Top Qualities of Montessori Materials and Activities
Learning more about Montessori is probably one of the best decisions of my life. It has greatly changed my outlook about education and about parenting.
I remember what Kara’s pediatrician told me (because I’m such a worrier): “Babies are meant to survive new parents. Chill, Karen.”
Of course, I didn’t chill. LOL. It wasn’t until I read the Absorbent Mind and started embracing the philosophy that I began to relax (a little). It was such delight to see how Kara has become such a confident, enthusiastic, and self-directed learner.
Indeed, children are more capable than we think. These are my favorite lines from the book:
“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”
For us to fully adopt the philosophy at home, we started preparing Montessori activities and materials.
So, what makes a material or activity, Montessori?
Here are the top qualities based on AMS (American Montessori Society):
Montessori materials and Montessori-inspired toys are very simple yet beautiful, mostly made of polished wood. They can be made of breakable objects too.
So how can a child be trusted to handle fragile little items independently? Montessori teachers believe that children learn from their mistakes. If nothing ever breaks, children have no reason to learn carefulness. Children treasure their learning materials and enjoy learning to take care of them “all by myself.”
Montessori learning materials are ingeniously designed to allow children to work independently with very little introduction or help. Children are empowered to come into the environment, choose their own work, use it appropriately, and put it away without help.
Built-in “control of error” allows the child to determine if she has done the exercise correctly. A teacher never has to correct her work. She can try again, ask another child for help, or go to a teacher for suggestions if the work doesn’t look quite right.
Each learning material also just teaches 1 skill or concept at a time. For example, the Pink tower is used to visually discriminate dimensions (sizes). The cubes are of the same color so that the child is not distracted on what should be done. Her task is obvious – stack them by size. If she makes an error, her error is obvious – the cubes might collapse.
Grows with the Child
Montessori activities are designed to follow the students throughout their education. You can modify the use of the materials or prepare activities to reach a different developmental level.
For example, I found this threading and lacing set which we initially used for color sorting and matching. And now, Kara uses it for threading, creating and mimicking patterns I make. This is excellent because we don’t need to get so much stuff for Kara to develop another milestone or skill set, most of the time I just combine the materials we have with whatever is available at home.
Dr. Montessori believed that moving and learning were inseparable. The child must involve her entire body and use all her senses in the process of learning. She needs opportunities built into the learning process for looking, listening, smelling, touching, tasting, and moving her body.
When you look at Montessori-inspired toys or activities, you are drawn to explore them with your senses. For example, we got Kara the Bee Hive from Hobbes and Landes. She immediately grabbed the pincers and placed each bee into the hive with a matching color (note: prior to introducing this toy, Kara has been matching colors using the popsicle sticks I prepared).
How a 2 year-old was able to figure this out without instruction, I have no idea but as I have learned – children are very capable.
Teaching children the answers steals their chance to make exciting discoveries on their own—whether the child is a baby wondering “Can I reach that rattle?,” a preschooler contemplating “Why did this tower of cubes fall down?,” an elementary school student pondering “When you divide fractions, why do you invert and multiply?,” or a high school student puzzling “How does a government operate?”
For students of every age, the Montessori environment offers the tools to discover the answers to their own questions.
As parents, we are their trusted allies just like their teachers and the learning materials and activities are their tools for discovery, growth, and development.
You still have a chance to join my current contest on Instagram. I'm giving away one copy of "How to Raise an Amazing Child: The Montessori Way." This book is worth P2,000 but the learnings you will find here are PRICELESS.
See link below. Contest ends on October 28, 2017.
You may also join MOMTESSORI PH (Facebook group) to learn more (and learn together) about Montessori.
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