Thursday, October 20, 2011


Over the last months I have been keen on a simple life approach. Less is more. I tried to get rid off a lot of stuff and make the flat looke more clear. I bought a drawer for the toys in the living room so they would all be gone in the evening when I want to relax and be back in the right place in the morning. Now I have been to the first block of my Pikler training course and already I have changed the play area. I ADDED stuff. Phew

The older Leander gets the more I am keen on NEW toys. What is he interested in NOW? What's the next step? The creche gave me that feeling too, they have all this Montessori material there and I tried to copy that into our home. I even let him play with two small jugs of water, of course I showed him how first, just as Montessori describes. He surely LOVED it. But what did he get out of it (apart from wet trousers)? Exactly. Nothing. He didn't ask for it, he didn't figure it out for himself and the small but heavy jugs didn't leave much freedom for his own free play.

Free play. Yesterday I learned a lot about it. The importance of it and the characteristics. The more we talked about it the smaller I got, thinking about how I went the completely wrong direction, exactly the way I DIDN'T want to go and surely didn't want Leander to go.

So today I did a bit of a change. I put the "didactic toys" - the ones that have an aim, that have purpose - away and replaced them by "open toys" - ones that let the child explore freely for himself. Instead of the tower stack, puzzles or 100s of cars and trains there are now many balls, many cups, many bowls with many wooden bricks and many rings than could go onto a tower stick but could also be used for... Well, be creative! I also put the crayons away because he COULD BE as creative as Antek with them, but in the creche he has already been TAUGHT what to do with them but isn't really keen yet (apart from those 5 minutes once a week when the walls get a new artistic touch).

You might realise the excessive use of the word MANY there. That's right. All that kids need in their second year is just a great number of those toys they have been playing with in the first year. They want:

- put things on top of each other
- put things into each other (and see what fits where)
- (re)arrange things
- empty and fill and refill and refill cups or bowls
- push things
- move things
- climb into things (apart from Leander)
- Walk around pulling toys
- be flexible and creative with what is there

Our living room now looks like the room in the playgroup we go to. But that's wonderful, it feels right and harmonious. I can't wait to go and pick up Leander from the creche, take him home and give him back the quality of free play. Most of us haven't experienced it and are lacking qualities such as joy of exploration, concentration, focus and attention span (see also Janet Lansbury's post on this here)
I want my son at least to have the chance of building up those qualities.


  1. Nadine, I couldn't tell you enough how refreshing it is to read this... Sharing honestly about these kinds of struggles and realizations is so helpful to all of us. You are a wonderful mum and your boy is taking you on a great journey.

  2. My daughter is about to turn two and she spent a good half hour today playing with an empty coffee can, a stack of wooden tongue depressors (which I bought for crafting) and a bunch of pom poms (they were in the can with the sticks, part of my craft stash). Nora gathered the sticks, dropped the sticks, counted the sticks, brought me the sticks, put them back in the can, etc, etc, etc. She also loves to play with rocks. She fills her pockets with them at the park or on our dog walks and comes home and lines them up, shakes them in her toy kitchen pots, puts them in a purse and simply holds them and shouts, "ROCK!" with glee. They really do get so much pleasure out of open-ended, simple toys. Not that this has stopped my husband and I from buying other toys ... but I do love to see my two play creatively with simple things!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I have been struggling lately with how my 14 month old daughter is most content playing. I went to Montessori school and thought I wanted to do a Montessori approach in our home. However, the more I try it, the more discouraged I get. My daughter want to do all the things you list they should do in the first year: push things around, climb up things, carry things around (the bigger the better), toss balls around, stack rings then bang together the same rings, walk around the house gathering "treasures" in her bag or push wagon -- all "large scale" things. Montessori has such an emphasis on the small-scale and doing things in a certain way. That may be some children, but it is not my daughter. We both are happier when I embrace more of a Gerber/RIE/Pikler approach. Although the practical life aspect of Montessori is really great for my daughter. She wants to participate in every day tasks and is thrilled to have things to her scale, especially chairs. And it seems to me that there are several similarities between Montessori and Gerber, especially in leaving children so as not to break concentration, avoiding praise/rewards/time-outs and avoiding toys where children can't figure out how they work (i.e., the working parts are hidden). It is reassuring to hear your experience since it reinforces mine!

  4. Jessica, thanks for your comment! I'm doing the Montessori course at the moment and got so inteo it, that I took the wrong turns. Now I understand, that Montessori is great for 3-12 year olds, but not so much for the younger children., Here I stick with Pikler / Gerber and "only" let Leander take part in the household things he WANTS to take part in. Glad I'm not the only one with this confuzzled mind. But it's better to readjust at some point than go the "wrong" way all along I guess.

  5. Janet, thank you. Even just writing it all down made it so much clearer and I can now see where some "problems" had their origin... I LOVE this journey...

    Briana, isn't it great how children can be so easily amazed by such small things (small for us anyway). I do get stuck in the toy store every now and then though too, at least we've got a second hand one next door where I can bring it back when I realise that I was wrong...

    Oh you all should see how Leander now PLAYS again instead of just throwing his cars around or sticking to me all the time... He has barely looked at his car toys. It's so wonderful. In the evening the floor is covered in balls and cups and rings and corks and stuff and I LOVE it! Cleaning up can be so meditating too...

  6. Just wanted to say thank you for posting this - it flipped a switch with me somehow as I think I'd been stuck in the same place with our one year old.