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!