This year was our first year at a Monstessori preschool, and I wanted to share one of our learnings that we have incorporated at home. While Monstessori holds to a child-led educational philosophy, it is definitely far from a free-for-all. In fact, a Monstessori classroom tends to look like a very neat and structured environment. Even though kids are empowered to learn at their own pace, there is also a good deal of structure put into place. One of the most genious ways this type of classroom keeps kids on task is by using a mat (or “rug”, as they are called). Honestly, when my kids had their first day at this school and the teacher required that they roll out a mat before starting to play, I was rolling my eyes and wondering what on earth I’d signed them up for. But now? I TOTALLY GET IT.
The rug serves several purposes, First, it isolates a child’s attention to the task at hand. Because only one activity is allowed on the mat at a time, it helps a child focus and encourages them to spend more tine with one activity.
It also identifies a child’s work or play space, and encourages kids to negotiate and seek permission when they both decide to play the same activity. If a child puts an activity on the rug that means the child has claimed that activity. If another child wants it they have to wait their turn, or ask to join in.
But the beautiful part for a parent? It’s a reminder that they must put one toy away before getting out another. This has been a game-changer in my house, in terms of keeping their play area neat and clean. We’ve had an advantage in that they already know these rules at school, so once we implemented the rugs at home, it’s just taken me reminding them that the rules at home are the same as at school.
I ended up finding our rugs at IKEA for about $4 each, but any small rug would do. We keep ours rolled like yoga mats in the play area, and whenever they play I remind them to grab a rug. While a Montessori classroom is not equibbed with “toys” per se, we use our rugs for both educational games and toys. I’ve been able to find some great Montessori-type toys on Amazon, and surprisingly the kids are just enthusiastic about them as they are about Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.
While the kids still need reminders, I find the structure of a play mat really helps keep our play area tidy. I love how this small fix has minimized some of the chaos of our small play area.