“How is it possible for the child’s imagination to be developed by that which is in truth the fruit of the adult’s imagination? We alone imagine, not they; they merely believe.” – Maria Montessori
How does our Montessori family feel about Disney? We absolutely love it! Like many, I grew-up with the movies, my family went to Disney World yearly, and my favourite pancakes were the ones my uncle made that looked like the famous mouse himself. That being said, in Montessori, between birth and six, the child has an absorbent mind and needs to be exposed to reality. Fantasy is best saved for the second plan child, ages 6-12, when they truly understanding the differences between fantasy and reality. I love Dr. Montessori’s teaching and agree with them wholeheartedly. But I also wanted to see if there was a way for my children to start enjoying a part of something that has brought me so much joy, while staying true to the Montessori philosophy. I found that we can enjoy certain aspects of Disney now, and appreciate the rest later.
I knew that showing a child fantasy and saying, “mice really don’t wear pants or talk” wouldn’t be effective. Past experiences have proven to me that the child doesn’t fully understand. When you’re in the process of learning about the real world, it’s difficult to distinguish what is real and what isn’t, because you really don’t know. The child would nod and say they understood, but it’s just not the same. In a way, it’s like explaining death. We can describe it and point out examples, but that doesn’t mean that they “get” it. I’m not saying you should do as we do, you need to do what works for you and your family.
Currently, our whole household enjoys the catchy Disney soundtracks, old and new. We regularly ask Alexa to “play Disney” a few times a week—hearing “Heigh-Ho” really gets one in the mood to clean, haha. We planned to take the girls to Disney World, specifically Epcot, this spring. But with the pandemic, we need to save that trip until the world has healed.
We find Epcot more enjoyable for adults and, based on previous experiences, there isn’t as much exposure to fantasy and unrealistic looking characters as there are in other parks. In the past, we’ve seen more of the princesses than we have cartoon mice, ducks, and dog characters. The princesses, princes, and such are just people wearing the clothing of diverse cultures or dressed in the outfits from different times in history. What we want to avoid are the characters that don’t look or behave as real animals; such as ducks and mice wearing shirts and hats or dogs walking on two legs instead of four. When crossing the path of such characters, we would treat them the same way we do with a television in a restaurant. We don’t draw attention to it by making a big deal and don’t point it out. We try to redirect the girls, diverting their attention elsewhere, and avoid that area the best we can.
So why are we ok with taking them to Epcot? The people, smells, and sounds. Exposing them to different cultures, even though it’s just a tiny bit. The overall experience as a whole has so much to offer, while allowing us to keep to the Montessori philosophy we value.
We can’t wait to show them all the Disney movies as Hubby and I enjoyed growing-up. They’ll probably be between the ages of six and nine when we finally do. I imagine them being able to sing along to every song, even though it’s their first time watching, having listened to the soundtracks so often. That’s the exact experience I had with Frozen II. We’ve heard the music so much that when I finally saw the movie, it made it that much more enjoyable. So instead of feeling like that girls are missing out, I like to think we are ensuring a more enjoyable experience for when they are ready.
How we can hold off on fantasy when a childhood should contain magic? There are so much amazing creature in nature, I don’t feel I’m denying them anything. I mean, the narwhal is simply amazing; it’s practically a unicorn and mermaid combined!
I’ve been asked about my feelings on Disney books, as we read so frequently. I’ll be excited to read them the Disney princesses when the time is right. But, currently, we are reading about the real-life Pocahontas and the princess that was based on legend, Mulan. Albeit, a Mulan version without the lovable dragon, Mushu.
We love the story of the sweet, kind, orphaned Cinderalla. Not the Disney version with the magic and adorable clothes wearing mice—don’t get me wrong, I love Gus-Gus! But the sweet, clothes-wearing Gus-Gus just isn’t appropriate for them, at this time. Just as we aren’t reading to them the Grimm Brothers’ version, in which the step-sisters cut off their toes and heels; it’s just not something I find to be age-appropriate for two 11 month-olds. The Cinderella they hear about is about the girl who fell on hard-times, had some aid from her godmother (not a fairy), and had a happy ending. Our current version of Cinderella is very similar to the one Drew Barrymore portrayed in the movie Ever After. No magic. When they are older, we can read all the versions and learn the history behind them (it’s rather fascinating).
This is what works for our family, but as always, you know what works best for you and yours.❤️
Does your family enjoy Disney?