Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In & Out -- Flowers

As I've mentioned before, we love in and out works.  They help to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  In the Montessori classroom, works progress from easiest to most difficult, concrete to abstract.  This flower work is the most difficult in and out work we've put out yet. 

I filled a basket with some dollar store fake flowers and placed it on L's floor table with an upside down colander with very small holes.  I showed L how to put the stem of a flower into one of the holes, and L quickly continued to fill the rest of them.  She loves arranging the flowers and naming their colors as she goes.  


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pincher Transfer

L has been interested in trying out different utensils in the kitchen.  While walking around the mall trying to induce labor with N, I found an awesome kitchen supply store filled with tons of wonderful gadgets that I could use to create works for L!  I went a little crazy and bought almost the whole store, including three different types of pinchers.

After trying all the pinchers out on different materials to determine level of difficulty, I put together this pincher transfer work.  I put some pom-poms in a bowl, another bowl, and the pinchers that were the easiest to manipulate on a tray.  When L brought the work to the table, I first showed her how to squeeze the pinchers together so they clicked.  L thought that was pretty cool.  Then I showed her how to pick up a pom-pom with the pinchers and transfer it to the empty bowl.  When I gave L the pinchers, she practiced making the clicking sound a few times and then began transfering the pom-poms.  Sometimes she cheats and puts the pom-pom in the pinchers with her other hand, but for the most part she manages to use the pinchers correctly.  This strengthens her hand muscles and builds fine motor skills.  The repetitiive transferring motion builds focus and concentration.  L loves this work!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On & Off

Years ago, my co-teacher came up with this work while browsing through a dollar store.  It met all of the qualifications for a toddler classroom -- interesting materials, promoting fine motor skills, and most important on a classroom budget, cheap!  I bought these materials months ago and was waiting for the right moment to introduce them at home.

Right around the time N was about to be born, I noticed that L was becoming bored with the trays on her practical life shelf.  I looked in my materials closet and found this and decided to give it a try.  I wasn't sure if L would have the fine motor control and hand-eye coordination necessary to complete this work successfully, but I was pleasantly surprised.  

I put unsharpened pencils in a basket and added a small container of pencil eraser caps.  When L discovered the work on the shelf and brought it to the table, I showed her how to put one eraser on the end of a pencil.  She quickly caught on and did a few by herself.  L has chosen this work several times each day since I put it out.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shape Matching -- Gingerbread Clay in Christmas Shapes

As I've mentioned before, we love Christmas and all of its traditions in this house.  L is still very young, so this year is really the first year she has been able to participate in many of the traditions.  One thing I knew I wanted to do this year was make some ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree with L.  I found this recipe for Gingerbread Clay on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  L loved it so much that I decided to make it again to use in a shape matching work.

After I made the clay, L helped me roll it out and used some of our Christmas cookie cutters to cut shapes out.  For the ones that we made into ornaments, we poked a hole in the top for string and painted them after they dried.  For the matching work, I put two of each shape into a bucket and put it on L's shelf.  L was so excited when she found it there!  She quickly took all of the shapes out.  We named each shape and tried to find the other one that matched it.  L likes to put the matching shapes on top of each other -- probably because that's what we do with our Advent calendar work.  L loved every part of this project, and I think it's neat that she was able to create the whole work for herself.  Plus it just smells like Christmas!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Number Matching -- Advent Calendar

Have I mentioned that we love Christmas?  It's possible to make almost any Christmas tradition into a Montessori work.  One of our favorite traditions is doing an Advent calendar.  I decided to make it into a number matching work that could be done all day, while we would open the calendar to find a surprise behind the correct door for each night (I don't put the candy in until right before we open it at night because I don't want our dog to find it!).  We have a large wooden calendar.  Each door has a number on a shape that protrudes from the background.  I drew the same shapes with corresponding numbers on pieces of cardstock and laminated them.  I put them all in a bowl and set it by the Advent calendar, only to quickly discover that L is not ready for this work  There were too many little pieces.  Next year this work will be perfect for her.  For now, we keep the bowl of numbers out of reach and hand her the correct number each night.  She brings it over and we match it to the correct door before opening it.  Since L is so young, this method works much better for us this year.  This work can be done with any advent calendar -- just make number cards 1-24 and allow your child to match each one!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Craft -- Stained Glass Ornaments

