Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Imperfect Montessori Morning

This morning has been one of those times when you start to lose it a little bit as a parent. I'm running on nearly no sleep, with children who have colds and who are excited for the upcoming holiday. As I look around, I see so much imperfection. There are so many things that just seem wrong today. Messy. Disorganized. Cluttered. All my Montessori parenting urges are on high alert. 

There's abandoned work mats. Stupid plastic lightsabers that keep making their way into our home. 

Materials pulled from the shelves. Poor little dolls face down on the carpet. 

A random chair.

Dumped bins. 

And amid these seemingly endless imperfections, there is silence. In the moment, I panic -- like any parent with young children. Silence is never a good thing. Silence likely means all the toys are in the toilet or the baby is eating buttons or something. 

I investigate. And instead of craziness, I find two Montessori siblings cuddling together in bed. Discussing a calculator. Laughing and cuddling. So much perfection.

So, if you are feeling like things just aren't "Montessori" enough. Or that you are failing in some way, look closer. There is perfection in any situation. It might just not look like what you think it does!

If you liked this post, check out these posts: Mornings at the Weaning Table; Montessori Moment


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Timeline of our Family -- Intro to Montessori History

I don't know if I've ever shared this before, but I've had a few great loves in my academic life. But the greatest one, was and will always be history. I love history. If you ever want to have a long talk about Tudor-Stuart England or how Andrew Jackson influenced the modern presidency, you call me! 

To introduce history, my first love, to my first child is a pretty amazing feeling. Henry isn't quite ready for the history of Henry VIII, so I started a bit closer to home -- with our family.

Traditionally, Montessori takes a unique and interesting approach to teaching history. In many cases, a timeline is used to present a particular subject. The children take an integral part of creating the timeline. This can spark debate, discussion and critical thinking skills while providing the basic facts of a particular historical event.

I wanted to re-create in a way a timeline for Henry. He has been very interested in writing and copying words, drawing pictures and putting data in one place. I knew a timeline would be the perfect way to engage these skills and learn some history in the process.

I started by creating a shell of a timeline with dates that are important in our family. With the basic structure done, I could focus on details with Henry. An older child could help out with construction or completely create the timeline.

I also provided some pictures -- but not all -- for the project. I knew it would be too much for him to have to write or draw the entire thing. Then, I left out some supplies -- including some fun twig color pencils -- that I thought Henry would enjoy.

Henry and I started the project by talking about what history is and how to read the timeline. Then, we dove right in. At first, I told him what each box represented. "That's Daddy's birthday." I followed up with open ended questions to insight creativity. "What could we put in the box for Daddy's birthday?" And, I followed his lead!

We then just sat and completed the timeline together. I tried to follow, asking and answering questions. Sometimes he put a picture where I would have, sometimes he didn't! And sometimes he drew a lightsaber just because! Occasionally, Nora added her own touch!

Right as I thought we were done, Henry asked -- "when were my cousins born?" And, BAM, I knew this was making him think! We ended by hanging the timeline in his room. I'm hoping that he will want to come back to it, talk about it and add more dates.

Overall, it was a very simple and engaging way to introduce history and talk about our roots!

How have you introduced history with your preschooler?

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

12 Months of Montessori! 

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series! This month's theme is history. Make sure to stop by these fabulous blogs for great Montessori and Montessori-inspired history ideas!

Linear Calendar for Kids by Planting Peas
Montessori Calendar for Kids by Mama’s Happy Hive
How to Introduce Time to Kids by Study at Home Mama
Our Montessori-inspired Timeline of Life by Every Star is Different

Exploring History Through the Great Lessons by Grace and Green Pastures

And, SURPRISE! This month is extra special because we are hosting this amazing giveaway! Enter the Giveaway in the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win $150 Gift Certificate to Montessori Services and a Art Toolbox from Montessori by Mom!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 

So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 

First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, but only works for classroom settings. While there are many works that I recommend for home school use, you won't find these on this list. 

