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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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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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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18 months, DIY

DIY Animal Matching Card Set

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This week I worked on a fun project to add another dimension to one of Jasper’s favourite materials — the Schleich forest animals.

Around the web I’d seen photos of toddlers matching each lovely, realistic model animal to a lovely, realistic image on a card. I’ve even seen something similar for sale in the lovely How We Montessori shop, which features three sets of cards: one with a photo of the plastic animal, one with the animal in its natural setting, and one with only a silhouette. If you’re closer to Australia than I am, go for it!

Since I am sadly still in the throes of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, I made my own. I used images of the animal in a setting, but tried to replicate the position of the Schleich animal (i.e. the adult wolf is howling).

This material provides some wonderful opportunities for learning.

Here’s how I did it:

First I downloaded some good-looking wildlife photos found online, and made a little collage out of them using a photo editor. Collaging isn’t neccessary, but it sure cuts down on wasted paper. I printed the pages in landscape mode.

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Then I cut simply cut along the lines, and pasted the images onto some stiffer card stock (in the interest of saving even more paper, I used old file folders we had around).

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Next, I cut out the images, leaving a small border of cardstock around the edge.

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Then I had the cards laminated. You can do this at home, either using laminate sheets or a machine, but I had mine done at Staples and it cost $8 and was zero stress. It’s not totally necessary to have your cards laminated, but it will infinitely extend their lifespan. Don’t forget: toddlers!

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There you have it! Your very own homemade-but-still-totally-awesome animal cards. In the photo below, you can see them in action, complete with authentic incorrect raccoon kit placement!

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Edited to add: Beth, from Our Montessori Life, has left a wonderfully detailed explanation of how to present the animals and cards. I highly recommend checking out the comments below, and adding your own voice to the conversation!

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