The Beauty of a Child’s Imagination

The child’s imagination is a beautiful thing.

A few days ago, I was able to witness spontaneous creativity at its best. A few friends chose quiet rug works while the rest of the children were sleeping (hence the dark lighting in the photos below). They chose familiar works that had been practiced so many times before.

The first chose to work with the brown stairs. She fashioned the prisms in a way to imitate an art easel. She took the smallest prism and used it as a “paint brush”. The largest, as her canvas. I have to point out the satisfied look of achievement when she finished her masterpiece, and sat back to observe.13254477_10209963074981699_4247165993987414362_n13255945_10209963077101752_8728604753358836456_n

The other child I observed chose the knobless cylinders as her work this afternoon. I’ve seen her manipulate this work in many different ways, mastering all of its variations. I believe in this particular set of photos, she was pretending the cylinders were little people. The boxes represented their house. She showed such great concentration and enjoyment as she worked. 13256106_10209963076661741_2458312059209810681_nDSC_072813263669_10209963077661766_3575737498091857058_n

Our older 5 and 6 year olds enjoy working with familiar works…as if they’re revisiting something known rather than discovering something unknown. To witness such pure joy and satisfaction is truly amazing. When you let a child’s creativity flourish, letting their imagination lead the way, the end result is very rewarding.

The Remarkable and Timeless Nature of the Montessori Materials

DSC_0013This time of year is typically the kick-off for parent tours, or those looking for fall enrollment. One of the many things I enjoy most while guiding new parents through our hallways is the opportunity to show off the works in our classroom. If they come at the right time, they even get to witness the beauty of a Montessori work cycle in motion. The families seem to be amazed at the pure quality of the Montessori materials, and how everything in the classroom is…real.

Montessori classrooms are beautiful. They resemble tiny living communities for the children, complete with authentic, real materials. It’s common for Montessori classrooms to have wood shelves, filled with wooden works. Porcelain pitchers in the practical life area. Glass cups and plates in the kitchen, and glass vases for flower arranging. The use of real materials shows the child that we respect their work; we want them to have “real life” experiences. We want them to learn to handle the materials with care, and to carry their bodies in a cautious manner.Prepared Environment_Flower Arranging

Montessori materials are absolutely beautiful.

Each material was designed by Dr. Maria Montessori with a specific goal in mind, brought forth by observing the children, as they experimented with the works. She was a scientist, and spent many years creating, manipulating, and revising her works according to what worked best for the children. She understood human development, and developed a pedagogy based on just that. Montessori materials allow for the child to work independently and spontaneously, bringing forth a subconscious love of learning.

Children have a desire to explore; to manipulate objects into whatever their mind desires. For our young, primary students, we do not use computers in the classroom. According to Paula Polk Lillard, “It appears that children six to nine years old develop best when their hands are more directly involved with manipulating materials in their work. It is essential during this period that the children learn to think clearly and read and write in an organized manner. Computers are therefore not included in the prepared environment for use in research studies and creative writing until the upper elementary level.” (Montessori Today) Continue reading

DIY Montessori: Knobless Cylinder Patterns & Variations

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Making your own Montessori materials can be lots of fun, and so rewarding. The key item when making any new work is to find what is needed in your classroom, and add lesson opportunities according to those needs. Try adding seasonal variations to an already-established work on the shelf, such as snowflake pin pricking during winter, or hand-made nomenclature cards for specific holidays. These exciting new work extensions help keep the spirit of learning lively and spontaneous.

A fun way to incorporate new lessons, is to create extensions, or variations on a work. For example, the knobless cylinders have an endless amount of lessons that can be given to help the child learn to discriminate in size/diameter. A fun variation that our children enjoy is the knobless cylinder patterns, hand-made by our guides. Often times the child can trace the pattern and complete the puzzle on their own. Here is an example of one of our knobless cylinder patterns:
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To make your own pattern, you’ll need:

  • Canvas, or some sort of material that easily rolls up for storage (we used non-adhesive shelf liner)
  • Permanent Markers (black, red, blue, green, yellow)
  • Pencil

Start by deciding what pattern you’d like to make. Get creative! You can make a train, boat, or even incorporate the cylinders into natural scenery, as long as the child is able to grade the objects, just as they would off of the pattern. Once your pattern is made, use a pencil and trace around the cylinders to replicate the different sizes, starting from largest to smallest, left to right. Using a pencil helps preserve the cylinder’s paint, and not leave behind scratches or marks. Re-trace over the pencil with a permanent marker.

Optional: It might be helpful to draw an additional, colored line around the circles to indicate which color cylinder goes where. For instance, I re-traced the boat’s windows in blue to indicate that the blue cylinders were to be placed there. I did not fill in the circles with the color blue, but rather a thin blue line to highlight that specific circle.

Have fun, get creative, and use your imagination!

“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Photo of the Day: Creative Extensions

red and blue number rods_1Our primary community used their imagination and creativity by creating different extensions from the blue and red number rods, red rods, and the knobless cylinders. Activities like this help the child learn to discriminate objects by length, height, and diameter.  It trains the eye to perceive fine differences in dimensions.