I don't normally do "crafts" with L, as they usually involve more work by the adult than by the child.  However, this is one craft that has several steps the child can do by herself, and really only requires that the preparation of the materials is done by the adult.  I've been doing this faux stained glass craft for several years in my classrooms, and I've also seen it on Pinterest.  Since it's December, I decided to make them in the shape of Christmas ornaments, although they can be done in any shape you want.  This is a great sensorial experience as the child feels the stickiness of the glue and hears the crunching of the tissue paper.  It also works on the gross motor skills involved in painting a large object and the fine motor skills needed to pick up thin pieces of tissue paper and place them on the shape.
I began by tracing a bowl on a piece of wax paper.  L loves to repeat things, so I traced the bowl four times since I knew she would never be satisfied with just one.  I painted with glue around the outline of the ornament and told L to paint inside.  When she finished painting one circle, I gave her a bowl of tissue paper squares and showed her how to put them on the wet glue.  She thought it was really funny when the tissue paper pieces stuck to her fingers.  When she finished one circle, we moved on to the next until all four were covered in glue and tissue paper.

L left the table and I painted the ornaments with another layer of glue on top of the tissue paper.  I did this myself because the tissue paper is very fragile and would get all scrunched up and torn with the rough movements of a toddler.  Then I put a construction paper "frame" on top -- simply the same bowl traced on construction paper and cut out.  When the ornaments were dry I cut them out of the wax paper. Finally, I drew a hook on some construction paper and added it to the top of each ornament.  I hung them up in the window so the light could shine through like a stained glass window.  This was an easy holiday project that we can keep up all month, and L loved making them!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ornament Hanging

I love the holidays, but there's a lot of things connected with them that could potentially be dangerous with a toddler in the house.  Last year, I erected a giant barricade around our Christmas tree using boxes filled with cinder blocks and covered in wrapping paper to keep it festive.  This prevented L, who was pulling herself up to stand using anything she could get her hands on, from pulling a large Christmas tree over on herself.  This year, I wanted to allow L to participate in some of our Christmas traditions while still keeping it safe for her.  We  usually get a very large tree and hang it with our collection of ornaments -- many of them glass.  I had seen L's enthusiasm and awe when she noticed decorated trees at stores, so I knew touching the ornaments would be a huge temptation for her. 

A week before we got our regular Christmas tree, I went to Michael's and bought a small (4 foot) pre-lit tree that would be just for L -- an even smaller tree would have been better, but this was the smallest I could find.  I bought some cheap shatter-proof ornaments and some plastic-coated ornament hooks.  I wrapped the wire of the hooks around each ornament so they wouldn't separate and put all of the ornaments in a basket next to L's tree.  L was so excited to decorate her tree all by herself!  Because she's a true Montessori child, when L had finished putting all the ornaments up, she promptly took each one down and put it back in the basket.  I swear that was completely her idea -- I would have been fine with leaving them up.  L loves hanging up her ornaments each day and then putting them back in the basket.  It's a great gross and fine motor activity, and it allows for some artistic expression in L's placement of the ornaments.

 Now that we have our big tree up with glass ornaments, any time L looks like she's going to touch our tree, we point her over to her tree.  My big tree is still up and intact, so I'm calling it a success!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


L really enjoyed scooping the guts and seeds out of our pumpkin when we carved it, so I knew that I wanted to save the seeds to use in some kind of work.  I tried just washing them and laying them out to dry, but they were too sticky.  I ended up baking them at 300degrees for 45 minutes.  This dried them out perfectly, with the added advantage of producing a nice sound when they are poured.

I brought out a coffee scoop I had found at the dollar store and put it on a tray with two bowls.  I showed L how to scoop the seeds in one bowl and pour them into the other.  L will sit at the table with this work for 10+ minutes at a time, and she chooses it multiple times a day.  The depth of the scoop requires a greater wrist motion than the spooning works I've put out for her before, and the repetition required to transfer all of the seeds from one bowl to the other builds focus and concentration.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Baby #2

Baby #2 has arrived!  We will call her N from here on.  Please give me a couple of weeks to get settled before I write more posts.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Exposure to Numbers -- Magnets

L has been enjoying telling us that she's 1 when we ask how old she is for the past couple of months, so I decided it was time to bring in some numbers!  The first step in teaching numbers is simple exposure.  We have been counting things for a long time -- each time we go up or down the steps, random objects that we find, etc.  The next step is helping L associate the name of each number with its symbol.  I had some number magnets from the dollar bins at Target, so I put them in a bowl on a cookie sheet and put the work on the shelf.  L loves bringing this work to the table and sticking the magnets on.  She often puts the numbers on backwards or upside down, but that's ok -- she's only one and half.  We don't correct her.  We just let her work with the numbers in her own way and begin to get familiar with them. 


