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We are a home based Montessori Preschool in Halifax, Nova Scotia & we love children & helping them grow.

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The Absorbent Mind and the importance of modelling

Hello dear adults of the Montessori world !

As I observe the children around me (including my own 19 months old daughter), I notice every single day how much they look at us, the adults, as role models. We do not always realize how much influence we have on them.

As you might know, the child has an Absorbent Mind and can see, hear, feel everything around her. You might feel like she does not when you are asking them to do something of course – though give them time, it is sometimes just a matter of processing time, I usually wait 5-10 seconds for my daughter to react to what I have asked and it works, otherwise, she will shake her head and say ‘no’.

From birth your child is acute to absorb everything around and process it, this is how she learns language(s) for example. One thing I notice more and more is how much children observe everything we do or say, EVERYTHING, good and bad.

When I hear them using words or phrases that adults use, I realize the influence we have on them – hopefully for the best, but at times… for worse.

So I will just give you food for thoughts, as a reminder.

Does your child yell?  You might not notice that you do raise your voice more than you think and your child is just doing the same.

Does your child throws things around when she gets undressed? You might not notice that you are going fast and sometimes throw your gloves, hat, coat or theirs. Something to watch as your child has a strong sense of order.

Don’t worry, even a Montessori teacher/mom does it once in a while. Then, I step back and I slow down. I might feel like I don’t have time for slowing down but I do anyway.

Because my child is watching me. Because time with my child matters. Because I am setting up the tone for their life. Because I am their role model and they have an absorbent mind.

tea and book

So remember to take time for yourself so you can be the model for the ones you love. 

 

Our journey into toilet awareness – from 3 months to 18 months (1)

Hello everybody,

I am excited to talk about what everybody calls potty training. Why ? Because it seems like a lot of parents are struggling and many books are being written to help parents do it the right way and fast.

Well… in the Montessori world, we follow the child and make sure the child is respected so instead of stressing about it and rush it to have a child independent on the toilet in a few days, we take our time.

A little background first… I am from France and I have many children in my family and around me and potty training is not discussed as much as it seems to be in North America (where I live now). I asked my mother and other moms coming from France like me and indeed, no stress, no fuss, they just do it over time. HOW ? Well everybody seem to follow more or less the same process where children are in underwear and have a potty and well that’s it! In certain household, parents remind their child to go to the potty  on a regular basis until they get it and go by themselves; in other families, they just tell the child that this is where we will try to pee and poo and accept the ‘accidents’ until the child is ready for the potty by herself. When you hear them, I swear it does not seem like a big deal! I will add that in France, School (preschool) starts at 3 and often 2.5 years old so children are definitely going independently to the toilet on their own beforehand. In average, I would say, it’s being taken care of right before they turn 2 or before when the child shows signs of readiness. In my family, it looks like I was toilet independent by 21 months and my brothers around 22-23 months. So why not ?!!

Now, back to where we are in our home. I have been reading and reading and talking to people and sometimes feel stuck in between what works or not and the stress it seems to be for some parents. My husband and I have decided to follow advice from Montessori people (infant/toddler teachers or training centre) from the start:

  • Our child is in cloth diapers from birth (except at night because we could not find a good fit to avoid leaks or when we go on long trips). Cloth diapers help the child realize she is wet so this natural sensation gives a potential discomfort that makes the child tell you when it’s time to be changed. Our daughter would scream as a young baby whenever she was wet and felt happy the minute we would tell her that we were going to change her. She is still in cloth diapers and is now, at 18 months, able to tell us when she peed or when she needs to pee (before it happens) hence we can now make it to the potty on time.
ALexis potty 3 m
Only picture of our daughter at 3.5 months being held by my husband on the potty, she always loved it and would usually smile.
  • Our daughter has been put on the potty as soon as she could sit and hold herself enough to be comfortable on it but we would still hold her to be safe. We had a great Babybjorn potty and my husband was devoted to put her on the potty anytime she would tell us she was wet. After a few weeks, she would pee in the potty almost every time and would still wet her diaper (which is normal). This way, the potty is a very familiar thing, there is no big fuss around it or fear of it. It was part of the changing area in her bedroom.
  • When there are signs of readiness (peeing or pooping in corners), saying they did it, holding their diaper when they wet it…), cloth diapers can go away and training pants are introduced (they are thicker in the middle than regular underwear and hold a little pee but the child still feels it go down).

After that, it depends on the child and how she has been doing around the potty. Like I said earlier, you can just go with the flow and if there is a pee in the underwear, then, we go remove it, go on the potty (to potentially finish), clean and put new underwear. After a while, the child will end up just going to the potty with no ‘accidents’ in the underwear. Others would remind the child, regularly to go to the potty (to avoid the ‘accidents as much as possible) and eventually the child will also be able to go to the potty when she feels she needs to go instead of during or after it happens.

