Maria Montessori believed that children from birth till six years are in a period of Absorbent Mind. She defined children at this First Plane of Development as "sensorial explorers" of the world, who have the ability to quickly and effortlessly absorb information from their environment just by being in it - that is without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously. Due to such developmental sensitivity, SMALL WORLD pretend/role-play can effectively promote child's development since they are forms of imitation of the real adult world.
Role-playing is packed with potentials for teaching children about themselves and the world around them, by developing their cognitive, fine motor, and self-help skills. Children often find it easier to practice these skills on someone/something else before they can efficiently apply it to themselves. For example: at around two years of age, children typically begin to act as if their doll/teddy bear/car is alive and can interact with them. They might create a sequence of activities or pay out a story with their "friends", and such pretend play is a very important part of their cognitive development.
Moreover, through pretend play, children develop their speech and language skills by taking turns and asking questions. By naming objects they play with, as well as body-parts, clothing etc, role-play is helping teach them appropriate social/pragmatic skills.
Children also use small world play to understand the world around them; and thus, are developing their social-emotional skills. Role-play enables them to practice nurturing and caring (socio-emotional) as well as re-enacting interactions with their own caregivers, family, and friends (cognitive reframing). In playing a "family" for example, children are practicing being loving to each other and others. They are modeling how they see us (adults) in their world caring for them. Often children copy parents working in the kitchen, vacuuming, raking leaves etc. Through such imitation and by practicing these everyday activities, children try to understand and make the world their own.
Role-play is also a way for children to relive things that have happened to them, thus allowing them to increase understanding of their life events. Sometimes, they take on the opposite role, which allows them to see things from another’s perspective. To feel a sense of control and power, children often take on an adult role, so that they can be us - the parents! In their play, they can independently vacuum, sew, do laundry, load the dishwasher, mop the floor, cook dinner ... possibilities are endless!
There are a few things that I look for in a Montessori Toy: the toy has to be functional and represent a real-life situation; it has to be preferably made from wood and be safe and nontoxic. This Green Doll House meets all my criteria:
- PlanToys practices the "Three R's" of Green Living: Reduce Reuse Recycle, thus, its manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy.
- This dollhouse and furniture are crafted from non-toxic, recycled, natural organic rubberwood, and dyed with vegetable and soy dyes. (PlanToys is the first company to manufacture toys using wood from rubber trees which no longer provide latex.)
My children have been enjoying this Green Doll House since they were about two years old, and since the house encompassed the entire family, this toy is gender neutral. Today, Adrian wanted to make something special for Julia, so he decided to decorate the house with the Fall theme.
Adrian used left-over pieces from Julia's last year's Thanksgiving craft to decorate the dollhouse, and he also created a little "forest" theme in front of the house.
He decided to place a teddy bear and a cradle in "his room" rather than in Julia's, thus confirming a tender affection to his teddies.
Adrian peeking through the mirror (a real one!) at the washing station.
There is even an area for a little bathroom: a shower, a sink, and a toilet.Julia sleeping in her room. (No, we do not have a cat!)
Adrian is indeed an early riser, waking Julia up almost every morning!
With his new cleaning set, Adrian has been more than ever cleaning the floor. In a pretend world, he is doing what he is doing in real life.
Adrian is vacuuming leaves which inevitably find their way to the house.
Helping load the laundry machine.
Helping load the dishwasher.
This "green" dollhouse is also an energy conscious inspiration, as it opens the doors for discussing with my children concepts of renewable and sustainable energy, recycling, wind-power and so forth. Its energy efficient design includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, an electric inverter for generating electricity, and a rain barrel for collecting rain. There is also a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading and a blind that can adjust to the amount of sunlight and air circulation. Recycling bins are also included with the house.
However, most importantly, this SMALL WORLD dollhouse offers countless hours of imaginary pretend-play that represents a real-world situation, inspiring children's imagination as well as promoting their physical and intellectual development!
Kylie wrote a beautiful post "Montessori - on pretend play" - she spoke my heart.
What are your thoughts on pretend/roleplay? Read here "Our pretend-play Farm Collection."
For more on Autumn-themed activities, read here a roundup of all our activities we have done during the month of 🍂September and 🎃October: over 20 of them! arranged by the area of study in a post "🍂Fall & 🎃Halloween Inspired Homeschooling 101 Unit Study."