When my son was just 16 months old, I started to research different types of preschools thinking that at close to 3 years old, I would send him to preschool to further his education. After researching different preschool educational approaches, I became drawn to the Montessori Approach. I was very attracted to the “follow the child” model as well as the simplest preparations of activities in the Montessori Approach.
If you are not familiar with the Montessori Approach, you can learn more here.
From the age of 13 months old to 2 years old, I prepared shelves with trays of toys and activities that are specifically designed to work on a certain skill. The shelves were at my son’s level. He freely chose his activities everyday.
This worked very well for about 6 months. Then, my son had something else in mind.
Slowly, his activity trays became mixed and commingled, he would use materials from one activity with the materials from another activity to setup little imaginative play stations for himself. He also requested to play with playsets more often: doll house, farm house, castle. His art trays became an hour long paint play session in the bath tub. He had to use his whole body to paint.
Slowly, I realized that he was drawn more towards imaginative play and free play of the materials. At first, I didn’t know what to make of this change. But, eventually, I just ran with it.
Instead of setting up trays of activities, I started providing buckets of figurines, different playsets and different sensory materials. Each time, I provided him with materials, I just let him free play with them and see what happened.
Within those play sessions, I often sat beside him and played with the same materials myself. I told him that I’m painting a leaf, or gluing some triangles onto the nose of a lion, or putting my Barbie to bed.
Even though, he’s playing with his materials in his own way right next to me, he’s absorbing everything that I’m doing. The next time the same materials are presented, I noticed that he would imitate what I was doing in our last play session. Sometimes, he even took my hand and asked me to duplicate what I did before.
I did not know that imaginative play and free play were central to Waldorf Preschool Education until I read Rudolf Steiner’s book “The Philosophy of Freedom”. In it, I found an educational philosophy that focused on shaping a child’s soul rather than a focus on academics.
No wonder my child was intrinsically attracted to this style of teaching and learning. These free play and imaginative activities filled his soul with happiness and wonder.
Inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s book, I changed all of our Montessori practical life activities and nature activities to free play activities. Rather than showing my son how to cut a banana, I just left the plastic knife and a banana to him to improvise until he asks me for help. Rather than showing him how to shovel sand, I left him in the sand box with a bunch of figurines, a shovel and a bucket. By the end of these free play activities, not only has my son learned to shovel and to cut, he’s also learned to follow his own heart.
I’m forever grateful for Montessori teachers for teaching me to “follow” my child. In following my child, I’ve discovered the magical world of Waldorf Education. I’m excited to embark on the journey of imaginative play and free play with my child who seem to revel in all aspects of it.
If you want to find out more about Montessori Preschool Education, we have a Montessori Board that we update weekly with helpful ideas for Montessori Education.
If you want to find out more about Waldorf Preschool Education, we have a Waldorf Education Board that we update weekly with helpful ideas for Waldorf Education.
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