Maria Montessori taught that the most influential stage of concentration is during the “first plane of development”, from birth to three years. It is fascinating to watch the toddlers in the environment become concentrated on such minimal things we adults don’t stop to notice. Recently, a child was working on stringing beads when she realized there was a small spec of glitter on her finger. She put her work down and stared at this little shiny dot. As she touched it with her other hand it stuck and she moved it back and forth. This is something we get to experience daily in the toddler environments. We cherish moments of concentration in the classroom and do our best to not interrupt their newly defined sensorial experiences.
A child’s concentration in this stage of life is a precious thing. Sometimes as adults we are quick to jump to their assistance. A grunt as they are trying to put on their shoes we instantly want to help or when they spill something on the floor we think it would be quicker if we just cleaned it up. When we are too fast to intervene, we are taking away the opportunity for the child to concentrate and continue to learn independently.
During this important time, the toddlers begin to develop a sense of self which then leads to self-control. We focus on teaching them how to act purposefully, control their bodies, and follow the accepted rules for behavior.
The practical life activities are essential building blocks in the toddler classes that help build independence, learn sequential order, practice movements, language and much more. All the activities in the environment assist the children to increase their concentration and focus, some of them become consumed in their work up to twenty minutes at a time!
Maria Montessori said, “The first essential for the child's development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behavior. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings, for no one acting on the child from outside can cause him to concentrate”.