Tag Archives: Environment

Montessori Infant: 3 months

Octahedron MobileA number of years ago I created a scope and sequence of sorts of Montessori materials, games, and concepts. I did one for infants and one for toddlers up through about age 6. You can find those here. Since we decided to have another baby I dug out the infant chart and have been using it to select materials to have out for the baby.

In the newborn stage you don’t need much. A topponcino, a place to change diapers, a mirror, a floor bed (or in our case a handmade side car crib). Around two months you can introduce black and white pictures, fabrics, and patterns. This is also the time to hang up the Munari Mobile.

3 Month BasketI have three areas set up in the house: one in the girls’ room, one in the classroom and one in the living room. Each features a pad or blanket for her to lay on and a few materials (right now, black and white art cards and pictures of baby and kid faces). Some of the materials are divided up and others move around with us because she likes them so much. This book is a particular favorite: My Face Book.

Malin turned three months on Friday and I thought I would post some pictures of the things we have out for her that align with Montessori principles and materials. I have a small basket with a small rainbow grasping toy, a wooden grasping ring with ribbons, and a small frog lovey (pictured to the right). The frog was originally Camille’s and lived on her changing table where we used it to distract her if necessary. We called it Changing Frog. It’s soft and large enough for a young infant to practice grabbing at so I included it this month in her materials. The rainbow grasping toy is similar to the Montessori grasping beads, which are in a line instead of a ring. The wooden ring is probably still a little heavy for Malin’s tiny hands to grab onto, but I like the ribbons attached to it. She can gum the ring and touch the ribbons until she’s strong enough to really get ahold of it. Also, I’ll be honest, the Montessori grasping beads freak me out. While I know they technically should be strong enough not to break off their string, they still seem like a choking hazard. More so than the two grasping rings I have put out. That’s just my comfort level, though. 

Room Set Up at One MonthThe last two months we’ve had up the Munari, or black and white, Mobile and it’s been a favorite of Malin’s. You can see it hanging over her in the picture to the left and see her fixating on it even at five weeks. I have now changed it out for the Octahedron Mobile (which makes me kind of sad that she’s already out grown something, but also excited to try out new materials; see it in the picture at the top of the post). I made both mobiles while I was pregnant. It was a fairly simple project. I found a pattern and instructions on Etsy for the Munari and I think I found the Octahedron for free online.

 So that’s a peek at what I have out for the baby right now.

 

Reflecting 2016:2

Admittedly I rarely wait for spring to give our house a good deep clean. I wouldn’t say I do it often, but it never seems to line up with any particular season. Over the last six months I’ve really been looking around and thinking about how we have way too much stuff and that’s led me to purge a lot of unnecessary things we had accumulated over the years. (If the accumulation sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. I discovered if you have the space, in a house for example, it’s very easy to tell yourself that since you have the space you may as well hang onto things.)

I have talked about this before where I noted Cam has a few toys we have bought for her and a lot of toys both my parents and my husband’s grandmother saved from our childhoods. This has been a blessing and a curse. We struggle to get rid of the toys because of our emotional connections to them despite the fact that Cam really isn’t all the interested in many of them. And then that space conundrum rears it’s head- we have the space so we should just hang on to them in case she does become interested. On the other hand, free toys that are awesome!

Instead of fighting that I took a look around over the last six months and got rid of a lot of things around those toys. Streamlined. It took buying a couple pieces of storage furniture and a fair amount of reorganizing, but I think I’m really happy with how tidy, but inviting our spaces for Cam are now. 

Cam's Room 2Cam's Room 1

For Your Bookshelf: Loose Parts by Lisa Daly & Miriam Beloglovsky

Loose PartsLoose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky, photographs by Jenna Daly

From GoodReads: Loose parts are natural or synthetic found, bought, or upcycled materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change within their play. Alluring and captivating, they capture children’s curiosity, give free reign to their imagination, and motivate learning.

The hundreds of inspiring photographs showcase an array of loose parts in real early childhood settings. And the overviews of concepts children can learn when using loose parts provide the foundation for incorporating loose parts into your teaching to enhance play and empower children. The possibilities are truly endless.

