5 Reasons the Montessori Approach Uses True-to-Life Materials and Realistic Images

5 Reasons the Montessori Approach Uses True-to-Life Materials and Realistic Images

You’ve chosen wood and glass over plastic. For lighting, you went with natural instead of overhead. 

You’re always intentional about what items you bring into your home. And that’s especially true when it comes to your child’s learning space.

So what about the other materials in a Montessori home? You know the rule is reality rather than fantasy.

But why? Are books about fairies bad? Should I get rid of the blue duck puzzle?

Why does Montessori use realistic images and true-to-life materials?

Here are 5 reasons the Montessori approach uses true-to-life materials and realistic images.

1. Create an attachment to reality.

It often surprises families new to Montessori that the philosophy discourages introducing fantasy to young children. That means no dress-up corner and no play kitchens. But there’s science behind it.

Giving your child real items and showing them pictures of actual things — not illustrated or cartoonish — creates an attachment to reality.

Real items and images don’t stifle your child’s imagination. They create an environment in which their imagination flourishes.

Dr. Montessori learned from her own observations that small children naturally choose reality over fantasy. When given the choice of playing with a dollhouse or serving tea, your child will most likely choose the tea.

And there’s nothing wrong with a dollhouse. But young children’s brains are wired to be amazed at everyday things, like pouring that cup of tea.

To your child, the world is new, and it’s amazing. And when your child is in the absorbent mind stage (birth through age 6), they need materials that make sense.

So instead of filling your child’s shelves with unicorn figurines, try horses. Because horses are incredible and better yet, they’re real.

2. Understand imagination starts with reality.

Parents raising 21st-century children know imagination and creativity are critical in an ever-changing world.

So introducing them to fantasy seems like a sensible way to grow those skills.

But until about age 6, children have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality. And fantasy and imagination aren’t the same.

Fantasy is a world with dragons and animals that talk.

Imagination is the ability to think of scenarios and images in your mind separate from what’s going on around you right now. 

Children are naturally imaginative. They don’t need to be taught “how to imagine” through fantasy worlds and make-believe creatures.

Because in the Montessori world, imagination starts with reality. 

Give your child real, genuine experiences and materials, because that’s where imagination starts.

3. Show your child that real is beautiful.

The real world is beautiful. Especially the natural world. It drives curiosity and exploration.

Dr. Montessori said:

The child should live in an environment of beauty.”

The Montessori method stresses the interconnectedness between nature and humans. Dr. Montessori believed children need to see themselves as part of the greater universe, and she called this the “cosmic education.”

Your child learns profound things when they’re in nature. They see beauty in real things. They don’t need fantastical ones. They learn to look for beauty in the real world, and they find it.

For those times when you’re not actually in nature, show them actual images from nature. And let them explore objects that accurately represent things found in nature. 

4. Prepare for life.

The Montessori method prepares your child for real life. And what better way to do that than for them to use real materials? That’s what Practical Life is all about.

Sometimes called “family work,” Practical Life activities are life’s daily tasks — sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, and preparing food. They’re the work of life.

And you can do many things to incorporate this sense of reality into your child’s at-home learning. 

Your toddler is old enough to clean up their spilled cereal.

Skip the toy cleaning set, and give them a size-appropriate broom and dustpan instead — model how to use them, and watch them go.

Adults often grimace at the thought of doing chores. But children want to do them because they’re real. Not fantasy. Your child gets to demonstrate independence by doing the work they’ve seen you do.

So show them how to handle glass safely. Give them a basket of child-safe kitchen utensils. Let them explore. Model how to cut carrots and fold tea towels. Then it’s their turn.

5. Choose with care.

Thoughtfully choosing items for your child shows you care about them because you’re sharing what is beautiful and meaningful to you in real life.

Making conscious decisions about what you make available to your infants and young children says a lot about what you think of your child. Using true-to-life materials shows you trust your child to use them responsibly.

Choosing realistic pictures tells your child they’re capable of learning and using a rich and real vocabulary.

Now, are you ready to make your child’s dream Montessori space a reality?

Then check out the newly released Montessori & Me Safari Animal Puzzles, featuring real animal prints of an elephant, lion, giraffe, and zebra. These two-piece puzzles are the perfect introduction to jigsaw puzzles.

Or pick up a set of Montessori & Me Safari Animal Figurines. These animal figurines are detailed, proportionately scaled, and anatomically correct. Also included are matching wooden cards your child can use to learn about beginning sounds, spelling, and even geography.

Like this information and want to learn even more about Montessori materials? Check out 9 Things You Should Know About At-Home Montessori Materials.

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