Are Montessori Materials toys? The Greater Discussion

It's interesting to me how often I have been asked this question, and the degree of focus and discussion this question has drawn all over the internet. First I will say this... Montessori Materials were designed with specific careful purpose to work with the Montessori curriculum that is based on natural child development. Maria Montessori was not a toy maker, and referred to play as a child’s work. Maria Montessori spoke about toys quite frankly, and my interpretation of her words is this; a toy can never take the place of real world experience for a child. In other words giving a child a play kitchen, can never replace the benefit of the interested child who is provided the time and opportunity to work with their own tools in a real kitchen etc., and I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. However, I feel that a child can have both real world (for those who refer to it this way), and creative expression through play with toys. The child will always seek out real experiences, and we need to recognize, respect, and help to fill this need. The greatest things we can offer a child is our time and freedom to explore. We can help to accomplish this through an accessible environment.

It is easy to see why many refer to Montessori materials as toys. I think we forget that 'toy' is just a word, and what we decide to attach to it as caregivers is of more importance. When our children are very tiny we do have more control of toy choices. As our children grow and acquire language, physical independence, and exposure to all of the beautiful things that live in this world together; they begin to make their own choices. I feel that there are many early discussions that can and do happen, around the subject of purchasing, that are extremely beneficial. 

It's incredibly enlightening to sit and watch a child interact with all of the purchases in their environment. Children are incredibly creative beings, and there will be many choices that they make in terms of life and 'toys', that may not be your first choice. These are pivotal periods of heightened sensitivity and growth. Your child may be fully engaged with a light-up, colourful, disney inspired toy (or whatever the case may be), and you may have complete disdain for this choice of medium in play. During a period or point such as this; I would wholeheartedly encourage you to sit and observe your child. Listen, watch, and interact with them. Open your mind and heart to what it is that they love, and are working on during this period of play. Modeling honour and respect for choices, materials, and things in the environment that you may not always agree with, can take practice. Your child will absorb this beautiful gift from you, in knowing that people can make all kinds of choices. It may seem very early, but these early moments of your acceptance make great impact on growth, self acceptance, and self esteem. They also have great impact on how your child interacts with the world around them, in that diversity is a natural part of living.This is an opportunity to connect with your child to seek greater understanding, and push through your feelings of what and why you are uncomfortable. Such a gift for you and your child.

In our home our children view Montessori materials as tools of exploration, freedom, and learning. You can decide in your home whether your materials will remain separate and distinct from the whole. There are so many wooden toys and puzzles on the market today that have similar characteristics of Montessori materials. The majority of our materials ended up together. Montessori materials can usually be spotted because they are generally well organized, and always have a home to return to. This has been a general rule of thumb for all things in our home. We strive to have homes for all things in our environment to help with maintaining/cleaning, and to keep things fairly visible and easily accessible. 

We have worked with our children and modeled care and concern for our/their environment, for the things we love to use and play with in our home. All of the toys in our home, are treated with equal respect and have thoughtful homes in our environment. This type of care and concern is not limited to Montessori, but for any toy that brings interest and excitement to our children.
I would say that our children respect the materials, and interact with them for their intended purpose, but also for the sheer pleasure of their beauty, design and function. Our children do not view them differently from their toys, even if I have an extended knowledge of the materials.
Montessori work in our home is play. I believe that this type of exploration and creativity with materials can be explored with any other toy or material you may have in your home, being Montessori or not. The only difference is, its connection to the curriculum as a whole (should you be curriculum focused). 

Another HUGE question I am asked is... Do I need to buy wooden toys only?
Montessori materials were constructed with natural materials for the most part because that is what was available. Would her choices be different for certain materials now? We do not know. 
My thought has always been to carefully observe my children in effort to meet their needs, development, and interests. Many of the toys in our home environment are wooden. We chose them for interest, design, and function. We also have large collections of plastic toys. Lego is a fantastic example of an incredible design and construct toy/system. 

If I were to leave you with a final thought it would be this...

Please consider that children form emotional connections to their toys and belongings, so while it may feel good to you to purge their toys; it can be so devastating for a child. What if you woke one morning, and all of your most prized belongings were missing? 
What if your belongings were taken, and given away by someone you loved and trusted? Even worse, what if they did this right in front of you? 
I would encourage you to think about your choices in effort to avoid this kind of situation. Our children were always involved with choices in terms of donating, or re-gifting their precious belongings. Consider how it would feel to have your mom or anyone you trusted pop over and pack up your things, because she felt they were not needed or of value.

Montessori is about respect and honouring the whole person. It's highly contradictory and confusing for a child to be exclusively accepting and generous of purchase choices, that solely belong to you.

We have always held great discussions around purchasing. We worked on the concept of homes for things in our environment, and the concept of clearing space for new interests. Our children are actively involved with choices and changes in our environment. There are also some things that they do not wish to part with that we store. We can easily  revisit these things later and re-evaluate. These are lifelong invaluable skill building opportunities.

Thank you for being here,



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I greatly appreciate your friendly comments and feedback. I love to see what others are making, so please feel free to include a links and share your site with us!!! If you have any questions regarding any of the materials we have made...I'd love to help!!! Thank you for visiting us:)



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