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The social development of the child

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  • Category: Child

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Montessori believed in the vertical integration of children of different ages, together in the same classroom. She was of the opinion that when children of mixed age groups were provided opportunities to work together, it served a greater benefit to all as community social building.

In the words of Maria Montessori, “(Children) are aware of those around them, and one often sees the small ones intently watching the work of others, particularly the older ones. In doing this they absorb much more than it seems, and are already preparing themselves for more active social participation in the community of the class”. (Education for Human Development)

By grouping together children vertically, they are provided better educational opportunities in a setting where all children assumed different roles. The older children naturally undertake leadership roles, while working on their self-confidence and self-esteem. The younger ones on the other hand interact and learn well from their peer role models, effectively gaining clearer understanding of concepts and ideas.

The teacher shares the responsibility of guiding the younger students along with the elder students if concepts are not adequately clear. This provides the opportunity to assess the level of understanding achieved by the older students as they re-establish and re-discover concepts in an effort to guide the younger ones. In addition, this approach recognizes each child’s individual developmental learning pace and provides greater opportunities for physical, social, emotional, cognitive, language and literacy development, as compared to grouping the children in sequential age based classrooms.


Montessori placed great emphasis on vertical grouping as she believed that humans are social beings, and would benefit largely in development if placed in a conducive environment where they are allowed to pursue learning at their pace. Vertical grouping provides the opportunity for children to learn and guide by following others in the group. The several ways how vertical grouping and the prepared environment aid child development, are discussed below:

Mixed Interactions: When children of various abilities and developmental paces are mixed together, they build a highly interactive learning and helpful atmosphere. Children are naturally faced with interactions with one another involving appreciation for other’s achievements and self motivation and drive towards greater accomplishment by observation of others. As older children serve as “role models”, they firmly re establish their learning and skill while they guide the younger ones with difficult situations. The older children also develop feelings of empathy and understanding as they watch young children face similar situations and problems as themselves. The young children prefer to imitate their elder peers and seem to learn more intently if guided by them simply by observation.
Learning from Each Other: Older children learn to be patient and tolerant, and serve as role models and teachers for the younger children. When an older child teaches a younger one, it reinforces previously learned concepts and is actually an aid in complete mastery of concepts. Younger children learn about courtesy, manners, and conflict resolution by watching the older children in the class.

In the Montessori classroom, children gain new knowledge through observation. Younger children get prepared for later complicated activities that the older ones are involved in. Little ones also do not need to wait for the assistance of a teacher, as they can always apply for help of a more experienced older peer. This motivates younger ones to practice their skills to catch up with older kids whom they respect and admire.

At the same time, older ones learn to be helpful and responsible for less knowledgeable and mature kids, whose needs and abilities can be diverse. They gain appreciation from younger ones and can build their self-esteem through achievements and accomplishments of others. As a result, such proactive cooperation enables to bring about a generation of thoughtful and peaceful grown-ups in the future.

Work at Child’s Own Pace: Because teachers do not have to set the instruction pace by a whole group, each child is given the ability to learn at his or her own pace. This is a striking difference from traditional education, where everyone turns to page 33 of the book and stays there until every child understands the concept. The teacher leaves the children to solve their own problems, if there is no threat of harm. On seeing that another child is struggling to complete an activity an older child will typically know when and how to offer assistance.  The children feel joy and praise the younger who has completed her task, alerting the teacher and other children about each others success, without animosity or hidden jealousies.  As children work at their own pace parents find it harder to compare too, decreasing the pressure on them to perform.

Community: By staying in a classroom for a three-year period, children develop a strong sense of community and stability, with 2/3 of a class returning every year. This community aids the development of students as role models for one another. The cultural development is also highly dependent on getting to know and experience differences and similarities in the people surrounding the child. Different ages, as much as different backgrounds, nationalities, religious beliefs, gender, economic standards, help develop a sense of empathy and understanding of people. It helps broaden a child’s perspectives and also helps to find and accept a child’s own identity.

