Friday, December 07, 2007
The Stage 6 Montessori Environment
Jack-O-Lantern Days for the Stage 6 Pumpkin
As those who have almost-two toddlers can attest, the Stage 6 emergent big-kid has a sometimes-maddening taste for making changes. She can make a big plate into lots of little plate bits, or a tastefully fresh-painted wall in a flat (and highly un-scrubbable) shade of barely-there slate grey into a Timothy Leary nightmare in crayon. What follows is the Stage 6 developmental snapshot and environmental supports according to my own Montessori gurus.
As always, I look forward to hearing the opinions of differing gurus, or the disciples of differing gurus, as it lightens the tedium of all these rules. At the time of writing, I have been recently delivered of Subject Two, my second child (three weeks ago) which is a story in itself--but more on that later. on to the Experimental Toddler's raucous romp through Stage 6.
Stage 6 Neurological and Physical Development
At eighteen to twenty-four months, the brain is twice its size at birth. The specialized functional areas of the cerebral cortex are established, and cross-patterning and hand/foot/eye dominance are usually expressed. The Stage 6 child is now capable of carrying out experiments entirely in his head. He is able to imagine an activity and decide its likely outcome without actually carrying it out. As you can imagine, this increases his processing speed tremendously.
He has twenty teeth. The bones are hardening and the fontanelles (soft places on the head) close. Just in time, too, to protect him in his now well-developed mobility. This child can walk steadily, run, hop on one foot, and climb stairs with alternating feet.
Hand-eye coordination is quite good now, and the child can begin to regulate the force of his movements. He can begin to manipulate small or fragile objects, including turning the pages of a book or using a spoon.
He can eat independently, and should practice that independence. He is aware of his body functions, though control of the elimination-regulating muscles may not be fully developed. In some cases, he may begin to express interest in toileting.
An eighteen to twenty-four month old child is capable of deductive reasoning. She can examine strategies intellectually, without the necessity of trying each one. Experience and memory—from all her practice with trial and error in the past six months—can be called upon to help with decision making.
She has a strong sense of object permanence, and looks for objects that have been put away, even if some time has passed since she last saw or used the object. She is capable of thinking in symbolic terms, equating a representation of an object with the object itself in processing strategies.
Relating to the developing capacity for symbolic imagination is the development of ludic play—imagining herself in another social role. For example, she may pretend to cook, care for dolls as if they were babies, write letters, use a computer keyboard, or any other “real” aspect of life that she sees as part of an adult role.
Her ability to remember things, symbols, people and conversations is expanding. She will remember the things you tell her now, and hold you accountable for them later.
Emotional and Social Development
A child of eighteen to twenty-four months has a well established sense of self, and an investment in protect that self. He begins to feel fear. He may be afraid of disappearing, of the dark, of loud noises. Related to self-preservation is a strong separation anxiety with regard to significant adults. He remembers dreams and talks about them.
He is beginning to be aware of how he is perceived by others. Emotionally, he feels trust and mistrust, anger, and embarrassment. He understands rules, but will test their rigidity. His play contains elements of abstraction of roles. In play he is not “Daddy” but “the daddy”. He can wait his turn at play.
At this time there is an explosion in language. His expressions change from gestures and nouns to sentences. He learns “I do, I want, I will”. He continues to show interest in the names of things, and begins to make up his own names.
Stage 6 Environmental Supports
Puppets, Dolls and Pets: A toddler approaching two years of age begins to be aware of her role in the family, and to compare it to the roles of other members. She imagines herself in different roles, especially nurturing or caretaking roles. The environment should support these sensitivities by providing opportunities to explore role playing. Puppets and dolls help to create imaginary scenarios and the child can gain experience in nurturing and gentleness from helping to care for a pet. (A baby brother is sort of like the ultimate pet. More on that later.)
Child-size Household Tools: child-size versions of practical tools encourage ludic play. We are talking about kitchen sets, little mops and brooms (Michael Olaf has a great miniature carpet sweeper that is actually useful, in a toddler kind of way), and the old dishwashing station. Nuvy's fancy-schmancy dishwashing station is on her list for Santa, at which time she'll be a week shy of two years old. If you're brave enough to hand this over to an eighteen-month-old (and I know some who are!!) please let me know how that works out for you. We have enough water hazards around with handwashing and sponge-transferring! You can get the officially-sanctioned one from www.michaelolaf.com or www.lordequip.com, or you could have your carpenter (or handy self/husband) copy it and buy your own dish tubs at Target for significantly less.
Transferring Activities: Fine motor control is sufficiently developed that the child can benefit from transferring activities such as pouring water, and spooning sand or beans (watch those beans-in-the-nose, and stay away from Red-Hots!). You can provide these in a structured way, or you could sit back and watch as your child develops her own transferring activities. Of particular interest to Nuvy have been such activities as transferring cheerios from the bowl to her placemat, transferring pieces of pasta or small bites of sandwiches from her plate to her glass full of milk, and transferring her water or milk from her glass to mine, and back to hers again, or from her glass onto the table or floor, if no second vessel is available.
In setting up formal transferring activities, the orthodox way is to present the activity with the full vessel on the left, and the empty one on the right. This way the child moves matter left to right, reinforcing the left-to-right orientation of written material.
Table Setting: One-to-one correspondence continues to be of interest in Stage 6, and the child can handle more involved tasks in this area, such as setting a table for four, or placing many objects in compartments.
Squishy, Goopy, Messy Activities: The Stage 6 child continues to be fascinated by transformation, so that crushing, dough rolling and artistic activities such as water painting or fingerpainting hold his attention.
Manipulatives: His ability to mentally experiment allows the development of spatial reasoning. Manipulatives and simple puzzles support this development. This is a wonderful time to introduce board books and picture books both to read to him and for him to enjoy on his own by flipping pages and naming the objects in the pictures.