I came across this book through a couple of Australian blogs that I follow. I had recently read Beautiful Stuff and wanted to learn more about how to employ the loose parts theory. I was surprised to find, once I got a copy of the book, that it was written by two professors here in Sacramento. They used the child care center out at the community college in Fairfield. Small world. 

The book was incredibly inspiring and had tons and tons of high quality pictures. The text is short, but deals with the theory of loose parts and then discusses different areas that are developed by using them, i.e. sound, creativity, and action. It’s easy to read and understand and doesn’t have a lot of jargon or overly academic language. I know right now I appreciate that in a book. I just don’t have the mental capacity to read something dry and technical at the end of the day.  

I did keep going back and forth wishing there was a bit more writing and discussing of the theory of loose parts and simply appreciating that there wasn’t much direction. I think I was hoping the pictures would be more like a documentation panel. I struggle getting Cam to engage with the materials. They can sit out for months and she won’t touch them. Then one day she’ll pick them up and find something to do with them or I’ll need to direct her. And I don’t want to direct her, I want it to come from her. On the other hand, having too rigid a set of documentation might not have helped me find good materials and set ups. Part of the point of loose parts is that they can be used in open ended ways and should be tailored to the interests of the child and to the environment. And often the pictures spoke for themselves. 

All in all, this is a worthwhile book both for the information on loose parts and why you should use them and for the pictures that will give you unlimited inspiration for materials to try out and how to set them up in provocative ways. My copy is riddled with sticky notes directing me to provocations and to loose parts I want to set out. I think a second reading of the book is in order to review the theory behind the materials. 

Cool Stuff Vol. 2: Issue 4

Came across this great little post on How We Montessori about encouraging independence in self care with toddlers. I would only add that what your child is capable of and wants to do is really dependent on them, however these tips and tricks will really encourage them to take . I’ve used How We Montessori as a model for setting up several areas in our house that encourage Cam to be independent and in charge of certain things. 

I really liked this post on Happiness Is Here that talks about arbitrary punishment versus natural consequences. As the saying goes, the punishment should fit the crime. I think the lesson children learn from natural consequences are far more powerful and effective in helping children become successful adults than yelling, guilting or taking away privileges (unless they are connected to the wrong doing). I also think it takes the parent’s ego out of the equation and there are fewer possibilities for power struggles. 

Finally, this is a really different sort of post from one of my library-related blogs I follow: In Defense of Gentle Men It’s a piece that takes a look at the book The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee, which came out last year, and uses it to defend men who don’t fit the gender stereotype of “masculine man”. Give it a read really quickly and come back to my thoughts on it if you like, which are as follows:

I totally agree with this and think there is a trend to apply adult thinking to childlike situations. I also think this problem, the problem of the book seeming “creepy” to some people for the older, gentle man caring for a child, ties into a couple other societal trends that are not healthy or right. The first is over-sexualizing girls clothes. I think there is a problem with girls clothes, they are often too adult too young and restrict movement and emphasize looks over practicality, but I think we also need to realize that by seeing them as sexy we are looking at something that is inherently neutral (clothing) and applying our own adult thoughts and experiences to it. The clothes aren’t sexy, especially when on a little girl, because little girls aren’t sexy. BUT when you have been taught by society that short shorts and tighter fitting clothing is sexy it’s hard to not see girls clothes and apply that idea. The second trend is one of scare tactics. We as a society have never been safer, but we are more afraid, especially when it comes to our children. I think there is great value in teaching children to be cautious, but I don’t think that should get in the way of allowing them some freedom and allowing them to learn from situations. We don’t need to use books like The Farmer and the Clown to teach kids that all men (or people in general) if they are by themselves mean you harm (of whatever kind). There are bad people out there, but by and large they are few and far between. There are genuinely good people who would help out a child in difficult or dire situation without wishing to harm them. I would rather teach my daughter to recognize both those types of people for herself than paint everyone with a broad and scary brush. 

Activity in the Hive: Here Is the Beehive…12345

While Cam has shown some interest in letters, she is really drawn to numbers. She learned them very quickly (both identification and counting to ten) without any prompting from me. Personally I prefer the laid-back approach to “teaching” this stuff and came up with a few passive ways to help Cam explore numbers more. 

