The Tots Program

The Tots Program is a uniquely designed program, typically lasting one year, created to meet the needs of the young child between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. With a sensitivity to and understanding of the unique needs of this age group, the Tots program has been designed to provide a warm and nurturing environment that supports the child’s initial transition from home to school and to encourage the child’s natural inclination toward independence.

Program Hours

School Day: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Half Day: 8:30 am – 12:15pm
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.


Children in the Tots program will be introduced to the toilet from day one. Though children are encouraged toward independence in this area, they are never forced or coerced to use the toilet. Children still in diapers will be changed regularly and introduced to the process of using the toilet, including hand washing. A separate personal cubby will be provided for children still in diapers to store diapers and wipes, which we ask parents to provide.

TOTs Classes

List of 3 items.

  • Tots 1: Warblers

    Welcome to the Warblers! We are a small community committed to creating a nurturing, fun and safe space for children ranging from early two to three-and-a-half years old. We base our curriculum on six core components designed to meet the needs of the whole child: language, social-emotional, grace and courtesy, practical life, self-care, and motor development. These components meet the child’s natural inclination to explore, learn, and grow on multiple levels. These skills also address the child’s individual need to explore and discover what it means to be a contributing member of a community.

    Our child-size environment is meticulously designed and carefully prepared to meet the needs of the child. We spend a significant portion of our day modeling self-care and practical life skills. Whether working on a new math lesson, cleaning up a spill, taking turns or learning how to communicate one’s needs, the children learn respect for self, others and the environment. Through this process, we believe the children are building a solid foundation for the future, in and out of the classroom. On this journey, we highly value collaboration with parents within our community and believe that working as a team better serves the needs of the children.

    In addition to practicing these important life skills, we recognize that our children want to have fun! We strive to make their first school experience a positive one and provide plenty of opportunities for hands-on exploration and play. The children are encouraged to use all of their senses through art, song, dance and play. A typical day is comprised of a balance of both indoor and outdoor work and exploration. A messy child is usually a sign of a good day in the Warbler community!
    Meet the TOTs 1 Instructors
    Morgan Hendricks, TOTs 1 Lead Guide
    Jessica Albiter-Espinoza, TOTs 1 Assistant Guide
  • Tots 2: Sandpipers

    The Sandpiper Classroom is a nurturing place for the children to begin what Montessori referred to as their “education for life”. Within our environment, each child is encouraged to become a functioning member of the community and to explore it fully. Children enjoy learning living skills, and we provide activities that they can do themselves: getting dressed, preparing snack, setting the table, sweeping the floor, etc. They have freedom of movement to explore, and they are given the time they need to complete what they start. We help the children follow through each step, by providing a beginning, middle, and end to each activity.

    Our main goals of this environment are to help the children become able to function independently, to allow them to explore the environment and manipulate the objects in the environment freely, to assist them in their rapid language development and to introduce them to methods of developing their minds and bodies.

    We work in alliance with each family and form individual plans for the child’s big life lessons, such as toileting and care of self. Our routines in the classroom are social and the children are able to learn from each other with ease. Once we go forward with toileting, for example, we meet with each family individually to design a consistent plan of action that we all do together to aid in the child’s success.

    We also provide a large range of sensory activities in our environment; these activities allow the toddlers to experience concepts of sequence, form, shape, texture, movement, and sound – and we accommodate the physical, emotional, and intellectual growth at every stage by incorporating more advanced lessons as they master each stage.

    In summary, we welcome and invite creative exploration and curiosity, in whatever way it manifests for each child, and we nurture individual personalities within our core community values. Come and play with us!

    Click on the following link to visit our class blog:
    Meet the TOTs 2 Instructors
    Kaitlin Calabrese, TOTs 2 Lead Guide
    Ben Gikow, TOTs 2 Assistant Guide
  • Tots 3: Puffins

    Welcome to the Puffin community!

    We aspire to create a loving, nurturing space where young children feel seen, respected, and loved. While the children are in an absorbent mind period and learning a multitude of skills at very rapid rates, we believe the social emotional curriculum is paramount at this stage. Maria Montessori believed that among the young child’s primary needs were a need for orientation and a need for order. Upon the child’s transition into our community, we aim to provide both through meaningful connection, established rituals and routines, and consistency with developmental practices rooted in the Montessori philosophy of respect for self, others, and the environment.

    Once the child establishes a point of orientation and they feel safe within the learning environment, they feel free to explore, which is another primary need of the young child! Sensory exploration is provided through thoughtfully prepared “work” inside the classroom, and children are provided plenty of opportunities to explore with their hands and their bodies in the outdoor environment through art, gardening, and play!

    Language is another key component of our curriculum. Through modeling, conversation, songs, and stories we nurture the children’s increasing vocabulary as well as their ability to engage with others in increasingly complex social dynamics.

    Toileting and other practical life skills, such as using a tissue, washing one’s hands, and cleaning up after oneself, are also a part of our daily practice. Ultimately, we are supporting the children’s independence and their confidence, and, in all of the above, we aim to provide them with a solid foundation that will serve them not only in the years to come, but for the rest of their lives!
    Meet the TOTs 3 Instructors
    Carole Schnitzer, TOTs 3 Lead Guide
    Haley Williams, TOTs 3 Assistant Guide

Meet the Instructors

List of 9 members.

  • Photo of Morgan Hendricks

    Morgan Hendricks 

  • Photo of Sahara Smith

    Sahara Smith 

  • Photo of Arely Camacho

    Arely Camacho 

  • Photo of Kaitlin Calabrese

    Kaitlin Calabrese 

  • Photo of Benjamin Gikow

    Benjamin Gikow 

  • Photo of LB Flett

    LB Flett 

  • Photo of Carole Schnitzer

    Carole Schnitzer 

  • Photo of Laura Minnigerode

    Laura Minnigerode 

  • Photo of Alicia Ramirez

    Alicia Ramirez 

Athena Montessori Academy

1503 Morgan Lane Austin, TX 78704
Tel: (512) 494-6237
Fax: (512) 693-0065
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my son’s education. The loving guides at Athena taught him so much more than reading and writing– he’s learned how to take care of himself and those around him while navigating the social community of his classroom. I feel these life skills will serve him well as he graduates and enters first grade in the fall!”
- Rebecca O’Hara (Child now attending Eanes Elementary)