22-24 months, 24-28 months, 3 years old, 3-6 Years, Family life, Nature, Practical Life, Preschool, toddler

Autumn activities for little people

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Autumn is one of my favourite times of year — a time for circling back, for settling in, and for reaping the harvest. It’s also the time when I celebrate my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and two amazing holidays — Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween. Looking for ideas on how to make the best of the season? Take a few tips from a pro. 😉

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Plant bulbs now for flowers next spring. During last week’s Milkweed Montessori morning, my toddler friends and I read Planting a Rainbow, and then spent some time digging holes and popping in bulbs for crocus, tulip and daffodils. It’s great way to connect this moment within the flow of moments that make up the days, weeks, months, and seasons, that lead us to a moment next spring when, green shoot pokes through the earth and offers up a bloom.

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Get in touch with the fruits of the season. Part of what makes autumn so magical is that it is the culmination of the warm sunshiny days that came before it, and no where is that better illustrated than in ripe apples and big, round pumpkins. Apple picking, the pumpkin patch or a wander through a corn maze offer opportunities to connect with tradition in a hands-on way, from toddlers on up. These are the icons of the season for a reason, so throw out the cliches, and get out there and see how and where they grow. If your tastes run a little wilder, keep an eye out for high bush cranberry or autumn olive on outdoor adventures.

Ready to take it to the next level? Save your pumpkin seeds for growing in the garden next year. This year our backyard pumpkin patch has provided two perfectly round specimens for two perfectly spooky jack o’lanterns.

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Make a pie! A few years ago, a morning-long Pie 101 presentation from my friend Katie (an award-winning pie baker!) helped to conquer my fear of pastry. Now I always make a few pies when the fruit is at its peak, and I nearly always have help from my helpers, who love to peel the apples, bust up the butter, and roll out the pastry. If you do brave pie-baking with preschoolers, snap a pic and use the #montessoripie hashtag!

Follow along with Fall Outside 2017, an annual online reminder to go outside, and a welcoming online community to share those experiences with. For me, November is one of the hardest times of year — a wistful goodbye to the joys of October, and a grey introduction to the months to come. I’ve enjoyed following along with the prompts since November 2015, and we’ll do so again this year.

What are you up to this season? Share your ideas and tips with me, because there’s still some autumn left! 

Related posts: 

Autumn fun – a bumper crop of apple works 

A whole post dedicated to Planting a Rainbow

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22-24 months, 24-28 months, 3 years old, 3-6 Years, Books, Casa, Family life, Nature, Preschool

Montessori books to celebrate changing seasons

After Mother Nature hit our area with some late-breaking hot hot heat last week, it seems that finally crisp mornings and falling leaves are signalling the seasonal shift from summer to autumn. Feeling these changes as each season rolls on is something that I’m more and more attuned to, both as I get older, and my kids do. Growth, change, forward momentum, life in all it’s many forms — it’s a daily celebration on this traveling orb we call Earth.

I love to read books that are tuned in to these seasonal rhythms, and that reflect the times we’re having as a family. Sometimes a book that cycles through all the seasons, reminding of us of where we are in the big picture can be just the thing to remind us to celebrate the present.

Friendly for both toddlers and preschool-age reading times, and full of good curiosity-building possibility, here are a few books that our family has enjoyed reading, no matter the season:

Out and About: A First Book of Poems

Lovely to page through from cover to cover, or to read through the poems that fit today’s season or weather, this book is a treasure. Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes, the creator of the beloved Alfie series, you’ll find these poems are a true reflection of family life lived in season.

To Be Like the Sun

A girl, her sunflower seed, and the glory of the flower it produces… and then, midwinter, a girl, and her sunflower seed once more. This book is beautifully illustrated, with a story told with enough energy to keep even the tinies captivated.

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights

In our family, we have a particular connection with the arctic, but I think the subtle changes that this book follows through one of the planet’s most unique environments will delight any curious child as each page follows the light.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm

A sweetly-detailed book that follows the calendar year through each month on a busy farm, this is an evergreen book that seems to expand to meet the growing child’s awareness.

When the Wind Stops

A favourite of mine to read, and of Jasper’s to hear, this book is the kind that settles the whole family into the peace of evening after a busy day. It answers those simple and yet big questions every child has in a way that is plain and true and also deeply metaphorical. Where does the sun go when it sets? To bring morning to another place.

Do you have a family favourite for all seasons? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

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18 months, 18-21 months, 22-24 months, 24-28 months, Family life, Montessori philosophy

The toddler question

 

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Life with toddlers: it’s not for the faint of heart.

Toddlers are wonderful humans. They are curious and compassionate, full of energy and emotion. I live with one myself, a little sprite who brings joy to the whole family each day, and who embraces and insists upon independence, choice, and doing it herself!

