By the time a child has reached the age of three years they begin to move out of the toddler phase - with this comes significant development and much greater independence, both physically and emotionally. These advancements bring a demand for greater stimulation, both physical and cognitive. The three to four-year old is learning at a rapid pace and thrives with a supportive and nurturing environment - the role of play is key to this phase.
Most parents at some stage would like to know if their child is where they ought to be in terms of their learning and developmental abilities, and question whether their child is ahead of other children, behind or average. In order to determine this, a number of societies have outlined developmental milestones (these may vary according to culture) which define what a child should be able to do at a certain age.
Play forms an essential part of the physical and cognitive development in babies, toddlers and young children. During this developmental phase, it is paramount that infants and children are provided with ample play opportunities, which should include access to a wide variety of toys, including sensory toys.
Maria Montessori was an influential early years educationalist, born in Italy in 1870. While Montessori was working with special needs children it sparked an interest in education and led to her setting up schools for disadvantaged children. The Montessori approach focuses on the planes of development, the theory that children have the greatest capacity to learn in the first 6 years of their lives. This development is achieved with a hands-on, independent approach from the children.