If you want the short answer to the question “is a quiet book Montessori toy?” – the answer is no. A quiet book as a whole is not Montessori aligned, but a single page is.
Does that sound confusing?
Then I invite you to read further as I break down why that is the case.
Many parents want to buy meaningful, educational toys for their kids. Some of the parents find some trustworthy sources (people, blogs, books, etc.).
Some research on their own or believe their intuition, and some try to follow different philosophies to help them with choosing the right toys.
And sometimes, we are just a mix of everything.
Quiet books are such great educational toys, and many parents are asking if quiet books are Montessori aligned. But before explaining if quiet books are Montessori aligned, let’s first check what Montessori toy means.
What is a “Montessori toy?”
Ask Google what Montessori toy is, and you will get thousands of different answers.
If we are using strictly Montessori terminology, there is no such thing as a Montessori toy. In Montessori philosophy, children work with “Materials”.
I’d have to write an entire article to explain why materials and not toys. I might do that one day. But for now, let’s not focus on that.
even though Montessori terminology doesn’t know the term “Montessori toy,” there can be toys that are Montessori aligned.
What does that mean?
It means a toy is not “listed” as a Montessori material, but it covers most of the Montessori philosophy requirements.
Let’s take a closer look at these requirements.
Toys that are Montessori aligned should:
- meet children’s developmental needs and their interests,
- be naturalistic,
- help children to learn things on their own through their explorations,
- have an isolated focus on a single concept,
- allow them to use their creativity and work independently at their own pace,
- have a control of error,
- be free from big distractions,
- be made from natural materials.
Here’s a short break-down of the requirements to better understand them.
Meet children’s developmental needs and their interests.
Every child is their own story. There are some general developmental milestones for different age groups, but in Montessori, you follow a child’s personal development pace.
If a child shows interest in something, you prepare the environment that encourages exploring that interest.
And if a child doesn’t show any interest in a specific toy or activity, that’s okay too- Maybe a toy will be interesting for them later.
Montessori philosophy teaches that a child needs to get in contact with reality first to develop the imagination. So the toys should resemble the “real world.”
If a child has a stuffed animal, it’s great if it has real proportions and colors, so it looks like a real animal. Better a cow that looks real than a violet cow, for example.
Also, in Montessori, children won’t have any fantasy toys like ghosts, witches, or other made-up creatures. The same applies to storybooks. You won’t find magical or made-up creatures in Montessori stories. As well as there won’t be any animals that have human qualities.
Learn things on their own through their explorations.
“Help me to do it myself” is a great moto. Children learn best by doing and when their senses are engaged.
Isolated on a single concept
A toy should teach a child one concept.
For example, if we look at Montessori material: 10 wooden cubes, ranging in dimensions. While playing with this material, a child is developing a visual and muscular perception of dimension. Nothing else. No colors, no sounds, no differences in materials.
Using their creativity and work independently at their own pace.
Montessori aligned toys don’t need instructions on how to do something. Kids will figure it out themselves, using their creativity and their own pace.
The best example I can give you is Legos. While lego blocks allow children to use their creativity and work independently, Lego sets with detailed instructions on how you have to do something, don’t. Sure, Lego sets are great, just not Montessori aligned toys.
Control of Error
Control of Error is the quality that Montessori Materials have.
It means that a child can check her own work, and it empowers a child to complete the task by herself without any assistance. Because a child can complete a task from beginning to end, this concept helps with confidence.
It also encourages a child to analyze and find a solution when a problem (an error) arises, to finish, and to complete the activity independently. Children can discover a mistake on their own, and not when it’s pointed out by a parent (or teacher), which is great for their independence and self-esteem.
Also, the concept helps children to accept a mistake as part of the process of learning and motivates them to solve the problems on their own and finish the task.
For 10 wooden cubes, for example, the control of error is visual – it’s the child’s ability to discriminate dimensions.
