Posts Tagged ‘Montessori’

My Plan to Be a Better Mom: Update!

This is where I get to focus on the things I have done (right) in the last week! Mostly I just wanted to share a few activities I tried spontaneously that ended up working out well.

My daughter seems to have been having some fussy days lately. Needless to say, necessity is the mother of invention (and creativity). As I said in the latest Better Mom post on activities, I want to create and offer more hands on learning/play activities. Here are three things that came to me after all I read all the awesome things other mamas are doing with their littles. (See activities post for lots of resources for learning/play ideas.)

Sensory Bin: Paper

I get these circulars in the mail that frustrate me because I don’t want them and it’s such a waste of paper. The other day I felt like ripping them up. Just after, I walked by the bin I wanted to use as a sensory bin. I decided to have my daughter help me crumple them up and toss them in the bin. Then I let her play. She got to explore texture, sound, her body and more, turning an annoyance for me into a wonder to explore for my daughter!

Crumple Crumple

Stomp Stomp Stomp

Squish, Smash

Scoop and Pour Activity

Then the other day I had my daughter help make Vietnamese spring rolls by giving her the bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, and chopped lettuce to put into separate bowls for my husband to assemble. I went to put the peanuts in a bowl myself and realized it was the perfect scoop and pour “Practical Life” Montessori activity that I read about all the time. She was so into this. After an initial spill (see the peanuts on the counter?) she realized on her own how to be more careful and spilled not a single peanut more. It was quick but a great learning experience for us both, I think.

Scooooop

Pour

Open and Close Activity Bin

More recently, she had gotten her pep back after a cold and wanted to play. I was doing dishes, washing out a ketchup bottle, when I decided to look around for “open and close” jars, boxes and things for an activity box. I surprised myself by easily finding a number of things. I had fun along with her realizing how fun and different containers are to open and close. She did ask for help with the inner spice top, but ended up actually opening it once herself. The best part was hearing her ask for help and then say “Try it” to who I thought was me. After initial frustration, she actually told herself to try opening it, and she did try a couple of times rather than giving up as easily as she initially intended.

Some of the open and close materials, found around the house....

Little screwtop

Fliptop

Larger screw top (spice jar)

Was more complicated and exciting than we thought!

Yet another unexpected open and close experience awaited us!

It even came with a smell that led to a cooking conversation. (Plus we needed to put something inside. See it?)

My Plan to Be a Better Mom: Activities

It’s taken me a while to get to the next part of the Be a Better Mom series. Why? Because I’ve been trying to be a better mom! I’ll be posting about materials separately, turns out. I feel so inspired to get my creative juices flowing and my hands working as I think about activities. I’ve been taking time to look through blogs of some mamas doing fun stuff with their kids. Much time has also been spent brainstorming some magnetic board activities for my daughter. There’s also been gathering materials and making things!

So far, all I’ve done is made one magnet set and start another magnet/felt set. One is a button shape/size sorting activity — 4 colors, 3 sizes. Unfortunately, the first set has already been scattered from off the fridge through multiple rooms (before pictures were taken). I am thinking now that future magnetic sets should be meant for the board only, just so there are more buttons to play with than are stuck under the fridge.

The other set I started is a color/fruit sorting activity where she could “pick” apples, bananas, plums and/or pears from the tree and put them in a basket. I was hoping to go apple picking soon so it makes some experiential sense. Now I am thinking, that I might make just an apple set with numbers to 10 on them. The other day she was insisting I count to ten, and she’s been into numbers lately.

There are a number of activities I’d like to do more of with my daughter to make our time together engaging, exploratory and playful.

Sensory activities are where she’s at right now. Sensory tubs are one idea; so far I have thought of waterbeads, leaves, and beans. I’m waiting for fall to advance a bit for the leaf one. Then I want to collect leaves together and bring out a fall leaves/tree magnet set I hope to make. I also liked this loud-quiet shaker idea and this smell matching activity.

Pouring is what Montessori would call a “Practical Life” activity. She is into pouring for sure. Any parent of a toddler knows that spilling and playing with liquid are fun times. My daughter seems pretty good at pouring from big things with help, but I want to get her a kid-sized pitcher from For Small Hands so she can pour things herself. I hope to put this pitcher with some of her small glasses on a table so she can get her own water and snacks. (Time to modify the snack station of old?)

Finally, it is feeling like time to move from chopping to cutting. She loves to cut with her wooden knife and food set. I have also helped her cut with a big butter knife. I’d like to find something like a small butter knife to help her cut things like banana. Her cooking role can take a new turn, and she will have more to offer and do in the kitchen.

Eventually, I’d like to get into the light box and other fun from the links below, but I’m trying to focus on things I know I can follow through on and actually accomplish. I still want to share the awesome ideas I’ve run into through my online travels…

Here are some play-based learning blogs/sites I found to keep an eye on:

Warm Rain Walk Treasures

Ideas by Category:

For the road: Toddler Activity Bags

Light(box):

Sensory:

Magnetic Board:

Rock Play:

Outside/Messy: Play at Home Mom Outdoor Play

My Plan to Be a Better Mom: Spaces and Organization

I know everyone always says their house is messy (when it’s not), but I really am organizationally and spatially challenged in some ways….like the ways that keep a house clean and put away.

