Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Posts of 2016

I still can't believe that 2016 is coming to an end. It's been an amazing and difficult year in so many ways. Here on The Kavanaugh Report, this year has brought so many changes and so many amazing contacts! Thank you all for reading, whether for the first time or you haven't missed a post, thank you! I value all of the comments, questions, and connections I've made in this amazing community. 

And, here's what you've been reading the most this year!

1. Toddlers & Dumping -- Why do Toddlers Dump Everything?
2. Let's Stop Rushing Toddlers
3. Montessori Work from 12 to 14 Months

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Montessori Baby Week 4 -- The Movement Area

The freedom of movement is an important tenant in Montessori. This principal even applies to babies. By giving babies freedom of movement, they can eventually develop the confidence to problem solve and become independent. This freedom of movement is also extremely important in developing the senses as babies begin to explore their environment. 

This week we've really started to see a change in Augustus. He has started to wake up a bunch more during the day. He's starting to follow sounds he hears with his eyes. He's starting to make much more purposeful movements with his hands. His legs are always kicking. And, with these changes we are spending more and more time in our movement area.

We have used the movement area since birth. But, our time in the area has increased as Gus gets older and naturally spends more time awake and observing his environment. This is one area of our home that I really made sure was ready for Augustus before his birth! 

The movement area is Montessori's answer to a work space for babies. While older children have work mats and tables, babies have their movement area. This is a space that will evolve with the baby to meet his or her developmental needs. There are a few basic features that you find in a Montessori movement area. 

1. A mat or blanket on a supportive surface -- The baby needs somewhere clean and safe to be placed down on. Often, a simple quilt or thick blanket can be used. This just needs to be large enough for a baby to comfortably move around. 

2. A mirror -- A mirror placed low on the ground so that the baby can see himself when placed on the mat. This helps the child see his movements and learn how to control them. It also helps to provide a full view of the environment. 

3. Mobiles -- The visual mobiles are the first "work" for infants and provide excellent visual and sensory input and stimulation. 

A movement area should also be centrally located in the environment. This way a baby can be placed in the movement frequently but still be a central part of the family. We tried with Nora to have the movement area in the nursery, and just found that it was harder to make full use of. So, this time, we put the movement area in our playroom where we spend a significant portion of our day. 

In our movement area, we have chosen to use a portable crib mattress for Augustus. We used the same with Nora. This works best for us, for a couple of reasons. One, it provides a very distinct visual barrier for our dogs to stay off of. Two, it keeps him a bit off the floor. This time of year, it is very cold and this room in particular can be chilly. The mat provides just that bit extra warmth. However, once he starts to attempt to sit up, we will switch to a blanket. We found that the mat really made sitting too difficult for Nora, and eventually removed it then as well. 

We also use a mirror (from IKEA) and several mobiles in our space. We chose a glass mirror, however, many Montessori families choose to use sheets of acrylic. Again, we also have several visual mobiles and I will feature those and our use with Gus soon! 

We have also chosen to include a play shelf {a Besta from IKEA} in our movement area. Right now, it is purely for show. The toys just add visual interest in our playroom but are NOT being used by Augustus. We have also included black and white pictures which are being used -- more on those next week! 

And, that's our movement area with a newborn! Eventually, this area will see changes to accommodate Augustus' growth and movement. 

Have you made a movement area for your newborn baby? 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blessed in 2016

Oh 2016. What a year. There are strong feelings about this year. From everyone. From me, even. Because, look at these kids. Seriously. There was a time when we were so far beaten down in our infertility struggle that I never could have pictured the life we have now. It was hard to imagine life with a second baby, let alone a beautiful perfect third. But, in 2016 it's all a reality. 

A wonderful, messy, loud, beautiful reality. We are so blessed. Blessed with Henry. Blessed with Nora. Blessed with Augustus. 

We started the year in a much rockier spot. We had recently learned that Henry needed some intervention for some special needs that he struggles with. And, we had been trying for a baby for nearly a year. It was a difficult time. And, not to say those struggles have disappeared overnight. 

In many ways this has been a difficult year. It was a hard pregnancy. Having a 2-year-old can be trying. Henry received a diagnosis that needs to be managed on a day-to-day basis. But, not one day of this year has not been full of blessings. Full of joy. Full of laughter. We have so many incredible things to be thankful for. These three amazing humans that we get the privilege to guide to adulthood are just the very tip of the iceberg. 

