Maria Montessori believed that children learn best through the use of all of their senses and, like sponges, absorb much from their environment. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Tots environment, where children are not only allowed, but encouraged, to explore with all their senses. Through song, dance, art, and play, the children not only begin to build a solid foundation for future academic work, they also learn to love learning for the sake of learning. Drawing from the young child’s natural inclination to move, the children are also provided ample opportunities to develop their coordination, balance, and strength through gymnastics, yoga, and outdoor play. All activities are designed with the young child in mind. As such, learning is always hands-on, fostering the development of the whole child.
One core component of the Tots program is freedom of choice with an emphasis on respect for self, others, and the environment also referred to as grace and courtesy. Drawing from the child’s natural tendencies toward order and independence, the program provides ample opportunities for the young child in the areas of practical life and self-care, including toileting. Through gentle guidance, the children learn to identify and meet their own needs as well as learn how to care for themselves and others. “I can do it!” Guides consistently model the use of words, which supports the child’s emerging language skills as well as the child’s ability to identify emotions, solve problems, and resolve conflict. The ability to recognize oneself as a contributing member of a community fosters both confidence and independence in the young child preparing the child not merely for the next level of education; in essence, it is a preparation for life.