Thursday, October 18, 2012

Costumes in a Montessori Environment {Mom Thoughts}

My son has always been into costumes. His first was Elmo. Next came a super cute monkey. A Wonderpet. Spiderman. Batman. SuperWhy! Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. You get the picture. He is the one at the park, in full costume, in March. We count down to Halloween, not because of candy, but because it's the one day that everyone else is also wearing a costume. 

So you can understand my apprehension (no frustration really) when I read this article titled Danger of Fantasy by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed.

"Around age four-and-a half a child has a strong need for vocabulary and can learn over 250 new words per week if given the opportunity. When language enrichment does not occur, children will create a fantasy world with imaginary friends and activities."

"We need to protect our children from make-believe situations that can harm their impressionable minds."

So... I'm damaging my child by not introducing him to enough new vocabularly words and he's acting out by creating fantasy worlds? 
Yea... I don't know about that. 

I'm a mom. I'm the oldest of five kids. I've spent my whole life around children. From being a mother's helper to babysitter to nanny to having my own. I've always seen imaginary play as something to be pursued. As something beneficial. I also know that I'm not the only one who thinks that.

There is something quite unique about using the Montessori Method in a Homeschool environment.  In some ways things work smoother. There is consistency from waking to sleeping. Their home environment is their school environment. 

But that also means that if we were to stick to traditional guidelines, my son would have to give up all of his costumes. Not just at school but at home too. 

And I think that may crush his spirit. 

So this week I've been taking a close look at this whole issue in our home. Is this an outdated philosophy? Is it something we are going to just ignore and blend with all the other things we blend in a homeschool? How is his work affected? His behaviour? His attitude towards life? His focus?

I (and my husband) were extremely surprised. When asked to take off his costume because he had an important day ahead, he thrived. He focused. He did math work I didn't know he could do. He read independently for hours. 

Put the costume back on and we had massive meltdowns. Whining. Very little focus. We had a horrible playdate earlier in the week- one in which he just happened to wear a special costume.

Now some of that may be the normal ebb and flow of the week. We all know that our kids work better at different times of the day and some days need more time to run and be silly. But it was hard to dispute the change we saw in him. 

I'm still not ready to give up the costumes yet. But we did work something out together for the time being: 

costumes can be for break time. 
(and Halloween of course)

I don't know if it's the middle layer we are striving for. We have some great homeschool friends that consider their home "Waldor-issori." Her kids get ready for school by putting on dresses and jester hats and it's adorable and awesome. I would love to be them. But it may not work that way. And that's ok. 

How about you? How does the fantasy world play into your environment? 


  1. Just stumbled upon your blog, from Montessori Monday! And this (fantasy) is such a great topic, and a many layered one! I love how you shared your experiences and that your family is taking a closer look, as we say in Montessori, observing the child! Because that is often where we find our answers! I could go on and on, but I will give you a link to my various posts on this important subject (! And I think I can sum it and say the answer is different for each child! (My son has Down syndrome so that adds yet another layer!) I'd love it if you joined my Montessori Facebook group, as this topic and lots of others comes up and it's a great group of moms: I see you are on Pinterest, I'll be inviting you to some of my Montessori boards, too!

    1. Thanks so much for you comment! I'm not on facebook but I did join some of the Montessori Boards- what great resources! I also enjoyed reading through the link and found it very encouraging to know I'm not alone in this! Hope you have a great week.

  2. Well, all you have to do is look at the header of my blog to see how it works at our house :) Pictured is my youngest doing his work in costume. If one could glance over the several years worth of pictures from my blog they would find several costumes being worn by a boy hard at work.

    Lisa nailed it, as usual, the answer is different for each child. I would hazard to guess it has a lot to do with the reasons the child has chosen to wear the costume in the first place. My boys put them on when they want to draw on their inner super hero. Other children might put them on when they want to be someone else for the day.

    1. Mine very much enjoys being a super hero! Thank you so much for you comment!

  3. Fascinating post, Lauren! Fantasy play tends to be a very controversial issue in Montessori with a wide range of viewpoints. When I was a Montessori teacher, the children didn't use imaginative play in the classroom because they were only there for a few hours in the morning or afternoon. They knew that it was fine to do imaginative play when they were outdoors or at home.

    As a homeschooler, I didn't worry about my kids' imaginative play. My kids weren't that excited about costumes except for Halloween and at certain times for role play, but they loved imaginative play in other ways. During "school time," they typically just worked with the Montessori materials. But otherwise, it was fine with me if they used the Montessori materials for imaginative play as long as the materials were used respectfully. I think many Montessori homeschoolers (other trained Montessori teachers included) tend to use a similar philosophy except for those who only allow the Montessori materials to be used during "school time." As Lisa said, it really depends on the child. It's awesome to see that you're observing your son's reaction so you can feel confident you've found the right solution for him.

    Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I shared your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

    1. Thank you for the feature Deb! I really appreciate hearing how you did/do things as well.