DIY, Family life

The prepared environment: DIY Citrus Cleanser

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As we turn the calendar, pack up the decorations and sweep up the pine needles, this time of year has signaled a period of productive downsizing in our home. It’s the meeting of many needs — to make space, figuratively and literally, for the new baby; to get a handle on the constant flow of stuff; and to start the new year with a fresh sense of purpose and place.

It’s also a great way to prepare the environment, not just for Jasper, but for the whole family. I’m guilty of presenting perfectly tidied shelves for Jasper, while “behind the scenes,” my materials cupboard can get to be such a jumble that I’m afraid to open it too quickly. One of the major differences between a Montessori classroom and a Montessori home is that in the home, many people of many ages and interests may live there. We’ve all got stuff, and we all need to feel at home. How do we balance that with Jasper’s developmental needs? It’s an ongoing process.

One of the things that I really appreciated from my Montessori training this summer was one of the teachers’ emphasis on the use of non-toxic and environmentally-friendly cleaning products made from essential oils. She saw this as a natural part of the prepared environment: one which is safe and welcoming to children — chemically, as well as physically.

It’s in that spirit that I’m sharing this recipe for a great, people- and pet-friendly DIY all-purpose cleaner. It’s based on vinegar, which is an effective disinfectant against salmonella, E.coli and “gram negative” bacteria — a great tool in the kitchen or bathroom. My favourite use is while wiping out a potty, where a sensitive bum might  If you’re hesitant about the smell of vinegar, rest assured the odors evaporate quickly and this cleanser adds a sweeter citrus note into the mix. It also makes use of all those clementine peels this time of year!

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DIY citrus cleanser in three easy steps:

1. Peel clementines, lemons, or whatever other citrus you’re using at this, the peak of citrus season (in the Northern Hemisphere). Keep peels in a mason jar.

2. When the mason jar is full of peels, pour white vinegar over, to cover them. Put on a lid on the mason jar. Leave it alone or shake it occassionally. Whichever suits you best. You really can’t mess this up.

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3. 2 or more weeks later, strain out the peels, funnel the citrus-powered vinegar into a spray bottle and fill to the top with water. Shake it up. Spritz it on.

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PS. This cleanser is also great because it’s safe for child-led cleaning — just this morning, a ride-on toy was getting “detailed” with this kid-friendly spray.

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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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Family life, Links

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If you follow me on Instagram (@meghansheffield), you’ll have already been subjected to some gushing about what a magical weekend we’ve just had. With the spring weather finally here, we’re spending every spare moment outdoors, in the garden, at family barbecues or taking part in community events.

It’s a wonderful time of year, but sitting down at the computer to blog isn’t top of mind. It’s my hope that you’re willing to drift along with the seasonal ebb and flow as well.  Here are a few of my most recent online discoveries, squeezed in between birthday parties and rounds of croquet.

I was thrilled to discover this beautiful stop-motion film made by a mother who followed her son to Montessori school and proceeded to take thousands of photos of his morning, without ever prompting, directing or interrupting him. Also, it’s a Canadian video, so shout-out to Dundas Valley Montessori School who seem to be doing wonderful work.

From Sapling House, this simple and beautiful colour-matching work for toddlers (those who are beyond the “everything in my mouth” stage).

My friend Leisse is a Montessori-trained parent educator, a mother of three kids — three and under — and also manages to be hilarious, whip smart and pulled together with style. A recent post on her blog Eat Play Love about skipping dinner-time battles with respect for her kids is a typical mix of humour and practical advice.

A Montessori morning and an afternoon of croquet

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