Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Blog Has Moved to!

I have decided to take the next step in blogging and try to turn this thing into a career!  My blog has moved to  All of the old content is over there, plus lots of new things!  If you are signed up for email updates through this blog, you will have to sign up again on the new site.  You can do that on the lefthand side where it says "Sign up by email."  Please like my blog's page on Facebook (click here!), follow me on Instagram (click here!), and follow me on Pinterest (click here!).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Picture to Picture Matching with Movement

Maria Montessori developed her philosophy with a huge emphasis on incorporating movement in all activities.  This is because movement stimulates many different areas of the brain as you are learning.  Young children live to move -- sitting still is not nearly as fun.  This picture to picture matching work involves moving all the way through the first floor of our house to complete it.

Calendars are great to use for picture to picture matching works.  They typically have nice large pictures for each month, plus smaller previews of each month's picture on the back.  My husband picked up a free calendar at our vet's office, so I decided to make this calendar picture to picture matching work.  I cut out five of the pictures and laminated them along with the smaller version of each.  I taped the larger pictures to the walls at L's height all over our house.  I attached velcro stickers to each pair, and put the smaller pictures in a basket on L's language shelf -- I put the velcro stickers at the top of each smaller picture rather than in the center because I found that it was easier for L to attach it when it was at the top.  When L found the basket of smaller pictures, I showed her how to carry it to each larger picture, find the matching dog, and attach it.  When she has matched all of them, we walk around the house again to collect them all and put the basket back on the shelf.  L loves this work!  This calendar was free, but I also found several on sale since the new year has already begun, and I bought a few to replace this one in a few months.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Language for Infants -- Reading and Singing

One of the best things you can do for your youngest infant is read to her.  In addition to helping with her language development, this can instill a love for books that can last a whole lifetime.  There are many wonderful children's books out there -- some of our favorite authors include Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, and Sandra Boynton.  Many children's books incorporate rhyming and have a certain rhythm to the words, which infants love to hear!  Choose books with simple pictures for your youngest infants, and books with more complex pictures and words for older children.  When your child is a little older, like L, you will find that she will want you to read the same book over and over and over again.  One of the books L loves to read is Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  Since she now knows the story so well, I have started leaving out some words as I read, which she fills in by memory.  For example, the last page in the book reads, "And it was still hot."  I say, "And it was still..."  and L yells, "Hot!"  This is a great early literacy skill to begin with your toddler.

You can also sing to your young infant -- any song you know!  Many children's songs incorporate body parts or movements into them, which introduce your child to the names of things.  However, your baby loves just hearing your voice, so you could sing anything to her and she will stare at you in awe as if you are the greatest opera singer.  Singing grows your bond with your infant at the same time as introducing vocabulary, music, and rhythm.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Curling Rollers

Children don't always need the shiniest toys with the most flashing lights and the loudest music to be entertained.  Sometimes the simplest objects will occupy them for an entire morning.  On one of my trips to the dollar store, I picked up a package of curling rollers.  I put the caps in one basket and the rollers in another, then put the baskets on a tray on L's manipulatives shelf.  I wasn't sure what she would think of it, but it was a hit!  L will easily spend 20 minutes putting the curling rollers together and taking them apart again.  This may be the easiest work I've ever prepared!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

No "Containers"

If you visit a Montessori Infant classroom, you will find that there are no "containers."  That is, there are no cribs, playpens, pack n plays, bouncers, walkers, or anything that you would put a child IN.  This is because Maria Montessori studied the value of freedom of movement in the development of the young child.  Even the youngest infant moves in some way -- beginning with stretches, kicking her feet, turning her head from side to side.  Making sure that your child is not restricted in her movements allows her to develop to her highest potential physically.  In the classroom, you will find floor beds, soft mats on the floors, soft areas to climb and explore.  At home, you can provide the same experience, but you need to do it in a safe way.

