Useful Tips

Maximum Effort

Apr 05, 2024

Maximum Effort
Aishwarya Dwarakanath, Montessori guide and consultant
From the moment a baby is born, they begin to learn new movements. As they grow, they practice turning, slithering, crawling, pulling up to stand, and eventually walking. It can be fascinating to watch them work on these movements, as they seem to be putting in maximum effort. The look of determination on their face, as they try to master each new skill, is incredible to witness.

By the age of one and a half, a child's balance has improved, and their arms and legs are stronger. They are keen to test their limits and try out new activities. Dr. Montessori called these activities "signs of maximum effort" by the child. It's their way of testing their abilities and preparing themselves for more complex tasks. As they grow and develop, their desire to explore the world around them using their bodies does not diminish but continues into toddlerhood as maximum effort.
Dr. Montessori was a keen observer of young children and their behaviour. During her observations, she noticed that children exhibit a strong desire to engage in maximum-effort activities. This includes lifting heavy objects that are disproportionate to their body size, testing their strength and pushing their limits. The challenge of defying gravity also fascinates them, and they enjoy climbing stairs, exploring slides, and going up and down for no apparent reason. Even climbing the slide backwards can be a source of fascination for them.

Dr. Montessori also observed that children direct their maximum effort not just to feats of strength but also towards finer motor skills. For instance, they might take great care in lifting a cloth and carrying it to the other end of the room, only to return it to the pile from where they started. This shows their innate desire to perfect their abilities and to accomplish tasks with precision and care. Overall, Dr. Montessori's observations provide valuable insights into the innate tendencies of young children and the importance of designing learning environments that cater to their natural inclinations.

As caregivers, it's essential to encourage children to engage in maximum-effort activities safely. Instead of discouraging them from indulging in such activities, we can provide them with opportunities to explore their movements and physical abilities in a safe and supportive environment.
One way of doing so is by offering them a push wagon that they can move around the room. This not only enables them to engage in physical activity but also helps them develop their motor skills. Child-sized furniture that they can lift is also an excellent way to encourage physical activity.

Spaces where children can practice climbing, such as stairs or a jungle gym, can also be provided. This allows them to develop their strength and coordination while having fun. Furthermore, a narrow and short beam on which they can practice walking and balancing their body is also an effective way to facilitate their physical exploration.
Obstacles for climbing, such as cushion pillows, can also be used to challenge and stimulate children's physical abilities. Additionally, providing them with sealed 2-litre water bottles or jugs to carry around can help to improve their balance, stability, and coordination.

It is important to note that safety is paramount when encouraging physical activity in children. Therefore, it is crucial to observe their interests and find ways to facilitate their physical exploration in a safe and supportive manner.
Being outside in the garden can also provide a great opportunity for children to explore and engage in maximum-effort activities.