As most of you know, in Montessori classrooms the activities that are placed on the shelves for the children to choose are referred to as their "work." However, we all also know that children learn best through play. When Maria Montessori chose the word "work" to refer to a child's activities, she did so because at that time in history, people tended to undervalue children in general and to underestimate what children are capable of learning and doing. By calling children's "play" "work", Montessori hoped to emphasize the value of what children can accomplish through self-directed activities.
This week in our classroom a new activity is gift wrapping work. I have not put this out in the classroom prior to this year. I got the idea from a preschool teacher who attended a class I recently taught about the Iowa Early Learning Standards. This teacher always brings in wrapping paper during December and lets her children wrap up their wooden blocks. I thought this sounded like a great idea.
So......I rounded up the materials you see below. A wooden box with some wooden blocks and pieces of wrapping paper cut into pieces just large enough to wrap the biggest blocks, a pair of scissors in case any paper needed trimming, a basket of little pieces of paper for gift tags, a tape dispenser and a mug of markers. (NOTE: After having this out for a few days I removed the "square" blocks and just left out the "rectangle" block because I noticed the children were only choosing the rectangle ones to wrap and these are the ones that better fit the paper that was cut.)
I taped this little sign on the wall so the children can use it as a reference when writing their tags.
To do this work the child chooses a block and a piece of paper. They wrap the block in the paper. I modelled how to wrap a gift at group time. I demonstrated pulling the tape out slowly and how long the pieces of tape should be. I have been really pleased with how well they have handled using the tape after this initial demonstration. I modelled using three pieces of tape to wrap and two to add a gift tag, telling them they can use five pieces of tape in all. After wrapping the gift they can add a gift tag if they choose. Then comes the really fun part. They choose a friend in the classroom to receive the gift. I also modelled this during my group lesson, giving my gift to my assistant teacher. The gift recipient then expresses their thanks for the gift and opens it. They pretend that it is something they wanted for Christmas. (For example, Miss Melissa pretended I gave her diamond earrings and was VERY excited to receive such an extravagant gift. Of course this was just pretend because who could afford diamond earrings on a preschool teacher's salary, right?) Then, the gift recipient throws away the paper and returns the block to the gift wrapping station. One important ground rule is that a child may only receive one gift per class session. If someone tries to give them a second gift, they are to politely thank the person, but let them know they have already opened a gift that day. So far this is working out fine and we have not had any hurt feelings. It is SO cute to watch them give and receive the gifts. I love this work!
The motor skills required for gift wrapping are somewhat complex for young children. What I have seen happen on several occasions is the children helping one another with the gift wrapping. I love it when they do that happily and spontaneously. Below you can see two little sets of hands working together to wrap a gift.
And here they are preparing to attach the tag. This will definitely be a keeper activity to add to my shelves each December!!