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!

FullSizeRender (3).jpg

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).

fullsizerender-1

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.

 

Advertisements
Standard
4-6 months, Family life, Travel

Wee road warriors

Summer road trip tips

This morning I received an email alert about a spammy comment left on this site that began by saying “I see you need some fresh posts.” Touché, spam. If you’re ever left feeling a similar need for some fresh Milkweed, please join me on Instagram, where I update far more frequently (and where there is a whole community of Montessori-minded parents).

Speaking of fresh, about 24 hours ago we rolled in from our old-fashioned family road trip, during which we camped our way to the East Coast of Canada and back. The trip was full of natural beauty, family giggles, noisy singalongs and highway-side potty stops. Some sweet memories were made, and some great lessons were learned along the way. If you’re heading out on a summer road trip before the season ends, here’s a bit of what we gleaned on the open road.

Going off road. At four months and nearly three years old, our kids were amazing passengers (so perhaps tip #1 is “get lucky”?). We tried to drive as comfortably as possible — with snacks on hand, with full bellies, with frequent washroom stops, and for some of us, with a stuffed baby otter in hand. Whatever works. We had a policy of stopping any time the kids needed to, and it turned out they didn’t actually need to stop as often as we’d expected. We only stopped at a fast food restaurant once over 3000 kms and nearly two weeks. The rest of the time, we kept an eye out for farm markets, playgrounds, beaches and riverside parks (or, pictured above, a riverside farm market with playground and tractor to climb on. Thank you, rural New Brunswick). Getting a bit of space, and giving Jasper opportunities to really move his body kept everyone happy.

Staying on the road. The only way to cover a lot of miles is to just keep going. Although we stopped without a second thought when we needed to, we also tried to keep on moving when we could. We tried to keep an eye on the gas tank and the gas prices (the GasBuddy app was handy) during stops, so that we wouldn’t have to stop again unneccesarily. Keeping snacks on hand, within reach, could help to hold off lunch a little longer if we were making good time or wanted to make it to a particular destination.

Be here now. I’d packed an assortment of activities for Jasper — some were left overs from flights we’ve taken, like an etch-a-sketch book, a button snake, and some felt work; a homemade colouring binder; his sticker collection and book. Unfortunately, it seemed obvious pretty early on that Jasper gets some motion sickness, feeling nauseous when he spent time looking at his work instead of out the window. So, most of the trip, he looked out the window. Rather than the sort of educational entertainment I’d planned on, he was engaging with the real world — which was also the real reason we were on the trip. It meant he often needed more of my attention, but playing “I Spy” is as good a way to get through the hill and highways of New Brunswick as any. Looking out the window lead to conversations about naming construction and farm machinery, coming to recognize provincial flags, and speculating about the weather.

Listen up. The car stereo is everybody’s friend. It distracts from the squeak of the windshield wipers, it closes out conversation for a few minutes, it passes the time. We stocked up on audio books from the library and David grabbed a few favourite cds on the way out the door, and we were ready to roll. We took turns choosing what to listen to, and Jasper was usually willing to wait out a grown-up choice before getting back to “Macaroni and Cheese!” (aka Andrew Queen‘s great food-themed children’s album, Grow). Quick audio book review: Olivia and Frog and Toad were both pleasant listens, The Moffats is a family favourite, while Paddington Bear didn’t make it past the first few minutes.

As we settle in, do the laundry and return to life at home, I’m thrilled to know that our time on the road was successful not only in getting us to our destination, but in bringing our family together to meet a challenge, and creating truly lasting memories all along the way.

What are you up to this summer? What will your memories of summer ’15 be? If you have any road trip tips in your back pocket, let me know! 

Standard
DIY, Family life

The prepared environment: DIY Citrus Cleanser

IMG_0518

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!

citrus cleanser

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.

IMG_0506

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.

IMG_0548

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.

Standard
22-24 months, 24-28 months

Autumn fun — a bumper crop of apple works

apple face

It’s Halloween day, which I’m trying to convince myself does NOT signal the end of autumn, and the start of…that other season. With warnings of wet flurries tonight, it’s been a real challenge.

