Are you attending any toddler or preschooler classes right now? This term Otto and I have been attending a Montessori parent toddler class. It's been wonderful to soak in all the Montessori knowledge and wisdom from those around us. The class is very different from pre-pandemic days. Today was our first day at an Australian Forest School (here they call it Bush Kinder). This class is different to our UK Forest School (which I miss so much) and has also adapted to pandemic restrictions, which is much easier to do outdoors!
We are incredibly fortunate that for the rest of the term we are able to attend both Montessori and Forest School classes. Although the Montessori and Forest School approaches are different, they are absolutely compatible and complementary. Why is that and what do I look for in a toddler or preschooler class? Here are a few things that I consider:
- Gross and Fine Motor Skills - does the class focus on both of these? For this young age group I've found children need both. At Forest School the children can climb trees and later do a clay craft, in Montessori a child can mop the floor then later thread beads.
- Unrestricted Movement - oh this is a big one. I don't expect my toddler to sit or stand still and wouldn't place this restriction on him for any class. Freedom within limits, our children need to move during classes within defined parameters. For example children are free to continue playing or working during a group music/sing/story time and are not expected to sit still.
- Outdoor Time - this depends on the duration of the class but it's a bonus for me if classes are indoor/outdoor.
- Child Led - from swimming lessons to music classes, every class I look for is child-led.
- At the Child's Pace - anything less is not appropriate for this age group, if your child is rushed or feel pressure they are not going to thrive. I've been to gym classes which on the surface look wonderful but the children are rushed, almost pushed through each activity, this may result in frustration as the child is not able to master any of them.
- Hands-on Learning
- Real and Practical Life Experiences
- Parental Education and Engagement - I also want to learn and feel inspired. The best classes, the ones where my child looks and feels comfortable and satisfied are also the classes where I am observing and learning.
- Location - I'm adding this as living in a large city I've found comfort in finding local(ish) activities and building local connections.
Our favourite toddler art class hasn't been able to continue due to space and social distancing requirements, however I look for classes that focus on Process Art. I have attended Kindermusik classes in Victoria and the ACT and they varied greatly depending on the teacher, many Montessori parents I know recommend music classes using the Suzuki method.
Pictures are from our Bush Kinder class today. In the very top photograph Otto is going on a leaf hunt with his bucket.