Instead, these are developmentally appropriate, natural (where possible), open ended toys! Many of these we actually own and many are on my own wish list for my children!

Babies and Young Toddlers {0 - 18 months} 

When shopping for Montessori babies, I suggest, keeping materials as simple and as natural as possible. Avoid things that are too flashy, heavy or complicated. Instead, focus on beauty and function!


Play Silks -- high on our list!
Baby Paper
Rainbow Ball 

Fine Motor to 12 Months

Double Bubble Bead Run
Object Permanence Box  -- Nora has played with this from 8 to 18 months!

Fine Motor to 18 Months
Gross Motor  

Radio Flyer Walker Wagon -- Family favorite! This has been used daily for a year.
Hape Little Pounder 
Radio Flyer Tiny Trike
PlanToys Push and Pull
Sensory Balls -- Number 1 recommendation for babies! We love them and used them still today!
PlanToys Rocking Horse


Plan Toys Solid Drum
Egg Shakers 
Glockenspiel -- xylophone -- a favorite in our house!


Helen Oxenbury Set 
Black and White Books
Everywhere Babies -- we're reading this daily right now!


Black and White Images
Activity Gym
Sophie the Giraffe Teether -- LOVE. Perfect for teething gums!
Raspberry Teether
Natural Teething Ring
Swan Mobile -- A great addition to traditional mobiles
Natural Teether Ball
Wooden Pacifier Clip


Learning Tower

Toddlers {18 months - 3 years}

Here, remember that every toddler is different, and unique. Try to follow your child's own interests and abilities when deciding what works for them! What is appropriate for one child, won't work for another! Some might be ready for something at 1-year-old and others not until 4.

Fine Motor 

Bead Lacing
Ring Counter
Disk Counter
Lacing Sheep -- very nicely made and challenging enough to last a long time.
Cone Pyramid
Stacking Tree
Latches Box
Wooden Peg Board -- I love that this comes with two sizes of pegs to last a long time
Buddha Board
Simple Shape Sorter -- a personal favorite!  

Gross Motor

Strider Bike -- Henry has used this nearly daily since he was 2, one of the best purchases we've made.
Tactile Disks
River Stone Climbers
Balance Board
Large Foam Blocks -- These blocks see so much play for kids of all ages!
Bean Bags
Roll and Play Game
Trampoline -- used so much at our house!

Building and Block Play 

Unit Blocks -- A must have for open ended play! These are perfect for years to come.
Stacking Pyramid 
Grimms Rainbow -- Family favorite with both Nora and Henry
HABA Ball Run
Grimms Stacking Boxes
Rainbow Blocks 
Peg Board


Chunky Boat Puzzle
Farm Animals -- Love the realistic images! This is on Nora's list!
Wild Animals
Kid O Color Steps 
Shape Puzzle 
Color and Shape Sorter Puzzle
Construction Vehicles Puzzle
2 piece Matching Puzzles Set -- perfect introduction to jigsaw puzzles for advanced learners!
Simple Jigsaw Puzzle Set
Eeboo Baby-Adult Matching
3 Piece Shape Puzzles -- a great Montessori choice
Guidecraft Color Stacker
Nesting Cube Puzzle

Dramatic Play and Language Development

Hand Bells
Large Drum -- Very loud clear drum!
Hand symbols


Garden Tools -- We have these! Perfect size and they have held up well with real gardening!
Paint Brushes
Pantone Color Cards
Color Paddles
Hape Easel
Natural Finger Paint
Beeswax Crayons

Preschoolers {3 years - 5 years} 

Follow your child's interests! By preschool age, many children have strong preferences, follow them! There are natural choices available to fit every interest and budget!

