Thank you to this tiny blue house for introducing me to the free photo topper website canva.com. I’m loving it!
Here are some photos of how we are trying to give M independence in the kitchen. He is 2 now and he is such a phenomenal helper!
M has his own small table and chair. He often eats with us at the dining room table, but he eats snacks here and does lots of pouring and chopping here. He has a basil plant that he likes to spray with a mister on the table as well.
I have filled out this shelf a bit more to include all of the things that M needs to help set his own place at the table, pour water, scrub and chop fruits and veggies, arrange flowers and clean up spills. I took out two links of the regular sized stiffer and now it is the perfect size for M. Thank you Molly Pepper for this great idea!
After using a $2 apron from Lowes for several months, I finally bought M an apron from Montessori Services. It was a good investment of $17. He wears it when he helps with the dishes and with food preparation.
I cleared out the bottom shelf of the fridge door and placed hummus with a spreader and crackers in a container, milk, a pitcher of water and a cup of very watered-down juice. M can use the glasses from the kitchen shelf to pour water of milk. There is usually a spill at this stage in the game, but it’s ok since we have the towels and sponge already ready to go. I try to keep only a very small amount of water and milk in the vessels because M is too young to understand when to stop pouring.
Here are some other prepared snack options for M to choose from the bottom shelf of the fridge.
And finally, where would we be without this item? It gets daily use and I am so happy we took the plunge on this purchase. Yes, my kitchen is yellow with turquoise cabinets. The truth comes out.
Ah yes, a story that we all have: a sleep story.
This is our story of trying to go all-out-Montessori for M’s sleeping arrangements and realizing along the way that actually, the most Montessori thing to do is to follow the child. Here goes the story:
When M was first born, he slept all the time, like most babies. We, however, could not put him down to sleep. He slept on our chests and laps and for the first three weeks we were happy to hold M constantly. After three weeks, my husband headed back to work and I realized that I was tired, extremely tired. I needed M to lay down next to me rather than on me so that I could get comfortable, but every time I laid him down on his back, he would scream after about five minutes.
I finally realized that M had acid reflux and that it was very painful every time he laid on his back. We tried putting a wedge beneath his bassinet mattress and setting him in his swing for sleep, but these things were not working. I was really against putting him on medicine for this issue because I wanted to find a natural remedy. Soon enough I realized two things: M loved, LOVED to sleep on his tummy (dun dun dun) and he needed medicine to help him get through the acid reflux stage.
Isn’t every toddler a very active toddler? Yes, all toddlers are very active, and in the same breath, I find that my son is particularly active. It is rare that he will become absorbed in the use of a toy, even a really cool Montessori toy, for much longer than a few minutes. It could be that I’m a Montessori teacher and I have wacky expectations for my child to want to sit and use blocks for ten minutes all by himself, but in observing other toddlers, I can see a difference. I find that M is looking for something other than individualized Montessori works at the moment. He is looking for involvement in household chores, using WATER, outdoor exploration and lots and lots of movement.
So, if you find that your toddler, like mine, is just not very interested in sitting and doing blocks or arranging small cars and trains, have no fear. Paula Polk Lillard is here to save the day. Paula Polk Lillard is the author of the book Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home from Birth to Age Three. I was recently re-reading her chapter on practical life and I felt very relieved by what she had written.
She quotes Montessori in reference to children who are newly able to walk, “At this age just toys, especially light toys, do not satisfy the child. He can do nothing with them.” Tell me more Paula. Parents can include children in “setting and clearing the table, unloading groceries, preparing food, baking, pouring water and juice, wiping the table, washing dishes, sorting and folding laundry, putting away clothes, dusting, sweeping and mopping, washing a mirror or window, polishing a shoe, picking up a room, emptying wastepaper baskets, watering plants and arranging flowers” (Paula Polk Lillard).
If you have not heard about the Baan Dek Montessori school and blog, I recommend that you check it out. The blog is BEAUTIFUL and the school looks wonderful. I hope to make a visit one day to see this AMI accredited school it all of it’s glory.
