Meeting The Six Basic Needs of the Child in the NIDO

   *The NIDO (nest) is the Montessori prepared environment for the child from birth to around 12-15 months, typically when they start walking.

       Maria Montessori outlined human development as being across four planes, spanning the years from birth to age 24.  The First Plane covers the period of life from birth to 6; the Second Plane from 6-12; the Third Plane from 12-18; and the Fourth Plane from 18-24.  Each plane can be further subdivided: 0-3 and 3-6; 6-9 and 9-12; 12-15 and 15-18; 18-21 and 21-24.  Each plane is quite distinct from the other and actually correspond to the child's phases of physical growth (Montessori p. 17) See: Montessori Theory: How do Human Beings Develop (part 1) and Montessori Theory: How do Human Beings Develop (part 2)
 The Montessori classroom, or prepared environment, is designed to meet the needs of the child in each stage of development.  In the Montessori home, while the physical structure of the home may not change as the child progresses through each plane, the materials that are available to the child, the layout of the home and the interactions and relationships with the adults change as the child changes.  We parents adjust ourselves to meet the needs of the child as she grows.

There are many who hold as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.  For that is the time when man's intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.  But not only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic [soul] powers. (Montessori p. 21)

       We will take a look at the child in the First Plane of development, who is continuing the process of self construction that began at conception.  The newborn's mind, during this time, is impervious to direct adult influence--a type of mind that the adult cannot approach (Montessori, p.18).  We are unable to make the baby do anything that we want--all activity is purely controlled by the child--the baby cries, sucks, and responds reflexively at first, to external stimuli.  As time passes, the baby is able to move himself from a supine to prone position; to bring her hands together, to sit up, slither, crawl and walk all and begin to babble all without our direct instruction.  In the second phase of this period (3-6), the child's mind remains pretty much the same, but the she is beginning to become more susceptible to adult influence in some areas (Montessori, p. 18).  The nature of the child during this period drives him to make certain acquisitions in order to ensure survival.  These acquisitions are what we call the needs of the child.

          In the publication, The Normalized Child by Kathleen Futrell, we encounter the six basic needs of children that the Montessori prepared environment seeks to fulfill beginning from birth. These needs are: Movement, Language/Communication, Independence, Love and Security, Discipline and Order.  Meeting these needs from birth to age 3 will help prepare your child for expanded development later on.  

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1. Movement--it is through movement that the child is able to explore, manipulate, absorb and store up all the sensory information to classify later on; movement impacts cognitive development, so freedom of movement is a key factor in your child's development. Preparing the environment so that your child can move freely is an important aspect of the NIDO.

2. Language/Communication-- the child needs to hear language spoken in order to adopt it as his own. Not only does she need to hear the elementary language that highlights her basic physical needs (eat, sleep, etc.), but also the precise language of every area of culture-- (maple tree-- not just 'tree';  tennis ball--not just 'ball'). The NIDO offers the child further expansion of vocabulary and opportunities for conversations.

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3. Independence-- We must remember to never do for a child that which he has learned or is trying to do for himself. Your child's drive for independence preserves her from becoming indolent if you keep doing things for her beyond the time that she needs or desires and also from developing despair that she will never learn to care for herself. So if your child can walk, you should let him walk and not put him in a stroller--show him how to do something instead of doing it for him. In the NIDO, your child develops independence by learning to feed himself, dress and undress and communicate desires through a gradual process that involves limited choices and freedom of movement.

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 4. Love and Security-- your child needs constant reassurance that his needs are valid and will be met. Keep in mind that your child perceives your love in the quality and quantity of time you spend with her and not in the things that you give her. Make it a point to spend some time everyday with your child without any distractions--put away the cell phone and turn off the TV. Remember that consistency in routines and schedules will also help him develop a sense of security and trust in the world. 
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5. Discipline--this is an internal process of self-regulation and self-control that will develop as the child is given the opportunity to practice, imitate and observe. In the NIDO, positive role models and consistent adherence to pre-established rules as well as setting clear limits will help your child develop self-control. And there is no reason why the same cannot be done in the home environment as well. 

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6. Order-- this refers to the development of internal order (thoughts, feelings, etc.) which 
occurs in the child when there is external order. Your child needs the internal order so that she can grow intellectually; and order in the external environment is crucial to the development of internal order. In the NIDO, everything has a place and your child  is encouraged to return items to their place when he is finished with them.


Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. Clio Press Ltd. 1988. Oxford, England.
“The Normalized Child”  Kathleen Futrell, NAMTA 1998.

Rhonda Lucas-Sabater is an AMI trained Primary (3-6 years old) guide and currently works as a Primary guide.  She is the mother of five Montessori children and the co-founder of a public charter Montessori school in Washington, DC.  She is also AMI trained at the Assistants to Infancy (O-3) and Elementary (6-12) levels and is an AMI certified Adolescent guide.

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