During my teaching years our school always participated in early childhood conferences. We were always confronted about the lack of creativity and the rigid ways Montessori classrooms used their material. For example, I was asked what would you do if a child took some of the knobless cylinders and started to “cook” with them? The trick with Montessori is to have materials for creative play. Instead of using the cylinders for fantasy play, we could redirect a child to use shiny pebbles or some other material used in free play. The children quickly understood what items could be used in free play and what items were used in an academic way.
Montessori classrooms need to have both academic material and material for fantasy play. Art supplies, sand, shells, florist stones, dried beans, seeds, and even pieces of wood make great items for fantasy play.
It is interesting that our students, who always had a rich variety of materials for free play, didn’t use the Montessori equipment for fantasy play.