Tag Archives: Montessori

Cool Stuff: Vol. 2 Issue 3

Just two links this week:

This first one is to Lee and Low Book’s February booklist. It includes tons of book titles for Black History Month, Rosa Parks’ birthday and more. All diverse title, too. 

Here’s a great post from Eltern Vom Mars, a German Montessori blog. They are working on initial sounds with their toddler and we’re starting to do that too. This post shows a sorting game that reinforces initial sounds and it quite clever. Note that the blog is in German so the sorting is not for English words, but German ones. 

Handwork: Threading and Lacing

While I’ve been showing handwork projects I have been working on in this series, I thought today I would share what kinds of activities I have set up for Cam that are intended to help her gear up to sewing and handwork of her own. All these activities help her develop concentration, hand-eye coordination, hand strength, and accuracy. They also allow her to play with patterns, which is an early math concept.

We’ve had a number of these activities around for awhile and even if she goes a couple weeks without touching them, she always seems to find them again and engage with them for a half hour or so. The repetition is a good thing. (The links take you to the product or a similar one on Amazon or wherever I bought it. I don’t get any part of the sale, but I know it’s frustrating to see something on a blog and not know where to find it for purchase.)

Threading and Lacing

1. Large Bead Threading

These are giant beads- palm sized for a kid- and they came with what appears to be a rope to thread them on. This was one of the first threading toys I got for Cam since it was super easy to shove the rope through the beads. I tied a knot at one end so they wouldn’t slip off and that has seemed to work. Now that Cam is clearly capable of threading these she makes patterns and necklaces and bracelets with them. 

2. Threading Apple

Such a sweet Waldorf toy, Cam loves this one. It’s a little apple with holes drilled all over and a rainbow ribbon attached for threading through the holes. This is a good one even as she gets older, because she now works on not looping over to the other side and on keeping the ribbon from twisting. That’s a lot for her to keep track of right now and is excellent practice for hand sewing. Bonus, the company we bought this from is a small local toy shop. 

3. Smaller Bead Threading

We got these a long time ago when we found them on sale at a toy store. Fortunately Cam likes cars and trains! These are a lot harder to thread because the hole is long and the string is much thinner. It took a fair amount of practice, but Cam finally mastered it. She still likes them though and makes necklaces out of these too. I should note Target has started selling Hape toys and they have several different lacing bead tubes like this one in a variety of themes including numbers. 

4. Sewing on plastic canvas

I set this up with Cam’s clothes making provocation and I kept it up because it was popular. I bought some small plastic needlepoint canvases (it was readily available at the craft store and Walmart), threaded a couple large needles with thin yarn, and also included a bowl of beads. Cam gets a kick out of this 

5. Snap Beads/Pop Beads

I had these as a kid and remember loving them. On a recent cleaning spree in her closet, Cam and I came across a set I had bought in the dollar bin ages ago and she was hooked. They are hard for her to snap together, but that’s okay because in snapping them she is building hand strength. If you buy a set, be aware that they are cheap and the snapping pegs will snap off from time to time. Buy a big bag. They also don’t bend really easily so having more to make long chains is also a good thing. 

6. Lacing Peacock

We found this at our local Christkindlmarkt last year. It’s hard because it has a lot of pieces, but Cam has been working with it and is learning how to string all the bits together. With all the beads, felt and silicone feathers, and the different colored laces there are a lot of ways to lace it and play with it. 

7. Button Snake

I made this button snake awhile back. If you have basic sewing skills and some fabric scraps they’re very easy to make. It helps practice fine motor control, buttoning, and hand eye coordination. 

 

 

Cam in the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Granola

IMG_2597Awhile back we bought some granola that was lightly dusted with cocoa powder and had chocolate chips in it. It was, not surprisingly, absolutely delicious and Cam loved it. We would sprinkle it on our morning yogurt and Cam would pick out all the chocolate chips before eating the rest of the yogurt and granola. Sadly our grocery store stopped selling this brand so using a granola recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks and the ingredients list from the granola package I created a chocolate chip granola recipe. Making granola is pretty simple, it’s mostly stirring ingredients then baking.