Friday, October 30, 2015

Musical Instruments for Toddlers

Like most toddlers, L loves music.  She loves listening to it, dancing to it, and making it.  And what a great sensorial experience!  I have had a basket with musical instruments out since L was very young -- ever since she could sit up and hold things.  As she became more accomplished with each instrument, I added more difficult ones.  We now have multiple shakers, maracas, a tambourine, cymbals, and a triangle in her instrument basket.  Lately, whenever L hears music she runs to her instrument basket and chooses something to play along.  
A few months ago, L took the stick from the triangle and kept banging it on the tambourine -- not the most pleasant sound to listen to all day.  I asked L's old music teacher for recommendations for drums, and he suggested a Remo kids drum (found at this link).  It has a nice deep tone that isn't too aggravating when your child wants to play it all day, every day, and it is now L's favorite instrument to play.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Toddler Self-Care

Self-care is a very important part of the Montessori philosophy.  Young children enjoy doing things for themselves, so being able to take care of their own bodies gives them a sense of purpose and satisfaction.  There are many things that even very young toddlers can do for themselves -- but they won't know that they can unless you let them try.

I'm not going to lie, it is very difficult to stand by and let your child take the necessary time to complete some self-care tasks by themselves.  It would be so much faster (and neater!) to just do it for them!  But then, what would they learn?  Besides the fact that allowing your child to do things for herself builds her independence and self-confidence, many tasks help develop gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye/foot coordination, focus, and concentration.  

Many of the self-care skills L takes part in occur in her bathroom.  When she first wakes up in the morning, L brushes her teeth.  As I shared in the post about the Montessori toddler bathroom, she has a step stool that is the perfect height for her so she can reach the sink and see in the mirror.  She brushes her teeth and then climbs down to get changed.  I set out her clothes for the next day each night, so L gets her clothes from their hooks, chooses some socks from the basket, and brings it all to the bathroom.  We take off her clothes together, and then L begins putting her new clothes on -- by herself.  She sits down on the floor so she doesn't have to try to balance while putting pants on.  L has become an expert at putting on shorts.  She sticks one leg in, then the other, before standing and pulling them up over her bottom.  She doesn't need any help with shorts, although sometimes she ends up wearing her shorts backwards.  Pants are a little trickier, as she has to push her foot all the way out the bottom before she can stand up.  She usually asks for help with this part, so I help "find your foot" before she stands to pull up her pants.  L is pretty good at putting her shirt over her head, and then I help hold her sleeves out so she can get each arm in.  When she's all dressed, L takes her pajamas and puts them in the hamper before we go downstairs for breakfast.

L also has a grooming station set up in her bedroom, as seen in my post about the Montessori toddler bedroom.  There is a mirror hung at her height, so she can see herself as she wipes off her face or combs her hair.

L is one and half years old, and she hasn't yet mastered many of these self-care skills -- but she gets better every time we let her.  If you want your child to be able to do things for herself, you need to make sure you are setting her up for sucess.  No toddler is able to put on tight jeans with a zipper and button.  No toddler is able to put on overalls by herself.  No toddler is able to button a onesie.  Give your child clothes that are easy to put on -- shirts instead of onesies, sweatpants or pants with elastic bands instead of buttons and zippers.  Make sure your child can reach the things she needs to be able to do things for herself -- L gets frustrated when she has to keep asking for help!

As the weather is getting colder now, the next step in our house is to show L how to put on her own jacket and shoes.  I'm a fan of the flip jacket method -- where you lay the jacket on the floor upside down, the child puts her arms in, and then flips it over her head.  I'll let you know when we've started working on that one and how it's going.  I also bought some shoes in the next size up (children's feet grow so quickly!) that have one velcro strap and no laces, so when she reaches that size I'll begin encouraging her to put them on by herself.

