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.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Parts of the Body -- Mr. Potato Head

Every adult remembers special toys from their childhood and longs for their own child to love it as much as they did.  One classic toy that incorporates many Montessori principles is Mr. Potato Head!  My mom got one for L, and she absolutely loves it.  It is similar to an in and out work, as the child must insert each body part into a hole on the potato.  This is great for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  This work also provides language and ordering skills, as you can discuss each body part as your child puts it on the potato head as well as its proper placement.  In the few months that L has been working with Mr. Potato Head, I have seen remarkable progress in her body part naming, and she is getting better at putting each part in the correct place on the face.  This work requires no prep from parents and brings back wonderful memories!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Intro to Language -- Talking to Infants

How can you be Montessori with young infants?  They can't complete works or play safely with small objects.  They can't bring works to a table or roll up a work rug.  They are not ready to develop independence or self-care skills.  What can you do with a newborn?

Luckily, Montessori is more than just an educational method to be followed in a classroom.  Montessori is a way of life, an understanding of the whole child, and a desire to help the child to develop every part of herself.  One of the things you can do with a very young infant is very simple, yet may feel awkward at first -- talk to her!  About anything -- your day, your hopes and dreams for her, what you're picking up at the grocery store -- the possibilities are endless.  This provides the social interaction your young infant yearns for and begins an introduction to language before she can even engage in it.  It may make you feel silly -- walking through a store and talking to somebody who can't respond feels strange at first.  However, the more you do it, the more natural it will become.  I have become so used to it by now that sometimes (as rarely as it occurs) I'll be running errands all by myself and find myself talking out loud even though there is no child with me -- that's when it's really awkward!

Talking to your infant from the very beginning is an invaluable gift you can give to her, and you will soon find her staring at you and absorbing every word you utter.  Take advantage of it now, while your child is still listening to you!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Self-Care -- Shoes and Jacket

L is very much into doing things all by herself -- as many toddlers are.  Trying to do things for her often results in a struggle, especially when it's time to leave the house.  Toddlers are striving for independence, and it's important to set them up for success whenever possible so they can reach that sense of achievement in doing things by themselves.  The clothes you buy for them is one way to set them up for success in self-care.

This fall, I went shopping for the next size up in shoes for L.  She wasn't quite ready to move up to that shoe size, but I wanted to make sure that I had the perfect pair ready for her when her feet got big enough.  I was looking for a pair of shoes that she could easily put on by herself -- this means no laces and nothing with a tongue.  I found a simple brown pair with one velcro strap and bought them.
Of course, when L's feet were finally big enough to put the new shoes on a few months ago, I had every intention of teaching her how to put them on.  In my experience, it's easier for young children to put shoes on by themselves when they're standing and holding onto something while slipping their feet into the shoes, then bending over to fasten the velcro.  However, before I could even show L how to do it, she had figured it out for herself.  The day after I put them on the sun porch, L ran out there, brought them into the living room, and put them on in exactly the way I would have shown her.  They were on the wrong feet, but she did not want to fix them.  So we left them like that!  L was so proud of herself, and she puts her shoes on by herself every time we leave the house now.  It prevents tantrums as we go out the door since she feels like she is in control of herself.

L is now working on putting her jacket on by herself.  I'm a fan of the flip method, as I've seen it work for many children over the years. To flip a jacket, you lay it down on the floor and stand at its head, so it will appear to be upside down.  You bend over and put your arms in the sleeves.  Keeping your arms in the sleeves, you lift your arms up over your head and the jacket slips right on!  L still needs help connecting the zipper, but then she pulls it right up and puts her gloves on.

Allowing your child to do for herself removes her from a passive position of just having things done for/to her to an active position as a true part of the process of leaving the house, resulting in a  child who feels empowered and independent.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tummy Time

One of the first things you can do with a newborn is provide tummy time.  Placing your infant on her tummy forces her to begin trying to lift her head up.  This is important for developing the gross motor skills that will later lead to rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.  Many infants do not enjoy tummy time at first, and parents are tempted to give up when they hear their newborns screaming in protest.  Please don't give up!  I have seen the results of this -- in five-month-olds who can still barely lift their heads, in 7-month-olds who don't yet have the neck control to sit up unsupported.  

We began doing tummy time with N as soon as her umbilical cord stump fell off.  Like most newborns, she hated it at first.  One time she was so mad that she rolled over from screaming so hard!  And I understand how hard it is to listen to your child scream and not immediately fix the situation for her.  But I knew that the benefits outweighed the discomfort she was feeling, so I let her cry a bit while doing tummy time.  We started small, keeping her on her belly for only a minute or two at a time if she was unhappy.  Each day we added a bit more time, and we could see her progress the more we provided tummy time.  N is now able to lift her head pretty high up, and she enjoys tummy time much more.  

One way to help your child lift her head more easily is to "cheat" a little bit.  Roll up a blanket and place it under your infant's chest so it is slightly elevated.  This makes it easier for her to lift her head, which will help her to become more accustomed to the activity in the early stages.  After a few weeks, she won't need the blanket anymore as her body becomes stronger.

Another way to encourage your child to lift her head is to provide something for her to look at.  Mirrors are great for this.  We have a blanket with a mirror in it.  We place N with her head right over the mirror, so when she lifts up her head she can see herself in it.  When she gets even better at lifting her head, we will place her next to a mirror we hung at floor level on our coffee table.  Eventually she will be able to play with toys while laying on her tummy.


P.S.  Never leave your young infant unsupervised while on her tummy!