HOW TO MAKE YOUR MATERIAL MORE MONTESSORI-FRIENDLY

Sharing my sorta-DIY stacking material for last night.

Here’s one way I make Pablo’s existing materials more in line with Montessori’s principles.

See, a few days ago, while on vacation, Pablo has shown spontaneous interest in stacking. He’d stack whatever he would find – speakers on a box, phones on top of one another, etc.

This is the only one I got to take photos of – he saw our paper bag of containers, got a few and stacked them this way.

We have the IKEA stacking rings which I already use for him, but it’s too colorful and too many, so I just use three to four rings on a dowel at a time.

Personally, I wish there were ring stackers in one color so the child can just focus on the stacking than getting distracted with other things. I see some in plain wood, but not yet easily available from where I live.

Now, Pablo can stack the rings with ease. But he isn’t at the point yet where he can stack them according to size as an intuitive reaction. I know that if I wait, he will do it when he’s developmentally ready for it – without teaching from me! I also know that it’s a second level, as the first one is just about stacking. I think he’s just in the first level for now. So, I thought I’d just create a stacking tray for him using one shape and one size in multiple pieces.

My DIY square stacker

You can buy this kind of stacker from Montessori shops (see sample HERE), so I thought of buying one, but reminded myself to first check what we have at home and see if there’s anything I can work with.

Like I mentioned, he can do rings with ease, whether on a thinner dowel or the exact dowel for the hole of the rings, so I’m not after the exactness of the hole for this purpose.

When I looked at his materials, I found this:

A Melissa and Doug Stack and Sort Board Set from Ogalala World – it was a gift for Pablo!

Looking at it, it’s too much for the purpose I need. So many things going on – so many colors, so many shapes, so many things that could distract stacking.

So, I just did this quick trick.

I have a thin and short dowel from Daiso (a cheap chain from Japan). So I took it out.

I got the square stackers from the set, isolated them and put them in a bowl for Pablo’s tray work.

The result?

No coaching needed!

This was his work.

If he keeps doing it, I know he will eventually want to keep them all neat and leveled.

So I will just keep this set out as long as he wants and watch his progress silently. I’d like to point out that this approach is more RIE than Montessori, and the one I prefer for my son for now. In Montessori, it’s perfectly acceptable to model how something must be done (because she also has a point – imitation is not enough for some things, like you cannot learn how to play a piano just by watching someone do it). So you can model but not correct. Since Pablo’s still really young though, I prefer the “explore on your own” approach, and up to now, I’m surprised with how much children can figure things out correctly even without us telling them what to do and how to do them properly.

That’s it.

In a gist, here are some things I keep in mind when putting out materials:

1) ISOLATION OF STIMULUS – to develop and strengthen Pablo’s focus and concentration, I use materials that are plain, simple, and not busy. If there are too many things going on, it just calls for distraction. Does he want to learn stacking or colors? Or shapes? Ano ba talaga? In this case, I wanted a material that would satisfy his urge for stacking. So I, isolated that concept by using only a few materials out (the original set was too many for him to handle – I would bet he’d just throw them!) and choosing one shape and one color for everything.

2) QUALITY – Melissa and Doug may not be the best wooden toy material out there, but for me, the quality is acceptable for what I need it for. If he were younger and putting every single thing every single time in his mouth, I wouldn’t use this, but since the way the material is presented encourages him to stack than to munch, then I’m fine with it. There are more expensive Montessori materials that have better quality, for sure, but again, I look at the purpose first. For this purpose, I am okay with it. There are other generic brands that are much worse – they are cheaper but really don’t do the job. For example, I was given a nesting doll that was made for giveaways. It could serve as a good decor, but for a child to actually work with it in terms of nesting them, the quality was so bad that even I, a full-grown adult, had a hard time taking them apart and putting them back together. It was too hard that it would only frustrate Pablo had I given him that. So before I give anything to Pablo, I check it out first: is it too hard to do that it would only frustrate? How about the make? Is it a choke hazard? Is the finish okay? Should I sand it? Should I trim it? Is it too flimsy for the purpose? etc. You get the point.

3) BEAUTY – As Montessori said, “Children become like the things they love.”, so if you keep exposing them to tacky materials, then that is most likely the type of beauty they will grow accustomed to. So, I expose Pablo to what we find beautiful.

4) CONTROL OF ERROR – I don’t look for this for every material I leave out for Pablo, because I’m also a huge believer of open-ended play. But for Montessori-related materials, I look for this so he can naturally figure out how things work (without adult correction).

Let me end this post by saying that while in an ideal world, it would be best to have the actual Montessori materials (high quality, beautiful, eco-friendly wood, etc), I also know the value of working with what you have. Plus, in reality, when you Montessori at Home, it’s not a guarantee that your child will choose your expensive Montessori materials over your DIY materials. Sometimes, they will. And sometimes, they won’t. So, if you have the budget and no materials available at home, go ahead and splurge. If not, you can work your way to making something more Montessori-friendly, and it doesn’t make you less Montessori.

Hope you found this post useful!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!:)

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