Good luck and have patience!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Pipe Cleaner In & Out Work

In & Out works are favorites in our house.  L quickly mastered the most recent one I put together, with the coffee stirrers in the colander, so I decided to make one that is a little more challenging.  I got a set of pipe cleaners and a parmesan cheese shaker from the dollar store and put them in a basket so it was easy to carry without spilling.  I showed L to take the cheese shaker out and set it upright on the table, then put each pipe cleaner in a hole.  This is a little more difficult to control, as the pipe cleaners bend and do not stay rigid like the coffee stirrers do.  Setting up this variation on the same in and out concept refreshed the work for L, and it's now something she chooses multiple times a day.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Cardboard Box

You don't need to spend tons of money or create a beautiful tray of work to entertain your toddler.  Sometimes, all you need is a piece of trash -- like a large cardboard box.  I remember playing with cardboard boxes when I was a child, so when we got Baby #2's carseat I made sure we saved the box for a rainy day.  Well, this fall has been full of rainy days!

At first, I just cut a few "windows" into the box and gave L a crayon.  She enjoyed coloring on all sides of the box day after day -- the novelty of it really lasted a lot longer than I expected!  After about a week, the box began taking up space in my living room while L moved on to more interesting things.  Just when I was about to take it down to the basement, another rainy day struck.

While L was taking her afternoon nap, I spread out a tarp and put the box on top.  I got out a tray for paint and a roller brush.  When she woke up and came downstairs, L was so excited to see what I had set up!

Have I mentioned how much I hate letting toddlers paint?  It's my least favorite thing.  Ever.  So of course L loves it. We still paint naked in this house, and we probably will until L is a teenager.  It's the only thing that keeps me semi-sane while allowing a one and half year old to run around with a paintbrush.  

I'm sad to say that this is the first time I gave L anything other than a regular paintbrush to use while painting.  I bought a few different types of brushes months ago, but my fear of painting made me hide them away.  L loved using the different motion of rolling paint on, and it kept her busy (and me on the verge of a panic attack) all afternoon.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Setting the Table

L has been unloading her plates, cups, and silverware from the dishwasher for a while now, so I decided it was time for her to start setting her own place at the table for each meal.  I set out each of the components on a low shelf that she can reach.  She begins by bringing a plate to the kitchen so I can put food on it.  I tell her which pieces of silverware she needs, and she puts each one at her place.  I also tell her to get a cup or a bib if it's a really messy meal.  When she has finished setting her place, her plate is usually full.  She climbs into her chair and waits until we are all seated and have said our mealtime prayer to begin eating.  L loves being able to get everything ready for herself!

When L gets a little older, she can start helping me serve food onto her plate.  We can also begin discussing together which pieces of silverware she will need for a given meal.  My next step is to find a small pitcher so she can refill her cup during meals, as she has become quite interested in pouring liquids -- I'll let you know when I find the perfect one!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Leaf Matching

One of L's favorite things to do outside is collect fall leaves in a little pumpkin bucket.  Unfortunately, once we get inside the leaves don't last very long before they get dry and crumbly.  I decided to try to extend the lives of some fall leaves by laminating them -- so far, it's working!

I collected matching pairs of fall leaves and set them on the counter to dry for the afternoon.  When they were dry, I put them through the laminator and cut around each leaf to preserve its unique shape.  The colors of the leaves did fade slightly as they went through the laminating process, but since then they've stayed the same.  I don't know yet if these laminated leaves will still look good by next year, but in the month that I've had them out they still look great!  L enjoys taking out the leaves one by one and feeling the veins and sharp edges.  In a few weeks we will try matching the pairs of leaves, but for now it works fine as a sensory basket.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Opening and Closing

L has been obsessed with trying to open containers for a while now.  At first, I was hesitant to put a work like this together, because there are many things I don't want her to be able to open -- for my own sanity.  But I figured that she's old enough now to handle the contents of containers more responsibly, so it was time to put my qualms aside and follow the child.  

I spent a few weeks collecting different types of containers from around the house.  Each container has a different kind of opening -- velcro, snap, zipper, drawstring, tabs, etc.  I used the drawstring bag that held L's sheets to put all the different containers in, and put it on L's practical life shelf.  You should have seen the look on her face when she discovered it there!  She was ecstatic.  Some of the containers are more difficult to open than others, so L asks for help with those.  When she has mastered all of the containers in this drawstring bag, it will be easy to modify the work with more difficult containers -- like tupperware, things with buttons, etc.  For now, this is pretty challenging for L.  She is very satisfied when she manages to get one open, and she likes putting the smaller containers inside the larger ones.  This work was absolutely free -- I just used containers I already had around the house or ones that I kept after the contents were gone.  Look through your recyclables for more options!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Big & Little with Pumpkins

What do you do with all the pumpkins your toddler has scrubbed?  I created a "Big" and "Little" work to compare the sizes of pumpkins.  I placed one big pumpkin and one little pumpkin in a bin and that's it!  L puts them both on the table and we point to the "big pumpkin" and the "little pumpkin."  

