Schleich animals catch the eyes of children in toy stores all around the world. Before purchasing your child a set of these animals, you may want to ensure they are in line with Montessori learning principles.
Although made of plastic, Schleich animals are in line with the Montessori method. Montessori prefers children to have learning materials made from natural materials; however, the learning method advocates reality over imagination. Because Schleich animals are so life-like, they are permitted.
Ready to implement Schleich animals into your child’s learning routines? In this article, you will learn more about Schleich animals and how they follow the Montessori method. Keep reading to find out!
What Are Schleich Animals?
The Schleich toy company was founded in Germany in 1935 by Friedrich Schleich. Schleich designed toys from velvet, wood, and wire. Eventually, the Schleich toy company began creating animal figures. Animal figures quickly grew in popularity and became the company’s main product.
Today, plastics and dyes are the materials used to make Schleich animals. The detailed figurines are then hand-painted and sealed.
But wait, how could a plastic toy be in line with the Montessori method? After all, the Montessori learning model only permits learning materials (including toys) made from natural materials such as wood. However, there is one factor of Montessori learning that overrides this principle.
The Montessori learning method ultimately values reality over fantasy. Although wooden animals use natural materials, they rarely are as life-like as a Schleich animal. The life-like detail of a Schleich animal makes them a valuable asset to Montessori learning. Children use the Schleich figurines to learn about animals around the world.
The plastics used to make Schleich animals are very durable. Schleich animals can survive years of play without showing any signs of wear.
Schleich animals should only be used to teach children about the authentic qualities of animals. There are a variety of methods to doing this (which we will cover later on).
Both the Schleich toy company and the Montessori school system follow a similar premise. Open-ended play allows children to discover for themselves. Not only does this improve imagination, but it facilitates the ability to learn.
The only difference between the toy company and Montessori’s beliefs is imagination. While Schleich believes creatively playing with these builds imagination skills, Montessori does not encourage “fantasy play.”
Montessori only permits Schleich animals to be used in a life-like manner. Cows should not talk, pigs should not fly, and horses should not walk on two legs. Animals should only do animal things, even if they are toys.
Are Schleich Animals Waterproof?
The Schleich toy company does not specify whether their animal figures are waterproof or not. However, they note that how well the animal holds up in the water will vary by the animal.
Customers of the Schleich toy company take a more solid stance on the matter. Nearly every Schleich toy customer claims that the animal figures are waterproof. Many proudly claim that their animals (purchased several years before) still look brand new, even after repeated exposure to snow, baths, and water in general.
Although Schleich toys are hand-painted, they tend to withstand whatever children can throw at them. There is a reason they are at the top of the industry!
Keep in mind that most Schleich animals are dense and will sink in water. Do not play with Schleich animals in a body of water where recovery is not possible. Additionally, avoid getting animals with hair wet. Doing so could cause the hair to clump or fall off.
Montessori Activities Using Schleich Animals
As mentioned above, Schleich Animals are an excellent tool for many Montessori learning activities. Young children can use Schleich animals to learn concepts such as geography, matching, and spelling!
Start by using the animals to teach matching. You will need one of every animal in both mother and baby form. Place the animals in front of the child and ask them to pair the babies with their mothers. Be sure to call each animal by its correct name. For example, it is not a “baby cow.” It is a “calf.”
Another fun matching game will require the use of play dough. Use the animals to make footprints in a sheet of play dough. Have your child identify which animal made the tracks. You may need to start by letting them play with the animals in the playdough. Later, when you ask them which animal made which tracks, it will encourage them to recall what animals made which tracks during their free time.
In the final matching game, you can use Schleich animals for building their auditory skills. Play a sound of an animal (use an actual recording) and have your child identify which animal made the noise.
Now that your child has learned more about matching, you can use the Schleich animals to teach spelling. Combine the Schleich animal set with the Montessori wooden alphabet. Spell out each animal’s name and help your child read and pair them with the correct figurine. Eventually, ask your child to use the alphabet to spell a specific animal’s name. Related: How to Use the Montessori Movable Alphabet.
You can also use Schleich animals to teach geography. While studying an area of the world, provide your child with the animal species that live there. When you switch to a new section of the world, change the animals you provide.
Some believe you should not expose your child to Schleich animals representing an animal they have not seen before. For example, the model of the Great White Shark will be similar in size to that of the cow. In reality, these two creatures are not close in stature. If you want to expose your child to Schleich’s models of exotic animals, you may need to take a trip to the zoo first.
Children can also use Schleich animals for open-ended play. In open-ended play, there is no goal for your child to achieve. Children are simply expressing themselves. Remember, children should only use animals to mimic animal behavior. It defeats the purpose of being life-like if children use them in a fanciful way.
The above activities are only a sample of how Montessori learning uses Schleich animals.