Inspiration

Reggio-Inspired Math Table from Wildflower Ramblings

Playful Numeracy: Making Math Visual and Hands On from Racheous

Numeracy Resource Learning Area from Walker Learning Approach on Facebook

Waldorf Gnomes- Mathematics from The 5 of Us

Reggio-Inspired Preschool Math Tray from And Next Comes L

Books

We have a huge bin of counting books in our classroom. A lot of the titles we’ve found used, but there are some we’ve bought too. Using books to passively teach numbers is a great strategy, especially if your child really clicks with one title and you read it over and over and over and…

  Animal 123Animal 123 by Britta Teckentrup

This has been one of Cam’s favorite books since she was less than a year. Teckentrup’s illustrations are simple, beautiful, and really engaging for young children with bright colors and clean lines and plenty of contrast. The pages fold open to reveal the next number and one more of what is being counted. We have a couple tears from less-than-gentle baby hands, but it’s a great teachable moment when that happens. Not only does the book teach the counting 1-10, but it’s a subtle introduction to the concept of adding. 

My First Learning Groovers123: My First Learning Groovers 

We came across this book at Costco. It has the numbers 1-20 and each number has grooved numerals that the child can run their finger along. I usually read this one with Cam so I can be sure she is tracing the numbers in the correct way so as not to establish any bad habits. This is a similar idea to the Montessori tactile numbers and if you can’t find this book you could look for Montessori: Number Work by Bobby and June George.

We All CountWe All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett

We have tons of these counting 1-10 books in our number books bin, but I adore this recent purchase. Part of the appeal is it’s diverse: it’s bilingual with a Native American language (Cree) and the people pictured inside are not the default white. But it’s all about the illustrations here. The cover has a big flock of burrowing owls, one of Cam’s favorite species, that are just darling. The illustrations are clean and modern looking too which I think makes actually counting the objects easier. It’s also a board book which makes it sturdy.

 Ten Nine EightTen, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

An oldie, but a goodie. This was one of my favorites when I was a little girl and now it’s one of Cam’s favorites which makes me happy. Ten, Nine, Eight makes for a great bedtime story, but what I appreciate about it now is that it counts backwards. Not only does this show children that numbers work in reverse (and demonstrates minus one) it also helps them break out of the order of 1, 2, 3. Essentially it plays with numbers. The illustrations are really charming and cozy. It also makes you look around your own room for things to count. Math is everywhere. The book is available in board book format and paperback (you can often find it in thrift shops and used book stores) and is translated into Spanish. 

 

Media

Montessorium: Intro to Math

This is an app for the iPad. It does a lot of the traditional Montessori math lessons like the red and blue rods and counters, but in a digital format. It isn’t very expensive (considerable less than buying all the physical materials) and is very engaging. It’s clean, beautiful, and works well. Cam likes to play it although a few of the activities are too hard without one of us helping her (which is really how kids should be using apps). 

Poems

Poems and rhymes are great ways to teach young children. Their rhyme schemes and sing-song quality make them very memorable. Cam has amazed me on more than one occasion by reciting a poem or song I’ve recited without prompting. 

1, 2, Buckle My Shoe I was only familiar with the 1-10 part of this rhyme, but it goes up to twenty. Sometimes I feel like we spend so much time working on counting to 10 that counting higher, as Cam wants to do, gets left out. 

Here Is the Beehive This is a counting down rhyme and is a finger play. The link is a great resource from BBC which includes the full lyrics and a little video. The lyrics may come up hidden, just click the arrow to open the box to see them. 

Activities

Kid-O 0 to 9 Magnatab: I thought this looked cool, but wasn’t quite sure if Cam would agree. Turns out she absolutely loves it. We brought it to restaurants, she left it out on the coffee table to play with all the time, and she’s still playing with it a month after its delivery by St. Nicholas. It essentially teaches kids how to write the numbers (there is also an alphabet magnatab in both print and cursive). You’ll need to do some front loading first by showing them and monitoring them writing the letters, but once I was confident Cam was forming them mostly correctly I let her play with it by herself. Also be careful about forming bad pencil grip habits, from a teacher’s perspective those habits are SO hard to break. The tablet features a control of error (for all you Montessorians out there). If they haven’t done a careful enough job not all the little magnets will have popped up. Just a little warning, those magnets popping up into their holes make noise. I am noise averse and it doesn’t really bother me, but be aware. 

