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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New at The Summit: 18-Month Old Toddlers

By Lauren Guip and Nancy Berlier
Bright and spacious, The Summit’s new Montessori classroom for 18-month-olds has been carefully prepared with developmentally appropriate materials and activities that stimulate brain development. An area for gross motor development and a patio give the toddlers room to move. (Photo by Nancy Berlier)
The Summit Country Day School opened its doors to 18-month-olds this year and added an all-day option for the 18- to 36-month-olds in the Toddler Program. Classrooms in the Hyde Park school were modified over the summer to meet the specific developmental needs of 18-month-olds and provide a suite of classrooms that optimizes the Montessori experience for the whole Toddler Program. 

A toddler transfers objects from one cup to another, an exercise that helps her develop focus and hones fine motor skills soon needed to hold a pencil. (Photo by Kathy Penote)
“The development of a child’s brain architecture from 18- to 24- months is crucial for learning, so placing them in a carefully prepared environment can optimize their neurological growth,” Montessori Director Kathy Scott says. According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, children develop within an environment of relationships, and “these relationships affect virtually all aspects of development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical and behavioral – and their quality and stability in the early years lay the foundation that supports a wide range of later outcomes.” 

“These younger toddlers need an environment more conducive to their developmental age,” Mrs. Scott says. “They need more space for movement, so each classroom incorporates an area for development of gross motor muscles.”

As this toddler crawls through a tube, he is developing gross motor skills and focus he will need to do academic work. Recent research links movement with cognitive development, so every Summit toddler room has a muscle development area. (Photo by Kathy Penote)
The classrooms also feature attached patios so the outside is an extension of the classroom. “They can go out on the patio to do water or sand work and have more gross motor activity,” Mrs. Scott says. The 18-month-olds will also use the rooftop playground, where nature scape equipment helps them develop balance and coordination as they get fresh air and sunshine. “Observation windows have been placed in the classrooms so the children can be observed in their environment without interrupting their concentration and work cycle, which is most important developmentally at this stage,” says Mrs. Scott. “With their shorter attention spans, it is more difficult for them to complete tasks. We are trying to develop a longer work cycle through concentration without interruption.”

The classrooms are rich in materials that naturally stimulate experiential learning. The environment has been prepared with furniture, learning activities, relationships and routines that stimulate brain development. Classroom teachers, who use academically stimulating vocabulary, aim to lay the groundwork for control, independence, concentration and order – the building blocks on which all other learning will take place through life. “It’s about taking them step by step toward independence, supporting them as they go through the process so they can become independent learners,” Mrs. Scott says. 

Taking these objects out of the container helps this toddler concentrate, but putting them back will be more challenging. Montessori materials are designed to be self-correcting so the child instinctively knows when she makes a mistake and can work independently to solve problems, build analytical thinking and develop self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. (Photo by Rick Norton)
“When the 18-month program was announced last year, enrollment topped out early,” says Kelley Schiess, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Special Projects. “Enrollment for 2018-19 is under way.”  

The Summit’s Montessori Program has been successful for more than 50 years because The Summit offers a complete package, according to Rich Wilson, Head of School. “We believe by putting all the right pieces in place – highly educated Montessori teachers, developmentally appropriate learning activities and materials, right-sized furniture, a peaceful and loving environment, relationships and routines – these young children will reach their fullest potential under our care.” 

Sharing and socializing are two big concepts for 18-month-olds. Guided by Guided by university-trained Montessori curriculum experts who use academically stimulating vocabulary, these children learn to speak rapidly, and understand far more than they can articulate.
The Summit Country Day School serves students from ages 18 months to 18 years in a coeducational setting. Innovative, independent and Catholic, The Summit’s highly trained faculty offers a competitive advantage through academic excellence, personalized and holistic attention, global diversity and character-based leadership skill building. www.summitcds.org  

Montessori Options - Programs are available for
- Toddlers 18 to 36 months 
- Academic Program from 36 months to 6 years
- Early Enrichment for 3- to 4-year-olds
- Advanced enrichment for full-day kindergarteners
- Half day or full day
- Two days, three days or five days a week
- Before- and after-school care (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) beginning at age 2
Music and movement classes for children from birth to 30 months with their 


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