It’s part of the child and the family’s journey. Take it slow, follow the child and choose cute diapers and panties, it makes it even more fun for everybody !

bathroom set up
18 months old – our bathroom set up : a basket (with diapers, toilet paper, cloth wipes (in the box) and a book. A. loves to choose the diaper she will wear next ), the potty (this one is from IKEA and works well as she is older and can get on it on her own easily), a little step stool where she sits to remove slippers, pants etc or sit to put pants back on; it also doubles as a step stool for reaching the sink to wash hands. Soon, the diapers will be replaced by training pants.

In our home, our daughter is 18 months and is still using her cloth diapers and also show signs of being able to tell us before she needs to go or when she just did it in her diaper, like she has been for a while. However, I can feel a difference in the way she manifests it is happening, she tells us more often than before and yesterday, told me : “caca” (which is her word for pee, poo, potty and toilet) and went straight up the staircase to go to the bathroom. I thought, she was telling me she had done something and needed to go on potty and get a change. Surprise!!! The diaper was dry and she peed in the potty only. So I know she is getting there by herself.

As soon as the weather and temperature becomes nicer, hoping for when she is around 19-20-21 months, diapers will go away and will be replaced by training pants to began our last part of the toilet awareness journey.

No stress, just pee in the potty!

I hope you can also be stress free when it comes to your child’s independence on the toilet. Let me know your experience.

Our Montessori household and screen time

Hello everybody,

I wanted to write a quick post this week about screen time. I seem to encounter a lot of parents telling me they cannot be parents if their child has no screen time, that it gives them time for themselves to do things during or at the end of the day. I understand the struggle, I am a parent and yes it is hard to be able to work, cook, shop, pay bills, etc when your child(ren) need nurturing and attention.

My Montessori take on this is that I trust my child to be able to do certain things by herself and that by preparing an environment for her developmental needs, then she can get time by herself – and she needs it – so I can get things done, SCREEN FREE.

As a teacher I have always advocated for no screen at all under 3 years old and very limited and supervised screen time or not at all under 6 years old. When I was a classroom teacher, it was quite often that I could pinpoint the children who would have screen time and those who would not as I would observe reactions, focus and concentration on activities and so on. So YES it shows. I am not a fan of : “I watched TV as a child ans turned out fine!” because what you don’t know is how better it might have been for you in life without it.

Now, the point is not to feel guilty and think we are bad parents if we feel like we cannot do it any other way. NOT AT ALL. You are just trying to make it work. We all are. Sometimes, we feel ill-equipped.

Our choice, in our house, for our daughter’s brain sake and development is to make sure she does not get much access or not at all to screen technology – the only one we have is skype with the family abroad, we keep it real, there is no artificial people, lazy watching or games to play. Just talking to people we cannot see otherwise.

I might get less time for me but this is something I work out with my husband to get time for myself as he spends time with her and vice versa. As per cooking, well, I use nap time or I have my child involved in the process, we cook together often, she loves watching, pouring, mixing and see the final result in our plates afterwards.

baking
NO SCREEN, just an apron and some real life responsibilities she loves. 

If you feel like you need to read more about this, please go to https://www.screenfreeparenting.com/tech-wise-parenting-articles/

This website has researches and tips to help parents. It can help making an informed decision and give you tips on what to do to be screen free if you are seeking this path for your family.

I hope this helps, I find my life quite simpler and less stressful without screens all around us. We keep our screens out of reach or hidden until our child is ready to handle this responsibility, because what is to understand is that using screens smartly is a (part of our parental) responsibility.

Would you be ready for a screen free month with your child(ren) ? 

 

Nutrition – the new Canadian guidelines

Hello everybody,

this is a different and less Montessori related post than usually. However, I thought it was important to mention that our Canadian food guidelines have changed and they DID CHANGE.

We used to see 4 food groups (vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives) and with that a very detailed plan of what you should eat everyday and how many portions of each. Early childhood establishments (daycares, preschools and schools) had to follow these guidelines per law request. This ended up, in my opinion, in a lot of personal interpretations and since children were to eat several portions of each group every day, the cheap and easy solution was to offer children crackers and a lot of cheese and milk and it was fine since it was always accompanied by a fruit or a vegetable.

Personally, I think crackers are tasty but have you looked at the ingredients and the amount of fat and everything it has in it… this is not healthy for a child (or us I guess as well).

The new guidelines are out and we now have 3 food groups (vegetables and fruits, protein food and whole grain food) and no portion only this:

food gudie 2019

As guidelines it says:

  • Have plenty of vegetables and fruits (left part of the plate)
  • Eat protein foods (top right part of the plate)
  • Choose while grain food (bottom right part of the plate)
  • Make water your drink of choice

 

It seems easier and healthier to me. It also has some tips and recipes to help, like before with the older guidelines. I cannot wait to look into it a little more. So far, I like the ” cook more often” to avoid ‘prepared food’ full of preservatives and other things we don’t always understand.

