A Christmas list for 1 to 2 year olds.

If you go back to my post from last year and the list of Montessori friendly toys for 1 yo and under, you can still find activities, such as stacking rings or nesting boxes that are still going to be used and loved by your little one.

I am going to focus on our 2nd year of Montessori friendly toys and activities. Some are toys and others and more specifically Montessori materials you would see in a toddler class. I am not going to talk about specific practical life activities as I already had a post about it that you can always go back to.

This is just a list of ideas for your child as Christmas is coming!!!! It can be practical to have this for you or for family members in order to keep the toys Montessori friendly.

 

Schleich animals – great quality and very realistic (even if made of plastic, they are durable and soooo realistic I love them).

2 period lesson
Schleich animals paired with pictures – 16 months

Beads and lace – start with large ones so it is easier for the child to master before moving on to smaller ones (wait until the oral stage has passed for small ones).

Hole/Shape puncher – for crafts to strengthen the hands and fingers and make cool shapes in paper. They can always past them on paper as well. So a glue stick is handy as well.

Stickers – always a win !!! useful as soon as your child has enough fine motor abilities for it. We started around 16 months with stickers easy to peel.

Paint – watercolour or tempera – you can add an easel and cut the legs shorter so your young toddler can use it right away.

Blocks – wooden to build as much as they want. We love our set from Melissa and Doug. It’s being used a lot even by children over 3 year olds. You cannot go wrong with a set of blocks.

Imbucare box or shape sorter is also great during this year and over 2 as well.

Peg and board – ours is being used since before 1 for pegging only and then to add the beads on top and finally around 2 yo to associate colours. I LOVE IT !!!

Nesting dolls. – We love our Russian dolls but we also have another set with owls on them and she loves them.

Stacking rings cannot go out of style, now your child can stack and will slowly grade them in order.

Puzzles – start with one shape with one hole and them move on to 3 and to harder puzzles of familiar aspects of life such as transportation, animals, fruits. For this year they will need puzzles with knobs.

shape puzzle

Screwdriver block – she started using it after 18 months.

Dressing frames – amazing for care of self and fine motor.

dressing framevelcro
Velcro dressing frame

 

 

 

 

 

GROSS MOTOR

Stepping stones – to climb, balance and jump

Wobble board – ours is called kimboo board because it has been made in Quebec by Kimboo – she uses it as a balance boars and a climbing device and a slide.

Wagon – ours is loved and used by children of all ages.

 

And to finish BOOKS – with and without words. Focus on quality books with realistic pictures or drawings. At this age we stay away from fantasy that makes young children confused and sometimes scared. Remember their life is anchored in reality even when their imagination takes off, it is based on the reality we give them.

Remember that activities to do TOGETHER AS A FAMILY is also a great present. Being outside with loved ones is so important at this age as well.

 

This is a non exhaustive list and this is what worked for us and our daughter in the past year.

I hope you enjoy making your Christmas list. We are getting close to this time of year. Merry end of fall time of year !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our journey to independent sleep

Each person, each family has their journey. Some adults need more sleep than others, some children need more sleep than others.

Remember that your child has 3 powers over you (the ones that can drive us a little nuts at times): Eating, Toileting and Sleeping. You can’t force any of it, you should not force any of it but we can help the children feel comfortable with it and put boundaries around it for everyone’s sake. Sleep is a tricky one because it affects all of us in many ways.

Some parents have babies who from the start will sleep beautifully, independently and through the night in no time. It does happen. However, it’s not the majority of children who sleep like this. We have to accept they are all different. Some people choose to sleep train their baby at a young age. I would not recommend it at a very young age because I think a baby needs some time to try to figure it out and adapt to the world she has been thrown into. However, I don’t judge, I get it, I get why people do it. They are exhausted and want a quick fix. Unfortunately, even sleep training does not guarantee that your baby won’t go through sleep regressions (which are pretty common and developmentally appropriate) and you might have to start all over again… or not. Your child is unique. I am more about sleep learning, like toilet learning not toilet training. Quick fixes seem to go the opposite way of following the child.

baby sleep

I am more a Montessorian who follows my child even in sleep (and yes we have been tired at times) and I would not do it any differently but I have learnt things along the way as well. We all find our groove. We are all on a learning journey.

