Skip to main content

A Cycle of Activity

Have you heard of a cycle of activity? This Montessori concept is one of those things that makes my mama heart both so proud and feel a little pang of sadness all at the same time. Gus has been completing the "cycle" (the Montessori one, not the baseball one for all of you fellow baseball fans) more and more these days, and I finally caught most of it on camera. 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

The cycle of activity refers to the completion of an entire activity from beginning, to the middle, to the end. First, it is choosing a work from the shelf. Then, taking the work out to use it. This might be taking the work to a work mat on the floor, a small table, or a chowki. The younger a child is the less likely, in my experience, the child is to take the work somewhere before exploration. They may work on the shelf, or just on the floor. This isn't something I correct, but through modeling it changes as they get older. 

Here Gus choose some coin box work. The work itself is very simple it includes a coin box with a slot, the key on a thick string, and a bowl full of quarters. It is all arranged on a tray. 

Next in the cycle of activity is exploring the work. That might mean completing it as it has been presented, or it may truly mean exploration. Basically, it is using the work in some way. It is the "middle" of the cycle. The do-ing phase. I have found exploration is a lot more common for my kids when the work is new and when the work is mastered. When they are in the "sweet spot" of being able to complete the work and still enjoying it, it is often done just as I have presented it. 

Gus was very focused in this instance and did not do a ton of exploring. He could have put all the quarters in and shook the box, or put one in and taking one out. Or something I can't even think of! Instead, he methodically placed one quarter at a time in the box over and over again - still a completely valid use of the material. 

The final part of the cycle of activity is restoring and returning the work - the end. It is cleaning up the work and returning it back to where it was found on the shelf. This is where it is most likely that toddlers aren't going to quite complete the cycle of activity on their own. They may leave their work out without restoring, chose another work without putting away the tray, or put the work back in a completely random spot. Again, this is not something I am actively correcting but a process that we model. Overtime, your child will pick it up naturally. 

Gus, in this instance, restored and returned the work. He restored by making the activity ready for the next use (or in a classroom, the next person). He placed the quarters back in their spot and returned everything to the tray. Finally, he returned the tray to just the spot on the shelf where it belonged. 

So, why does this make me sad? Because it means my baby is growing up. He's starting to leave the toddler environment behind and is ready for something more - the Children's House! It's a signal to me that he is ready for the challenges and structure of the Montessori 3 to 6 year old environment. And, that is always bittersweet for me. Now, he's not quite completing a cycle of activity every time, but he's getting there more and more. 

Gus, is a unique case in that he will not be heading off to school this fall. His birthday is in late November so he misses the school age cut off (which is Sept. 1 here). So, while he could attend our private school, he would have to spend 4 years in the Children's House which isn't something we can afford. So, he will be home with me for another full year. So, look out some elements of the Children's House will start to make their appearance now that I'm noticing signs that he may be ready! 

A look at a Montessori cycle of activity - what it looks like and what it means

Have you noticed that your toddler is completing a cycle of activity? Or what part has your child not quite mastered? 


Giulia said…
Hello nicole. I have been following for quite a while now but never commented before. I have a question for you: taking this particular subject as an example, how do you model without correcting? Practically, what would u say/do to model the completion of a cycle without correcting? Tnx

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2019

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure!

2019 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include a variety of brands and new product finds! Just a reminder that no one child will be interested in all of this or needs all of this. These toys are just here to spark ideas and give you a feeling for some Montessori-friendly options available! 

So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 

First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created to…

Which Open-Ended Toys are "Worth it?"

As a Montessori parent, I try to provide a mix of materials in our home to engage my kids! That work that will spark joy, concentration, and repetition. It's not always an easy task, as Maria Montessori said, "Life is mysterious...only the choice of life can choose the work that the child truly needs. Therefore, the teacher respects this mysterious process and knows to wait with faith." So, there does sometimes feel like there is a bit of trial and error when it comes to choosing materials that your children need. 

For us, the right balance is easier to find when I spend time deeply observing my children. Watching their interests, sitting on my hands if I have to, letting them struggle a little with things, and letting them get bored. And what I have personally found is that here at home, a combination of open ended materials and more structured work have been the right balance. Open ended toys wouldn't necessarily be found in a Montessori classroom, but they are perf…

A Montessori Approach to Purging Your Toys

Becoming a Montessori family has been life changing in so many ways, most obviously with the amount and type of materials we use in our home. Once you see why having so many toys is a problem, or when you make the decision to move towards Montessori, it can be completely overwhelming. But, taking a Montessori approach to purging your toys is possible! And, it doesn't exactly mean that you have to throw away everything you have and start over with only expensive wooden toys. It will mean taking a hard look at what you have and whether it really fits with Montessori.

One note, however, Montessori is at its core about following your child's own path and respecting your child as a whole person. So, if your child has a toy, lovey, book, or whatever that your child super loves or is super attached to, but it doesn't fit Montessori ideals, don't take it away. Follow your child, that is more Montessori than whether or not you own some specific consumer product. 
How to Purge You…