Early Childhood years (0-6 years) are critical for children in terms of their development. For us parents this stage is challenging, because the child in this phase goes from barely communicating to asking “What is this” for everything. The child goes through a lot of changes so as parents we also need to adapt to their needs.
According to Dr Maria Montessori there are four phases of development for children split by age groups as shown in the image below. I will focus on 0-6 years in this article because around 85% of the brain develops in this phase.
0-6 years is also called “The Absorbent Mind” phase. During this phase the child learns from the environment with minimum effort. Note that by 2 years we learnt how to communicate in our mother tongue, but ask us to study a new language now and we will struggle! The learning in the Absorbent Mind phase is seamless and it happens through everything, not just listening to the teacher or the adult.
Parents role during this phase is therefore very important. Parents need to provide the right opportunities for the child to develop the best he (/she) can. I have done a quick summary of the needs of the child and role of the parent for this period.
|Child’s Needs||Parents’ Role|
|Love, Security and Order||Consistency|
|Exploration and Curiosity||Respect|
|Work and Repetition||Patience|
Summary of Child’s Needs and Parents’ Role
Love, Security and Order is what the child needs. Love and Security we provide effortlessly. Providing order is the challenge. Order isn’t only physical order in the environment but also means we should have consistent behaviour and routines. We cannot on one day encourage or be happy at the child when he is jumping on the sofa and on other day, because of our bad mood, scold the child for jumping on the sofa. This is inconsistency in our behaviour which confuses the child what exactly should be done? Our Role is to be Consistent.
Due to the child’s inherent nature he (/she) will be Curious and Explore the environment. We as parents must Respect their curiosity and allow them to explore without judgement. There are certain limits due to safety issues. Dr Maria Montessori called this Freedom within Limits. For example, a 1 year old wants to walk or crawl to every part of the house and touch things, smell it, put the object in his mouth. As parents we are worried about the safety of the child. Our role is to provide a safe area with boundaries, where the child can safely crawl without being stopped by the parent or an adult saying “Don’t touch here”, or “Don’t go there”.
By instinct children are inclined to learn Language. We must provide every Opportunity to give rich vocabulary whenever talking to our children. Avoid speaking in baby talk and encourage the child to speak clearly. Children have a habit of pointing to something they want, encourage them to verbalise what they want. Every opportunity must be given to the child to practice language.
Children love to Repeat things as they want to perfect certain activity. For example, my son loves to sweep the floor, of course he makes more mess than earlier but I give him a small broom for him to sweep the floor and repeat it as many times as he wants. There is lot of Patience required but that is our role.