Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Practical Life for the Winter -- Toddler Nose Blowing

Winter is in full swing here in Minnesota. And, sadly, it will be for the next couple of months. With winter comes an endless stream of coughing, snotty noses and other bugs. It's especially bad this year with Henry in school full time. I don't think we have made it a week without one of the children having a runny nose.


So, I thought I would share one of those practical life activities necessary for any parent of toddlers -- nose blowing! Even Maria Montessori discovered the importance of this seemingly simple task. In the Secret of Childhood, she described how intensely grateful the children in her first class were to learn how to blow their own noses. She said:

"But no one really teaches them how they should blow their noses. When I tried to do so, they...indicated that I had not only treated them with justice but had enabled them to get a new standing in society…I have come to appreciate the fact that children have a deep sense of personal dignity."  

Like with most practical life work, before we can show a child, we must prepare the environment. In our home, this means having tissues available to my children at their level. I want to make it as easy as possible for Nora to get a tissue and use it on her own. I find that keeping a box in her centrally located kitchen area has worked great. She also has a mirror near by and access to the garbage can.


Practically, I'm sure there is a bunch of different ways to teach a child to blow their own nose. We use the "pinch and pull" method, which I learned about in a Montessori group. Basically, instead of trying to get a toddler to actually blow, which is a hard thing to do, you teach them to pinch their nostrils and pull away from their face. To present I --

1. Slowly pick one tissue from the box and bring to my face. 
2. Slowly and deliberately pinch my nostrils.
3. With my fingers still pinched together, pull slowly down and away from my face. 

Once I demonstrate on myself, then I ask Nora if I can wipe her nose. Then, I go through the motions with her. These first few times, I do not talk or give language, but just focus on the motions. Then, I end by inviting her to try on her own. Once the child has a good grasp, then you could add the language of pinch and pull into the equation.


Overtime, Nora has gotten very good at the pinch/pull method and can keep herself reasonably clean. Its a big help, and I know she loves being able to independently take care of her needs! It's the perfect practical, practical life that a toddler craves.



Have you taught your toddler to wipe their nose? Did you use this method or something else? 


12 {More} Months of Montessori

This post was brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series! I'm happy to continue this series this year! Our theme this month is winter. Don't miss these great blogs for Montessori and Montessori-inspired winter posts. 


Montessori Inspired Antarctica Shelf  | The Pinay Homeschooler
Indoor Snowball Fight | Grace and Green Pastures
Winter Books for Preschoolers | Christian Montessori Network
Winter Yoga for Kids | Sugar, Spice & Glitter
Hands on arctic themed activities| Welcome to Mommyhood

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Montessori Newborn Nursery -- Montessori Baby Week 7

I cannot believe Augustus is 7-weeks-old this week! Everyday he is becoming more alert and responsive and curious. He's turning his head toward noises and, despite dealing with a bad cold, he is starting to smile socially. It's wonderful! With all this alertness, we've noticed that Gus is starting to be more easily awoken by the noises in our home. So, this week has marked the first week of him transitioning to naps in his bedroom on his floor bed. Therefore, a tour of his Montessori newborn nursery is in order! 


Augustus' nursery is hands down my favorite place in our house right now. It is just that wonderful combination of peaceful and calm. I wish we could spend more time enjoying this space. I've tried to make the space work for him now, but also set it up in a way that not too many changes will need to be made as he gets older. Although, I do anticipate we will need to update again once he becomes mobile. 


The room is basically divided into three areas. One is the sleeping area. Obviously, this is the main purpose of the room. For the first time, we decided to go with a floor bed from birth. The bed is just a toddler mattress from IKEA. We have intentionally kept this area free of things that could be distractions from sleep. So, no mirror or art. The mobile hanger (leftover from when Nora used this room) is still in place and we have occasionally used a mobile above the bed. 

At the foot of the bed is a small basket of books. Once mobile, these will be perfect for Augustus to discover when he wakes. 


The second area in Gus' room is the shelf area. This shelf {an old Expedit from IKEA} will become central to the room as Augustus grows. Right now, it's basically for show and a bit of function. The lamp is important for nighttime changes and calm down times. The plant {from IKEA} provides a bit of natural beauty that any Montessori space really needs. The little bear...well, that's just cute!

The shelf will eventually hold some materials that Gus can manipulate while in his room. I also plan to keep some of the things Augustus needs (like diapers) once he is big enough so that he can help retrieve them as necessary. For now, I've just included a couple of Montessori infant toys to make the space inviting.



The natural prints also help to add some visual interest to the space. The frames are from IKEA, but the prints are from a postcard book. Our rocking chair for nursing and cuddles is also in this area. {The cord coming down is from our Nest Cam which lets me check on Gus as he is sleeping.}

Related to these materials is the toy bar. Since we can't always be in Augustus' movement area, I wanted a toy bar where we could hang a toy/mobile/image anywhere in the house. We haven't really used it too much yet, but I anticipate that it will become a favorite item in the coming weeks.


The final little area in Augustus' bedroom is the small self-care shelf. Obviously, he is too young to use it now, but it contains his brushes, a small mirror and a cloth. Nora used the same set up as a baby and absolutely loved it. Having these materials out now, has actually allowed Nora to be an active participant in caring for Gus. 


And, that's it! It's a simple space that has worked well for us in these early weeks! Hopefully that will continue as Gus continues to spend more time both sleeping and playing in this room.

Did you have a Montessori nursery? Or use a floor bed? How was your experience? 

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Modeling with Beeswax

Now that Nora is officially 2.5-years-old, I can seen signs that she is moving on from toddlerhood and moving into the so called "conscious absorbent mind" of the 3 to 6-year-olds. With this transformation, I have been very aware that writing and reading are right around the corner. 


