Friday, July 31, 2015

Button Transfer

Facing a long road trip with a toddler, I decided to come up with a few works to occupy L in the car.  This button transfer intrigued her because there were many small pieces and the buttons made a neat sound when they fell to the bottom of the can.  All I did was cut a slot in the top of an empty container and pair it with a bowl full of plastic buttons -- don't judge my container, I'm a hungry pregnant woman!  This is similar to some of the other works I've shown on here, but it requires more controlled fine motor skills to get each button into the tiny slot.

I prepared this work before the road trip, but I didn't put it out on the shelf yet because I wanted it to still be interesting when we were on the road.  In the car, we didn't use a tray.  I held the bowl full of buttons and she held the container with the slot.  She took each button from the bowl one by one and put it into the slot.  I made sure not to open the container until all the buttons were inside -- if I opened it too early, she would start insisting that I open it after she put in each button..  Now that we're home, it sits on her practical life shelf on a tray, and she frequently takes it from the shelf and brings it to her table.

The best part about this homemade work -- I had to eat all the Piroulines before I could make it.  Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children.  :)


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Water Play

A cheap and easy way to beat boredom in your young child is to let them get wet!  Water play provides a great sensory experience and allows the child to observe the properties of different objects (if they sink or float) as well as practice some practical life skills (like water pouring!).  I could tell L was ready to start drinking from an open cup when she was about 12 months old because she had been practicing a lot when I brought out the water bin.

This past winter was very cold and snowy here.  Sometimes we were stuck inside for days at a time and needed some new activities to beat our cabin fever.  One thing that always worked was a water bin!  To set up inside and during the winter, I spread out a few towels on the floor.  I filled an old dish bin with warm water and added some baby shampoo for bubbles.  I threw in a few kitchen utensils, and one of L's favorite activities was born!

Now that it's summertime, we do the same thing outside -- although since she now likes to drink the water I usually forgo the bubbles.  I fill the bin with cool water from the hose outside and throw in a few recyclables for pouring.  I also put in a small pool toy with sinking fish that L can scoop up in her net.  You can put anything in, really.  This water bin keeps L occupied for a very long time while also allowing her to cool off in the heat.

You can buy expensive water tables at the store with lots of fancy attachments.  Those look really neat, but I always remember this:  One man's trash (or recyclable) is a toddler's treasure!  Why spend all that money when L is just as happy (if not more so) with an empty smoothie bottle and a bin of water?


Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting Out the Door

Parents of young children frequently have a hard time getting out the door.  There's so much to do before you can go:  the diaper bag has to be packed, jackets must be put on, shoes must be put on.  There are often tantrums as we try to rush toddlers out the door.

Slow down!  Plan some extra time to allow your child to get used to the fact that we're going to put away our toys and leave soon.  In our house, we tell L, "Go get your shoes," and she immediately drops whatever she's doing and runs to the mudroom -- L is excited that she gets to find her shoes by herself, so she doesn't put up a fight when it's time to go.  If she starts resisting when she's a little older, we'll start by telling her 5 minutes ahead of time that we're going to leave soon: "After you put all the animals back in the bucket, you can go get your shoes."  For now, we don't have that problem.
L's shoes are on a shelf that she can reach.  We tell her what color shoe to get, and she races over to find the right pair.  She climbs onto the couch and we help her put them on.  L is an expert at taking her shoes off, but she's still working on putting them on by herself.  Since it's summer now, we don't have to worry about jackets.  For the fall, her jackets are hanging on low hooks on our coat stand so she get that for herself as well.  Allowing your child to help with the process of leaving makes her much more agreeable -- this is now an interactive adventure instead of a passive process the child must sit through to go wherever Mommy is taking her.  It's all in how you present the task at hand:  as a chore, or as an opportunity to do something "by myself!"


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Toddler Language

Maria Montessori observed that children are in the sensitive period for language from birth to age 6.  This means that they are innately interested in hearing new words and trying them out for themselves.  For young toddlers, like L, they are absorbing new words like a sponge.  At first, they may only demonstrate receptive language -- they understand what you are saying to them, but do not respond with words.  As they grow into older toddlers, they begin demonstrating expressive language -- they can tell you what they want and use words by themselves.  

Beginning at birth, you can help satisfy your child's yearning for language by talking to her all the time.  Tell her what you're looking for as you're walking through a store.  Point out new objects and tell her their names.  We always use real words with young children -- for example, in our house we say "dog" instead of "doggy," "toilet" instead of "potty," "water" instead of "wa-wa" -- because children want to talk the way we do.  You would look pretty silly if you said, "Hey, honey-bunny, does Katey-watey want a little wa-wa?" to another adult.  

One of the first language works on the shelf in a Montessori classroom is a nomenclature basket, like this one I made for L:  
This basket simply consists of a group of objects (usually of the same type:  animals, vegetables, utensils, etc) for naming.  In the classroom, we present the "Three Period Lesson."  In the first period, we say, "This is a       (horse)     ".  That's it.  This period can last a long time for the child demonstrating only receptive language.  In the second period, we say, "Where is the      (horse)     ?"  and the child points to the horse.  This period also lasts a long time, and you can do many variations:  "Put the horse on your head."  "Bring me the horse." "Put the horse in the bucket."  Once your child can correctly do the action you are suggesting to the correct object, she has mastered the second period.  At 16 months, this is the stage L is in currently.  In the third period, we say, "What is this?"  and the child names the object.  This period bridges the gap from receptive language to expressive language.  L is able to do this with a few objects, but definitely not all of them yet.

