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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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Exploring Montessori Language Work from Ages 2 to 3

According to Maria Montessori children are in the sensitive period for language from birth until age 6. During this time they are making incredible leaps in not only oral, but written language acquisition. Most of the time this happens without any intervention on the part of the parent.


As I've talked about before, toddlers often need no formal introduction to academic concepts. This includes "typical" language activities such as the alphabet or reading programs. As Maria said "In our system little children acquire a hand which is practiced and ready to write. They are unconsciously preparing themselves for writing when in the course of the sense exercises they move the hand in various directions, constantly repeating the same actions though with different immediate ends in view."

Again, we are choosing to not teach Nora letter names or sounds at this time. This isn't always the easiest for us as parents to accept, especially in today's society. We want to we are giving the best to our children and that's totally understandable.


But, if we aren't doing letters, then what can we do? There are a variety of engaging and easy toddler work that indirectly prepares toddlers for reading and writing. By making sure we don't skip these steps prior to introducing letters then we will give toddlers the best foundation for reading and writing in the future. It will actually be significantly easier and more natural for them to learn when they are actually fully prepared and ready.

Environmental

These are things that you can do to make your home as reading-friendly as possible. These don't have to be complicated. But, taking some time to make sure your child can read as comfortably as possible. Reading and writing should be a natural part of your day and life.

  • Create a literacy positive atmosphere -- read and write around your child 
  • Set up a reading corner or space for your child, make it easy to read 
  • Choose a wide variety of beautiful books for your child 
  • Make books accessible to children by using child-sized shelving


Oral

So much of learning to read comes from developing oral language skills. Before learning letter sounds, toddlers have to learn to recognize and distinguish sounds.

  • READ, READ, and READ some more
  • Play listening games: go outside and try to identify sounds or listen for specific sounds; sound lotto games
  • Make up rhyming games 
  • Read poetry aloud -- this collection is incredible 
  • Use real and descriptive language with your toddler
  • Introduce Sound Games with your child -- my lovely friend Amy at Midwest Montessori has excellent explanations on how to start this process


Fine Motor

It's super important that toddlers develop the fine motor skills necessary to begin to write and read. Many people want to skip to right to sandpaper letters with their young kids to teach them letter sounds. However, this requires a lot of fine motor skills in order to successfully complete. It also takes skills to hold a book, or a pencil. "The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." - Maria Montessori
  • Practical Life skills 
  • Free art: water colors, chalk, coloring with crayons
  • Playdoh to strengthen hand muscles 
  • Sewing -- start with bead lacing and threading, moving to lacing and using blunt embroidery needles and thread
  • Pegging work and puzzles 
  • Finger painting 


Cognitive and Visual Discrimination 

There is some shelf work that can be helpful for toddlers. Many of these ideas can be made easily at home. Another helpful thing to do is make sure that all work in arranged from left to right. It helps children start to logically move from left to right as they put together words and read sentences.

  • Matching work to move children toward abstraction
  • Sorting work: sorting soft and hard objects, magnetic verses non-magnetic, etc.  
  • Classification work -- classifying cards {like those Nora is using}
  • Sequencing work -- putting cards in a logical order from beginning to end 
  • Naming objects and pictures using 2 and 3-part lessons

These are just some ideas to help people prepare their toddlers for reading and writing. If you want more information on Montessori language arts and the process of teaching reading and writing, don't miss this book: Montessori Read & Write: A Parents' Guide to Literacy for Children.


12 Months of Montessori 

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

Learning the Montessori Way: Grammar | Every Star is Different
Our Favorite Language Arts Supplements | Grace and Green Pastures
My Church Montessori 3-Part Cards | Christian Montessori Network

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

And He's Off to Children's House

Today Henry officially begins his public Montessori journey! I don't know where the time went and how suddenly my little, pink screaming newborn is gone and this self-sufficient 5-year-old stands in his place. 


I'm going to miss him here with me, but I know he's going to be an excellent hands. He's having a hard time with this transition but is also excited. He is working through some struggles right now and he is just so brave. I'm incredibly grateful for all the time we've had together and I know things are only looking up! 