For some reason, one night my husband compared the pumpkins to the size of L's head...  Now her favorite way to use this work is to hold each pumpkin next to her head and wait for us to tell her "That pumpkin is BIGGER than your head" or "That pumpkin is LITTLER than your head."

*A note on vocabulary -- I use the words "big" and "little" as a pairing and "large" and "small" as a pairing. You  could also do the same concept using the words "large" and "small" for your pumpkins.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Sensorial Basket -- Gourds

We go to a local farmer's market each week for our fruits and vegetables.  This week, they had a huge bin full of different types of gourds right by the door.  L made a bee-line for the bin and enjoyed searching through it.  I decided to update her sensorial basket with some fall gourds.  I chose gourds of all different colors, textures, and sizes, and put them in the basket.  L loves taking them out one by one and running her hands over the ridges and bumps.  We provide the correct vocabulary for her -- "green," "yellow," "orange," "bumpy," "rough," "smooth," "big," "little."  L brings this basket to the table several times a day to explore the gourds.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pumpkin Scrubbing

Fall is finally here!  It's my favorite season, and one that is perfect for creating seasonal works.  There are many natural materials that you can find at your local farm (or even grocery store), and since they only come around once a year, children are excited to experience them!

No matter where you get your pumpkins, they are sure to have mud caked onto them.  That mud should be cleaned off before you use your pumpkin for display or for a work, so why not allow your toddler to give the pumpkin a bath?  I set up this temporary work on a towel on the floor -- if I lived on a pumpkin farm and had unlimited access to dirty pumpkins, this could be a more permanent work.  I put a spray bottle and a produce scrub brush next to a bin with a dirty pumpkin inside.  The spray bottle is small enough for L to use by herself (although she needs help with aiming it...), and the scrub brush is the perfect size to fit in her hand.  I found the spray bottle in the travel-size toiletry section at Target and the brush at the dollar store.  A fingernail scrubbing brush would be a good size for small hands as well.

When L came down after her bath the other night, I had this all set up for her.  She ran over to see what it was.  I first demonstrated the process by spraying the pumpkin and then scrubbing it a few times with the brush.  L immediately wanted to take part.  L's hands are still pretty small, so she uses both hands to spray the water and is not the best at aiming it at a particular object.  I aimed it for her while she sprayed the pumpkin.  Then she picked up the brush and began scrubbing.  She noticed the dirt coming off and coating the bottom of the bin and pointed at it excitedly  -- she could see the results of her labor.  After she had scrubbed the pumpkin much longer than necessary to create the cleanest pumpkin you've ever seen, we took it out of the bin and dried it on the towel.  L was very proud of her work and carried the pumpkin around for the rest of the night!  We are planning on going to the farm to pick out a big pumpkin for carving this weekend (if Baby #2 decides to stay put until then...), so we will repeat this work with the larger pumpkin then.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Ring Hanging

Most of L's works are in our living room, so I'm trying to branch out and place things in other parts of the house.  When I was in the classroom, I came up with a quick hanging work when I found some hooks that we were just going to throw away.  I decided to recreate the work for L.
I hung some magnetic hooks on our fridge and placed a bowl full of bracelets on a radiator cover across from the fridge.  We call the bracelets "rings" to prevent L from just putting them on like bracelets, and so far that has worked.  When L discovered the bowl one day, I showed her how to hang each ring on a hook.  There are enough rings for each hook to hold three, so the work lasts a while.  When each ring is hung up, she takes them off and puts them back in the bowl.  

This is an easy work to modify as your child gets better at it.  In my classroom, I started the year with the hooks and a basket full of bracelets, like this.  As the year went on, I switched out the bracelets for keychains, which are slightly more difficult to hang on the hooks.  By the end of the year, I had put out bells with a loop of yarn tied to them, the most difficult object to hang.  


