Friday, July 31, 2015

Montessori Play at 13 Months


In addition to the bottom shelf in our play area, Nora also has some toys in our living space. Originally, I planned to keep this a "kid-free" zone in our house, but life has made other plans. I actually really enjoy that she can be part of our everyday routine as she plays. Since she was a tiny baby, she has been able to be right in the heart of the home with us, and I've come to realize just how important that is. 


Grimm's Extra Large Rainbow -- A favorite with Nora and Henry 

Grimm's Pocket Dwarfs -- a little more Waldorf than Montessori, but totally beloved! 


I think this space also shows that you don't need to always have "fancy" Montessori shelving to make Montessori work at home. We just use our fireplace mantle. It sits just a couple inches from the ground and has been perfect for her. Its easily accessible and perfect for trays and baskets. And, free! All we had to do was add a lock to the doors -- which we would have done otherwise. I should add that we don't use our fireplace (outside of maybe a couple times at Christmas) so fire wasn't an issue.



Realistic Knobbed Puzzle -- I'm told this is an old Melissa and Doug, but it's no longer available. There are other lovely brands available. 

Plan Toy Drum -- so solid, but easy to play.

I keep all of the toys and work in this area safe for Nora. I rotate them every couple of weeks as her interests, skills and needs change. Nora spends time playing here each day. She may work at the shelf directly, or take it to the floor or nearby table. We encourage her to put whatever she is done with away before getting something else, but that doesn't always happen. 



Pounding Toy Bench -- Hugely popular with Nora right now. Perfect outlet for her energy. 

Familiar faces basket 


I keep this area as uncluttered as possible, avoid the use of bins, and try to make sure each choice is intentional. I want toys that engage not entertain. Other than that, I try to take a step back and give Nora the space to discover and enjoy! 


Trampoline -- because we can forget about gross motor! This girl is all about climbing!

And, that's what's on Nora's shelves! I'm linking up with How we Montessori, so check out other Montessori homes there!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Montessori Inspired Time Theme

Somewhere around his 4th birthday, Henry became intensely interested in time. Suddenly, it was "what time is it?" how long until 1:00?" "what day is it?" "when does daddy come home?" -- things like that. At first, we started with informal, practical learning -- we looked at the clock before important bench marks in our day and noted how it looked. Then, I started putting names to the times we were seeing on the clock. Finally, for his birthday we got Henry this  learning clock -- and its amazing! It has helped him get a pretty good grip on how to tell time and how long time actually lasts. 


In addition this this more "practical" learning, we have also done a variety of time themed trays. This first tray explored the concepts of hour and minute using the Montessori gold bead 10 bars. The goal was the match the correct label with the correct number, arrow and bead amount. This was quite popular and a great way to visualize that there are more minutes then hours. 


The next tray worked on identifying :30 verses :00. The children could simply match the time to the appropriate clock. As Henry has gotten better at reading the time, I have introduced more complicated times and cards. 


Next, we worked on identifying the year. To make this concrete, I added bead that could be placed below each number. I noticed after I took the pictures that a sneaky hand stole one of my beads, but the actual tray had the correct number of beads. 


For the days of the week, I used a rainbow and word matching. Henry knows the rainbow order really well, so for us, it makes sense to use these colors to re-enforce order for the days. This work gave him a name for the order and the stick the ability to identify the exact day. This is actually something we have been using for a lot longer, and he was pretty good at identifying the days and their order well before this unit. 


Other things we did for this unit --

Circular calendar for identifying months. The months were color coded to match the seasons and since it was a circle, the pieces only fit if in the right order. There was also a key to make sure the order was correct. 


Placing numerals on a clock face.


The final tray included set of circles in different sizes -- the larger the circle, the larger the unit of time. The kids could place the circles in order to see how the units relate to each other. 


How have you taught your children about time?


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Sunday, July 26, 2015

...And Get Out of the Way

"and get out of the way"

"The best we can do for our children is to prepare a beautiful environment, provide the best materials, and get out of the way." - Susan's Mayclkn Stephenson, The Joyful Child. 


