Hello everybody, I am glad to take some of my vacation time to write this post on a very important subject for me : the prepared environment.
As I see my baby (now technically a toddler) evolve in my parents’ house in France, it reminds me that the environment the children grow in, is of utmost importance. Why ? Well… many reasons but I would start by saying that having an environment adapted to your child is to me a matter of respect.
I am, myself, a short woman and I am extremely annoyed and frustrated when I need something that has been placed out of my reach when I need it. So eventually, I got a stool to help me reach these items I need that are on a higher shelf and my husband and I reorganize based on how often we use these items as well (he is the tall one).
If our children live in an environment that is in no way adapted to their physical (and psychological) needs, we might be asking for trouble. Children needs to feel they are respected, acknowledged as they are.
I am not talking about making a full classroom like we do (in a daycare or classroom setting) but in our houses we can make things accessible for our children so they feel empowered to do things by themselves – ” Teach me to do it myself” is a Montessori motto coming from Education for Human Development written by Mario M. Montessori.
You are going to tell me YES BUT HOW ??
My vision of it is to not fall into the trap of making a classroom in your own house unless you are fully homeschooling your child full time and/or you are a Montessori teacher, there is no need. If your child goes to a Montessori daycare, preschool, school, they should take care of the specific, scientific material the way Maria Montessori intended it.
What you can do for your child is observing what they seem inclined to do at home. There are Montessori friendly toys you can do yourself or buy for a reasonable price as well.
For a start I will give you some characteristics the prepared environment should have to make it nice for your child to live at home and feel like he is a part of this house like adults are, this list is non exhaustive and as you prepare your child’s environment don’t hesitate to ask questions, I have resources and advice and get a lot of inspiration from Montessori teachers such as Jeanne-Marie Paynel (Voila Montessori) and Simone Davies ( The Montessori Notebook) or Montessori mom like Nicole Kavanaugh (Kavanaugh report).
The environment should be:
-beautiful (nicely painted or wood colour furniture, with child level Art in frames, I like to use beautiful pots, jugs, baskets that are also safe for them…)
-adapted to the child’s size and hence grow with her (make sure your child has a table and chair adapted to her size so she can feel independent to play, draw…) – Your child’s material/toys/activities should be on shelves she has access to independently.
-Each item of your house should also respect your child’s sense of order and have a specific place they can see/find it, it is reassuring for her. I heard my baby (when she was about 10 months old) scream when a sweater had been left on her wagon when it is not its place, she stopped when we removed it.
-Place items your child will use and like in an independent manner, as long as she uses it, she is learning something. Then, you can rotate with something else and reintroduce it later, she might find a new interest as she grows older.
-Use items that are real, not made for pretend play, your child likes to be involved in what you do but need tools that are appropriate for her size.
This list should give you a good start. Try to think practical, go down to your child’s level and see the environment the way they see it… then you will realize it might need a couple of changes for safety, for practicality, for independence and happiness.
On vacation it’s hard to not change the routine so be patient with them as they adapt to a new schedule and/or environment as well, we try to not push and follow our child.
I asked my parents to move their CDs (to a safer place for them) and make space on low shelves for our daughter to find her toys.
After a couple of days, she was automatically going to those to find her peace and quiet time to play by herself. If this is what it takes, avoid too many changes over vacation and when you are back home, let them rediscover their environment. They will be happy to be back !
As your child grows older we change and adapt the environment, if your child is ready for toileting then make a little shelf for her to have her tooth brush and a hand towel available or a way to hand wash independently, I promise, they will love it !
How do you prepare your child’s environment ? Share your tips.
We are about to go on vacation and get some family alone time but beforehand, I want tell you about our last week or so.
Summer has been hooooot in British Columbia and it has been harder for children to sleep properly. However, we are trying to have fun with our babies/toddlers.
Every morning we are taking them for a looong walk or a shorter one to the park. Slides, swings and moving around on the grass in the shade is a luxury these days.
