A Bucket and Some Wood Chips

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Though children in a Montessori school can be found within the classroom doing real work rather than imaginary work (cutting real vegetables with a real knife instead of pretending, doing real laundry, tending to real plants and animals, pouring real water into real glasses, and so much more…), on the playground, they are full of imagination and fantasy.

The staff here at Villa di Maria have provided a wonderful loose-parts play area including a simple house-like structure (that can be a store, a house, a prison, a hospital, a pizza parlor, an ice cream shop, or anything else the children can imagine) among other objects that encourage open-ended play — all of which we visited in this blog post. For now: buckets. 

Briefly observe a group of Primary children playing so intently they don’t notice the adults around them (even when those adults are taking photos!), and you will see on any given day the filling and dumping and refilling of large buckets with wood chips. These children carry the heavy buckets all around the playground and engage with each other about their play. I asked a few of them what they were playing, which varied depending on the day or group of children.

“We play ice cream factory.”

“We play hang up the bucket and then fill it up. Then we dump it out. We can hang it from a hook over there.” 

“He’s the bad guy and we have to keep the treasure away from him!” 

“This is my bucket! I dug a hole!”

“We play factory. We make chocolate. We poor dirt in the bucket and water. We mix it, then it is chocolate!”

“Robbers! Wood chips are the money and we steal the money from the people! We fill up our buckets to a million dollars. More than a million dollars! Then we run away and don’t get caught!”

“Pizza makers. The wood chips are cheese, and the dirt is pepperoni, and the other wood chips are the vegetables. We make so many pizzas that are delicious.”

The power of imagination; it’s a wonderful thing.

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” — Maria Montessori