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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4-6 months, 6-8 months, Books, Under 1 year

A Montessori shelf for baby

Montessori baby shelf collageDo a Pinterest search for “Montessori at home” and one thing you’re likely to see repeated in nearly all of the images are shelves. Open access shelving is beloved by Montessorians everywhere because it facilitates some key in the young child’s life like freedom of choice (the options are on view), independence (everything can be easily reached, even by the youngest child), and a sense of order (everything has its place on the shelf). It’s also a way to limit options and avoid overwhelming a child with too much stimulus — fewer items can be displayed brightly on a shelf than can be jammed into a toybox.

Up till this point, Sage has been pretty happy to look at mobiles, look out the big glass doors, or to engage with simple materials handed to her where she was.

When Sage started to really move earlier this month, she made it clear that she was ready to access shelves. Jasper graciously gave up a lower shelf in the main hangout room in our home, and she’s given up reaching for his beloved farm animals. Win-win.

When choosing materials, at any age, I always try to understand what the child’s body and mind are working on right now. (Editorial aside: these things really are a need! Children come with an amazing inner drive to work at their current developmental stage. Have you ever tried to fly on an airplane with a baby who’s just learned to walk or crawl?) From about six months on, the baby is really beginning to notice the world beyond mama; she needs to move and to explore.

This week, at very nearly 7 months, I have a few simple things on view, on a floor level shelf below the one where we keep our nature treasures (pictured above). Currently these are the bottom level of a larger set of shelves that also holds materials for grown ups — records and books and our stereo system.

Sage’s shelf is a beacon that draws her in and encourages her to move towards it.

The wooden spoons are safe, fun and interesting to explore. My husband is a musician, and music-making is a daily part of our family life. Across the same room are two shelves of kid-friendly, accessible instruments, mostly percussion. The spoons are Sage’s intro to playing with sound.

The knit ball rolls slowly when she drops it, and it becomes a slow-motion chase around the room.

“Little You,” by Richard Van Camp, and illustrated by Julie Flett (Canadians!), is a beautiful book with great images. Sage can manipulate the board book pages or we can look through it and read it together. The text is peaceful and loving, and a balm for a weary mama.

The little basket is one of my favourites. Six inches long, with two tiny handles at the edges, it’s the perfect first “tray” for a baby. It’s being used as an exploration or treasure basket, filled with interesting things to look at, grasp, and move. A mirrored ring, a long reflective ribbon, a wooden teething heart.

For more on baby shelves, check out this post from Montessori Mischief, and this one from Nduoma which celebrates one of the best gross motor development materials. What’s on your shelves these days (no matter your childs age)?

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0-2 months, Family life, Under 1 year

Learning to love cloth diapers

Learning to love cloth diapers

Get this: not only do I find myself loving cloth diapers, I am loving changing diapers. And no, I don’t think I’m any crazier than your average mom of an infant and a toddler (which, okay…).

Cloth diapers have a whole lot of good going for them: they’re a more environmentally-friendly waste-solution, they don’t mask wetness and they are associated with more effective toilet learning. But lots of people have cloth diaper fears that mainly boil down to this: it’s too much icky work. I figured out pretty quickly that it’s not actually that much extra effort — diaper changes are just as quick, and people with kids do lots of laundry anyway. No problem.

Flashback two years, however, and you’d find me avoiding the cloth diapers piling up in a corner of my baby’s room, lonely and unused. I wanted to use them, I’d make efforts to use them, and somehow I’d find myself buying, using and throwing out disposable diapers.

I felt overwhelmed. We’d moved shortly after Jasper was born and were still in the process of setting up a home. I tried keeping diaper supplies on both floors of the house, and eventually settled on a changing him on the floor of his bedroom, a location that didn’t work for either my husband or my mom (and therefore, didn’t work). It all just seemed like a lot to manage, one more thing to worry about. Where are the covers? Where are the clean diapers? Why are there so many clean diapers piling up? Do we have wipes? Where are the wipes? Does the diaper pail stink? And on, and on. The pack of Pampers seemed like an easy way out. 

This time around, I promised myself it would be different. And it has been.  Changing diapers has an element of fun to it — choosing a colour, fastening the snaps (weak, I know, but I promise, there is not even that much joy in disposables). It’s a time to spend making eye-contact with my babe, talk through what we’re doing and giving her my full attention. 

So what’s the difference? Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the wonders of the prepared environment.

I got it together by getting a changing station together. Absurdly simple, but amazingly effective. It’s got it all: a soft place for baby girl, a stack of clean diapers & a basket of covers, and another basket holding diaper liners, wipes and cream. And we really use it. It’s the only place in the home that we change Sage’s diaper, and the environment there is becoming a signal to her, so that she knows what to expect. I have no questions, and neither does she. We’re loving it.

For more on the joy of diaper changes, check out this great post from Janet Lansbury. 

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18 months, Under 1 year

Looking back at Jasper’s room

Montessori floor bed

Now that Jasper is 18 months old, I’ve been doing some thinking about some changes that need to happen to make spaces around our house useful and welcoming for him. We recently made another trip to Ikea, something that seems to be required every six months or so to update for the next phase (using Ikea for Montessori in the home is its own post). When you focus on following your child, it’s not only the kid that changes, it’s everything else too.

It seems like there are simple modifications to be made all around the house: a step stool placed in front of the “big potty” (we currently use a Baby Bjorn potty & lift Jasper up to the toilet when he asks); swapping out the books from the top of Jasper’s book case — he can now reach the top shelf — with other materials, and instead keeping just few books in the open vintage suitcase next to his bed; placing a step stool below the light switch (or investing in a Kidswitch).

And one of the very best additions to our daily life has been a Learning Tower. After living with one for a week, I don’t know how we’d live without it. (It’s so amazing, in so many ways, that we have to give the Learning Tower it’s own special blog post too.)

As I think about what’s to come, I find myself looking back. Last summer, while our friend Selena was here for a visit with her family, she asked us about Jasper’s bedroom, and shared about it on the Disney Baby blog. The thing I love about Selena is that I didn’t even bother to go upstairs with her — I knew she’d make us look good. A true friend is one who’ll move the diaper pail before she takes a photo.

It was a fun process, and we discovered a few things along the way: one, that we had included more Disney than we’d  ever imagined or intended, and two, just how much love and history was involved int he making of our babe’s space.

He’s grown so much since then, I’ve learned so much since then, and his space is changing too. His room is already very, very different than it was when Selena captured it. Have a look to see Jasper’s bedroom as it was when he was just 9 months old.

How has your home grown with your child? What are your must-haves for doing Montessori at home?

 

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