Children begin learning from the day they are born, which is why Montessori is an excellent program for kids of all ages. Most Montessori schools start at a very young age and begin the learning process from only a few weeks old. Of course, the Montessori programs used for younger students will be different than those for toddlers or children.
Montessori schools offer several programs, including Nido, which is the earliest form of Montessori and is designed for infants. Nido means “nest” in Italian, capturing the idea of warmth and security. The purpose of Nido in Montessori school settings is to create a calm, cozy, and home-like environment for the youngest students.
When Maria Montessori created the concept of Montessori learning, she used the term “Nido” to represent the infant classroom; this is a safe place for babies to grow and learn while feeling loved. These areas make it safe for babies to begin reaching new milestones.
What Does Nido Mean in Montessori?
Nido was created for the Montessori classroom to begin education at birth. The average Nido classroom will start at around 12 weeks, and students will graduate to the next level at about 15 months. This will vary based on where your child attends Montessori or the specific child’s needs.
Nido in Montessori is designed for children to move and explore the area while guided by adults that are trained in this education style. There will be materials available that can engage and satisfy the child’s needs to grow. A significant part of Nido is that these younger children can develop new independence skills and master the environment around them.
When children enter the Nido environment, it should feel like home to them. The room should always be warm, loving, caring, and, most importantly, full of respect for the children. This area should be safe for the children to move around and be thoroughly clean.
In addition to physical milestones like fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language, hand-eye coordination, and more, it is also a place for children to begin learning life skills. Children will begin the process of feeding themselves. This will also be a safe place for toilet training to begin.
What is the Nido Classroom Like?
As mentioned, the entire purpose behind Nido is to create a warm, home-like environment for babies to explore safely. This setting should be not only calm but inviting for babies. There should be soft rugs, rocking chairs, books on low shelves, and a variety of safe toys in baskets (AMSHQ). Often the decorations will be muted, with soft colors and a peaceful appearance.
All Montessori classrooms are designed to promote independence and build your child’s character. The caregivers should always be present, especially since these children are at a very young age. They should be calm, soft-spoken, and very patient with the children in their care.
An ideal teacher in the Nido classroom should be compassionate and respectful, using eye contact, and getting on your child’s level. Your child should always be addressed by name before they are touched or moved. These individuals should attentively look after the babies that are in their care and should be trained to comfort these young children.
Educational Toys and Gear for the Nido Classroom
When you are choosing a Montessori school for your child, you will want to tour the Nido classroom before making your decision. These classrooms should have adequate learning materials while staying organized and clean. They should never be overcrowded with students, especially since these children are babies that need extra attention and care.
The toys that are present in the Nido classroom should be readily available for the students who choose to play with them, but there should never be so many toys that the classroom becomes overwhelming.
A minimalistic approach is a major part of Montessori, and the materials presented should “foster concentration, problem-solving, and a sense of achievement” (AMSHQ). Children should be able to pick an activity or item that interests them and use the toy for as long as they like. They should also be able to clean it up with assistance when finished.
Some additional equipment that you will want to see in the Nido classroom are:
- Equipment that Supports Gross and Fine Motor Skills – low ladders, railings for children who are learning to walk, push toys, etc.
- Child-Sized Furniture – small chairs, tables, bassinets, and safe sleeping areas
- Utensils and Other Tools to Encourage Independence
What is Taught in Nido Classrooms?
While we have touched on what is taught in Nido classrooms, one essential thing to remember is that your child is continuing to be challenged and encouraged to reach new milestones.
An adult should always monitor your child and their programs should change to fit their developing needs; based on observation, the teachers should introduce new toys and activities that meet the child’s new interests and continues to encourage learning.
The learning objectives during this age should fit the needs of the natural milestone’s children develop during these first two years. The routines of everyday life are the main foundation of Montessori for this age group. This means that these activities should promote independence, order, coordination, concentration, social and emotional development, physical growth, and cognitive development.
Some basic activities offered during Nido are:
- Fine motor skill development through picking up objects, using tools, doing artwork, and using utensils
- Large motor activities both indoor and outdoor such as walking, climbing, running, jumping, and climbing stairs
- Self-help skills like cleaning areas, food preparation, plant care, and animal care
- Social skills such as developing manners, interacting with peers, and small group games
- Language development through naming objects, describing actions, discussing pictures, conversations, and music
Sample Nido Class Schedule and Activities
Each Montessori school will have a different schedule that students will follow, depending on the time that they are in the classroom. These schedules should all be similar, and you will want to look at a sample schedule before enrolling your child.
Quality Montessori schools will provide you with a list of activities that your child worked on that day, foods or bottles that they ate or drank, sleep information, along with any other information about the day.
A sample schedule that many Montessori classrooms follow is:
- Children Arrive – This usually happens in the early morning.
- Work Period – This will include the use of developmental toys for encouraging the use of motor skills, language development, movement, concentration, and other important milestones.
- Morning Nap – Most children in Nido will still nap, but those who do not may do other work activities.
- Lunch – Often, after a nap, lunch will be offered to students or bottles for younger babies. After eating, students are encouraged to clean up their messes to promote independence.
- Additional Work Period (Snacks are usually provided during this time.)
- End of Day – Depending on when the center closes, pickup will be arranged.
Some Montessori schools are open late, which means there may be several pickup times available. This is something you will want to consider depending on your personal work schedule and childcare needs. Schools that stay open later will have additional nap times and feeding schedules, often offering dinner and afternoon snacks.
Of course, you will want to inquire about their diaper changing schedule and bottle-feeding schedule as well. Most children in Nido will not be toilet trained, so these programs will follow a two-hour changing schedule or on an as-needed basis.
You will also want to inquire about the foods that are offered, ensuring they meet your child’s nutritional needs and whether these are provided, or you must bring them from home.
Final Things to Keep in Mind About Nido
You will want to ensure that your child is getting the best, safest, and most engaging learning experience possible while in the Nido classroom. These programs should offer a variety of activities, including outdoor learning time, should the weather be appropriate. Often, these programs will have regular music time, art opportunities, and a variety of other learning options.
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that you are always welcome in the classroom. Since the students in Nido are younger, many parents visit the classroom to breastfeed, which should be welcome. Also, most of these classrooms have times set out for parents to stop by during work periods, so that they can check on their child and experience the classroom firsthand.