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

Backyard Montessori: five simple summer activities

carwash

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.

backyard Montessori

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.

 popsicle

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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Family life, Nature

Getting back to nature

Image“Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
— Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

It’s the eve of the first day of May (Uno de Mayo?) and here in our neck of the woods, it feels like the weather’s about a month behind schedule: wind, torrential rain and chilly temperatures.

Despite all that, our family is taking on a challenge. The 30×30 Nature Challenge to be specific!

30 minutes in nature for 30 days in a row, throughout the month of May. We’re joining thousands of other Canadians in committing to getting outside. Research (and our own experience) tells us that doing so will make us happier, healthier and less stressed.

For some time now, I’ve set an intention to get outside with Jasper everyday, no matter the weather. And usually, we do. But it’s amazing how often that precious little time gets squeezed out of our day — over-scheduling, weather-shy parents (Jasper is an all-weather backyard enthusiast). It’s truly amazing to me how often we spend more time in the car than we do with grass beneath our feet. For us, the 30×30 challenge is a chance to reset and realign ourselves with the natural world.

I highly recommend jumping over to the Suzuki Foundation website to learn more about the challenge and the benefits of spending time in nature. Consider joining us (and many others) on this journey to connect with the world outside these four walls.

And pray for sun.

The photo above is from May 1, 2013, when the little guy was but a wee mite and the sun shone and the flowers bloomed.

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18-21 months, Uncategorized

Blossoming independence

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Spring is a time of awakening — both outside and inside of our home.

With a long and especially harsh winter behind us, we’ve been happily casting off the trappings of winter and embracing the blooms of spring.

No longer stuffed into snowsuits with full-body zippers and snaps and Velcro at every potential source of wind, Jasper is free to experiment with putting his light jacket on and off, and zipping up and down. We’re into prime rubber boot weather here, and they make the perfect introduction to independent shoe-wearing. J can find his boots, put them on, take them off, and return them to their home all on his own. He’s taken to exploring all other forms of footwear we have around and is now an avid Velcro-ripper.

Towards the end of winter, Jasper had begun to make his first forays into the backyard alone. We have a medium-sized fenced yard in a small town, and a sliding glass door from the house which allows for some occasional surreptitious supervision. It’s a great opportunity for us both to develop some independence! With the ice and deep snow gone from the yard, he’s more confident than ever, journeying to the furthest corners of the fences and climbing the ladder to the slide. Following the child these days often means 7 AM visits to the bird feeder. When I go out to the yard to work in the garden, he comes with me, and we’ll each do our work-play separately, but together. And, occasionally we’ll join each other for a little while.

Jasper reached 18 months back in March, and I feel now that I have a first-hand understanding why so many Montessori toddler programs begin at 18 months. It’s like a switch has been flipped, and he’s entered a whole new realm of illumination. Or maybe I should say we have, because as he grows, so do I.

Have you noticed certain seasons or ages or phases when your child suddenly seemed to developmentally leap forward? I’m curious to know what I should look out for in the future.

P.S. While writing this post, the doorbell rang and a package from Montessori Services was delivered, so you may expect some fresh indoor practical life content coming soon!

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