I thought I’d round up some of the apple and harvest-themed work we’ve been up to over the past month or so, before it’s too late. Apples are a wonderful cold-storage fruit too, so the fun with local apples can continue all winter long.

apple picking

Apple Picking

We are really blessed to live in a bit of an apple belt (there’s a local stretch of country roads labelled as “The Apple Route” if themed road trips are your thing), and there are a number of orchards around that are available for picking-your-own. This was our second year going, and it’s becoming a really sweet tradition. It really helps to set the scene early in the season, so that J can grasp where these apples are coming from. It’s also an affordable way of stocking up for all the apple fun to come. Plus, apples grow really low. Like, toddler height, for instance.

apple peeling

Apple Peeling

We were given an apple peeler last Christmas by an old friend and it has turned out to be one of our most-loved gifts. Jasper is becoming more and more adept at turning the crank, but even as a younger toddler, we’d do it hand-over-hand and he loved to watch the apple turn. He loves to eat the ribbons of apple peel that twist off of the peeler. I can see this becoming an independent work within a year or so.

apple cutting wavyapple slicing

Apple Cutting

Our apple peeler also slices the apple into a spiral, which is a great set up for the next work: cutting with a knife and cutting board. When he was younger, we usually used the wavy chopper from Montessori Services, and he’s since moved onto using a small, slightly serrated knife (which is meant to be a cheese knife. Have we talked about cheese knives? They’re toddler-hand-sized and depending on the knife, perfect for either cutting or spreading. Get thee to a thrift store!).

 

apple stamping

Apple Stamping

Jasper has been loving painting these days — at almost any time of the day. Case in point: today he painted before breakfast. Having the paint and paper available on the art shelf at all times has been really allowing him to pursue this love.

A few days ago, we did some apple stamping. Slice an apple in half (in this case, an apple I found on the counter with two small, browning bites out of it), paint the inside, slam it down. Actually, J eventually found that slamming doesn’t actually transfer paint very well.

And bonus pumpkin action! Pumpkin Washing

This is a variation on the watermelon exploration we did in the summer — carrying, measuring and washing a pumpkin. And hey, sometimes those pumpkins can be a bit muddy straight out the patch, so this practical life work can be really practical.

pumpkin washing

Here are a few more apple-themed works from around the web:

How about baking up some tasty apple crisp with your toddler? — from Sixtine et Victoire

Loved this apple pie exploration for a young toddler. — from Welcome to Mommyhood

This genius sensory exploration for even younger toddlers. — from Natural Beach Living

This life cycle of an apple tree project would be nice to combine with an orchard visit.  — from My Montessori Journey

Learning the parts of a fruit. — from The Natural Homeschool

A whole week of apple activities! — from Golden Reflections

Another week of apple fun and a week of pumpkins too! — from Study-at-Home Mama

This idea for an apple-tasting is great for pre-schoolers. — from Natural Beach Living

For older kids: apple tree art — from Hip Homeschool Moms

pumpkin carving

Keep your fingers crossed for warm weather for wee trick-or-treaters tonight! Happy Halloween!

P.S. What are your plans for keeping November from getting too wintery?

Standard
22-24 months, DIY, Family life, Montessori philosophy

Flying with a toddler — Montessori style!

Montessori travel with toddlers

Later this week, Jasper and I are flying across the better part of the continent. It won’t be his first flight — that was back in December — but his awareness has changed so much over the past eight months that this will be a completely new experience for him.

In June, we took his dad to the airport for a business trip, and for the following week, Jasper noticed every plane that flew overhead and eagerly asked “Dad? Dad?” He loves the airport page in his “A Big City ABC” book. He loves to play with his Green Toys airplane.

But I’d be kidding myself if I thought any of this could guarantee a peaceful four-hour flight on mama’s lap.Montessori plane travel with toddlers

I appreciate the Montessori idea that instead of just asking a child to “keep still,” we should offer activities to busy their hands — which then keeps the rest of their bodies still and focused! With that in mind, I’ve been stocking up on beautiful, realistic stickers, have packed up our nesting boxes and lacing beads and am thrilled to have found a Melissa and Doug “paint with water” activity that has kept Jasper thoroughly engrossed on a few recent long car rides. I’ve even (gasp) downloaded a Bob the Builder episode onto my iPad.

But I’m not interested in just keeping J distracted during our trip. I want him to feel like he’s a part of what’s going on, to be able to really benefit from the experience of new environments and not to feel out of control or afraid. To that end, I’ve been using lots of language about airplanes, airports, and luggage. He knows that soon he and I will be flying on a plane, and now when he sees a plane, he says “Me? Mama?”

Recently, in celebration of my new laminator purchase, I made a “Jasper Travels on an Airplane” book. I got this idea from Elizabeth Pantley‘s book “The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers.” She recommends making a book about your child in order to help them through simple transitions like bedtime, or larger ones like weaning.

Montessori travel with toddlers

Using a mixture of photos from Google Image searches and my own family photos, cardstock and binder rings, it was a fairly low budget way to bring structure to my efforts to prepare Jasper for our upcoming trip.  I took pictures of our own luggage, and he’s thrilled to recognize his own suitcase. I made certain to get photos of the actual airports we’ll be traveling through, and photos of both inside and outside the plane. I also used a few photos of toddlers happily sitting on their mothers’ lap aboard a plane, and thankfully those are some of his favourite images.  I ended with a few photos of Jasper around our home and town, to reassure him that after our travels, we’ll come back home.

