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Montessori - give the child real tools!

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As my children have grown older the difference between them and some of their non-Montessori friends has become greater. I understand there will always be personal, cultural and family differences but one difference I have noted is that Montessori families provide their children with real tools*. Good quality, sometimes excellent quality tools and materials, and guess what, the children respect them, they look after them and they know how to use them!

To understand how this works we need to go back to the start. From toddlerhood, we teach the child to respect and care for their materials. We show them how to push in a chair, how to carry water, how to put their toys away. A young Montessori child learns to pour from a ceramic pitcher and drink from a real glass. This behaviour is modeled at home and in the classroom. This care, this respect becomes a part of the child. It becomes who they are. 

As the child ages, we continue to provide them with the knowledge, skills and experience to allow them to use their tools. They move from using a crinkle cutter to a sharp knife. They move from hammering to using a saw. Slowly, step by step their skills and abilities increase, our trust in them increases, their trust in themselves increases!

Particularly in the very young child, we must consider their skill level, can they safely manipulate the tools? Do they have the knowledge to use the tools? Children will mix all the colours in the paint palette unless they have been shown how to mix the colours separate. Teach with patience and care. Handle the materials as you would expect the child to.

We also want to consider the size of the tools and materials. Often as Montessori parents, we look for smaller but real versions of the adult's tools. A real but small shovel, a real but small hoe. Small materials are easier for the child to manipulate but are very different to toy, plastic or pretend versions. A Montessori parent doesn't give their child a plastic hammer, we give them a small but real hammer, we slowly over time show the child how to use it, we give them time to practice and use it along side us. Then the day comes when they are ready to use it by themselves. This may happen at three years or six but the child comes to this point themselves, through real experiences.  

Most often real tools are higher quality, they work better, are more efficient and may be easier to use. They show the child we respect them and they allow the child to have real experiences, not a lesser experience. We also need to do our research for example, there are some children's art materials that are just as beautiful as adult materials or there may be beginner tools the child can use such as beginner telescopes or pocket knives that serve as an introduction to the real thing.

It's not just Montessori parents that think this way. Many parents are taking a hands-on, natural learning approach. For me as a parent, it just makes sense, it's logical, there is no other way. 

*Think woodworking tools, gardening tools, kitchen tools including crockery and utensils, art and handwork materials, science, discovery and technology such as cameras, microscopes, musical instruments and, equipment. 

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