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In and Outs -- Small Holes

A few months ago, L noticed the holes in my mom's crocs and thought they were the coolest thing ever.  She kept trying to stick her fingers in.  I realized that she needed an in and out work with smaller holes, something that would require more control to put the objects into each hole.  One day a few weeks ago, we took a trip to the dollar store -- the Montessori teacher's dream!  When you have a small monthly budget for classroom materials, the dollar store is the place to go for bits and pieces for different works.  I had found some reusable coffee stirrers at Target earlier, so I was searching for something with the perfectly sized holes to put them in.  I found this colander for $1 and snatched it up.

I asked my husband to build a special floor table for this work.  It's simply a low table that the child can kneel beside to do work.  In this case, the work stays at the table -- it does not have a space on the shelf.  That's because this work is rather large and would be difficult for L to carry back and forth easily.  The first time she did it, L was a bit mad that she wasn't allowed to put it away on a shelf, but she quickly caught on.                                                                                                             I placed the coffee stirrers in a basket to the left of the colander.  In Montessori works, everything is placed from left to right, laying the groundwork for reading.  I showed L how to take one coffee stirrer and place it in a hole.  She loves this work and will do it until all the pieces are in place, then remove them one by one and put them back in the basket.  This work teaches hand-eye coordination.  There are quite a few coffee stirrers, and the repetition of placing them in the holes one by one builds focus and concentration.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Object to Object Matching -- Language Basket

Object to object matching is the next step after the nomenclature basket that I wrote about earlier.  L has gotten very good at naming the animals I put in her nomenclature basket, so I added this basket to her language shelf.

 With this basket, you simply put two of each object in, and the child is meant to match each one. Every toddler I've ever met has loved animals, so that is one great type of object to put in any language basket.  Michael's sells small animals by theme in tubes, and every time I go there I check to see if they have any good ones.  I think this particular set is from the "Household Pets" theme.  As with the nomenclature basket, you can name each animal using the three period lesson.  Then you can match the animals that are the same.  The one-to-one correspondence helps with visual discrimination of the objects, and you can also talk about the differences between the animals as your child's language grows.  The next step after this basket would be an object to picture matching work.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Positive Redirection and Natural Consequences to Prevent Tantrums

Toddlers are notorious for their tantrums.  Telling a young child "No" seems to have the opposite effect of the one intended, as toddlers take that as a direct challenge and continue to do the "bad" behavior.

Montessorians take a different approach to discipline.  Rather than telling a child what we don't want them to do, we tell them what we do want them to do -- positive redirection.  Instead of saying, "No running," we say, "Use your walking feet."  Instead of saying "Don't climb on the table," we say, "Put your feet on the floor."  And, for the most part, it works.

With L, this technique does not work in the bathroom.  Sometimes, she goes in the bathroom and begins to misbehave instead of standing to get her diaper changed.  Most of the time, this means she sits down on the floor.  Using the technique above, we would say, "Stand up."  She simply replies, "No."  When the positive redirection technique is not working, it's time to offer choices.  Only two choices, and you must be ok with either option being chosen.  In this circumstance, we say, "Are you going to hold on to the railing or are you going to hold on to the door?"  Bingo.  L feels like she has the control again -- because isn't that what misbehavior and tantrums are all about?  She quickly stands and chooses one of those places to hold on to.

Another Montessori strategy when dealing with misbehavior is to enforce natural consequences.  This isn't a punishment like grounding your child from tv or threatening her with no dessert after dinner.  The consequence must make sense for the offence.  If your child throws her food on the floor during dinner, she must climb down, pick it up, and put it on her plate -- and that means she is all done.  (L is very young.  When this happens with L, we remove her plate from reach for a minute or two, then ask if she is ready to eat again.  When we give it back, she does not throw it on the floor again.)  If she throws her work across the room, she must clean it up and be all done with that work.  If she continues to throw other works across the room, she may no longer choose any work for a while.

When these strategies are used consistently, by all caregivers in the child's life, they are almost foolproof.  There are the occasional times when neither strategy works for L and she explodes into a screaming tantrum.  On those occasions, we ignore her (while still making sure she is safe and not able to hurt herself).  There are no "time-out" chairs or corners.  We haven't reached this level of tantrum yet, but if it ever happens that her flailing around is dangerous to herself or others, we will move her to a "calming spot" that is free of obstacles and offers her a safe place to calm down.