I got to be a part of their Spotlight Interview series and it was so much fun to answer the questions as it got me thinking about my future goals and what I truly love about Montessori (which is actually everything). Check it out at the link above!
One of the things I love about the Montessori classroom is the opportunity the children have to use real tools to complete projects at the workbench. In our classroom we have a workbench with safety googles, a vice, saw, hammer, nails, hand drill, sanding block, googles, small broom and many other supplies for the children to use for projects. The most recent project they worked on was wooden boats. This project was best suited for the kindergarten children, but the younger ones were able to try the saw and the hand drill too.
The children will also be working on making small beds for little clothespin people. This one takes a few more steps. I’m excited to see how it goes.
Both of these projects came from this amazing book! If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it as it tells you all of the supplies and measurements needed for each project. Find it here: http://www.forsmallhands.com/children-can-build
Some adults might wonder if using tools in an early childhood environment is unsafe. I completely understand the concern. Each child is given a step-by-step lesson before she may attempt to use the tools. When the saw first comes into the room, a teacher will stay near by to make sure that the no one is misusing it. Because the children in a Montessori classroom are accustomed to using materials purposefully rather than playfully/wildly, they take the workbench extremely seriously.
Please let me know if you have any other resources for building with children!
1. Mama, is it Summer Yet? By: Nikki McClure
2. Animalium By: Katie Scott and Jenny Brook
3. Little Night Cat By: Sonja Danowski
4. I am a Bunny By: Ole Risom and Richard Scary
5. Whistle for Willie By: Ezra Jack Keats
6. Plant a Little Seed By: Bonnie Christiensen
7. Louie By: Ezra Jack Keats
8. Home By: Carson Ellis
These are the books that M and I are really loving right now. Most of them are not fantasy based as M is not old enough to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but who can resist I am a Bunny.
Since the book I am a Bunny features a talking bunny as the main character, I classify it as fantasy. I loved fairy tales and other fantasy books as a child and I am in no way passing judgement upon anyone who loves to read fantasy books to their children. I am simply mentioning the fact that we have decided to keep fantasy to a minimum and focus mostly on literature that depicts true information about the world in which we live.
If I come across a fantasy book that is beautifully illustrated, I am very likely to go ahead and rent it from the library.
I was recently reading M the book Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale ( I love this book so much) and he asked me what the children living in the roots were (he pointed at one of the children and said, “what’s that?”). I found myself feeling conflicted when I said, “This is a child who lives in the roots of the trees until it is time for spring.” I felt weird about it because M completely believed me. I realized in that moment why Maria Montessori believed in providing young children with the truth about our world rather than providing them with fantasy.
Children between the ages of 0-6 are sponges for information and are constantly taking on new understandings about their surroundings. It feels a little funny to fill children’s minds with false information about their world. I want M to fill his mind with the truth about nature, human feelings and needs and how things like cars and trucks work. When he is older, around age 5, he will be ready to enjoy fantasy books because he will understand that they are not real. So, for now, I look for non-fiction books or fiction books that, for the most part, represent reality.
What are your favorite books?
I had a wonderful time answering Olivia’s thoughtful questions about our Montessori life. Check out Every Day Begins New to see the interview!
Source: Interview Series: Interview with Kathleen from Real Life Montessori
I am having so much fun with M in this early spring weather. He can now use a spray bottle on his own, which is for some reason a huge milestone in my mind. Here he is spraying the lovely terrarium that a co-worker gave us for a Christmas gift. Thanks Christy Cooper!
We also started lettuce seeds in our kitchen. The seeds took about 4 days to sprout, so M didn’t have to wait very long at all to see the fruits of his labor. We put the sprouts outside during the day and if it’s cold we keep them inside, near a window. We will move them to larger pots soon so that they have room to grow.
We started sunflower seeds in wet paper towels and a mason jar. This is an activity from a really sweet book called Sow and Grow that my co-worker gifted to me several years ago. Thanks Anna Wegerson! The sunflower seeds also took only about 4 days to sprout.
