I am often asked “What is a Montessori Toy?”. As Woody says ” A toy – a child’s Plaything” . The Montessori classroom is filled with unusual items designed to achieve an incremental step for the child. These items are called Montessori Materials. The toys in this section have features found in the Montessori materials such as the element of discovery, self correction and isolation of difficulty. A Montessori toy attracts the child to play with it. It is well made with a beautiful finish. Reading , Writing and Maths are not part of the child’s natural learning they must be taught to the child. Indirect preparation is important. Building listening, speaking, gross motor and fine motor skills, concentration are all incremental building of a skill set for reading, writing and maths. The Play and Learn ethos of education is not at odds with Montessori Education. Both are heuristic learning. A hands on approach enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves. Maria Montessori observed that children prefer doing the real thing rather than pretending to do it. A child prefers to cut a real loaf of bread with a real knife rather than pretend to cut a wooden loaf of bread with a pretend wooden knife. A Montessori classroom is a community of individuals learning by choice at their own pace. When I visit a Play & Learn classroom I notice the buzz of the children being outwardly active. In a Montessori classroom I can expect to find the children are active in a peaceful calm as they absorb themselves in their activities. Thankfully neither are like my school days where we sat at a desk all day and ran around the yard like maniacs at break time.
Differentiated instruction needs the teacher to spend time observing and evaluating each child. Maria Montessori has this process as a cornerstone of her “children’s house”. Montessori toys support the implementation of differentiated instruction.