Dr. Maria Montessori, in developing her own method of childhood education, believed that classroom items should be made from natural materials such as wood, stone, metal, rubber, glass and fabric. Today, Montessori classrooms all over the world continue to uphold this value, offering learning materials, toys, and furniture made from natural materials. Montessori students follow specific procedures for using classroom items and are taught how to properly care for them.
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Maria Montessori designed a complete list of didactic materials for classroom use, aimed at developing motor, sensory and language skills. She insisted that these materials be made from high-quality, natural materials. For example, sensory materials in a typical Montessori classroom might include wooden counting cubes; texture tablets made from glass, cork, metal, stone and felt; and glass tasting and smelling bottles. Learning materials made from synthetic materials, such as plastic, are not considered ideal.
Montessori toys are aesthetically pleasing and durable and are likely to be made from wood, rubber, metal or knitted fabric. They feature natural textures and may contain materials that reflect light, as in metal bells and chimes. Use of abstract toys, such as wooden bead counters, stacks, rods, and towers are commonly used in Montessori classrooms; however, they are usually reserved for children ages 6 to 12. Toys manufactured solely from synthetic materials are not typical of the Montessori environment.
The classroom features an abundance of natural materials and many Montessori schools purposely keep synthetic materials to a minimum. Rooms in the school are carefully prepared for the students and include child-sized furniture, made from wood, and a variety of practical life materials. These materials include brooms, dusters and shoe polishing brushes, all made from wood and natural fibres. Glass jars and wooden boxes are used instead of plastic containers to organise small items.
Montessori established a set of procedures for using items in the classroom, whether it be working with a learning tool, playing with a wooden toy, or using a chair and desk to complete a task. Children learn to freely seek an item of interest, use the item with respect, and then place the item back in its proper place. Montessori believed that classroom materials should be properly cared for and that faulty items should be removed immediately.
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