Toddler Tuesday: Mat Work

I've said before that I'm not a stickler for educational rules and theories. I like Montessori a lot but have no problems completely throwing out ideas that I don't think will work for us. But there are other ideas that I want to incorporate, but it just takes me a while to get to them. Work mats was one of those areas.

The idea of the Montessori mat is to give children a defined space to work. It helps them maintain order and gives them a way to save projects if they have to stop for some reason.

Mommy and Me time (reusing an older picture from the rowing Good night moon post - I'm even bigger now, haha!)

I just gave Lucy a work mat about two months ago and regret not having started earlier. She loves her mat and takes such good care of it - rolling it up and putting it away when she isn't using it and always saying "on my mat mommy" if we start to play something. I thought she would only use it for more "school' type but it is just as likely to have a tea set on it as a pouring set or counting work. I guess that makes sense because in her mind they are all "games." 

Color Tablet Fun - She figured out her pom-poms matched by herself and just had to include them so they are now a permanent part of the color tablet tray

I love it too. I really do see a difference in her play/work when she is using it. For more school-type activities, she can focused longer and keep things lined up nice and tidy. And it helps control the chaos that occurs during playtime. We've always had a "one toy at a time" rule and when it is just her and me at home she follows it  pretty well (when Craig is home it doesn't seem to work as well, probably because I am not as consistent with her - bad mommy). The mat helps reinforce that idea. If her mat is full, she has to pick up before she can get something else out. This is especially useful now that the rule is evolving into a "one game" at a time rule as she is engaging in more imaginative play and often plays with toys together - uses her blocks to make tables, chairs and beds for her duplo people or using her pattern pieces as pretend food. As long as it is still relatively contained by the mat, she is fine.

She's showing me her duplo town...a great example of what I consider "relatively contained"

Currently her mat is a small ikea rug that used to be in our kitchen. I believe it cost $3. It isn't quite ideal according to Montessori standards because it has a slight pattern but its red on red and I don't think it really detracts from her games/work. It was an ideal size to start with because it is fairly easy for her to manage on her own but she will also need a larger one though as several of her new tot school activities won't fit on the red one. But I've got plans so stay tuned!
This picture is basically here to prove that Lucy doesn't always run around in her undies - just most of the time :-)

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