You may think that applying the Montessori philosophy at home with children can seem a daunting task. After all, educators need to get dedicated training in their curriculum, so how could you possibly use this philosophy at home if you don’t have a special degree? Well, it’s true that educators need to have a deep understanding of pedagogy to run a classroom, but there are some things you can do at home without years of studying, such as rethink the choices you make regarding toys for your children.
The Montessori way of educating and raising children focuses on simplicity and setting children up to be able to learn things on their own through their own explorations. One thing you won’t find in a Montessori classroom is plastic toys.
That is because, the Montessori philosophy gives priority to natural materials that are healthy, safe and extremely enjoyable for children.
What Makes a Toy Montessori?
Montessori toys support learning by encouraging kids to experiment. These should be toys that children can touch and hold, as learning to manipulate objects is fundamental in helping children develop their fine motor skill. The toys should also offer children the chance to work independently at their own pace and use their creativity.
Maria Montessori favoured toys made of natural materials, like wood, because they’re healthy, safe and inspiring for children. A simple, beautifully crafted wooden toy can capture a child’s interest without overwhelming them and inspire their imagination without directing.
Here are some reasons why you should choose wooden Montessori toys.
Help Children Focus
Studies have found that when children learn and play in environments containing natural elements like wood, they are better concentrated, focused and even more calm than in other types of spaces.
In fact, touching the wood physically calms children down, which means playing with wooden toys can have a neurological impact on a child’s brain.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2017 found that “contact with wood induces physiological relaxation”. By promoting a quieter and more sustainable play environment, wooden toys can be enormously beneficial to young children and their cognitive development.
Fewer Toys = More Fun
When it comes to toys for young children, less is more. Young children tend to get overwhelmed by too many choices. The minimalist space of Montessori classrooms shows this philosophy in action. If you visit a Montessori school you’ll see that classrooms tend to feature a narrower selection of versatile, open-ended wooden playthings.
A study gave a group of toddlers two different play environments – one with 16 toys and one with just 4 toys. The result was, the group that played with 4 toys had a greater quality of play. According to experts, children naturally form closer bonds with playthings when there are fewer to choose from. Wooden toys have an open-ended nature that allows children to create their own ways of playing and spend more time with a single toy.
Promote Creative Play
Toys that feature flashing lights, vivid colours, screens and loud noises offer immediate gratification for young children, but on the other hand, they tend to shut down opportunities for problem-solving and imaginative play. Because Montessori wooden toys are simpler, they support cognitive milestones in ways that flashy ones simply can’t.
In the Montessori environment, children are provided open-ended art activity that helps them explore and use their creativity. In a similar way, wooden toys offer a “blank canvas” for a child to explore at their own pace and on their own terms. All the bells and whistles that can make high tech toys more appealing at first sight, tend to restrict and direct how children play with them. Let’s take wooden blocks as an example. These can be turned into anything a child wants them to be. Whether zooming a wooden car around, building a city or making a train track that stretches from room to room, with wooden blocks, children can use their own budding imaginations to create, build, invent, and make-believe.
They Are Long-Lasting
Wooden toys aren’t indestructible but they are very durable. As long as you take care of them properly, they’ll last many years to come. The Montessori philosophy encourages young children to explore playthings in their own way. For young children, that may involve repeated throwing, mouthing and rolling.
This means safety is an important factor to consider when choosing playthings – which ones will last and stay safe as they age? Wooden is considered one of the safest materials provided by nature for babies and children.
They Are Beautiful
When it comes to toy selection, beauty does matter. The Montessori philosophy holds that clean lines, attractive but not overly bright colours and precise order all promote a calm learning environment. Wooden toys fit naturally in these spaces. Whether stained, painted or left natural, wooden playthings, art, furniture and other objects tend to be visually appealing as they are often stackable, easy to clean and attractive to display.