The Montessori Method and the Function of the Materials

The Montessori approach is based upon the natural laws of human development.  Maria Montessori was a careful observer who noted several attributes of children under six that assist this development.  One, they have a special kind of “absorbent mind” which limitlessly and effortlessly takes in all aspects from the world around them.  In so doing, they lay down all the foundations for later life; they become adults with all the characteristics and language of the culture into which they have been born simply by living.  Also helping in this huge task is a child’s drive to become independent, plus a strong desire to explore everything using their senses.  In addition, Montessori identified certain windows of opportunity for the child that she called “sensitive periods” during which the child is irresistibly drawn to the things he or she needs to help them develop their full human potential.

Montessori materials are designed to support and encourage these windows of opportunity.  Items and activities provided for a child are offered carefully attuned to their age and stage of development so that they are appropriate to their needs at the time.  To assist the child’s independence, the materials are child-sized and laid out in an orderly fashion in a manner or place that makes them easily accessible.

Montessori stipulated that the materials should be not only of high quality, but pleasing to the eye, the ear and the touch.  This not only entices the child to work with the materials, but also encourages the child to take good care of them.  This is one aspect of the Montessori philosophy of the care for the environment – the built environment as well as the natural environment.

Likewise, Montessori education encourages activities which are productive and purposeful, and help the child refine muscular co-ordination, learn self-discipline, work within their community, and realize their ability to contribute, even at a very young age.  Montessori materials are designed to serve these objectives also.