Children of all ages love screen time. Whether it’s movies or video games or just the use of an iPad, very few children are not attracted to some form of entertainment or learning application. The question on most parents’ minds these days is which (and how much) media is safe for very young children.
Dr. Maria Montessori remains unique among nearly all educators, in that she recommended media for children before the age of six be based on reality, not fantasy. She believed it’s wonderful for children to express their creativity and use their imaginations, but she did not believe in adults superimposing their fantasies upon children. What is the danger in doing so? She felt that children would be less interested in this world, perfecting it and themselves, than they would in escaping into an imaginary world. After all, how many children can resist the temptation to watch an entertaining cartoon?
And yet, do parents really pay attention to their own child’s behavior after they’ve watched an animated show? Are their children fully engaged or listless? Are they ready for intense learning activities, or do they remain passive? Are they more interested in escaping this world than actively working in it and building something new and constructive?
These are important questions for parents to ask. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a very famous study many years ago that recommended no screen time for children under the age of two. And for those two and older, they recommended very limited amounts. We believe these are excellent recommendations.
Years ago, a colleague and I decided to create an experiment. What would happen if we used this powerful visual tool and applied it to early childhood? We did so with Montessori principles as our guideline. First and foremost, the videos should be based on reality. Second, they should be beautiful and peaceful to watch. Third, they should be based on Montessori’s own presentation guidelines, the classic three-period lesson. Fourth, the videos should do something that the materials in the classroom did not or could not do. Fifth, the children should enjoy watching the videos, again and again, unasked by adults, for that was how Montessori gauged the success of all the work she designed for children. Sixth, the videos should not disrupt or interfere with any of the other work in the classroom. Seventh, and perhaps most importantly, the videos should help children learn to read, in conjunction with the other classroom materials designed by Montessori herself.
And to our great delight, the videos accomplished all of the above. The short 4 to 5 minute segments have been used in homes on DVD’s, on tablets in the classroom, and most recently, as part of an application designed for Android and iOS smartphones. We have seen three year-olds master all their sounds in just a month or two with classroom use of the application, in conjunction with the other school materials. But we’ve never seen three year-olds learn 26 sounds from scratch, so quickly, with just the use of Montessori materials. Three year-olds are capable of amazing things. And if they can effortlessly begin to read at this age, why shouldn’t they?
If you’re interested in seeing the results with your own children, give the Kinderbright app a try. It’s been developed by us and tested by a trio of Montessori certified teachers at Montessori Private Academy. It’s one application out of millions that we recommend unconditionally, and for the moment, it’s free on both iOS and Android. You'll find it by searching in the Apple Store or on Google Play.
Below are two sample segments: the first teaches beginning sounds, while the second teaches three letter words.