The Universal Child, Guided by Nature

This book is an adaptation of a presentation given at the AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) International Congress in Portland, Oregon

(Picture from The Tibetan Children’s Village, Dharamsala, India)

The child is indeed universal and the Montessori principles we use in our work have been shown to be valid all over the world. I am going to share with you some of the observations I have made that have convinced me that this is true.

A basic outline of our Montessori work would include the absorbent mind, the planes of development, and a set of universal human urges sometimes called human needs or human tendencies. I will just focus on a few of the many of these needs and tendencies of the universal child that I have observed in many countries. These are exploration, movement, work, maximum effort, perfection, concentration, self-control, and communication.

The Need for Exploration
There are many ways to explore, depending on age and stage of development and all of them are important. Visual exploration can be observed from birth on. The Montessori idea of a floor bed supports visual exploration because the child is not looking at the world through bars.

Mobiles that move gently on air currents of the room are very valuable for an infant’s visual exploration.

This child in the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan, by necessity, goes to work with his grandfather and so is able to explore visually a wider world than that of the home. Although there are drawbacks to this situation, it certainly provides a rich visual experience.

Auditory exploration begins with the voices, and the music, the infant hears in the womb. This child is also able to explore the sounds of the wider world

Many of us have noticed how young children tend to put everything in their mouths. That is because tasting begins before birth, and is an important early way of exploring objects.

Keeping the hands uncovered, and giving freedom of movement in a safe environment is wonderful for the child’s exploration by touch.

I took this picture in Bhutan at a very important annual celebration called a Tsechu. This child’s exploration of fringe was more interesting than beautiful dresses, music, and the dancing, and more important at that moment. No one interrupted her.

From age 3-6, a child wants to be free to be able to explore both inside the home and classroom and outside in nature, touching everything.

In the 2nd plane of development the age 6-12+  child explores with the imagination, moving through time and space. In a class in Canada I questioned these girls—who were building a model of a pyramid—about Egyptian mythology, about Anubis, the god who weighs one’s heart after death to see if one enters the afterlife or is eaten up by Ammut. They knew everything I asked them about; this was not just an art project.

MORE . . . This blog post shares the beginning, pages 1-11, of this 56-page book.

The Universal Child Book Details:

CLICK: Universal Child

The book can be ordered from amazon in many countries.

CLICK: El Nino Universal

From the publisher:

CLICK: Michael Olaf



Part 1: THE NEEDS AND TENDENCIES OF THE UNIVERSAL CHILD: exploration; movement; work, maximum effort, perfection; concentration; self-control

Part 2: HOW TO SHARE MONTESSORI WITH THE WORLD: finding out what Montessori means; researching a culture in preparation for sharing Montessori; explaining Montessori; mentoring a new Montessori teacher

Part 3: THE UNIVERSAL CHILD GROWS UP: we all have needs; communication


Author’s website and blog
CLICK: Susan

Series of eight “first” Montessori books
CLICK: First Books


One thought on “The Universal Child, Guided by Nature

  1. Anonymous May 2, 2023 / 6:36 am

    I’m very much interested to know more about Montessori education in Bhutan.
    I am from Bhutan and a researcher in Montessori education.

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