Jeannette Toulemonde – A Lie, Really ? (1969)


This article was published in partnership with the Nascita Montessori Centre of the North and its documentary collection.

(Documentary collection, EV. 1969 – Extract “Le vrai et le faux”, by Jeannette Toulemonde, founder of the CNMN and L’Enfant et la Vie)

What if we think we discover a lie in our child?

“Mom, the mistress said we should bring a roll of tape…”

A little girl would ask her mother something new every day. The mother asked the teacher and learned that she did not require anything of the kind.

She thought about her own attitude towards her daughter and acknowledged that, although she was generous with toys, she did not like to lend her the contents of her drawer: glue, pencils, etc., or buy these items from her at the stationery store.

By hearing the answer ‘no’, the little girl had found a way to acquire these objects, much more interesting for her than toys, and much more constructive.

Behind our children’s ‘lies’, we can often find a mistake on our part. This error is often too much of an influence on the child, forcing him or her to use indirect means to achieve the goal set for him or her internally.

Again, this is a deviation: the child has encountered an obstacle and is moving in another direction. Let us not be an obstacle in our children’s path.

But let us not take for lies all their words which are not true according to us.

The little child is an apprentice.

His mind is exercised, seeks; he can sometimes make mistakes. It is not by taking it back, by scolding it for a so-called lie that we will help it to see clearly.

Let’s help him with a clear atmosphere.

To a 4-year-old boy who says to his friends: “my daddy drives a big truck”, whereas this one is employed at the town hall, for example, we don’t answer naughty little liar; because it’s not on purpose that he has made reality turn sour.

An unconscious fault is not a fault.

He took, as often “his desires for realities”, it is so imposing a big truck! And he wanted his father, whom he loves, to have the pleasure of driving him.

The child always has a reason.

Let us look for this reason every time we see a disorder, a deviation. Even if we haven’t found it, let’s make it the positive atmosphere in which the defect cannot live.

Sensitives Periods in Montessori Pedagogy


The sensitive periods are the result of Maria Montessori’s observation, which draws a parallel with the work of De Vries, who had discovered sensitive periods in insects.

According to Maria Montessori, every child is unique. It has its own personality, rhythm of life, qualities and possible difficulties. But all children, without exception, go through their own “sensitive periods”.

What are sensitive periods in Montessori pedagogy?

Sensitive periods are times when the child’s inner sensitivities are expressed in relation to a characteristic of the environment that causes the child to transform. They awaken in the child a particular attraction around an aspect of the environment. For example, we know that young children hear all the sounds of the environment and all languages from birth, but they will retain in particular the sounds they hear in their environment to build their mother tongue.

Sensitive periods are temporary and are limited to the acquisition of a given character.

These are special sensitivities, moments in the child’s life when the whole child is “absorbed” by a particular sensitivity to a specific element of his or her environment (the home, the classroom). These are transitional periods, they are limited to the acquisition of a specific character; once the character has been developed, the “sensitivity” ceases. It is therefore essential that the environment offers the child the means to develop at the right time by using these sensitive periods.

Maria Montessori makes sensitive periods of development laws and has defined their activity in human beings between birth and 6 or even 7 years of age, they can overlap.

Maria Montessori has defined 6 sensitive periods: 

  • The sensitive period of the order, approximately from birth to 6 years of age.
  • The sensitive period of language, more or less between 2 months and 6 years.
  • The sensitive period of movement coordination, about 18 months to 4 years.
  • The sensitive period of the refinement of the senses, about 18 months to 5 years.
  • The sensitive period of social behaviour, about 2.5 to 6 years.
  • The sensitive period of small objects, during the 2nd year over a very short period of time.

What is their importance in child development?

It is his sensitive periods that guide the child in his construction, pushed by his inner master and his vital force that “bring about” the potentialities of movement and language.

The child feeds on his environment. The latter must therefore meet its needs and take into account sensitive periods to help these traits develop as well as possible. The environment must therefore be/incarnate order, allow movement that has a defined purpose, allow language, allow right sensory experiences, allow social relationship.

The role of the parent or educator is to prepare this environment. He will observe the child and, depending on the needs identified, will link him to this environment. He must know the inner sensitivities and their duration in order to be able to recognize them in action and respond to them by building the environment.

Maria Montessori considered education as an aid to life and it is of great importance that adults rely on the sensitive periods of the child so that the child can build himself on the physical, psychological and social levels. 

