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.