Montessori Mondays with Mommy Life

I have realized that I need some new blogging material.
I see (from my little spy sitemeter) that most hits I get via searches are Montessori-related.
I have become inspired this week to plan my at-home-time with Caroline a bit more.

So, this week, I’m joining in Mommy Life‘s Montessori Monday.

Montessori Concept: The Prepared Environment
I’m quite proud of the prepared, child-friendly environment I’ve created at home for Caroline. She has the Learning Tower to help her see and help with kitchen tasks, several child-sized tables and chairs throughout the house, adjusted light switches that she can reach, step stools in bathrooms, and child-accessible snacks so she can serve herself.

I’ve realized recently, though, that I’ve become lax in preparing her environment with activities. I believe it is important for children to be able to entertain themselves, but I think I’ve gone a bit too far with leaving her to her own devices too much of the time recently.

I’ve decided that each week, I’ll come up with a few activities that I will have on-hand to explore with her or for her to explore independently. Granted, not all of these fit with Montessori philosophy. My fit with that is in the idea of preparing her environment and with some of the categories.

Rhyme — Humpty Dumpty
Sensory Activity –crush egg shells
Craft Activity — glue egg shells on picture of Humpty Dumpty
Academic Activity — tracing r and o with sandpaper letters
CatechismThe Parable of the Sower (Matt 13: 1-9) — collect seeds from various fruits, trees, and veggies; view and discuss The Sower
Fine Motor — sort and count seeds
Practical Life — choosing and putting on own shirt

Tuesday Teach ’ems: Music

This summer, Caroline and I participated in a mini-session of music classes at Heartsong Music Together. My sister-in-law had raved about the music program her kids are in, but I wasn’t sure it was worth the expense. After seeing the fun songs Liz did with the kids and how much Caroline loved them, I decided we’d try out a couple of classes. We did a trial class with a traveling Music Together class near our house. The class was held at a church, and the instructor was fabulous. From just that trial, I learned not to manipulate Caroline’s hands to force her to clap to the beat. Then we tried a class at Hearstong Music Together and signed up for the mini-summer session.

I was amazed — with the program, with the school, with the instructor, and with what Caroline got out of the classes.

Music Together is a franchised curriculum that is research-based and child-centered. The director at Heartsong is Montessori trained and has the school set-up as a Montessori environment. The kids are welcome to play and explore before and after class. From what I understand, most Music Together classes are held at community centers or churches. Heartsong’s school is unique.

The Music Together program rotates songbooks each session, with three books a year, different books for three years. Ideally, one would participate in the classes for three years to experience each book. The course includes the weekly class (50 minutes at Heartsong), two cds (one for the car and one for home), the music book, a parent-guide on the philosophy of the method, and a parent-education night. At the core of the philosophy is the parents’ involvement. If mom or dad is participating and enjoying music, the child will take it in.

Caroline bursts into song frequently now. She recognizes musical instruments, mimics tones, and knows the do-re-mi scale. I realized how much she learns from song, so I bought a Christian praise cd for kids that includes the Lord’s Prayer to help her learn that. We’ve also checked out Putamaya’s World Playground from the library and are enjoying listening to that. Exposure to the music of different cultures and the complex beats involved is also important, according to Music Together.

We signed up for a full session for the fall, and Caroline and John (and sometimes, I) will attend that together on Saturdays. Heartsong is holding free trial classes this week September 5-7. Check them out!

WFMW: Cheap Montessori Shelving

In a child-centered environment, short, open shelving allows the child easy access to activities or toys. You want the shelves low enough to be reachable by little hands and open so that the child can see the activity and get to it easily. The shelves should also be natural or white in color so as not to distract from the activities displayed, either. Ideally, Montessori materials should be made of natural materials. I found some great, cheap shelves at Target that meet *most* of these ideals. (They’re not made of natural materials.) These were on sale for $9.something for back-to-school. I stocked up! I have one that is still not in use, but I have three ideas for how to use it and where to put it. I used one as Caroline’s kitchen and another as our math center. Cheap and educational and organizational — works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday Tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday Teach ’ems: Nose Blowing and Other Thoughts

Caroline had a runny nose yesterday, giving us the prime opportunity to work on a Montessori lesson in nose blowing.

I’ve been questioning my choice of alliterative name for these Tuesday posts, thinking that TEACH is not the term I truly intend. I’m not teaching Caroline. I’m creating an environment that allows her to learn–not an environment to learn the alphabet or mathematics, either, an environment to learn to learn, to learn to concentrate and focus, to learn to take care of her body, her environment, her home.

But, I did teach her to blow her nose. And even found a lesson plan online for doing it. Maybe Tuesday Teach ‘Em is appropriate.