One of the greatest gifts I received during my Montessori training a few years back was my teacher’s wonderful advice to, in the midst of those inevitable stormy moments with a toddler, step back from the intensity of the storm and ask: what is the child’s developmental need? 

I learned that, contrary to our culture’s comments on tantrums and the “terrible twos,” a toddler isn’t developmentally capable of being willful. Toddlers are naturally without motive — it’s not until around three years-old that a child’s own will actually even develops.

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What drives a toddler is this forward movement into their own development.

Occasionally, there are limits that interrupt that forward motion — whether it’s a parent, who absent-mindedly takes over zipping up a jacket, or needs a child to be buckled into a car seat — or even just the physical limits of the natural world, like when a child wants to fit a large block into a small hole. Encountering these edges can mean that joyful child is suddenly frustrated — more so than seems reasonable to the parent who has their own set of expectations front of mind.

It’s then, in the moment, that we can step back, take a deep breath, and ask: what is the child’s developmental need? It’s a crucial moment, one in which we take ourselves out of the heat of our own emotion about what’s happening, and try to see the world from our toddler’s perspective. Rather than, say, this one:

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Montessori identified that there are certain times in a child’s life when they are overwhelmingly interested in and able to take in certain developmental stages, called sensitive periods. Sometimes parents see their child acting “obsessed,” repeatedly doing the same thing: taking shoes on and off, climbing the stairs, turning lights off. Whenever that repeated activity is happening, you can bet that it’s because some big learning is happening.

As caregivers, understanding sensitive periods can shed light on what is happening for a frustrated toddler. Toddlers are sensitive to order, they have a need for movement, and for language.

A toddler who is sensitive to order — a natural desire that things should be “just so”— might be like the little guy I met at a party a few years ago. People were gathered around the door, some dressing, some going out, and a little toddler stood in the midst of it all, insisting that the open door should be closed. His mother was getting annoyed, it seemed inappropriate — some folks were about to go out. But from his perspective, he saw something that was out of order: an open door should be closed.

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I used to see this chart Maria Montessori created as a sort of report card, to see how my child measured up. Now I understand: it’s a list of needs. What if a child at 15 months NEEDS to walk without help? Game-changing. (Chart from The Absorbent Mind)

I know a sweet little girl who lives in a one-storey home. Get that girl into a house with stairs, and she’s got one focus, every time: up, then down. Up, then down. She’s gotta move! I remember reading somewhere that Maria Montessori suspected that the reason young kids love slides so much isn’t actually about the sliding: it’s all about the stairs.

I’ve faced all kinds of challenges with a child in need of movement: a long flight with a toddler on my lap, a music class for toddlers that expected my 13-month old to stay seated for 30 minutes, or simply a Tuesday afternoon preschool pick-up deadline, with a toddler who didn’t get enough playtime after her nap.

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So what’s to be done when developmental need bumps up against the edges of regular family life?

Sometimes just recognizing what the developmental need is takes the intensity out and gives me compassion for my child in the moment, and that in itself feels like enough.

Sometimes you spend most of a party over on the stairs, letting that eager girl climb.

Sometimes I have to say: “I know you’d like to keep walking, but we need to take the car to get there on time. Do you want to climb in or do you need my help?” And if she keeps on running, I take that as a choice that she needs my help getting into the car (and I make a note: this toddler needs some freedom to move).

This parenting thing is always imperfect, but looking for the developmental need can offer just the type of opportunity I’m always looking for as a mom: to bring a little more space into a stressful moment.

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18-21 months, 22-24 months, 6-12 months, Montessori philosophy, Motor development, Practical Life, Under 1 year

You’re doing it wrong, keep it up!

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If, in your travels on Pinterest and Instagram, you see a beautiful photo of a tiny toddler carefully/peacefully/confidently lifting a little jug of water to pour himself a glass, here’s what you may have missed:

  • a baby experimenting with different grips on a weaning glass
  • a baby pouring water down his shirt
  • an older baby throwing a full glass of water in the general direction of his face
  • an older yet baby taking a few sips before dropping a half-full glass into his lap
  • a one year old pushing a glass off the edge of the table — repeatedly
  • a one year old who reaches for a cloth after taking a drink
  • a one year old says “uh oh” when a glass breaks and his mother sweeps it up
  • a thirteen month old grabbing the pitcher to pour for himself
  • a fourteen month old pouring a puddle of water immediately beside his glass
  • a fourteen month and one day old getting a little more water into his glass
  • a fifteen month old who uses a cloth on the little puddle of water on his placemat
  • a sixteen month old who pours a glass a water
  • a sixteen month old who an hour later completely misses the glass again
  • a seventeen month old who pours all of the water from the pitcher into and over and around the glass, long after it’s full

Maybe all of this seems a bit much, but the point is this: each of these opportunities builds on the last, as the child learns through his own real life experience how to hold a glass of water.