Building and Dramatic Play

Multi-Cultural Children -- These have been very popular with Henry and Nora!
Community Worker Figures
HABA Marble Run
Magnification Blocks 
Grimms Large Spiral Puzzle -- how amazing does this look?!
Slot Building
Magnetic Blocks
Magnatiles -- One of the most used toys we have.
Hammer Tap Building
Castle Blocks
Grimms Wooden Cube Blocks 
Rokenbok Building Blocks -- These are my new favorite, allows curved building!
Child Sized Tools

Puzzles and Games

Seeds for the Birds Cooperative Game
Eeboo Never Forget a Face Game
Community Cooperative Game -- very fun building and strategy game
Bird Memory Game
Bird Bingo
Space Floor Puzzle
Janod Body Puzzle
USA Puzzle -- Henry loves this puzzle, I love that it includes all 50 states!
Sequencing Puzzle
Find and Seek Puzzle
Community Workers Puzzle

Art Supplies

Water Colors -- Must have at our house.
Sun Art -- so cool! Perfect way to combine science and art.
Large Roll of Paper
Rainbow Scratch Paper

Gross Motor

Hilltop Climbers -- Absolutely, hands down our favorite gross motor toy!
Seesaw Balance
Fort Building Clips
Balancing Disk


Pocket Microscope
Animal X-Rays -- I love that this can be a matching game or just exploration.
Human X-Rays
Fun with Magnets
Skeleton Floor Puzzle -- On Hen's list for this year!
Geometric Solids
Balancing Scale
Wooden Pattern Blocks
Magnetic Marble Run
Simple Machines
Snap Circuits -- Henry getting these this Christmas!

Language and Culture

World Wall Map -- on Henry's list!
Letter Construction
Global Children Floor Puzzle
Lowercase letter puzzle -- love this one, I wish we had it when Henry was younger.
Cash Register
Schleich Woodland Animals
Magnetic Letters


Animalarium -- this book is so nice! Its big and heavy and beautifully illustrated.
Farm Anatomy
Bob Books -- Perfect for emergent readers, Henry loves them!


Light Table

I hope this post helps you make some Montessori inspired choices this holiday season! There are so many great choices to fit every child, and every budget!

Looking for Non-Toy Choices? Don't miss our Ultimate Montessori Non-Toy Gift Guide

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Introduction to Spooning for Montessori Toddlers

One of the most beloved practical life experiences for young toddlers is transferring with a spoon. There is just something about this simple motion that is so satisfying to these little people. For adults, using a spoon is so common of a task we may not even realize how complicated it can be. A specific set of motions must be used to accomplish our task, and there is very little room for error.

Nora's true introduction to spooning, was at 6-months when she first started to eat solids. Following a a Montessori-method of weaning, she was given a spoon and fork with every meal. But, this is still a skill that she is refining. So, I still wanted to create a work for her to use away from meal times. 

To make this work, I simply used a small amount of wild rice in a glass cup. I included a small glass appetizer spoon. A tiny wooden tray with higher sides. The tray is small and light enough for Nora to carry to a mat or table.

I choose to use food on this tray to make it a true extension of her meal times. I also only included a small amount of rice -- no more than you are willing to clean up! Also, Nora is still very oral, so with the rice, I don't have to worry as much if she puts it in her mouth. 

If you want to introduce spooning to a toddler, I suggest to keep it very simple at first. Remember it is about the process not the product. After a quick presentation, I suggest letting your toddler explore the tray. Try to observe instead of reacting, especially if the toddler doesn't do it the same way you would.

If a spill is made -- and a spill will happen! -- I encourage Nora to pick up the rice. But, only AFTER she is done spooning. I try not to interrupt her even when mistakes are made. Concentration and respect is key. This also means you should try to avoid praise or help as your toddler works. 

I know this can be hard. But, trust me. Repeat over and over -- process over product. Then, sit back and watch the joy of accomplishment! 

Do your children enjoy spooning? What other practical life activities have you encouraged with your toddler?

If you like this post, check out: Introduction to Pouring; Mornings at the Weaning Table

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


Monday, November 9, 2015

Montessori 101 -- 15,000 Members Giveaway!

