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.
I finally updated our play space and oh how it has changed!
Below is the before photo:
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.
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
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
“…if we observe natural development with sufficient care, we see that it can be defined as the gaining of successive levels of independence.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 76)
I was recently inspired by a blog post from Frida be Mighty to update our entry way to provide M, at 19 months old, the opportunity to independently hang up his coat, put away his shoes and to find his hat and mittens. It has been surprising how attached M has become to the routine of getting ready to leave the house and organizing his items after arriving home.
Because the space is orderly and child-sized, M is able to be independent. Spaces like this appeal to the strong sense of order that we see from children this age and they also build a child’s sense of order as the external order is eventually internalized by the child. Independently preparing to leave the home and organizing items upon arrival builds confidence, concentration and certainly fine motor skills. (zippers require a lot of finger strength!)
I was pleased that I was able to use a drill to install anchors in the plaster walls of our 100 year-old home to hang the coat hooks ( I got the coat hooks from Lowes for $7.00).
I then re-arranged a small shelf to serve as our shoe organizer. I added two baskets on top of the shelf. One for gloves and the other for hats. Finally I added a small stool for M to sit on while taking his shoes on and off. (Yes, the stool has M’s face decoupaged all over it. It was a gift from his aunt that makes us all chuckle.)
Here he is holding on to the shelf to put on his own boots. That’s my clogging board in the foreground of the photo. M appears to be ready for a pair of his own tap shoes these days.
It seems that Fall might be everlasting this year in the lovely midwest and if this was not a sign of a serious climate issue, I wouldn’t mind at all. M and I are seizing the day and taking as many trips to the forest as we can before the cold weather descends upon us. We will still head to the forest in the snow, but there’s nothing like walking through a forest as fire-colored leaves float through the air and fall gently at our feet.
During our trip today I was astounded by the fodder for new vocabulary that we found in the woods: log, wood, stick, branch, roots, moss, leaf, oak leaf, beech leaf, acorn, bark, dirt, path, thorns (that was a memorable one), wind, and so many more. Maria Montessori wrote, “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” Think about learning the word leaf while looking at a photograph of a leaf versus being able to crunch the leaves and pile the leaves and notice that some leaves look different from other leaves.
Montessori understood that the more senses a child engages during learning, the more neural connections the child will make. So often we only give children a chance to learn visually or audibly. There are many great ideas out there for sensory bins and while sensory bins are super for imaginative play, the best and easiest thing for sensory stimulation is the great outdoors. The woods present children with the reality of our beautiful world, rather than man-made gooey goop and plastic toys in a sensory bin. Letting children get immersed in the wonders of the forest is truly a gift.
It has been quite a long time since my last post! I guess that’s what happens when you start back to your teaching job and start major construction on your home all at the same time. Despite our many transitions, we have still had time to have fun in the kitchen (M’s number one choice of location). Here are a few fun ideas for your ready-and-willing, toddler sous chefs. Above you see M peeling pre-sliced banana rounds. This is great for fine motor and builds up confidence and independence too!
Before embarking on the summer adventure of gardening with my 15 month old, I did some research about the best ways to set up gardening activities for this age group. I was looking for some magical list of activities that would make this adventure clear-cut. I found several lovely examples of children assisting their families in the garden (I especially love this one- fridabemighty.com), but ultimately what I discovered is that there is not a clear-cut way to present gardening activities to a young toddler. The best way to do it, is simply to include them in the tasks that need to be done and be o.k. with your toddler getting dirty and with the tasks taking much longer. 🙂
Here are a few of the fun ways that M got involved with gardening during our summer gardening adventure.
Helping Mommy scoop out dirt to make space for a basil plant. “Hmm, this dirt looks mighty tasty.”
Making off with mommy’s wheelbarrow.
Raking rocks with the rake lovingly referred to as the “broo” (broom).
Picking the basil that we planted earlier in the summer. I let M eat it, but this has led to M trying to eat leaves from lots of non-edible plants. I’m still glad that he got to eat something that we grew.
Running off with the ivy that mommy and grandma had just removed from the side of the house.
Spraying water from the hose (definitive favorite).
Scooping dirt to make room for begonias .
Watering the plants.
Works that we set up for our children will not be done perfectly and they should not be done perfectly for that matter! Maria Montessori was adamant that children should receive brief lessons with minimal language as long lessons and lots of language distract children from truly watching what is to be done with the work. Once a child has received a lesson, she is free to interact with the material and explore it. A child should only be stopped if her safety, the safety of another or the safety of the material is in question. These aspects of the Montessori philosophy sound so wonderful in theory, but I’ve found it difficult to let the exploration unfold at times. Continue reading
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?
- When we, the adults, are observing, children are given the chance to interact with the environment based on their own desires and needs.
- 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.!
- 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.
- Children concentrate for longer periods of time when they are engaged in self-directed play. This builds their attention span. Woohoo!
- 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.
- Children learn how to be self-directed and independent. Independent play leads children to feel confident and to learn to solve their own problems.