IMG_2598While it’s currently winter (so I don’t mind turning the oven on) I decided to give this a try in the slow cooker since that would make it more Cam-friendly. It worked okay, not well. It just didn’t dry the ingredients out enough so I ended up popping it in the oven after all. I’ll include instructions for both ways in the recipe in case you want to give the slow cooker a try. I also swapped out the oil for coconut oil, but you can use either. I had it on hand and wanted to give it a try. 

 (Yes, it is winter and yes, Cam is wearing a tank top. This kid never gets cold.)

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Granola
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. oats
  2. 1/2 c. canola oil
  3. 1/2 c. honey
  4. 1/3 c. water
  5. 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  6. 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  7. 1/2 c. flax seed
  8. 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  9. 1/4 tsp. salt
  10. 1/3 c. chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line or grease a large cookie sheet.
  2. Mix all the wet ingredients together and all the dry ingredients together. Leave out the chocolate chips. Stir the two together and pour onto the cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn.
  4. The granola is done when it is no longer wet and you can smell it toasting. Stir in the chocolate chips and let cool. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
  1. Slow cooker method: Grease your slow cooker insert. Once the ingredients are mixed pour them into the slow cooker and cook on low for 3 or more hours, until the granola is dried out. Leave the lid canted or off completely to allow the moisture to escape. Stir every once in awhile to prevent it from burning. Once it's dried out turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool.
  2. If you were so inclined, you could add some sort of dried fruit, such as cranberries at the end with the chocolate chips.
  3. I used coconut oil instead of canola.
  4. Feel free to toss in whatever else might be in your pantry and sounds good- nuts, seeds, etc.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

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

Cam in the Kitchen: Butter

Inspired by this post on How We Montessori I decided Cam and I should make butter. It’s fairly easy and requires movement. Both excellent qualities for a toddler activity. 

What You’ll Need:

  • a small container, preferably with a screw-top lid such as a small mason jar or tupperware (we used this one)
  • 1/2 pint of heavy cream, get the good stuff because there is only one ingredient and the quality will stand out
  • Raffi’s “Shake Your Sillies Out” (video here)
  • French bread rolls or baguette
  • second container and sieve

What To Do (it looks like a lot of steps, but it’s super simple):

  1. Bring the cream up to room temperature. It’s easiest just to leave it on the counter for awhile.
  2. Pour the cream into the container leaving some room at the top so it can slosh around.
  3. Put on the song and start shaking. I suggest taking turns with your child as they may not be the most efficient shaker. This is why I recommend a screw-top lid!
  4. Listen to the cream sloshing around. After a few minutes (3-5) you’ll notice that it isn’t sloshing anymore. If you open it to check, you’ll notice that it’s quite thick and starting to look like whipped butter. 
  5. Keep shaking. After a few more minutes you’ll notice that you hear sloshing again. This is the fat (butter) separating from the buttermilk (not exactly like the buttermilk you buy in the store). You can check on it a couple more times. Each time you’ll notice that the butter is coming together more and more. Feel free to taste at every stage. Cam did! 
  6. When it’s a consistency you’re happy with pour the buttermilk out into another container through the sieve. This will catch the butter if it falls out. You can save the buttermilk to use in baking (such as biscuits, see here for our recipe).
  7. Spread your fresh butter on the bread and enjoy!

Coming Back to Montessori

I’ve noticed a couple behaviors with Cam that have become habits that I want her to break out of. She is acting less independently lately and she isn’t focusing on activities for long. Part of this I think comes from wanting to connect with me (which is why we do the breathing in and breathing out) and part comes from the age.

I know she is capable of being both independent and focused. If I can’t join her and we’ve had some good connection time, she will often wander off and become engrossed with a game or activity. I tend to be a bit scattered, and sometimes won’t sit down with her immediately or continuously, so she is probably mimicking me in that regard. However, I also think she wants the connection with me so she tries to find that by joining me or nagging until I turn my focus on her.

I also wonder if she’s going through a little crisis in confidence that seems to come with the age. She is suddenly incredibly verbal and physically capable and maybe we have become inconsistent in responding to her and helping her because she is also acting needy. Whatever the reasons, I know she can do it and I know she has formed some bad habits that we now need to break.

