יום רביעי, 22 ביולי 2009

Imaginative play - how???

So this is the thing...

Even without me taking any action, in the true spirit of Montessori, my son is a reality based little man. Being a 22 months old, he is just beginning to discover the wonder of the open ended imaginative play. However, it is always around real objects and materials.

Of course, I am very happy about it. I can't emphasize enough the importance of reality for the child development. But then I find myself wondering... more and more lately. Where the limits should be placed? The most important thing for me, of course, as a Montessori inspired mom, is to follow my child. However sometimes, I hesitate in translating this motto into practice. For instance, if my child starts preparing pasta with the real pasta, using water and species, inspired by the real cooking he envisioned and participated in earlier, what would be a proper reaction? Should I allow him, or redirect him? When it happens, he is so absorbed and concentrated, that usually I decide not to interfere. But I am not sure if this is the right message I am sending him. Sometimes, I try to redirect him, but then again I am not comfortable. I feel like I intervened his true desire and interrupted his process of learning and creativity.

My husband just built a beautiful wooden kitchen for our son. I hesitate if we should introduce it to him now or wait until he will be more into the imaginative play. He will love it!!! But I have almost no doubt that the first thing he will do is bring water in some sort of can to wash the dishes in the wooden sink, or open our supplies cupboard and bring species and pasta to start cooking on the wooden stove. I am not sure what would be the best reaction to this. How can I encourage him to cook using wooden utensils instead of the real ones, and his imagination instead of the real supplies?

I guess my query is the one of the first time parent. How do children start making a stone soup???:) My son's only imaginative play (without using real objects) until now was phoning his dad, using as a cell phone everything he had in touch.

My little angel doesn't speak yet. Oh no, he has no trouble to express himself to anyone, not even a stranger. With almost no words, he is one of the most expressive people I know. Somehow,
I feel that when he starts talking, his imaginative play will break out. But I am not sure.

I will appreciate any insights you'd like to share.

Thank you a lot!

PS If you were wondering, what is the white powder on the coffee table... well, this is, of course.. baking soda. He has built an entire plan to reach it - brought the step stool to the counter, climbed to open the drawer, found the special box where I keep the baking soda, took it out. Opened the box, took it out, pulled the rubber band from the package. All this to disperse baking soda all around the living room. While singing to himself - what he usually does when he is deeply involved into something. Oh yes, all this, not before he returned the step stool to its place. I didn't have the heart to intervene...:)

13 תגובות:

Karen אמר/ה...

Wow!! Your english it's better than mine!! As you know, my first it's Spanish!! So I will try in my "good" english!! I Understand you sooooooo!!! much. Because some times I feel the same way!! You can try to prepare a tray with some powder and a litte bit of water to prepare some pasta... My princess now at 3, want to work with me in the kitchen... and I give her some "duties" there. And some duties around the house, as part of the practical life. But it's so true that sometimes you don't know when put some rules....I ask to my self the same question!! I really don't know if I help you.... but I try.!!! Sincerely'

Montessori Beginnings אמר/ה...

Hi. Not sure if this will work out but I will try. So nice to be able to read your blog. I've tried with the translator but it comes out quite wierd!
As for your question I think that is one that everyone has. My duaghter is 20 months old and very stuck in reality at the moment. She hates mixed materials. For example I used an ice cube tray to spoon grapes into and she really didn't like it becuase an ice cube tray is supposed to have ice in it not grapes. I think at this age they are very strong on order and "reality". Also in raising them in a Montessori environment we have kind of geared them towards reality more than fantasy. I think that comes later? That being said I was just looking at some old posts from Chasing Cherios and her daughter at this age was playing with felt food in her play kitchen so I don't really know? I suppose just like any other activity if you introduce the kitchen to him with the play materials then he will use them? Hope this helps.

Anne אמר/ה...