The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three has so much amazing wisdom to share about babies and toddlers. As I was reading, I came across this great reminder to step back and let children be. 

They don't need our constant direction, entertainment or input. And, they are capable of so much more then we think. But, this is so much harder then it sounds, at least for me! 

It's hard to watch them struggle sometimes, to fall down, to make mistakes. But, it's so important. 

So, when I feel like intervening, I'll be here quietly repeating, "and get out of the way, and get out of the way."

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Henry's Play Shelves -- Montessori at 4-years-old

It's been awhile since I've shared any recent pictures of Henry's Montessori bedroom. So, I though I would once again link up with How We Montessori to share what's on our shelves. At just over 4-years-old, Henry's room looks a lot like it did when I first introduced it. {See all the details of his Montessori bedroom.}

Montessori toys 4-years-old, Montessori bedroom

The floating shelves have worked great over the past few years. He has grown into them nicely. And, I would do the same thing again in a heartbeat. His book case, too, is perfect for him. It contains a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction books and some early readers. 


Bookcase 

The small wooden bowl on the left contains a couple old cellphones for pretend play. 

Bob Books -- the wicker basket has a collection of Bob books. Henry isn't quite reading yet, but these are simple enough that he can make out most of words on his own.  

Tinker Toys -- in the orange wooden crate are some tinker toys for building. 


Long Shelf

This is where I ideally keep some things for Henry to do during his quiet time or when he feels like playing that may not be appropriate for Nora. The shelf is just high enough that she has a hard time reaching.



Penguins -- a small book to look at and penguins to play with. Inspired by a recent interest in our penguin toobs. 



Math cubes -- right now these are just used for building all sorts of creations and not direct math activities. These are a favorite right now. 

Star Wars  -- These are not Montessori-friendly, but we do allow some fantasy in our home. Henry is way obsessed with these. 

Montessori toys, preschooler, Montessori home

Small Shelf 

This shelf doubles as a desk for Henry, which he loves. The little machine is his sound machine and nightlight to help him sleep. Right now the desk has a magnet-writer for drawing and writing. It also has a basket of Sesame Street characters that I intensely dislike. Henry found them in our basement and can't seem to let them go. So...I follow the child.


Finally, there's a big basket of Duplos. Henry requested these when I banned Legos from his room (to our Lego table) after he was showing that he just couldn't keep them off the floor and away from Nora.  They actually work well to keep Nora busy if she goes in there. 

And, that's it! To see more of our play shelves -- check out our Mixed Age Montessori Shelves.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mornings at the Weaning Table

Nora is an early riser. She doesn't need a few moments to wake up, she's ready to go from the start. Even these early mornings give us an opportunity for independence. Gathering a bowl, bringing it to the table, sitting down. The weaning table has quickly become the center of our home.  


Montessori baby, 13 months


The silly, messy, serious, thoughtful little girl starts her day here each morning. And, I wish they were always as peaceful as they look! But, with each passing day, Nora perfects new skills. 

weaning table. montessori baby, montessori toddler

These moments don't last long -- Nora has no time for sitting. And no meal, is eaten without gentle reminders to remain at the table {and not on top of it}. After a quick wipe-up, our Montessori day has begun. 


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Montessori Music: DIY Xylophone with Printable

One of the most beautiful things about Montessori, in my opinion, is that it allows children to discover the world and its mysteries and its joy at their own pace. This applies to every area of life, not just to academics. 

DIY xylophone for kids

When it comes to music, I try to offer the same chances for concrete exploration as I do with any other area of our home. Henry has access to a radio for when he wants to listen to music. He also has a variety of real instruments to explore. 

This is an area where I naturally struggle, but Henry naturally excels. He has a sense of innate rhythm that I very much lack. So, thank goodness, I get to follow him and his interests! Henry loves to play our piano, but I wanted to get him interested in other types of instruments too. So, I found this book Music Everywhere. It perfectly combined Henry's interest in geography and music by showing children from around playing traditional instruments.


