I have had so many questions about this, that I think I’ll answer everything with a post dedicated to the subject.
The light table has come into our house a few months ago. Light tables are not a material that is used or inspired by the Montessori philosophy, but rather in the Reggio Emilia one.
About a year ago, I was acquainted with pedagogy during the playful learning space e-course that I took. I have been reading a lot on Reggio since, although I have to say that information is scarce about it. I find that there is a lot of Montessori influence in the Reggio philosophy, but the big difference is in their use of art. They uses what they call the 100 languages of children: art as a medium for learning. M and E have 2 extremely artistic personalities. And I know that Montessori was not a pedagogy based on self expression through many mediums, but rather through work. My children are flourishing within the Montessori philosophy we are living by. But I also wanted to incorporate more means of expressions, ones that my youngest were keen on using, and this is when I thought Reggio might be an interesting approach for us. I have so much more to read and learn in Reggio, and I am definitely the best person to deeply explain the basis of this pedagogy. If you want to find out more on Reggio, I suggest that you visit:
Mariah’s blog: Mariah’s approches are deeply influenced by Reggio as she had the chance to visit and live in Reggio school in Italy.
The site of Reggio education : which contains a mine of information about the schools
All of this to say, Reggio has been tainting our days for a while now.
Back to the light table.
I have no regrets getting this for the children. They all use it very differently, but they all use it. A LOT
X (the oldest)
My oldest is a mover. A doer. He needs to go, move, do, create, try, miss and try again. He never stops. Concentration is hard for him. But when he plays on the table. he is absorbed. It really helps him stop and concentrate truly on what he does. It amazes me every time.
On the table he build. This is his passions: trucks, loaders, cranes, blocks, building…and so every time he has a chance, he sneaks to the atelier without E seeing him and he builds. (E loves to play with X on the table, but X likes to have a minute to do it alone sometimes)
M (4 yo):
things that are beyond my imagination, or at least beyond what I thought she could do or rather that she could imagine. She loves to use this table to experiment all sorts of things: paint, pattern making, window crayons, name it. She tries things and looks at the result. It seems to fill a desire to explore that she was able to express before.
E (18 months):
Oh, what can I say about him:
he has all sorts of sensorial experiences on there. He seems more aroused to all activities I set up for him when they are on the table. He gets more concentrated (or at least for a longer period of time) and he keep asking for more
most of his pouring, sorting, transferring activities are done on the table, and he actually set them up himself (!!)
he goes in the table, takes the jars he want to work with, sometimes get some cups to transfer from, sometimes spoons or other material that is available to him
and he just goes:
His absolute favorite activity on there are hands down the window markers
and those blocks are also very well loved
the colors are appealing to him.
- Where did I get my light table? : in my local teacher store. But they are clearly starting to be available at more places, I am starting to see them everywhere. But for a lot of information on light tables, panels, including how to do it yourself, I suggest that you go read Play at home moms’s blog. They are doing tremendously interesting stuff with all this!
- Do I only set activities up for this, or do I let my children use it as they want? I do both. But if I see they are having an inspiration for something, even if I had set something up for them, I try to encourage their creativity and join them in their work
- How is this Montessori? It is not. As I have been saying for a while, I have been influenced by other philosophy and I am trying to incorporate what feels right for us into our days. But I like how this really helps my children express themselves, helps their creativity, and also they concentration. X become so calm and settled when working on the table, he always tell me how he feels good after. I think it brings him closer to the period of intense concentration M. Montessori talked about in the absorbent mind, and it helps him learn to concentrate to longer periods of time. I am considering using this table to help him through academic material he has a harder time to go through. I am sure it will be somewhat beneficial to him.