attività montessori

When you have a child, the idea of being able to play again could be exciting … For some people toy car racetracks come to mind, for others Barbie and for others still Lego. Some people think “I can finally buy the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven  and understand how it works!” However, when the time comes, we realise that this is also an educational choice. Since we love to play, we can also play with our furniture. We talked to Natalia De Armas, an educator specialised in psychomotor skills.

Natalia, Maria Montessori said that ‘playing is a child’s job’: what does this mean for you?

Playing is the basis of knowledge, because it is the main tool with which children express themselves. From it they begin to understand themselves, others and the world around them. Playing teaches them to learn, to orient themselves in space and time, to manipulate and build, to establish relationships and communicate. But that’s not all. Playing allows them to comprehend and to understand their body in relation to others and the space. It is therefore a privileged and indispensable element for the integral development of the child because it covers all the basic skills: motor, cognitive, emotional and social.

Spending some time during the day playing with an adult, be it parent or another figure like a teacher, a grandparent or another relative, is very important. We know that the fast pace of society has forced us to reduce the time dedicated to shared play, free from distractions like mobile phones, televisions or work, but the adult remains a crucial element. Adults, in fact, have the task of ensuring that the space and the materials used for play are safe, but also that they are educational. On the other hand, children must also learn to play alone, to develop tools and systems to not get bored, without the constant presence of someone to help them.

A feature of our design is the attention to stimuli. But to do so we chose simple materials and forms, not just because they are more sustainable, but also because it seemed to be the most appropriate choice for this purpose. It almost seems to be a contradiction. Perhaps more technological materials could create more stimuli?

The world is in continuous technological evolution, but technology is not strictly necessary for the children, until at least 6 years of age.

Non-figurative games, that give them the space necessary to let their predispositions shine through and to awaken their imagination and creativity, are more appropriate tools. So, simplicity is more than welcome! Besides, we may also remember that when we were children a box could become a car, a plane, a hiding place. A chair or table could become a cave, a house or a train. A book without text, containing only images, could tell a different story for every person that read it.

Very often we believe they need more games, but children can play for hours on end with everyday things. Some seeds, a bit of earth, a pot, a table, a cloth, a rope or the child’s bed itself, are all that’s needed to unleash their creativity and imagination, encouraging their development as a whole.

The use of games and devices where the children are simply spectators if anything produce the opposite effect, as do games that seek to stimulate children to early on. Vibrating bouncers, games with shrill sounds and coloured lights are objects that make the child passive and create addiction. This will make them become  bored more quickly without a sound or visual stimulus within reach, and we will have more overweight children with behavioural difficulties, attention deficit disorders and other problems.

Sometimes the constant movement of the child makes parents panic, and they resort to tricks to keep them quiet. That is not always really necessary. Sometimes following their imaginary journeys and becoming swept up in them can also be exciting for adults.

 

* Natalia has developed her profession in the socio-educational field with children from 0 to 3 years and their families, offering workshops on bonding, play and psychomotor development in contexts of social vulnerability.

He has also worked in the clinical area with children from 2 to 16 years of age with academic, motor, relational and behavioral difficulties and various pathologies such as Down syndrome, corpus callosum agenesis, autism spectrum disorder, etc.

reggio children approach

“Imagination is as much a part of us as the intellect, and exploring it is a way to look inside ourselves.” This is how Gianni Rodari explained, in two precise phrases, what the imagination is for. He continued by saying that learning to use it means learning to use a brave and powerful tool, which provides original solutions to every problem. And a child’s imagination, compared with that of an adult, is even more capable of overcoming banal matters and creating new worlds and new adventures.

That’s why Rodari proposed a Grammar and then Exercises for the Imagination. His idea was to propose a Fantasy in much the same way as there is a Logic, following the intuition of the German poet Novalis whose works Rodari, then a newly-graduated young teacher, read and was profoundly impressed by. A Fantasy is a cognitive tool with which to build stories and you can practice it and freely use it every day.

 

The Grammar of Fantasy, that contains the theoretical foundations of Fantasy, was dedicated to the city of Reggio Emilia, where the writer met the children, educators and citizens in 1972, and inspired Loris Malaguzzi when he defined his educational method known throughout the world as the “Reggio approach”. However, in the schools of Reggio Emilia for some time there has been a studio in which children are encouraged to express themselves through the “hundred languages”, that is, the hundred points of access to reality that arise from the modes of expression: the physical, emotional and logical . And where they build stories experimenting freely and letting their imagination run wild. Malaguzzi explained that, in that way, the children build their own intelligence, with their own hands and their own emotions along with their brains.

