Thursday, October 20, 2016

4 Montessori Art Trays at 2-years-old

All of a sudden Nora is looking for any excuse to create something. She really is different than Henry in that way. She loves art work and can sit for long periods of time to create her vision. I personally love this and want to cultivate it as much as possible. Doing art combines so many of skills at once. Language, fine motor, gross motor, practical life -- they all go into completing this type of work. 

And, just look at that concentration! GAH! Love. But, because of her age, Nora isn't quite ready for a free range of art supplies. Instead, having prepared work for her where things are contained in a tray work much better. 

So, here are four Montessori inspired art trays we have out for Nora right now, and how to create them in your own environment! 

Cutting work

What you'll need:
  • Scissors 
  • Small Dish
  • Thick paper -- we used paint strips but only because I had some around. The thickness makes it a bit easier to cut at first since the paper won't flop around. 
To use this tray, Nora has been taught to cut small pieces from the paint strips over the bowl. Sometimes she just cuts where ever then places into the bowl. When she is done she empties her clippings into the garbage. 

Watercolor Painting 

What you'll need:
Nora has been taught to fill her small pitcher then use it to fill up the water glass. Then, she uses the glass to paint. She has also been shown how to empty the glass if she needs new water. This is by far the most popular -- if you couldn't tell by the state of the paint -- tray. She has been able to do this independently for a few months. 

Leaf Rubbing

What you'll need:
This is just one seasonal work on Nora's shelf. She can place the leaf under the paper and use the crayon to make a rubbing. It's interesting to her since she has to hold the crayon in a new way {flat} in order for it to work. 

Pasting Work 

What you'll need:
  • Small glass jar {or any washable container} with glue 
  • Container of foam bits -- we started with foam because its easier to manipulate than paper and won't get soaked with glue if too much is used. Once she is a bit older we will switch to paper. I cut the random shapes from sheets of foam. 
  • Glue Brush
  • Paper 
Nora has been taught to use the glue brush to rub a small amount of glue onto the piece of foam and then stick it to a piece of paper. She was also taught how to wash the brush when she's done so that it can be used another time.

Each of these trays is set up for Nora to use by herself independently. This doesn't mean she can do it perfectly. And, it especially doesn't mean that she can do it mess free. But, they are all perfect for where she is at right now and so easy to create! 

Does your child enjoy art? What types of art-related work have you set up for your toddler? 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Supporting Your Child through Montessori Kindergarten

For the past several weeks, Henry has been adjusting to life as a member of a Children's House in a public elementary school. He's gone from the relaxed pace of our quiet homeschool classroom to a bustling Montessori community. With this has come some changes at home, some changes in him, and some changes for our family. 

{Below: Henry reads Maps}

As I have mentioned before, we no longer have traditional Montessori materials available to him at home. We reserve those for school only. We also no longer have a classroom or specific work time at home. But, this doesn't mean that we have stopped supporting his growth or development.

There are many things we do -- and you can do -- to support your Montessori child who attends school outside the home. One, we still prepare our environment for Henry's interests and needs. We still follow the basic tenants of creating an orderly, prepared environment for Henry that encourages his interests and independence. 

{Above: Henry reads Strawberry Pie; Below: Henry reads One Sock Puppet}

This includes picking the right kinds of materials to fit his needs. Unlike the Montessori materials, we try to stick with open-ended play materials. Things that promote play, creativity, independence, and peace. We want him to come home and be able to relax in a way that still supports all of the goals we are trying to reach in school. We avoid using screens -- being a screen-free(ish) family -- to distract him or entertain him. For us it also means lots of family time and avoiding group classes {for now.}

These types of materials can include art activities, building materials, cooperative games, board games, tools for exploring nature and science, and family {including baby dolls} and community figures for pretend play to process his emotions and social world. He also has some fantasy based toys which are harder to avoid as he enters a social world, but we do try very hard to limit these at home. 

Another thing we do to support his Montessori education is try to provide as many opportunities for gross motor and nature play as possible. While the Montessori classroom provides FAR more physical and sensorial opportunities than most traditional classrooms, it is still an indoor environment. In particular, I'm finding that one of the differences between a public Montessori and a private one is the lack of freedom to choose the outdoor environment. 

So, by the end of the day he needs that physical outlet. He needs to run, swing, hang, jump and ride. If that means bundling him up and letting him jump in freezing cold rain puddles, or run around all afternoon -- it just needs to be done. It has meant pulling out many indoor gross motor toys to give him all the opportunities he needs to get a sensory and physical release. 

{Above: Henry reads How to Make a Fort; Below: Henry and Morgan read Make Me a Pirate}

Finally, supporting him means creating a literacy rich environment. Reading is very important in our family. And, quite honestly, my children spend more time reading than they do with most other things in our home. While Henry is an emergent and sneaky reader -- preferring not to show us how much he actually can read -- it is still important for us to provide opportunities for him to read on his own and with us.

To create this environment, we provide a variety of interesting, beautiful and content rich books for him to explore. Like the amazing early readers from Home Grown Books seen in these pictures. These books allow him to practice his reading {if and when he chooses} and provide amazing prompts for creative and natural play. But, it also means providing wordless books where he creates the story, chapter books to read together, and non-fiction books to explore things that interest him. 

{Above: Henry reads Finger Painting}

It's been amazing to start to switch gears in our home and send Henry off to his own community. And, of course hard on this Mama's heart. But, the rewards! Like when I was taking these pictures and he spontaneously read one of the books on his own. His pride and joy was palpable. Or, how after we were done reading a book on forts, he creatively gathered and made one on his own. Providing hours worth of creative fun for him and Nora.
These moments, once again, remind me how incredibly grateful I am for the opportunities our Montessori lifestyle has provided! 

