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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18-21 months, Family life, Montessori philosophy, Practical Life

Practical life in the garden

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In the Montessori method, activities that are carried on as part of daily life in the home are referred to as  “practical life.” Practical life work should be just that: practical. Useful, meaningful work that really makes a difference in the environment or for the family.

For parents of toddlers, it can sometimes be difficult. Zipping up one’s own jacket is useful and meaningful, but it sure can be inconvenient to do it on toddler time when you’re already late for an appointment. That one moment of haste can turn into a big ripple-effect power struggle for the rest of the morning. I fully admit it: it happens. But when there is time (and there’s often more than I think), say on a sunny Sunday morning, I try to use it to really engage with my little guy and give him the time and space he needs to develop confidence and independence in all the many activities we do through our days.

This weekend Jasper and I did some practical life work together in our garden, as we added compost to the straw bale cold frame in one of our raised beds, where we’ll soon have baby spinach and kale popping up like crazy. That is, as soon as the snow stops falling long enough to plant the seeds.

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Helping in the garden is a wonderful way to participate in the rhythm of the home. It allows Jasper to engage with the season, learn about the natural life cycles of plants and other garden-dwellers, and to contribute food to our table. A practical life activity such as preparing a snack can actually begin weeks and months ahead of time, with the planting of a few seeds.

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Our Sunday morning garden work included: scooping using different implements, pouring, transferring, and carrying a bucket. With lots of repetition! I loved watching Jasper watch the compost slide through the holes in the bottom of this little pot.

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It was work that needed to be done, and I truly appreciated the help.

How does your child participate in the practical life of the home?

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