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Showing posts from June, 2018

Beginning Toilet Learning -- Montessori Young Toddler Week 30

This post week has taken a new turn around here - undies! Gus has shown some interest in getting the toilet learning process underway and we are following his lead. Unlike more traditional potty training where the process happens (usually a bit later) and is supposed to be a quick transition, toilet learning is a longer term shift. It's about creating a new routine around toileting and letting that process unfold naturally. 

The preparation for this kind of learning starts at birth with talking through diaper changes, preparing an environment that allows independent self-care, and changing my own expectations around what "potty training" should look like. 

Some things that we looked for in preparation for toilet learning included:
an interest in his body the ability to pull down a basic pair of undies or pants for Gus, steady on his feet without his braces on notices bodily functions initiating interest in sitting on the small potty or toilet 
This is certainly going to be a…

Sensorial Exploration for Babies and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers are surrounded by an enormous world filled with new experiences. They are natural explorers of that world -- seeking to understand everything around them. And, in Montessori we recognize that that happens through the development of the senses. As Maria Montessori said in the Absorbent Mind, "The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge." 
In Montessori classroom, a huge part of the materials are dedicated solely to the development of the senses. The sensorial materials are some of the first materials introduced to children and are meant to refine a variety of aspects of our physical world. This need for sensory exploration and development does not start when children enter a classroom. But, even babies and young toddlers can engage in sensory development work. Often, however, this work comes from natural experiences in the environment more than a specific set of learning tools.

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Montessori Family Summer Bucket List

Now that it is officially summer, it's time for us to start thinking about what we want to do this summer! One of the truly fun things about being a Montessori family is that we can adjust our rhythm and activities to meet the seasons and take advantage of our children's changing interests. We made one of these Montessori family bucket lists in the fall and it was a great way to organize how we were going to use our free time. Otherwise, the seasons just seem to fly by in a flash!

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Here are some of the Montessori friendly activities and outings that our Montessori family is hoping to do this summer: Art/Sensory ActivitiesSun artSet up independent outdoor painting Play with water beadsClay stamping with naturally collected materials Independent water table set upCreate a permanent digging spot in our yard Outdoor ActivitiesVisit every playground in our city Grow a successful crop of fruit and veggies (these were thankfully plan…

Box with Bins -- Montessori Young Toddler Week 29

At 18-months-old Augustus has a wide variety of interests in both objects in our environment and with experiences in our environment. I would say he still falls more on the busy side, spending just a few moments working before going back to something gross motor focused, but I can tell his attention is shifting. I want to make sure we're providing interesting challenges that he can engage in when he does feel called to take work out. 

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One such work lately has been the Montessori box with bins. This simple wooden box has three opening bin drawers - one red, one blue, one yellow. The box is then accompanied by a couple small objects to remove or place in the drawers.   "Through early experiences with such puzzle toys, children can develop many useful skills: handling materials, refining movement, completing a cycle of activity, carrying out logical steps in order solving problems." Susan Mayclin Stephenson, The Joyful …

Montessori Friendly Alternatives to Popular Toddler Gifts

I recently came across this list of popular toddler toys while searching for a birthday gift for a friend's child. I just wanted to see what types of things other people considered for their toddlers. I wasn't all that surprised to find that the most popular choices are not Montessori friendly choices. But, in many cases there are Montessori friendly options that are similar to these "popular" toys. 
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And, I wanted to prove it! I randomly picked 10 of these most gifted toddler toys, and found a comparable Montessori friendly option. Yes, the Montessori friendly version is usually different! And, because Montessori has a reputation for being more expensive, I tried to keep it within a few dollars of the same price as the more mainstream toy. 
Here's what I found:

Nuby Bathtime Octopus instead try the The First Years Stack Up Cups
The traditional option isn't Montessori friendly for a couple reasons. One it i…

A Few Montessori Materials to Consider at 4-years-old

In my mind's eye Nora is still a perfectly round little bald baby. But, in reality, Nora turned 4-years-old yesterday! I don't quite know where the time went but Nora continues to be wonderful. However, as she gets older her interests change and grow with her. At home, Nora mostly just plays or does art. We typically don't have academic work available to her since she is in school. 
But with the summer Nora is at school only a couple days a week. With so much time at home, I want to be sure I'm providing her with enough opportunities to work (should she want to). So, I thought I would share some of the Montessori materials Nora enjoys right now or will enjoy soon. 
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This list is not inclusive of every single thing she has been shown, or that a new 4-year-old could be working with. Remember that every 4-year-old is different, so consider your own child's individual needs and interests before introducing this work…

Our Approach to Bike Riding

One warm evening a few weeks ago we decided to head outside to play after dinner. When we got outside, Nora declared that she was going to ride her “big bike.” Within an hour she was riding a two wheeled bike without training wheels. Once she decided to do it, she made it happen. There were no tears, expectations, or pushing her. 
It was a lovely example of how giving a child space, time, and support can lead to a greater sense of freedom and independence. Oh, and joy! The shear joy of her accomplishment! Every ounce of her being was proud. And over and over she kept saying, “I proud of myself!” It was a fantastic event to watch and every day since than her confidence has risen and she has perfected her technique. Every gain has been her own. 