Both of my children have slept on a mattress on the floor from the time they came home from the hospital.  You can use a crib mattress if you have one, or go straight to twin.  We use twin mattresses, because they provide the extra space for movement during sleep.  Make sure you have a soft surface on the floor next to the bed, because your child may roll off when she's older.  L used to roll all the way across the floor while holding on to her lovey, and we'd find her still asleep on the other side of the room the next morning!  Having the mattress on the floor means your child can climb into the bed by herself once she is crawling, allowing her to develop independence in her freedom of movement.  If you are using a floor bed, you need to make sure that the entire room is safe for your baby because she can move around in it unrestricted.  Attach all furniture to the wall, cover all outlets, and make sure there are no wires for her to get tangled up in.

My children have never been in a playpen or pack n play (except to sleep in on vacation).  This means they have had free range of the entire first floor, so I had to make sure it was completely safe.  N is still very young and not yet crawling, so I simply lay out a blanket on the floor in the living room for her to play on.  Once L started moving, I put fragile things on high shelves and made sure there were plenty of things available that she was allowed to touch.  I put a gate up so she couldn't go up the stairs, but that was it.

I do have a bouncer for N, because at home your sole job is not taking care of infants -- there are many things to get done in the day, and you can't always be holding a baby or leaving her unattended.  However, she is never in the bouncer for very long.  Once N starts rolling around more and crawling, the bouncer will go back to the attic.

Walkers really don't do much for your child developmentally.  There have been studies that they may actually impede your child's physical development.  Instead, get a push walker, like this one.  These provide the support needed for early walking while allowing your child to gain confidence in her new movment.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Object to Picture Matching

The language shelves in a Montessori classroom have a few staples that you will find in the following order:  Nomenclature Basket (just objects), Object to Object Matching, Object to Picture Matching, and Picture to Picture Matching.  These works range from the most concrete -- naming an object -- to the most abstract -- matching pictures that are the same.  I've already shared examples of the first two, and L has mastered those and moved on to the third step, Object to Picture Matching.
I took one of the tubes of creatures that I found at Michael's and took pictures of five of them.  I laminated the pictures and put them on a tray beside a bowl of the corresponding insects.  When L found the tray on her shelf, I showed her how to lay out the cards and find the corresponding insect.  She took to it right away.  

As with the earlier works in this category, you can use the Montessori three period lesson to teach your child the names of each object.  In the first period, you simply point to each object and name it.  In the second period, you ask your child, "Where is the _______?"  Once she can correctly point to each object, it is time to move on to the third period.  You ask your child, "What is this?"  You may not be able to do all three periods in the same sitting.  Oftentimes the child needs to have the second period repeated multiple times before she is ready to move on to the third period.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Language with Infants -- Respect

Although your youngest infants cannot complete Montessori works or develop much independence, there are many ways you can incorporate a Montessori lifestyle in your care of infants.  Montessori is not just a form of education -- it's a way of life.  If you want your home to be truly Montessori, start at the beginning!

Young infants have no independence or control over their own actions.  They are constantly being picked up and put down, often with no warning of the change to come.  One of the ways you can begin to prepare your infant for developing independence with her body is to talk to her about what you are doing.  When you are going to pick her up, say, "I'm going to pick you up now!"  Even the youngest infant can begin to understand that there is about to be a change, but the warning helps them to feel safe.  When your infant is a little older, she can lift her arms up to you when you say you are about to pick her up, beginning to take an active part in the process.  One of the things I learned in my Montessori training that really stuck with me is that you never approach a young child from behind and pick them up when they can't see you.  Imagine how scary that would be if it were to happen to you as an adult!  It is no less jarring for a young infant, so show them the same respect you would expect for yourself -- move to where they can see you approaching, and use your words to tell them what is about to happen.

Telling a young infant what you are about to do also lays an important foundation in language development, as you are exposing your child to new words along with the concrete representation of what they mean.  When you are changing your child's diaper, rather than giving her a toy to occupy herself with, talk to her about the process of diaper changing.  Tell her exactly what you are doing.  Name her body parts as you are dressing her.  This involves her in the care process, leading to greater interest in self-care when she has the motor skills that are necessary to take part.