Since the weather is so hot, we have brought a lot of water into our daily life, from water spray to cool down inside and chase children around the house for spraying has been so much fun !!!! The children crawl around and ask for more.
We also had a water day !!! Instead of a swimming pool we made it different, we had a hose and basins of water with cups. The cups are a type of Practical Life pouring exercise, or drinking exercise at times and they love it !
As soon as basins were out, 2 of the children just went straight in them and stayed there to play and splash, it was so much fun !!! I love hear them giggle and laugh!
I encourage you to have fun with water, it can be messy but it’s worth it!
I wish you a warm but not too hot summer fun !!!
Tell me what you do with your children outside this summer!
Yes, the summer is here ! I have graduated and I am now free to spend my whole days with our little students and my daughter ! Lots of work but also so much pleasure and fun !!!
This week I want to tell you about the fun we have at Chez mahé ! We don’t care much about weather, we adapt to weather ! Unless you live in a horrible heat that keeps you inside, please get your children outside and have fun with them or relax as they enjoy themselves (but of course, you are still watching !!!) in sun, clouds or rain.
Montessori always made a point in giving children opportunities to experiment, move and adapt so by giving the children opportunities to be outside for a little while you can give them all that:
we experiment through new material, new flowers blooming, new walk paths…
we give opportunities to move by crawling in the grass, a fun colourful tunnel, climbing stairs (under supervision) – children don’t seem to be slower on cement and concrete, they are tough… even when you offer the softness of grass, they choose concrete as they can practice they walking… yes we do have brand new walkers here !!! It’s been fun !
we adapt to each child’s level by providing diversity of activities and giving them choice of movement opportunities.
That’s it for this week ! Enjoy it rain or shine !
As I am about to take my final Montessori exams, I keep thinking about what our children need. As I re-read Maria Montessori, I think that as long as I follow my child then it will all be fine. We can be tempted to follow our adult lead because we think we know better. However, children tell us otherwise, in their own way, they are showing us the path to follow and follow them.
My daughter loves moving and being outdoors so we go for tons of walks and relaxing time at the beach.
On that note, I have decided to modify our environment a little, not much so our toddlers can still feel in the familiar house that they have been used to. The shelves have evolved with the different interest and needs of the children.
Some of these material will be used by all three children of different age (10, 13 and 14 months) but in different ways. Our stacking cups have become interesting for our 10 month old but have become a building exercise for the oldest. The little wooden bar with coloured pegs will meet different needs but is of high interest for all.
HOWEVER, what all of those children need is Movement ! I think I made it pretty obvious in the past 2 articles. So, we got rid of a table that was not used that much and we opened the space for more movement.
I had the idea when our daughter, who is now crawling and standing up and climbing, was in our family living room which we cleaned up and is now a big empty space with a couch and a couple of things here and there. She was so happy to just go around in big circles and have space to crawl.
SO here is our classroom for the time being, less furniture in the middle, space more open and full of opportunities to move around and stand up and walk. I moved the wagon in the middle of this big space and they have tons of chances to stand up otherwise.
I know the ball tracker will still be a big hit for quite some time as it allows gross motor and hand eye coordination work.
The rest of the work on shelves might not be as interesting now as our little ones need to work on their moves but it is still there if they need it. Now, we will wait and observe.
We keep going outside and provide lots of opportunities to be in the grass in contact with Nature, it’s a blessing here in Vancouver.
As promised here is an article on Movement and its importance in the development of the child.
How many of us remember hearing “Stop moving!” ? You did, didn’t you ? Either someone said it to you or you heard someone say it to a child at the park, at church, at the theater, in the car….
Movement is natural, it is a Human Tendency. We are born with the need to move, moving helps our mind grows and learn, we learn so much through movement and children even more than anyone else.
