The Nido is an Italian word meaning “nest.” The Nido protects and provides learning experiences for babies from two to fourteen months. A Montessori infant environment can be considered an adapting continuum between two basic needs of the developing infant. At one pole is the bonded relationship between adult and child, while at the other is support for a growing sense of self and independence. The prepared environment is characterised by order, simplicity and beauty which meet the needs of the child.
The Nido is divided into five areas: movement, eating, sleeping, physical care and outside. The focus of the infant environment is on fostering basic trust in the child.
Foremost in the environment is the adult whose caring, respectful response to the infant’s needs, both physical and psychological, conveys the message of unconditional love and acceptance.
In these environments, there is space for movement, space for individual work and space for group activities. The eating area and the sleeping area are separate from the other areas. Everything in the environment is proportionate to the child’s size and is designed to be safe and aesthetically pleasing for children. The infant community is simpler and slower paced than the Children’s House (three to six year old) classroom.
Toddlers are given opportunities to work in the development of language skill, art, music sensorial and practical life. The practical life area is particularly emphasised as the activities in this area give children the chance to develop skills to care for themselves and their environment in the following areas: control of movement, grace and courtesy. Practical life activities are simple and can be accomplished by each child. They offer repetitive cycle, which helps the child establish patterns of order and sequencing. Due to the fact that these are very real activities, each child becomes grounded in reality, building the child’s self esteem is the ultimate goal and this is accomplished through repeated successes with these activities.
Through song and dance and freedom of choice, the toddlers have access to a variety of large muscle activities that offer them opportunities to jump, climb, balance, crawl or skip. These exercises as well as creative art activities, are offered for each child to choose. This freedom in a safe space is crucial to the toddler program. However, it is always tempered by two important limits that will be beneficial for a lifetime, respect for others and respect for the environment.
The practical life exercises enhance the development of task organisation and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and refinement of physical movement and coordination. The sensorial materials enable the child to order, classify, serialise and describe sensory impressions in relation, length, width, temperature, mass, colour, etc. The Montessori maths materials, through concrete manipulative materials, allows the child to internalise the concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations and memorisation of basic facts.
The language work includes oral language development, written expression, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics and children’s literature. Basic skills in writing and reading are developed through the use of sandpaper letters (loose alphabet letters) and various presentations allowing children to effortlessly link sounds and symbols and to express their thoughts in writing.
The child is also presented with geography, history, life sciences, music, art and movement education.
Virtually every environment will also have an elliptical line on the floor. This is generally used for “walking on the line” activities that help children develop gracefulness and for the “silence game” where children can practice sitting without making a sound. The line is also frequently used for a large group meeting area. It is here, or in some other designated area, where the class meets as a whole. Often a class will have one or two large group meetings each day. One will usually serve as an opening meeting and precede a more individualised work period and another will serve as a closing or transitional group time preceding the next activity (i.e., time out doors, lunch, dismissal, etc.) The group meetings may be used for large group presentations of materials, movement, music activities, group celebrations, snacks, games and discussions.