The three year old is full of enthusiasm, energy, affection, openness, and joy in learning new things! He usually love coming to school, separates easily from home, and looks forward to being with friends. At two, he was typically involved in parallel play, but now he has acquired the verbal skills and confidence to join in with others during playtime and to work with or near friends in the classroom. He enjoys working in the Practical Life area of the classroom, and is also fascinated by numbers, curriculum puzzles, and Sensorial materials.
In Practical Life, the three year old can pour water using a funnel, transfer water from one bowl to another using a baster, transfer wisteria seeds using small tongs, scrub a pumpkin, and wash and chop apples or carrots. He enjoys practicing buttoning, snapping, and zipping using dressing frames; pinning out pictures using a steel-pointed stylus, sweeping, and raking leaves outside.He continues to delight in painting, using chalk, snipping strips of paper, and gluing. Now he is also drawn to explore other areas of the classroom, especially the Sensorial materials.
The beautiful Sensorial materials have an elegant simplicity. Inherent within the materials are what Dr. Montessori called “materialized abstractions.” They allow students to explore mathematical and geometric concepts in a hands-on way. Children sequence, contrast, and compare the Cube Tower, which changes size in three dimensions, the Broad Stair which changes in two dimensions, and the Long Rods, which change in one dimension.
Additional materials help develop and refine the child’s senses. Four sets of color tablets assist the child’s development of vision and the chromatic sense. Sound Cylinders and the Montessori Bells assist in the refinement of the child’s listening skills. Sandpaper Boards and Tablets graded in roughness and smoothness, along with fabric swatches of silk, cotton, linen, and wool help refine the child’s sense of touch.
Geometric Solids help develop the stereognostic sense (a combination of muscular and tactile senses). The Thermic Tablets consist of sets of metal, glass, marble, wooden, and felt cards which the child matches while wearing a blindfold. Four sets of colorful Knobless Cylinders can be sequenced and stacked, requiring great care and focus from the child.
Geometry materials allow students to explore many shapes, including polygons, and to learn the types of triangles and angles.
There are many Math materials that young students enjoy using even before they can accurately associate number and quantity. Pre-math materials allow children to practice 1:1 correspondence, seriation, counting and associating numerical value, graphing, conservation, more than and less than.
Young children really enjoy numbers and counting, and still benefit from lots of movement. To accommodate that, they are introduced to the Number Rods when they show interest. This beautiful material has the same dimensions as the Long Rods, but is segmented into red and blue sections. This allows for practice counting, association of quantity and symbol, and exploration of which rods can be put together to “make 10.” After plenty of practice with the Number Rods, the three and a half to four year old can be introduced to the Spindle Boxes, which allows students to count with accuracy and introduces the concept of zero. Another favorite lesson is Cards and Counters, in which students count out sets of counters in pairs to see a layout of odd and even numbers.
The three year old is also very interested in Botany. They see the trees and flowers around them and enjoy taking nature walks at school and collecting fallen leaves, pine cones, seed pods, and chestnuts. They can arrange leaves, flowers, and tall grasses in vases. Their experiences with nature encourage interest in working with the Botany puzzles of the tree, leaf, and flower. The puzzles are divided into the separate parts of, say, the flower, so that at four the child can identify the parts of the flower – the corolla, stamens, pistil, and calyx. They also enjoy learning about different leaf shapes.
We will continue our discussion of the three and a half year old next week as we talk about Geography and Language in the Montessori classroom.