Toddler

At MSR, your Toddler he’s learning first to maneuver the classroom and a new social world.

He’s getting a handle on the basic tools of learning—not yet primarily or explicitly academic, but the physical, social, and emotional tools that ready him for the academic work ahead. As he practices catching and throwing, setting the table, raking, shoveling, preparing snacks, and polishing silver, he’s strengthening the large and fine motor control that translates directly into his ability to wield paintbrushes and pencils, keyboards and cameras, scissors and glue. Under his teacher’s watchful guidance, he’s also developing the mental and emotional strength that prepare him for his next steps. He’s venturing independently into new surroundings, joining a new social environment, choosing which lessons he’d like to work on, caring for his workspace, and learning to respect the space of others. Through these embodied experiences, your child is learning to recognize and manage his feelings, interpret and respond to social situations, discern his personal preferences, make independent choices—and see them through.

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First Plane of Development

(Toddler to 6 years)

THE ABSORBENT & SENSORIAL MIND

Throughout the first six years of life, your child’s mind is like a sponge. Everything is new and fascinating! She’s using her five senses to actively explore the world around her, absorbing and integrating vast amounts of new information. She’s experiencing and deciphering language, math, colors, flavors, textures, and many other foundational coding systems. She’s building functional autonomy—taking her first steps toward independence as she learns how to complete basic tasks, control her emotions, and cooperate with others. She’s also learning to practice patience, empathy, and the basic principles of conflict resolution and problem solving. In short, she’s learning how to be in the classroom (and away from home and family) and gaining the confidence that comes with her newfound independence.

To make the most of these formative years, your child needs:

  • beauty and order in her learning environment—calm, open, and inviting spaces with plenty of sunlight and natural materials that delight and engage (rather than overstimulate) the senses;
  • a wide variety of experiences that nourish her naturally inquisitive mind, expand her sense of wonder and possibility, and focus her exuberant energy;
  • opportunities to take responsibility for herself and to develop a sense of genuine ownership over her experience, which requires both an environment constructed to enable and encourage independence and the expectation that she can take responsibility for her work, her behavior, and many of her own practical needs (e.g., feeding, dressing, and cleaning herself);
  • freedom of choice within a range of engrossing educational options
  • uninterrupted work periods that help her build concentration, repeatedly practice new skills, and fully explore and master her lessons.

Toddler Areas of Study

PRACTICAL LIFE

Setting the table, polishing silver, washing dishes, spooning beans (into real glass jars!), brushing her hair, sweeping the floor—these exercises help your toddler practice caring for herself, teach her cause and effect (e.g., What happens if the jar breaks? How do we safely clean it up? How will we replace it?), help develop strong large and fine motor skills, and engage her in shared work through which she develops empathy, conflict resolution, and trust with people outside home and family.

SENSORIAL LEARNING

All knowledge comes through the senses. In Toddlers, we introduce your child to a wide range of sensory information, methodically and intentionally building his capacity to identify and discriminate between them: yellow versus red, large versus small, rough versus smooth, sour versus sweet. Your toddler learns to recognize patterns, sort colors, discern tastes, identify similar sounds, and order shapes by size and volume through engrossing, tactile explorations.

MATH

Math is intrinsic to your child’s sensorial explorations in Toddlers. Through Nesting and Cylinder Blocks, Tower of Cubes and other tactile experiences, students develop the skills—like one-to-one correlation, counting to ten, and matching symbol to quantity—that lay the groundwork for mathematical learning.

LANGUAGE & HUMANITIES

Read-alouds, picture sequencing, guided questions, language cards, and other pre-reading activities help your toddler build vocabulary and strengthen his receptive and expressive language skills. This language development happens in the context of engaging humanities experiences that introduce him to the wider world in concrete, interactive ways.

SPANISH

As your child develops mastery of the English language, he’s also introduced to another in weekly 30-minute Spanish classes. He sings songs, plays games, listens to stories, and participates in other activities that help him develop a basic Spanish vocabulary.

SCIENCE

What happens when we combine water and flour? Why does butter make the bread taste better? What do plants eat? Why does the dirt in our classroom garden make our hands dirty? How do we clean it off? Fully embodied sensory experiences indirectly familiarize your child with the foundational concepts of cause and effect and other natural laws at the heart of future scientific studies.

HEALTHFUL LIVING

Children are developing physical balance in Toddlers. They’re also practicing the rituals, routines, and habits of a balanced life. There’s a time for movement and wiggling and a time for quiet, focused work, a time to be outdoors, a time for resting, and a time for preparing and eating healthy food.

MUSIC

Your child enjoys dedicated weekly music instruction as well as integrated lessons in the course of every school day. She learns and sings the Hello song every morning and the Goodbye song in the afternoon. She experiences music that makes her want to dance and move, music that helps her focus, music that comes from other cultures, music she can make with her own voice and sounds she can make with different kinds of instruments.

