Lately, I’ve been thinking about our use of the work mat in our home. I have one rolled up sitting next to one of the work shelves, but honestly sometimes I don’t even use it (big Gasp!, I know…). Joey usually pulls work off the shelf so fast and in quick succession that I’m reshelving and then trying to focus his attention on one activity that I just disregard the work mat.
I’m trying to change that since when he gets older I’ll want him to use a mat for his work, so for now I’ll have to discipline myself to use a work mat in order to teach him that it’s important to use one.
In a Montessori environment, a work mat is a small rug or carpet that a child uses to put their work on. If you happen upon a Montessori classroom, you’ll find that they’re a big deal.
Three Reasons to Use a Mat
- It delineates a child’s workspace. Once the work is placed on the mat the child knows that this is the area where they are working and it is to be respected by others.
- If a child must leave their work at any time then when they return their work is in the same place they left it. If the child has to go to the restroom, go to lunch, or is working on an activity that cannot be finished in one sitting (ie, the 100 board) having a work mat allows the child to leave and return without having to restart the activity.
- It teaches order. The children begin and end each activity with a work mat. It’s the first material they gather and the last one they put away.
Using a Work Mat at Home
For your Montessori environment at home, make sure you include an area to store work mats. Work mats should be light enough for a child pick-up and carry themselves. Some ideas for a work mat are a lightweight rug, carpet square, or even a placemat (which is what we’ll use until we need a larger work space).