Tag Archives: Montessori

Montessori Infant: Five Months

Moo Five MonthsAnd just like that she was five months. I have to admit this time around I’m enjoying the baby stage a lot more. I wonder if in part I was set up better with my prenatal and postpartum care having used a midwife. I know being older and wiser, having done this once before, is helping too. 

This baby is a little further along than my first was at this age. She’s been rolling over for a month or more now and she has also become quite proficient at scooting around in circles on her tummy to look at things, follow people, and get to toys on different places on her play mat. She has also been working on core strength that allows her to sit up unassisted. While she still flops a bit, she is getting stronger and stronger by the day. She sometimes folds in half and can’t get back up, but she’s also figured out how to put her hands out in front of her to stop herself from falling too far forward. 

A lot of her materials have stayed the same from four months. We still have the Dancers Mobile up over her bed and she loves to watch that. I place her topponcino on the floor bed under the mobil and place her there to nap. I think the topponcino still helps her feel comfortable and familiar and the mobile keeps her entertained when she wakes up. She’ll often spend five or so minutes watching it and cooing/babbling at it after waking and before she fusses to let me know she’s ready for me to come join her. I know this is part of the Montessori approach to infants, leaving them alone (not necessarily physically) to engage with their environment. As she gets better at sitting up we can start introducing baskets with interesting things for her to sift through in them. 

I think the biggest advance Malin has made this month, though, is around food. She loves to eat and was showing all the signs of being ready to start solids. Between those cues and the fact that nursing has been difficult, we started her on some purees. Now this is a place I diverged from Montessori infant methods with my first and am continuing to with my second. In the Montessori way you have a small table and chair for the infant to sit at and eat called a weaning table. But that is just not practical in our house both for reasons of space and added complexity. There is no room to have another table and chair, no matter how small, in our dining room/kitchen. And with two kids and myself to feed I’m not about ready to set up three separate meals. Instead we modified the youth chair we had for Camille by adding straps and a buckle and we simply have the baby sit at the dining room table with us. She gets a little puree at each meal we eat (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) which is exactly how we did it with Camille. She nurses both before or after eating the solids and also between meals as well as early in the morning and later in the evening. 

I am struck this time around by how fast it’s all happening and while it’s been a long five months (this baby doesn’t sleep all the way through the night yet), I also feel like it’s flown by. 

Montessori Infant: Four Months

A lot has changed in the past month with Malin, both in terms of her development and in her space. I’m also running a couple weeks late with this post, but that’s fine.

Malin's RoomWe still have three spaces designed specifically for her, but one of those spaces has morphed into an actual room all for her. The room we called the classroom was never that useful and we rarely spent time in it. If Cam and I wanted to work on any homeschool activities we would bring them out to the dining room table. It’s bigger and the room is better lit during the day. So instead of wasting the space we decided to convert it into Malin’s room. So we moved some furniture out, some in and voila! Malin’s room. We’re all very happy with how it turned out. 

She was outgrowing the side car crib she had and we needed a new, safe space for her to sleep. With Cam we threw a mattress on the floor, much like you see in many a Montessori infant space and I wanted to do the same with Malin. Part of her growth this month has been a increase in movement. Floor BedNot only does she constantly roll herself onto her tummy, but she kicks and pushes and wiggles herself all around her mats and blankets as she looks at things and follows us around the room. This development really convinced me it was time for her to be in a floor bed. 

I put out the octahedron mobile that I made for her and that’s hanging above the little pad she has in Cam’s room. She hasn’t been all that interested in it. But in her new room I hung out the Dancers mobile and wow does she LOVE that. She watches it move in the breeze from the ceiling fan. You can see it here in the picture of the floor bed.

Bell on a StringAlso part of the Montessori infant materials suggested for this age is a bell on a ribbon. You hang it so the baby can grab or kick it and it gives them instant feedback with the sound. Malin is doing a lot of intentional grabbing, so I thought this would be a good addition to her environment. When Cam was the same age it was December. One of our Christmas tree ornaments was a large silver bell, shaped like a jingle bell, and Cam was captivated by it. She spent hours touching it and playing with it. I got out the ornament to hang for Malin and she has been equally entranced by it. The poor thing will need some polishing after being manhandled by our two babies, but it’s perfect for this age.  

Just to plug it again, if you want a chart with the various Montessori materials in the infant/toddler years see this post where you can download it. 

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.

 

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.