ART

Using chalk, paint, yarn, paper, glue, clay, sponges, brushes, your child learns to hold, apply, manipulate, stick, and mold. During 30 minutes of dedicated art class each week and as part of every school day, he develops his personal aesthetic, the fine motor skills he’ll use later for writing, a feel for working with different materials, and the responsibility for cleaning up after a creative work session.

Toddler Environment

The Prepared Environment is an essential aspect of our pedagogy and curriculum at every level, specifically designed to meet the changing needs of your student as he grows and matures.

THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

In both Toddlers and Children’s House, natural lighting, natural colors, and uncluttered spaces set the stage for focused and calm activity, everything designed to convey a sense of harmony and order that both structures and inspires self-directed work. Every space is arranged to support the natural flow of learning and geared for all the different kinds of engagement students require. Learning materials are displayed on child-accessible shelves and the room is divided in “curriculum areas” with activities sequenced by type and complexity. You find large areas—both indoors and out—for children to safely practice gross motor control. You see a range of activities designed for the single-minded toddler with fewer and less subtle distinctions than those you see in Children’s House, where you find students engaged in more complex works. You see children in quiet, serene corners for reading or thinking.

Our teachers ensure each classroom is prepared for learning every day, taking each child’s unfolding process and progress into consideration. They look ahead, design, organize, and plan, anticipating ways to create beautiful spaces that are warm, inviting, and inspire each student’s next fascination.

THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Your child doesn’t just need safe, engaging, and orderly physical spaces for optimal learning, he needs social spaces with these selfsame qualities to support his academic and emotional growth.

Learning to navigate an expanded social world is a central goal for Toddlers. From the very start, we introduce classroom rules and routines—respecting others, using a quiet voice, being kind, being responsible for tidying your own workspace and materials—that help forge a lasting connection between joyful inquiry and peaceful, orderly work. And he learns these essential habits of Grace and Courtesy not only from his teachers, but also from his peers in our mixed-age classrooms, a hallmark of Montessori education. In this environment, younger children naturally look to their older peers for guidance—both for how to behave and for insight and coaching as they learn new academic or practical life skills. Older students benefit equally, as they teach lessons they’ve mastered to the younger children.

THE INTANGIBLE ENVIRONMENT

Perhaps the most vital aspect of our learning environment, palpable the moment you arrive, might also be the most difficult to describe. It’s not something you can easily point to: a place, a program, a policy. Rather, it’s a mindset—a community-wide belief in the capacity of our students to take responsibility for themselves and their work; make meaningful, independent choices; both fail and succeed spectacularly and safely; and thus learn lessons so deeply that they inform their lives forever.

Over time in this environment, through both practice and osmosis, your child develops the MSR mindset, too. She learns to approach every challenge first with the assumption that she can do it (whatever “it” is). She may not know how yet, but she’s learning from experience that—with a little guidance from others and persistence from within—she’s capable of learning how to do anything. In the process, she’s developing an ever growing sense of who she is, what her strengths are, and how she learns best.

Toddler Teaching and Assessment

Self-directed learning requires the most masterful, most prepared, most actively engaged teachers.

In the MSR classroom, there is no predetermined, daily lesson plan that assumes that every child needs the same lessons at the same times. Our Montessori-trained teachers plan responsively—preparing individual lessons that implicitly demand students acquire and apply the necessary knowledge and skillsets. They prepare the environment—daily attending to everything from placement of materials to the beauty of the space in ways that harmonize with the changing seasons and progressing lessons.

Then they listen. They actively observe. What is he drawn toward? Where does he struggle and need support and guidance? When is he ready for a bigger challenge? MSR teachers follow your child’s progress, help him stay on course, and draw him toward ever deeper inquiry, genuine engagement, and constant skill-building.

And at MSR, your teachers assess your child’s progress, not with letter grades or percentage points, but through keen observation, scaffolded lessons, and careful record-keeping. We incorporate testing and other standard assessments when the time is right (e.g., testing begins in Elementary School when documented progress helps inform instruction and showcase growth; grades begin in Middle School when students are ready for more formal commitments, responsibilities, and accountability), but not before. From the very start, children practice directing and evaluating their own learning. Every day and in every subject area, we invite your child into a process of wondering, observation, problem solving, and joyful accomplishment, ensuring that he finds his deepest motivations not in external markers of success, but in the self-sustaining and irrepressible desire to learn.

When a child is working on a ‘work’ in a Montessori classroom, so many parts of their mind are being used and we’re paying attention to every aspect. With the bells, for instance, they’re using fine motor skills, systems thinking, using a sequence to understand steps, then conversing with a peer or with me, using language and social skills to seek or offer support. It’s amazing to participate in this process with them—to see them discover and become who they are as whole people.
–MSR teacher

"I can make dough and bake bread!"

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