“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence. “ — Maria Montessori
As parents, we expect certain milestones to be reached as our children grow and develop. They begin life as helpless newborns and soon gain control of their bodies and movements. Before long, they are grasping, pulling, rolling, crawling and walking. It happens right before our eyes and yet we often miss the day-to-day subtleties of their development.
Throughout these developmental stages, one of the child’s greatest teachers is the hand. The hand acts as an instrument which facilitates an accumulation of knowledge. Isolate that thought—and as you observe your child, focus on her busy hand throughout the day.
Whether a newborn reaching for reassurance or a young child touching something new and unfamiliar, the hand is transmitting the experience to the little one’s brain. Neurons and synapses are wiring rapidly* and the information is being recorded. “Oh, that’s how that feels…” A concrete experience has been logged, a data point noted and a neural pathway strengthened.
In a Montessori-inspired prepared environment, children should be encouraged to move about and explore. Activities, toys and experiences should be available based on the their ages and abilities. The impressions left by hands-on activities and exploration of materials in the environment leave an imprint which will be lasting. These imprints become the child’s reference points for continued learning and discovery.