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.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Using a Work Rug

In the Montessori classroom, works can be done at one of two places:  at the table, or on the floor on a work rug.  In the classroom, this rug defines the child's work space.  Other children are not allowed to work with whatever is on another child's rug, and they must walk around the rug instead of over top of it.  At home, this rug ensures that all of the pieces of a work stay in one small space instead of spread all over the entire first floor of your house.  Work rugs are usually introduced in the toddler classroom, when children are 18 months to 3 years old.  Children of this age are comforted by order and routine, both of which the rugs provide.

Montessori work rugs are relatively expensive, so I was excited when I saw a blog that described using rugs from Ikea as work rugs.  I went to the store and checked them out -- $3.99 per rug instead of ~$11 (not including shipping and handling)?!  I was sold.  These rugs are basically the same size as Montessori work rugs.  The only difference is they have some stripes on them.

The process of using a work rug is a little more complicated than that of bringing a work to the table.  The child must first spread out the work rug.  Then she brings her floor work over to the rug, uses it, and puts the work back on the shelf.  Then the child must come back to her work space, roll up the rug, and put it away.  L caught on to this process surprisingly quickly -- like her mother, she absolutely loves following a routine over and over again. I put a rolled up rug next to a bin full of legos -- this is a work that I am requiring her to do on a rug, and not on a table.  There are too many pieces for the table, and they frequently get pushed off.  L loves the process so much that sometimes she only actually works with the legos for a few minutes before putting it all away.  She'll choose another work, and then go right back to the legos so she can begin the whole work rug process again.
Right now, L sits on the rug with her work.  This is not encouraged, but she's young -- just 17 months old.  When she starts using larger, more complicated works on a work rug, there will not be room for her to also sit on the rug, and that problem will be solved.  Right now, if allowing her to sit on the rug with her work means she can easily reach all the pieces and they stay on the rug, that's fine with me.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Toddler Bathroom with Modified Step Stools

L moved into her toddler bathroom at the beginning of August!  It is attached to her toddler bedroom (which she'll be moving into later this week), so it is all set up for just her use.  I mentioned before that I couldn't find ideal step stools in stores, so I had my husband modify one for the sink and build one from scratch for the toilet.  Please note that I did not decorate this bathroom -- I have no idea where one would find a purple and black toilet.  It was like this when we moved in, and it will stay like this until the toilet breaks and  L is old enough to tear off the wallpaper by herself.

L knows that her diapers are kept under the sink, so she takes one out and opens it up when we enter the bathroom.  We change all of L's diapers with her standing up.  She holds onto the railing on her toilet stepstool, then climbs up by herself, turns around, and sits on the toilet.  She is so excited to sit there!  When we put her on the toilet in the other bathroom, she would act like she wanted to sit but then wanted down as soon as we put her on it.  With this toilet stool, L can get on and off all by herself, so she is more content to sit there for a while before coming off -- sooner or later she'll pee by accident while she's sitting there, and we can begin to make that connection.  For now, she enjoys sitting on it before climbing down to put a fresh diaper on.  The stool isn't fancy, but it wraps around the base of the toilet to prevent it from shifting, and the handle helps her to turn around by herself.  L helps pull her pants up and moves over to the sink.

L's sink is pretty high up, so we needed a pretty tall stool for her to be able to reach it.  We got a cheap one at Ikea after measuring how tall it would need to be.  It made me nervous that she would be up so high, so my husband added some handrails on either side.  L loves climbing up to wash her hands after we change her diaper.  She also brushes her teeth up there, and she can watch herself in the mirror that we hung at her level.  The handrails make it easy for her to turn around and walk back down the steps when she is finished.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Popsicle Mold In and Out Works

Want a cheap and easy way to provide an in and out work for your young child?  It's the end of the summer, so popsicle molds are on sale.  They're cheap to begin with, so stores are practically giving them away at this time of the year.  I actually own three different versions of popsicle molds for L (only two are pictured).  When she gets tired of one version, I swap it out for a different one and she's instantly interested again.  These works are good for building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as the child must grasp the top with a pincer grip and maneuver it into the relatively small opening.  Repetition of the activity builds focus and concentration.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sensorial Baskets

Young toddlers are interested in the world around them.  There are so many new things to experience!  A great way to allow your child to develop her senses is to spend a lot of time outdoors -- and to let her to touch things!  So often we say, "Don't touch that!" "Put that down!" If the environment is safe, let your child explore!

One way to make sure your child is exploring in a safe environment is to create a sensorial basket.  I made L's first sensorial basket with a bunch of different seashells before we went to the beach.  That way, when she saw the seashells in their natural environment, she already knew how to handle them.  The seashells were all very different textures.  I showed L the way I wanted her to touch them to ensure that they weren't put in her mouth or thrown across the room.  I placed a seashell in my flat left palm and stroked it with one or two fingers of my right hand.  L copied instantly.