Through repetition, that is, through repeatedly doing something “wrong”, he learned how to meet his own goal (to get water from one vessel into another).

In the early days of incorporating Montessori into our own home though, I’d be disappointed when I introduced a new activity or material and it seemed like my little guy just couldn’t get the hang of it. My expectations were based on things I’d seen other kids do online, or read about in a book, or seen in a film (and one really simple error I occasionally made as a first time mom was not understanding the very real difference between, say, a 17 month old and a 20 month old).

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At this point in the journey, I’ve come to realize this: if you offer a child an empty glass and an appropriately sized pitcher of water for the first time ever, and they have no problem pouring a glass without spilling a drop, you’ve waited too long.

Spills, messes, challenges, frustrationit’s all part of the process, of learning, of doing hard things. Fear of failure? It’s got no place here.

A parent doesn’t need to say a thing — that wee genius knows what he’s attempting and whether it’s been successful. “The teacher should never intervene in an action when the impulse prompting it is good, neither with her approval nor with her help nor with a lesson or correction,” Maria Montessori wrote in Some Words of Advice to Teachers.

Today’s challenge: let’s offer opportunities to our kids (and to ourselves), to try something and not quite get it. To pour the water on the floor, to climb up the wrong side of the slide, to put their shoes on the wrong feet. And then let’s smile and watch them try again.

Do we follow each other on Instagram? Let’s! Click here for an Instagram video of a very wee Jasper pouring himself a drink a long while back, and hit follow while you’re there.

 

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18-21 months, 22-24 months, 24-28 months, DIY

Geometric sorting board: a diy hack

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We’ve had this geometric sorting board for a while, and I see it around the web fairly often in Montessori circles. In the past six months (from about 20 months on) I’ve occasionally offered it to Jasper, who over time has enjoyed exploring the shapes, pointing out the colours, and hanging the shapes randomly from the pegs. The idea that certain shapes would fit together on particular pegs wasn’t really happening, even with modeling.

Then I remembered this post from the awesome German-language Montessori blog: Eltern vom Mars.

It’s the simplest solution in the world: tracing each geometric shape onto the board.

I used pencil so that down the road, we can raise the stakes by erasing the shapes. Immediately this has become one of Jasper’s most-often used activities, and paired with this four-section basket, it also provides opportunities for sorting by shape or colour. It’s such a simple hack, and I can’t believe it took me this long to remember it.

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I can’t remember where our geometric sorting board came from — I know it was second-hand, either from a store or a friend — but you can find something very similar here (that set actually looks a bit chunkier and would be easier for a young toddler to use).

If you’re worried that this might make it too easy, I’d say observation is your friend. If the child is focused and engaged with the work and is drawn to it over and over, then it’s just right. When the time comes that Jasper is losing interest, I’ll probably put it away for a while, and then reintroduce it on our shelves with the pencil lines erased.

Have you discovered any “Montessori hacks” for independence?

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22-24 months, 24-28 months, Family life

A Montessori Christmas list

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Nicole from The Kavanaugh Report came up with a great idea: while there are lots of Montessori recommendation blog posts and roundups of great products, it’s fascinating to see what other folks actually considering for holiday gifts. Like, in real life.

We usually have a fairly low-key Christmas celebration, and the whole season is filled with lots of experiences: this year we’ll be travelling across the country to visit family in early December, we’ll host our second annual winter solstice party, and we’ll spend lots of time with family and friends locally. We’ll work to emphasize these events — and the people we spend them with — as truly valuable at this time of year.

We don’t really do much about Santa — we’ll go to the parade, but other than that, we think it’s pretty magical to give and receive gifts with the folks you actually know and love. Gifts are a little extra token of our love for each other.

All that said: I do have a Google Drive document going. Not all of these will be under the tree next month, but the list helps me to focus on and keep an idea of what Jasper (who turned two in September) might actually enjoy and use when I hit the craft fairs, stores, and um, websites. And it helps to have a collection of ideas to share with family.

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1. Pajamas — It’s a Christmas (eve) tradition! These blue whales are adorable, but David liked some in an owl print at the Vancouver airport that we might pick up on our next swing through.

2. New Baby Lotto — I’ve been looking at lotto games for a few months, and was thrilled to find this one at Spark, our wonderful local toy store. This game will obviously useful to have on hand this winter as we all transition to welcoming a new babe to our house.

3. Lifecycle of a Monarch set — Love this, a great hands-on application for discussions after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and there are lots of opportunities for extensions like these cards. If you’re local, these are also available and super-affordable at Spark!

4. Wallet Cards — I’ve been eyeing these Montessori-inspired, wallet-sized cards online (and following the mom/company founder’s Instagram) for a while. Now might be the time.

