I believe that a good play mat promotes play. It promotes freedom of movement, it promotes concentration and it promotes creativity. In a world where we are bombarded with messages about baby swings, bouncers and baby seats, I'm here to share with you the benefits of a play mat and lots of free, uninterrupted floor time.
I view the play mat a little like a Montessori teacher would view the work rug. Only for an infant or young toddler the space is larger. The play mat marks out the child's area "this area is mine" and it provides a safe and comfortable space for the child to play often in a small or busy home.
We've always left our play mat free from toys (unless the child is using them). We don't set up provocations or invitations to play on the play mat. I don't put baskets out on the mat. It is free for the child to fill, much like white space. It is the child who decides what comes on and what is used on the play mat. We also like our play mats to be unobtrusive, complimentary to our home environment.
A good and safe play mat is essential for an infant. One of the tenets of Montessori is free movement from birth. Yes, Montessori parents nurse and cuddle but we also respect the infant's need to have free time to move and wriggle and to play, on the play mat. Often we've used a soft blanket doubled up as a play mat for our babies or a soft rug. Although not wipeable blankets are washable. Most parents also encourage tummy time and a soft but firm surface is also necessary.
When we have a child new to sitting or even walking, the play mat can provide a soft place to fall. Although my toddler has never fallen from his pikler arch, it's nice to have something comfortable for him to land on.
Does anyone else have a climber? Do you put a play mat under your pikler arch or triangle?
I've recently discovered the benefits of a play mat that is non absorbent and wipeable. While I love our wool rugs a washable surface is most welcome. We don't use this area for paint or crafts in general, or for eating, it does get crumbs on in and it and although we are shoe free inside it still gets a little dirt on it, but every time it wipes down clean. If your toddler is toilet learning a wipeable surface it may be a good option for you too.
We love the larger size play mats (this one is 215cm x 143cm). It provides enough space for the pikler arch, large floor puzzles, games with siblings and is comfortable enough for the whole family to sit, kneel or lie down on. It also feels really clean and hygienic.
A good, comfortable and safe play mat is a worthy investment for the infant from birth. When I read that this play mat was (in part) inspired by Montessori I knew I needed to take a closer look. I love it when a little Montessori thinking makes in into the mainstream. This play mat is from Totter + Tumble and it's reversible (we usually have ours on the yellow stripy side), thick and comfortable, it rolls up easily for transport, meets strict EU safety requirements and it comes in many fabulous designs. HWM readers can use the code HOWWEMONTESSORI for £10 off their Totter + Tumble order.