Inanimate objects form an important part of the inventory of the Elementary Schools. They do so for a simple reason that works on a complex mechanism—they boost imagination and the learning to relate to objects. They engage the children better and improve the span of concentration which is naturally low in small children. They also make children proactive in a learning environment.
Montessori education method leads in the use of material in early schooling and other education philosophies follow suit. Objects, educational material and other related educational aid enhance the appeal of the learning environment and makes imparting of any lesson playfully easier. Children’s communication and emotional intelligence is stimulated when they are surrounded by objects they can manipulate while learning. Theory of multiple intelligence's also recommends amplification of lessons through simplest educational aids i.e. objects and stories woven around them. And when it comes to educational use of material, it is best to employ handy figures representing farm animals etc.
It is important to procure material whose use in the early classrooms and their effect on child’s psyche is researched. Choice of material must not be random and must not be guided by the market either. It must be ensured that there is a variation of toys and material and there must be enough of them for each child to have some to explore. Touching is important for the brain development and for acquiring finer motor skills, hence it can be said that toys and other objects are requisite material for any preschool. Genuine Montessori material is designed according to the specific educational principles.
Montessori materials for preschools must be select and bought from sellers who supply objects made from materials like fabric, wood and clay. A series of objects and hand puppets are available for use in preschools that promote sensorial growth and development.
The learning material for early schooling is also crafted keeping in view the educational ideas of Montessori philosophy. The teaching-learning is centered around these thematic materials that include puzzles, blocks, thematic representations etc. The selectors of these material must follow certain criteria which are discussed as under-
Design must appeal to child’s mind
The children in the classroom will have freedom of movement and they will interact with the objects that fill the room. The objects must be of visually appealing designs and diverse textures—wood, fabric, enamel etc. The environs may also contain some naturalistic objects like simulated bird’s nests.
The Montessori environment is about sequential learning in a natural way. The child in the environment manipulates the material and, with careful instruction, learns to use them creatively and carefully, learning to become independent in the process.
The games that are provided are not only intended to be playthings but are scientifically proven stimulants of learning in children. The games’ and the materials’ complexity increases sequentially.
Every learning material is designed to teach a particular skill or concept or stimulate a particular sense. They range from materials like hand puppets, picture pairing ’and‘ number blocks’
There is an in built “control of error” element in Montessori material that facilitates learning from error in children. Although an occasional hint from the teacher is required.
Different materials are designed for different developmental levels. They help in learning simple manipulation of materials and motor skills to more complex development of perspectives of size and measurement.
The material must stimulate activity
Educational philosophies like Montessori and Waldorf emphasize on movement. Movement is related to early learning and so the material placed in the preschool must invite children to act. They must provide opportunities for development of motor skills and coordination.
The material must encourage child to “build” and simulate tasks
The material that offers itself for “growth” or build up stimulates growth in children, enhance engagement and develop perception of order. Keeping this in view materials and apparatuses like block puzzles, ‘Horizontal Dowel Variation – Serpentine’, ‘Cubes on Vertical Dial’ are designed. The playschool indoors are also constituted by contraptions and materials that help the child simulate certain activities and role play. These include ‘cook and play’ sets, ‘get out and grill’, ‘side by side kitchen’, ‘cook and store kitchen’, Juice Making Set, ‘Cleaning Grains’ set ‘Sieving Set ‘Pounding In Steel’ , ‘Sponging Set’ and ‘electronic sound pumper’ etc.
The material should encourage exploration
The children at the preschool interact with material and get instructed by their teachers to comprehend how things work and the desire to explore the functions that a particular thing placed before them entails must be stimulated. Materials like ‘shopping cart’ a composite ‘workshop’, ‘gas pump’ and ‘super chef kitchen’ are certain equipment that are suggested for the purpose of stimulating a sense of discovery in children. In a preschool environment a child learns by self- exploration, observing the teachers and the also other children. The lessons need to be structured and for that the Montessori materials materialize the functionality. The array of materials is the medium of growth of the body and the mind.
Help learn concepts of language and Mathematics
Montessori materials that develops and clarifies child’s concepts through their innovative design have to be carefully identified and selected. Early acquisition of language and numerical ability are elementary in development of IQ. There are an array of Montessori materials that help in building concepts of mathematics and cognitive framework of language. The Montessori language material include ‘Alphabet Tray with Knobs’ , ‘Tracing Capital Letter’ stencil set and ‘Pattern Writing’ set ‘Say and Spell’, ‘Capital and Small letter Matching’ set etc.. These are extremely useful and playful instruments for initiating kids into writing. The special ‘Alphabet Phono Puzzle’ develop the auditory processing of language, its function is analogous to the ‘Alphabet and Picture Matching’ set which develop the language by visual association. Montessori language material is not confined to English. Hindi alphabet and numeral familiarity is also given a set of media through ‘Hindi letter to Picture Matching’,’ Hindi Numeral Tracing’ sets with similar sets for Kannada letters and numerals etc.
Montessori mathematics materials are equally diverse and fascinating, it includes introduction to calculation by ‘Junior and Senior Ariones’ set, Numeral Quantity Matching set, ‘Numeral Ring Stacker’ , Numerical Bead Stacker’ and Abacus type ‘Counting Frame’ etc.
Besides numerals and early introduction to calculation, concepts like time telling and watch reading can be introduced to kids through eduedge ‘clock set’.
Introduction to concepts of dimension can also be made fun and visual-spatial intelligence be stimulated through materials like ‘Shape Ascender’, ‘Follow a Pattern’, ‘Box with Square Prism’, ‘Tracing basic and Advance Pattern’ set.
The Montessori material is scientifically designed and it has been contrived in a way that catches a preschool child’s fancy. For children who have reached the developmental stage where concepts of language and arithmetic are introduced the above mentioned Montessori language and Montessori mathematics material make a great cache of learning aid for the purpose.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.