Chasing Cheerios

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Would This Be Allowed...

in a real Montessori school?! O has recently developed a love for her knobbed cylinders. After she completed the work correctly, she started pretending that the cylinders were a mama and her babies. She had a great time, and I couldn't bring myself to interrupt her creative play. Would this type of play be allowed in a "real" Montessori school?

Just in case you are wondering...the big cylinder that is lying down is actually a mama who is having a baby.


  1. I don't run a "real" Montessori school, but I have run a Montessori preschool out of my house for the past 7 years, and I can tell you that it is "normal" for children, especially the girls, to "play" with the cylinders. I generally try and gently redirect them to using the materials correctly instead of allowing them to play with the materials that way. I will also usually try a new extension or more cylinders out or something like that to get them excited about using them in a more "appropriate" way.

  2. I think it is great that in our homes we can allow our children to play with their imaginations! I remember when my daughter was still in public school I had a teacher inform me children aren't suppose to have imaginations! I guess you know that was when I decided we were going to homeschool!

  3. I am not a Montessori teacher but I like to read about it. I see nothing wrong with it as long as she’s finished with her work first.
    It really depends on the school, some Montessori schools allow it if it’s the child doing it and not coxed by adults. Some schools redirect. Some scold the child which is anti Montessori. I think some Montessori schools get too hung up on creative play. It’s a natural process.
    I read Montessori’s original writing and Montessori was concerned with over indulgence of toys. She noticed that children given real objects indulged in less creative play.

    Also the one of the best books I’ve read on Montessori Teaching Montessori in the home the the pre-school years says it's okay to combine programs. The book has been in print since I think the late 60’s.

  4. I don't know the answer to your question, but I think it's a great one, and this is the sort of thing that makes me nervous about any kind of strict system like that. My 3 1/2 year old makes weird things be her "kids" all the time. I would never even dream of telling her to use something like that in the "proper" way if she was engaged in an enjoyable activity like that.

  5. I am with Jamie - I am very cautious with a line of thinking that would not 'allow' a child to use her imagination.
    I love that she has the 'mommy' having a baby. LOL
    Very cute.
    I really like montessori materials, but I think I will be selective on implementing them into a strict school of thought.

  6. Hi Melissa. I laughed out loud especially when i heard about the one lying down having a baby. how absolutely gorgeous!

    My girl is 2.5 and has recently started to do this with some of her materials to, which made me ask the same question. For the record I decided to totally go with her on this as I think its a fabulous thing, and I feel to stop her would be a negative thing for her (and me). She does not have a lot of toy things, so she only really has the things on the shelf and I think this leads to a more creative interaction with them. I dont mind this as she goes to a Monti preschool 1.5 days a week where she uses the materials they set out as they are origainlly intended (by and adult - (: ) to be used.

    I don't consider she is at 'school' with me at home. If I did homeschool and had a separate area where we did 'school' maybe I would have a different approach, but for us at this juncture creative play is welcomed with her items as long as they are placed back after use.

    This blossoming pretend and creative play by my daughter has actually brought about a whole change in our activities and my parenting which I am integrating at the moment and plan to blog about soon.

    Anyway, that's our story. More 'pure' monti people would suggest redirecting to another thing - perhaps you could have some blocks and cylinder type things in a special box for her amazingly vibrant creative play which you could direct her too.

    Im no monti expert - just muddling along with toddler, some books and a very flexible manner. (:

    anyway, Im sure you will choose the best approach for you and O. Its always a joy to see the wonderful things you all do together. (:

  7. I think, as someone said, it would depend on the school and the teacher. At any rate, that would be one advantage to homeschooling. :)

    You could even argue that she is following her instinct. As someone else pointed out, little girls everywhere are doing the same thing, so there must be a reason for it. Remember this post:

    In fact, Montessori herself said the method was supposed to be an experiment. I take that to mean that it works best if you do what works for that particular child rather than try to follow a formula.

  8. I am in the midst of a Montessori Teacher Training program and I plan to continue to homeschool my son using the Montessori method.

    That said, I had the same question myself the first time I saw my son working with our Montessori materials. Of course I had given him a proper presentation of the work, but he likes to explore the materials and ends up creating his own extensions in the process!

    Personally, I wouldn't dream of interrupting positive work (play). This is where I take the "follow the child" (and your own instincts) philosophy to heart.

    As for a "real" school, I think you'd find varying answers to your question depending on the personality of the Directress and/or the school.

    However, from all the Montessori books I've read I truly believe Dr. Montessori herself wasn't all opposed to a child exploring the materials in a positive manner.

    And what could be more positive (and adorable) than O using the cylinders to make a family? Take note that in doing this she's giving herself a lesson in Grace and Courtesy and, best of all, she's expanding her imagination!

    "The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination." ~ Maria Montessori

    Hope that helps!

    Counting Coconuts

  9. No, it would be considered not taking proper care and respecting the materials. Most would redirect to another activity.