Here is a peek at the inside of the book. It is definitely worth the $15.00.
Finally, we cut the daffodil and crocus flowers blooming in our back yard. The crocuses do not seem to like being in a vase at all, but the daffodils are just fine.
Happy gardening! Please share you gardening ideas!
Here is another post about M in the kitchen as it is truly his favorite place in the house. Here he is helping me roll out cookie dough. His favorite part of the cookie experience was certainly the rolling pin. This brought on some serious concentration from a very active and quick-to-move-on little boy. M helped with every step, but this step allowed for more independence than others. As you can see M is using the beloved learning tower. A friend recently asked me if this purchase was worth it and while M does at times stand on a chair for kitchen activities, I feel much calmer when he is using the learning tower since he cannot fall over as easily. So, yes, the learning tower is worth it as long as there is time for you and your child to hang out in the kitchen together. I got this learning tower on amazon for a pretty good deal considering some of them cost $300.00. I am happy with it overall.
Here he is again in the learning tower, but this time doing dishes. This activity has been great for both of us. M loves it and I clean the kitchen and do laundry while he is occupied. Score! I place a bath towel underneath the learning tower to catch all of the inevitable spills that occur during this activity. The time I gain for getting things done makes a quick wipe of the floor totally worth it. M is wearing a very inexpensive apron from Lowe’s Hardware. There are lots of lovely toddler apron tutorials on the web, but for $3, this one does the job very well.
We recently went to the Children’s Museum and as my husband and I sat near the sand table, I observed something that I found worthy of note: Adults repeatedly interrupted concentrating children. I could tell that this stemmed from the well intentioned desire to expose the child to as much of the museum or to as many of the possibilities of life as possible. I’m sure they were thinking,” I don’t want my child to miss out on this cool thing over here or we paid to get into this museum so we need to see everything or she’s using that sand tool the wrong way, I should take it from her hands and show her the right way.” None of these sentiments are bad, but in the eyes of Maria Montessori, a concentrating child is a sacred thing and her concentration should be protected and deeply respected (even if she is using the sand tool the wrong way).
Maria Montessori stated, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ This is not what we normally think of when we think of a traditional classroom or of a traditional parenting style. We normally think of the adult as being very central to the child’s learning. This quote can be applied to parenting if we change it to say “The greatest sign of success for a parent is to be able to say, ‘My child is now working/playing as if I did not exist.’
What does it mean if a child is playing as though her parent does not exist?
- It means that she is completely absorbed in what she is doing and building excellent concentration skills in the process.
- It probably means that she independently selected what she is playing with or working on. This indicates that she has the self-confidence to make her own decisions.
- It means that this child is building the self-discipline to focus on one thing rather than flitting from one thing to another.
It’s easy to think that being a good parent means interacting 24/7 with our children. We feel that we should constantly be reading books, pointing out street signs, singing songs, playing games, making our children laugh, showing them new toys etc. We should certainly do all of these things!!! We should also back-off and allow our children to have peace and quiet and the chance to develop the important skill of concentration. It is so tempting to go up to a concentrating child and say, “What are you doing?” We want to show that we care and engage our children, but stopping ourselves and allowing our child to have time to concentrate is an excellent exercise in being respectful to our children. We usually respect adults when they look busy after all.
You might be thinking “All of this lingo about allowing children to concentrate is wonderful, but do I let me child rip up an important book or perform any other destructive action in order to respect her concentration?” The answer is no. Montessori believed that children should be interrupted if they are in danger of hurting themselves, hurting others or are disrespecting toys or materials. If it is time to leave the museum for nap time, children should be given a 5 minute warning and then asked to leave. We should respect our child’s concentration, but within the limits of proper behavior and a family schedule.
One last thing, infants have the ability to concentrate too! When infants are staring out the window, watching a mobile or playing with the grass it is o.k. to give them some quiet time to concentrate.