“It’s only by movement that the personality can express itself. The greatest of philosophers must use speech or writing to convey ideas and this involves muscular movement.” Maria Montessori
Movement is created from the work of three important parts: brain, senses and muscles.
The brain gets messages from the senses (organs) and then the brain gives orders to the muscles as the nerves pass the energy that will help control the movement of the muscles.
There is movement within our own body even if it does not show from the outside, our cells move, our nerves, our muscles, our blood in its vessels are all in movement as we are alive.
Maria Montessori also talks a lot about how we cannot separate the physical movements from the mental activity since the coordination of muscular movements comes from the brain. Muscular activity and mental activity work for each other.
It even goes further as a “two-way process; myelinization creates movement, but movement also increase the formation of myelin, so the more we allow our child to move the more we are supporting optimum development.” The Joyful Child, S.M. Stephenson
How can we use that to help children? We can give them activities, movements to do that involve brain work as well. What we offer should be purposeful, if there is no purpose then movements do not coordinate.
It also depends on the environment we create . Through fostering repetition of actions (like children do a lot when they are learning) in the environment, we help the child acquiring skills and knowledge. It should be satisfying for the child.
So in a Montessori classroom /environment/home, the child is allowed to move and is asked to move but is also guided by the adult to help her feeling fulfilled by her movement (if your child is in a Casa environment you might have heard about distance game for example, it is used in Sensorial activities and involve the child working in movement).
HOW can I HELP my child control his movements ?
You can give the child specifics about what you expect from their movement – “Control your movement or your body” “Stop moving!” does not mean anything.
If you can, say: “Walk slowly! … Please sit down!” as it uses more positive verbs, keeps it simple for the child and gives specifics about what you are expecting.
An important note on that is about making sure the child knows why you are asking this control of movement from them. If there is no purpose, there is a small chance it will happen. With purpose, it can come from within the child.
At Chez Mahé, the children are still considered babies or very young toddlers and they are in a very important phase of their development of movement as they are learning how to crawl, stand and walk. We do not ask them to stand up or walk because at that age, movement should be fostered from their need to move and progress in the development of their gross motor skills. Each child has her timeline and even if we would love for our child to reach certain milestones, it will feel even better if it comes for the child herself instead of led by the adult. It fosters Independence as well.
We watch them progress and once a milestone has been achieved we can foster activities to master this skill even more.
As they will grow older, we will foster activities for more precise movements and we will be able to ask for more control of the movements (Walking on the Line, Silence Game, Distance Game, bring me game…)
What do you do to foster movement for your child ?
I really want to write about the importance of movement and one of these days I will as it is an important topic for Montessori. You want a hint ? Movement and brain functions are closely related and work together… I will leave it at that until I can go deeper in another post. (Do you hear the suspense music? Dam dam dam!)
This week I will just share what we do for music and the development of movement in our home for our daughter and other babies in our care.
We love to move, so do children ! Our babies, at Chez Mahé, are developing fast, movement wise as there is some creeping, crawling and some walking with help and standing with and without help.
To contribute to the development of movement, we have a lot of children-size elements they can climb on or hold on to:
-ottoman (of different size)
-mirror with side bars
-baby gym that is not used as a baby gym anymore but as a funny bridge to go under or another something to hold on to.
Those are examples and you can have many things your child can safely climb on or hold onto.
We also foster outside time with a lot of crawling in the grass and/or standing, creeping with a few objects to meet their needs for the time outside.
We also go for walks but those have been more relaxing for the children who admire Nature and more of a workout for the adults. 🙂 It is an amazing opportunity for giving language as those little ears are very curious: “This is a tree” “Look at the flowers!”…
I am a music fan, and so is my husband so the children get to hear a lot of songs, that we sing ourselves (from nursery-rhymes to total French singers songs…). My husband likes to play some jazz in the afternoon to keep the atmosphere relaxing before nap time.
Soon, when I am not as busy as I am now (cannot wait for the summer), I will play my flutes for them (I have a couple of them!).
