Social development begins as a function of adaptation. A child’s first years of life is about their own construction. This process begins at birth and is done unconsciously by means of the absorbent mind. Maria Montessori referred to the child at the stage of birth to three years as “psychic embryo” and the child from three to six years old as “social embryo”. The first stage refers to the child developing their inner self, then after that they begin to develop more socially.
A young child is very dependent on the adult, nevertheless the toddler has the ability to create behavior, this power is shown in internal urges charged with creative energy. Since they are still young the child needs protection, this is the responsibility of the adult to provide an environment where all of their needs are met. The adult should be aware that the child also needs to have freedom, an environment where they are free to choose their own responses to stimuli this helps create their personality.
The Montessori classroom provides a safe environment where the child can feel at ease and as a consequence more readily explore their surroundings. Limits in the classroom are determined by what is best for the group as a whole. They child can choose any material they would like but must wait to work with one that is in use. The guide gives the limits when the child first begins in the environment then steps back. The child will be reminded of these limits by other children if they are not kept. At this young age the child begins to make moral choices as they have the freedom in the class to choose and to learn.
The toddler community has mixed ages from 18 months to three-years. Younger children look up to their older peers as examples and the older children become responsible as they take the role of leadership. In the class the children are free to move around. This allows the child to learn how to control their movements which helps with the development of their personality as well. There is one of each type of material in the class. The child learns the value of respecting the work of another, the virtue of patients and restraint, a deeper sense of personal responsibly and love and appreciation for the material. One of the main goals of the Montessori method is for the child to achieve a high level of independence. The guide learns to step back and allow the child to do things on their own or guide them to doing it on their own. The older child in class enjoys stepping back and watch the younger child be able to work independently and be able to achieve goals on their own. The older child that watches is proud and happy for the child that is able to accomplish their task.
The grace and courtesy lessons in the class focus on the etiquette of our culture. This includes manners, rituals and expected behavior. The child will watch and imitate what the adult in the class does. This is why it is important for us as the adult to not maintain a double standard with the children. It is important that we be consistent in our actions and words, treating all children equally. In our toddler communities there is harmony (most of the time) as they coincide with one another in the use of the materials and the respect for one another. The time the child spends in the Montessori environment lays the foundation for them to become successful in the world. They will continue to build upon what they have started to learn and develop independently in the class.