Montessori and Free Play

Montessori PE

Montessori was concerned that preschool children, whose body proportions are still larger in the upper body, should be spared the rigors of strict physical workouts. She believed that a young child’s legs could be damaged by forced physical activity. She basically believed in free play, that it was a great way to run off extra energy.

The first object of physical activity was to help a child breathe properly and eventually help a child pronounce words correctly. It’s interesting to note that recent research links breathing and stuttering. Part of the therapy for stuttering is to introduce proper breathing techniques.

Dr. Montessori believed that babies and small children crawled about because their heavy upper bodies and large heads made it difficult to walk upright. Also, she noticed that preschool children often lay on their backs and moved their arms and legs about because it was an easy way to exercise their limbs without the stress of standing in an upright position. Also, she believed benches should be provided for young preschool children to sit on whenever they were tired.

Here are some ideas Montessori used for physical activity:

1. Kites
2. Balls
3. Ladders (she used rope ones, but many modern slides and jungle gyms have great ladders).
4. Trampolines-the original was a swing with a long bottom that kept the legs straight-the child would literally bounce off the walls. She wanted to make their knees strong.
5. Low balance beams with a railing for a young chld to walk sideways.
6. Plastic ball with string attached (you can drill a hole and put in a butterfly anchor with string) hung from ceiling to hit with hand or a paddle.
7. Round stairs that are marked with a pattern for a child to practice going up and down the stairs in a straight line.
8. Stairs with a loft and a slide on the other side.
9. Tree houses and ladders
10. Swimming
11. Cycling
12. Monkey bars

Montessori did not require a gymnasium for preschool children, though she was at first criticized for providing them. The main activities she felt should be the ones that a child would do later in life, such as hiking, swimming and cycling.

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