Games & Sports – The Montessori developmental perspective

With over 25 years of working with children across ages, it is not only relevant but also important for me as a child rights advocate, educator, sports and art enthusiast, to share the insights gained on the methodology to approach sports for young children. Many sports courses give the physiology, guidelines for play, health and nutrition perspectives. The crucial part related to child development and psychology needs to be understood clearly by a sports instructor who’s assigned to be with young children. Language of respect, grace and courtesy forms the ethos of the environment. There is no room for loud voices or rough play, especially in the ages 3 to 12 years when their sporting interest along with peers is just beginning to blossom.

A child between 3 to 6 years

  • Is a sensorial explorer and would like to set his own guidelines for play and movement.
  • Needs small group instruction, 3 or less.
  • Needs extended time and is not bound by time-limits, except concrete ones where there is an activity that follows, like lunchtime or dismissal.
  • Needs shorter games with not more than 2 rules
  • Choice of the team and sticking to the choices may not happen
  • Winning or losing will not be understood, let alone rewarding the winners
  • Sports and games is an activity, and hence the same culture, tone and language used in the classroom is expected in the sports area.
  • Does not need regimented classes from non-Montessori sources, especially those that give rewards and recognition to “good performance”
  • Games like passing the ball, silence game, memory game

A child from 6 to 12

  • Is a team player, peers serve his gregarious instinct
  • Collaborative games work best
  • Is able to make sense of the need for cooperation in sports and games
  • Can take guidelines up to 3 or 4 per type of game (either outdoor or indoor)
  • Understands the efforts needed to succeed in a game.
  • Abides by rules that are clear, however with increasing challenge
  • Needs language of play instructions that is concrete and simple
  • Needs exposure to all kinds of sports games and art forms before selecting what he or she relates to naturally and has a body rhythm for it.
  • Understands the difference between competition and collaboration,
  • Must be allowed to play for the pleasure of their intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards.
  • Test their own boundaries and limits and must be allowed to fail in performances and choice
  • Almost all team games are possible.

About Competition and Collaboration

Competition at its best helps us to be better. At its worst, it can create unhealthy self-comparison or judgment. This then affects how we see the world. Do we see the world as a place to grow and collaborate with others? Or, do we see the world as a “dog eat dog” culture where every man or woman is for him/herself? Competition left unchecked may cause a scarcity mindset and a limiting belief that “there is not enough” of something in our lives. It also can create some feelings of inadequacy, born from comparing ourselves to others. The competition that exacerbates comparison could be fueling the sky-rocketing rates of suicide and anxiety in our youth.

Extract from an article Competition vs Collaboration by Lori Peterson

Working together and striving for collaboration creates win/win scenarios. There are two winners, as opposed to a win/lose scenario in competition. Win/win scenarios are an integral part of collaborative sports. Everywhere now, the relevance of collaboration is emerging, throughout the world. Young and old are realizing that competition offers only short-lived motivation. Being competitive in a positive way, bettering one’s own achievements awards joys than pitting against good friends and creating negative vibes even though one may say,” it’s after all sportiveness”. Sportive spirit is something that is developed by the maturation of thoughts and perspectives, resultant of life experiences and exposure to actual decision making and problem-solving, that is common in Montessori classrooms and households. As children grow older they realize that each one’s physical mental and emotional potential vary, however, it does not in any way influence the respect they have for their peers or differently-abled persons.

For the parents who are not aware of the developmental tenets of young children, it is important to know that showcasing them in various fora that rewards will be a serious impairment to character formation in their later lives when their innate humaneness is morphed or lost in the race to succeed as per the society’s yardsticks. Last but not the least, the significance of championship should be in the words of Tom Krause!

Ode to Champions

Who are these people–
These doers of deeds,
These dreamers of dreams
Who make us believe?

Who are these people
Who still win the day–
When the odds are against them
And strength fades away?

These people are champions,
For they never give in.
A heart beats within them
That is destined to win.

They follow their dreams
Through the journey seems far,
From the top of a mountain
They reach out to a star.

And when they have touched it–
When their journey is done–
They give to us hope
From the victories they won.

So here’s to the champions–
To all their great deeds.
They follow their hearts
And become winners indeed.

by Tom Krause
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Vidya Shankar

Vidya Shankar

Vidya Shankar is a Child Rights Practitioner and Montessori Specialist with the TN Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Her role as a founder and mentor of the guides team at CFLS, besides being the main guide for Cascade adolescents has made possible the collaboration with Relief Foundation’s rural Montessori centres for mutual benefit and growth.