And because I can't have a holiday post, without a picture of Henry's famous pout! And, really seriously with all these faces. I cannot help but stare at our Christmas card {from Tiny Prints} this year. Gah! I love them all. 

I hope you are as incredibly blessed in 2017! Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 19, 2016

Montessori Baby Week 3 -- Protecting Concentration

Recognizing, respecting and fostering concentration is an important tenant in the Montessori pedagogy. In fact, it is one of the most basic tenants. We recognize the young children can concentrate and that through this concentration they are able to reach their full potential. But not only this, children actually enjoy these periods of intense concentration. It is at these moments that they are most fulfilled. In the words of Dr. Montessori, “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

Does this, however, apply to newborns? The answer is an unequivocal yes. From birth newborns have an immense ability to concentrate -- when we let them. As Dr. Silvna Quattrocchi Montanaro {a famous Montessorian and author} said, "The newborn is very attentive and capable of concentration. He needs to be able to practice focusing the eyes on objects in the room..."

Augustus is now 3 weeks old and time is flying by. Our sweet little baby Gus seems to have a little mix-up with his days and nights, but we are following his rhythm and trusting that he will work out his internal clock. Even with a lot of sleep during the day, Gus is starting to have longer awake times between his naps. Seeing this concentration in action during the small windows of time when he isn't nursing, cuddling or pooping has been pretty great. 

Protecting his natural drive to concentrate and fostering it further is extremely important to me. Practically, there are a few things we do in order to protect and foster Augustus' ability to concentrate. 

Calm Environment

"A child has need of simple things, and complicated objects are frequently more of a hindrance than a help to his development." Maria Montessori

One way we are helping Gus develop and use his power of concentration is by providing a calm environment. Here I don't mean calm in the "peaceful, quiet" sort of way. With three dogs and three kids 5-and-under, that's not our house. Its bustling with life and we keep Gus in the middle of it. By calm, I mean free of unnatural distractions. 

To do this, keep baby spaces simple. For a newborn, this means a mobile, a mirror and maybe some black and white images. No need for loud toys, extra blinking toy lights, flashy noises or artificial movement. Basically, less is more! An open view of the home, or nature is often the perfect environment to entice the attention of a newborn. Often commercial baby products do nothing but serve to interrupt an infant's natural ability to concentrate. 

Slow Down and Observe

"What infants need is the opportunity and time to take in and figure out the world around them." Magda Gerber

This is hands down the hardest for me. Life is busy. Augustus being the third child just has a different baby experience than Henry or even Nora. There's kindergarten pickup, toddler potty emergencies, blogging deadlines, and life that just has to be done when it has to be done! That makes it hard to slow down and just watch him. To just let him be. 

But, we try. If I notice that something has caught Gus' eye, I let him be. This may mean that we spend a few extra minutes in the diaper changing area as he stares at the black and white images on the wall. Or, it may mean that I wait to change his diaper until he stops focusing on his mobile. Or I don't let Nora or Henry hold him until he is done staring out the window or at his mirror. It's just taking the time to notice your newborn and respect those times where they are clearly deep in concentration. It's giving those opportunities to concentrate even if it's an inconvenience for you. 

Keep Eye Contact

"Adults can hinder this inner toil when they rudely interrupt a child's reflection or try to distract him. They take the tiny hand of a child, or kiss him, or try to make him go to sleep without taking into account his peculiar psychic development." Maria Montessori

While the pictures here are of Gus concentrating on things in our home, one of the most intense periods of concentration we get is when we hold and talk to Augustus. Newborns love to watch and listen to those closest to them. When Gus' gaze is affixed on me, I do my best not to look away. I let him stare as long as he needs. I let him take the lead and study my movements and voice. It's only when he is done, that I will look away or go about my day with something else. 

This one I find super easy, to be honest, because who doesn't want to stare into the eyes of their precious baby? But, it can be super tempting to smooch them and love on them in this moment. And, I just have to remind myself to let him have his time, and that I will get mine.

By fostering and protecting Gus' concentration now, I hope that we make it easier and more natural for him to concentrate in the future. 