I can hear parents say they do not have time to cook… When you are a working parent or even at home with your child(ren) all day, it is difficult!!!

My trick is to MEAL PLAN, every weekend and it guides my grocery list, then I order online for pick up so I don’t have to spend a long time in the store and get tempted by food we don’t need or that would be unhealthy temptations. Then I block some time (usually nap times) to cook my heart out, I love my slow cooker, instant pot and other useful appliances that makes it easier for my busy mommy/teacher life.

I would love to know what you think about these changes.

Is it going to help you make good choices for your child(ren) ? 

Language with young toddler: the Montessori 2-period lesson

You might have heard about the 3-period lesson used in Language lessons in Montessori classroom for age 3-6 years old. This is how we present and enrich vocabulary in Casa level classroom.

With young toddlers who are not verbal yet or not fully verbal, Montessori toddler teachers in Nido use the 2-period lesson. This way we can present the vocabulary and also verify their comprehension and knowledge.

Period 1: We present the objects (for young toddlers) or picture cards (for older toddlers) by naming what it is as we show them the object or card: “This is a …” and do so for about 3 objects or cards at a time (never more than that or it would be too much for the child at once).

Period 2: Now the child is active. you will ask him to ‘perform’ actions towards the objects or cards. “Point to …, show me …, give me …, place … next to …”. Some use the ‘I spy’ game for period 2 “I spy with my little eye a …” and the child point at it or give it to you etc This phase needs to be a little longer if the child seems up for it. Move the objects or cards around for adding challenge and making sure the child is not remembering names of the objects based on their position on the table.

FOR NON VERBAL TODDLERS the lesson stops there. If there a big success with the 2 first objects and she recognizes them all and seems into it, please continue with 3 more. If not, encourage the child to put the objects back to the shelf and move on. You can always go back to it at another time another day. This is not a quiz, just a way tot each your child some vocabulary.

2 period lesson
Our daughter at 17 months learning about arctic animals (a polar bear, a emperor penguin and a seal). We used objects first and then she found the cards in the basket to match objects and cards. FUN!!

Period 3: Now is the time for a verbal child to name the objects/objects on cards. You place the objects/cards back in their original order and ask: “What’s this?” If she can name it in order, you can always do it again with the objects in a different position.

 

This is used in all Montessori classrooms I have observed or worked at, it is a lesson taught to Montessori teachers in the Language area and this part is easily applicable at home with your child.

Remember, you are doing it to bring vocabulary in a structured but interesting manner, this is not to drill the child. If the child is not interested and seems tired, put the cards back on the shelf and move on to something else. Keep it casual for more interest from your little one.

Aside of a formal lesson like this, we also have image books that our daughter loves to look at and loves that we just name each object on each page. At first, she just looked and is now repeating a lot of these words. We keep it casual and follow her lead. It is naturally bringing a lot of vocabulary as well.

What do you do to bring in more vocabulary to your child at home? 

If you have any question, feel free to contact me.

Activities on our shelves – Christmas

A quick post before Christmas as I read a lot of posts and comments on social media about how stressful it is to have your little ones at home 24/7 for the Holidays.

Here are suggestions that can work for young and older toddlers:

  • Christmas vocabulary cards
  • Christmas themed home made puzzle
  • Poking activity with simple Christmas shapes
  • Red and green playdough and have fun with Christmas cookie cutters
  • Bake: cookies, muffins
  • Washing vegetables (and chop for older toddlers) to help with the Holiday cooking – you can use this type of brush
  • and I also encourage to make special beverages that taste Christmassy – peppermint EVERYTHING !
  • Felt tree to decorate and redecorate with felt ornaments.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas to all and to all happy holidays from my family to yours.

How we operate with food and our toddler(s)

Hello everyone !

I was thinking the other day about how stressful the holidays can be for parents trying to have their children eat at the table on Christmas day. As I was reflecting on what I have seen – myself as a child, my nephews and nieces, cousins… well, everybody has their own way of dealing with food, from: “You need to finish what is on your plate before dessert” to “of course sweetie, you can eat all the cookies and non of the meat on your plate!”.

We fall somewhere in the middle, in a Montessori way to respect our child(ren) but also teach them to eat.

I am writing this article thinking about our young toddler aged 16 months but also about the toddlers we used to care for in BC and many other older toddlers I have seen and taught in the past years and still now.

For babies, we use Baby-Led-Weaning which can almost translate into Division of Responsibility when they grow older.

To sum up what you can see on the link I dropped above, this is what DOR (Division Of Responsibility) is:

The adult is responsible for What, When and Where to eat.

