I recently read an article on the topic of ‘fidgeting’ and how there seems to be an epidemic of it in schools these days.
The article went on to describe an observation during a 45 minute period in which children were being read to. The children, seated at desks, were tilting back in their chairs, kicking their legs vigorously, tapping their hands, swivelling their heads, and making many other ‘fidgety’ movements as the teacher read on.
I reflected on the children in our Montessori classrooms and I wondered if we have a lot of ‘fidgeting’ too. It’s hard to tell with all of the natural movement that children engage in throughout the day!
In our Preschool classrooms we have movement naturally built in to every activity. First there is the freedom to roam the classroom to find the particular activity that inspires. Once a choice has been made, children can decide on a mat or a table and then go through the process of bringing the material to their work space. This can sometimes take as many as 10 trips!
Practical Life activities often have the child standing and using their balance and strength to get the job done. Language activities can often be quite physical as children act out verbs or stretch out on mats to complete a story with the Movable Alphabet.
There is a free flow from inside to outside, where all activities involve movement of some kind. It is no accident that Montessori classrooms allow for freedom of movement. Dr. Montessori saw movement as a natural motivation of all humans, from infancy to old age. It is through movement and activity that we pursue our interests, orient ourselves and how we explore.
The freedom of movement in our classrooms and outdoor environment also helps to develop muscle tone and strength. Children are not only toning their large muscles, but also the smaller muscles of their eyes and their hands as they manipulate pencils, small beads or a needle and thread.
In her book Montessori Behind the Genius, Angeline Stoll Lillard says, “when one moves with a purpose, there is a sense in which one’s body is aligned with one’s thought”. Each movement built in to each activity is in fact, very purposeful. Throughout Practical Life, our movements follow a logical sequence of activity, giving the child great purpose in their work.
The activities in the outdoor environment are all utilising real functional materials, again allowing for purposeful movements. Some lessons, such as those in the Language and Math areas, call for more restricted movements. What great refinement and control a child shows as they sit still counting beads or moving only their arm as they trace a metal inset!
Without the freedom of movement how would a child develop and refine their physical control and coordination? Isn’t it true that a child must develop the ability to ‘sit still’? This control of movement is almost as difficult as crossing the monkey bars for the first time!
So, as I think back to the article on fidgeting, I believe that we have avoided the epidemic by allowing for purposeful movements in our daily routines. As a Montessori teacher I also appreciate how much movement I get out of my day!