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Montessori Monday 12 2013/14

Added Dec 10, 2013

The Dressing Frames

Hanging simply on their own rack are a set of unassuming wooden frames, each draped with a cozy fabric soft to the touch. The Dressing Frames are exemplary of the elegant simplicity of the Practical Life materials. Each frame focuses the child's attention on a single method of fastening: large buttons, small buttons, zippers, snaps, velcro, eyes and hooks. Working in isolation on the sturdy frame, the child is able to build his or her skill with the fasteners.

By practicing with the fasteners in isolation, children grow in their confidence to apply that practice to real-life contexts: shoes and jackets, coats and bags. "Getting dressed" can be one of the most frustrating times of the day for a young child, whose intrinsic desire to do things on his or her own is thwarted by fasteners that require subtle fine motor skills to secure. These skills are far more complex than adults realize! Because we have already developed the muscle memory to tie or button with our eyes closed, we underestimate how much control is necessary for tiny fingers to do the same. The Dressing Frames support the children's growing independence by giving them one more necessary, practical skill to care for caring for themselves.

And, of course, because they are Montessori materials, the Dressing Frames have some hidden benefits: children are introduced to the frames from top to bottom, mirroring the same cognitive patterns we use in reading and math. They allow for endless repetition, establishing the muscle memory that can be generalized to other settings. They support the child's sense of self, by allowing him or her to succeed in increasingly complex tasks.

In our classrooms, we know children warrant our respect, even when they lack the physical development or cognitive development to care for themselves. For an interesting application of how these same principles can be used with older adults with dementia, you may be interested in this short video of Dr. Cameron Camp's work. Dr. Camp began using the Montessori materials, specifically the Dressing Frames, with patients with dementia at the Myers Institute. Since his work in the late 1990's, Dr. Camp has expanded his research to include other qualities of the Montessori philosophy that may fundamentally change the way we care for and work with elders with dementia. Across the generations, when learners are treated with understanding and respect, better learning occurs.


Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna

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