Hi Miri! This is a tricky question - I'm glad you asked because I'm curious about what other people think! In my classroom, I have some materials that are used just for imaginative play - a pretend kitchen, dress-up clothes, puppets, etc. The children have a clear understanding of when it's time to work and when it's time to play. Sometimes the line blurs, though, and a child will play with a material in a way that it's not meant to be used. This happens a lot with materials like the pink tower & broad stair, phonemic objects, and some of the practical life lessons like opening bottles and pouring water. It sounds like you're like me, I observe before I interrupt. If they're concentrating, and not abusing the material or interrupting other children, I usually let it go. But, if at all possible, I try to redirect them to a material that they can play with imaginatively or I remind them when the time for imaginative play is. Oh! It is so tricky! Maybe, you could put together some play food, pots & pans, dishes, etc. that would be just for his play kitchen, and you could pretend to cook with him. Then, you could include him when you prepare food in your real kitchen. In this way, you could make a distinction between real and play... I love imaginative play - I think the most important thing is that the child is able to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Amber אמר/ה...

I think you're doing so many things right & only your son can tell you if he'll be interested in imaginary play & at what stage. I find that it's only in the past year that Lovely (who is 3 1/2 now) has really got into it.

We have a play kitchen & sometimes it's ignored & sometimes it's full of magic! I made a little bit of felt food & I put out a bowl of smooth stones & a small basket of seed pods, a jar of glass beads & things like that. I also added some small metal pots & pans that I thrifted. A little copper tea pot & a ceramic tea set from ikea. We have some wooden play food too: a pizza set, a wooden tea bags, a cake etc. I also added some bamboo cutlery.

In regards to your concerns that he might try to use real water on the stove you just need to show him that we use real food & real water in the real kitchen & in this kitchen we don't. You still offer him the choice to work with you but give him the opportunity to play"cook" by himself too.  

I'm sure its going to work out just fine & I look forward to hearing more :)

Jenn אמר/ה...

First, let me just say that I am no expert in the Montessori theory on imaginative play.

There is imaginative play in our home. L (almost 24 months) pretends she is a puppy, a cat and a baby. She loves to care for her two baby dolls , pretend to cook and pretend with her doctor's set. She also will make things with her playdoh and pretend with them - for example, she will make a pancake and pretend to eat it. Since she does imaginative play on her own and really seems to enjoy it, I just try to foster pretend play that has a basis in reality.

I also agree that if she is concentrating and has come up with the idea for the activity all on her own I tend to let her just do as she wants.

Jenn אמר/ה...

One more thing I just thought of - perhaps he is practicing for the real thing when he is pretending to make the pasta. We have recently been taking swimming lessons and it's been very interesting to see how L will practice certain things in the small baby pool before going to try it in the big pool. Maybe your son is practicing the skills he has seen in the kitchen by trying to recreate it.

Also, it's mostly not been a problem helping L to distinguish what we use in the kitchen and what is for pretend. We just will look at both things, say a real spoon and a pretend spoon, and i will talk with her about the differences and tell her the pretend spoon is for pretend. She seems like she has caught on well to that concept.

Making of a Montessori Mum אמר/ה...

Hi mate. Mmmm. Im thinking I dont have a heap to offer as we have not really entered into the imaginative play yet - though Little Bird does like to walk like a penguin (but that is more that it looks an feels so funny) and she pushes things including her baby around in a stroller (but I also think that is more the enjoyment of pushing things around).

In a way if Little Bird was using real stuff for imaginative play I dont think I would have an issue with it, as its the process, focus, and intent which I think is most important. To be honest I have not read up a lot on the imaginative play stuff around Montessori. I just likes how it focuses on reality as the first base as it makes so much sense to me.Your post has inspired me to do some reading in this area.

I imagine I would set up something similar to Amber, but at the moment at 24mths this would not interest her. Like your gorgeous boy she is still into real objects to use (pasta etc) cos she has not made the leap to see an object as the potential to be something completely different in her imagination. A bead is a bead, a stone a stone. She is not using imaginative play on her own, and I have not suggested any such activities to her as i have not seen her desire yet. But if she did want to use real objects for pretend cooking I would let her go for it as I dont think developmentally she showing me a desire or readiness for the imaginative stuff.