From here, I created a DIY Xylophone work for him so he could play his own instrument. Here, he would get the chance to combine math, practical life skills and music to create his own instrument. Plus, a opportunity to follow "written" directions which is a great pre-reading skill. 


If you would like to do this work, you'll need:

  • 6 glasses -- should be the same 
  • Water 
  • Food coloring -- primary colors
  • Direction cards -- these are written so that non-readers can understand what they need. As long as a child knows their numbers and colors, they should be able to use the work once shown! 


montessori child, music theme, xylophone, printable

Henry was measuring, pouring, adding coloring and mixing in no time. To measure the water we used a water bottle with markings on it, but any container will do. You can see that the amounts were not exactly perfect, but it was close enough for the xylophone to work. 

Also, for the purple, we discovered it was too dark just to add the food coloring to 4 ounces of water, so we added to the pitcher than poured 4 oz out. I also laminated the direction cards with the hope that he could repeat this work for a few days, but the water ruined them. So, don't go through the trouble of laminating -- I just printed/cut another set. 

music, DIY, practical life, rainbow

When the xylophone was completed, Henry let loose! He loved the different sounds and exploring each glass. We talked about which glass sounded high and which was low. Then, we pulled out a "real" xylophone to see if the same was true with it. And, we just had some fun making up songs! See the xylophone in action on Instagram! 


I have a feeling this won't be the last of the musical instruments we make in our house! For now, I follow his interests and enjoy the intense concentration and discovery that comes with that! Do you have a musical child? How do you foster that interest? 

Montessori music for preschool

12 Months of Montessori Learning!

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning series. This month's Montessori and Montessori-inspired posts are music themed! Check out these amazing blogs for more music inspired ideas! 


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Friday, July 10, 2015

Mixed Age Montessori Play Shelves

I've been meaning to share our mixed aged play shelves for awhile now and Kylie at How We Montessori has finally kicked me in the butt and got me to do it. Check out her beautiful shelves! This shelf is our main play shelf in our home right now. These are toys that I consider Montessori friendly and appropriate for Nora (1-year-old) and Henry (4-years-old).

So, here is what is on our shelf right now! 

Montessori toys, Montessori baby, Montessori child

Top Shelf - These are intended for Henry, yet not dangerous for Nora

Lightsabers -- These are intended for Henry. These are not Montessori friendly but I'll save the role of fantasy in our house for another post. 

Sensory Bin -- Sand and Magnets -- I try to offer Henry sensory experiences. Here is a simple bin combining science and sensory. 


Guidecraft Magneatos -- These are a lot of fun and allow Hen to build. Nora will use these too, but just to put the pieces together. 

Pattern Blocks -- Ideally, I hoped to include a mirror with these, but I can't find my mirror anywhere. So, they are just loose parts at the moment.


Middle Shelf - These are still mostly intended for Henry, but Nora can enjoy too. 


Basket of vehicles -- Nora loves cars so these work great for her and for Henry. 

Homemade playdoh and craft sticks -- This one is actually for Nora. She can place the sticks into the dough and pull them out again. 


Color wheel puzzle -- Puzzle for Henry, from the Target dollar spot.


Stacking house blocks -- Another building puzzle for Henry, the blocks only stack in a certain order. I wish I knew the source for this, but found at a thrift store and its unmarked.


 Bottom Shelf -- These are intended for Nora only, Henry may use them but is fairly uninterested. 


Square stacking cups -- A favorite. I love the square twist on traditional stacking cups.

Wooden push turtle -- another thrift store find.


Sensory balls -- another all time favorite baby toy. See my other favorite Montessori baby toys.


Handmade fabric blocks -- I made these!


And, that's it! The children do have other play areas in the house, but for now, this is the main area. The area also includes Nora's walker wagon, a couple baby dolls and wooden crib and a bilibo chair


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