Montessori Materials are so special, in fact they are unique. I am always touched by both adults and children who have a strong reaction and bond with these uniquely engaging items commonly known as Montessori Materials.
They are beautifully crafted with care when properly made. They are not usually made of different colours. I decided to say it this way intentionally. There is this belief out there, that children love colours and therefore Montessori materials should be colourful. It depends on what you mean by ‘colourful’.
Montessori in all ramifications is an intentional method of exciting and infusing the child with a love for learning. So if children do love colours, should we then plasta the colours all over the place.
Really too much of this creates chaos, less is better and creates order. Another important aspect in the Montessori method.
Maria Montessori the founder of this method of educating the child, actually spent her working life studying the child, how they develop and learn.
The Montessori materials are mostly colour coded and not colourful. So if you are producing materials either commercially or just for use of your child at home keep this in mind.
You may have to change the code if the normally accepted colours are not available in your neck of the woods but try to avoid producing a Pink Tower that is red, blue, yellow, orange, white, brown, grey, purple, black and pink all at the same time!
This will not be creativity in the Montessori setting what it is would be chaos.
I see a lot of educational toys that are called Montessori materials in error, they are usually similar to the actual materials maybe in shape etc, but the colours have been changed and the most importantly the dimensions have been altered.
Most of the Montessori materials are in sets, usually sets of 10.
This is to prepare the mind of the child for the decimal system which is pivotal in the basic understanding of our global number system.
Therefore each set of ten has the same colour. So please understand why and do not change the materials into Lego blocks!
A lot of us as Montessori Enthusiasts, Directresses, and Parents traditionally tend to stick to the basic Montessori materials we are used to and find it really annoying and insulting when non Montessori materials are bandied around as actually authentic Montessori Materials. I have had people tell me categorically that non-Montessori materials are actually Montessori materials!
The internet is the guilty party. When you google ‘Montessori materials for toddlers’, half of the so called Montessori materials you will find on sale even on the big online marketplaces have no affiliation with Montessori neither will they fulfill half of the known characteristics of Montessori Materials.
There are five main subject areas in the Montessori Nursery classroom, Sensorial Education, Practical Life Activities, Language Development, Mathematics and Cultural Subjects.
If we look at Sensorial Education for example you will find that the materials have distinct and unique characteristics. Ignoring these will render the materials useless in the Montessori scheme of things.
Here are a few of these characteristics:
- The materials are designed to accentuate one specific sense
- The materials are made with specific dimensions. That means that the materials are precise. A keen eye for detail is needed to produce these materials.
- The materials have a built in control of error, which helps in aiding auto-correction instead of teacher-correction
- Each set of materials usually is made of one colour (this is not set in stone but is true all the same)
Now am I saying that only these materials should be used to aid a child’s learning? Are Montessori materials the only materials that should be used in educating the child?
Obviously though there are other hands-on pedagogic methods of education have their own materials. Let’s not mix them all together and start calling them Montessori.
The Montessori materials do a wonderful job in educating our children, but when we start mixing and matching without foundation we end up with non-Montessori establishments which fail to deliver the results authentic Montessori can deliver.
Having said this, I would want to point out that not all that glitters is gold.
As a Montessori practitioner, consider this: When you put into the hands of a child pretend materials, like a plastic knife and play dough and you ask him to cut. What really is the objective of this exercise. Authentic Montessori happens when we use the daily activities to prepare the child for life, to help him develop his fine motor skills for writing and gross motor skills for agility, while caring for himself and the environment.
It enables the child to think, and put things in order. A lot of the activities in the Practical Life Area in some settings have become more movement exercises than they are practical to life.
The main exception is the use of dressing frames, which though still teaches children the skills they need to dress themselves up, by learning how to handle different clothing accessories. It still is not really the child dressing himself, but what I believe the dressing frames does is isolate the activity of manipulating and learning how to handle each dressing fastener or accessory.
Once the child knows exactly what to do and how to do it and has had ample time to practice, he will find it much easier to go ahead and dress himself with clothes using those same accessories.
This feeds well into the step by step process of which Montessori is a wonderful exponent of. I respect Maria Montessori’s detailed attention to what will aid the child’s learning. The way she wove her lessons around simple steps, little bits of learning with appropriate materials to work with to help the chold reach full understanding.
This is partly what makes the Montessori Materials so unique.
Understanding is key. There is more to Montessori than we can tell in one sitting. For both parents, school owners and teachers Montessori requires much more understanding than we give it credit. It is expensive whether you buy made in Nigeria Montessori Materials or Imported ones.
Therefore finding out more and learning continuously about these unique Montessori materials is important.
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