    And it's not about hindering their imagination, but certain materials are designed to be used for certain activities and building skills.

    One of the purposes of the knobbed cylinders is to teach order and sequence, so having them strewn across the mat as babies (even as cute as that may be) does little to teach order and sequencing.

    It also creates the problem that the next time the child approaches that material they are more likely to use it for "play" rather than work. I've seen this happen when teachers overlook the misuse of materials and the longer it happens the harder it becomes to engage the child in the work as it was designed.

    All that being said, in whatever decision is made the child should be treated with respect.

  10. When I was young like your daughter I would use my Moms perfume Bottles to play King and Queen ,Family with my Grandmother sold Avon so they were alot of them and so pretty to me! It seems you got alot of good advice!

  11. It's a home/school difference. The kiddo would be redirected in a Montessori school, because in a Montessori school the cylinders are a work tool, not a toy. But the whole Montessori work period relies on the premise that the child's home life includes ample time for free and imaginative play. A Montessori half-day preschool has one three-hour work period for the children to work it, and then they spend the rest of their day playing at home--that's another reason why they're expected to work while they're there. But in homeschool, a kiddo has all day to work and play--it could be that there's more room for just playing with the materials at home.

    Montessori is a wonderful process, but it is also very structured--that's neither good nor bad, but just what it is. It may be almost time to start deciding how hard-core Montessori you want to be.

  12. I'm loving your blog because I don't have much Montessori experience, but am intrigued by it. Sounds like she's having some imaginative fun to me, but I guess it's up to you how strict you want to be with work and play items.

  13. I am not working with Montessori, but know of it and have a friend that works with it with her daughter. I, like other mothers, feel that at this age nurturing an imagination is just as important and shouldn't be held back. In this day and age of technology so many children don't "play" anymore (I see it with my nieces and nephews). I would be happy that she can use her imagination, but if it worries you just try and keep all "school" items separate from the imaginative toys.

  14. Melissa - have you seen this NPR article called Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills:

    "It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline."

    It really convinced me that open-ended and imaginative play is one of the absolute best ways my child can learn. My son just turned 3 and I am really loving how his imagination is taking off.

    One of the reasons I choose to homeschool is that I can follow my child's lead. He has a personality that I don't think would work well with traditional Montessori so we do a few structured and Montessori activities and tons and tons of play (individually and in a group setting at a preschool playgroup). By all counts he is on-track or ahead socially and academically so I'm not worried one bit.

  15. That is just too cute! I say as long as her initial task is done have at 'er. I am not a Montessori educator by any means though :)

  16. My father worked with metal and had a balance and set of weights that were very similar to the knobbed cylinders O has. I used to play that they were mommies and daddies and babies too!! And experimenting with them on the sides of the balance was a real-life lesson in scale and weight measures!

  17. I find it funny reading the comments. The 'teachers' say no but the mama's say yes. :) I think that shows you your answer. I do believe Maria (we've become close enough we're on a first name basis now.) would NOT have an issue with O & her baby having mama, I think she would be okay with O's experimentation. I like how the large round one is having the baby. I love the little one is also laying down & is being watched over by the older siblings and off to the side looks to be the oldest who want to become doulas &/or midwives or are just into supporting mama as she births her own way. :)

    I read somewhere where Maria would allow the younger ones to knock the pink tower down...that's right just knock it down & listen to the lovely crash that came with it. I wish I could remember where but if she didn't have a problem with them crashing the tower to the floor...why can't she find value in O's exploration of birth & the cylinders? Apparently she knows some day she'll have large headed children & is giving herself some therapy. :) Perhaps I should have a healing session of my own...

    She knows HOW to do it, I see no problem in finding an alternate use. And, you're the teacher/director...if you're happy & she's what I do & be a cherry picker. You get the best pies that way! ;)

    When Mon(tessori)(Wal)dorf(Attach)ment Parenting meet...

  18. Thanks for all of the comments! I have no intention of ever stopping her from engaging in pretend play, but I was curious as to how this would be handled in a "real" school setting :) Thanks for all of the input :)

  19. when i was an assistant in a montessori school prek yes the lead teacher allowed it and so did i.

    that being said our director was known to write you up for allowing it to happen.

    that is the one thing i don't like about montessori

  20. What a great post to read... and so many really good comments. As a Montessori teacher before becoming a mom I would have redirected in my classroom - as a mom probably not. My daughter is 16 months and she has started to "feed" her teddy bear with different wooden pieces from the materials on our Montessori shelf. It is just too cute!

  21. I am a Montessori teacher. I know that in our school we would only redirect the child if the materials were being abused in some way eg. bashing them on the floor. If the child knew how to use the materials correctly and this was just her way of enjoying them then why stop her - it is part of Montessori philosophy to allow the children to reuse materials for as long as they need. I think if you could see that your child had no idea how to use the knobbed cylinders in the right way then you could show her again at another time.