You probably won’t want to ban the bells, whistles, and batteries completely from your child’s play, but lots of us are looking for quieter, more thoughtful and expressive ways to keep kids entertained and engaged.
Incorporating the Montessori method of play into your child’s activities is a tried and trusted solution.
What is Montessori Play?
Maria Montessori is the Italian lady behind this method of learning and play, developed in the early 1900s. So it’s not new by any means but it aligns perfectly with modern attitudes towards sustainability and good mental health.
It’s a beautifully simple system of play, built on the natural instincts and curiosity in children. If they’re given the right tools and the right environment, they’ll educate themselves, learning to concentrate and become independent.
And it’s all done through fun, freedom, choice, and personal interests. Children are allowed to follow their impulses and inspirations, developing and learning at their own pace.
Montessori Benefits for You and Your Child
Playrooms designed around the Montessori Method, whether they’re dedicated solely to play or are simply a play area in the bedroom or living room, are clean, open, inviting spaces.
Children have room to explore and move around, use their imagination, and challenge themselves to learn new skills and solve problems. One day they might choose a mental challenge such as figuring out how to fit train tracks together or make blocks stack without toppling. Another time they might fancy a physical challenge, learning to climb and balance safely for instance.
With the help of Montessori toys, they’ll naturally use critical thinking skills and develop self-confidence. They’ll become independent, willing to explore and excited to discover what happens next.
There are benefits for parents too, both emotionally and physically. You’ll watch your little ones with pride as they learn and mature and share their joy in discovery. But you’ll also have a lovely, simple play area that’s easy to keep clean and tidy. Every busy parent knows what a boon that is!
How to Build Your Montessori Playroom
Encouraging independence in children means enabling them to do stuff for themselves. So, in a Montessori style playroom, everything should be accessible for children to reach themselves.
Think of low-level shelves or bookcases, hooks or pegs at an appropriate height, with space to display toys rather than hiding them all away in boxes or cupboards.
Seeing what’s available offers kids the full range of their activities, so they can follow the mood or whim of the moment without asking or being prompted.
Have an open space if possible, too. Movement is important for growing kids with energy to burn. Give them room to run or dance, spread out toys and develop their physical abilities and motor skills.
A quiet corner is also great if you can fit one in. Child sized tables and chairs offer a space for crafts or colouring. Decorate the walls with motivating and uplifting images, art or plants that inspire and encourage creativity and expression.
Types of Toys to Include
The deeper concept behind the Montessori method of play and education is to offer toys that engage rather than merely entertain.
There’s nothing wrong with passive entertainment, of course, but sometimes we need to do stuff ourselves too. Kids are no different. Doing things in active play is how children learn and become independent. So, for Montessori, toys that engage are key.
Montessori toys are beautifully simple, often made from natural materials like wood. They have a lovely vintage appeal for us parents, but to kids they’re warm and sensory, colourful, and appealing.
Include toys that challenge in different ways. Have puzzles, musical toys, books, pull along toys, toys that stack vertically or horizontally. There’s lots of choice.
Limit and Change the Selection
Sometimes less is more, and this is definitely part of the Montessori play philosophy. Instead of packing the playroom full, try and limit how many toys or activities are available. Some people say around ten different activities are enough at any one time.
It might not seem much, and you’ll probably have lots more, but you can rotate them. If there’s an item your child ignores, take it out and replace it with something different. By following along with their natural instincts and interests, you can encourage deeper development. Rotating items on display also keeps the playroom fresh and exciting.
Reducing the overwhelm of items on offer also makes tidying up easier. And because everything is stored and displayed at a child friendly height, you can encourage even very young toddlers to put things back when they’ve finished.
There are many delightful and creative Montessori items to choose from. Kids love them, and so do adults even if it’s just for the warm feeling of nostalgia, a love of tradition and, of course, the fact that these toys last for years, even generations.