Most nurseries have a structured day in which the children participate in a variety of activities planned by their key workers. Some time for individual play will also be encouraged but the day is very much planned and organised by adults. In a Montessori setting, the emphasis is very much on children learning about the world in their own preferred way. Dr Montessori believed that children learn the most between the ages of 0-6 and they learn best when they are allowed to do so at their own pace, making independent choices about what they want to and when.
The presence of schedules, tests and other expectations, it is believed, works against the child’s best interests and can lead to unhappiness, anger and other negative behaviour. Key workers will obviously be present in the room but guide the children rather than direct them in their play.
The rooms reflect this philosophy, with materials freely available for children to use and explore as and when they want to. There are six main areas on which the education is based – practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, cultural and creative activities and this provides a broader curriculum than can be found in most state-run nurseries and primary schools. A study by the University of London found that children – aged five – who had attended a Montessori nursery had higher levels of cognitive attainment than the national standard, as well as high levels of social and behavioural habits.
The Montessori method helps to foster discipline and self-discipline at a very young age because children have the power to choose activities for themselves