Attachment to Reality: The Importance of Real Materials in the Classroom

“Yet, when all are agreed that the child loves to imagine, why do we give him only fairy tales and toys on which to practice this gift? If a child can imagine a fairy and fairyland, it will not be difficult for him to imagine America. Instead of hearing it referred to vaguely in conversation, he can help to clarify his own ideas of it by looking at the globe on which it is shown.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

One of the most obvious differences between Montessori and your typical, conventional daycare, is the use of real materials in the classroom, as opposed to plastic toys made from synthetic materials. The pedagogy is only successful if the child has real tools to work with. One of the characteristics of a normalized child is their “attachment to reality”. We strive to provide real material as safely and practical as possible. We want children to develop real skills and habits for living in a real world.

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I use a glass mortar and pestle to grind fresh cinnamon. The sound of the crushed spice against the glass, and the fragrance stimulate my senses.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with imaginative/fantasy play, however there is a time and a place. Play is the work of the child. Playful learning is done so through many aspects of the Montessori philosophy. Play is beneficial for children in a variety of developmental areas, and different types of play is associated with different stages. The pedagogy is dedicated to meeting all of the developmental needs of the “whole child”. Montessori guides must consider play as a developmental area, and observe and guide the children’s movement in the classroom to support their growth. These areas should contain the same preparation, analysis and sequencing as all other areas of the classroom.

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” -Fred Rogers

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The Power of Play: A Two-Hour Work Cycle

2-Hour Work Cycle
I’ve been stuck on a question from one of my new family tours earlier this week. They were fairly new to Montessori, in fact, they had never witnessed a Montessori work cycle in motion (something of which I was excited to show them). Many of the children were outside at the time, so we were able to walk inside the rooms and describe the layout, feel the works, and discuss what a typical day for their young toddler would be like. We talked more in depth about the various works, and their purpose in the environment. Unfortunately, they did not get to witness an active work cycle, since the children were outside, however I did my best to describe it to them, attempting to paint a picture in their minds. They asked me a few very familiar questions typical to non-Montessorians, “When do they play?”, “Are they just working all day?”, or “Do they just do chores all day?”, all of which made sense since we were discussing the dish washing work, hand washing, clothes washing, plant polishing, care of environment/self, and so forth. To children, this is purposeful work. To them, it is “play”.  They enjoy working with their hands, concentrating on the task at hand, free from unnecessary interruptions form the guides. By doing so, they learn that their work is essential to the community, and that they have a beneficial role in their classroom environment. I referenced the familiar quote by Dr. Maria Montessori, “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” It didn’t take long for them to catch on and start referring to the “toys” and activities as “work”.

“Here are five characteristics of play that allow the child the ability to move through his morning effortlessly, as described by Dr. Rachel E.White for the Minnesota Children’s Museum’s report, The Power of Play.

  • PLAY IS PLEASURABLE. Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.
  • PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.
  • PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED. When children play, the means are more important than the ends.
  • PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.
  • PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

When parents tour a Montessori school they often ask about the difference between play and work.  Play is the work of the child.  We use the term ‘work’ in order to hold it in high regard and respect it as purposeful and meaningful.”

Article Credit: http://mariamontessori.com/mm/?p=2727, Sarah Moudry, Parent Educator and Early Childhood Specialist

Playtime with Purpose

As Montessorians, we call it “work”, however, the child refers to it as “play”. We encourage play with a purpose, meaning that we want each work and lesson that the child receives to have some sort of developmental purpose. While it’s healthy … Continue reading