Our latest blog post has been written by Lizzie from Kids Gifts and Toys
You may not realise it but if you own a wooden stacker, shape sorter, latching puzzle, or wooden kitchen toys, these toys have been inspired using the Montessori approach to early childhood education.
We hear the words 'Montessori', 'Waldorf' or 'Steiner' used often on Instagram and Facebook but what exactly do these concepts when it comes to kids toys and educating your child?
With the start up of IGTV, I have been asked to share on my channel details about Montessori and Waldorf toys. It is such an interesting topic that I thought I would share my ideas and research with you as I know how passionate Diany is about Montessori toys.
What exactly is Montessori?
Montessori is named after its founder, Maria Montessori, who was a female pioneer and doctor in education and physics who developed her theories in Italy in the early 1900’s. Through her work she developed a pedagogy and philosophy on education that was based on scientific observation of children from babies to adults.
Her approach was about the developing the whole child at their own pace through practical play and my favourite, giving them a lifelong love of learning. Through her observations she found that all children are unique and as such they all learn at a different pace and it is not necessarily age dependent. One child may learn something quicker than another even though they are the same age
Her methodology has been embraced worldwide, with over 22,000 schools globally using Montessori concepts, and her approach has become part of many school curriculums in the western world.
Basics of Montessori
One interesting and noteworthy part of Montessori’s research is that babies are born with mathematical minds. Through observing early play of a baby where they are stacking, sorting and handling different objects, they are actually learning the basic mathematical principles like counting, sequence, patterns and quantities. As such many of the tools ( they use the word tool over toy) that are designed for Montessori preschools and schools have a foundation in mathematics. Like shape sorters, nesting blocks, building blocks, abacus counting toys, and puzzles.
She also believed strongly in repetition and it features as a key element in Montessori learning. By repeating the technique over and over, the concept is solidified in the child's mind.
There is a focus on life skills like cleaning, dusting, knowing how to undress or use a zipper or button, tie one’s shoe laces which also help with a child’s fine motor skills, and other social skills like greeting people, shaking hands and using manners and lastly movement, so teaching children gross motor skills through activities like dance.
Developing the child’s 5 senses through practical play. Music plays a big part of the Montessori method from age 3. They are keen on play involving water, sand or pasta or rice that allows the child to awaken their senses but also learn key concepts that then help them with their language, reading, writing and mathematical skills later on.
Child led learning
It is about embracing the child’s interest and following their lead. A child may show a keen interest in a toy or object and is then guided by the teacher to help them to understand the concept behind the object. For example, they may love cars, the teacher can then help them understand how cars work, what they are made from, their function and use in everyday life.
Montessori is very focused on allowing the child to learn independently from others. It is not about directed play or learning from a teacher but about providing the child with the tools or materials to play with and learn on their own. They end up with a love of learning as they are learning about things they are interested rather than being told they “have to learn” this topic as it is on the curriculum.
Practical & Hands On learning
Montessori believed that a child learns more effectively from hands on touch and play than they do by observing and watching their teacher. It is the physical sensation of play that the child then grasps concepts and understanding of how something works. Montessori is very big on experimenting and exploration by the child as a result.
Learning from their peers
Montessori does not work on age-based learning but more developmental learning. School classes are made up of mixed ages as they feel that every child is different and learns at a different pace. By providing them with the right prepared materials the child has at their disposal hundreds of different lessons to choose from. Each lesson has a different concept behind it but it is down to the child to choose which one interests them. Montessori felt that the child learns best when their interest is sparked. It also allows a child to learn from their peers and this mixed age concept promotes collaboration amongst their peers which will assist them later in life both socially and professionally.
The child also has the same class and students for the first 3 years which allows the child stability and a focus on learning rather than transitioning to another new teacher and students each year as is normal in government schools.
Montessori at Home
As a parent how can you introduce the principles of Montessori into your home?
Through choosing toys that are practical, exploratory and creative. A toy that sparks an interest in your child but which also has specific concepts behind each toy which is based on developing the child’s sensory, mathematical, practical and language skills.
Toys that promote independent learning are also key to adding the concepts of Montessori to your playroom.
Click here for Montessori Inspired toys from Tiny Paper Co.
If you would like to read more about Maria Montessori and her methodology here are some useful websites that I found in my research on this topic.
The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori
Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard
How to Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G Hainstock
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