Montessori believed that the imagination be encouraged through real experiences and not fantasy. She felt very strong that this powerful force was not wasted on fantasy. It was important to allow a child to develop their imagination from real information and real experiences. Montessori believed that young children were attracted to reality; they learn to enjoy it and use their own imaginations to create new situations in their own lives. They were just excited about hearing a simple story of a man going to the shop and buying bread, then they would be of hearing a made up story.
She felt that once the child was fed with plenty of real life experiences the child can then develop their own imagination from reality. “The young child has a tendency to create fantasies and dwell on them. Adults have been accustomed to consider these as proof of the child’s superior imaginative abilities. Montessori considered them proof not of his imagination, but of his dependent and powerless position in life”. Chapter 2, pg. 45 Montessori – A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard It made sense from this belief that she did not like to encourage fantasy.Order now
She did not object to the child creating objects of fantasy, but she did strongly object to the adult feeding the child someone else’s fantasy, instead of exciting reality. She believed that this was just satisfying the adult rather than the child. In particularly in younger children she found it quite damaging as a child of 3 years of age would not be able to decipher between what was and wasn’t real. A child would believe the story of the monster that came out at night time, and could at times become scared of this make believe creature.
Montessori believed that in time a child’s mind crowded with too much fantasy, not based on reality, wanders aimlessly in circles and eventually cannot focus. As the absorbent mind is a chief learning tool for children aged 3-6 years. Imagination is the chief learning tool for 6-12 years. For the 6-12 years, logical thinking has not yet developed and therefore the imagination drives the learning. For the younger children, the imagination creates mental pictures of a world they cannot see.
It is quite remarkable how Montessori recognised the power of the imagination in the learning process, something which to this today is still not totally utilised in traditional teaching. “Is the child’s mental horizon limited to what he sees? No. He has a type of mind that goes beyond the concrete. He has the great power of imagination. ” Chapter 17, Pg. 160 The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori Children with a lively imagination can be categorized as being good at “creative subjects”, such as music, drama, art etc.. nd would struggle at times in the more “logical subjects”, such as maths, geometry and so on. However Montessori felt that used correctly the imagination had had the power to bring human kinds to great levels and for both creative and logical subjects – it was just as powerful when painting a picture as well as working out a mathematical sum. “The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.
Our aim therefore, is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so touch his imagination s to inflame his enthusiasm to the inmost core. It is along the path of the higher realities, which can be grasped by the imagination that the child at this age is to be led. ” Chapter 21, Pg. 367 Maria Montessori – Her Life and Work by E. M Standing She felt that the creative mind should not be seen as the opposite to the logical mind – rather its partner.
And that imagination is the power behind these two parts of the mind. Imagination is a power that leads to creativity. Ideas are abstracted and converted into reality again, which emphasises the importance of feeding imagination with reality. She warns us against the dangers of cultivating the imagination in separation from the intelligence. Montessori believed that the imagination needed a structure to work within and her plan for cosmic education includes these elements. When teaching the cosmic plan we start with the whole and then move to details.
It’s the details that provide a framework which the child can hold a clear view of the whole. Classification and other precise keys of study are the structures within which the imagination will thrive. The imagination working from a base of precision and order is able to take in the world of reality and abstract from it concepts and ideas. She was quite specific about what she suggested as the means for keeping contact with reality and most importantly ensuring that reality never became boring.
In the younger child she encouraged the “practical life” exercises and emphasised the importance of making these new, exciting exercises when presenting to the child. Later on for the older child, generally 6-12 years, it was a very important part of their education to make “day trips”, going outdoors and learning about the world around them, which was very exciting. She encouraged “preparation exercises” for these children such as packing an overnight bag to go camping, although this is something they were familiar with, it helped them contain their energy and to focus their mind.
She believed that adolescents should also gain practical life experience at this stage too, such as running a small enterprise eg. Farm, shop, guesthouse. As well as many other learning experiences, this exercise provided a way of focusing imagination in a reality based form. Sensorial exercises provide mental structure. Once again proving a reality base for imagination. Another part of the Montessori curriculum was cultural subjects, which played an essential part of the Montessori curriculum of inspiration.
However, sometimes in the Montessori schools for adolescents, they became “subjects” instead of “sources of inspiration”, due to so many different topics to cover on the curriculum. However this was solved by teachers using a cosmic integrated approach to teaching and by allowing students to guide their own work, whenever possible. Imagination plays an important role in all learning and creative thinking throughout our lives. And so it is understandable that Montessori felt so strong about utilizing this tool in the best way possible.
In my own experience, I have seen a child who filled with fantasy stories, from games, television, movies of pretend characters and unreal stories, is exhausted and does struggle in other aspects of their life struggle with concentration and keeping focus. It is a simple rule to encourage imagination through reality and it is the job of the teacher to ensure a prepared environment is available for her children and that practical life and sensorial life exercises are presented as exciting real life exercises to ensure that reality is never dull.
Montessori’s first school was “Casa dei Bambini”, meaning “The Children’s House”. Which nicely fits the picture of children living in a real world, when Montessori was approached about her views of children playing imaginary tea, pouring cups of tea to the dolls sitting around the doll house, she made the observation that the “dolls house” over the years was slowly getting bigger and bigger. She asked the question, what if it was to become as big as the child, and her answer to this was the child would make the transition from a make believe world to a real world, where they can work and ultimately they much prefer it.