The seashell sensorial basket has been out for a while, so I recently swapped the objects with some things I found in my backyard.  L loves feeling the objects in the basket (especially the really small ones!), and she still imitates the way I handle the objects in my own hands.  This allows L to have a sensory experience of her environment in a controlled manner, so I know that she isn't "exploring" rodent droppings or poisonous mushrooms, but things that she is allowed to touch.

You can make a sensorial basket out of just about anything as long as the objects are of different textures.  My favorite baskets are comprised of found objects from nature -- a fall leaf basket would be great when the leaves are changing colors!  If your child loves collecting things when you're out for a walk, she can even contribute to a sensorial basket herself.  Another favorite basket I've made in the classroom has been of different kinds of fabrics, each with a unique texture.  This is a work that can easily be adapted for any age, and children never grow tired of exploring!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Toolbox: 6+ Works in 1!

The other day, my husband was putting together L's new chair in the living room.  L, of course, wanted to take part.  She busied herself finding all of the screws and putting them in the holes, constantly getting in the way of my husband and causing him a lot of frustration!  I immediately knew she was showing us a developmental need that we could easily fulfill.  The next day, we went to Target and bought her a wooden toolbox by Melissa & Doug.  I love this brand, because all of their toys are made of wood -- a natural, aesthetically pleasing material.  If anything breaks, it is easily fixed with a little wood glue.  The toolbox was $14 and comes with so much that I can easily make it into 6 different works, or more!

We are beginning with an in and out work using just the wooden screws and the toolbox.  I removed all of the other pieces and presented it like this.  L can put the screws into and out of the holes, just like she was doing when she was "helping" her daddy build her chair.  This is a variation on the other in and out works I've presented, as these holes require to screws to be placed in horizontally.  L loves this work!

Another way you can use this work is as a screwing/twisting work.  Place the screws in one bowl and the nuts in another.  The child must take one screw and one nut and twist them together.  This could also become a color matching work, as the child must put the yellow nut on the yellow screw, the green on the green, and the red on the red.

An even more advanced variation on this work would be to put the screw through a hole and then twist the nut on.  I probably wouldn't present this to L until she's 3 or 4.

The toolbox also comes with nails and a hammer.  The nails are thicker than the screws and require more pressure to put into the holes.  This could become a hammering work, with just the nails and the hammer in the toolbox.

Finally, this could be presented as multiple language works.  The first would be as pictured, just like a nomenclature basket -- the purpose is to name each tool.  I could also take pictures of each piece and make this an object to picture matching work.

The possibilities with this "toy" are endless!  You obviously could not put each work out at the same time, but you could adapt the toolbox to grow with your child as she gains new skills.  I think this one was well worth the investment!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Unloading the Dishwasher

There are certain things that adults consider to be tedious chores that have to be completed each day.  One of these in our house is unloading the dishwasher.  I do it every day after breakfast.  Lately, L has been helping.  I didn't force her to do this, or even suggest it.  She just sees herself as a part of the household and wants to be taking part in the care of our environment.  I'm looking forward to the day when L can unload the whole dishwasher by herself.  For now, we keep it to allowing L to do the things she is able to do by herself -- a core part of the Montessori philosophy.

L is currently 17 months old.  At this age, unfortunately for me, she is unable to unload the whole dishwasher.  But don't underestimate the young toddler's abilities.  She is perfectly capable of many parts of the process, and as she grows older we can add tasks.

I remove all the sharp knives as soon as I open the dishwasher, as that is not something that L will be able to help with for a few more years.  As soon as she hears the dishwasher opening, L comes running.  She hands me each piece of silverware to put in the drawer.  One time, I took out the silverware organizer from the drawer to see if she would put them in the right places.  L's not ready for that yet.  She just saw it as an opportunity to empty all the utensils from the organizer.  We'll try again when she's closer to two -- it will be a great sorting work!  L also puts all of her plates on top of the cupboard where they belong and closes the dishwasher when we are finished.  I can see the look of satisfaction in her eyes when we are done -- she has completed a necessary task with a purpose, and it feels good!

We are also working on bringing her used dishes to the kitchen after meals.  L now climbs into and out of her chair by herself (we built a new one without the infant attachment, and are saving the first chair for Baby #2).*  When her plate is mostly or completely empty, I ask her to carry it to the kitchen.  She dumps the remaining food into the trash can and gives me the plate to rinse.  We're working on then putting it in the dishwasher -- she currently sees the dishwasher as something that is UNloaded rather than loaded, so she usually tries to take the plate back to where it belongs.  It will click with time.  If her plate has too much food left on it for her to carry without making a huge mess, I have her carry her cup over to the sink instead.

*A note on the chair:  We knew that L was ready for her new chair without restraints because she kept trying to climb out of the old one.  We put it together a few days ago, and she immediately knew how to get in and out by herself.  I wrote about this chair in my post about Montessori in the dining room -- expensive, but it grows with the child and we will use it for many years.  L now has the freedom to get into and out of her chair by herself -- no more standing at the base and whining for us to put her in it.  We have not had any problems with her trying to get down before the meal is over -- we have been very careful to make sure that the adults to do not leave the table in the middle of a meal, so we are modeling the behavior we would like to see from her.