In the Montessori classroom, works can be done at one of two places: at the table, or on the floor on a work rug [much cheaper in store than online!]. In the classroom, this rug defines the child’s work space. Other children are not allowed to work with whatever is on another child’s rug, and they must walk around the rug instead of over top of it. At home, this rug ensures that all of the pieces of a work stay in one small space instead of spread all over the entire first floor of your house. Work rugs are usually introduced in the toddler classroom, when children are 18 months to 3 years old. Children of this age are comforted by order and routine, both of which the rugs provide.
Montessori work rugs are relatively expensive, so I was excited when I saw a blog that described using rugs from Ikea as work rugs. I went to the store and checked them out — $3.99 per rug instead of ~$11 (not including shipping and handling)?! I was sold. These rugs are basically the same size as Montessori work rugs. The only difference is they have some stripes on them.
The process of using a work rug is a little more complicated than that of bringing a work to the table. The child must first spread out the work rug. Then she brings her floor work over to the rug, uses it, and puts the work back on the shelf. Then the child must come back to her work space, roll up the rug, and put it away. L caught on to this process surprisingly quickly — like her mother, she absolutely loves following a routine over and over again. I put a rolled up rug next to a bin full of legos — this is a work that I am requiring her to do on a rug, and not on a table. There are too many pieces for the table, and they frequently get pushed off. L loves the process so much that sometimes she only actually works with the legos for a few minutes before putting it all away. She’ll choose another work, and then go right back to the legos so she can begin the whole work rug process again.
Right now, L sits on the rug with her work. This is not encouraged, but she’s young — just 17 months old. When she starts using larger, more complicated works on a work rug, there will not be room for her to also sit on the rug, and that problem will be solved. Right now, if allowing her to sit on the rug with her work means she can easily reach all the pieces and they stay on the rug, that’s fine with me.