Casa, DIY, Family life, Nature, Practical Life, Preschool

DIY: wax-dipped autumn leaves

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Have I mentioned how much I love autumn? Even with the high spirits of Halloween behind us and the disturbingly eager holiday retail machine kicking into gear, I’m determined to stay present with the season as long as possible. Particularly since otherwise, November can seem like one long grey wait for better days.

23158082_10102016913446891_704227450_oAs the night time wild winds blow, the kids and I seem to collect beautiful and colourful leaves spotted on our travels each morning, adding to our collection daily. Some get put on the nature tray by the back door, some founder on the floor of the back seat, some crumble out of pockets in the laundry.

But a chosen few are dipped into sweet-smelling wax, saved, and hung up to bring the glory of the outdoors into our home. Because it involves using some caution around warm beeswax, this is a great activity for ages three and up, depending on the child. (If your kids are anything like mine, that added element of manageable risk makes leaf-dipping extra appealing!)

It’s simple really.

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What you need: 

A bunch of beautiful leaves

Beeswax, grated

A double-boiler or some other method for heating the wax

A length of string or yarn

A hole punch (optional)

How to do it: 

  1. Gather up your leaves and grate up your beeswax into the top of your double-boiler. Start water boiling on the stove. Note: I have a metal bowl and grater that are used exclusively for beeswax, because it can be tricky to clean up once it hardens, and you don’t want any melted wax going down the kitchen drain.
  2. Lay out some paper to catch any wax drips and some parchment for your wax-wet leaves to dry on.
  3. Heat the beeswax on top of boiling water until just melted. Once it’s melted, you can either bring the bowl of wax over to your leaves, or bring your leaves right to the stove — whichever is safer.
  4. Hold each leaf by the stem, and dip it into the melted wax, being sure to cover the whole surface of the leaf, front and back, with a thin layer of wax. Set it onto the parchment to cool.
  5. When your leaf is cool and dry to the touch, and flexes without cracking the wax, it’s ready to prep for hanging up. Have your little one punch a hole in each leaf, and thread through with a string.
  6. Hang up your sweet nature bunting, and take in the autumn splendour!
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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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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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22-24 months, Books, Family life, Nature, Practical Life

Planting a Rainbow — then arranging it

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert & Flower Arranging Toddler Montessori Work

A few months ago, I posted about one of Jasper’s favourite books, and I’d like to try to do that more often, both as memory device for myself and as a resource for others. I often take lists from other bloggers to the library – it’s a great way to sift through the mountain of material and find the really good stuff.

These days as the sun sets and the tub drains, Jasper’s been choosing Lois Ehlert’s “Planting A Rainbow” over and over again.

It’s an over-sized board book (the publishers call it “lap size”), with big, beautiful pictures, a fun series of flaps in the centre and a great story about a flower garden. The story travels through each season, making it appropriate year-round, but I think part of its magic on these humid, July days is the way it reflects the rainbow-filled jungle growing just outside our door.

One of my favourite things about it is the language — it’s rich, realistic and detailed. For that child hungry to know the name of everything, there is a fun list of flower’s names on every page, from aster to zinnia.

This gorgeous book also inspires some wonderful practical life work: flower arranging — a quiet and beautiful toddler activity.

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Above is the work as it is presented in a toddler classroom (age 14 months to 3 years) at Bannockburn School, progressing from right to left from putting on the apron to choosing a doily from the basket to place under the finished arrangement. (I should note, because you’ll likely notice: there aren’t any flowers — when class is in session, a bud or two would be in water in the blueish vessel in the white bucket).

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And here is the tray presented in a home setting. At 7:30AM, moments after Jasper brought a spray of fleabane inside, with a quick photo taken midway through on an iPhone.

 
P.S. I also love this more involved work inspired by the same book: planting a rainbow of spring bulbs!

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22-24 months, DIY, Family life, Montessori philosophy, Practical Life, Uncategorized

Backyard Montessori: Watermelon!

watermelonFor the minimalists, the budget-savvy, the purists: this is the Montessori work for you.

This isn’t meant to be a “how-to” recipe to follow — just an example of how an afternoon can be filled with slow and simple experiments and exploration. Simple exploration of the world is an important part of Montessori practice for very young children, and you can do it any time, with any thing, with no cash outlay at all.

Nothing says summer like watermelon, and nobody loves watermelon more than a toddler, which lead us to an afternoon spent with a watermelon.

watermelon_sinkWashing! First, we carried the watermelon up the stairs, into the house, onto the Learning Tower and up into the sink. Actually, first we carried it to his toddler-sized kitchen sink, but the watermelon was too big, so we washed it in the adult-sized kitchen sink — exploration and experimentation! We took turns walking slowly and holding the watermelon with both hands. Next time, I might get a slightly smaller and lighter watermelon that Jasper could more easily carry.

watermelon_dryDrying! Then we carried the wet watermelon over to his table (because toddlers are in the sensitive period for movement, it’s important to give them lots of opportunities to move — something that occasionally runs counter to our adult tendency to set everything up for convenience and fewer steps). Then Jasper dried the watermelon with a towel. We looked at the water droplets and he tried to get each water drop onto the towel, one by one.