So I want to foster a bit more concentration and independence and what better way than to put out some Montessori activities and fall back on some of the Montessori principles. I know some may quibble with a cherry-picked approach (to any educational method), but I think it’s a good idea to tailor learning to the child and their specific needs. Cam, in the past, has not really responded to the Montessori activities, but I think by aging them down, making them simple and easily achievable, and connecting with her over the presentations I can help foster her confidence and then begin to slip in the independence and focus training.

I was especially inspired by this post and this post on the blog Montessori Nature. She does such a beautiful and simple job of setting up Montessori inspired activities for her toddler. They really scratch that aesthetics itch for me, but also really support the learning embodied in the Montessori method.

What does this mean for following our Reggio principles and Waldorf ideas? Nothing really. We still rely heavily on them. We do a lot of art and there are still tons and tons of open ended areas and toys. In fact that majority of Cam’s time is spent in imaginative play, which I see as something she is showing an interest in. I ensure that she has plenty of time and space to engage in it everyday. The best part of this is that it requires very little set up and provocation from me for her to jump in. The new Montessori trays I’ve put out make up one little slice of our morning where I can really focus on her and work with her, less so she is learning anything in particular (although she is obviously learning) but to give her the attention and confidence she seems to need fostered.

Fine Motor Practice

Fine Motor Practice.jpgPart of the Montessori curriculum focuses very heavily on building fine motor skills and control in the young child. There are activities that help build strength, activities that build precision, and activities that encourage movement. Cam has always had excellent fine motor control and awareness. From a very young age she was drawn to small

 objects which she loved to manipulate put them in boxes, baskets, drawers, everywhere. She was never much of a mouther, but when she did attempt to put things in her mouth my husband and I tried very hard not to discourage her from playing with small things, just from putting them in her mouth. I could see not only her intense curiosity about small things but also how manipulating them was building her fine motor.

Because she is so drawn to find motor activities I always try to have a selection of them out on her shelves. It can be a bit hit-or-miss with them though as I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what it is that appeals to her. Below is a little gallery of her current activities. Not included is a picture of the peg board (which we bought on eBay) but appears in the color study post.

Resources Series: Montessori Scope and Sequence

Resource Series BannerWay back in June I posted that I was working on a scope and sequence of Montessori materials and activities. You can refresh your memory here if you’d like. Long story short, I finished it and am ready to share. I know the blogosphere likes to share, especially the Montessori/homeschool crowd and I really want to contribute something.

There may very well be something out there on the Internet like this and it may be better. I haven’t found it though, so I created this scope and sequence. It is just that, a scope and sequence for the infant, toddler, and 3-6 age groups. It simply shows what the various Montessori activities and materials are and in what order they are presented. I have also cross referenced everything so you can see where each material falls in the sequence (often in more than one place) and how the various activities relate to others across areas of “study”. Meaning, you can see how the Red Rods are related to both early numeracy and the sensorial activities, etc.

While I have loosely grouped it into age ranges, none of those are hard and fast rules. My own daughter is ready for some things that would be presented to older children but is not ready for other things that are intended for younger children. It is organized in a couple ways that make sense to my particular brand of crazy organization. :) I included a couple ways of using and looking at it so I could get a handle on everything and how it all functions as a cohesive curriculum. I hope someone else finds it helpful too and that maybe someone else will feel less confused in the way I was to begin with.

As a side note, if you use it and have suggestions or find typos please let me know. I will certainly try to fix typos and would love to consider other input. I am already making changes to it that make sense for us as I am using it. It’s a living breathing document and should be flexible. I want it to be responsive, that’s one of the beauties of a blog and online community. 

Montessori Scope and Sequence Outline – This is truly an outline. With Roman numerals and tabs and everything. It may be the easiest to read, but to me it was the least useful way to work with the curriculum. This was the basis for everything else, though, and I use it in tandem with the Presentation Record.

Montessori Visual Outline – This shows you in a more visual way how all the pieces relate to one another. It does not cross reference anything though. It’s more like a curriculum map, if you’ve ever seen or worked with one of those.

Montessori Presentation Record – This allows you to record when you have presented a material or activity, when the child works with it, and when they have mastered it. This was really my end goal. From a homeschooling standpoint, this is probably the most useful, but I use it in tandem with the Outline.

