What is Montessori?

Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870, the first female physician in Italy, her clinical observations led her to analyse how children learn, how they develop themselves from what they find in their immediate environment. In 1906 she founded her first Casa del Bambini, for sixty children of working parents in Rome. Doctor Maria Montessori died in 1952 but her work continues. Today there are thousands of Montessori schools throughout the world. Maria Montessori discovered that children under six have extraordinary powers of mind. They take in their environment with what she termed ‘the absorbent mind’. The absorbent mind is at its peak receptivity during the pre-school years.

Watering the Plant Peeling the banana. Pouring through the funnel


The Prepared Environment

The classroom is made up of children of mixed age groups based on Montessori’s theory of child development, based on three-year cycles. The children learn to take responsibility for themselves and each other, to get along with children of different ages and abilities, to respect each other’s work and work space and to treat each other with courtesy. They also take an active role in maintaining their classroom by putting materials away in their proper place ready for the next child to use. The classroom becomes a thriving community where children are treated with respect and dignity and want to treat others with the same respect and dignity. The pre-school classroom embodies Maria Montessori’s concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child. The materials invite activity.

Eating cake Shaking hands. Story time

When a child first enters the classroom practical life activities provide the link between home and school. Through the sensorial experiences of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste children learn to clarify, classify and comprehend their world. This leads on to the mathematical journey and the representation of language through sounds and writing. Art and music, science, geography and history are all important parts of the Montessori pre-school curriculum. At City Heights Montessori the Montessori children also get the opportunity to attend trips to the art gallery and other learning and recreational experiences in the wider community outside the classroom. The senior Montessori class covers the 3-6 year age group with the expectation that many children will stay until they are six and then go on to primary classes in Dunedin.

Little Artist Cleaning up outside Getting the chair

The Child’s Day

City Heights closes only on statutory holidays and briefly at Christmas and New Year. It is open from 7.45 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. weekdays for full and part time enrolments of children from three months to six years of age. So that your child is fully part of the centre community and gains the maximum benefit from the education programmes we prefer a minimum of 15 hours enrolment per week in childcare preferably spread over a minimum of four days. Montessori classes are from 8.45 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Friday. We prefer children to attend a minimum of 20 hours a week over four days a week.

Child stiring stuff Child pouring Child painting outside

Settling in

Settling in involves separating from parents and forming new trusting relationships with unfamiliar adults in a different environment. Younger children need frequency of attendance in order to form a strong bond with their new care-giver. If enrolling less than four days a week the days need to be spread throughout the week. Newly enrolled children, especially if they have not previously attended pre-school, need a parent to spend a short time with them the first few times. A cuddly or special toy brought to the centre may help your child settle in. The more frequently your child attends the sooner they form a strong bond with their individual caregiver and the easier the settling in process. Newly enrolled infants and toddlers need to have a reasonably lengthy period attending centre before having a break away. If you are planning a holiday, please consider enrolling your young child after the break rather than before it, as it is upsetting to the child to have to settle in and then have time with their parents and have to resettle when they come back. When your child moves into another room it is not necessary for you to settle the child in to the new room as the children will be settled by their teachers, who will be familiar to them.

Two childers dressed up as clowns Child playing in sandpit. Child playing in sandpit


The daily programme includes time in mixed age groups as well as time in small same age groups. The programme for older children includes regular trips for nature walks,visits to the library, museum, art gallery, botanic gardens and from time to time, swimming. Drama, music, art, stories, free play, access to interactive learning computer programmes and structured exercises in language and mathematics are all included in the programme. Teachers plan individually and for the group. Each child has an individual teacher or ‘special friend’ responsible for your child’s care and education. The teachers also observe the children and in consultation with parents plan and implement the individual and group programmes based on the children’s interests and emerging abilities and following the national and Montessori curriculi a record of which is kept in the child’s profile which you can view at any time.


Child with grandparent Child with grandparent Child with grandparent.