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The Montessori Method of Teaching Arts and Crafts
The Montessori method of teaching arts and crafts is different compared to other educational methods.
It is not well known for encouraging creativity. This may seem a little unusual because art craft is a big part of children’s education. Partially, this is a misconception.
Creativity does exist in a Montessori classroom, but the approach to it is different and unique.
Montessori identified art as a way of communication and self-expression for the child.
The first step to art is to prepare the hand and the mind for creative expression. The child’s creativity becomes spontaneous as he develops the necessary skills.
So not only creativity exists in the Montessori classroom, but it can also be found in all the areas of learning as well.
“The particular kind of drawing which we have already described as a preparation for writing this later becomes also a foundation for, and a component of art and drawing in the proper sense of the word. By itself it is neither drawing nor writing, but rather an introduction to both the one and the other”.Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child, p280
2 Main Principles involved in Montessori Art and Craft Activities
- Indirect Preparation
- Isolation of skills
Every Montessori activity has direct and indirect purposes.
Many activities help the child build skills needed for art and craft. These activities do not necessarily belong to the art shelf.
They are activities from all areas of Montessori learning. E.g-:
- Activities like Prick a Shape, Superimposition of Shapes, and Beads are Practical Life activities
- Metal Insets belong to the Language area of Montessori. This is the child’s first writing experience.
- Triangles and Colour Boxes are Sensorial activities
- Famous Artists’ Tray belongs to the Cultural area of learning.
Isolation of Skills:
“Isolation” is a principle that is applied to every Montessori activity. Montessori materials in general isolate one skill at a time.
It is the same with art activities. They address one skill at a time in each activity. Then they gradually move on to combined and more complex activities. E.g., a gluing activity does not have any cutting, painting, or coloring.
This way the child’s full attention and energy go towards perfecting the gluing skills. As the child gains several skills, they can be introduced to new activities with combined and different difficulty levels.
9 Montessori Art and Craft Activities
- Superimposition of Shapes
- Designs with Triangles
- Designs with Metal Insets
- Prick a shape
- Creativity Tray
- Famous artists tray
- Painting Tray
- Bead Works
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Superimposition of Shapes
Small paper shapes cut out of colored construction paper, sheets of paper with a picture made out of the same shapes, and a glue stick.
This is a Practical Life activity designed to develop gluing skills, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
Since the shapes are already cut, the child’s full attention goes to gluing skills. Once the child develops his gluing and cutting skills, he can cut his own shapes to be creative with them.
A tray with cutting papers, a basket of scissors, and a set of empty trays.
The tray should have cutting papers in all difficulty levels. E.g., straight lines, curvy waves, zig-zag lines, and spirals. Once the child develops his cutting skills, he can start cutting his own shapes.
Designs with Triangles
A tray with a collection of paper triangles resembling the triangle of the Montessori Triangle Boxes, a glue stick, and blank sheets of paper.
The child can make his own designs like kites, houses, and trucks by gluing these triangles together.
Designs with Metal Insets
10 metal shapes (insets) and frames.
Tracing a Metal frame is the child’s first paper writing experience. It directly prepares the child for writing letters. This is referred to as “taking the pencil for a walk”. Once your children are used to tracing they can make their own designs using the insets and the frames
Prick a shape
A tray, a large push pin or a sharp pencil, and dotted shapes printed on 14cmx14cm paper
Prick a Shape is a Practical Life activity. This activity will refine fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration.
Show the child how to poke the dots around the shape and gently pull the shape out. He can color that shape or paste it and make designs with them.
The creativity tray can have a few controlled craft materials for the child to create his free craft. You can change the materials depending on the skill you are focusing on.
I usually have 5-6 free craft trays on my craft shelf. They all have different difficulty levels and I change the materials every week to perk up the excitement.
Famous Artists Tray
A tray, 8-10 Nomenclature Cards(picture cards) of artwork done by any famous artist, and the materials to recreate that artwork.
E.g., The artist Gustav Klimt used a variety of paints, chalk, graphite, gemstones, gold foil, and curtain rings for his creations. You can add some of these child-safe materials along with the picture cards of his artwork.
This activity can be kept on the shelf for your children to make their version of art, using the same materials. You can even add a small description of each picture at the back of the cards.
This makes it easy for the teacher to talk about them during circle time. If the child is at a reading level, the child can read them as well.
A tray with small containers of paint, few paint brushes, a small napkin, a container to fill water, and blank sheets of paper.
Every Montessori activity needs a clear presentation of how to use the material. Show the child how to fill water, and use the paint without mixing up the colors.
I always fill the paint tubs with very little paint. That way if the child accidentally mixes the paint it won’t be a waste.
A tray with different colored beads sorted in a bead organizer and some codes.
This is a fine motor activity that belongs to the Practical Life Shelf. The child can pick the desired colors and make his own necklace or bracelet. You can even add a few pattern guides for the child to follow.
Montessori approach to arts and crafts is unique. It focuses on building skills before the child is exposed to free craft.
Once the basic skills are acquired, creativity will happen spontaneously. The child’s trained hand becomes a means of communication for him. Montessori called this system an “indirect method”.
“…and we see a child is continuously speaking, so he draws. He expresses himself with his vocal cords and with his hand, showing latent tendencies of which he himself is still unconscious”,Dr. Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child, p283
About the Author
Pamini is a MACTE certified Montessori teacher and the creator of Montessoripulse.com.
She has 14 years of experience working with children, including 10+ years in the Montessori classroom. Her mission is to share her best tips and hacks to practically implement the Montessori method into your Preschool/Homeschool curriculum.
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