Free from big distractions
Flashy, shiny, battery-operated toys make children harder to focus on one task and pull their concentration away from their “work.” Toys should allow developing deep concentration and attention to detail. Toys should never take a “being proactive” away from a child and make them passive observers only.
If a toy contains big distractions, it won’t allow the child to focus, or to play with the toy independently at her own pace.
Made from natural materials
Materials made from wood, textile, metal, glass, rock, or clay will give children an experience of different textures, weights, and smells, as well as connect with nature. It’s great if children have an opportunity to know and work with all of them.
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How is a toy or a quiet book Montessori aligned?
Montessori aligned toys don’t need to have all requirements checked, but the more, the better.
To show you what I mean, I’ll walk you through some of the requirements using LEGO® building blocks as an example again.
In my opinion, Legos are Montessori aligned toy (even if they are not so-called Montessori Material).
Children are challenged to build structures by piecing together building blocks.
They build at their own pace, use their creativity and imagination, practice fine motor skills, and learn through trial and error. There are no additional big distractions, only blocks for building. Well, they can use Legos in other ways, too (sorting by sizes, colors, etc.)
That means, Legos as a toy are not isolated on a single concept and when building things, they don’t have a control of error.
So, what about quiet books?
Are quiet books Montessori aligned? We need to distinguish between a quiet book and a quiet book activity page.
Here’s one activity page, for example – Color Pencils.
In this activity, children match pencils with pots of the same color and put pencils in pots. Children will decide to play with this activity page when the challenge is exciting for them. The page has isolated on a single concept (colors).
The activity itself is free from other big distractions. Children will learn at their own pace and practice fine motor skills. The page also has a control of error; it’s visual – the child’s ability to discriminate colors.
This activity page is Montessori aligned.
It is true, though, that not all of the activity pages are.
If you pay attention to the activities in the quiet books – the best activity pages are the ones, concentrating on one, but never more than two different concepts, and with the control of error. This allows children their focus, and also – they won’t need any instructions and would be able to finish the task independently.
If you’ll find the activity page with many different things to do, that is not Montessori aligned. Besides, it can be confusing and overwhelming for a child, the same as if they have too many toys around themself.
What about the whole quiet book?
Well, you have more than one activity inside the book. Even if every activity page by itself is Montessori aligned, the quiet book as a whole, if we’re strict, is not.
Usually, I try to put activities that are very different from one another in one quiet book and are, if you look at them separately, Montessori aligned. But as a whole, we cannot say a quiet book is a Montessori “toy”.
But don’t worry!
Even so, quiet books are great educational toys, which have many advantages. Check out the table below!
|Legos||Activity page||Quiet book|
|Meet children’s developmental needs & interests.||(✓)||(✓)||(✓)|
|Being naturalistic (Real-to-life)||(✓)||(✓)||(✓)|
|Help children to learn things on their own through their own explorations.||✓||✓||✓|
|Isolated on a single concept||(x)||✓||x|
|Allow them to use their creativity and work independently at their own pace.||✓||✓||✓|
|Have control of error||x||✓||(x)|
|Free from big distractions||✓||✓||x|
|Made from natural materials||x||(✓)||x|
In the end, there is one more thing to have in mind. While Montessori materials are made for children to get their independence and to explore materials at their own pace, they still need observance, and sometimes guidance.
It is crucial that as parents, we play with our kids, and we answer to their invitation to play together. Parents use toys as babysitters all too often, and we sometimes forget to play with our kids actively.
Ou children get the most out of our toy purchases when we get involved and stay involved in our kid’s play, by following our kids.
There is a difference between an educational toy and Montessori aligned toy.
We also have to keep in mind the differences between the Montessori classroom setting and a free play.
Individual activity pages inside of quiet books usually are Montessori aligned. Still, for the quiet book as a whole, we cannot say it’s Montessori aligned, though the quiet book is a great educational toy.
Our kids get most out of our toy investments when we get involved in our kid’s play, following their lead.
In the next chapter, I’ll try to explain how to decide between buying a quiet book or making one.