Originally Posted by joanna0707
DS was in a Montessori toddler program for a while, just 2 days a week, he's home with me now until September(financial reasons).
I have never seen children doing any kind of pretend play, once my son was prohibited to pretend to play an instrument with brown stairs. Is this normal in Montessori? Are there programs that allow more imagination and pretend play?
I believe that imagination is very important and I'm afraid that teachers who are too strict can kill imagination and spontaneity in children.
Practically speaking, the advice I would give you is pretty pedestrian: If you go to thirty different "Montessori" schools, you will get thirty different answers to this question (honestly!); if it is a serious concern for you (that your son might not be getting enough of an opportunity to exercise his spontaneity), I would recommend asking the prospective teachers (when you consider re-enrollment) about his/her philosophy and how situations (like the one you mentioned) will be handled. (Personally, I would be comfortable with the use you describe so long as the child was being respectful with the material, was not putting it in their mouth, and was not distracting other children who were working, but I would be cognizant of the fact that the child was not really engaged/concentrating deeply with the work. That would indicate that the work was not a good match for that particular child. Based upon the fact that he was pretending the Brown Stair was a musical instrument, I might seize the opportunity to present/re-present a work with the bells instead).
In general, most schools seem to take that approach that:
a) most kids get plenty of opportunity for pretend play elsewhere (including home, recess, and possibly before/after care situations)- particularly in half day programs (or 2 days a week) the idea that the child is doing "work" (which, in this case, is really just a different kind of playing) during those times, really isn't precluding lots of other opportunities for different experiences
b) a lot of "imaginative play" isn't really the child's imagination anyway- it's toys, stories, or programs "imagined" by adults, usually with commercial motives
c) while Montessori schools do not encourage fantasy, they usually permit it (ie- the fantasy is created/directed by the child not by the adult- vs. waldorf)
d) the didactic materials are designed to be use in a precise way to teach specific concepts (some classrooms also have unstructured materials- paint, playdo, sand/water tables, etc without precise uses); if a child is using these materials as props for imaginary play, they probably are not accessing the cognitive concepts taught by them (if they are pretending to play music with the brown stair, they are no longer involved in the experience of understanding thick/thin; if they are pretending ten bars are snakes they are no longer focused on a decimal work, etc). There is a lot of cognitive research to support this (as well as research in the areas of flow states or Zen/ mindfulness). Depending upon the classroom, this may or may not be tolerated, but it would always be considered as an indication that the material is a bad match (too advnaced- the child is frustrated, too easy- the child is bored, or does not appeal to the maturational needs of the child)
Theoretically speaking, your question amused me because Montessori has already answered it explicitly (see, children really were not so different 100 years ago). I'm pretty sure her advice to you would be to get him an instrument. She writes: "And yet, I was once seriously asked by someone if it would be injurious to give a child a piano, when I suggested this course of action for a child who was continually practicing with his fingers upon the table, as if he were playing a piano. "And why should this be injurious?" I asked. "Because if I do so, he will learn music, it is true, but his imagination will no longer be exercised, and I don't know which would be best for him."
Who has not seen a child riding upon and whipping his father's walking stick as if it were a real horse... But if we observe rich children, who own quiet ponies and drive out habitually in carriages and motor cars, we shall see that they look in contempt at the child who is running about whipping a stick in great excitement....this is not proof of imagination, it is a proof of an unsatisfied desire; it is not an activity bound up with nature; it is a manifestation of conscious, sensitive poverty."