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Nurturing Play and Professional Growth: Insights from a Montessori Conference

In the heart of London's vibrant culinary scene, nestled within the historic walls of L'Escargot restaurant, Montessori early years professionals gathered for the annual My Montessori Child (MMC) conference. Against the backdrop of one of London's most renowned restaurants, Montessori educators, administrators, and experts converged to explore a theme fundamental to childhood development: Play.  

Continuous professional development (CPD) is essential for all Montessori educators. It ensures they stay updated with the latest research and teaching strategies, enabling them to meet the diverse needs of each child effectively. CPD fosters collaboration, helps educators navigate challenges, and ultimately enhances the quality of education provided to children. In Montessori education, CPD isn't just a requirement—it's a commitment to excellence.

This year's MMC conference was a celebration of play - with a diverse lineup of professional speakers, including; actor, writer, and teacher, Mr Peter Clements, professional storyteller and author Ms Amanda Kane-Smith , celebrity toy collector Mr Tim Rowett, classical singer and songwriter Ms Rebecca Robinson and Dr Jayne Osgood, Professor of  Childhood studies at Middlesex. Attendees were treated to a wealth of insights, experiences, and expertise. Beyond the formal presentations, the conference also provided a unique opportunity for Montessori professionals to socialise, brainstorm, and share ideas in an intimate and inspiring setting.

The MMC conference emphasized the fundamental idea of allowing children to engage in play and just observing where it leads. This approach stands in stark contrast to rigid structures and predetermined outcomes, highlighting the necessity of forgetting preconceived notions and being truly present for the child.

Amidst the conference's celebration of play, attendees were invited on a journey through time by a passionate toy collector, Tim Rowett, who opened the doors to his vast and historic collection of toys. With enthusiasm and reverence, he encouraged participants to examine these treasures with fresh eyes, inviting them to explore how toys have evolved over the years. From vintage classics to modern marvels, each toy told a story of its own, evoking nostalgia and wonder among the audience. As the collector delved into the intricate details and historical significance of each piece, he rekindled the art of magic and wonder that accompanies childhood play. Through his presentation, attendees were reminded of the enduring power of toys to inspire imagination, spark curiosity, and bring joy across generations.

In an increasingly politically charged world, Dr Jayne Osgood highlighted the issue that even seemingly innocuous items like the type of glitter used in play projects should spark debates amongst professionals. While some advocate for environmentally friendly glitter alternatives, it also highlighted the ethical concerns surrounding their sourcing, shedding light on complex issues like child labour in mining. These discussions underscored the interconnectedness of education and broader societal issues.

One of the standout presentations came from professional storyteller and author Ms Amanda Kane-Smith who captivated the audience with her dynamic approach to narrating tales using puppets, props, actions, questions, and interactive games. With infectious energy, she led the audience through the timeless story of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, demonstrating how each element of her performance contributed to a rich and immersive storytelling experience. Emphasizing the importance of animation and engagement in attracting children's attention, she encouraged attendees to embrace these techniques in their own storytelling endeavours. By empowering children to retell the story themselves through playful exploration, she underscored the profound impact of interactive storytelling in fostering creativity and imagination in our younger learners. The conference also explored the transformative power of music and performance in early childhood education. Participants were serenaded by classical singer and songwriter Rebecca Robinson as she encouraged participants to channel their inner child through Disney classics and other memorable playful tunes.

At the conference, participants were treated to an invigorating session led by seasoned actor and RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) teacher, Peter Clements who skilfully guided them through warm-up exercises designed to dissolve inhibitions and ignite creativity. With infectious enthusiasm and a deep passion for his craft, he drew parallels between acting and teaching, emphasizing the importance of leaving baggage at the door and fully immersing oneself in the present moment. Through playful improvisation and exercises focused on embodiment and vocal expression, attendees were encouraged to embrace spontaneity, authenticity, and vulnerability. By shedding their inhibitions and embracing the transformative power of performance, attendees learned to embrace chaos, warm up their voices, and engage in role-playing activities, fostering an environment of anarchic curiosity where rules are discarded in favour of exploration, imagination and good old-fashioned fun!

Educators were encouraged to cultivate a spirit of imagination, where pretending and imaginative play are celebrated as powerful tools for learning and development. One memorable exercise involved passing around a book, initially treated as an ordinary object, before transforming it into various imaginary items—a

baby bird fallen out of a nest, or even a lump of hot coal. These social games served as valuable warm-ups, fostering creativity and collaboration among participants.

In essence, the conference highlighted the symbiotic relationship between play and professional development in Montessori education. By embracing chaos, nurturing curiosity, and fostering imagination, educators can create vibrant learning environments where children thrive, paving the way for a future generation empowered to navigate complexities with creativity and resilience. It served as a catalyst for innovation and reflection, inviting and encouraging participants to shake off the old and explore new approaches to incorporating play into their educational practices. Whether through interactive workshops, thought-provoking presentations, or informal networking opportunities, all attendees left the conference feeling energized, inspired, and empowered to elevate their approach to play in the field of Montessori early years education.

At Little Gems Montessori Nursery, Continued Professional Development is a priority for all its employees. Jane Mylonas, Little Gems Operations Coordinator, has many roles where and one of them is ensuring that My Montessori Child runs smoothly and seamlessly. The best way of doing so is to attend its annual conference.

My Montessori Child (MMC) has been used at Little Gems Montessori since 2015. This secure platform serves as a centralized hub for recording developmental records, observations, registrations, and vital information on attending children. MMC has been revolutionizing early childhood education within the Montessori community across the UK and into Europe.  Its comprehensive platform is designed to streamline administrative tasks while fostering strong connections between educators and parents.

One of MMC's standout features is its seamless interface with parents, providing them with valuable insights into their child's progress. Through MMC, parents gain access to real-time updates, photos, and observations, offering a deeper understanding of their child's educational journey.

MMC prioritizes data security, ensuring sensitive information remains confidential and protected. With its user-friendly interface and robust security measures, MMC empowers educators to personalize learning experiences and make informed decisions. My Montessori Child is not just a platform—it's a transformative tool that strengthens the home-school connection, empowers educators, and offers parents invaluable insights into their child's development.


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