When Should My Toddler Move Up to Children's House?

Guidance from the Guidepost Team on how to time and plan for this exciting milestone.

Moving up to Children's House is an exciting milestone for Montessori toddlers. This is where all their hard work learning to walk, communicate, and coordinate their hands starts to blossom into more advanced learning. In Children’s House, they will embark on a journey to literacy, to understanding mathematic concepts like dimension and quantity, to even more interesting, challenging practical work, and to an increasingly clear understanding of the world in which they live. It’s no wonder they can't wait to get started!

The best time for a child to move up from the toddler classroom to the Children’s House classroom is typically sometime around two years, eight months—sometimes earlier, sometimes a bit later. As with everything, there’s lots of variation for individual children. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the key considerations to keep in mind.

Finding the Next Challenge. The toddler classroom deliberately presents a carefully-curated set of limited options for children. This is what toddlers need during their particular phase of development. Too much choice, and they become overwhelmed, and unable to choose.

Toddlers enjoy familiarity; routine. It gives them a sense of control over a world that is still new and sometimes bewildering. If your toddler chooses the banana slicing work, or the gluing work, every single day for months on end, we are not surprised by that. To the contrary—it’s just a toddler being a toddler!

But as your child approaches two-and-a-half years, and becomes increasingly capable and independent, it’s time to start thinking about when to move up. The familiar exercises in the toddler classroom will lose their satisfaction, and your child will start to be ready for more. It will be time for exercises that present new challenges: the development of fine motor control, the refinement sense perception, the strengthening of memory and concentration, the fostering of language and concept-formation, the opportunity for counting and numeracy.

Toilet Learning. Toilet independence is the only real hard-and-fast limitation on moving up: children in our Children’s House classroom need to be able to use the bathroom independently. It’s important to start the toilet learning process as early as possible (typically, shortly after your child first enters the toddler classroom), because you don’t want this issue to become a blocker that prevents your child from moving up when he or she is otherwise ready to do so.

Provided that children start toilet learning soon after joining the toddler classroom, and we as adults keep the consistency with cloth underwear both at home and at school, they are typically pretty independent by about two-and-a-half. This leaves us free to consider the move-up date that otherwise makes sense, and not be held back.

Don’t wait too long! When toddlers stay too long in the toddler environment, we sometimes see an increase in negative behaviors, resulting from boredom. The same exercises that provided immense satisfaction and pride now become a limitation for a child who has satiated himself and is ready for a new challenge.

And the risk is: the negative behaviors may make it appear that the child isn’t ready to move up—doesn’t have sufficient self-control—when in fact it is exactly the opposite. Those negative behaviors may in fact be an appeal for us to recognize that something more is needed to feed the child’s mind and soul.

As parents, we’re often convinced that our children are still too young…right up until the moment when we see them enter the next phase! And then we see the dramatic leap forward in maturity that comes in the new classroom, and we realize just how ready in fact they were.

Are you in a jurisdiction where local regulations don’t allow your child to move up until age 3?

Don’t worry. If this is the reality in your particular city or state, then we adapt to those circumstances. We find ways to challenge older children and bring in some of the spoken language work, memory games, and advanced practical life that they would otherwise be getting in the Children’s House classroom. We always find a way to “follow the child,” even if practical circumstances present an obstacle.

Whenever your child is ready to move up to Children’s House—whether it’s closer to two-and-a-half or closer to three—it is the perfect time for your child. The most important thing is to observe our children closely and prepare the environment and ourselves to support them as they're ready. When we do this, our children can proceed from accomplishment to accomplishment with all the confidence, joy, and independence they need to flourish—in school and in life!