"The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena.
The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer..." - Maria Montessori
The other afternoon, while my 14-month-old and I were in her washroom, she got hold of an unused cotton swab and instead of asking for it back, I stepped back and watched what she would do with it. With her well-practiced three-finger grip, she curiously and contentedly made the cotton swab cruise along and across her bathroom mirror, making, what is to me, lines and circles. The next afternoon, we had a painting activity.
Often when we really observe children, ideas for materials and activities come up--those that really appeal to their sensitive periods and fulfill for them a certain need. That's precisely how Maria Montessori herself came up with many of the well-loved Montessori materials: Addressing careful, thoughtful, honest, non-judgmental observations. She described seeing children in city asylums, who had nothing in their environment to work with with their hands and fingers, scour the floor for crumbs after meals--not to eat them, but to manipulate, to touch, to feel, to experience. From this observation came Montessori's realization that we learn through our five senses and that "nothing should be given to the brain that is not first given to the hand', and corollary to this, the beautifully concrete manipulatives that define Montessori environments until today.
The experience of manipulating a small "tool" and using this as an extension of the hand to make or do something appealed so much to our 14-month-old.
A little warning: We used a mixture of water and food coloring and that does not come off easily. But if you're like me who doesn't mind a little color on the hands and here and there; enjoys it even, then... Just look at that art!
And look at how she holds the cotton swab--that's indirect preparation for writing right there.
And just look at that concentration, that sense of purpose.
I can watch her all day.