Montessori Teens Board: Cam is really into counting above ten now. I know I sound like a pushy mom saying that, but it was all her. I decided to help her visualize these numbers better (and maybe build a bit of place value understanding as we go) and make her a Montessori tens/teens board for 10-14. I’ll make a 15-19 later when she’s more confident going that high. A teens board is essentially a row of 10s stacked on top of each other with tracks to slide in a 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. into the ones place and covering the 0 to make 10 into 11, 12, 13, etc. The actual material is pretty expensive for what it is so I decided to make one. Here’s a round up of DIY Teens Boards on Living Montessori Now. I made one similar to the La Paz Home Learning one and it cost me less than $8. It was also pretty simple to make (an hour max). But you can make it more or less fancy depending on your level of handiness, your budget, and the time you want to dedicate to it. 

Magnetic Numbers: Exactly what these sound like. They’re the number counterparts to the traditional magnetic numbers everyone has seen on fridges. It’s a super passive way to play with numbers and simply get a sense of what they look like. I bought a bin with letters (lower and upper case) and numbers for fairly inexpensive. The ones we have are these, but they don’t seem to have the set like we bought with all the letters and numbers. Go figure. This company also makes their letters color coded in red and blue like Montessori materials so it may be a good substitute for the moveable alphabet if you need something a bit cheaper. I’m very happy with the quality of them.

Red and Blue Rods with Numerals: I used the red and blue rods I made (1-9 because the box was too small to fit the 10 and because 10 takes two numerals to make) and paired them with a bowl of blue magnetic numbers to match with the rods. Cam still has to count each rod so she tires out before we’re totally done with this activity. I also have to sit with her when she does it, but that’s fine with me. She enjoys doing it and counting together. 

Activity in the Hive: Home vs. Classroom Provocations

Between setting up provocations for Cam and constantly reorganizing our play spaces so that Cam can easily get to things she is interested in I came to a realization. I’m like a lot of moms, I read mommy blogs and scour Pinterest. I like to see what other people are doing and get inspiration and ideas for things to do in our home- organization, activities, etc. I also happen to see and follow several Reggio teachers and greatly admire many of the things they do. I wouldn’t necessarily copy any of their provocations, since Cam may not be interested in what the programs are specifically about. However, I do like to adapt them.

One thing I started noticing, primarily with the school provocations, is that they are designed to take up a whole table and stay out on that surface. That’s great, if you have a lot of tables and/or space. But, we live in a post-WWII track home. We’ve done a lot to open up the house, but the rooms are still small. We don’t mind, we love our house, but it does mean that when we organize and set up furniture we have to get creative. Moreover, we live in our house everyday and do other house related things like eat, sleep, wash clothes, and shower. These are all activities that are, by and large, not done in a classroom and they create some other limitations on setting up a classroom-like setting. So bringing the classroom provocation into the home is requiring some of that creativity and a flexibility that allows for things to be put away at the end of the day and rotate onto our two work tables when the mood strikes. 

Here are some things I’ve learned so far about designing provocations for our home. They may change and develop as Cam gets older and more capable and as her interests change, but for the time being they work well. 

Tips for provocations at home: 

