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!

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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).

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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.

 

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6-12 months, 6-8 months

Baby’s first bites

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Around these parts, we all love to eat. Well, Jasper is going through a deeply suspicious food, but the foods he likes — blueberry pancakes, roasted chicken, and sliced apples — he really likes. Our dining room table is a gathering place, a place to reconnect, a place to enjoy nourishing our bodies.

Sage has been joining us at the table almost since the very beginning, tucked into a lap. Though she was exclusively breastfeeding, she was still able to be a part of the family circle and take in all the sights and sounds that family dinner-time has to offer.

Now that she’s a little older, she joins us for dinner, sitting in a booster seat on a chair, pulled up to the table.

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For breakfast and snacks, she and Jasper usually sit together at a smaller weaning table, with a safe and supportive weaning chair just her size. Some Montessorians choose to let a baby eat at the weaning table for every meal, but time spent sharing a meal together is an important part of our family’s culture.

We all use ceramic dishes and real glassware, modelling safe and proper usage, while allowing the kids to learn that things can break (rather than introducing glass for the first time later, and watching a four year old have to learn that he can’t toss glass around the way he’s done for years with his plastic cups). At ten months, Sage drinks from an open glass with a bit of assistance holding it to her mouth.

We use a small bib, which attaches at the front shoulder, so that in the coming months, Sage can remove it herself, to signal that she’s finished eating. For now, we use baby sign language for “more” and “all done.”

With both Jasper and Sage, we’ve followed the self-feeding or baby-led weaning method, meaning that rather than pureeing food and spoon feeding it, food is offered in larger pieces that the baby then feeds to herself. It’s safe, simple and allows the baby to decide when she’s had enough to eat.

At around 8 months, as her dexterity grew, we began offering a spoon (often pre-loaded) for her to use, and currently using cutlery is a big focus of hers at meal times. `

Independence in eating comes with a bunch of benefits, from healthy habits to less time in the kitchen, but there is one big trade off: it’s a messy business. If you’ve got a dog who likes to clean up under the table, they’ll be in heaven. I haven’t got a dog, but a three year old with a Swiffer mop is a pretty good substitute, and I’m counting down the days till summer heralds the season of dining alfresco.

If you’re starting to think about feeding your baby, I recommend checking out this post from How We Montessori, which compares the traditional Montessori method with baby-led weaning. For a full run-down of essentials, check this great post on Midwest Montessori.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18-21 months, Family life

Montessori in the home with Ikea

I’m a big believer in the idea that Montessori is for everyone. It’s a philosophy which is ultimately meant to make the world a better place, originally inspired by Maria Montessori’s observations of children who were living in poverty. Unfortunately, Western public education systems are slow to adapt and Montessori has been mostly privately-funded system in North American — meaning that the schools are mainly available to those who can afford to pay out of pocket.

One way to access Montessori is to incorporate it in the home. Whether you work from home or away from home, there are ways to incorporate independence, freedom and grace into the family’s routine.

Montessori materials don’t have to be expensive (public educators, listen up). We’ve had great success with making our home work for Jasper in part with ubiquitous and affordable Ikea materials. All this, and meatballs, too!

Here are a few of our favourites:

latt-childrens-table-and--chairsLATT weaning table & chairs. For under $25 bucks, we bought a mostly-solid wood table & chairs, and cut about 3 1/2 inches off all of the legs to make it the height of this weaning table from Michael Olaf. Bonus: after making the cuts, David sanded down the leftover pieces to make some wooden blocks! We use this table to eating, creating art and work of all kinds. I keep a little adult-sized stool under the table as well to allow Jasper to welcome adults to his table.

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AGAM junior stool. We want Jasper to feel independent in being able to join us at the dining table, and free to leave. We also want him to be safe when he’s sitting at a height. We started out using a strap-on booster, and now that he’s a confident climber and has the strength and balance to sit with minimal support, we’re moving on to a junior stool that gets him to the height required.  forsiktig-childrens-stool trogen-footstool

FORSIKTIG and TROGEN step stools. If you have kids in your home, you probably have at least one step stool as well. The Montessori paradigm asks us to think about the world from the child’s point of view. If you can’t bring something (a sink, for instance) to the child, you must bring the child to it. Places to think about using a stool: to climb on to the toilet, in front of the bathroom sink, beside a bedroom door to reach a light switch, as a little bench boots & shoes on and off. And of course, with its handy side-handles, the Trogen makes excellent material for lugging around during the Period of Maximum Effort (you’ll know it when you see it). pokal-snaps-glass

POKAL snaps weaning glass. These glasses are the perfect shape and size for a weaning glass, they are durable and they cost $2.99 for 6. Can’t beat ’em. nackten-bathroom-mat

NACKTEN bath/Montessori work mat. It’s cheap, it’s lightweight, and it rolls easily. Just starting in the past few weeks, Jasper has really been enjoying getting out his mat to use with some materials.

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MULA stacking rings. The Mula series is a great collection of wooden toys for babies and toddlers, and the MULA stacker has been in heavy rotation at our place for almost a year now. It’s amazing to watch a child’s development through how they engage with the same material over time. duktig

DUKTIG utensil set. Jasper has a wonderful child-sized kitchen which my Dad built for him as a Christmas present, and which he loves to play with, but we use the durable, stainless-steel parts of this set in the “big kitchen,” where Jasper can use the perfectly-sized whisk to scramble an egg for breakfast. duktig-mini-kitchenDUKTIG mini-kitchen. We don’t actually have this kitchen in our home, but I know it’s a well-loved part of many folks’ child-space (see it in action on Our Montessori Life) . Our home-built kid’s kitchen includes one of the best features about this kitchen — the removable tub that makes the kitchen sink. It can be filled with water real work like for hand- or dish-washing.

For more tips on Montessori in the home, visit the excellent German blog Eltern Vom Mars (Parents From Mars) for a whole series on “Swedish Furniture featuring Montessori.”

Have you found Montessori-friendly materials at Ikea? What is your go-to for affordable Montessori products?

 

 

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