Slicing! Then I brought the knife and the cutting board over, and cut most of the way through the watermelon, so that it was still whole, just with a slice through. Jasper pulled the water melon halves apart and we spent some time putting them back together and taking them apart again. One part. Two parts.

watermelon_ballSpooning! We then each had a half a watermelon and a tool — I had a measuring spoon and Jasper had a melon-baller, and we sat for some time, each quietly spooning melon into a bowl. The quiet was largely due to the fact that Jasper was chewing. One ball for the bowl, one for him.

Jasper using a Melon-Baller  – excuse the iPhone video quality!

And beyond! From there we tossed some of our watermelon into the blender along with some mint and lime basil from the garden for some simple and juicy popsicles. The next day, we attempted this work, created by my friend Talin for a presentation during our training a few weeks back:

watermelon_talin Mashing, spooning, drinking. A delicious agua fresca.

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What are you exploring this summer?

P.S. We spent our watermelon time indoors on a rainy day, but it would be way more fun with a backyard hose and picnic table, so I’m throwing it into my Backyard Montessori series.

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22-24 months, DIY, Family life, Practical Life

Backyard Montessori: five simple summer activities

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I’ve just finished two intense and inspiring weeks of learning at Montessori Teacher’s College, and after all the commuting and the classwork, I find myself celebrating the end of school like a little kid. Sing it with me now: “School’s out for summer…”

Our little family took a mini-vacation this weekend to a secluded island paradise (of the Canadian Great Lakes variety) and now that we’re home, we’re kicking back and relaxing with mornings at the coffee shop and afternoons in the backyard. It’s a good life.

Our summer days are filled with relaxed sunny day activities, with lots of spilled water along the way. I’m kind of inspired by this hilarious post on how to give your kids a 1970s-esque summer experience, but I want to create an environment that helps to foster Jasper’s independence, creativity and concentration. The Montessori twist on a lot of these backyard classics is to include the child in the process — every step of the way. Get things organized during nap time, but don’t finish the job.

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1. Homemade bubbles. As my friend Selena puts it: “Toddler crack: stickers & bubbles.” Jasper is really into blowing bubbles these days, but the bottles are just as often accidentally knocked over and poured out. Not wanting to break the bank on our bubble stash, I used this simple recipe:

1 cup Dawn dishsoap
12 cups water
3/4 tbsp glycerine

Gently stir all three ingredients, and leave them to rest in an open container overnight.

These bubbles work so much better when given the time to sit after mixing the ingredients, so this may be the perfect opportunity to introduce some delayed gratification. If that’s not going to work, go ahead and make the bubble solution ahead of time.

2. Backyard car wash. There’s no reason to keep practical life activities indoors — get outside, pump some jams, and get the suds happening. We washed the Cozy Coupe (photo at the top of this post), but haul out the balance bike or the baby dolls, or whatever your child’s interested in.

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3. Homemade popsicles. Jasper tasted his first popsicle earlier this summer and he didn’t mind a bit that it was only pure fruit, herbs and water, with no added sugar at all. We’ve since made blueberry smoothie pops and I’m looking forward to tackling Selena’s toddler-made paleo pudding pops next. Toddlers can peel fruit, pour ingredients into a blender, and push the “blend” button. If you pour the blended ingredients into a smaller pitcher, your child can pour it into the mould too (well, they can aim in the general direction of the mould. Have some clean cloths on hand!).

4. Painting with water. Summer is all about simplicity, and it doesn’t get simpler than this: a bucket, a paintbrush and water. I found this idea in Child’s Play by Maja Pitamic, a book full of fun ideas for toddlers.  Paint the rocks, paint the tree trunk, paint the picnic table, and watch the colours change, watch the water evaporate. You really wouldn’t believe how much time Jasper can spend “painting” around the yard. This is a great work to have accessible and available on outdoor shelves.

5. Picnic. A classic. Get your toddler spreading that peanut butter, pouring that lemonade and packing up the dishes. It’s summer time, the sun is shining and it’s a Tuesday at lunch time. Isn’t that worth celebrating?

 

 

 

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18-21 months, Practical Life

Practical life: pitting cherries

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It’s June, and it’s cherry season. Cherries are within the category of produce which I buy only in season; and now is their time.

Last night in the midst of the usual heat, hunger and confusion of the hour-before-supper, I quickly set up an easy practical life activity for Jasper to work on at the kitchen counter while whirled around making pizza dough and chopping topping ingredients (we usually have pizza on Friday nights, but it was just that kind of a Monday). This wonderful cherry-pitter is from For Small Hands, an online/catalogue Montessori-supplies retailer for families.

The presentation was simple — and, in the insanity of the w̶i̶t̶c̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶ pre-dinner hour, necessarily so. A bowl of cherries, a bowl for pitted cherries, and a little dish for stems (the pits are caught in the bottom of the cherry-pitter). One quick presentation, he was off to the races and dessert was taken care of.

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Jasper is a big time olive-lover, and this pitter works well for olives too. Save the preserved foods for colder weather, though. For now: it’s all cherries, all the time.

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