Montessori Monday~ Playtime and Montessori

Last week Pup was working more on her Cheetah project and as I worked with Bunny I realized that she was crawling all over the room with her stuffed cheetah in her mouth. She told me that it was her cub and she was the momma cheetah. She then proceeded to hide her cub in the tall grass and go hunting {Which was too cute}. She crept along the floor and then started to run on her hands and knees as fast as she could! She then brought her cub back some of the gazelle she caught. It was really sweet, but it got me thinking about play in the Montessori classroom. Traditionally Montessori classrooms dont have play as we know it. However, Montessori referred to the work a child does as play and games. Each and every work that was created was created to be play. Hmmm…it makes the whole view of Montessori just a little bit different, less ridged, and more accessible to me personally. However, it didnt address the issues of imaginary play. Honestly, Maria Montessori didnt believe that children needed that in the classroom. Why? That is the big question. Why no imaginary play? Well she observed that the child would rather learn to use the real material then to play with the toys that were in her first Casa. And you know what, she was right! Kids would rather help in the kitchen, then play with a kitchen set. Or they would rather sweep a real floor then use a pretend sweeper and rather wash themselves then wash a doll. But they cant always be using real things in a real place. Kids need down time too. They need to play. In observing my own kids and other kids, they love to work, but they also need to play. In fact sometimes their play is a reflection of what they have been thinking about and learning about, like Pup being a cheetah. They need the down time to absorb more fully the deep things that they were presented with, to explore new ideas, and to relax. Now these are just my observations, but I think that this is one of those “aha moments” that make me realize again that a Montessori homeschool is vastly different from a school. Playtime and work start to become the same thing and all an important part of total learning. So how do we make playtime and Montessori work together? Here are a few tips on what we do to make this work together:

1) Keep it simple We have mostly open ended toys. I have gotten rid of any movie or character toys and most toys that move, need batteries, and all that little junk stuff that seems to filter in!  We kept the blocks, the trains, the kitchen toys, the dolls, the Barbies, the Playmobiles, the Polly Pockets, animal models, and of course Legos! Everything has many ways to play with it. The people can go different places and be different things. They can work together and create all kinds of world. And the girls do! They are happier with a few baskets of good stuff then with a room full of everything!

2) Make it Pretty Like Maria Montessori says, the enviroment is the teacher. Make sure that everything is arranged well and organized in a way that allows for the child to see what he has to play with, and to be able to clean up what he got out. This doesnt mean that they will clean up one thing before they get out another. It is playtime, not school time. Mixing is encouraged and really good. It means that they are really experiencing their thoughts. You can even use rugs to help them create an area if you have more then one child and space is something that becomes an issues. However, sometime working together is better and more fun!

3) Make it Creative Creativity is so important! Playtime is not work time. So let the kids make things, make a bit of a mess, and really dig deep into what they are thinking. Art supplies (if possible), playdough, craft supplies, blocks, pieces of wood, what ever the kids need to create something that is meaningful! And relax….it can all be cleaned up (at least that’s what I tell myself)!

4) Make it Real This is super important! Add things to the play area that are real and are a part of what you are learning about! Studying the ocean? Add some shells and a blue material to the play area. Are they plaything kitchen? The come in with groceries, real ones! Are they making a house? Find some cardboard or blankets that you can leave for them to use! You dont need to say anything, just add it and see what happens. They wont always do something with it, but its there to think about! Play and learning is the same thing and if you have a real stuff then they are going to respond to that by applying what they are learning!

5) Make it Fun   This is not a structured time and its time for kids really be and explore their world in the safety of their playroom! So relax and let it happen! It will be messy, it will be a little bit out of control sometimes, but it will be good and it will make memories and thoughts real! And feel free to play too, but only if they want you there! It is their world, just like the kitchen is your world! Dont take over and do what ever you think it should be. Ask how and if you should do something! It will make their day and it will really help you get a chance to see into their minds a little bit!

6) Make it Practical Life Work Think outside the box and add some practical life work to their play area! Pour tea, give the baby a bath, invite your guests to a party, etc. You get the idea! Use water, beans, tables, whatever to let them practice all those skills that they have been practicing in their work time! They keep absorbing their skills while playing!

So those are some thoughts about making time for play within a Montessori home! They all work together and really there is room for both! It is a beautiful time in their lives and there is no reason to leave it out because it doesnt fit with an education method. Play! Its fun! Its Important, Its good for them! If you want to see some really awesome Montessori fun, stop on by Montessori Monday! I am linking up there so join the party! Happy Schooling and Happy Playtime!!!!