FALLING ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY

Our daughter fell asleep alone with no fuss from 4 months until 9 months. It means I would do the routine and put her on her bed and say good night and leave and she would fall asleep. I could read cues and the routine was down. At 9 months, we had a serious sleep regression (often going with separation anxiety and more) so that is when I could have gone to a sleep professional and get help. And if you feel like you are going insane because it’s too hard, please do. Choose one who understands your family values and knows what they are doing (if they tell you to let your child cry it out – then you did not need them honestly and in Montessori we don’t use this method as it goes against our principles and values, just so you know where to stand in following Montessori principles). Once again, it is your choice.

Our choice was to support our child through this hard time she was having. We tried a few things, we made some mistakes and we learned from them but overall, we would do the routine and then we would lie down on the ground and wait until she was asleep to get out. Certain nights it was fast, she was in a good place and knew we were there. Other nights, it was long and nothing else would get done in the house. We accepted. We supported her the only way that seemed respectful to us in our situation. Sometimes, we were getting tired and would go out for a bit so we could breathe and go back in( we always told her why and would tell her we would be back). At 16 months, one night, I told her I had to get out to go pee and breathe a little by myself, when I came back 3 mins later (and could not hear her fuss in any way), she had fallen asleep by herself. The following day, I did the routine, I told her I was going to get out for a little bit but I would be back. She held her stuffy and said: Bybye Maman!  … I held my breath – that was it… she was ready and it came from her. I said good night and left the room. She fell asleep. We never had to look back. Around 2 years old, she had a phase where bed time was longer but we reassured, supported and made sure she felt good and ready to fall asleep by herself. My advice: respect bedtime and routines. Children need it.

Bottom line, it was not always easy but it came from her. I am happy with this result and so is she. I would not change any of it. I would do it again. She is confident in her ability to fall asleep by herself. I did not make her, she did it.

Edit: I have been asked about napping. We kept her with us for naps until we felt ready and she was ready to fall asleep independently. Same method and she fell asleep by herself around the same time she did for the night. She was ready. We followed her. I was a student mom during her first year so I loved having her with me when she was sleeping. I learned to let go of things not getting done. Eventually it falls into place.

baby naps with maman
I did not mind her falling asleep on my for naps because I missed her so much during the day. It never frustrated me much.

SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT

Same principles applied here. We followed her. She would wake up, we would come, be there, feed her – we did feeding on demand from birth.

Our mistake: We kept on feeding when she would wake up way over the baby phase and she did not need it, it was a habit. We know better now.

We phased out the feedings at night, it does not mean she slept through the night right away. Once again, she needed to be ready. We would get up if she asks – but not for every little noise she would make. We would support, we would reassure and leave. She slept through the night at 25 months. It came from her, she was ready. I am happy with that. 🙂

Sleep is never going to be easy and expecting our children to sleep easily and through the night all the time is forgetting about the nature of the human being and its uniqueness.

Adults sometimes have trouble falling asleep, some of you might even suffer from insomnia. It’s not always easy to sleep well, so why would we expect our children to do so? There is a part of acceptance in it. There is also a part of knowledge about the development of the child.

CONCLUSION

You are your child’s expert. That being said, you might still need your village to help.

I read a lot, I listened to moms who slept train their babies and cried over it. I could not find myself in any of it so, this is our journey.

Your journey will be different. You might have a child who slept through the night young but is having trouble falling asleep independently for many reasons (fears, FOMO, missing their parents who work hard all day long to make a living…). You might have a child who falls asleep easily but keeps waking up with nightmares or night terrors, sleep walking and such. You might be going through regressions because a sibling has arrived. It is not an easy journey. However, you can always talk to us about it, talk to you village. You don’t have to feel alone.

Trust your parents’ guts and follow your child. You’ve got this ! 

One key for less stress – Montessori for the family (Part 2)

I am back with more tricks and tips about reducing stress and use minimalism and organization as a tool for it.

Why do I say it is for the family? Well because it does involve reducing clutter that your children “own” like we talked about in our article last week and we want to organize the house for little ones and adults in order to feel more at peace. This is more about physical clutter.

Today I would like to bring more insights about what is happening inside of our body,  our brain especially that also leads to stress.

MENTAL CLUTTER (also called Mental load)

It can honestly be on both parents depending on how much they have going on in their life. If you have children and a house to maintain and a job or even just 2 out of the 3, then you life might already be quite full and adding more for “pleasure” leads to stress.