As many of you know, over the last several years, I've fallen in love with Montessori parenting. I have spent countless hours reading and talking Montessori online. During that time, I've found an amazing niche of parents, educators, bloggers and others interested in following the child and using Montessori in their lives. 

A big part of the community that I've found has included Montessori 101. Its a wonderful Facebook based community where everyone from the Montessori community can get together and chat. Everyone! And I mean everyone from complete newbies to experts in the field are together in one place, spreading the amazing love, peace and wonder that is Maria Montessori and her teachings. 

I have the privilege of being a co-admin of this wonderful group, and we recently hit the milestone of 15,000 members! And, in celebration of this community, let's have a giveaway! But, not just any giveaway, a big, HUGE, amazing, Montessori giveaway. With 17 winners! 

CLICK to Continue Reading and to Enter the Giveaway! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Christmas Sensory Matching for Toddlers

I love the holidays! And, I love sharing that joy with my children. Today, I'm joining an amazing group of 15+ bloggers from the Montessori Bloggers Network to share some holiday magic! Make sure to stop by MBN for all the  Montessori for the Holidays posts. 

One of the best parts, to me, about the holidays -- particularly Christmas -- is how it engages the senses. There are specific sights and sounds that instantly bring back memories from Christmas. I wanted to share these sensory experiences with Nora {16-months} in a Montessori inspired way that was safe for her and developmentally appropriate. 

Toddlers are right in the middle of the sensitive period for order and their language skills are exploding. This combination often makes matching work both popular and satisfying. One important matching skill for toddlers is matching an object to a picture. 

Since, these Christmas objects are on the small side, I put them in the ever-popular sensory bottle! This way, the sensory bottles with the objects could be matched to a small card with a picture of each object. For an older toddler, or preschooler, you could keep the objects in a small basket on their own without the bottles.

I choose common objects that reminded me of the holidays. One bottle contained small bells, one snowflake confetti, another tiny bows, one shiny red confetti, the fifth contained evergreen sprigs, and finally a cinnamon stick. 

Now, to really engage the senses, I didn't stop at just placing the objects in the sensory bottles. As must as was possible, I wanted each of the bottles to engage Nora in a unique way. The red confetti and bows, were both really shiny, and eye catching, for example. The bells obviously engaged the sense of sound as it was moved.

The others were a bit more unique. For the sensory bottle with the snowflake confetti, I placed the bottle in the freezer before presenting it to Nora. This way when Nora grabbed it, it was a bit wet (from the condensation) and cold. This made the snow a little more real, and made it an interesting sensorial experience. 

For the last two sensory bottles, the evergreen and the cinnamon, I had Morgan drill a small hole in the top of each bottle. This way, Nora could smell all the holiday wonderfulness for herself! This was really popular with Nora and she could not get enough of smelling each of the jars. It was just a tiny touch that made all the difference. 

When presenting the work to Nora, I first just let her explore the bottles. Once that initial exploration was over, I placed each card one by one, naming each as I went. Then, I matched its corresponding sensory bottle in place. 

I made it through three bottles before Nora was ready to jump back in -- which was just fine! At this age, I don't stress about the presentation as much as the exploration. She made a few attempts at matching, but this is still a tough skill for her. She mostly just enjoyed the bottles and placed on the nearest picture. 

To make this work for yourself, you'll need:
Just add the objects to the bottles. A small amount of hot glue can be used to glue the lids shut, if you are worried about a choking hazard. Again, the bottles wouldn't be necessary (although I still think they are lovely) for older less-oral children.

If you would like to recreate the work exactly -- FIND THE FREE PRINTABLE HERE.

I hope you enjoyed this taste of the holidays. This post was brought to you as part of the Montessori for the Holidays series. A new Montessori holiday themed blog post is published each day from October 25-November 11! And make sure to check out tomorrow's post from Age of Montessori

If you liked this post, you should check out: Mini Rainbow Sensory Bottles; Zoology Sensory Bottles for Montessori Babies

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.