Last Monday, I talked a bit about early math and language skills. I mentioned that I don’t believe teaching numerals and letters is typically the best focus with toddlers or young preschoolers. I also described the complexity of the prerequisite skills children develop as they prepare to read, write, and do basic math – with foundational math skills actually being an important preparation for early language skills. Today I’d like to look at how some of those prerequisite skills are fostered in the Montessori classroom, and how we as parents can nurture them in the home.
For my fellow parents, I’ll reiterate something that I have to remind myself of frequently: Most, if not all of these skills are learned naturally and implicitly. If creating activities and trays is not your thing, your child will still learn to sort various objects. They will eventually figure out that when we count, each number corresponds with one and only one object. Don’t worry. If you enjoy creating trays and coming up with games, go for it! They’re sure to be enriching and fun. If that’s not your thing, just an awareness of the skills your child is building will hopefully help as you go about your days together, by giving you ideas for language to use, attributes to point out, and the various ways you can approach the experiences that come up in your everyday life.
Image credit: Leo Reynolds on Flickr
I have felt a bit lost on some things since Annabelle was born, having to dig around for ideas on objects and activities to enrich her environment. On many occasions, I’ve joked that I would know what to do with her when she was two and a half. Of course I have learned a great deal along the way so that hopefully I’ll be less clueless for this next baby, but it occurred to me recently that at this point, she is almost two and a half! If I were still in the classroom and she in Montessori as well, she would be a mere two months away from starting her transition into the “Children’s House” with me. It boggles the mind!
Once I got over my initial shock at the realization that my tiny baby was actually a full-fledged toddler – near preschooler, even, I started thinking back through the different ways I set up my last classroom to allow for the development of early math and language skills. I’ve been asking myself what I might do now to make sure our home is rich with opportunities to build these skills.
Something I believe pretty strongly is that the focus with toddlers and young preschoolers should not be on letters and numbers. Of course some will express an interest themselves, even at this young age, asking questions and gravitating toward these things in their environment. I would never ignore or discourage this – there is tremendous value in following the child’s interests, after all – but I also refuse to sit my two year old down to go over the alphabet. She has far better things to do. Continue reading