It has been said that a child’s mind is a blank slate on which adults “write down” the content of a good education through lecture and instruction. A similar comparison that is used often is that of an empty bowl or cup, patiently waiting to be filled by the parent’s instruction and the child’s teacher. Back in the early 1800’s, Maria Montessori established that both metaphors are greatly incorrect. Instead, it was discovered that the young child’s mind is much more similar to an observer or even a scientist in that they are eager to learn, explore, try new things, and master new skills. Perhaps even more importantly, she observed that with proper stimulation, the child’s ability to concentrate, absorb, and master new ideas and skills escalates, and that the earlier we begin a program of intellectual, physical, sensory, and creative education, the more intense the result. Infancy is a time of great sensitivity to language, spatial relationships, music, art, social graces, and much much more.
During this critical period, if the mind is stimulated by the child’s introduction to an opulent environment, the brain will actually develop a longer lasting and much stronger ability to learn and accomplish new skills and developmental milestones. It is unfortunate that our culture perceives preschool teachers as the least significant educators our children will encounter, when in reality the impact that they offer is of the utmost importance in a young child’s education. For those of us who teach infants and toddlers, this is especially true.