Playing in Tanzania continued: Montessori Education and Play


A playground constructed in Kitenga, Tanzania, by TBG (a landscape architecture firm from texas).

The playground was constructed to provide a safe play space for
children using local materials and building methods.

Play is an integral part of learning. Playgrounds can be found in school yards all over the world, including in Tanzania. The playground featured above was constructed by TBG, with input from childhood education experts, and is located near girls’ primary school in Kitenga, Tanzania (TBG, n.d.). Many local organizations realize the need for play in education. The LECHE Longido Early Childhood Education Program focuses on use the Montessori method of education to raise academic success for children in the Longido District.  They acknowledge the relationship between good education and positive play (Allgoewer, n.d.).

Sarah Ilmollelian with students and teaching assistants.

The program was founded by Longido local Sarah Ilmollelian, who was one of
the few women to recieve education in the 1950s. After receiving a
Montessori Teaching Certificate at the age of 58, she returned home to
apply the methods with the education of the Maasai children of Longido.

Playful learning is a key part of education, according to the Montessori method; the Constructivist approach shows interactive and playful learning to be an effective teaching method. However, this play must be rooted in reality. Guided play helps playful learning be helpful. Where as free play allows children to play without adult oversight, guided play (playful learning) directs the play down an educational path through the use of specific toys, tools or adult intervention. The Montessori method, argues that any play which is not constructive should not be engaged in, and relies on very specific tools to provide specific scenarios of play. Instead, the play is directed to teach the children the symbolic meaning of tools (rather than allow them to imagine their own meaning of the tools); the play is directed to be orderly and teach a sense of order in life; the play is directed to teach children discipline (Lilliard, 2013).

Montessori educational methods seem to rely heavily on the guidance and intervention of an adult or teacher. A playground as a teaching environment may be developed with the help of teachers from Tembo. Other methods of education through playful learning exist beyond Montessori methods, and may be more useful in a context where teachers are not always available. Playgrounds and community play spaces appear useful and important in providing positive environments for parents and children alike, but the level to which they are needed within Longido still needs to be examined.

Why This is Important: 

 Play spaces using local materials are an interesting launching point for concept development of playgrounds in Longido. I'm interested in finding ways that play spaces could be used also as educational spaces, and examining the possibilities of the symbolic nature of playgrounds / toys. I'm also interested in the concept of playful learning and guided play, and I feel that there may be potential for products or play spaces that focus on an educational aspect / skill building exercise such as agriculture or understanding the water cycle.


Lillard, A. S. (2013). Playful Learning and Montessori Education. American Journal of Play, 5(2), 157-186.
Allgoewer, J. (n.d). LECHE: Longido Early Childhood Education Program. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from:

TBG (n.d.) Kitenga primary school playground - Kitenga, Tanzania. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from:

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