It’s about making decisions. Intentionally (once again). Principles are the same than with physical clutter, what you decide to keep or ditch needs to be intentional. You put things down on the table (metaphorically) or on paper and you decide what should stay and what should go or it needs to be divided among other members of the family or our circle of friends/colleagues.

You feel like you are running from or after your life and nothing seems enough and you end up exhausted, annoyed and stressed. I have been there. Still working on it honestly.

 

Areas to look at: FAMILY, FRIENDS, SOCIAL ACTIVITY, JOB (which could be separated in meetings, financial loads, time put in etc)

Where are your priorities? What are your priorities? 

Write down the answers to these questions and decide what goes and what stays?

Where is your time going ? Do you spend your beloved time off running from one activity to another for you, the kids, to visit friends, to be everywhere when you cannot? Think about it, write it down and review. Does it bring you joy ? Is it absolutely necessary?

Examples of culprits:

Family: What is more stressful for you… going to visit people and have a say in how long you will be there or not having to go anywhere and have them over ? Can it be simple and short instead of long and stressful?  Think grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins…

Friends: Sam as above apply. Do you need to see people all the time ? If you are introverted, probably not. Learn to go with your flow as well instead of feeling obligated. Friends are here to support and/or have fun. If you feel like your relationship is negative and bringing stress then review accordingly.

Social activity: You love going to the movies and have a drink and go to the restaurant and practice martial arts? Do you need it all to be fulfilled and happy ? If the answer is yes, then you need to get organized around it or choose to ditch a couple one weekend to breathe at home and re-schedule. If you don’t need them all. Adjust.

If you have children and this is a stressful situation then, I will be honest and tell you that children do not need to be up and about doing many activities, they need to be at home and learn how to be with you and by themselves doing things they like or just learn to be bored… it leads to creativity.  Denay Barahona (author or Simple Happy Parenting) says that each of her children has one activity at a time and so do the adults of the house. I agree, I had only one activity myself (music lessons) and we would be home the rest of the time playing, doing chores but we were together so it was good. We were living life not running after it.

denaye book
Denaye Barahon’s book.

Job: Too many meetings. Too many responsibilities. Work emails on your phone that you read at home. What can you ditch to feel better?

For all of the above: DECLUTTER your life from what is not essential. Keep what you can handle for you and your family. You do not need to do it all. It’s too much. It’s stressful.

daddy and me.jpg
Simple family time can go a long way.

GETTING ORGANIZED

Choose to use pro and cons lists to make choices if you like it.

Use a calendar/planner/agenda with colours/stickers so you know what is coming and nothing overlaps. I love my passion planner – I plan my life on it and can review priorities every month.

Use a to-do list but don’t make it too long. I use a long term to-do list (longer but maximum 10 things to do over weeks) and a daily to-do list (maximum 4 things on it) so it remains reasonable. You want your list to be doable, feasible not impossible to get through. That leads to stress. You want to feel good about your accomplishments at the end of the day.

Once again, you do not have to tackle all 4 areas today. Work on it, one at a time. Make changes. Adjust. Appreciate what you have to do and what you do. Ditch the rest. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing but if you can let go of that, your stress level will thank you. You don’t have to be everywhere and deal with a lot all the time.

This is what I am doing right now. Reorganizing so we can keep our life simple and happy.  I am using Shawna Scafe The Life On Purpose workbook. It helps me review different areas of life. What I get from it is:

1-Set your values and vision.

2-Set goals and habits to go after.

3-Think about what stops you from going forward.

4-Create a plan to start over.

5-Select what to work on – because we can’t do it all at once.

 

So if you feel like Life is too stressful and you want a change, then go for it, make a change. It can only come from you.

When I work with families who feel like there is too much going on, I help them look at the culprits of stress and go from there. I help with understanding how children develop, what can be done in our life to unload and review our vision and goals for our family life. Together, we can do it. 

If you feel like using meditation and yoga to help you, it’s great. It does not take long to help and have a positive effect.

What are your tips to feel less stress ? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One key for less stress – Minimalism for the family (1)

Hello dear adults of this world (who have children around),

I have been working on minimalist living for years. It’s a journey ! But what a journey! It has been and still is a work in progress. I might not be an expert but I can certainly tell you that I am back from a way more than cluttered way of life.