The child is responsible for How Much or whether she eats – you have to trust your child will eat what she needs until she is not hungry. If she chooses not to eat, we don’t make a big deal. She will eat eventually.

We provide a variety of food from each group and trust the child to eat a variety over time.

lily cooking
Cooking with a lovely 16 month old student. She was involved in making healthy pancakes.

To help getting there we also make snack and meal time an occasion for fun (i.e. make the table beautiful with flower arrangements, centre piece made by the child, a occasion for the child to participate (i.e cooking together, harvesting our own veggies…) and we try – to the best of our busy life ability- to make meals on the same schedule everyday.

So far, I have to say it has been working, I do not worry about what they eat as long as they eat something at some point.

I do not offer sweets or salty snacks that would be unhealthy as some of them could only choose that and let’s be realistic they do not need it.

Snacks are made of at least on fruit or veggie along side another food from another food group such as cheese/yogurt… or a piece of bread or a homemade muffin.

I hope this can help ease the holiday meal time – even if this is one full of sweets !

If you have any questions or need some help or advice, feel free to ask in the comments.

Have fun cooking to prepare some fun Holiday meals and snacks!

 

PS: Here are links to our dishes used for babies and that we still use for our toddler and also the dishes we use for our preschool students and our girl.

plate with succion cup to hold it in place on the table and also the bowl. These are awesome quality and come with a spoon made as the plates and bowls of bamboo and silicone.

-I also found these bowls at a cheaper price but I am not sure about the quality of the products as they are made of plastic – we do avoid plastic for environmental reasons ourselves but I know plastic is sometimes hard to get away from.

-If you are ready for using breakables that are however very solid, use the set from IKEA. 

 

This article has affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Montessori Christmas reading list for parents :)

As I was writing the last posts about Montessori friendly toys for babies, I realised that I should also write about the books I find useful for parents interested in Montessori or a Montessori approach to raising your child(ren).

Here are some of my favourites by Maria Montessori herself:

The Absorbent Mind – this is one of the latest books she wrote before she died in 1952, it is the easiest read to understand her philosophy of education.

The Child in the Family – I read this one while pumping milk during my training morning breaks. It is an easy read, a very interesting one to see the child through Montessori’s eyes. It is a good reminder of who the child should be in our family, its own person and not only what we want her to be.

 

Other books I like not about Montessori education:

  • The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies, AMI Montessori toddler teacher in the Netherlands – she is a treasure of experience and information. This book can also help you set things up in your house for your child.
simone book
Simone Davies is such an inspiration you can follow her on the Montessori Notebook.

Other books Montessori approved:

aubrey book
Aubrey also wrote a book  called Babies First years Milestones.
  • Oh crap ! Potty training by Jamie Glowacki – this vision of potty training is what some Montessori parents apply with their children. Seeing this phase as a learning and a natural process without rewards or punishments. The author is a very entertaining, experienced educator helping parents around her.

 

I could go on and on but I chose to give you what is for me the simplest books to understand Montessori and to help parents raising their child in a respectful ways incorporating positive discipline and respectful parenting. I hope you will like it as much as I did.

My goal is to read even more in 2019 !!!! What about you ?

Our first year of toys (2) – Christmas shopping list

As I get deeper into Christmas decorations and activities with the children, I am more and more excited about the family time we will spend together as my niece is coming to spend the end of the year with us in our new home.

xmas board
Our Chrismas welcome board in the cloakroom, decorated by the students with star stickers !!!

As promised, here is the list of the material our daughter and her friends used from about 6 months until they turned 1 year old and over. Enjoy !!

Stacking rings made of wood, I love it and so did the children, we still get some use out of it and she is 15 months. I would also consider the one that rocks to add some challenge to it.

Nesting, stacking bowls – can be used over and over for different purposes.

We also had and still have a basket with different everyday life container to open such as a little container with lid, a little bottle with a screw lid,  mini money purse with different types of opening (zipper…)

Any types of wooden blocks work, we got ours from an Etsy shop such as this one.

Play silks and other types of fabric that are really sensorial for the babies. Here is a version a little less expensive though I don’t know what they are worth in quality.

Pots and pans – that was a big hit and you can use it to mix food in it.

We also added closer to one year old the velcro dressing frame, however our daughter started using it before 12 months for sure.  Ours was a little different but it is not being made anymore. This one seems like a close one.

I would advise to never underestimate the power of a table and chairs at the children size such as this one. We also love the IKEA versions: cheap but won’t last forever LATT or the SUNDVIK table and chair a lot more sturdy.

Last but not least a coordination mirror – best thing ever. They loooved it and for a long time.

If you have any question and you want to know more about what our daughter and friends used in our environment – please feel free to ask questions.

 

Have some merry fun !!!