“If you made a human being based on what your brain thinks your body looks like, you would get the picture above,” according to Dr Stephen Hughes, Paediatric Neuropsychologist and past president of The American Academy of Paediatric Neuropsychology.
As an infant, we touch, taste, look at and feel everything that comes into our space. Dr. Maria Montessori, who trained as an Engineer, Neurologist and Educationalist knew more than a century ago that we are providing information and messages directly to our brain. Most of these experiences are totally subconscious but nevertheless captured somewhere in the folds of our brain.
A baby crawls and uses the hands to feel the terrain they navigate on; they sense if it is too cold or too hot; if the ground is prickly, slippery or uneven. Their body will adjust to meet these conditions after the hands have provided the information; they may even cry to display their uncertainty or fear; they may stop and return to their starting point or look for a trusted adult to provide safety.
The Hands feed the brain
As the baby grows, they will use their hands in a stereognostic manner (hold objects with both hands and close their fingers right around the objects) to perceive a spatial message. At this stage it is important to provide as many manipulatives as possible for a plethora of rich messages to be collected by the infant. The hand holds a memory of measurement: hot/cold, big/small, rough/smooth. This information is later translated into mathematical knowledge and understanding.
Needless to say, when a child starts in a Montessori environment, most activities pass through the hands, thus building huge banks of information that are truly personalized and retained. Just one example: holding the cubes of the Montessori Pink Tower (one of many engineered Montessori Manipulatives) gives a silent message to the brain of one centimetre compared to ten centimetres. Many similar experiences are completed and internalised each day.
Observe their hands
When you are attending your next toddler session, watch how your child uses their hands to understand the world around them. Look for retained memories that are shown by your child when they repeat an action. If you have older children watch how they use their hands when they communicate with others. We know through research that individuals that use their hands to write, retain more information than those that use digital programs to write. Why is that?
To help your child to learn, provide many experiences for your child to manipulate. This will help them to grow their learning ability!
If you would like to join the Caboolture Montessori Toddler Group, please complete the Toddler Enrolment Form found here.