Infant Activities & Materials Map – This is just a visual representation of the infant materials. It maps out the information from the outline and puts into more of a timeline context. I wish I had done this when Cam was still a baby.

Disclaimer: I would like to make clear that I am not a trained Montessori teacher and these don’t replace reading up on Montessori’s own works. I created this for myself and am sure it is flawed.They are here to help parents who want to do Montessori in the home but are having trouble grasping where to jump in and where they are supposed to go once they have. It in no way is meant to tell you exactly how to follow the curriculum or what your child is ready for. All children are different and learn at their own pace. It is also probably not comprehensive. I included a detailed list of sources that I drew from. It made more sense for me to combine all of that information into one cohesive, useable, workable document and for my purposes it’s comprehensive enough. It is licensed under Creative Commons. You are welcome to share and change it, however I would appreciate you crediting me where appropriate.

Imaginative Play

Pedagogy BannerOne of the projects I tackled this summer was working my way through my TBR (To Be Read) pile and, while I didn’t make it through many parenting/learning theory books, I did read one that I found very inspiring.
Reading about the place and importance of imaginative play, however, brought to mind Montessori for me. If this blog is any indication, I am far from being a Montessori purist. I don’t follow all her ideas, I won’t use all her materials and lessons, but this doesn’t stem from any distaste for her methods or any disagreement that I have. Except for when it comes to imaginative play.A Child’s Work was not a title I was familiar with nor was the author (although in the education field that isn’t surprising), but I was clued into it by one of the library blogs I follow. It was a quick read, but well worth it just for the pure joy Paley clearly feels for the relationship between imaginative play and children.

Child's Work

Now my understanding of the Montessori method is that it does not contain any imaginative play (meaning building with blocks, dressing up in costumes, pretending animals talk, playing in a toy kitchen, etc.) in the early years (0-6). I have read that fantasy is discouraged, although how strictly any Montessori program adheres to this I am not sure. However, I can’t help but look both at current research and at the natural inclinations of children and think the Montessori method is wrong to discourage imaginative play and fantasy.

One of the reasons I find myself passing on various Montessori ideas is that I find her to be very much a product of her time. (I’m not as concerned about teaching my daughter how to use a dustpan because we own a little hand vacuum.) Child development was a new concept. Sure, she was a pioneer, but we now have a century of research that she did not have access to. She was also very much a socialist looking to help the poor. I won’t argue that it was a lofty goal and one we should all aspire to in some way, but it also really colored her methodologies. The children she began developing her method for needed structure, needed to feel useful, needed to be a part of a collective, needed to keep the house clean in the absence of one or both parents. I would agree that children of all sorts need that and want that to some degree, but I think they also need to engage in imaginative play and the ideas encapsulated in A Child’s Work really hit home that point for me.

A Child’s Work is a bit light on providing real research to back up any of Paley’s claims. It’s a much more touchy-feely book than a hard evidence sort of book. Really it read more like a notebook of Paley’s thoughts and notes and that was fine with me. It went by quickly and its anecdotes and impressions certainly got her point across about the importance of fantasy. I think next up will be another book that I have on my shelf about play. I’m hoping to get a bit more of the science behind the theory in this next round.

Not only do I remember the joy of fantasy play as a child, but I can see the seeds of it starting to grow in my own daughter. Since Montessori is all about observing our children and following their interests I think I will let Cam lead me into the imaginative play realm.

My Current Project

Resource Series BannerYou may remember a few months back I talked a bit about how I felt it was difficult to get a handle on what all the Montessori activities/materials were and in what order they should appear. I did a bunch of searching and found several scope and sequences (sort of) that helped me see better. The problem was, none of them were complete and they frequently didn’t match up exactly with each other. I was still a bit confused and frustrated.

So, this past week I’ve been working on creating my own scope and sequence. I’m essentially combining all the other ones I have found, but I am cross referencing activities/materials in a variety of sections where they have relevance. I’m also putting it together in several formats. My hope is not only to use it myself with Cam, but to share it here and I thought it could be helpful for people to have it in visual, outline, curriculum map, and check-box formats. That way you can access it in whatever way makes most sense for you. I’m still plugging away at it, but hope to have it to share pretty soon, so check back.