Montessori Fantasy & Reality

I’ve been reading an article by Dr. Mario M. Montessori, Fantasy and Reality in Children’s Games.
Here are some excerpts I’d like to share.

In the past school critics believed that the children were allowed to do whatever they pleased and that as a result they played freely all day. Today’s critics believe the contrary: that in a school applying her system, the children are compelled to do only what Maria Montessori allowed, thereby having no free play.

Dr. Mario Montessori goes on to explain that when Montessori started her approach, schools for small children were rare.
Children were either segregrated from adults in a nursery with toys and a nanny to watch over the children, or in poorer families children were left to fend on their own.

The toys one could buy were generally beautiful and ingenious but not sufficiently adapted to the child’s developmental needs. Toy manufacturers were inspired mainly by the “child that is in the man” (das Kind in Manne). In other words, the creation of toys was determined by the adult’s reaction to them rather than by their suitablity for the child in his play activity. The adult considered child’s play to be an aspect of infantile expression reather than the very important fundamental expresssion of man’s behavior during the first stage of his development.

Montessori studied children in their own world. She would observe a child’s expressions and reactions to toys in the environment.

For this reason she began by offering the children all the toys available, all the ones she believed would please them. She also gave them some new materials, however, such as those which are used today in Montessori schools. It soon became apparent that the children preferred the new materials to the ordinary toys. The new “toys’ attracted the children’s curiosity and interest to such an extent that Montessori soon denounced the usual or typical toys as being designed for inferior beings rather than meeting the capabilities of normal children.

She noticed that children learned in their own way by experimenting with her materials. They learned to control their movements (coordination of motor skills), and this process brought forth a sense of order in their world. If you provide the materials and prepared environment for a child’s developmental needs, the child becomes a person with new qualities. This is the path to normalization.

For example, one sees the very young child joyfully exerting maximum effort, working repeatedly on an exercise, not in order to reach a predetermined goal but simply for the pleasure of activity. The child at “work” is a child of order, and one can see his intense concentration whenever a specific task engages him. These are all manifestations to which the Montessori method owes it origins.

More next time!

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