Friday, June 17, 2016

2-year-old Birthday Gifts

I can't believe how fast time has gone since we have welcomed our wonderful rainbow baby Nora. And, I can't believe that in just a day she will be turning 2-years-old. It feels like she was just born but has always been part of our family all at the same time. I'm sure this is a familiar feeling to all parents as they watch their helpless newborns turn into these amazing little beings. 

With Nora's birthday fast approaching, I thought I would share the Montessori-friendly items we have chosen to get for her to celebrate! I know I often share lists of toys I like, but here are the choices that actually made the cut for Nora! 




It can often be difficult to decide exactly what materials you should get for your child when you are purchasing new things. For me, I look at my child's own interests, her current developmental skills and sensitive periods and work from there. There are so many cool Montessori friendly products available, but you want something that your child will actually love and use! 

Hopefully, I made some good choices for Nora and I can't wait to see her start to explore them soon! 

What is your 2-year-old interested in? What's on his/her birthday list? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Practical Life at 2-years-old

Sometimes when people think about practical life work for toddlers they think about tiny little cups or pitchers where toddlers are sitting quietly and transferring beans/rice/water/whatever. In reality these works often end up all over the floor with the toddler and the parent frustrated. This work is often designed for older children, specifically for 3-6-year-olds in a Children's House. 

So, what does practical life work look like for toddlers? What does practical life look like at 2-years-old? 


Well, in a word, it's practical. It's really doing work. It's pouring your own glass of water. It's helping with the laundry.

It is practical.

It's moving chairs and sweeping the floor. It's swiffering. It's feeling needed and respected. It's being an important member of the family. 

It is practical.


It's washing and slicing your own snack, then serving it to your family. It's feeding yourself that snack and then returning to clean up the mess. It's spontaneously wiping, and pouring and cleaning and concentrating in the same way you see the adults in your life wiping, pouring, cleaning and concentrating. 

It is practical. 


It's returning things to their proper place. It's spraying windows and wiping them clean.

There are many things that practical life at 2-years-old is not. It is not about sitting still. It is not about being perfect. It is not about the end goal. It's not always clean or efficient or done the way adults do it. It is not shelf work. It is not hard to prepare. It is not expensive.


It is practical.


So prepare your environment, give them the tools and give them the space. Set your 2-year-old free. Forget a million pouring works and get practical! 

What does practical life look like for your 2-year-old? 


12 Months of Montessori 

This post is brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series. The theme this month is practical life. For great Montessori and Montessori inspired practical life posts, check out these great blogs! 

Montessori Practical Life Checklist | Sugar, Glitter & Spice
Practical Life for an Older Child | Grace and Green Pastures
10 Ways to Encourage Family Chores this Summer | Christian Montessori Network
Practical Life at 2-Years-Old | The Kavanaugh Report

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Montessori Friendly Shelving -- Some Options

One of the ways  that Montessori environments are different from other types of children's environments is that things are accessible as possible for the children. One way that this is done is through the use of open shelving. On these shelves work and materials are carefully organized to meet the specific needs of the children using this space. 


However, there are so many children's shelving options on the market that it can be difficult to know what to look for when you are trying to find Montessori friendly options. Here are some tips that I try to keep in mind when looking for shelving: 
  • Accessible: You want something that is going to be accessible for your child. Infant shelves will need to be lower, for example, than a shelf for older children.
  • Lightly Colored: I've seen Montessorians go both ways on this one. Many argue, and I agree, that lightly colored shelving allows the materials to stand out in a way that's harder with darker woods/shades. I have seen beautiful Montessori spaces with darker wood, so I think it can be pulled off, its just harder.
  • Sturdy: You want something that can withstand a child or two using the furniture. It needs to be heavy enough not to fall over (or to be safely anchored) while in use. 

These attributes can be found in a variety of shelving choices that are commercially available. Here are some of my favorites in a variety of prices and styles: 


  1. ECR4Kids Open Shelving: Upside: available in a variety of sizes, corners rounded and heavy. Since this is specifically designed for children it can withstand some destruction. Downside: the price.

