Skip to main content

Imagination and Montessori

There are some myths about Montessori that sometimes crop up and often they surround the topic of imagination. There can sometimes be this feeling that Montessori does not allow for kids to use their imagination or that somehow pretend play isn't encouraged. We so often see Montessori children,focused on trays that have specific outcomes that it can appear that creativity, imagination, and the world of pretend is taken out of the equation. 
"The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest..." Maria Montessori 
But, that's simply not true. Children will always pretend. They will use their imagination to create. If you spend time with any child this quickly becomes clear. Children constantly use their imaginations to create, to process, and to learn. 

A look at the role of imagination, fantasy, and pretend play in our Montessori home

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

In a Montessori home, we don't discourage the use of imagination or pretend play. But, it may look a bit differently than it would in other environments, because there is one thing that we don't include, and that's fantasy (most often in the form of commercialized characters). In Montessori, fantasy isn't typically introduced until the second plane of development for a couple of reasons. 

One, young children have an intense interest in the world around them. They find every day life to be magical, special, and worthy of wonder. They don't need anything more than the rich world around them to play with. They find joy and amazement, where we see mundane. They want to play with real. They want to wonder with real. They want to explore, play, and create with real. Because, the bottom line is our reality is pretty darn amazing, especially when viewed through the lens of a child. 

Two, fantasy includes things that are never true - talking pigs, animals that wear clothes, flying humans, and things of that nature. These ideas are adult created ideas. They are someone else using their imagination to create. Feeding these ideas to our children actually prohibits their imagination. Instead of creating their own ways to think, they start to mimic the ways adults have told them they should use a specific material. 

Montessori argued that fantasy actually has it's roots in reality. She said, "The true basis of the imagination is reality." Without adult-driven fantasy, they are free to create their own ideas. And, eventually, they can use this strong basis in reality to manipulate it and create fantasy of their own - at a time when they are better able to understand abstract concepts. Basically, kids must know reality in order to use it to manipulate it into their own and be truly creative. 

There are few things we do to encourage the use of imagination in our children: 

  • provide a variety of open-ended materials to explore - animals, building materials like these magnatiles, blocks, rainbow arches, baby dolls, art supplies and even empty baskets 
  • keep in mind my children's real life interests when choosing the open ended materials that we have in our home 
  • follow their lead - we play together, but we play the games, stories, scenarios that my children create 
  • respect pretend play as just as important as any tray work - same "rules" {for me} about protecting concentration, respecting their work, and not praising their work apply 
  • give lots of free time to play and explore - the more time they have the bigger and deeper they can play
  • allow for creativity where ever it comes, even if something is used differently then it is intended - using a puzzle piece to pretend? Totally alright! As long as what they are doing isn't unsafe for themselves, for the material, or for another, then I'm going to allow that exploration, imagination, and play 

When do you see your children use their imagination? How do you support pretend play? 

A look at the role of imagination, fantasy, and pretend play in our Montessori home



AME said…
I love your phrasing here. It's a great way to explain about what Montessorians consider imagination and imaginative play. Plus a nice segue to discouraging those cartoon characters I have such a hard time keeping out of the classroom!

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2020

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! 2020 UPDATE: This list is updated for another year! Enjoy a variety of Montessori friendly finds from both major retailers and smaller shops!  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 toys, but only works for classroom settings. While there are many works that I recommend for home school use, you won't find these

Our Kids' Montessori Gift Lists 2020

With the holiday season upon us we've been making lists and gathering gifts for the Kavanaugh children. It's always a fun process of observing my children, seeing what they would really be interested in and making some decisions based on what I see. This year is different because I'm also making decisions knowing that we are looking at a very long and quiet winter ahead. So that's influencing the amount I will buy and the specific choices I will/have made.  Henry and Nora are also at the point, being into the second plane of development, where they heavily influence the items on the list and what is ultimately purchased. So, you'll see that while Montessori influences what I will purchase and what goes on their list, so does their own preferences and personality.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore Teddy is 14-months-old right now and as the fourth baby, we have so many toddler things. But, there are a few things I've still found tha

Sensitive Periods from Birth to 6 - A Chart and Guide

Dr. Maria Montessori spent her life observing, studying, and writing about children. During her lifetime of work she discovered that young children move through a series of special times when they are particularly attracted to specific developmental needs and interests. She called these times, sensitive periods. During the sensitive period, children learn skills related to the sensitive period with ease. They don't tire of that work, but seek it, crave it and need it. When the sensitive period passes, this intense desire is gone, never to return.  That doesn't mean the skill is lost forever once the sensitive period is over. Instead, it just means that it will take a more conscious effort to learn. As Dr. Montessori explains,  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. "A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility which enables