Ami-Ami's philosophy is a time-tested blend of French-inspired ECE tenets, Montessori concepts, and Waldorf principles.
In early childhood, play is by far the best way to promote the plasticity of the growing brain as it forms the most numerous and important neurological connections of your child's life.
Learning at Ami-Ami happens in many ways, but is essentially child-led. Self-guided exploration, solitary, parallel, or group play, and natural social interactions are some forms that independent learning may take. It is also important to capitalize on this by observing each child's independent experiences and enhancing them with one-on-one or group guidance.
There is no need for academics-oriented drills or rigorous pre-designed lesson plans at such a young age, when it is more about how you learn than what you learn. Toddlers should focus on learning to learn. They primarily learn through play while learning to play.
On the one hand, we have daily routines and work together on some structured and cooperative activities in order to create habits the children can thrive on, foster the bonds they naturally crave, and to practice single- and multiple-step processes.
On the other hand it is just as important to take a step back and simply follow the children's lead, to rely on teachable moments that expand on their own discoveries with extra information, perspectives, projects or games.
It is all about riding the wave of their natural curiosity and taking that inquisitiveness a few steps further.
Free indoor play
Music! Music! Music!
Free / semi-structured outdoor play
Guided creative / discovery play
(art, nature, sensory, etc.)
Gradual wake up
Guided activities by interest
Quit time routine
A play-based program
The areas in which we as humans differ are endless. Yet, at a basic level, we are all of the same. We experience highs and lows in life and strive to be happy and fulfilled. Our common pains and joys are what bring us together, but our diversity makes us unique.
At Ami-Ami, we simply make sure that such diversity is reflected in our books, toys, themes and every day activities. Prejudice stems from ignorance, and all it takes to combat it is providing children with opportunities to see and talk about the richness of our world.
Only through compassion can we find lasting joy. Compassion allows us to realize our role in something much larger than ourselves.
Processes vs. Outcomes
Toddlers are naturally resilient and perseverant. They do not understand the concept of failure until we instill it in them.
One pitfall of a premature academics-based education is that young children shouldn't learn too soon to focus primarily on other people's standards and expectations for specific outcomes, rather than to embrace experimentation and the learning process for their own sake.
We should instead nurture children's intrinsic motivation, their enthusiasm for discovery, their candid perception that any unwanted result is an invitation to "try something else and see what happens". The best way to accomplish that is to let them explore and experiment without the burden of explicitly stipulated, predefined goals. Let's delay as much as possible the lessons in self-doubt and approval-seeking!
An important part of raising a well-adjusted child is helping them to become emotionally literate.
Feelings should always be acknowledged. When a child experiences jealousy, frustration, disappointment, etc., it is crucial to verbalize that those emotions are being recognized, and to help the child put words on them.
Without the proper vocabulary to parse their own complex feelings, children can grow up to conflate all negative experiences with sadness or anger, for instance, and to lack the ability to cope with the real, more subtle emotions and underlying issues. This can be especially true of boys in a culture that tends to limit acceptable negative "masculine" feelings to various flavors of anger.
A Gender-Neutral Environment
Because we do not believe in depriving children of opportunities for whole personal development and because we hope to contribute to raising a next generation of adults who will rise above the unfair and damaging limitations that gender-typing places on both sexes, toys and equipment at Ami-Ami are primarily gender-neutral. While we do have items and activities that are somewhat gender-typed, all children are encouraged to explore everything indiscriminately, and particular attention is paid to fostering traits in children that tend to be neglected based on gender (e.g. nurturing for boys, engineering mindset for girls).
Furthermore, one criterion by which our reading materials are selected is gender neutrality so that the children do not internalize gender-typed messages about what they can or cannot do. For instance, we are careful to avoid books that only depict protagonists of one gender in occupations traditionally perceived as pertaining to that gender (e.g. doctor, firefighter, athlete for men, and nurse, teacher, ballerina for women).