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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. 

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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

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