One of the best tools that I acquired from my Montessori training is Observation. I now love observing children and find myself doing just that wherever I go. It teaches me so much and usually provides me what direction and answers when needed. Most especially it helps me apply my knowledge properly and prepare the correct environment for my child and other children that I work with.
I recently added these nesting boxes in the picture below to one of my son’s play areas. My plan was to use them with him. I would stack them up, and he could now them down. We did this a few times and then I observed him playing with them by himself. He would take off the lid and push and know the boxes around until they were separated. Once he had succeeded in separating them, he either used them as a drum or pushed them around for a little while before moving on. I’ve even seen him using them to cruise while on his knees. None of these are the ways I had hoped he would use the boxes when I put them out.
This week while visiting my parents, my mum put out a similar set for him. They are also made of cardboard but they are a set of 10 and range from biggest (about 5 inch cube) to smallest (about 1.5inch cube). Once the set was put in front of him, he touched it and moved it around. I was observing and I noticed he was moving them differently. He knocks the set at home around in an effort to turn it over or somehow knock out the smaller boxes but this time it seemed he was moving it closer to get a better look and form a strategy.
He then reached in and using his pincer, pulled out the third box (counting from the smallest). He then reached into that one and pulled out the smaller box and then repeated it to pull out the smallest cube. He proceeded to pay with these three boxes for a while and even tried severally to nest them. This is how I was hoping he would play with it! He never touched the 7 larger boxes for the rest of his play. He has played with the nesting boxes about 5 or 6 times since we came and the process has been pretty much the same.
I think the size made a big difference. This was a reminder to always to choose appropriately sized toys, to think about the size of the child’s hands, the size of the material and the weight. In a way, this is like the montessori notion known as “isolation of difficulty”. When we set up activities in the class room, we make sure to isolate the “difficulty” that we want the child to focus on be removing other “difficulties”.
Weirdly enough, since we got back home, he has nested our boxes at home several times. This makes me think of the importance and significance of the prepared environment. It is a safe place for the child to acquire skills and practice them. He can then apply them even outside the prepared environment.
Note: Nesting and stacking are great activities for littles ones. They provides them with opportunities for Eye hand coordination, visual spatial awareness, visual discrimination and refinement of motor skills (both fine and gross) amongst other things. If you don’t have commercially available stacking boxes, you can provide your child with this experience using bowls that you probably already have.
Live a good life!