Battery operated toys usually never belong in a Montessori environment, at least not for the child in the first plane. They are often used to entertain a child and those that are meant to be “educational” often really aren’t. Studies have shown that children who use such toys talk less when handling than they do when interacting with books. Can you imagine, a toy that claims to help improve verbal skills that actually does the exact opposite! Have you ever watched a child use a battery operated or active toy? They are often passive and rather static. I had a friend describe her daughter as “mesmerized” and it reminded me of the look T would have if he was able to watch a television or get his hand on a tablet of some kind, the same look that was captured in this series of photos.

With this being that case, we don’t allow battery operated items for the girls in the house. Ever. Over the holidays, the girls were gifted two sound puzzles; one was farm animals and the other jungle/safari animals. They function perfectly well without batteries and I was able to make them less “busy” so we didn’t see a problem with keeping them.

The purpose of the batteries is that the animal make the appropriate sound when it’s piece is put into place. One, the farm animal puzzle, sounds very realistic. The other sounds like a human is making the animal noises, not realistic, at all.

Under the circumstances of not being able to take them to see real farm animals, I was tempted to put these out with the batteries. Rationalizing that perhaps it would be an appropriate material that would allow them to hear realistic farm animal sounds–especially since it can easily be turned on/off with a switch and only using the noises when working on it together and going over animal sounds? I quickly decided against it. Also, to what end would I continue to “justify” battery operated materials, so, for our family, it’s best to keep to this no batteries stance. I share because I think we all may have find ourselves in this position and I just wanted to be open.

One reason in Montessori we use a carpet sweeper with young children versus a vacuum (although my children do enjoy pushing the vacuum occasionally) is it allows them to see how the item works. Does a sound puzzle allow them to see how the sound is made or works? No. So the batteries remain out. (I had this same conundrum with the Jooki. The only reason the Jooki was welcomed in our home is because it gives them control and independent over music. We are a family that loves music often playing it through Alexa, but they have access to instruments allowing them to experience how music is created.)  

The background of these puzzles is too busy. When the girls opened them the first thing I asked my cousin, the gift-giver, was if she would mind if I painted the background and I explained why. She thought it was a great idea! I actually ended up sanding them. I used a sander to break-up the top layer and then a damp rag to remove the paper and adhesive. My husband then took his sander to it, just to clean it up a bit, and applied a protective finish. I love the finished product. When I showed my cousin she agreed that this, less chaotic and marketing version, was better for the girls.

Would I have purchased either of these?  No. I wouldn’t have purchased them as they are a little more cartoonish than what we prefer–so many toy marketed as “Montessori” are anything but.  But I’m able to make them more Montessori-friendly, the animals (while slightly cartoonish) have the correct features and colouring, so for the times being they stay.

Did you modify any toys that your little one received over the holidays to make them Montessori-friendly?

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