Hard work is child’s play

Inside Escuela: Montessori Materials – The Importance of Movement

Perhaps one of the most instantly noticeable differences between conventional classrooms and Montessori prepared environments is the fact that the students are in motion. While that movement can be disorienting for observers at first glance, more careful observation shows that once again Dr. Maria Montessori purposefully incorporated children’s natural learning and developmental needs into their daily school experience.
Inside Escuela: Montessori Materials – The Importance of Movement
Dr. Montessori developed her methodology based on a lifetime of scientific observation, but any one who has raised a toddler knows that it doesn’t take much observation to see that our youngest community members are always on the go. Perhaps what she realized that we missed is that this activity is actually a critical part of learning for the young child. Movement is not only important for developing coordination and fine and gross motor skills, but it is also crucial to brain development.

Inside Escuela: Montessori Materials – The Importance of MovementAs the brain creates neural connections from ages 0-6, movement helps to create pathways between the two hemispheres and to incorporate sensory information gained in the process. Moving through space also helps to develop spatial perception and awareness, critical foundational skills for the developing mathematical mind. Manipulating objects as a part of different learning activities incorporates muscle memory, creating stronger and fuller impressions of knowledge gained. For example, working with the geometry cabinet at the early childhood level, children may match shapes to cards laid out across the room. During this exercise they hold the name and image of the shape in their mind while carrying it, as well as the impression gained by tracing it with their fingers beforehand. Holding this information in their working memory while involved in this exercise increases concentration and attention. At the end, they are not only more likely to remember the name and visual image of a square, but the feel of it’s straight lines and angles.

Children counting the cubing chains from the bead cabinet in the elementary classroom will not only gain practice with linear counting and numeral recognition, but will also have a physical perception of how much longer a chain of 1000 (the cube of ten)  beads is from one of 125 (the cube of five). But while these are important reasons for movement in the classroom, perhaps one of the most important reasons for movement is that it supports the child’s need for independent exploration and allows them to have freedom in their learning process. Free to move, explore, consult, and collaborate; no time is wasted in trying to fight against their natures and get them to sit quietly in one spot, creating countless moments of joyful learning.

–By Emily Schuyler, Montessori Guide