  • Self guiding/self correcting: Control of error built in
  • Mathematically precise: helps to develop the Mathematical Mind and appeals to the Human Tendency for Exactness
  • Non standard items reflect material culture: Can include multi-cultural items as we live in a global world today
  • Limited in quantity: Only have one of a material
  • Logical progression of materials on shelf and similar activities placed together: External order helps children to develop internal order

Dr. Montessori believed that education should be an aid to life, a system of learning that enables people to develop into their fullest potential. By sending your child to a Montessori School or utilizing the Montessori Method at home, you are helping to raise an individual who will be self-sufficient, self-motivated, confident and kind. Click here to explore Edussori’s selection of printable Montessori Materials, for the home and the classroom. Here’s to nurturing the mystery of human development.