  • Use the Montessori principle of everything on a tray or in a basket: This makes for easy portability off a shelf and onto a work surface
  • Make sure things fit on the tray or basket well and that your child can actually move it: No flimsy trays, no tall jars that require extra balancing, nothing hanging over the edge waiting to fall off mid-move and try to keep it light enough that they can move it without assistance (this last part may not always be possible). 
  • Less is more; make sure there is white space: There are tons of awesome provocations you can set up for your child, but if there are too many options they won’t be able to get them off the shelf or they’ll just plain be overwhelmed. Be sure to space the trays out on the shelf too for easy removal and to help draw their eye to each one individually.
  • You can also go bigger: There are a lot fewer kids in your home than in a school, so you don’t have to have nearly as many seats and stations set up. This can allow you to add a few more materials, or even more expensive materials, that there may not have been space or money for in a classroom.
  • Keep clean up in mind: In a classroom you might be able to have a stack of paper and tray for the used paper and a jar for the pens and a sign and a picture and a book, etc, etc, etc. In a classroom all those things stay out on the table, though. It’s fine to have all those elements at home, just be sure cleaning up the provocation (putting it back on the tray and back on the shelf) doesn’t turn into an ordeal. It should be relatively easy to clean up to encourage them to actually clean it up. You can get creative and have a few items such as books stay out on your work table or you could have them sit on the shelf behind the tray to be picked up when your child is interested or carried over separately. 

Provocations

Reflection: 2014/24

Martinmas: We celebrated Martinmas again this year. I really like how this is a holiday about charity and light at a time of year when we get so many messages about getting stuff. See my weekly post on Wednesday for more on what we do to celebrate. 

Reorganizing: Again. In the classroom. It isn’t really major, but I read the book Beautiful Stuff which I will review Thanksgiving week and it’s inspired me to involve Cam in sorting our recycled materials and have them more prominently displayed. 

Activity in the Hive: Planning and Documentation Experiment

At the start of October I decided I really needed to come up with a planning process that involved breaking up new provocations and aligning them with a broader plan.

Ever since I read about the Intended Projects document in Working in the Reggio Way (I discuss it a bit here) I have been trying to create my own. This document is an incredibly broad document and defines the overarching themes or concepts you’ll cover in a given period of time. Because it’s such a detailed and long document I really just needed the time to sit down, think through, and then put my thoughts together on paper (so to speak). I recently made the time to do this and to come up with some other pieces of the planning process.

Part of my intention was also to encourage myself to begin documenting Cam’s thinking and learning. This is one of the aspects I really love about the Reggio approach and I think it’s one of the more powerful pieces too because it requires a lot of reflection and listening to the child(ren) on the part of the educator.  

What I have now is essentially a series of documentations that form a beginning, middle, and end. Technically there is no end, but the final document can certainly come at a natural stopping or breaking point and must come after the project has had some time to develop and begin winding down.

My new planning process includes:

  • Intended Projects: This is a document meant to cover the planning for a season or even be a biannual document.  It lays out the broad themes and concepts I want to cover and names and generally plans provocations that will go with those themes.

I identified four core areas I want topics or themes to fall into (Language Arts, Numeracy, Art, and Nature) and then I picked what I wanted the broad topics to be (right now I have Building Letter Awareness as the Language Arts topic). Of course there is tons of overlap and I make note of that. I also have a written statement at the top that addresses both the question “what do I seek to make evident?” and discusses how these topics tie in with Cam’s expressed interests.

There are different types of projects identified within the document too: Umbrella Projects (which are those four core areas), Environmental Projects (these are projects that come out of any of the play areas we have set up in the house), Daily Life Projects (these are projects that come out of her wonderings and musings that happen in the natural course of daily life), and Self-Managed Projects (these I don’t expect to see until Cam is quite a bit older and more independent). Provocations can fall into several types of projects.

Under the general project planning I have a provocation strategies section that contains places to record questions (from me or Cam), materials, scaffolding (any prior knowledge she’ll need or provocations or activities that need to be planned or need to come first), books, and provocations (these are the actual set ups I want to put out). 

I should also note that this is not a static document. I add to it and build on it as I go along. It’s not intended to be perfect or comprehensive the first time around.

  • Provocation (Monthly) Planning: In my Intended Projects I name the provocations I want to set up. In my monthly planning I assigned a week of each month to one of the core areas/umbrella projects. On Mondays I set up the one or two provocations that go along with it (many of the provocations build on each other so there is an order to them). That means each provocation stays out for at least a month and it breaks the set-up process into much more manageable chunks. 
  • Provocation Documentation: This is a final document that will come toward the end of a provocation. It will record a statement about why I did the provocation (what questions Cam had that led there or interest that she showed), notes about context and objectives, materials available, a narrative, what was learned, and follow up ideas. I will also include pictures here. I have yet to finish one of these as we are still in the throes of the our current project How Clothes Are Made. I am hoping this will be a good place to harvest pictures and information to create documentation panels. 

