The Montessori Toddler environment is unique by virtue of its inhabitants. Children from two to three years are undergoing incredible spiritual, intellectual and physical growth, and no two children develop in exactly the same manner and on exactly the same schedule. Toddlers have a new awareness of themselves as separate, unique people. They know it is possible to act and to speak, but often they are not yet able to do what they would like. Will, the ability to make choices, and self-discipline are slowly beginning to develop. As the first sub-plane of what Dr. Montessori called the absorbent mind, the mind of a toddler is a sponge that can learn subconsciously and effortlessly through observation and exploration.
Dr. Montessori “re-invented” the classroom and developed a child-centered model for individualized, active learning within the framework of an integrated curriculum. She called this “the prepared environment.” This environment is carefully planned so that the “materials for development” are scientifically arranged and the child can spontaneously explore and progress at his or her own individual pace. Because the child is just discovering his individuality, he very strongly asserts this independence. The wise adult allows toddlers to have independence to explore and to make choices within this safe environment. They need to give freedom within the security of limits and within a loving and trusting relationship.
Once the toddler is walking, this frees their hands for work. Their new interest is in accomplishing things with their hands. They want to imitate what they see adults doing, and they want to gain independence. Adults will observe that the child is interested in dressing and undressing himself. The child will also become interested in tasks such as brushing their own hair and putting things away around the house. Because they are gaining coordination of their hands, toddlers enjoy fine-motor tasks, such as puzzles and stringing beads. They also enjoy the challenge of cooking and can help prepare food at school. The young child enjoys activities, such as table washing, hand washing, dish washing, sweeping, and mopping.
At the toddler level, a Montessori environment tends to place far more emphasis on Sensorial activities. Sensorial activities challenge the younger child to match objects by size, shape, color, or to solve simple puzzles. Toddlers enjoy sensorial exploration of water, sand, dirt, clay, and textured objects. They experience the smell of flowers and food with a new awareness. Sensorial activities nurture toddlers' ability to discriminate size, color, and sound.
Montessori math materials enable children to understand concepts through concrete explorations. Once the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are familiar, the child is ready to work with fractions, elements of geometry and algebra, and problem solving on paper.