Our work at Children First is informed by many years’ experience of infant and young child development
in the UK, Europe and the US. Relevant researchers and practitioners in the field include Maria
Montessori (1870 – 1952), John Bowlby (1907 – 1990), D.W. Winnicott (1896 – 1971), Wilfred R. Bion
(1897 – 1979), and Melanie Klein (1882 – 1960). Writings by these experts influence our staff team
priorities and practice.
Modern research confirms Montessori’s theory that cognitive development is influenced by broad
stimulation, intelligence is crucially stimulated up to the age of six, pre-verbal, sensory stimulus makes
a great difference by the age of four, and emotional development from the first year onwards is
intrinsically linked to intellectual development.
Young Child Development:
We follow a Montessori curriculum which includes pre-reading and fine motor (pre-writing) skills, self-
care, contained behaviour and concentration. In addition, we provide Early Years activities that
encourage self-expression, listening skills, physical and cognitive development. Preparation for school
expands the natural abilities of each child to copy, to explore, to practice and to develop their
interests. Socially, children need to encounter others in stable groups, and to learn how to manage their
feelings in a range of situations.
Children learn in many different ways, in the context of structure and routine. One important aspect
for adults to observe is the interrelation between body and mind. Their bodies give sometimes only partly
understood messages that are important for their peace of mind. Their physical comfort is close to
If a child’s first language is English, then joining Children First will preserve a sense of culture and
belonging. If a speaker of other languages at home, he or she must have already learnt English before
joining. We recommend that children need to attend a minimum of two full days, three short days or four
mornings to settle into their groups. Language introduces negotiation and ability to share toys and enjoy
Personality and Behaviour:
Winnicott valued interaction as a process by which a child develops personality, and a sense of self.
Respecting the processes they are trying to work through in their play (Klein’s symbolic expressions) is
an important characteristic of our work with nursery and pre-school age children.
When frustrated in our guidance or teaching of an individual, our staff are encouraged to closely
observe sequences of play and activities, to try to understand what might be expressed by the repeated
or undesirable behaviour. This is especially important if we feel there is any delay in a child’s
development. Parents are also welcome to request individual meetings to discuss their child’s development.
Child Development - Theoretical Background:
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Children First Association
Freiestrasse 175, 8032 Zürich
044 252 9121