And what about adults? Adults are invited to make this possible by building suitable and stimulating environments, and becoming invisible while the children explore by themselves.

 

Imagination training therefore does not mean imposing one’s own knowledge, nor guiding the child’s expressiveness. Imagination helps develop language, reasoning, character. Do not be afraid of losing touch with reality: in fact reality is best faced with imagination. Especially since our senses, starting from our sight, do not see an aseptic and rigid reality but interpret it and adapt it: the imagination is a powerful creative act that overlaps within the senses and uses symbols to invent and add depth. And here’s the third key character in this story: Bruno Munari, brilliant artist and designer, often alongside Rodari in the creation of narrative and educational paths. It is Munari, in fact, who illustrated many of the Rodari tales, but they are not just illustrations or graphic captions: they are creative inventions in themselves. Free, he wrote, is the imagination that can “think of anything, even the most absurd, incredible or impossible.”

From Munari’s insights were born creations and games that you can do at home, using a few simple concrete objects but a lot of indispensable freedom.

Bibliography: The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation, Loris Malaguzzi – Drawing a tree, Bruno Munari – Teach the grammar of fantasy, Gianni Rodari

Come aiutare il bambino a rendersi autonomo?

Sooner or later everyone has to spread their wings and fly. It is the conquest of maturity, when a chick begins to be able to feed themselves, to explore the area around the nest, to grow up and become strong. For humans this is a long process that lasts for many years but even our children must start somewhere. How?  Well, a very simple way to encourage them to do things on their own is to reward them with a satisfied look: “You did it!!” .

For example. A three-year-old can already help set the table for a family meal. It is not just a question of getting them used to “helping out at home”. Setting the table can, in fact, have an educational purpose and become a fun game. If the idea upsets you (they are too young to be put to work!) you might be surprised to know that they have been doing this in nurseries for a while and it works well. Let’s see why.

Learning to lay the tablecloth and then put other objects on it in a certain precise order is an exercise in logical thinking: you have to understand what should go on the table first and what goes on after, work out the number of plates and diners, remember the order of the courses and how the objects should be laid out for the meal. You therefore have to be focused and attentive. Also, to set the table you use your hands and this is by no means of little importance. Learning to handle objects with care, for example a jug of water, is an exercise in balance and develops motor skills (and patience if the first few times you spill a little water on the table!). Maria Montessori believed that this was an important exercise, not only from a physical point of view, because the development of refined motor skills for her was the basis for all learning: “The hands are man’s own intelligence tools,” she wrote. Finally, and in general, the conquest of independence and the feeling of having participated in the construction of a communal moment makes them more sure of themselves, proud of their capabilities, and proud at having received the trust and respect of mum and dad.

And it is not just setting the table. Forms of “playful learning” can be created in many situations: learning to tie their shoes, dress themselves and water the house plants are exercises that can seem trivial to adults but the child will feel that they have played in a constructive way, and for them it will become one of those games led by adults that ends with a big “well done!” and a lot of satisfaction.

Obviously it is the parents who are more concerned than the children. Because, let’s face it, watching a small child doing things independently is a little frightening and sometimes creates discomfort. It means long waits while they put on their trousers, having some fragile objects occasionally fall, and being unable to help them or take over when they have acquired a taste for doing things by themselves. It is normal, but we get over it, and even the discomfort only lasts a short while, because in time it will result in more freedom for everyone. In fact, I bet that as soon as we stop being afraid and we encourage them to do things alone, to spread their wings and fly, we will not want to stop doing it.

cameretta montessori
SILVIA BENCIVELLI

A slap every now and then does them good”: it was a common affirmation among parents (like ours!) in the past, those who really did occasionally give their children a spank or slap. The purpose of a slap was to frighten, to impose authority, to remind the child who was in charge: to put a child who was acting out “back in line”. But is (and was) there really any need for those slaps? No. Simply because the parent’s role is not what it was believed to be at that time – a role that without supremacy crumbled and lost all meaning. Read more