5. Liquid Watercolours — We are big into art around here, and I’m definitely interested in picking up some vibrant watercolours. Christmas is a great time to re-stock the everyday art supplies stash, so these are high on the list.

6. Size and Shape Sorting Board — Sorting, shapes, colours, sizes (okay, so far we’re at “big” and “baby”); these are all big interests of Jasper’s right now. This was one featured in my Montessori toddler training, and I’ve since noticed similar materials around the web (like on Quentin’s shelves!).

7. MagnaTiles — We were recently handed down an old overhead projector, which we’ve re-purposed as a light table, and these MagnaTiles are both magnetic and translucent. What a combination. This Instagram post from @ookukioo convinced me. Available at Spark!

8. ViewThru Geometric Solids — Something else for the light table: see-through, colourful and lightweight geometric solids. A great language & math opportunity. For purists: this set doesn’t exactly mirror the traditional Montessori geometric solids, which is perhaps merciful because you won’t have to work so hard to remember to differentiate between the ovoid and the ellipsoid (or is that just me?).

9. Junior Drum Set — My husband is a musician and Jasper (and his pals) are lucky to have lots of hands on access to real instruments. He likes to drum on the bodrhan and hand-drums we have available now, so David suggested getting him a kid-sized set similar to this one that he’d seen locally. Are we insane? Possibly.

What’s on your list this year? And specifically: any book ideas to share or recommend?

For more holiday ideas, check out these Pinterest boards:
Follow Winter, Advent, Solstice on Pinterest.
Follow Montessori home on Pinterest.

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22-24 months, 24-28 months

Autumn fun — a bumper crop of apple works

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It’s Halloween day, which I’m trying to convince myself does NOT signal the end of autumn, and the start of…that other season. With warnings of wet flurries tonight, it’s been a real challenge.

I thought I’d round up some of the apple and harvest-themed work we’ve been up to over the past month or so, before it’s too late. Apples are a wonderful cold-storage fruit too, so the fun with local apples can continue all winter long.

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Apple Picking

We are really blessed to live in a bit of an apple belt (there’s a local stretch of country roads labelled as “The Apple Route” if themed road trips are your thing), and there are a number of orchards around that are available for picking-your-own. This was our second year going, and it’s becoming a really sweet tradition. It really helps to set the scene early in the season, so that J can grasp where these apples are coming from. It’s also an affordable way of stocking up for all the apple fun to come. Plus, apples grow really low. Like, toddler height, for instance.

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Apple Peeling

We were given an apple peeler last Christmas by an old friend and it has turned out to be one of our most-loved gifts. Jasper is becoming more and more adept at turning the crank, but even as a younger toddler, we’d do it hand-over-hand and he loved to watch the apple turn. He loves to eat the ribbons of apple peel that twist off of the peeler. I can see this becoming an independent work within a year or so.

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Apple Cutting

Our apple peeler also slices the apple into a spiral, which is a great set up for the next work: cutting with a knife and cutting board. When he was younger, we usually used the wavy chopper from Montessori Services, and he’s since moved onto using a small, slightly serrated knife (which is meant to be a cheese knife. Have we talked about cheese knives? They’re toddler-hand-sized and depending on the knife, perfect for either cutting or spreading. Get thee to a thrift store!).

 

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Apple Stamping

Jasper has been loving painting these days — at almost any time of the day. Case in point: today he painted before breakfast. Having the paint and paper available on the art shelf at all times has been really allowing him to pursue this love.

A few days ago, we did some apple stamping. Slice an apple in half (in this case, an apple I found on the counter with two small, browning bites out of it), paint the inside, slam it down. Actually, J eventually found that slamming doesn’t actually transfer paint very well.

And bonus pumpkin action! Pumpkin Washing

This is a variation on the watermelon exploration we did in the summer — carrying, measuring and washing a pumpkin. And hey, sometimes those pumpkins can be a bit muddy straight out the patch, so this practical life work can be really practical.

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Here are a few more apple-themed works from around the web:

How about baking up some tasty apple crisp with your toddler? — from Sixtine et Victoire

Loved this apple pie exploration for a young toddler. — from Welcome to Mommyhood

This genius sensory exploration for even younger toddlers. — from Natural Beach Living

This life cycle of an apple tree project would be nice to combine with an orchard visit.  — from My Montessori Journey

Learning the parts of a fruit. — from The Natural Homeschool

A whole week of apple activities! — from Golden Reflections

Another week of apple fun and a week of pumpkins too! — from Study-at-Home Mama

This idea for an apple-tasting is great for pre-schoolers. — from Natural Beach Living

For older kids: apple tree art — from Hip Homeschool Moms

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Keep your fingers crossed for warm weather for wee trick-or-treaters tonight! Happy Halloween!

P.S. What are your plans for keeping November from getting too wintery?

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