Music for Parents and Child

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Some “children’s” music can be pretty tough to listen to, so here is a list of my favorite albums to listen to with M. Criteria for making the list: Is super good, sets a positive tone for the house or car and has appropriate language and messages for the most part.

 

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  1. Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs is so good. M and I love the violin and the whistling.

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2. Illinoise from Sufjan Stevens is one of my personal favorite albums and seeing that M loves the banjo, he has no choice but to love it too. I never skip over the John Wayne Gacy song, but I could see that getting a little bizarre when M is old enough to process the lyrics.

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3. Hard not to love this one. Jacaranda Tree from Josh Garrels was recorded here in Indiana (I guess I’m partial to music from the midwest) and the message is so right on! Thanks to my husband for the introduction to this gem.

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4. Anything by Elizabeth Mitchell is so wonderful and hey it’s actually for children. You are my Little Bird is my favorite, but her album Little Seed; Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie is also so darn good.

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5. Looking for music to make you feel all warm and cozy on the inside? Here it is. You don’t need to have seen the film to appreciate David Bowie covers in Portuguese. Excellent!!

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6. Want to get the dance party started? It’s as simple as this. M loves to jump around and get funky with this upbeat Mediterranean and Balkan fusion.

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7. Lastly, M loves the Music Together CD collection so much. These can get to be a little bit much if you over do it, but they are really high quality children’s songs. M got to be a part of the Music Together classes from age 6 months-1.5 years. The classes left a huge impact on him and we hope to join another class soon.

What music do you and your little one groove to? I would love to know!!

 

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Our Sleep Story

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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.

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Montessori for the Very Active Toddler

Montessori for The very active toddler

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.

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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.IMG_2360

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).

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In the Kitchen at 22 Months

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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.

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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.

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Let the Children Play

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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?

  1. It means that she is completely absorbed in what she is doing and building excellent concentration skills in the process.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Updated Play Space For M at 21 Months

I finally updated our play space and oh how it has changed!

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Below is the before photo:

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We now have a music area with a children’s piano that I picked up for $15 at Once Upon a Child. I was pretty excited to say the least.

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I played a few songs for M from one of his Music Together books and then he ran to get one of our favorite books, The Wonderful Things You Will Be and put it on the piano assuming that all books have music that accompany them. So of course I made up a little tune for this book as well. Continue reading

M’s Christmas Gifts at 19 Months

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Hooray! Christmas shopping is finally complete. We decided to keep it simple since M is far more interested in cooking, cleaning, listening to books and exploring the great outdoors than he is in toys. A few new toys and books are certainly exciting though. I am most excited about this Schleich animal set, featuring mom and baby pigs, cows and chickens. M was very interested in a set of animal flashcards that we inherited, so I thought these would be a nice way to expand that interest.  Continue reading

The Power of Observation

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Maria Montessori was all about the observation of children. She found that she was able to be far more effective in guiding children when she took the time to stop directly interacting and diligently observe them.

Why is observation important? 

  1. When we, the adults, are observing, children are given the chance to interact with the environment based on their own desires and needs.
  2. We get to see what children are really interested in. It might be the floor vents (and after all that work I did selecting such lovely toys!). That’s o.k.!
  3. Once we know what our child is really interested in, we can select a time to join the fun and add some vocabulary or extensions. If, like my child, your little one is interested in the floor vents, you could introduce the words “air” or “wind”.  I offered my son some small scarves to place over the vents when the air is on and he loves it. I also noticed my son’s fascination with our trashcan. Instead of a new set of blocks, I bought him a trashcan of his own.
  4. Children concentrate for longer periods of time when they are engaged in self-directed play. This builds their attention span. Woohoo!
  5. The parent or caregiver can take a break from center stage. Sometimes we need to just watch and not feel guilty about it. Observation is not ignoring. Observation is enthusiastically watching what our child does. If my son clearly wants me to engage, I do, but if he is looking at books, I sit quietly and watch him.
  6. Children learn how to be self-directed and independent. Independent play leads children to feel confident and to learn to solve their own problems.

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Teaching Children to be Peaceful

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“Boys like fighting. You know, I have lots of guns at home, because I’m a boy and I like fighting.”This is really what a 4 year-old boy told me and my 14 month-old son this weekend at the park. This boy was playing with colorful, magnetic blocks at the playground and of course my son made a b-line for these interesting items.  The boy told us, as we approached, that the blocks were nunchucks and that he was a ninja.  He then went on to tell us that because he is a boy, he likes fighting and since he likes fighting, he has lots of guns at home. Hearing this, especially after the tragedy in Orlando, got me thinking about Montessori’s Peace Curriculum and it’s significance in a culture that promotes violent play amongst children, especially boys. Nerf guns anyone?

Maria Montessori was passionate about teaching children how to live peacefully in this world. She said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” Mahatma Gandhi was moved by Montessori’s peace curriculum and shared her point of view. He said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.” Montessori and Gandhi had a correspondence for many years in which they shared their ideas about education and peace.

Here are three easy ways to use the Montessori Peace Curriculum at home:

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A Different Take on Sharing

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I was recently inspired by a great post from MOMtessorilife called Why We Don’t Make Our Kids Share–And Why They Do Anyway to post our own sharing story.

My son is 13 months old and he is absolutely fascinated by the two older (2.5 and 3 years old) girls that I care for at various times during the week. Every time one of them selects something to work on, M wants to grab it immediately. This, as you can see, is not pleasing to our guests.

My first tactic was to distract M to allow the girls to concentrate. This was all in vain. I usually wound up holding him in my lap while we watched the other child work as he wiggled and reached for the items in use. Watching M react this way to their use of an item usually made the girls feel possessive and likely run away with the item. It also made M feel really great too (not)!

Even though I thought M might be to young to understand the idea of  waiting until another child is done with an item, I decided to try it anyway. It actually works!

Here’s how it works:

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