I know all this sounds super formalized and school-y, but it’s all based on what Cam has expressed interest in. I chose Building Letter Awareness because Cam is frequently pointing to scribbles she makes and telling me what word she has written. I think she’s ready to start identifying letters and learning how to turn those scribbles into real letters. I am really interested in keeping a good record of what she is thinking and how she is approaching learning too, so I want to have good documentation of all that. And I am prone to getting lazy about setting things up for her (I’m procrastinating setting up some painting as I type) but if I’m hyper organized and front-load in the planning stage it’s easy for me to follow through. I guess you could say this (should) keep me honest. 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Keep in mind that I am crazy organized and a total neat freak (always have been) so this may be way beyond what any normal parent wants to do. Any one else do planning like this? How do you approach planning?

Cool Stuff Vol. 1, Issue 6

Last weekend I attended an awesome blogging conference for people passionate about children’s literature (KidLitCon). I was fortunate that it was here in town this year which made travel costs non-existent. The theme was diversity in children’s literature which is something I have been becoming aware of and have been trying very hard to incorporate here in our home and push for in the library and beyond that into the curriculum.  

After subscribing to a bunch of new blogs and Twitter feeds I also found a few new boards to follow on Pinterest, which led me to this article on building a home library with diversity in it. It’s not terribly long, but features a ton of book recommendations to get you started. Diverse Books in Your Home Library: Parenting Global Kids

Handwork: Play Canopy

Play CanopyAfter rearranging Cam’s room a few months ago there was a particular corner that just needed a little something more. It really needed something to draw the eye up and fill the space. To accomplish this I made a play canopy. It isn’t perfect, but Cam loves it and it was really simple to make. My husband was actually the one who came up with the idea to use an embroidery hoop and pushed us to go out and buy the supplies. It looks like a long process but it won’t take long- a couple hours at most depending on your sewing skills. 

Materials:

  • sewing machine
  • large embroidery hoop (the bigger the better)
  • panels of tulle (we used four, each one a different color; the number of panels you need will depend on the width of the fabric and the size of the hoop, be sure the number of panels will be able to go all the way around your hoop and overlap each other a bit)
  • ribbon or string (to gather the top)
  • hook to hang it

What to do:

  1. Measure the height of your ceiling. This will determine how long each panel of tulle should be. We have 8 foot ceilings so we bought 3 yard lengths.
  2. Fold the top of the each panel of tulle over. Stitch it down so that it makes a hem at the top. This is where you will thread the ribbon or string through and gather the top. 
  3. Determine where you want your hoop to fall along the panel and in relation to your ceiling. This may depend on how high your ceiling is and how wide your hoop is. Stitch a basting or gathering stitch. I stitched around 30 inches down from the top. 
  4. Measure the circumference of your hoop if you don’t know it already. Divide that number by the number of panels you have. Add in the amount you want each panel to overlap. Add this number in twice (once for each side). This number is the width you need to gather your panels down to. So if your hoop is 45 inches in circumference and you have five panels: 45/5= 9 inches. If you want them to overlap by 3 inches add in 6 inches. Gather the panel to 15 inches wide.
  5. Open the hoop up and start to place the panels around the circumference. Place the hoops where the gathering stitch is. Put the hoops back together and begin to tighten them a little so it holds the panels in place while you adjust them. This part was really tricky for me. Feel free to curse as you do this. Don’t worry if they don’t line up perfectly. Just be sure the gathering stitch is hidden. When the panels are in place tighten the hoop completely.
  6. Run the ribbon through the top hem and gather. I used two pieces of ribbon and gathered two panels onto each. I then tied bows to connect the two ribbons- one bow on either side. I used the bows to hang the hoop, but you could just expose a bit of ribbon or string on either side and use that to hang it. 
  7. Place the hook in the ceiling and hang your canopy.

As a side note, the picture of the canopy doesn’t show it where it was actually hanging. We have since had to move it.