What we can learn from early childhood educators
Different containers for outside water play

Why children need real images

Animal Lotto

As always I've been thinking about the materials I present to my children and as always I'm thinking about how they fit (or don't fit) with the Montessori philosophy. Thinking about the materials in a Montessori way helps to keep me on track, it reminds me what my beliefs are when often I'm looking for an easy way out.
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When I was looking for a jigsaw puzzle for Otis I found some featuring cartoonish characters. I showed Otis the picture of the cartoon cow. "Cow" he said. The chicken. "Chick-ee". So he got it, he understood what the images were of. I suspect this is because he has had enough exposure to real life images and seeing/handling the real animal that he could now work out this was a cow, chicken etc. But what if this was the first time he had seen a cow. What would he take away from the experience? That cows have yellow hair, green horns and blue hooves? I'm also not sure how attractive this cartoonish puzzle would be to a child, I certainly wouldn't call it beautiful which one of my criteria when selecting materials. 
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On the other hand is this Lotto game pictured above. The boys and I often play it together. The images are clear, true to life and beautiful. The images would attract the child and adults. Montessori tells us to surround ourselves in beauty and this is what it is all about. Children absorb their environment and become like it. 
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Now, not to do with beauty but using life like - true to life images and materials; I have two frog life-cycle sets one is labelled Montessori the other Waldorf. I believe the Waldorf frog is beautiful (and made of natural materials) but if presented to Otis would he know it is a frog? What would he take away from the experience? View both frogs from above, front or underneath and there is only one that still resembles a frog. Children in the period of the absorbent mind need materials that make sense and help the child make sense of the world around them. 
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Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen say it so wonderfully in Montessori from the Start.
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 By showing care in the toys you choose for your child, you are showing him that he is important to you. You are sharing what is beautiful and meaningful to you in life. You thereby help your child in turn look for beauty and logic in the world around him. Parents sometimes forget in the stress of daily living how magnificent, inspiring and magic the real world actually is to them. Making conscious decisions in what we make available to our infants and young children in every area of life can help us to recapture that awe and appreciation. 
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Montessori vs Waldorf Frogs

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