In Montessori, there is a feeling that young children have difficulty distinguishing
between reality and fantasy, and therefore fantasy should be postponed until the child is
firmly grounded in reality. The tasks and activities the children do are reality oriented.
Montessori said that it is a mistake for children to amuse themselves with toys, that
children are not really interested in toys for long without the real intellectual interest of
associating them with sizes and numbers. In Montessori, each manipulative material is
focused toward a specific learning concept and has a step-by-step procedure for being
used. Math counting rods, for example, are not to be transformed into castle walls.
In Waldorf philosophy, play is viewed as the work of the young child. The magic of
fantasy, which is so alive in every young child, is an integral part of how the teacher
works with the child. The teacher incorporates storytelling and fantasy into the
In Waldorf, we feel that it is essential to realize the value of toys to help children to
re-enact experiences from life as they actually happen. The less finished and the more
suggestive a toy may be, the greater its educational value, for it really enlivens the
imaginative life of the child. So toys in the Waldorf kindergarten may be rounds of wood
cut from birch logs, seashells, lengths of colored silk or cotton for costuming or house
building, soft cloth dolls with a minimum of detail in faces or clothing, etc., allowing for
open-ended imaginative play.
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