Wednesday, January 14, 2009

toy story

well, i guess most of you out there are as clueless as i am when it comes to photography...'cause i only got one comment response to my plea for camera advice (thanks, sydney!) so just so ya'll know...i have this nifty little device on my blog that lets me know how many hits i i know you're reading! how 'bout a little comment love, people?

anyhow, moving on. above you will see a glimpse of my 9-month-old baby's room. in the wake of the toy bonanza that is the holidays with children, i thought i'd talk a bit about my approach to the home play/learning environment. so upon returning home from our holiday festivities, i was excited to put out all of olivia's new toys. i then almost as quickly decided that i was taking most of them away. not away for good, just away in her bedroom closet where i can easily access them and rotate.

rotating materials and having just a few items out at a time is one of the aspects of the montessori education philosophy. now, just a little preface: although my background and training is in montessori, i don't - and have never - strictly adhere to all of montessori's standards. i prefer to educate myself on all sorts of educational theory and take from each what suits me - or more importantly, my child - best. but the idea of rotating toys i definitely agree with. having too many toys out at once is overwhelming and overstimulating for a young child. plus, when you rotate the toys, you keep them interested without having to constantly buy new toys. the parent can rotate the toys and surprise the child with something new on the shelf or in the basket, or the child can be a part of the process, choosing from the 'storage basket' what to put out in the 'play basket.'

another montessori concept is the notion of having natural toys. ideally this means wooden, fabric, and handmade. now, i definitely prefer these sorts of toys for many reasons, including that they are usually not made in china, are more attractive and feel better in your hands than plastic, and more closely resemble the real world. and it would be wonderful if i had the money and time to buy and make only the highest quality, natural toys for my baby. but, this just isn't the reality. neither is the fact that she has received, and will continue to receive, toys from loving and well-meaning friends and family that don't necessarily fit this natural-toy criteria. i feel that if a toy is given as a gift or a hand-me-down, it would be ungrateful and wasteful to not only accept these toys but to use them with love and appreciation. most toys, plastic or not, are still made with some developmental aspect in mind. plus, as with anything, if i were to 'ban' plastic toys from my child's life, then she will likely just be more and more drawn to only plastic toys in the future. so. my intention is that the toys that i myself purchase for my children will be of the natural, handmade variety - which means my money will go towards one or two special items instead of three or four less expensive ones - quality over quantity, a good concept in my opinion. but as far as what she may receive from others, or what she may desire at points in the future - not going to be outlawing any of these things. and so one of the cornerstones of my personal philosophy emerges: everything in moderation.

and finally, one of the other aspects of montessori education is that the child learn a basic three-part sequence in their playtime or worktime: choose an item from the shelf, use it for as long as desired, and return it as found to the same spot on the shelf. my babe is well on her way with the first two steps. however, as you can see below, the third is going to take a few years to perfect...

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