How do you support your Montessori kindergartner? What have you felt has been most important to promoting a successful school year? 

This post was sponsored. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Shape Sorting: Early Math for Toddlers

As I have said many times, we are not rushing into academics with Nora. While I have mentioned several times that this includes teaching Nora early reading concepts, like the alphabet, it also extends to other academic areas -- like math. We do not teach Nora to recognize or regurgitate numbers. We have not introduced counting work and have no plans to do so anytime soon. 

But, this does not mean that we haven't explored any mathematical concepts. Much like language, however, we just do this in a slow, natural way. We count all the time. Except we don't count for the sake of counting, we count naturally as the opportunity arises. So, if I'm making dinner and we need 2 carrots, we count them. Or if we are picking up toys, we count them. It's not forced, its not based on the abstract. 

One math concept that Nora has had a lot of interest in lately has been shapes. Identifying shapes, sorting by shape, and matching shapes have all been big here. The concept of "shape" is nothing new to Nora. We started identifying them when we was only a couple months old when we introduced one of her first puzzles. But, over time as she has shown more interest, we have added to the complexity of the sorting. 

As with all concepts in Montessori, we have taken this one step at a time by first introducing imbucare boxes. These boxes {we used a DIY version, seen here} isolate the shape so that children learn the hand motions necessary to place the peg. Once this is mastered, multiple shapes are introduced and true sorting can begin! 

1. Goki Shape Sorter {Nora using and my personal favorite}; 2. Plan Toys Shape Sorter; 3. Individual Plan Toys Sorter; 4. Hape Shape Puzzle; 5. Shape and Sort

There are many lovely Montessori friendly materials that can be used for shape sorting. I haven't found it necessary to own tons of shape work, but the work we have has been very popular. Picking a couple high-quality sorters can be perfect.  

6. Natural Shape Sorter Puzzle; 7. Early Shape Puzzle; 8. Shape Puzzle Board; 9. 4 Shape Imbucare; 10. Jumbo Shape Puzzle

My absolute favorite material is the Goki shape sorter. Each side only has one shape so it is simple yet incorporates several shapes. It's also very nicely made. My favorite part is that the top doesn't slide all the way off, so Nora can focus on the shapes and not putting it back together. 

Do your children like shape sorting? What types of early math activities have you introduced with your toddler? 

12 Months of Montessori

This post is brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series. This month's theme is math. For more Montessori and Montessori inspired math posts, don't miss these great blogs! 

Montessori Math for Preschool | Mama’s Happy Hive
Using Command Cards for Math | Grace and Green Pastures
25 of The Best Montessori Math Printables | Christian Montessori Network

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


Monday, October 3, 2016

The Last of the Summer Flowers

Summer is quickly coming to an end here in Minnesota. The flowers are fading, our garden has died and the leaves are changing and falling. But, every afternoon the sun heats up just enough to help me pretend that winter isn't right around the corner. Despite my dreams, dreaded winter really is coming.

Before summer was completely gone, I made this simple flower arranging work for Nora and the children in my co-op. This simple practical life tray can easily be created with any left over flowers found around your yard and some old glass jars. 

To create this work, I placed some fresh flowers from my garden in a jar of water. I included some small glass jars and vases, a small pitcher of water, and scissors on a large plastic tray. This work could be done anywhere, but I placed on our work table so Nora wouldn't have to move it anywhere to complete the work. Also on the table was a cloth to wipe spills, a metal garbage bucket, and a small wooden bowl with some cut felt to act as doilies.  

To use the work, I simply showed Nora how to pick off the leaves and clean the stems -- placing the garbage in the bucket. Then, we cut the stem down to a much smaller size. She then filled the vase she chose with water and placed the flowers. She repeated until she was satisfied with her arrangement. 

Finally, Nora placed her arrangements around our home. This classic work is so easy, yet so satisfying. Nora returned to this work several times throughout the day until the flowers had all be arranged and placed. The beautiful little vases were the perfect reminder of our wonderful summer and all the beauty found in our little slice of this world! 

Have you ever done flower arranging in your home with your toddler? What is your toddler's favorite practical life work? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Practical Life at 2-years-old 


Monday, September 26, 2016

A Montessori Shelfie at 27 Months

Over the past couple weeks since Henry started school full time, Nora's independent play has really blossomed. She can frequently be found working quietly alone or asking me to join her in her work. Plus, she's really starting to enjoy new, interesting and challenging materials. 

Of course, I've discussed her love of puzzles, and language materials, but a lot of other work finds its way to our shelves. And, I thought I would share a "shelfie" of what our playroom shelf looks like today. 

Top Shelf {Left to Right}: DIY Continent Globe {just for decoration}; Vintage Puzzle; Dry Pouring; Interlox Builders; Ring Counter

Middle Shelf: Animal Language Cards from Michael Olaf; Vintage Puzzle, Stacking Cone; Wooden Train Track and Trains; Stacking Barrels; Vintage Buckle Toy

Bottom Shelf: Shape Sorting Work; Vintage Vehicle Language Cards

And we can't possibly forget the barn, one of the most used toys {by everyone} in our whole house! Nora's imagination has really blossomed lately and she can spend long periods of time caring for her farm. 

Top: Terra Barn from Target 

Middle: DIY Farm Play Mat and random blanket for the farmer's bed {added by Henry} 

I love sitting and observing Nora work. And, generally she likes when I join her. However, the death stare she gave me when she caught me taking pictures of her working was a good sign to take my leave! And, my "shelfie" session was over. 

Sidenote: If you are on Instagram, check out #montessorishelfie there is so much great inspiration to be found! And, post your own so I can stalk you! 

What does your 2-year-old enjoy working with? Have you noticed an increase in concentration? 

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