I love to see things organized, love baskets and boxes and labels and rows of things. It’s just that doing whatever it takes to get to that point doesn’t come naturally to me. Whether or not it is my strength, I need to develop a clear sense of organization and purpose in the spaces in our house, for the sake of every family member and friend who inhabits those spaces. Plus, with a little one on the way and due during the middle of winter, I want to make sure my daughter has an engaging and comfortable space to play inside when it’s hard to go outside. I have one room she can kind of take over, but otherwise I have always liked and tried to have a little play space in every room (including the kitchen). This calls for different structures for different spaces. I have some moving around of stuff and furniture to do, but more than that I needed to think on what those play spaces look and feel like.

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I know I want them to be organized.

I would like for it to be easy and clear for my daughter and any adult to know where everything goes. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” If there are baskets and bins with clear purpose, everyone can use them. Eventually I would love to make my own labels (in English and Spanish and maybe even ASL), like Christine from The Aums did when organizing her clothing station. [Oh goodness, a clothing station was one of the things I wanted to maintain…..and haven’t. Clothes are my own worst offense, and now I’m in charge of someone else’s clothes?!]

I, and my daughter, need the space to be as YES as possible.

The more YES the space, the less “no” I have to say. When she was smaller and just starting to get mobile, everyone was telling me about child-proofing, which we don’t really do much of. Every child is different, and some children need more safety boundaries than others. My daughter has always been a rather safe explorer with a will that can be reasoned with. (Who knows what #2 will be like…could change everything!) She began moving around, and we went through the house trying to make things as YES as possible. This meant that if she could reach it, we had better consider whether we wanted her to be able to reach that thing or not. Well, we need to do that again. She is considerably more mobile now, and I find myself saying “No” more than I need to just because of the way my space is organized and set up…..or not. Ideally everything in reach is touchable and ok for play.

The space, the things in it and the way they are set up should encourage and support opportunities for my daughter’s independence, confidence and sense of belonging.

Once she has a clear, organized space that is mostly YES, I want to make sure the things I put in there and the way it is set up fit her developmental needs. Right now, she wants to do everything she can for herself. One thing I would like is for her to have greater access to food and drink items so that she can pour for herself. However, this means, I need a developmentally-appropriate space for her to be able to do these activities. For instance, right now, there isn’t really a child sitting/work space. Having a more functional, child-centered space will most likely be good for her and good for us (and the new little one).

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Now that I had a sense of what I’m looking for, I wanted to do some research and see what other folks want out of their spaces.

I liked what Childhood 101 had to say about creating a child space that is inspirational:

  • Inspires them to play in more purposeful, meaningful ways.
  • Inspires them to learn through those play experiences.
  • Inspires them to value what they have.
  • Inspires them to help maintain the space in an organised way.
  • Inspires who they become…

Reading about Montessori principles and home/school spaces inspired me to get more clearly organized so that my daughter can take more ownership of the activities in her life. Here are some guidelines for spaces:

  • They are attractive, orderly and clean.
  • They have a place where children can store and organize personal items, as well as keep complete and in-progress projects.
  • There is adequate open space for children to easily move around, and for everyone to sit together during group time.
  • Children can independently access their Montessori materials from low shelves. They can also help maintain the order on these shelves. It is also important to have appropriately-sized tables and chairs so the children can sit and move with ease.
  • There should be a few interesting, real-life pictures at child’s-eye level, a few beautiful objects that could break easily, living plants, and pets (even small, non-poisonous reptiles and fish are fine).

Reggio Emilia history, philosophy and approach, in addition to the concept of the environment as a child’s “third teacher,” gave me aesthetic ideas for an overall feel and look. Here are some aspects a Reggio class might have:

  • indoor plants and vines
  • natural light
  • open to view
  • capture the attention of both children and adults through the use of mirrors (on the walls, floors, and ceilings), photographs, and children’s work accompanied by transcriptions of their discussions
  • displays of project work are interspersed with arrays of found objects and classroom materials
  • ample space for supplies, frequently rearranged to draw attention to their aesthetic features
  • encourage community

In addition, there are some RIE principles I’d like our spaces to facilitate. Similarities across the board, here. You are surely seeing a theme emerging.

  • Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer and a self-learner.
  • An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing.
  • Time for uninterrupted play.
  • Freedom to explore and interact with other infants.
  • Involvement of the child in all care activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient.
  • Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs.
  • Consistency, clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline.

With a better understanding of the principles and values I’d like to encourage, I was ready to look at actual play/learning spaces other people have set up.

NEXT STEPS: Move things around, go through “stuff” (post to come), set up spaces!

I am inspired!

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