Montessori air travel with toddlers transition book

There are no words in the book, in an effort to make it fluid and useful in the longer term. Right now I tell the story saying things like “Jasper is going to go on a plane with his mama.” After we return from the trip, we can look back on it in the past tense.

Our plane book has become the most requested story around here, and I’m hoping the pay-off will be a calm and informed toddler as we wing over four provinces and back. Wish me luck!

This is part one of a two-part post on air travel with toddlers. Read part two here: Have Toddler, Will Travel.

Melissa over at Vibrant Wanderings also has a great post on Montessori travel tips for toddlers. What’s your best advice for plane-travel with toddlers?

 

Standard
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?

 

 

 

Standard
18-21 months, Practical Life

Practical life: pitting cherries

cherries_in_progress

It’s June, and it’s cherry season. Cherries are within the category of produce which I buy only in season; and now is their time.

Last night in the midst of the usual heat, hunger and confusion of the hour-before-supper, I quickly set up an easy practical life activity for Jasper to work on at the kitchen counter while whirled around making pizza dough and chopping topping ingredients (we usually have pizza on Friday nights, but it was just that kind of a Monday). This wonderful cherry-pitter is from For Small Hands, an online/catalogue Montessori-supplies retailer for families.

The presentation was simple — and, in the insanity of the w̶i̶t̶c̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶ pre-dinner hour, necessarily so. A bowl of cherries, a bowl for pitted cherries, and a little dish for stems (the pits are caught in the bottom of the cherry-pitter). One quick presentation, he was off to the races and dessert was taken care of.

cherries_after

Jasper is a big time olive-lover, and this pitter works well for olives too. Save the preserved foods for colder weather, though. For now: it’s all cherries, all the time.

Standard
18-21 months, Family life, Montessori philosophy, Practical Life

Practical life in the garden

photo(25)

In the Montessori method, activities that are carried on as part of daily life in the home are referred to as  “practical life.” Practical life work should be just that: practical. Useful, meaningful work that really makes a difference in the environment or for the family.

For parents of toddlers, it can sometimes be difficult. Zipping up one’s own jacket is useful and meaningful, but it sure can be inconvenient to do it on toddler time when you’re already late for an appointment. That one moment of haste can turn into a big ripple-effect power struggle for the rest of the morning. I fully admit it: it happens. But when there is time (and there’s often more than I think), say on a sunny Sunday morning, I try to use it to really engage with my little guy and give him the time and space he needs to develop confidence and independence in all the many activities we do through our days.

This weekend Jasper and I did some practical life work together in our garden, as we added compost to the straw bale cold frame in one of our raised beds, where we’ll soon have baby spinach and kale popping up like crazy. That is, as soon as the snow stops falling long enough to plant the seeds.

photo(26)

photo(28)

Helping in the garden is a wonderful way to participate in the rhythm of the home. It allows Jasper to engage with the season, learn about the natural life cycles of plants and other garden-dwellers, and to contribute food to our table. A practical life activity such as preparing a snack can actually begin weeks and months ahead of time, with the planting of a few seeds.

photo(30)

Our Sunday morning garden work included: scooping using different implements, pouring, transferring, and carrying a bucket. With lots of repetition! I loved watching Jasper watch the compost slide through the holes in the bottom of this little pot.

photo(29)

 

It was work that needed to be done, and I truly appreciated the help.

How does your child participate in the practical life of the home?

Standard
18 months, Family life, Montessori philosophy

Henry helps.

henry_helps

This afternoon Jasper and I made a trip to our local library and picked up a few books for each of us.

Back home, we read Henry Helps with Dinner for the first time. It’s a sweet and simple story about a little guy helping to make dinner on taco night. He shreds the lettuce into little pieces, smooshes avocado for guacamole and puts a serviette at each place at the table. There’s no fanfare, just a kid participating in the family, and Henry’s only reward is getting to sit down to share a meal with his family.

Later I noticed this printed on the back of the book: “Research conducted at the University of Minnesota found that the best predictor of future academic, career, personal and relationship success was children’s involvement in household tasks by three or four.”

Amazing, right? Forget Zumba baby classes, religiously reading 15 minutes a day, and Baby Einstein and all the rest of the stuff that society tries to convince us are necessary (to purchase) for parenting. Washing, sweeping, setting the table. That’s the secret to raising a smart, happy, engaged human.

Or, as Maria Montessori put it nearly a hundred years ago: “If I were to establish a primary principle, it would be to constantly allow the child’s participation in our lives … To extend to the child this hospitality, to allow him to participate in our work can be difficult, but it costs nothing. Our time is a far more precious gift than material objects.”

As it happens, Jasper helped me to empty the dishwasher for the first time today, picking out the cutlery and handing each piece to me to put away in the drawer, one by one.

Standard