Familiarity: Being in the same classroom year after year allows a teacher to truly learn each individual child’s learning abilities, style, and developmental level to better be able to set the learning agenda as well as build on strengths and work on weaknesses. Year after year, children stay among the same teachers and classroom peers. Thus, teachers can better get acquainted with children and learn their personalities, including developmental levels, learning abilities, traits as well as strength and weak areas, where kids may need assistance. At the same time, children can learn how to communicate openly, respect each other and build strong friendships. Though, at early age, friendships are more fleeting, making deep bonds with peers help them become more cooperative in relationships and overcome fear of participation in collaborative play activities.

Social interaction provides for home schooling: Since home-schooling is naturally multi-aged, it’s a natural fit with the structure of Montessori. Siblings have a built-in support community for education and play, and benefit in the same ways that mixed age peers do as described above. Another great advantage is from the social interactions. It is very common that a younger brother or sister will learn, for example, to speak very early from having an older sibling to socialize with. The younger sibling would also develop motor skills, social skills, manners, communication and verbal expression faster from observing and copying. Vertical grouping gives the same affect to a child’s development because it motivates the child towards being fully stimulated.

Education comes naturally: At the age of 3 to 6 years, children are prone to absorb new information like sponges, even if they do not formally have a lesson. They can even not realize they are exposed to learning simply by being a part of a multi-age community. Kids become sensitive to each other’s’ needs, involve in mutual help and show empathy. In this context, the Montessori education environment helps kids develop naturally without stress and overpressure. There’s a sense of inspiration and motivation in the classroom of vertical grouping. This creates a learning friendly and motivating atmosphere for the child and it’s intellectual and emotional development.
Leadership: For older kids, teaching and assisting younger peers throughout preschool activities allows to acquire leadership skills. At an early age, leadership comes with responsibility and complex mental work. It cannot be taught in any way, but has to be gained through experience, when older kids grasp new things, relate, reason and explain them to others. Such type of interaction resembles real life and teaches children how to “play” different roles and cooperate with people of various ages.

Compassion and care: In the Montessori environment fosters compassion and care as an important part of kids’ spiritual and social growth. Between the ages of 1 to 4, children develop emotionally in many ways and begin to understand causes and consequences of their feelings. Cross-curricular learning in the Montessori classroom encourages kids to feel a small part of the universe, where everyone has a goal to achieve. At such a young age, children experience varied emotions, and get insights into acceptable and unacceptable behavior that comes along with such emotions. Compassion and care are cultivated through collaboration, sharing and helping others.
Conflict-resolution: Promoting peace and tolerance among children is of paramount importance in the Montessori environment. As a part of the curriculum, kids are invited to participate in group meetings and listen to their peers. They learn to publicly accept praise and acknowledgement as well as admit their mistakes and make apologies. Children learn to be respectful and honest towards each other, and discuss classroom concerns without waiting for conflict escalation that can affect the majority of the class

Montessori children are believed to be better prepared for adulthood – both socially and academically. When they grow up, they are likely to become better listeners and decision-makers with enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Through various challenging activities, kids also develop a positive perception about their ability to achieve certain goals. This makes them more achievement-oriented, ambitious and motivated in life.


Though children learn within a diverse group, their individual differences are clearly defined and appreciated. Each child is treated as an individual with his/her own intrinsic needs, interests and abilities. In the Montessori classroom, little discoverers work at their own level of understanding and development. They experience neither pressure nor obtrusion from the outside. Instead, teachers encourage children to work to the value of their individuality, either in small multi-age groups or on their own.

Obviously, some children advance quicker in some areas than the others, and teachers adhere to their developmental needs by challenging them with more complex materials. When kids have difficulty managing with particular tasks, they are welcome to focus on those areas until they are ready to move forward.


1. Montessori, Maria The absorbent mind
Kala Kshetra Publications 2006
2. Montessori, Maria The Discovery of the Child 3. Internet http://montessoritraining.blogspot.in/2016/08/benefits-of-mixed-age-groups-montessori-environment.htmlhttp://montessoricommons.cc/the-social-development-of-the-child-in-the-mixed-aged-setting/http://kids-collective.com/blog/the-role-of-mixed-age-grouping-in-montessori/

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