It was funny yesteray I was at a friends with a 3 year old and he was pretending to make a soup and gave some to Little Bird and I and it was obvious she did not see it as a soup, but as water for pouring practice. It really showed me that she was not yet at that point.

Dont know if this is any help. But I do know its LONG!!! I guess Im working it out as I post. hehe. Great question. .

My Child's Diary אמר/ה...

Dear Montessori ladies,

Thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts and experience with me.

Karen - your English is great. I appreciate so much your efforts to post in English on your blog. I know that it probably takes you much time than posting in Spanish. Thank you for your suggestions. My son takes a huge part in keeping our household. His active participation is in everything - cooking, cleaning, laundry.

Jennifer - I am so sorry for not posting more in English. It was a hard decision that I made when I first started posting. I knew it would lead to loosing many readers, probably those who would find the greatest interest in reading about our Montessori journey. The Montessori community hardly exists in Israel, and blogging, especially on parent topics is not very common also. I knew that by posting in Hebrew it would be really hard to share and receive a so appreciated feedback by others member of this incredible community. But then, as always in parenthood, it is all about making priorities. This blog intends to be a diary for my son, so that he will be able to understand when he will grow up, how he was raised, why we chose to follow this path, what we were thinking about, how was he when he was a child, and perhaps it will help him also, even in the slightest way, to raise his own children. I love writing (in the not so far past, when I tried a carrier world, I was even on the way to become perhaps a judge. Luckily for me, after a few years, I realized that family was much more important for me than a carrier). I could never write in English the way I write in Hebrew, so my writing wouldn't be that intuitive for my son as it was meant to be. Than the time is also a huge issue (I probably don't have to explain it to any homeschooling mom on the Earth:). It takes me much more time to post in English. So, again, sorry for that, but this blog will continue to be in Hebrew for now. But please, feel always free to ask any question you have. I will always reply to that... in English:) I agree that in raising our children in a Montessori environment they are much more based in reality than fantasy.I even think that this is what developmentally young children are meant to be raised in. As Maria believed, this is the only thing that makes sense. The interest in pretending, I believe, comes in order to copy the scenes they absorbed from the reality. But then, children who are raise in reality based environment, perhaps, instead of pretending will try to make things in reality. Until the find something more appealing in imaginative play than in real actions. Much later, naturally, they will turn to fantasy to seek creative answers for reality based questions, after knowing the reality, seeking for the answers there and not finding them in the reality. For my opinion, this will be a natural developing, unless a child is deprived from truly tasting from the reality when he is young. Thus he will look for the escape into the fantasy world even when he is very young. We are surrounded by many Waldorf families. Even though I like many aspects of Waldorf philosophy, a 28 months girl, coming from a very strict Waldorf family, who leaves nearby, has been in imaginative play ever since she started to play. I do believe this is because she is not allowed to make almost anything in the household but playing with dolls and cubes. Maybe, I am mistaken. I don't know. I'm just thinking loudly.

My Child's Diary אמר/ה...

Anyway, my son also dislikes mixing materials.You are right, they are in the midst of the Sensitive Periods for order.I except it (it does makes sense after all) and try not to intervene. When I use materials for PL activities, for example, I try never let him see me taking the dishes I need for the activities, from the kitchen. I cut the ice cube tray you use for transferring in two parts (2 and 8 cubes), I keep it on his shelf, and when it is not in use, I take it into the storage place, which is not in the kitchen. It seamed to work for us. Perhaps, you can paint it or make something similar from cardboard. Once I used one of the tea spoons for spooning. The first thing my son did, is taking the spoon back to its place in the kitchen. I've learned my lesson:) I love your idea of introducing the play kitchen using play materials - this is one of the things I intended to do.