On our shelf we also have percussion right now in a basket so the children can MOVE and get into the rhythm. If they happen to look at me when happily shaking a maracas, I am dancing to their rhythm and we have fun together!
This basket of instruments contain 2 egg shakers, another animal shaped shaker (a little louder to appreciate nuances), 2 maracas and a bell shaker (from when our daughter was younger). They love them, share them and always seem so happy when using the percussion.
MUSIC is so POWERFUL for happiness.
I hope you enjoy your little one(s) moving to music, it’s the best!
This week I would like to talk about several things that helps your child being more independent at an early age but I have to pick a topic so I can focus and tell you how it has been working for us in our household.
When our baby daughter was about 5 months, she was obviously very interested in the food on our plate or in our hands so, after a little research (Montessori related) and talking to other parents around me I figured we should try solid food, she was also hungry and we were raising the amount of milk she was getting.
Starting with mashed banana, it was all good, she loved it. We moved on to homemade apple sauce and then slowly did sweet potato and carrot. She was eating really well, seemed happy but I had a feeling we could do better for her independence. We want to raise a great eater, who can discover how much food is good and fun and that it is also a social family time where she can be her own person and not depend on us to decide for her when she should it.
I was worried (well, I am a mom so it’s like a second nature!) about her ability to handle food once in her mouth, but as the book describes it, babies have excellent gag reflexes and they do not seem to mind the learning process, SHE LOVES IT! When she is sitting at the table with us, eating, playing with her pieces of banana, bread, apple or tomato, you realize it is worth it.
Most importantly, I think she is happy because this food is real, it leads her to develop skills at her own pace and she feels independent. She now wants to handle a spoon as well, so I gave it a try the other day, put some banana slightly mashed on her spoon and placed it in front of her, she grabbed it, looked at it and put it in her mouth like it was the most natural thing in the world… and she ate the banana from the spoon and loved it – her smile was priceless! I gave her THE INDEPENDENCE AND CONTROL she can handle and she loves meal time at the table.
I will not hide, it can be messy at times but with a good, appropriate bib and sleeves up, baby will just need a quick face and hand wash afterwards. It’s totally worth it and we, as parents, are respecting our child, her development and hopefully she will love food as much as we do.
As I observe my almost 6 months old baby playing happily with the back of my wooden chair, I am looking at her hands, those beautiful cute little chubby fingers working hard to get what they want so she can touch, observe and learn.
These tiny hands, I found them fascinating, full of life, they are everything to my daughter right now in her development. As she grows, I know her hands will still remain an amazing tool.
As I am re-reading the chapter of the Absorbent Mind about the hand, I realise how, as adults, we take for granted the movement of our hands. Although, we usually realise how much they are useful when we hurt them by getting a simple paper cut and it hurts so much, we feel handicapped for a day or two.
As a parent and a teacher, I observe a lot of those little hands at work, they are often the first tool to feed yourself, hands feel texture, temperature and give us a first impression of a new object or new food. Children love to pet animals and it gives them information about the animal and let’s be realistic we all love petting a soft cat, rabbit or dog when we see one. It feels good.
Importance of movement
Nature moves, everybody needs to move, immobilization almost does not exist unless for an instant and controlled by the mind. Even so, as Life is movement, indeed, our body still moves from the inside if not from the outside. Hands are a manifestation of this movement.
Movement with a purpose is connected to intelligence. Movement through the hands is also connected to the development of the senses which leads to the development of the Mind. Manual skills are also a sign of the development of intelligence.
Look at a young child like my daughter, touching every little bit of her interlocking disks, learning from it and about it through her hands (before putting it in her mouth of course!).
I like this quote form Maria Montessori in The Absorbent Mind:
“The child’s intelligence can develop to a certain level without the help of his hand. But if it develops with his hand, then the level it reaches is higher, and the child’s character is stronger.”
