Casa, DIY, Family life, Nature, Practical Life, Preschool

DIY: wax-dipped autumn leaves

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Have I mentioned how much I love autumn? Even with the high spirits of Halloween behind us and the disturbingly eager holiday retail machine kicking into gear, I’m determined to stay present with the season as long as possible. Particularly since otherwise, November can seem like one long grey wait for better days.

23158082_10102016913446891_704227450_oAs the night time wild winds blow, the kids and I seem to collect beautiful and colourful leaves spotted on our travels each morning, adding to our collection daily. Some get put on the nature tray by the back door, some founder on the floor of the back seat, some crumble out of pockets in the laundry.

But a chosen few are dipped into sweet-smelling wax, saved, and hung up to bring the glory of the outdoors into our home. Because it involves using some caution around warm beeswax, this is a great activity for ages three and up, depending on the child. (If your kids are anything like mine, that added element of manageable risk makes leaf-dipping extra appealing!)

It’s simple really.

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What you need: 

A bunch of beautiful leaves

Beeswax, grated

A double-boiler or some other method for heating the wax

A length of string or yarn

A hole punch (optional)

How to do it: 

  1. Gather up your leaves and grate up your beeswax into the top of your double-boiler. Start water boiling on the stove. Note: I have a metal bowl and grater that are used exclusively for beeswax, because it can be tricky to clean up once it hardens, and you don’t want any melted wax going down the kitchen drain.
  2. Lay out some paper to catch any wax drips and some parchment for your wax-wet leaves to dry on.
  3. Heat the beeswax on top of boiling water until just melted. Once it’s melted, you can either bring the bowl of wax over to your leaves, or bring your leaves right to the stove — whichever is safer.
  4. Hold each leaf by the stem, and dip it into the melted wax, being sure to cover the whole surface of the leaf, front and back, with a thin layer of wax. Set it onto the parchment to cool.
  5. When your leaf is cool and dry to the touch, and flexes without cracking the wax, it’s ready to prep for hanging up. Have your little one punch a hole in each leaf, and thread through with a string.
  6. Hang up your sweet nature bunting, and take in the autumn splendour!
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0-2 months, 2-4 months, 4-6 months, 6-12 months, Montessori philosophy

Put your baby on the floor. Like, a lot.


Montessori movement area
If I were to travel back in time to when Jasper was a wee baby, I might just give myself a seemingly crazy piece of advice. “Put your baby on the floor.”

He’s a September baby, and I have these memories of that first winter spent sitting there holding my baby. If he was awake, I was sitting there holding him, wondering what to do next. If I needed to do something that required the use of my arms, there was a stressful moment of tension as I tried to figure out “what to do” with him. I knew I didn’t want to rely on devices like the swing. But it never really occurred to me to put him on the floor unless he was having what I thought of as “floor-” or “tummy-” time. Ahh the little compartments we make of life…

With Sage, I still make sure to spend plenty of time holding, cuddling and carrying her while she’s so sweet and small. But I also give her plenty of time and space to explore and get to know her body and how it moves.

This work is best done on the floor. Here’s why:

  • her view is unobstructed. No crib bars, no pack and play mesh. Just a wide open view of the room and everyone in it.
  • she is free to move. With a lots of space to move, she does.
  • it doesn’t require putting baby into any position that she can’t get herself into or out of. It doesn’t give her an unnatural sense of her own capabilities. It doesn’t prop her up to sit before she can get there herself, it doesn’t dangle her into a false standing position. She is simply on her back until she rolls on to her tummy. She is reaching and stretching and eventually moving.

In the Montessori world, the environment for this kind of “floor-time” is called a movement area. A movement area might look something like this:

The key ingredient is lots of comfortable space. There will be a mat, a blanket, or something soft but supportive for baby to be on.  A few yoga mats side-by-side can work. I’ve found quilts are better for movement than other types of blankets (they lie flat while being crawled and squirmed on!).

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There may be a mobile suspended above a young baby to look at, or a bell, ring, rattle or grasping toy for babies who are ready to use their hands. At five months, Sage is rolling and creeping to move around, and I sometimes place an object (a skwish, or a open book with beautiful images) just out of reach for her to stretch towards.

Traditionally in the Montessori method, there is a wall mirror from the very beginning, which draws baby’s attention and allows her to watch her own body move. Our family chooses to incorporate the mirror later.

Montessori floor time and movement area

As baby begins to be able to move, there is a low shelf or basket offering a few objects to explore.

Also: if you start to worry about your babe, or feel he is not getting enough people time, or that she’s all alone on a big empty floor — hang out with your baby! Sit on the floor. Talk to your baby. Pick her up for a cuddle. Do some made-up yoga poses to stretch out that breastfeeding back. Sit with him lying between your legs. Read a novel while she rolls around. Talk some more.

It’s all about living life together, while giving your baby space and time to move freely. That’s it.

For more inspiring movement area images, check out this comprehensive post from Nduoma and this great round up post from How We Montessori.

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Family life, Montessori philosophy

Designing Spaces for Montessori Children

designing-spacesAs the time of our baby’s birth rapidly approaches —I’m at 39 weeks now — I’ve got our home on my mind. Whether it’s nesting or necessity (how to find space for a new babe without making two-and-a-half year old big brother feel out of place?), clearing out the corners and figuring out new configurations is taking up a lot of our family’s time and energy right now.

With all the bustle around here, I’m thrilled to be taking part in a new e-course that starts up this week. Simone Davies, who runs parent-child classes and playgroups at Jacaranda Tree Montessori in Amsterdam, has brought her knowledge and experience to the global scene with The Montessori Notebook, with the aim of helping parents bring Montessori ideas into their family’s daily lives.

Designing Space for Montessori Children is the first e-course from The Montessori Notebook, and I’m thrilled to get on board. I’m looking forward to being refreshed and inspired, and to re-prioritizing our home to meet the needs of everyone — especially as three become four.

If you can’t join this e-course, I highly recommend signing up to receive Simone’s excellent monthly e-newsletter. It’s a gem, and it’ll be a great way to keep tabs on upcoming courses (like the free Intro to Montessori course promised for later this year).

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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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