Dr. Montessori wrote: ” So the mechanism of movement is very complicated and more refined than one could imagine. In man this mechanism is not pre-established before birth and so it must be created, achieved through practical experiences in the environment. The number of muscles in man is so great that he can achieve any movement, so we do not speak of exercise of movement, but of coordination of movement. This coordination is not given, it has to be created and achieved by psyche.”
Movement in the montessori environment is viewed as an essential component to physical and mental growth. Gross motor skills are the big movements which include the large muscle groups in the arms, legs, torso and feet. Outdoor play time is a fantastic way to run, jump and climb and should be enjoyed to the maximum! However, many would be surprised to know how many opportunities the children have for gross motor development inside the classroom. The maps below are not the lightest or the easiest to maneuver in tight spaces with many fast young friends walking around. It requires a coordinated movement – an inner equilibrium of intellect, the will and action. All of the materials require being transported to a table or mat prior to working with it. Some materials are large, some are very small and fragile to encourage and strengthen motor coordination. Rolling and unrolling a working mat is an activity on its own for a young child!
Fine motor skills are the more precise movements involving the muscles, bones and nerves in the hands, which are instruments of intelligence. We honor the hand as the tool of the mind. By the age of three, the pincer grip is more refined. There are many interesting and fun practical life activities to excite the child to do more work with their hands (polishing objects in the classroom, cooking/baking, arranging flowers, sewing, eating snack, reading books, etc). And of course the work with sensorial, math and language materials gives many opportunities for fine motor development. The tiny golden beads in math require very exact movements. The moveable alphabet box is a big object to bring to the mat, but letters are very fragile and require a great amount of precision to take out of the box and put back.
This freedom of movement leads the growing child to the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. For example, when a child does math without stepping away from a table for an hour straight. This ability to control movement comes from the child and not because a teacher assigned a space and allocated a time frame for the activity.
The question of why we have movement as such a big part of our day? Because it leads to happy children that are well rounded and intelligent human beings. “Even if we wish to uplift ourselves, make our brains finer for instance, we can not do so unless we use all the parts. Perhaps movement is the last part that will complete the cycle. In other words, we can obtain spiritual uplift through action. This is the point of view from which to consider movement; it is a part of the nervous system and cannot be discarded. The nervous system is one, a unity, though it has three parts. Being a unity, it must be exercised in its totality to become better.” Dr. Montessori