Once the nomenclature basket is mastered, change the objects!  L is always excited to find new things in her basket, and she brings each object to me excitedly to hear its name.  The next step is a matching work, using a basket full of pairs of objects -- more on that later!


Friday, July 10, 2015

Slow Down!

As adults, we are constantly in a rush.  There is always somewhere to be, something to do, and we are always running late.  Seeing it written like that, it sounds so stressful!  This is an instance when we could really learn a lesson from our young children.

Toddlers are almost never in a rush.  There is too much to see on the way to the destination, too much to do in the process of completing the task, and everything is new!  There is a wonderful book that I read during my Montessori training that has stuck by me through the years.  Now that I have my own toddler, I am reminded of it everyday.  I highly recommend The World of the Child: A Fable for Parents, by Aline D. Wolf.  It is written from the point of view of an adult who suddenly finds himself in a much larger world -- he now sees the world as his toddler son does.  It is very short and easy reading.  Click here to buy it on Amazon. (It's kind of expensive.  If you live by me, send me a message and you can borrow it!)

Now, of course, sometimes you really do have to get somewhere right away.  But be honest -- that trip to Target is not an emergency.  If it takes you ten minutes to get from the front door to the car, your groceries will probably still be available at the store.  Sometimes you really do have something important to do.  But, at the playground, does it really matter if your child wants to explore the mulch for half an hour instead of climbing on the equipment?

Your toddler has just reached the point of being able to explore on her own!  She is now walking, so she can decide where she goes.  She has the gross motor skills to bend down and squat while she examines a worm wriggling on the sidewalk.  She is absolutely fascinated by tiny things that you don't even notice.

The other day, following a trip to the playground during which L spent a good 15 minutes picking up pieces of mulch and putting them somewhere else, we attempted to climb the front steps.  But there were newly blooming roses on the bush at the bottom of the steps!  Halfway, up there was a tiny pine cone!  Another step up, there was a giant rock!  At the top of the steps, a few ants hurried around in the sun.  That trip up the front steps took 5 minutes.  L was teaching me patience.  The world was teaching her immeasurable things that I can't even fathom.  Slow down!


P.S.  On that note, we are planning on slowing down a lot more during our vacation next week.  See you on July 21st!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Following in the same vein as my last post, L loves to do what I do, which means using the same things I use.  One of the things that fascinates her is my purse.  It is stuffed full of interesting objects to explore, and she sees me using it all the time.  However, sometimes I can't find things after she has gone through my purse.  So I decided to put together a purse for L:

Rather than buying a play purse at the toy store, I went in my closet for an old purse I no longer use.  It has a snap clasp at the top, magnet clasps on the side pockets, and a zippered pocket inside -- lots of practical life parts to help develop L's fine motor skills.  I placed familiar objects inside her purse, such as used gift cards (to be like credit cards), an old phone, her sunglasses, an ipad stylus (to be like a pen), a teething ring shaped like car keys, etc.  L enjoys opening all the compartments and taking objects out and putting them back in.  This is a work that I have had on the shelf for probably 4-5 months now, and L still loves it.  Everything in it is a recycled object that I had around the house, so the total cost of this work was:  FREE!


Friday, July 3, 2015

Modeling Behavior

As the main adults present in your child's life, you have a great responsibility.  Your child wants to be just like you!  If she sees Mommy throwing books and standing on the table, that is what she's going to try to do.  It is important for adults to model proper behavior for children.

Your child sees more than you realize.  A few months ago, I was surprised when I watched L take my phone charger, carry it to an outlet in the wall (covered with child safety covers, of course), and try to plug it in.  I don't recall ever doing that in front of her, although I must have.  More recently, I watched her take her baby doll and put it in a friend's baby's car seat and then gently rock it.  I may have done that once or twice, back when I was teaching, but we didn't have that kind of car seat for L, so she cannot have observed it very many times.  All it takes is once -- your child is always watching.  That's how she learns!

You know that saying, "A picture's worth a thousand words?"  The same applies for your actions.  Modeling the correct behavior for cleaning up -- carrying objects with two hands so as not to drop them, placing them gently in the correct place -- is worth way more than trying to verbally tell your toddler to clean up with no visual example.  Unfortunately, it works both ways:  if your toddler sees you throwing her toys into a bin at the end of the day, she thinks that's an appropriate way to clean up.

As adults, we are used to doing certain things because we know we cannot get hurt doing them.  For example, we frequently sit on furniture that is not meant to be sat on, or eat while walking around, or toss things where they belong to finish the task quickly.  A young child's motor skills are not developed enough for her to do those same things.  If she sits on a low table, she might fall off.  If she eats while walking around, she might choke.  If she tosses things instead of putting them gently away, things will be broken.  If you want to set your child up for success, you need to model a way of doing things that is appropriate for a toddler to copy.  It does not come naturally for adults, but it is necessary in order to keep your child safe while allowing her to be independent.