The Montessori approach to learning was developed in Italy by Maria Montessori, who opened her first school in the early 1900’s. Montessori’s philosophy of early childhood development shaped her schools, which are still popular today, along with many other models of early childhood education.
The Montessori schools are founded on two basic theories. The first principle is that children need to engage in self-constructed meaning by interactions with their environment. The second main principle is that children have a pre-determined path to their development.
One of the defining characteristics of a Montessori classroom is referred to as a prepared environment. Maria Montessori believed that the optimal learning environment existed by presenting children with the best materials designed to meet their developmental characteristics.
Montessori believed that the prepared environment should consist of the following characteristics:
- Beauty, harmony, order and cleanliness
- In proportion to the child
- Supports activity and movement
- Contains only developmentally appropriate materials
Another characteristics of he Montessori philosophy is that it believes that each child has an intrinsic desire to learn, and that they best do so by creating their own understanding. Teachers and parents are seen as co-learners alongside the child. Unlike other models of education, the Montessori approach allows for uninterrupted blocks of time for exploration. Adults provide the materials, and may work alongside the child but the curriculum is not prescribed.
Main strengths of Montessori Education
- The Montessori education addresses the needs of the whole child (spiritual, emotional, physical, social, aesthetic, cognitive and intellectual) on the premise that that children thrive, learn and create when all those needs are met.
- Montessori education encourages competent, responsible, adaptive individuals who are lifelong learners and problem solvers. The Montessori model serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability, whether gifted or possessing of disabilities.
- Montessori schools show a consistently high level of academic achievement which is regarded as the natural outcome of hands on experience in such a supportive environment with high teacher to student ratio .
- Learning is multi sensory and age-appropriate. Students learn through manipulating materials and interacting with others.
- The Montessori method is a “scientific”, practical and tested for bringing the very best in young children. The principles, methods and lessons are straight-forward and can be easily applied. They can also be easily adapted into a Montessori homeschooling plan for those homeschooling parents.
- Montessori curriculum also has a strong ethical dimension. In the multi-age classrooms, children (and teachers) are taught to respect individual differences and to be well-socialized. One thing that is noticeable in Montessori education is that it de-emphasise competition and offer freedom to children. Typical Montessori-trained children often show a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment since the curriculum is designed to harness independence of the child and his ability to competently handle practical life.
The Spielgaben in a Montessori Setting
The Spielgaben is the perfect toy for a Montessori approach to education, whether it is in a classroom, or in the home. This reincarnation of the Froebel gifts were created to make it easier for adults to use with children, without having the training that was required to properly utilize the Froebel blocks to their full potential. The Spielgaben is easy for adults to use who are looking for materials to provide a Montessori style experience.
The Spielgaben is built on the same principles that guide the Montessori philosophy.
Beauty, harmony, order, and cleanliness- The materials are made from exceptionally high quality materials that are appealing from a tactile and aesthetic standpoint. They are housed in beautiful cases that maintain order, and fit together perfectly when put away properly.
Proportional– A hallmark of the Montessori classroom is that materials be appropriately sized for young children, and placed in a manner that is accessible to them.
The Spielgaben materials were created specifically with young children in mind when designing their shape, feel and size. By placing these items on low shelves where children can easily acquire the materials they want, you can truly achieve a Montessori atmosphere.
Activity and Movement- The Spielgaben toys are the perfect interactive tool for children to manipulate. Young children best learn through hands-on experiences, and that is at the center of the Spielgaben experience. Children are manipulating the pieces to see how they fit together to create new structures.
Developmentally Appropriate– The Spielgaben is nothing if not developmentally appropriate. Since children create their own learning using these materials, they are designed to last through many developmental stages. Contained within the set are four users’ guides, covering activities and concepts which are ideal for children between the ages of 3-12.
The users’ guides are the perfect tool for parents and educators who want to get the most out of these toys, while staying within age-appropriate experiences.
Using the Spielgaben in Montessori Education
The Spielgaben is the ideal vehicle for creating a Montessori experience either in the home or the classroom. There are near endless activities that can be created using the Spielgaben.
Adults can choose to introduce the sets to children one at a time, by placing the trays with the materials on a low shelf so that they can access them and use them in any way they find interesting.
Another way that adults can use the materials is by placing all 13 sets in an easily accessible spot so that children can select pieces from any of the sets and combine them to create new projects that inspire and interest them.
Another way that the Spielgaben can be used to create Montessori activities is to place some of the materials in baskets or on trays, along with an activity card.
There are several activity cards included in the Spielgaben kit. Adults can easily prepare Montessori activities for children with the cards. By placing the cards and the necessary materials in a basket or on a tray, children can select activities and explore them with some guidance. They can use the suggestions on the card to recreate the activities, or extend or modify the activity.
Using the Spielgaben with Other Montessori Materials
There are several existing Montessori materials that work well in conjunction with the Spielgaben, like the constructive triangles.
The Spielgaben can be used to recreate pictures on the matching, sorting, and classification cards as well. These sorts of experiences allow children to not only explore how these materials can fit together to create a new structure, but also is an excellent avenue to create rich language experiences.
Another key component of the Montessori experience is the opportunities to optimize children’s oral language. The Spielgaben provides many opportunities for oral language development both among children, and between children and adults.
The Spielgaben is a perfect complement to any Montessori atmosphere, either in the home or in the classroom. It is created based upon many of the driving principles behind the Montessori approach and allows children many opportunities for self-driven learning and exploration.
They give children many opportunities to develop advanced problem solving and reasoning skills, and also help to build the responsibility and critical thinking that is so important for later learning.
Students develop independence, concentration and self-regulation when using the Spielgaben, which support the foundation upon which Montessori was created.