With these observations, I want to make sure I'm finding new ways to engage Nora to keep up with her interests. And one thing I've noticed is how interested she is in things that require hand strength. She was starting to squeeze and pinch everything, exploring how her fingers could really grip the world around her. 

At this point, I knew I wanted to introduce some sort of new modeling clay to her. While she has used playdoh since around 1-year-old, I wanted something a bit more mature. As I searched for an appropriate clay, I came across these beeswax modeling strips. And, after making beeswax candles for Christmas, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for.

Unlike other types of modeling clay, beeswax work is slow and deliberate. The beeswax must be warmed in your hands before it becomes pliable. Only then can it be molded, smooshed, pinched, and pulled. Plus it smells heavenly in your hands and doesn't require any additional tools. This has made it the perfect work to just sit in a jar on our art shelves, inviting the fine motor work Nora is craving. 


Once you have molded the beeswax, it will harden back up again. Henry (nearly 6) loves this aspect of it because his creations are perfectly preserved. But, for Nora, its perfect because then the beeswax is completely ready to use again right from the start. She can just throw it back in the jar without additional concerns.


I went with Stockmar Beeswax in the primary colors. Much to my delight, they colors will blend to form secondary colors if kneaded enough. I foresee many years of beeswax modeling in our future after this discovery! 

Have you ever used beeswax for modeling work? What types of fine motor skills does your 2-year-old enjoy?

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Montessori Baby Week 6 - First Mobiles

I can't believe that Augustus is already 6 weeks old! And, I can't believe that I am just getting around to doing a formal post on his first mobiles. At this point, I have introduced two mobiles to Gus. The first is my DIY Munari-inspired mobile, the second is a DIYed traditional Munari. While, I'm only writing about them now, I want to make it clear that these have been used since birth! 



The Munari mobile is the first in the series of Montessori visual mobiles for babies. These mobiles are carefully ordered to help develop an infant's senses and concentration. They are essentially the first "work" of the child. These experiences are important and start to help the child form impressions of the child's environment! In the words of Maria Montessori, "The things {the child} sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul."


The Munari mobile is used from shortly after birth until between 7 and 8 weeks. It is generally hung in the movement area, about 12 inches from a child's face (since that is about the distance that new baby can see). They are used when the child is alert (not for sleeping) and only move slowly based on movement in the air.


With Nora, I only had the Munari inspired mobile, and it was a huge hit. She enjoyed it for the first couple months of her life. Augustus is also proving to like it a lot. He will stare at the mobile for 15 to 20 minutes at a time as it slowly moves in the air. Just this week, he has started making cooing noises as he stares.

This mobile was extremely simple to make. I simply painted foam craft balls with black and white pattern similar to the traditional Munari mobile. Then, I hung at various lengths using an embroidery hoop and embroidery thread. The thread is literally sewn through the ball and tied around the hoop.


The traditional Munari mobile is a bit different. It is hung using various lengths of dowels that are painted specific high-contrast colors. It is carefully balanced between a glass ball (to reflect light) and simple 2-D geometric shapes. There are great tutorials explaining how to make a Munari at Little Red Farm. Midwest Montessori also has a great printable (that I used) to make the Munari on your own.

I had planned on making the Munari before Gus was born, but he came early so it only got done a couple weeks ago. For some reason, Augustus has not taken to the Munari like I expected him to. Instead, he only spends a few minutes with it before getting very fussy. He often looks away from it, choosing to stare into his mirror or at the windows instead. I wasn't expecting this, but I do follow his cues. I will try a few more times over the next couple weeks but if he prefers the other, that's fine too!


It's been such a joy introducing these mobiles again! I truly love these simple and beautiful infant materials. They are such an amazing contrast to the noisy, flashy commercially produced alternatives.

Did you use a Munari or Munari-inspired mobile with your newborn? Did your baby enjoy it? 

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Black and White Images -- Montessori Baby Week 5

When babies are born, they are not able to distinguish between colors the same way that older babies, children, or adults can. In fact, it even takes some time for infants to see any color at all! {Read more about infant eye development here.} As a result, new babies love high contrast images, like black and white pictures, since they can more easily distinguish them.


In a Montessori baby environment black and white pictures are often present. These images provide some visual stimulation for newborn's and provide and opportunity for a baby to concentrate and focus. It essentially becomes an exercise for the baby's eyes.


In addition to our black and white Munari and Munari-inspired mobiles {more on those next week!}, we have many black and white images in our home for Gus to look at. Although I am writing about them in week 5, we have actually used these images since birth. It's just that as he has more awake time, he is using the images more and more this week. These images have easily been his favorite thing outside of looking at me {moms are awesome, it's science} or himself. Specifically, we have them in our movement area, and in Augustus' changing table area.


The great thing about the black and white images is that they don't need to be complicated at all! Just simple high contrast images. I, personally, wanted something that I could easily move around when Gus wasn't in his movement area. So, I found some inexpensive, plastic frames at IKEA and filled them with black and white scrapbook paper. This allows me to change the images easily and cheaply. This solution also allows me to move the images around the house for those times when we can't be in the movement area.


We also use a set of images that I painted on thin pieces of canvas back before Nora was born. Then, we recently added this book to our collection. I love it because it stands on its own and includes more realistic, yet high contrast, images instead of just patterns.


There are many commercially available black and white products for babies. Other Montessori friendly options include art cards, printables and flash cards. We will continue to use these black and white images for the first several months until Augustus loses interest. 

Have you noticed that your baby likes black and white images? How have you incorporated these images into your baby spaces? 

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