Anne - I am flattered that you think that we are alike. As you probably know, I am a great fun of your way of teaching!..:) I guess it is a bit easier to make this distinction between work and imaginative play area in the classroom. Perhaps, the difficulty in homeschooling environment is much more in making this distinction between time that is dedicated for play and work. I do believe in unschooling also, perhaps a Montessori based one, if there is such a thing..:). So I am not strict about 3 hours working circle, for instance, and our working schedule changes from day to day. I guess that if I were in a classroom, I would be more strict about things. At home, things are different. I do try to make a distinction in placing in different places the activities and imaginative play materials. Like you, I try to redirect my son when he uses the materials in a way that it's not meant to be used. If I can, of course. Not when he is very concentrated on something. It's indeed a tricky issue. Maybe, when he is older, I will try to make a different time for playing and working. Not it just doesn't seam right for us. I try to follow him on whatever appeals to him the most, when my greatest rules are protecting his concentration and curiosity, and not abusing materials. I loved your suggestion to cook together with my son in his play kitchen. It may work! Thank you for reminding me that I should emphasize to him that real food we cook in the real kitchen, and play food we cook in the play kitchen with the play pots and pans. We've been on this path before and it worked.

Amber - It is comforting to know that Lovely got into imaginative play after he was 2 1/2. It reassures me on my thought that the imaginative play has much to do with the language development. Thanks so much for reminding me that the answers are with my son. Like you, I trully believe the only he can tell me if he is interested in imaginary play and when. You are right - I will just redirect him to use real water in the real kitchen. I do it often when he wants to water plants (and he wants to do it almost every hour). We are playing in pretending watering plants with the pretend water until the evening. Then he waters them on real.

Jenn - Thanks for sharing your experience with L about distinguishing between real and pretend. I will remember that if we cross that bridge.

Montessori Mum - Believe me, I am en expert of working the post out as I post. Look at the length of this reply. I wish I could see Little Bird walking like a penguin. I laughed so much when I tried to imagine it. I guess LB is much like my son. For me also process, concentration and intent are the most important. I wouldn't encourage my son making soup from the stone (I do believe that this turn he will need to make on his own), but I think I will try to introduce the play kitchen with reality based play materials,

I love this discussion! Thanks so much! You have helped me to decide. I will try to introduce the play kitchen to my son and get you posted. I wish we could meet more often..:)

Karen אמר/ה...

Hi Miri!! I'm sorry because I first think in Spanish and the write in English!! What I meant was to try an activity that I already did, was to put a tray with 2 bowls the first one have flour!! not powder !! and the other one with water, then your baby can mixed and prepare something like pasta!! And introduce him the kitchen and explain him where he can work with them!! And you will not have the "work "on the living room table!!. lol

Ashley אמר/ה...

I don't know why, but I'm having a hard time posting, it won't let me click! I say, keep working with him with real food and real cooking. He's at the age when real examples are the best examples! But, parent's don't have the means to do this all day every day. So, when you don't have the time or supplies, use the pretend kitchen, show him pretend food. I don't think there is harm in this. He's growing up in such a wonderful, stimulating environment anyhow! Also, I bet your house will be beautiful! What a lot of work! I bet your son thinks it is exciting!

My Child's Diary אמר/ה...

Thank you Ashley. I will keep this in mind.
I hope my son will love the house. For now, it is not as easy for him as it disrupts his routine. But you are right, every time we visit the house he is excited to find all the workers belongings he finds there.

Momma Snail אמר/ה...

My kids are the same way, and I try to parent in the same way. Eventually, they start to use the real items in an imaginative way. I am working on a blog post now about it.
For example, my kids have used a laundry basket to use in their laundry chores, but it has also been a pirate ship, animal cage...etc. So as he gets older, and his play develops, he will find new ways to use real objects...like the baking soda. My daughter, to my surprise one day, used an entire container of oatmeal when she threw it around the room as "snow" for her brother.

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