What do you do to protect and encourage concentration in your children? Do you believe that even brand new babies are capable of concentration? 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

14 Montessori Friendly Books for Winter

Recently, I pulled out our collection of winter and winter-holiday books. I quickly realized we are lacking on our collection of winter books. Which is kind of funny, since we have the longest, grossest winters here. So, I set out to hunt for some winter {non-holiday} themed, Montessori friendly books. And, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of great books out there! 

1. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice -- very detailed book with lots of history for older children

2. The Snowy Day -- this one is going into Augustus' stocking

3. Before Morning -- I love the illustrated style of this, looks great for an older child

4. Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

5. Snowflake Bentley -- A true story!

6. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder

7. Snow

8. Over and Under the Snow

9. Winter Board Book -- A picture book from one of my favorite children's authors

10. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold -- Henry has been reading this at school and loves it

11. When Winter Comes

12. Animals in Winter -- an illustrated non-fiction

13. White Snow, Bright Snow

14. All About Winter Weather -- a non-fiction with real pictures

I have a feeling we will spend a bunch of time this winter enjoying these books as we cuddle up to a newborn inside. And, I won't mind one bit! 

Just a note about "Montessori friendly" books. This really means something different for different people. For me, Montessori friendly books are books that avoid fantasy, are content rich, and are beautiful. By fantasy, I do not mean fiction. I mean adult created fantastical elements like talking animals, fairies and commercial characters. 

Do you have any Montessori-friendly winter books that you or your children love? 


Monday, December 12, 2016

Montessori Baby Week 2 -- A Place in the Family

It has been two wonderful weeks with Augustus at home. Every day we all settle more and more into our routine as a new family of five. This isn't to say that it has been totally easy, because that's not true. Everyone is adjusting to our new normal and with that comes some big emotions. 

But, I wanted to talk some about what our new normal really looks like. Because for a Montessori family, it may look a little bit different than some. As a Montessori family, we recognize Augustus as a full human being deserving all the love and respect that any other human should get. We know that he is already absorbing everything around him and trying hard to adjust to the big world around him. 

As Maria Montessori said, "In the first days of life, it is clear that something of the utmost importance is taking place….he has ‘potentialities’ able to bring about his development, and they do so by making use of the outer world." It is through their interaction with the world around them, that a newborn will eventually reach his/her full potential. Dr. Montessori also said, "The needs of a newborn child are not those of one who is sick but of one who is striving to adjust oneself physically and psychologically to new and strange surroundings." 

So, it is with this foundation in mind that we are caring for Gus. It is this foundation that is guiding us through all the sleep deprived days and nights, the nursing, the diapers and the cuddles.

Practically, what does this mean? For me, it means two things. One, it means that Augustus is an active participant in our family life. This means that when we can have Gus near us, we do. We want him to experience his environment. We want him to be in the middle of our family life. This means, he hangs out where we do. He sleeps near us. He's on the floor in the middle of the action. Specifically:

  • Joins us for family meals {even if he's just hanging out near us}
  • Sleeps in the common rooms so is familiar with the rhythm of our family 
  • We read to him and he joins us when we read if he is awake 
  • Spends time on the floor near where the children are playing when he is awake
  • His movement area is part of our living space, not sequestered in the nursery 
  • We nurse in common areas throughout the day
Basically, we try to allow him to experience our house, our life, our family. It's through these interactions that he is adjusting to the world. He isn't swaddled up in a baby-holding device {baby swing, bouncy seat or bassinet}, or tucked away in the nursery. He's in the middle of the crazy, and we couldn't imagine it any other way. 

And, two, this Montessori mindset means that Henry and Nora are as active as possible caring for Gus. We want them to be involved with our new family member. I want them to form that bond from the beginning. And, this is not always easy. Sometimes, I'm short on patience. Sometimes, they are a bit too rough or loud. But, we try our best. Specifically, some ways they are involved include: 

  • Preparing diaper changes -- gathering diapers, wipes and other essentials.
  • Helping with the actual change -- undoing snaps, throwing away diapers, handing me wipes 
  • Picking out his clothes or blanket 
  • Putting socks, hats and other clothing on him 
  • Reading and talking to Augustus 
  • Sitting with him as Gus hangs out 
  • Touching him and cuddling with him 
  • Getting me things I need when nursing/changing/soothing Augustus
I do want to be clear, that even with this participation, the transition has been difficult on both Henry and Nora. We are still dealing with a lot of big feelings and emotions from both of them, even though they are head over heals in love with Gus. Right now, I have found this article from my dear friend Junnifa very helpful in preparing Nora for Augustus' arrival. I have also found this article from Janet Lansbury to be very helpful when responding to the emotions we are experiencing. 

