"The first two years of life are the most important. Observation proves that small children are endowed with special psychic powers and points to new ways of drawing them—literally educating by cooperating with nature. So here begins the new path, wherein it will not be the professor who teaches the child, but the child who teaches the professor."
-Education for a New World Dr. Maria Montessori
The main focus of this environment is to meet the developmental needs of children of this age, particularly in the areas of independence, sense of order, language expansion, refinement of movement, socialization, and toilet learning. These developmental needs are met with always the ultimate goal in mind of assisting the child to become more and more independent.
Independence and Movement
There are activities in the classroom that foster independence such as dressing and undressing themselves, choosing work, completing a sequence of tasks in their work, interacting with others in a positive manner, completing toilet learning, etc. There is ample opportunity for the children to move about freely, making contact with those around him and supporting the budding desire in the toddler for socialization. The classroom is clean and attractive and reflects a home environment. The furniture and materials are sized to the toddler child. The shelves are uncluttered and include safe, interesting materials to touch and manipulate.
Language development happens constantly in the toddler classroom. The child is given the names of everything in the classroom, names of feelings, and appropriate ways to express them other than physically. Toddlers are encouraged to talk about everything. Besides the encouragement of conversation, language is explored through songs rhymes and books. Most children leaving the toddler classroom have an extensive vocabulary and are well on their way to speaking complete coherent sentences.
The Need for Order
Toddlers and young children have a great need for order and routine. Their sense of order is encouraged through predictable surroundings. Only by experiencing external order are they fully able to develop their inner order. Order in the classroom is fostered through a daily sequence in specific lessons and routines (meals, group time etc.), and predictable placement of lessons on the shelves. This encourages trust in the environment and in themselves. Experiencing this trust increases their self esteem and confidence.