  2. Open Backed Shelving: Upside: specifically designed with kids in mind, can use from both sides. Downside: a bit small for the price

  3. Small Bookcase: Upside: great price, adjustable shelving; Downside: probably not the best quality, a little small

  4. Wide Bookcase: Upside: really great price and larger size, adjustable shelves; Downside: again, cheaper quality

  5. Custom Open Shelving: Upside: looks like they can make it to the exact size you want; Downside: price, time to make and shipping costs

  6. IKEA Besta Shelf: Upside: nice quality for the price, comes in a lot of sizes, wide and deep enough for bigger materials; Downside: you have to be near an IKEA or pay huge shipping costs, you have to put it together on your own, you might spend your whole life savings on all the Montessori friendly awesomeness at IKEA, not solid wood meant to last forever
  7. IKEA Kallax Shelving: Upside: nice quality for the price, these are flexible and can be used in a lot of ways/spaces, come in a lot of sizes; Downside: cube shelving can limit the size of materials -- I personally think they work great for infants/toddlers then become much harder to use for older children
  8. IKEA Lack Wall Shelving; Upside: really great price, very flexible in how you use them; Downside: you have to drill significant holes into your walls
  9. Modern Shelving: Upside: great look that can fit nicely into adult spaces, tall enough for older kids to use and grow into; Downside: price and have to be close to store/pay shipping
  10. Shelf and Book Storage: Upside: not a horrible price, solid wood and kid friendly, includes book storage; Downside: a bit small 

Of all these choices, the IKEA Besta shelving is by far my favorite choice. It is my number 1 recommendation and if I had the resources I would replace all of my shelving with it. It makes for a great accessible and uniform space that I just love. But purchasing expensive shelves are not the only option for families. Thrift stores often have great pieces that can be used in Montessori spaces. Often with a little searching and a little TLC, thrift store shelves can look just as nice. 


For our crafty friends, there are also great tutorials and ideas online for DIY versions, likes these: 


Do you have a favorite Montessori friendly shelf? Anything I missed that should be added to this list? 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


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Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Shelf at 23 Months

I'm deep into my 1st trimester with 3.0 and days are feeling long and slow and hard. Nora has been feeling it too as the usual flurry of activity has ground to a halt. Non-essentials have fallen to the side as I struggle to find the energy to just do the basics. 


But, the end is in sight, because some days I feel alright, even a little more than alright. Tired, but not nauseous, sleepy but not pure exhaustion. And, today I took advantage of that and switched over one of Nora's shelves. She has three main shelves in our home for her to use each with three or four toys just for her -- one in our kitchen play area, one in her bedroom and this one. So, even a few changes have been a welcomed sight! 


The new offerings called to her immediately as she examined them. When I watch her play, I'm always so shocked by how big she is becoming, how mature her movements are, how gentle she can be. 

Shelf holds:  Vintage Small Knobbed Vehicle Puzzle {similar to this or this}; 4 piece shape sorter {similar}; Animal Finger Puppets 


A tower that would have fallen over a few short months ago, stands tall. And, just a small smile crawls across her face as she completes a new puzzle. Work is returned to the shelf when completed. She still has some signs of baby in her. Lots of wandering and seeking opportunities for reaching maximum effort. Her favorite thing to do still seems to be just crawl all over me and getting cuddles. And of course, the marker marks she scribbled on her feet. 

Nora plays with this stacking pyramid


Its hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, Nora will be 2. And in a few months, she will be the big sister. I'll enjoy the small glimpses of babyhood and the amazing changes that independence, skill and maturity of 2 bring.

What does your older 1-year-old enjoy? Have you seen an increase in interest in toys/work or is it all gross motor? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Let's Stop Rushing Toddlers; 5 Trays for Toddlers that Love to Peel

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

20 Ways For Toddlers to Reach Maximum Effort

Over and over again, I have seen parents complain about their toddlers not wanting to sit still or play with toys. Many lament the fact that they seem too busy to focus on much of anything. And, over and over again I remind them that toddlers are meant to move! 

We cannot underestimate the need to exert maximum effort for toddlers. They are working so hard to develop all their muscles that they often can't stop. Their inner drive to move just overpowers them. I still see this with Nora now, even though she's rapidly closing in on 2-years-old. She still needs opportunities to reach maximum effort and just do heavy work in general.



So, what are some ways that toddlers can exert maximum effort? Here are a few easy ones -- 
  1. Carrying around large purse or backpack
  2. Using large foam blocks
  3. Walking over pillows 
  4. Move a bucket of water 
  5. Pushing a loaded laundry basket 
  6. Small weights 
  7. Carrying couch cushions or large pillows 
  8. Catch with a super large ball 
  9. Pushing/Pulling a weighted wagon 
  10. Dumping a bucket of sand
  11. Scooping gravel 
  12. Carrying a cardboard box 
  13. Climbing a slide 
  14. Weighted Jugs
  15. Loading books in and out of basket or box 
  16. Over-sized Pouring -- large watering can or ball drop 
  17. Climbing a Pickler Triangle 
  18. Carrying objects up stairs 
  19. Using a pulley 
  20. Loading larger rocks into container -- dump truck, bucket, wagon or wheel barrow 

Have you noticed that your toddler just has to have this kind of work? What types of work to do you have so your child can reach maximum effort? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Montessori Toddlers and Maximum Effort

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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