According to Maria Montessori, “if the child could not obey the directives of his sensitive period, the opportunity for a natural conquest is lost, lost forever”. During these sensitive periods, the child can easily and effortlessly assimilate this or that acquisition. If the child is helped at this precise moment, the learning is done in depth. But if the child does not find the elements (in the atmosphere and equipment) that meet his or her needs at the time, the sensitivity will gradually fade.

Maria Montessori was convinced that the forces of development are included in the living being and that the work of education consists in preserving their spontaneity, and in removing anything that could weaken them and prevent them from flourishing (obstacles).
 The child must build his own personality and develop his motor and intellectual faculties. Therefore, the adult must have full confidence in the child’s strengths, respect his or her freedom of action and prepare the necessary and supportive environment for his or her development. The adult must be able to observe the child’s different rhythms, he must know his child well by showing attention and respect.

Observation and respect, trust in the child are key words in Montessori pedagogy. We will have the opportunity to come back to this soon.

Child development from 0 to 6 years of age


As I promised you, I am now focusing on the first development plan, i.e. on the characteristics and needs of children from 0 to 6 years old.

Characteristics of the child from 0 to 6 years old


Maria Montessori named the child in the foreground “Moebelkind” or “the child – furniture”: for her the starting point of her discoveries is the adaptation of the furniture to the size and strength of the child to free her movement. A child needs to have both feet on the ground to access concentration, to be able to reveal his true nature.

A vulnerable being

The child in the foreground is a vulnerable, sensitive being who must be welcomed in humanity.

He needs order and attention.

A being of communication and language

A baby is a great communicator, he needs to be caught up in a language relationship to develop. Language and gestures are part of the child’s psychic food. 

An observer

The child is a passionate explorer. He needs to exercise his movement to explore. 

He’s a sensory explorer. Everything he apprehends from the world around him goes through his senses. The first organ of discovery is the mouth. From the moment he can sit down, he detaches himself from the ground, the hand is released and takes over to explore by manipulating. Through the senses he builds his inner world. 

He also needs to repeat his experiences to build his psychological and physical life. 

Responding to needs through appropriate environments

To meet these needs, the specific approach of Montessori pedagogy, as we have seen, is to provide adapted environments, known as “prepared environments”. There are 4 environments for the first development plan:

– The home (and yes! it is too often forgotten): from birth to 5-6 months

– The Nido: from 3 months until the guaranteed walk. The assured walk also corresponds to the acquisition of the clamp with the opposite thumb and the first intentional words. It is a real development stage. 

– The children’s community: from walking to 2.5 to 3 years old 

– The children’s house: from 2 and a half years old / 3 to 6 years old

These environments have common characteristics:

Order. Every object, every being has its place and order. The child withdraws his security from order and orientation
Motives for activities = psychic food. These reasons constitute the possibility of work. 
Sensory stimulation tailored to the child’s needs.

They also have differences, which I will come back to later.

Adults are also part of the “environment”

The adult attitude (it is one of my favourite subjects, and I will often come back to it on this blog), must also be adapted, and different at each step:

At the Nido

  • Observation. From birth to safe walking, the adult must observe the child with particular attention. This look helps to support the child’s activity. Observation is part of a search for the child’s new faculties.
  • Attention. He needs to share, to be nourished by the relationship, which allows him to be more and more autonomous by keeping the good memory of the relationship. 
  • Intent. The gestures and the way of speaking to a child are very important because children are very sensitive and certainly perceive intention before meaning. 

To the Children’s Community

  • Observation
  • Attention = COLLABORATION. Adults should never do anything without a child. The child is encouraged to participate in all tasks in the community and at home. Autonomy develops through scaffolding. Any object offered to the child is presented, because the culture is TRANSMITTED. This transmission is formal or informal (the child observes). 
  • Maximum effort. The little child is a hard worker. The adult must provide him with opportunities for maximum effort: carrying furniture and other heavy things builds trust in the child, and shows that with effort, the world belongs to him. 

At the Children’s House

  • Observation
  • Providing an environment that allows sensory experiences, activities with a defined purpose, access to writing and reading in different languages (mathematics, language, music)

So much for the general attitude … but when and how to intervene with the child? This is a big question if we do not want to hinder its development, as Maria Montessori says.

That’s why in the next post, I’ll talk to you about sensitive periods.