My parents have been after me for cleaning up, clearing up my bedroom, the kitchen table (I used to do my homework on it), the living room table, the coffee table… for years. I was basically invading the tables of the home I grew up in. I was not the only one so I guess there was some modelling gone wrong at some point but… the point is: I needed to declutter.

I actually started this journey way into my twenties, late in university/moving to another country. I started to realize that a free space, free of clutter was nice and peaceful when I was living in my 9m2 university room. I had to, it was too small to hold it all. I started to live in a more peaceful environment – but the clutter was still at my parents (in my bedroom).

Little by little, I moved from France to Canada then I moved from one place to another, further further away and I was stuck with too many clothes I could not let go of, too many shoes (God sooo many shoes), too many books (teacher/student can’t let go of books). I could simply not take everything I had accumulated with me at every move and my fiancé turned husband was clear as he was the one trying to pack the car/van/moving truck. There was too much stuff. and yes it was stressful.

So after I had my daughter I had a revelation – getting rid of things and having less did not need to be painful, I had more important thing to focus on and the process could become liberating. Trust me, it is.

This is what I learned through it all (life decisions and reading about simplicity and minimalism and watching M.Kondo on Netflix haha):

It’s about making choices with INTENTIONSIt needs to come from you and it needs to be intentional, not accidental. It means going through everything one by one and decide if you need it, want it. Have you used it in the past 6 months or last year? If no, then there is a good chance, you don’t need it and someone else could have great use of it. Then recycle through donation. If broken, garbage!

Less is more YES, however, it means keeping our essential, not depriving ourselves of things we need. Throwing it all out and starting over is a possibility but it can be costly and not so good for the planet as you would throw and re-buy. Once again, look at what you have and decide if it is essential for your life vision, values and goals.

GOALS (What do you want from life?)

No clutter, no excess, no distraction from the important things and/or from a peaceful living.

This leads to having more time and energy for WHAT MATTERS (our family, friends, career…)

You are gonna tell me: “Ok, cool, but where do I start ?”

First we assess our priorities ( what is driving you nuts, what is bringing you stress – and which you can act on?)

PHYSICAL CLUTTER

toddler shelf

 

  • My first one is CHILDREN TOYS weather they are in bedroom or toy room or living room or the 3 of them – this needs a major re-organization which will make your child(ren) more independent and calmer, things get easier to clean up for them and for you. Less power struggle on that front.
  • closet, clothes, cupboards of linens – this was my first work (and trust me there was work to do). Example: I used to own 35 pairs of shoes 4 years ago, I now own 9 and honestly, I can go around and do pretty much anything with what I have. So I don’t buy more unless I need to replace. My clothes have reduced of about 80% in the past 2 years. I feel better, I get dressed faster in the morning. My choices are more intentional. I am still working on it though. Capsule wardrobes are my way to do it.

kitchen

  • Kitchen ; throw away any chipped, broken plate or bowl – it’s not safe for anyone, donate duplicates – think about why you need 3 garlic press but you still seem to not be able to find them when needed. To sum up: Let’s re organize! That was my challenge and still is this year as I use my kitchen a lot and have to make it work for my family but also myself as I teach and feed 6 children 5 days/week within a 3-room space (including the kitchen).
  • Bedroom bedside tables/shelves… easier to clean up usually – Keep it calm, this is where you sleep. Keep the essential out and be smart with your drawers (organize with small boxes/baskets or separators). Clutter need to be out of your visual space if any.
  • Then tackles office, library or other extra rooms that you use and which probably need a good clean up.

 

It does not have to all be white and beige like you are out of an Ikea catalogue… it needs to look like what you imagine it to be, like you and your family can use it. Peacefully.

 

NOW GO FOR IT ! However, do not tackle them all at once. Set one goal and do it then re assess and move on to the next one. I will be back for the next step: MENTAL CLUTTER.

Tell me what are your goals for decluttering your physical space. If need struggling, I can help.

 

I am a toddler

This week’s post is a little different. I have been thinking about it for a long time. 

As I think about the toddler of 2.5 years old plus in my care or the ones I taught before here or in France, as observe my daughter (almost 2 years old) going through life, good and hard moments, I imagine what they are going through and what they can be thinking or what they would like us to know and understand. This little voice in my head resonates every time my daughter or a student says no and sit on the floor with tears of desperation. It’s a good exercise for us, adults, to do. Observe and imagine what they would be saying if they could.

