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Montessori Theory: The Key Aspect of Movement


Montessori Theory places great emphasis on movement as a key aspect of a child’s development and learning process. According to Maria Montessori, movement is an essential component that supports the holistic growth of a child—cognitively, physically, emotionally, and socially.

The Montessori approach recognizes that movement is not merely a means of physical activity but a critical mechanism through which children explore, understand, and interact with their environment.

Montessori believed that mental and motor activity should act in unity and that children must be given the chance to act as a whole. Movement with thought is a “synthetic movement” or a “knowing activity”, directed by the intelligence to a reasonable end.

Practical life (and within practical life, grace & courtesy) lessons are examples of such movement. So, each lesson (each movement) has a well-defined and understood purpose that can be transferred easily to a real-life situation.

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Key Aspects of Movement in Montessori Theory

  1. Exploration and Sensorial Development: Montessori classrooms are carefully designed to allow children freedom of movement. Children are encouraged to move around the classroom, explore materials, and engage in hands-on activities. These experiences provide opportunities for sensory exploration, where children use their senses to perceive, manipulate, and learn about the properties of objects and the environment.
  2. Physical and Motor Development: Movement plays a significant role in developing children’s motor skills, coordination, and strength. Montessori classrooms provide a wide range of activities that promote gross motor skills (such as walking, running, and climbing) and fine motor skills (such as pouring, grasping, and using tools). These activities enhance children’s physical abilities, control over their bodies, and overall motor development.
  3. Cognitive Development: Montessori believed that movement and cognition are interconnected. She observed that children’s cognitive development is closely tied to their physical actions and exploration. By engaging in purposeful movement, children acquire knowledge and understanding of abstract concepts. For example, when a child moves objects around to count or categorize them, they develop mathematical thinking and concepts.
  4. Concentration and Focus: Movement helps children develop concentration and focus. When children are engaged in purposeful movement or physical activities, they are better able to concentrate and sustain their attention. The freedom to move and choose activities in a Montessori environment allows children to follow their individual interests and develop concentration in areas that capture their attention.
  5. Independence and Self-Discipline: The movement fosters independence and self-discipline in children. Through movement, children learn to navigate their environment, make choices, and take responsibility for their actions. They develop a sense of autonomy and self-regulation as they engage in purposeful movement and carry out tasks independently.
  6. Social Interaction and Communication: Movement provides opportunities for social interaction and communication. In Montessori classrooms, children engage in collaborative movement activities, such as group games, dance, or cooperative projects. Through these experiences, children develop their social skills, learn to cooperate, and effectively communicate with their peers.

Montessori & Movement

Movement with thought meant breaking up movements into their components and focusing on the means of the movement rather than the end. The movement followed by thought or preceded by thoughts could not achieve the same intellectual result.

E.M. Standing writes, “The value of movement goes deeper than just helping in the acquisition of knowledge.” Montessori believed that traditional approaches to giving students an opportunity to take a break from “mental activity” with movements of gymnastics, for example, was a disservice to children.

She thought that substituting movement without thought, for thought without movement leads to fatigue and that when mental and motor activity act separately (when they should be united) every effort is resented whether mental or motor.

The Montessori approach recognizes the integral role of movement in a child’s development and learning. By creating an environment that supports free movement and purposeful activities, Montessori classrooms promote the holistic growth of children. Movement allows children to explore, discover, and construct knowledge through their physical experiences, fostering cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

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