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I don't want to take credit for this accomplishment, because it really was all her. She asked us to "start" her by holding the bike and giving a small push, but otherwise she d…

Learning to Clean Up - Montessori Young Toddler Week 27 and 28

I don’t know when it first happened, but one day I noticed it. And then again. And again. Gus playing with a material, then that material put back on the shelf when he was done. Suddenly, my baby was starting to clean up, restore work, and maintain order. 
Now, let’s not get the impression that it’s perfect. Or that it’s every single time, because it’s not. But it is happening. And, it always surprises me a bit when it does. After months and months of exploration and tornado-like movement, a slow and orderly boy emerges.

It shouldn’t surprise me, Maria Montessori talked extensively about the importance of order for children. She said, “Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness.” The sensitive period for order is strong in young toddlers. They recognize order and seek to make it. A disruption to their sense of order causes them real distress. So it makes sense that children around this age can clean up the toys and materials that they use…

Reasons to Love Montessori Friendly Highchairs + Some Options

When I first got pregnant with Henry eight years ago, I got a regular old high chair for him. Knowing nothing about Montessori, it was a standard high chair meant to contain and feed a baby. It was too tall for our table. And not at all designed for any sort of independent use. It was meant for me to place him in, strap him down and feed him. Before Nora was born, I knew the chair was not going to be a choice we made twice and we sold it in favor of a weaning table. 

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For well over a year, our little family of four sat together at the children's table for every meal. This way the kids ate independently, yet we were all together. It worked, even if it wasn't the most ideal. When Gus was approaching the time to eat, I was lucky enough to find a Svan High Chair at a consignment sale. I knew immediately it was for us. 
Having used the chair now for a year, I wanted to share some of the reasons I LOVE having a Montessori friendl…

Trying a Capsule Wardrobe

Being a Montessori parent, I want to give my children the opportunity to engage as fully as they are able in practical tasks. This includes getting dressed and other forms of self-care. Preparing the environment is key to giving children this type of independence. Part of that environment is the number of materials we provide. I've talked about the importance of not having too many toys, but clothes have been a harder area for me. 

In the past, we've ended up buying way too many choice, then people have given us clothes and we end up with an overwhelming number of things. My kids notice. They have a harder time picking outfits and getting dressed independently. And, many of the clothes go unworn or ignored. So, this season, I'm changing course - we're going capsule!

I tried this with Gus this past winter and now I'm doing it with all the kids. A capsule wardrobe is when you buy a very small, coordinated, and intentional wardrobe. The pieces are classic and flexibl…

4 Art Trays at 18 Months

Now that Gus is 18 months old, he is definitely starting to become more and more interested in working with trays and materials on his shelves. After a break to focus on gross motor development, I can tell he is suddenly shifting to coming back to slower activities and more outwardly "purposeful" work. And so, I've continued to prepare the environment accordingly. 

Our art area is where Henry and Nora spend a lot of time working. Naturally, Gus wants to be there too. So recently, I've revamped the shelves to include 4 new trays just for him. Unlike the older kids, Gus can go gather the materials he wants when doing art. He needs the work organized and ready to go on a tray. It has to be simple or else he is going to be completely overwhelmed, unable to restore the work and less likely to be successful. Each art tray has everything he needs to complete the task, it's then my job to make sure the tray is ready to go again once he has finished. 
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Matryoshka Dolls to Love

It's not unusual for you to see a Matryoshka doll on a Montessori shelf for an infant or toddler. Small children love the surprise of opening these beautiful dolls to find another inside. For my kids, these gorgeous dolls have provided hours and hours of engaging fun. I love them because they stay popular for so long. A 10-12 month old can find just as much enjoyment out of them as Nora does at nearly 4-years-old. 

And, what's not to love? They are made from a natural material, they are engaging, they are beautiful, and test those logic and fine motor skills. I was lucky enough to find our Matryoshka at a thrift store way back when Nora was an infant. It has been a favorite since, scarcely leaving our shelves. 
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1. Small Red - This set looks similar in size to the set we have. | 2. Paint Your Own - these would be so fun to make with an older child 
3. Gold Detail - I love the detail here | 4. Large Red - a slightly larger s…

A Lock and Key - Montessori Young Toddler Week 26

I've found that it's often the most simple things that will keep my children occupied for the longest time! And, once again, this simple work is no exception. A couple of weeks ago, I added a simple lock and key to Gus' shelves. Gus is very interested in posting work - that is putting something in something else. So, I thought this would provide an interesting challenge while still keeping in line with that interest. 

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The tray itself is quite simple. It's a standard lock and key I found in our junk drawer. I used some yarn to tie the key to the tray {similar}. I did this to make sure he wouldn't eat the key - which is unlikely but I can't watch him 100 percent of the time -- and to make sure the key wouldn't get lost. I was honestly more worried about an older child walking off with the key accidentally than Gus losing it. 

Since this work has been on his shelf, he has been using it quite a bit. It seem…