I've been doing some initial reading and learning (mostly web-based at this point although the library books are in transit) about Waldorf and Montessori theories around child-development and play. My take away from the surprisingly similar starting tenants to play and playrooms that both Waldorf and Montessori sites espouse are:
- Simplify. Cut back. Downsize. Doesn't matter how natural, or cool or creative your child's playthings are. When there are too many of them they get overwhelmed and their toys aren't appealing. Think Barney's, not Walmart.
- Well-made toys that are aesthetically appealing and open-ended are more appealing and last longer than easily broken toys that dictate how a child needs to play with them. This fits the quality over quantity point. For some folks this means only natural materials for toys-- to me it just means a few well chosen toys that hold up, can be used all different ways and if they're beautiful and natural-- bonus!
--Kids need their stuff out in the open. Ideally organized on low-shelves where things are out in the open or stored in open containers for small items. Check! This was my own conclusion after 3 years of trying to bring organization to the play room.
--The other key tenant which we're working on is having kids pick up their playroom-- putting things back where it goes. Part of what seems to help this is having a dedicated spot for everything. I struggle with this honestly, because i'm constantly trying to better organize their playthings-- editing, and oftentimes working in new toys they've been given. So we're working on having them take ownership for picking up but i don't think i'm ready for a system like they have at preschool where each toy or bin is numbered and there is a corresponding spot in the shelf for the item.
There's lots more to both waldorf and montessori philosophy for both play as well as childrens' development, but i've been focusing on these points as an entree to integrating more creativity into the boys days.
As you can tell from the photos, simplifying hasn't meant barren. It's amazing how you cart half the stuff to the basement and the playroom is still almost overflowing. I'm watching carefully though and almost everything in there gets constant use. The only thing i'm not certain about is the bookshelf. So far i haven't applied the same (take out half) approach i have in other places. They probably would read more different books if there were fewer choices. But somehow having an entire shelf of books to browse seems too important to me. So i'm holding off at this point. What do you think?