In Her Words
A slim volume based on a series of lectures that Dr. Montessori delivered in 1947, What You Should Know About Your Child, focuses on laying out a clear path of a child's process of maturation over the first years. Chapter 7, entitled “More Facts About Child Development,” touches upon aspects of human life that foster the incredible mental growth of the newly born child.
“…in the first two years of life there is an enormous development physically; yet the mental development is still greater…
...We shall now deal with the mental development of the child in these initial stages. This is concerned with the relation between the child and the environment. The child gathers impressions of the outer world by means of his senses. The organs he uses for this purpose are his eyes, ears, and hands as well as the organs of touch and smell. Language also has a sensorial aspect as it consists of sounds.
Mental development at this stage is a process of awakening. The child needs to be aroused by outside stimuli. Light and sound, smell and taste and touch, form and figure and landscape, appear to call and invite the child. We may say almost a social relation must exist between the child and his environment so as to produce the necessary development.
It is at the early age of one month that the child begins to need these calls and invitations from the outer world. If you take the child to a garden he looks at things very calmly without any excitement. Repetitions are needed to awaken his interest. To create a cycle of relationship, it is advisable to take the child regularly to the same garden or park for some days or weeks.
If you observe small children, you will see that they interest themselves in so many things in which you thought a child would not be interested. You will see how they absorb the environment, quietly at first, but very actively as months proceed.
There is an idea that a child must sleep the whole time. For this reason even when the child goes out he is taken in a baby carriage all covered up so that if there is anything to be seen he may not see it. But is the child born to sleep? We must give a chance for the urge for self-development in the child even at this stage. The child is born to see, to hear, to know, to enter into relationship with the outer world…
…Similar to the necessity for contact with Nature is the child’s need for social life. At six months of age the need for social life in the child is so great that if he be left without it, he falls ill and may even die….The need for social life, the need to go out and see people and converse with them, is a great part of the need of the child to have communion with the outer world.”