So, if you are expecting a baby, or have a newborn, help them find a place in your family! Include them! Treat them as a person. Respect their natural rhythms and help them adjust to their new surroundings. Give them opportunities to explore and interact with the world around them. 

How do you help to integrate your baby into your family? Have you experienced big emotions from your other children as a result? 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Shared Montessori Bedroom

Some of you may remember this post about Henry's Montessori toddler bedroom. We made it back when Henry was around 2-years-old. It remained largely unchanged all these years later. But, when I got pregnant with Augustus we knew that we would have to double-up on bedrooms. For us, it made the most sense to keep Nora's old room as the nursery and move the bigger kids together.

A shared Montessori bedroom space posed a few challenges for us, especially since Henry and Nora are more than three-years apart. But, I'm very happy with how the space came together and I'm happy that the transition to shared bedroom has been easy and welcomed by all! 

Sleeping Area

To keep as much floor space as possible, we knew that we wanted a bunk bed for the kids. But, we still wanted one that would be as low to the floor as possible. The hope is that Augustus will move in with Henry when he is a young toddler. Plus, Nora still needs something low to the ground for herself. 

It was not an easy feat to find a bunk bed that fit these needs. If you want people to look at you funny, go to a furniture store and ask for a floor bed, bunk bed. Thankfully, we found this bed -- the Camden Bunk Bed from Pottery Barn Kids -- and it works wonderfully. The floor bed gives Nora the space she needs, and the top bunk is not super high, so we can still comfortably tuck Henry in on top.

And, the sleeping space wouldn't be complete without the small baby crib for their dolls. This used to be in Nora's room and moved over with her. 

Play Area 

You can see that the play shelves in this room have remained the same. Using the open Lack shelving from IKEA and hanging at a low height has been perfect for this space. Seriously, I don't think we could have come up with a better solution. Plus, they have really held up well. They haven't started to lean or break and hold a variety of size materials.

I have made some simple changes over time, however. We decided we needed a large basket on the floor to hold some of our larger open ended materials. Usually, this includes magnatiles, duplos, magneatos, and other building materials that just take up a lot of space, and don't otherwise fit neatly on a tray. 

We have also switched out the art work for something a bit more natural and realistic. I let the kids pick out the prints from a postcard book I purchased. It's been the perfect way to add a natural touch to the room. Speaking of natural touches, I've been trying to add more plants to our home so I added a cactus to their space. I went with a cactus because I can basically neglect it and because I knew if it was spikey it was less likely to be ripped out of the dirt by a curious 2-year-old. 

I've also made some other simple changes to make the space more accessible for Nora. We added a touch lamp {from Target} so that she would be able to turn on and off a lamp easily in the space. I've also removed any toy that is not open ended or otherwise appropriate. This way I don't have to worry about trying to curtail her movements within the space. I try to pick things I know that they can play together, or alone. Materials that are specific to Henry or Nora are now in other play spaces throughout the house. 

Reading and Dressing

The reading and dressing areas round out the room. The shelf is the same as it was before the shared space. But, I have made sure to incorporate a good mix of books for both kids. This is one area that is harder because Nora will almost always choose a book meant for Henry. This isn't always a huge deal but sometimes they aren't appropriate or she doesn't have the attention span for them. It can lead to frustration, but its not a major issue. 

For dressing, I have included a laundry basket and a small chair into the space. Both of which used to be in Nora's room. This provides a little continuity for her, and helps make the space accessible. While Henry never used a chair for dressing, Nora does. This way she can still do things the way she is used to. And, of course, her beloved horse picture had to move with her. 

Finally, there is the chalkboard wall. This has remained unchanged and is still (as you can see) very popular. 

And, that's it! Their new shared space. I'm very happy with how it turned out and how well they are sharing.

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