Montessori and Play

Dr. Sheetal Badyal, Monica Sethi

Two trends have necessitated the contemporary interest in infant day care and preschool activities, the need for both parents to work full time and the increase in single parent households. More women in workplace, and thus, they must find suitable care for their young ones. Two major aspects which influence the quality of infant care: The social and the physical environment. In view of the research that emphasizes how extremely important, human interactions are for infant development, it follows that caregivers must be highly competent in interpersonal skills in order to provide quality care.
Young children need to form more satisfying and secure relationship with a few consistent caregivers before they can cope with, or benefit from a large number of children and adults. High quality day care as studies suggest appear to have a positive effect in cognitive development of infants.
Although, the social environment is the key to the development of infants, the physical environment can also be of importance by influencing the social interactions between infants and adults. Play activities are essential to healthy development of children. Research indicates that 75% of the brain development occurs after birth. The activities engaged by children stimulate and influence the connections made between the nerve cells, this process influences the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.
The physical environment should include variety, complexity and responsiveness of play material. Also, within this environment, the amount of time for exploratory play must be considered.
Play time is universal need of infants. For infants, learning always occurs through experience, and play is a natural instinct which combines learning with pleasure. Throughout, most of childhood, play is the way children learn about themselves and their environment. For infants, in order for learning to have a significant impact, they must touch the object; they are examining; feel it, taste it and examine it with their hands. Therefore, learning must be fun and enjoyable for infants to develop.
During the first few months of life, an infant’s senses are not fully developed and so he cannot control his body. Infants have very less co ordination between their senses and their bodies.
Appropriate toys help develop an infant’s senses and co ordination of muscles, gross motor (arms and legs) to fine motor (eye moment and tracking). As an infant changes, so does play. They learn to recognize shapes of objects, and learn to sort and classify them by shape and size. The child learns how things work in their world, there are clear and consistent rules that they test frequently by repetitive play with toys that reinforce these concepts. As infants mature, they begin to play with other infants.
This helps them to practice the necessary cultural and social skills of society; Sharing, Give and take. It has been said by montessorians worldwide that play is the work of the child. According to Montessori, the essential dimensions of play are-
* If play is the work of a child, toys are the tools. Through toys, children learn about their world themselves and others. Unfortunately, the play experience for today’s child is quite different from that of their parents.
With the ever expanding influence of electronic media including TV, videos. Internet etc, Children are spending most of their time by getting passively entertained or minimally interacting by way of a keyboard or control pad with an electronic device.
This robs children off unstructured play with other kids as well as individual playtime, spent in creative play. Parents need to understand the play needs of their child and provide an environment to meet those needs.
In short, as long as infants are cared for in high quality day care environment where they receive nurturant and appropriate care, they will not suffer from social and emotional deficits.