It sometimes possible to defuse a tantrum in the middle of one.  If your child is screaming and carrying on in typical tantrum fashion, change your tone of voice.  Try whispering.  If your child wants to hear what you're saying, she'll have to quiet down in order to hear your whispered words.  Try counting in a low, soothing voice -- usually by the time you get to 20 or 30 the tantrum has eased and the child begins to calm down.  A trick I used when I was a teacher was singing -- if you have a room full of loud, crazy toddlers who won't settle down, begin to softly sing a familiar song.  It's like magic.  The mood in the room instantly changes and everyone quiets down to hear the song.  I'm sure this will work on an individual basis, as well.

Most of all, remember that it's completely normal for toddlers to be acting this way.  They are new to this world, and trying to find their place in it.  Toddlers constantly test boundaries -- they want to know where they stand.  Providing consistent boundaries helps your toddler to feel safe and secure, because she knows what to expect in each situation.

L certainly does her share of testing boundaries and throwing tantrums.  I am lucky enough to have spent many years observing toddlers and being trained in how to deal with them, and it was definitely one of the topics that came up most often when parents asked for help at home.  Each situation is different, and you need to find the strategies that work in those situations to provide your child with a secure environment.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Shapes -- Sorting by Size

You don't always have to spend tons of money on pretty toys or authentic Montessori materials to teach your children the basics.  Many beautiful works can be made with just paper (and a laminator, if you want it to last for a while), and they are just as interesting to young children.  I made this shape work for L as her language is beginning to grow.  She is now saying a lot of words, so I wanted to add some shape and size words to her vocabulary.

I cut out each shape in three different sizes.  We use the words "big," "medium" and "small" to describe each triangle, square, and circle.  In the beginning, this work is good for simply sorting each shape regardless of size.  Once the sorting by shape has been mastered, we can begin to work on laying them out by size as well.  For now, L uses this work to name each shape, and for more practice using a work rug.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cleaning with Toddlers

Toddlers love to do what they see their parents doing.  I'm kind of a neat freak, so I have a cleaning schedule for myself with one task to be done each day.  L loves helping out!  I swear I'm not running a sweatshop out of my house -- L is genuinely excited to help me clean the house.  Now, she's only 1 and a half.  Does her cleaning actually produce huge results?  Not really.  But does it help some?  Absolutely.  Especially now that I'm hugely pregnant and cannot reach some places easily.  

If your child shows an interest in whatever you are using to clean with (as long as it's not chemicals...), let her try it out!  I use swiffer sheets to dust, and L has loved that since before she was even 1 year old.  Sometimes she dusts really odd places (like her stomach), but she usually sticks to what she sees me dusting.  

When L was about 14 months old, she saw me using a push broom on our back patio a lot.  She tried using it, too, but it was too long and heavy for her to maneuver, so she got extremely frustrated.  We ran out to Target and found a push broom that is just her size, and she uses it almost every time we go outside.  

When L was about 15 months old, she started being a little scared of the vacuum cleaner.  I thought it might help her fear if she was able to help vacuum, so I showed her how to use a hand-held vacuum.  Now she loves it!  Every time we get out the vacuum (and many other times!), she runs for the hand-held vacuum to help.  My living room floor is looking a lot cleaner these days.

L is also very helpful when it comes to weeding.  Our back patio is made of old stones, and unfortunately there are often weeds growing up between them.  My husband started pulling some of the weeds up while they were outside one day, and L immediately joined in. 

With most of these cleaning tasks, we didn't have to encourage L to join in or set it as a "chore" for her to complete.  She wanted to to do it all by herself, so we let her -- seriously, who would turn down free, happy labor!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Language Photo Cards -- Family

Every morning while I'm getting ready, L explores our bedroom.  My husband has a bunch of loose photos of family and college friends in his nightstand, and L loves to take them out and look at them.  She frequently brings them over to me and points to all the people shown as I tell her who they are.  So I decided to make a more durable work for her involving the same concept.  I printed a bunch of photos from our family vacation this summer, glued them to cardstock, and laminated them so they cannot be easily destroyed.  I put them in a shallow box on her language shelf.  L chooses this work daily, and it is helping her to learn the names of all of our extended family members.  She especially likes the photos where she is pictured with the family member, as well as the large group photos with a lot of different people she recognizes.  When I got my latest ultrasound pictures of Baby #2, L was extremely interested in those, so I added a few to the box.  This is a work that can easily be updated with new pictures, especially once L's baby sister is born.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Many of the works that I put out for L are sparked by my observations of what she's interested in and showing a developmental need for.  We've spent a lot of time in the kiddie pool this summer, and I've noticed L pouring water from one container into another.  My nerves are not quite ready to make that an indoor work, so I simply encouraged it when we were outside in the pool or playing with the water bin.  Inside, I put together a dry pouring work that is less messy.