So, I encourage you to look at your child’s hands and how much they accomplish in a day, how much your child learns through them and how a wonderful tool they are… We do not need to interfere, we do not need to restrain them… just watch them and learn, it’s fascinating!
Today I thought I would share with you about my professional experience. Indeed, I am a teacher, a French teacher, an elementary teacher, an all-level teacher and I will always be a student, student of life, for better teaching skills, for understanding children and the human being a little better through each interaction I make inside or outside the classroom.
And also, I am passionate about what I do. So far, everyday has been a new experience and I always learn something and you know what? I love it!
I was a teacher before I could even be a certified teacher. I remember doing my homework in my mother’s classroom, in France, after class on the chalkboard, talking to my imaginary students (the empty chairs and desks in front of me); I also remember, later on, going to help her students who had difficulties with reading and writing. Years later, I became an elementary teacher myself and loved it (I even liked the hard days, the ones when parents question everything because they are looking for answers and guilt-free advice, the ones when a bipolar child threw a chair at me and then could not remember doing it…) I LOVED IT ALL and you know why ? Because I learned something every time, I am a passionate student teacher as well, because we always learn, everyday, in our classroom.
When I arrived in Canada in 2006-2007, there were many differences in the school system so it took me a few years to understand what was going on. But overall, the conventional system (bilingual or not) is the same here as it was in France: overloaded classrooms, lack of funding for teaching support and so on. It is frustrating!
And then, in 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to be hired in a Montessori school for children aged 3 to 6 years old. I was amazed at the possibility to even set foot in such a classroom with such an educational philosophy, a quite old philosophy brought by Dr Maria Montessori. Like a lot of people, I had heard about it, about her, but it seemed far from what I could do. Honestly, I just did not fully know what it was about. And since then, I have been amazed and I cannot stop searching and reading about it.
For 2 years, I was the French teacher and Montessori assistant in this school and I learned so much it is hard to describe. I also chose during my second year there, to write my Master professional thesis on how to teach French the Montessori way, to reach this goal, I spent most of that year making French material based on what I was observing and what was around me in the classroom. I learned a lot from my Montessori fellow teachers and the importance of being Montessori trained became like an obvious step on my career path.
For you to understand and maybe discover what Montessori education is about, here is a guideline I am making and that will change over time as I learn more about it and get my training:
Happiness of the child
Independence of the child
Mixed age group or classroom (3 to 6 years old /6 to 9 years old / 9 to 12 years old/ 12 to 15 years old/ 15 to 18 years old)
Freedom of movement in the classroom or house
Instruction through a choice of activities within a range of options instead of a direct group instruction.
Child choice of activity to play and work
Adult does not interrupt the child/student ‘s work unless help is absolutely needed
Specialized material developed by Maria Montessori or a certified Montessori teacher
Respect of sensitive periods through observation of the child’s development (order, language, movement, senses, numbers, manners and courtesies, justice and moral, abstract use of imagination, science or how the world works …)
The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say,
’The children are now working as if I did not exist.’
Maria Montessori –
This list could be longer and is made for Montessori classrooms. Even if you are a parent and not a Montessori teacher, you can choose to raise your child with some of those principles at home. A lot of young parents set up their home, spaces for their child following Montessori ‘s ideas of education. Myself, I followed an online class with Simone Davies from the Montessori Notebook in order to understand and help me set up my space at home to have a Montessori space ready for our child. I am also currently reading Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Lillard, it is quite heavy to read but it gives you what you need; I would also read How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin, I would probably start with this one as it is easier to go through for those of you discovering Montessori.
EDIT: I have now finished my training and I am a fully certified Montessori and Early Childhood Educator. I learned a lot in the past year and I am looking forward to keep on learning as I spend time with children and parents. I am the luckiest woman ! We also decided to move back to Nova Scotia and open an in-home Montessori Preschool for children 2.5-6 years old. Best decision ever !