It is hard to browse wooden toys and not of noticed names like Montessori, Stiener or Froebel start to pop up. Theses name are used so frequently in fact, that we can lose why exactly they are so important to toy designers and makers. So today’s post is a going back to basics!  Who was Maria Montessori and what was so interesting about her approach?

Early beginnings

  • Montessori was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle in Italy.
  • She became Italy’s first qualified woman doctor in 1896. She chose to focus on children with disabilities after she qualified
  • Maria was inspired by Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) and his radical approach to supporting a child’s freedom and growth.

Influence on child development

  • She believed children were frustrated if taught to read and write and advocated instead that a child had to develop at his or her own pace through freely chosen activities. The kind of radical thinking that led to Froebel having his schools shut down in 1840’s Germany.
  • Montessori brought forth a revolutionary faith in children that turned the role of teacher into an observer, one who guided and supported child led interests.
  • Montessori claimed that children went through phases or ‘periods’ when they were attentive or sensitive to certain tasks. Ideas later developed by Piaget and Chomsky but without reference. Ideas widely researched and acknowledged in contemporary understandings of child development.

A critical thinker

  • Montessori was said to be critical of the cultural farmings of imaginary play. She said ‘ but how can the imagination of children be developed by what it is, on the contrary, the fruit of our imagination. It is we who imagine, not they, they believe, they do not imagine’ (Montessori 1910:267).
  • Montessori’s thinking does reflect the moral and individualistic paradox of the Victorian era however. Play was something that makes children better and more efficient. Playing for fun was frittering away time – which could be used towards self improvement!

Stay tuned for Friedrich Froebel next!

David Cohen. 2006. The Development of Play 3rd. Routledge