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Our Infant and Toddler (Nido) Environment

Nido Our Infant and Toddler (Nido) Environment

Introduction
For children, especially in the infant community, movement is the very centre of their life. They are involved in an exciting task of learning to move efficiently in their world. The motor activities engaged in by the children play a very important role in their whole development. Movement aids in discovering and reinforcing a variety of perceptual motor and academic concepts. It also contributes to the enhancement of positive self-esteem.

The well structured programme at an early age promotes the transition of movement to abstract notion, enhancing and supporting concepts of the pre-primary and primary Montessori programme later on.

2012 completed a successful year for our 0-3 Nido Community. Family support has been exceptional and really underlies the continued support our Nido environment enjoys. Parents will be ongoing introduced to the Montessori approach through the purchase of "Understanding the Human Being" by Dr Montanaro, which is part of the new parent and family library that is being established. The titles selected have been carefully chosen to reflect important issues that parents and families may have an interest in. To further support this process, "Montessori from the Start" by Polk Lillard several copies will be purchased during 2013 .

For 2013 we have 25 places on offer for babies/toddlers from 6 - 36 months.

The newly launched website for the Nido environment will be a valuable tool for parents, so stay posted as it emerges and matures (just like the lives of the little ones in the infant community do).

In line with our sustainability objectives, our Nido rooms are serviced with chemical-free cleaning products. The Nido rooms will upload room and child information to better meet the needs our parents and the environment!
New resources have been produced and purchased; room alterations made to facilitate better use of the space; and general revamp of processes and procedures to ensure continued improvement of service for our parents and families.

Prepared environment
Montessori's educational method called for free activity within a "prepared environment", meaning an educational environment tailored to basic human characteristics and to the specific characteristics of children at different ages. The function of the environment is to allow the child to develop independence in all areas according to his or her inner psychological directives. In addition to offering access to the Montessori materials appropriate to the age of the children, the environment should exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Construction in proportion to the child and his/her needs
  • Beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment
  • Order
  • An arrangement that facilitates movement and activity
  • Limitation of materials, so that only material that supports the child's development is included
Role of the 0-3 Classroom
In summary we aim to promote a love of learning by successfully accommodating individual learning styles, needs and capabilities. Freedom of movement, thought and choice are actively balances with a string sense of social responsibility.
Social and affective (emotional) development is a fundamental focus in this age group. The following are some of the programmes offered:
  1. Provide a child-sized working environment to facilitate optimum experience of the world (counteract fundamental transformation in living conditions for society, particularly in childhood life.)
  2. By crossing both aspects of psychological and motor development (using close connections between physical well-being, perception and movement; and personality development), the programme plays a fundamental role in preparing the child for his/her learning life.?
  3. By experiencing a self-control of the body (emotionally and physically), the child learns to be in charge of him/herself. He/she develops self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and consequent respect of peers. Aggressiveness drops and relationship become more harmonious.
  4. Contributes to non-violent behaviour.
  5. Transference of skills indirectly to educators in terms of approach and philosophy.
  6. Through the learning process, an ability to wonder and inquire.
  7. Acquisition of a variety of fundamental perceptual concepts (sensory motor perceptions and experiences to broaden understanding of their work with a view to developing pace orientation, space and time origination, laterality) and ultimately in kindergarten, a variety of academic concepts (comparison, symbolization, representation, difference between though/action).
  8. Opportunity for communication through non-verbal gesture and mimic.
  9. Verbal development through explanation about feelings and emotions as well as thoughts and ideas.
  10. Socialization i.e. an ability to love, value and respect oneself and peers; respect of the environment, equipment, rules of social life.
  11. Self-confidence i.e. self-control of emotions, adjust to difficulties, ability to take the right risks, ability to make own decisions, non-violent behaviour.
  12. Autonomy, i.e. an awareness of own body and right to protect it.
  13. Cognitive development; during infancy, the body is both the source and tool of motor and then intellectual development supported the affective experiences. Through the awareness of his/her body, the child develops his/her cognitive abilities. The child starts from a sensory experience to achieve abstract concept.
Our Nido Infant/Toddler Community - Educational Care Approach
We take a modern approach to the principles and practice of Maria Montessori, embedding, implementation and integrating "The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia 2009".

Naming of our Infant/Toddler Community Program
We choose to call our Infant/Toddler community Nido - as it is a part of history that links to Maria Montessori and her studies. Children under three fall into several categories, with a number of terms being used. "Nido", Italian for "nest", serves a small number of children from around two months to around fourteen months, or when the child is confidently walking. A "Young Child Community" serves a larger number of children from around one year to two-and-a-half or three years old. Both environments emphasize materials and activities scaled to the children's size and abilities, opportunities to develop movement, and activities to develop independence, develop skills associated with real life. Development of independence in toileting is typically emphasized as well.
  • Self-preservation
  • Orientation to the environment
  • Order
  • Exploration
  • Communication
  • Work, also described as "purposeful activity"
  • Manipulation of the environment
  • Exactness
  • Repetition
  • Abstraction
  • The "mathematical mind"
In the Montessori approach, these human tendencies are seen as driving behaviour in every stage of development, and education should respond to and facilitate their expression.

Planes of development
Montessori observed four distinct periods, or "planes", in human development, extending from birth to six years, from six to twelve, from twelve to eighteen, and from eighteen to twenty-four. She saw different characteristics, learning modes, and developmental imperatives active in each of these planes, and called for educational approaches specific to each period.

In our Nido environments we concentrate on the First Plane of development as described below:
The first plane extends from birth to around six years of age. During this period, Dr Montessori observed that the child undergoes striking physical and psychological development. The first plane child is seen as a concrete, sensorial explorer and learner engaged in the developmental work of psychological self-construction and building functional independence. Montessori introduced several concepts to explain this work, including the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and normalization.

Absorbent mind: Maria Montessori described the young child's behaviour of effortlessly assimilating the sensorial stimuli of his or her environment, including information from the senses, language, culture, and the development of concepts with the term "absorbent mind". She believed that this is a power unique to the first plane, and that it fades as the child approached age six.

Sensitive periods: Montessori also observed periods of special sensitivity to particular stimuli during this time which she called the "sensitive periods". In Montessori education, the classroom environment responds to these periods by making appropriate materials and activities available while the periods are active in the young child. She identified the following periods and their durations:
  • Acquisition of language-from birth to around six years old
  • Order-from around one to three years old
  • Sensory refinement-from birth to around four years old
  • Interest in small objects-from around 18 months to three years old
  • Social behaviour-from around two and a half to four years old
We hope to identify when a child is ready to move into the Second Plane, which is referred to as Normalization. We aim to guide and support through careful scaffolding the next steps toward the child's learning and development as we document each child's individual learning journey, by taking notes, observations and images of the child at work and play.

Nido Educarers
Educarers acknowledge that there are many ways to present an idea, concept or area to a child just as a child will present an idea concept or area to an adult in many different ways; therefore we view Nido learning as a discovery for both the adult and child. We learn from each other and make the effort to present activities that support the child's learning and development, using variations where needed and being flexible with the material used, in order for the child to engage with materials that he/she is comfortable with. Therefore, through intentional teaching and spontaneous windows of opportunity we come to learn, discover and develop skills that support us in being and becoming successful learners.

Working together, discussing issues, gaps, planning and routines are part of our daily reflections, as is ongoing collaboration within our environment. We are not blinkered in our approach, nor are we threatened by other ideas or concepts. We appreciate and take inspiration from other philosophies within pedagogy - reflecting on how these ideas, concepts and practices can support our approach and practice, even if it is simply to open our eyes to possibilities and viewpoints of others within the early childhood profession.