Tuesday Teach ’em: Great Montessori-Type Activities BARGAIN PRICES

I opened the mail today while Caroline was napping, which allowed me to peruse some of the catalogs I had received. Imagine my delight as some of these finds in the Oriental Trading catalog!

6 Children’s Colorful Aprons for $16.95. (That’s $2.83 per apron!) These are solid colored and meant to be decorated with paints. I could see using a couple in that way for art projects, but I’d also leave several plain — a couple for kitchen help; a couple for art-work — one for Caroline and a spare for doing those activities when a friend visits.

Easy to Grip ABC foam stamps — comes in your choice of lowercase or uppercase for $12.95 per set. I’d start with lowercase since those are the first letters to teach children as the majority of written material is in lowercase.

Just Shake It! Listen and Match set for $19.95 — This is a great sensorial exercise! Six unique sounds in twelve wooden shakers. Children shake, observe by listening carefully, and match the like sounding shakers.

Totally Touchable Matching Board for $9.95 — Another great sensorial exercise — this one has ten assorted textures to be matched

OK, that’s just what I ordered! There are lots of lacing activities, arts and crafts, musical items, and other manipulatives. There are even cross-section models of the human brain and human heart for those with older kiddos! AND FREE SHIPPING FOR ORDERS OVER $75.

Tuesday Teach’ Em: Encouraging Little Helpers

Even young toddlers can help with some chores — if we give them an environment that allows for their help.

Make the environment accessible: Put your toddler’s eating utensils on a low shelf so they can help empty the dishwasher. Provide a place for your toddler to put away her clean, folded clothes (Caroline just carries hers to her bed for now.)

Provide the right tools: Your toddler will love helping you with housework! Use natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies and give your toddler her own spray bottle of water and vinegar and a cleaning rag. She can spray and wipe surfaces for you. Fill an old shaker bottle (like a parmasan cheese shaker) with baking soda, and she can sprinkle the tub, shower, and toilet bowls for you.

Demonstrate: Model with slow, deliberate moves — step by step — how do do the task. I read somewhere that the modeling should be motions only, no “lectures” or verbal explanations. It’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut, though, so I try to do a run-through without words and then a run-through with explanations. Also, show your toddler where things go: have at least one waste basket accessible for throwing trash away. Show them were you’d like their dirty dishes placed. A two-year-old can reach the counter to place her dirty plates or cups on it.

Let them: This is probably the hardest part. Just let them do it. Sure, it’s going to take them a bit longer. Don’t hover as the plate is carried to the kitchen sink after dinner. The pile of clothes carried to the bedroom might get mussed a bit, but that’s OK. Resist the urge to redo their work.

Thank them for helping.

Tuesday Teach ’em: Utensil Skills

A key concept in Montessori philosophy is building independence, and therefore self-confidence, in toddlers by letting them do things themselves. How many battles are fought with “twos” because they want to DO IT SELF! Helping them to do it themselves can alleviate many of these battles. Montessori ideals also stress using real or beautiful items — wooden toys over plastic; glassware over plastic. I found a great toddler stainless flatware set at Magic Cabin to use instead of the ubiquitous plastic wares.

Caroline enjoys using her toddler-sized flatware, both in preparing snacks and meals and eating them. Since the dull knife works, she can slice a banana for a snack. The prongs on the fork really work, too, so she can accurately use her utensils.

Thrifting Fun

I rarely hit the thrift stores, though I’m usually so excited with my finds on those rare occasions I go. Today, I went with a mission: I was looking for small pitchers for pouring exercises for Caroline. (I’m sure you’ll see more about the exercise on a Tuesday Teach ’em soon.)

I found two pitchers, though not exactly the look I wanted, and a silver tray to display and carry them. One of the principals of Montessori is that the supplies be beautiful. A smart Montessori tip is the buy your “beautiful” items at thrift stores so that you don’t have to worry about being too upset if something gets broken. My bonus find was this Wilton trivet to add to my collection! I have one life it already that is unpainted. It was 99 cents!! Score!

Tuesday Teach ’ems: Putting on shoes

Toddlers crave independence. Their liberal use of “Mine!” and the phrase “Do it self!” are evidence. Parents can help instill confidence in their children, not through over-generous praise, but by teaching their kids to be self-sufficient.

Young toddlers can put on their own shoes. To make that process easier,

1. buy shoes that are easy to get on (slip-ons or velcro closures)
2. let your toddler practice with some shoes that are a few sizes too big (hand-me-downs or shoes from resale shops are great for this practice)
3. demonstrate for your child how to put her shoes on herself by sitting behind her and doing putting her shoes on her in slow, deliberate steps
4. give her time — she’s not going to do it as quickly as you will for awhile. Use those couple of minutes while she’s putting on her shoes to get your purse or diaper bag ready to go.

Here’s a picture of Caroline at about 20 months putting on her shoes. See how proud she is!