Why start at three years old?
Maria Montessori studied children. As she did, she discovered that between birth and six, children have certain capabilities for learning that will never again be so compelling.
Three-year-olds learn in unique ways that make this an ideal time to begin their Montessori education.
- They have become aware of others, and they have an innate desire to imitate the actions of the people around them. They are primed to focus on their teacher’s lesson and then do their best to copy it with great exactitude.
- They are still at a stage where individual activities are more enticing than group activities. In an environment rich with individual activities, three-year-olds learn to concentrate on tasks for longer and longer periods of time – increasing their ability to attend and follow through.
- While they have a sufficient vocabulary to express their needs, three-year-olds naturally expand their expressive abilities when they are surrounded by other children and adults in a language-rich classroom environment.
- They are very sensitive and aware of small details, making this an opportune time for receiving lessons and practicing them until mastered.
- Three-year-olds love order and consistency. The classroom is set up and maintained ‘just so.’ Everything is in its place when the children arrive. The teachers help the children to understand the ground rules and to use grace and courtesy. This gives the children a sense of security as they go about their daily activities.
- The activities within the classroom draw the three-year-olds to them. These activities prepare them for later lessons by increasing their ability to concentrate, by developing their sense of order for logical thinking and problem solving, by promoting skills that allow them to become independent in their actions and thoughts, and by practicing fine and gross motor movements that develop and refine their coordination.
Three-year-olds are in the same social and emotional stage as four- and five-year-olds, so they fit well together in community. As the ‘threes’ watch their older friends working and interacting, they become motivated to do what the ‘big kids’ can do without teachers prodding them to move along. They literally ask for more lessons!
The first year (age three) creates the foundation for the remaining two years at the early childhood level. While it is certainly possible to start in a primary classroom at age four or five, there is a remarkable difference when children begin at age three.
The community of children is a strong factor in setting the stage for adult life, where there is almost always a mix of ages, experience, and talent.
Three-year-olds benefit from the nurturing, the care, and the concern shown to them by children who are slightly older.
They take that in, and it becomes their model for a peaceful, collaborative world.
“In order to learn the child must first be able to concentrate… But no one can force concentration upon her. She develops concentration by fixing her attention on some task she is performing with her hands…” – Dr. Maria Montessori