While the study does not focus mention Montessori practices, it compares cognitive and social functions in 4.5 year old children based upon the extent to which their mother's directed their play beginning at age 2. The researchers decided that 2 years-old was an important age to start observations as it is a time when children have the ability to understand basic verbal communications but still require a caretaker's direct instructions to complete and understand most tasks. By age 4.5 years, however, much less support from caretakers is necessary.
|Toddlers can certainly come up with some creative games when allowed to lead!|
I believe that the findings in this study very much support using Montessori methods at home or in a classroom. The children whose mothers consistently practiced "maintaining" (asking questions or making comments concerning an activity on which a child was working or responding to a child's requests) versus "directing" (giving specific verbal or non-verbal instructions for the child to follow, providing few options) had higher cognitive and language skills between age 1 and 3.5 years. Additionally, maintaining also proved to have significant positive effects on responsiveness for these same ages. Researchers believe that practicing maintaining supports cognitive and communication skills in early children as it works within their limited attention spans and current abilities without forcing them to shift focus.
The study revealed the children whose mothers practiced maintaining would ultimately have more success in "joint learning situations." This is based upon two findings: First, at 3.5 years old, maintaining increased a child's social responsiveness, which ultimately seemed to improve his ability to initiate activities. Secondly, by 4.5 years, maintaining was directly related to a child's increased ability to establish and then meet goals.
While many parents may believe that being directing will increase responsiveness, this study and others (one additional example- a study that analyzed conversations between toddlers and mothers showed a mother's requests were more often followed when she adjusted the request to acknowledge the child's current focus) indicate that respecting the toddler's thoughts and activities will ultimately lead to greater success for completing immediate tasks and for longer-term cognitive and social skills.
Crain, W. (2011). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications. Prentice Hall:Boston.
Landry, S.H., Smith, K.E., Swank P.R., & Miller-Loncar, C.L. (2000). Early maternal and child influences on children's later independent cognitive and social functioning. Child Development, 71(2 ) pp. 358-375