I put a bunch of small bouncy balls into a cup with an empty cup beside it.  That's it.  L will easily spend 10 to 15 minutes with this work, pouring the balls from one cup to another.  Sometimes she misses a cup and the balls spill out.  That's why this work is on a tray with high sides -- the balls stay on the tray and she is easily able to find them all and put them back.  As L continues to get better with this work, I'll soon have to put aside my qualms and construct a water pouring work for her.  For now, I'll stick with the bouncy balls.


Friday, August 28, 2015


L has been very interested in using a fork and spoon at the dinner table, and she is getting pretty good at it.  To encourage her spoon use, I put together a spooning work like many you will find in Montessori classrooms.

I simply put a bunch of wooden balls in a bin, alongside an empty bin, with a child-size spoon (meant to be used for pretend play in a pretend kitchen).  I tested it first with my non-dominant hand to make sure it would be easy enough for L to accompish, yet still challenging and satisfying to transfer the balls from one bin to the next.  Because L is right-handed, I placed the spoon on the tray with the handle pointing toward the right, so it would be natural for her to pick it up with her right hand.  If she was left-handed, I would put it the opposite way.  If I wasn't yet sure which hand was dominant, I would put the spoon vertically between the two bins, with the handle pointed down, and observe which hand she used to pick it up.  L loves this work and chooses it at least once every day.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Montessori Toddler Bedroom

L moved into her toddler bedroom last week!  I was expecting some tears in the middle of the night, or at least when she woke up in the new room in the morning, but L transitioned like a champ.  She helped me move over her books and clothes the day before, and she spent a few nights "helping" her daddy measure the new room for her furniture, so she was already accustomed to the new space.

As in her infant room, EVERYTHING in L's toddler room is completely secured to the walls for safety purposes.  She spends a lot of time in there freely mobile and unsupervised, so it is important that she can't get hurt.  If you are going to provide an environment where a toddler can grow her independence, it absolutely needs to be a safe one.                                                                                                                                   This room has a small closet that we decided to use instead of a dresser.  We took off the closet door for easier access.  We put in a low-hanging clothes rod for hanging clothes, and my husband built adjustable shelving for the top half of the closet.  There is also a bin in the bottom full of socks that L can get by herself.  When she is toilet-training, there will also be a bin full of underwear down there.  The hamper is to the left, and she is able to reach it and put her dirty clothes in all by herself.  

Right next to her closet is L's grooming station.  We hung a mirror at her height so she can see her face.  Below the mirror is a shelf my husband made since I'm too picky to choose things from stores like regular people.  We keep a comb on the shelf so L can brush her own hair and a burp cloth so she can wipe drool/boogers while looking in the mirror.  Underneath the shelf are a series of hooks.  Each night, I hang the next day's clothes there for L to bring to the bathroom.  I tried giving her a choice of two shirts at first, but instead of choosing she just brought them both to the bathroom.  Luckily for me, she is not yet very particular about what she wears!  When L begins to care about which outfit she wants to wear, I'll start hanging up two choices again.
On the way to the bathroom, we put a reading nook.  There is a soft chair that is just L's size across from a bookcase that is a husband-made replica of the bookcase in her infant room.  Books are placed laying flat, so she can see what each one is before she chooses it.  This reading nook is convenient for when L is spending some time alone in her room (when I hop in the shower!), as well as for our bedtime routine.  The door to her bathroom is right next to her reading nook.  At night, we change for bed and then come to the reading nook to read a bedtime story.  After the story, L puts the book back on the bookshelf and walks to her bed.  She likes to sit on daddy's lap on the edge of the bed while he sings a bedtime song .  Then she climbs into bed, he tucks her in, and leaves the room.

As in her infant room, L's bed is a twin mattress on the floor.  She is able to get into and out of it by herself.  She does not sleep with a pillow, since she still sleeps on her stomach.  We have low-hanging artwork on the wall so she can actually see it.  I made silhouettes of some of her favorite animals -- it's more abstract than the animal pictures in her infant room, but still recognizable enough for us to discuss them.  

I was very pleased with how easily L transitioned into her toddler bedroom.  I had wanted to do it in August so we would have a couple of months before the arrival of Baby #2 for L to get used to the room, and she has adjusted beautifully already.