I have been doing some reading about the Montessori method of learning. This began as I was searching for a more hands-on way of teaching Matthew about our faith. I found a book in our church library entitled The Child in the Church, by Maria Montessori. I’ve learned a bit about Montessori from some great blogs, but this is the first book I’ve read that she actually authored (though there are a few chapters written by the editor).
In this book, she makes a point of the fact that children around ages 3 to 5 are very much able to appreciate the beauty of “real” art. They don’t need to see only cutesy or childish art; in fact, they may very well think it’s silly!
She also writes a little bit about the “absorbent mind” – how simply exposing a small child to something helps them learn and make that “something” a part of themselves. For example, learning a language takes almost no effort for a small child, and they certainly don’t need lessons. They pick up the language simply by being exposed to it, and it becomes a part of them – the language in which they think and communicate. For this reason, it’s extremely important to take our children to church and expose them to our faith within our homes from a very early age.
Recently, on a trip to the dollar store I found three sets of beautiful religious-themed stickers. One was of the stations of the cross, which I’ll save for next Lent. There was also a set of Mary stickers and a set of Jesus stickers. These were miniatures of real artwork, and they are very lovely to look at.
The whole idea of movement, art appreciation, and exposure to religion came together for me as I was wondering what to do with these. And I came up with the idea for a little game to play with Matthew. Games are always a big hit around here!
The game is made up of two circles with stickers around the perimeter. One circle has the Mary stickers, the other has the Jesus stickers. One person gets the “Mary circle”, and the other person gets the “Jesus circle”. Matching stickers were hot-glued to clothespins (laminated for durability first) , and placed on the floor, face down. Each player picks five random clothespins to place on their side of the basket, with the picture facing away from the opposite player.
We take turns selecting a clothespin from the other player’s side and see if it matches our circle. If it does, it gets clipped to the matching picture on the circle. If it doesn’t, it’s discarded into the basket and another clothespin is picked to replace it on the side of the basket.
Once all the clothespins on the floor are either clipped to the circles or discarded into the basket, the game is over. We count the matches on each circle and the one with the most is the winner!
There’s a lot of learning involved here – visual discrimination, fine motor skills, taking turns, being a kind winner and a good loser, counting, and the names of the art pieces.
I already knew many of the titles of the artwork – like Jesus and the Children, Madonna of the Streets, Immaculate Conception, The Good Shepherd, etc. And the others were simple to look up. I plan to write them on the back of the circles, behind the appropriate sticker. We’ll add another dimension to our game by seeing if we can remember the names as we clip them.
Used just as a simple matching game, this would be a good quiet activity to take to church.
I’d love to hear how you help your very little ones learn about your faith, beyond Bible stories and praying (although these are invaluable of course!). How do you help them “absorb” a religious environment in your home? Leave a comment and let me know!
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