I asked him some questions before heading off to school, it was clear he was not in the mood: 


What is your favorite color? Yellow

What are you looking forward to today? "Learning new work" 

What do you want to be when you grow up? "A superhero"

What will you miss the most today? "My blankie. Stop asking questions." 


And, that's it. I'm a rambly incoherent mess. Up the big school stairs he went. I hope he learns kindness, and peace, and strength, and all the work he wants! 


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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part Two 18 to 24 Months

In Part One, I explored some of the puzzles that Nora, my puzzle crazy 26-month-old, used between 12 and 18 months. As I said in that post, the age ranges are approximate in these posts. She used many of these puzzles for many months at a time and her interest in shelf work would come and go as she focused on gross motor and practical life work. 


Before I share the next puzzles I introduced, I just wanted to share a few tips on what to look for when purchasing Montessori friendly puzzles. For me, I look for a few things when purchasing puzzles: 
  • Natural Materials -- this isn't always possible, but I try to stick with wooden puzzles at this age. I think they hold up better and are just more beautiful and inviting. 

  • Realistic Images -- Toddlers are interested in reality, they want things they can recognize, name and see. The more realistic the better. You won't find any fantasy puzzles in my toddler collection and I try (although it is hard to find new puzzles like this) to use as realistic of images as possible, skipping cartoons altogether if I can. 

  • Developmentally Appropriate -- You won't find alphabet or number puzzles in my toddler collection. These are not, in my opinion, developmentally necessary for such young toddlers. 
Now, on to the puzzles we used (and many we are still using) starting at 18-months:

Tiny Knobs -- abstract picture

As Nora was working with the tiny knobbed puzzles, I wanted to move her a bit toward abstraction. So, I pulled out these puzzles where the pictures under were not an exact match of the pictures above. This forced her to focus as much on the shape of the piece as the image. She really enjoyed this challenge. These were introduced around 22 months.


Pictured: Hape Transportation Puzzle {alternative}

No Pictures Puzzles

Again, as we moved toward abstraction with Nora, I wanted puzzles that only focused on the shape of the pieces and not matching at all. And, I took lots of steps at this point. First, very defined shapes, then indents where the shapes go and finally no hints about where things fit. These puzzles are all vintage and therefore, it's been hard to find nice Montessori friendly alternatives. I've done my best, but if you know of others let me know in the comments! At 26-months old Nora is still working through these puzzles -- especially the last one. I started these puzzles right before her second birthday, and still rotate through them regularly.


Pictured: Vintage vegetables puzzle -- this one I wish had knobs, its hard to get the pieces out without dumping {alternative fruit puzzle; large set of puzzles}; Vintage transportation/food puzzles; Vintage Farm Puzzle {sort of close -- frame puzzle}

2-Piece Jigsaw ~ 3 Piece Puzzles ~ 4 Piece Puzzles

After Nora was starting to get the hang of some of the picture-less puzzles, I introduced these simple jigsaw puzzles. The 2-piece puzzles are the one puzzle where I wish I had introduced them earlier with Nora -- probably at the same time as the abstract knobs, or right after. By the time I gave her these there was no challenge left. The same day I gave them, she was able to sit and do the whole box (like 15+ matches) all at once. The other two puzzles have been a bit more of a challenge and probably introduced at just the right time. She is still very interested in doing all of these at the moment.


Pictured: 2-piece Match It vehicle puzzles; 3-piece magnetic puzzles; 4-piece vehicle puzzle board

Simple Picture Puzzles

These simple picture puzzles are only a few pieces each but come together to form interesting pictures without a ton of guidance. These are Nora's jam right now. I introduced slightly after her 2nd birthday and she had no interest. Two months later she would love a 100 of these right now! I bought the boat thinking it would be a bit easy for her but actually, its chunky pieces and more abstract picture are proving to be a nice challenge right now as well.


Pictured: Vintage Puzzles -- there really are not very many great substitutes for these incredible puzzles, so look everywhere for these, eBay can sometimes be a good source if you're willing to pay a premium {not exactly the same, but the best I could find -- puzzle set; alternative chunky animals}; Chunky Boat Puzzle

Larger Jigsaws ~ Larger Picture Puzzles 

These have been the latest puzzles I've introduced to Nora. Like the smaller jigsaws, these jigsaws could probably have been introduced a bit earlier than they were, since she was able to complete even the 6-piece one by herself from day 1. The more complicated picture puzzles were introduced by accident. I purchased a new one at a consignment sale and hadn't put it away when Nora discovered it. She needed some help putting it together but did eventually get it, much to my surprise. So these are now in our rotation at 26-months.


