Children's World Montessori has opened a toddler program in their facility at 175 N. Main St. in Ashland, giving parents of 18- to 30-month-olds another option for preschooling their youngsters.
For parents such as Karen Carnival, whose 2-year-old daughter Parker attended the first day of school at Children's world, it was important to find a childcare solution with a structured environment that promotes learning and exploration.
"We tried several places around town and this one was the best fit with who we are as a family and with our learning philosophy," she says. "We love the place itself — everything is scaled just right for small children and it seems structured enough and small enough to appeal to Parker with a wide range of activities that will keep her engaged in a lot of different things throughout the course of the morning and afternoon."
Montessori is a type of teaching method that promotes child directed learning. Activities and play areas are set up so that the children can be independent, allowing the teachers to act as facilitators rather than instructors.
"In terms of how we structure the environment, we try to offer each child as much independence as they are capable of," said Co-director Michelle Kellar, who has worked at the other Children's World locations for the last 12 years. "All activities take place at their level or there are steps available so they are able to get up and down to wash their hands and toilet themselves, if they can."
While the children just see toys, the objects available to them are designed to refine their senses and work on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
According to Andrea Johnson, a teacher at the school, the water table, which on the surface appears to just be a fun place to splash around, is a perfect example.
"It stimulates their senses; they can feel the water, they can see it, they can hear it," she said. "They pour it into and out of containers. We have funnels set up so the kids can see that the water won't stay in a container with a hole in the bottom, so they learn while they play. The scenery around the table involves water, so they can make associations with children playing at the beach with what they are doing at that moment."
Each day at Children's World is centered on a flexible schedule, so the children have a focus for each time period but decide on their own which activities they'd like to engage in. Teachers observe the children closely and make changes based on the kid's reactions to situations. In this way, the program departs from normal school structure by allowing each child to create their own day within the Montessori environment.
Kellar, who has worked with several different age groups in addition to having a five year old daughter, says that this age of child is an especially joyous one to work with in these surroundings.
"At this age they want to model and mimic all that they see their parents doing," she said. "This is the stage when they do want to clean and they do want to dress themselves and use the toilet the way they see their parents toilet. Once they get older they are ready for other things but as toddlers they are just so excited about life. Their language is so receptive — even if they don't have that many words, they understand everything."
Children's World is located behind the First United Methodist Church, but otherwise has no affiliation. The room that the school is in was renovated last year so the facilities for the program are brand new.
The only other toddler preschools in Ashland are at the Schneider Children's Center, which is only available for students and faculty of SOU, and Stone Soup, a Waldorf style school which opened about a year ago on Park Street.