School Opens Arms to 18-month-olds


The brain of an 18-month-old is a complex maze of connectivity. Neuroscience researchers say children at this very young age develop 700 to 1,000 new neural connections every second.

Knowing this inspires teachers in The Summit Country Day School’s Montessori Program to make every moment count. Every experience in early childhood is important. Every relationship adds meaning. And the more tenderness, meaning and warmth in those relationships, the more children will learn.

This fall, The Summit opened its doors to 18-month-olds and added an all-day option for the 18- to 36-month-olds in the Toddler Program. This summer, classrooms were modified to meet the specific developmental needs of 18-month-olds and provide a suite of classrooms that optimizes the Montessori experience for the whole Toddler Program.

“The development of a child’s brain architecture from 18 to 24 months is crucial for learning, so placing them in a carefully prepared environment can optimize their neurological growth,” Montessori director Kathy Scott says. According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, children develop within an environment of relationships, and “these relationships affect virtually all aspects of development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical and behavioral – and their quality and stability in the early years lay the foundation that supports a wide range of later outcomes.”

“These younger toddlers need an environment that is more conducive to their developmental age,” Mrs. Scott says. “They need more space for movement, so each classroom incorporates an area for development of gross motor muscles.”

The classrooms also feature attached patios so the outside is an extension of the classroom. “They can go out on the patio to do water or sand work and have more gross motor activity,” Mrs. Scott says. The 18-month-olds will also use the rooftop playground, where nature scape equipment helps them develop balance and coordination as they get fresh air and sunshine. “Observation windows have been placed in the classrooms so the children can be observed in their environment without interrupting their concentration and work cycle, which is most important developmentally at this stage,” she says. “With their shorter attention spans, it is more difficult for them to complete tasks. We are trying to develop a longer work cycle through concentration without interruption.”

The classrooms are rich in materials that naturally stimulate experiential learning. The environment has been prepared with furniture, learning activities, relationships and routines that stimulate brain development. Classroom teachers, who use academically stimulating vocabulary, aim to lay the groundwork for control, independence, concentration and order – the building blocks on which all other learning will take place through life. “It’s about taking them step by step toward independence, supporting them as they go through the process so they can become independent learners,” Mrs. Scott says.

“When the 18-month program was announced last year, enrollment topped out early,” says Kelley Schiess, assistant head of school for enrollment management and special projects. “Enrollment for 2018-19 is under way.”

The Summit’s Montessori Program has been successful for more than 50 years because The Summit offers a complete package, according to Rich Wilson, head of school. “We believe that by putting all the right pieces in place – highly educated Montessori teachers, developmentally appropriate learning activities and materials, right-sized furniture, a peaceful and loving environment, relationships and routines – that these young children will reach their fullest potential under our care,” he says.

The Summit Country Day School is located at 2161 Grandin Road, Cincinnati, OH 45208. They serve students from ages 18 months to 18 years in a coeducational setting. Innovative, independent and Catholic, The Summit’s highly trained faculty offers a competitive advantage through academic excellence, personalized and holistic attention, global diversity and character-based leadership skill building. For more information, call 513.871.4700 or visit