Pictured: Multi piece jigsaw set; Vintage picture puzzles -- these are still the best I've found {alternative butterfly; alternative plane puzzle; alternative polar bear; pilot puzzle}

Next up on our puzzle list will be more complicated 12, 24 piece jigsaws and layer puzzles. I don't anticipate that we will move up to them quite yet, but Nora will be my guide! I'll keep you updated!

What types of Montessori-friendly puzzles have you used at this age? Any great ones that I'm missing? 

Don't miss Part One of this series: Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part One 12 to 18 Months 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part One 12 to 18 Months

Nora (26-months) is suddenly intensely in love with puzzles. I mean she is suddenly spending hours each day doing a variety of different puzzles with ease, concentration and joy. This, for me, is 100 percent completely uncharted territory. Henry never got into puzzles. It may be his own personality, it may be related to the special needs he is working through, or it may be related to the sort of haphazard way we introduced puzzles in his non-Montessori early toddlerhood. Whatever it is, I've never had a kid love puzzles before.


This change has been very welcomed and so incredible to watch. By offering a wide variety of puzzles slowly over the last year, Nora has had the time to really master each stage of puzzle and repeat it until her interest wains. 

Before I forget, I want to make sure to take a look back at where we started and how we got to where we are now. Before I do that, however, I want to just add a word about following the child. At its core Montessori is about allowing a child to take his or her own path to the world. It's about meeting the child where the child and accepting that.

So, this means that just because this is the path that Nora took during this time, it may not be the path that your child takes. And, that's OK. You're child may be quicker than Nora, or slower, or show no interest at all. Your child may spend months on one type of puzzle then ignore another type. Observe your child and follow his/her path. Use this as inspiration, but not as a month-by-month guide. 

Knobbed Puzzles {Simple then Larger}

The very first puzzles I introduced to Nora were simple 3-piece knobbed puzzles when she was about 10 months old. Traditionally, Montessori would start with single piece puzzles but I used what I had. I'm hoping to get some for baby 3.0. I started with shapes then moved to realistic images. As she mastered these, I introduced the larger knobbed puzzles around 14 months.


Pictured: Vintage fruits/vegetable puzzle {alternative 1; alternative 2}; Vintage 3-piece puzzles {similar animals alternative; similar shapes alternative}; Shape Puzzle

Tiny Knobs -- exact picture ~ Size Comparison Puzzles

Once Nora was starting to show proficiency in larger knobbed puzzles, I started to introduce size comparison puzzles, where an image repeats but changes only in size. We only have a couple of these because they are harder to find, but one had larger knobs and one smaller.


Pictured: Vintage tractor puzzle {alternative}; Circle Puzzle {larger alternative; circle alternative}; Rainbow

Shortly after introducing the size comparison puzzles, I introduced small knobbed puzzles to Nora. She was probably around 15 months at the time. These were great for forcing a pincer grip and added a great element of challenge with the smaller pieces. At this time she was still doing the larger knobbed puzzles as well. However, I made sure these all had exact picture matches so it was also a great picture-to-picture matching exercise.


Pictured: vintage transportation puzzle {alternative}

I think that is about it for this age range. However, the age ranges here are broad and approximate. Nora was very much on a hurry up and stop track with puzzles. She would be intensely interested for awhile then show no interest at all. In fact, there were large chunks of time between 1 and 2 where she had no interest in shelf work at all. She was too busy doing gross motor tasks to slow down for anything else, and that was perfectly fine with me!


I intentionally kept thing on the shelves for long periods of time so she would have the opportunity to not only perfect and master the work but to repeat it for as long as she was interested. So, just because she could do a certain type of puzzle, doesn't mean I removed it right away. I let her enjoy it for as long as she showed interest.

In my next post, I'll go into detail about the puzzles we have used more recently -- from 18 to 24ish months! I'll also have some tips in what I look for when purchasing puzzles for my family!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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