How can Montessori education and Montessori toys benefit your child?
Montessori education has been around for over a century now, and yet, not many completely understand what it’s about. In the past few years, the Montessori Method of learning blew up, but most people only levitated towards the Montessori toys and not really grasp its core concepts. So, if you’re a parent wondering if Montessori education is the best for your child or if you want to learn more about the toys, continue reading as we try to answer to all your questions below.
What is Montessori education?
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician who developed this child-focused approach to learning. The Maria Montessori Method prioritizes the child’s independence more than anything else. Independence here means that the child leads the learning and follows his/her own pace. The child is taught to be both capable and accountable.
Montessori classrooms are designed in a very specific way, unlike traditional classrooms. Learning areas are spread out across the room, with each learning area showcasing different materials for the child to use and manipulate. The Montessori classroom materials also vary in difficulty and challenge; allowing the child to continue learning one concept before moving on to another one when he/she is ready. There is no pressure for a child to learn fast or follow the pace of his/her peers.
Montessori education focuses on self-motivated growth for a child in developmental areas like cognitive, emotional, social, and physical. While a student follows his/her own pace, the teachers guide them and enrich their knowledge at the same time.
The Montessori community is composed of multi-age students. For instance, in the “Casa” level, students age 3-5 work in the same classroom. The students are able to socialize with each other, regardless of their different learning needs. Through socialization, they learn to understand each other, help one another, and most of all, empathize with one another.
Don’t mistake a child’s independence for isolation, though. This doesn’t mean a child cannot play with other kids or cannot ask help from a teacher. A Montessori child is encouraged to think and work independently. They are self-directed learners, which enables them to be confident, inquisitive, and enthusiastic learners. They perform their work with pride, with the help of the nurturing environment (both teacher and peers), of course.
What’s the end goal, you ask? It is to teach these values to children so they can be self-directed adults and citizens. Eventually, they should be accountable to themselves and the community they’re a part of. They won’t just do something when someone asks them to. They are taught to be proactive, to take initiative, and act with integrity.
What are Montessori toys?
Do take note that in Montessori education, these ‘toys’ are referred to as Montessori materials or manipulatives. But for those who aren’t familiar with the Montessori method, the materials are now popularly referred to as toys nowadays.
To ensure the success of a Montessori curriculum in schools or to practice the Montessori Method at home, a child can play with Montessori toys. But what makes these toys different from other educational toys anyway?
A Montessori toy is designed to encourage independence and resourcefulness in a child. With the help of the toy, the child should think critically but sensible and realistically. These are the reasons why such materials are designed and made in a particular way also. So if you’re looking for Montessori toys, these are the things to look out for:
- Made from natural materials – While most of the Montessori materials are made of wood, a child also experiences working with materials like clay, glass, rock, metal, and textile. The different medium enables the child to explore how different materials smelled, weighed, and felt on their hands.
- Simple to zero design – There are no loud designs that can distract the child from focusing on the task at hand.
- Teaches a single concept – Each Montessori material is designed to teach a child a single concept. This allows the child to fully grasp a concept first. Nonetheless, a material can provide varying levels of challenges for a single concept alone.
- Naturalistic – Dr. Maria Montessori believed that for children to be able to exercise their imaginations, they have to be ground on reality as much as possible. This is why Montessori materials are naturalistic.
- Child-sized but shows real life – One of the important areas of learning in a Montessori school is how a child is taught about practical life, meaning the activities they see every day at home. This includes sweeping floors, wiping tables, cooking, and etc. It is very encouraging for a child to be able to do adult tasks (this builds confidence), but they should use child-size materials. Otherwise, using too big of a ladle when cooking can discourage them.
The different Montessori toys
There are three main types of Montessori materials. Here’s how to distinguish which is which:
- Sensory Materials
Sensorial, coming from the word senses, means the material requires active and hands-on experience to stimulate the sense. A good example is wood cubes where a child has to arrange in the right size so he/she can understand more about dimension through tactile and visual cues.
- Practical Life Materials
These are materials that are scaled down to fit the little hands of a child. The focus is to provide a child with real, practical everyday tools which teaches are real-life skills. Additionally, these toys enhance problem-solving skills, balance, motor skills (small and large), and hand-eye coordination. Most of all, these toys help build confidence and independence in a child.
- Academic Materials
The Montessori academic materials are more focused on teaching a child about Math and Science. These are also hands-on materials that help a child grasp or understand mathematical and scientific concepts better. Some examples of the materials are number rods, spindle boxes, or the classic golden beads. Teachers assist the child with these materials at first. Afterward, the child is expected to complete the different level of challenges to prepare them for more advanced lessons.
The Montessori approach to education and play is, indeed, different compared to what you may have learned about education growing up. The truth is, there is no single type of curriculum or learning method that fits every single person. Plus, there’s also no harm done to explore other ways for your child to learn and explore the world around him/her. So if you want to teach your child more about independence, do give Montessori education and Montessori toys a try today.