I recently read the book, Montessori: The science behind the genius which is an excellent read for those of you wanting to know more about Montessori education. In the book the author goes into to great depths about the theory of play as we know to be important versus what Dr Montessori's own observations were. ( I will refer to Montessori as the education system and Dr Montessori when I am writing about the lady herself.)
Dr Montessori's observation was that children when given the choice to play dress-up or 'do-work' as she called it she observed the children choosing to do the 'work'. She believed that because the children were able to do things for themselves such as prepare their own food and drink were able to clean and look after themselves and that didn't need to engage in pretend play as they could do the things adults do for themselves.
Now from my own observations from watching my eldest daughter go from a day care environment to a Montessori environment I would say Dr Montessori's observation is right on. My eldest Daughter loved nothing more than the dress-up box at day-care and playing house in the home corner or role-playing. At the Montessori school she attends she does not want to play pretend at all but wants to get straight into work. (Which amazes me) and on top of this is already asking me when she is going to go back to school (but that is another blog).
What do the experts say about Pretend Play. Experts believe that pretend play is hugely important especially in cognitive and social development. In social development especially when a child engages in experimenting with emotional and social roles experts believe the child learns to take it turn, share responsibility and creatively solve problems. I think t also helps to teach empathy "by taking a walk in someone else's shoes' so to speak The experts believe it also builds self-esteem by learning they can pretend to be anything they want. With cognitive development each pretend play situation allows the child to problem solve the situation they are'in'. It also helps with language development where children can come up with stories and phrases you never thought they knew.
What do I think? To be honest I lean more towards Dr Montessori's observation of children as I have observed what Dr Montessori observed with my own child and to be honest all the things the experts say pretend play does, it can all be taught in any social situation we may find ourselves in with our children Having said that, I have absolutely no problem with pretend play at all. My eldest daughter has a box full of costumes and even a Dr's kit which has a real working stethoscope (Which I am very excited about) A pretend kitchen at home and with pretend food and all the accessories that go with it. She loves it. I think a little bit of both worlds will give the biggest cognitive benefit of all. and at the end of the day it is something to think about for your own home learning environment.
Here are some photos of Miss S 'engaging in some pretend play
|Playing Doctor do her Dolly|
|The Camping Princess as Miss S put it preparing something yummy meal with the sand|
|Miss S and Miss A both looking after their babies.|