I’m excited that it is December. This time of year has such a magical quality with all of the cultural and religious celebrations centered around light and jolly stories of Santa Claus. We have been decorating the classroom with paper chains and snowflakes. Yes, even in Hawaii, it can snow. 🙂 When we gather as a group, we have been singing our favorite Christmas songs.
These carols bring such a warm and fun feeling to our hearts. As we move through the next couple of weeks, we will be exploring celebrations like Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, and the Winter Solstice through stories, songs, games, and crafts. It is certainly a festive time in the classroom.
Given my background in theatre and my passion for the performing arts, it is no surprise that I greatly value play. Throughout my time in the classroom, I have observed the strong desire children have to play. In my Montessori training, we were inspired to make learning feel like play, and I strive for this as I encourage children to take their learning to new levels. I also see the love children have for pretend play and fantasy separate from academic subjects. My observations have led me to learn more about play-based learning. It has been reassuring to see how our Montessori classroom supports some important truths about brain development as I discover parallels between these two pedagogies. Here are some of the parallels I have discovered in my readings:
- Executive function develops through These important mental capacities are one of the main indicators of future academic success, and play naturally develops them.
- Relationships are everything. When a child wants to please you, they will respond to directions, tasks, and transition with greater ease (with a nod to mirror neurons—we also need to model what we want to see). The child has to make their own decisions in order to strengthen the prefrontal cortex. This is why it is so important to acknowledge their perspective so they feel heard and provide problem-solving steps.
- Interest seeking keeps children focused. Children, when allowed the time and space to follow their interests in play, develop focus, attention, and even planning and execution of play events. The INTEREST SEEKING system is a neural highway, designed to make way for the motivation and desire to learn
- PLAY is like a very efficient “department of transportation” that naturally builds and strengthens this highway.
So, when we give children a rich and diverse learning environment and the freedom to choose their activities—and we facilitate their interests with resources and dialogue—dynamic learners will emerge. (Fairy Dust Teaching, 2020)