” I am a toddler, I am not a baby. I can do things by myself, I want to do by myself, I want you to help me but I don’t want you help me like an adult. Adults are stressful and stressed, I feel it, they go up and down stairs really fast but they don’t seem to think it’s fun. They always need me to go fast and it’s not fun. If I don’t go fast enough, they seem angry, I don’t understand why. Then they push me harder to do things quick quick quick! If I don’t, they do it for me and it makes me upset, because, I know how to do it but I have my own pace, I am a person, my own person.

I like making decisions for myself (and sometimes for other people as well). I like order and predictability, it keep me grounded and less scared. When things change all the time – adults always have a good reason for it- I feel scared, insecure and I can’t really say it, sometimes, nobody listens to me so I CRY and I SCREAM.

My emotions are explosive and I can’t calm down – not yet, give me time. Sometimes I need space. Sometimes I need a presence and a hug. I need my guides in life to know I am full of love and curiosity and I just want to connect with them to understand this world I have been thrown in.

I don’t want to put my coat on to go outside because I am focused on something else right now. I don’t want to stop jumping in puddles because it’s fun and I live right in the moment.

I sit, throw myself, lie down and scream and cry because nobody seems to understand – maybe they forgot how it was for them – that being a toddler is hard.

I want to do it on my own. I want to wear my green shirt today. I want to put my shoes on even if we are late, I don’t mind if we are late, I’m here to learn, I’m here to love and be loved so I can grow confident and resilient.

Let’s try to live slower and happier for our family’s sake and our growing children’s sake. Remember, if you think a situation is hard on you, then it’s even harder for your toddler. 

 

Montessori Home 2 (Practical Life activities)

I am back with some tips for a Montessori Home. This time we will talk about Practical Life activities.

What is Practical Life and why do children need it? you might wonder.

This area of work is the first one in a Montessori classroom, the first one to be shown and also the one that children seem to seek naturally. This is one we can make happen easily in our home life.

Work from Practical Life assists the development of the whole being, physical, mental and moral and its different types of activities help developing the child as a whole.

It involves a ‘practical’ aspect since the activities are activities from daily life i .e dusting, washing, carrying and so on. However, « their aim is not a practical one. Emphasis should be laid not on the word ‘practical’ but the word ‘life’ ». Maria Montessori

It is going to help for the integration of the human personality through meaningful purposeful work. It is also about achieving practical skills.

Here are the purposes behind Practical Life activities:

Orientation and adaptation : the child needs activities to make sense and help him adapt to his surroundings, the social habits of his environment and so on.  In order to attain that, the child needs to be able to find some consistency in his surroundings, he needs habits, things that will not change in order to fulfill his inner need for order. Later on, thanks to this environment he can count on, he will develop an ability to abstract and adapt to change.

Control of movement: Through Practical life activities, the child works towards mastery of movement (both gross motor and fine motor skills are developed) in order to attain certain goals i.e. carrying a tray without anything falling from it, pouring water without dropping any on the table, moving his chair without noise. These practices of control of movement and being able to handle fragile objects leads the child to self-esteem and dignity. Knowing you can control your self in a real life setting, realizing you can adapt to your environment and master this one gives a high sense of satisfaction to the child. The body serves the mind and vice and versa.

Development of independence: The child should be using his own willpower and acquire his own physical independence, he has to learn how to be self-sufficient and he will do it through some of these activities. The adult need to leave the child able to work with no interruption, so he can create his independence. This independence is not only a physical or even material one but also a intellectual, spiritual independence. As Maria Montessori said:

« We have to help the child act, will and think for himself ».

 As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem On Children, « they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself[…] you may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts ». This resonates with me as how to see the children, my own, or the one I guide through their path of learning and becoming the adults of tomorrow.

Development of concentration: Concentration happens only if the human being can focus on a task and maintain this focus over time to the point of concentration. First, to get to concentrate on an activity, this one needs to attract us, hence the beautiful material prepared by the adult. This beauty and attractive material will create an interest needed to focus on a task. It helps keeping the attention on this work and concentrate.                Will is showing in choice of activity. It has to come from the child, therefore, it is important to respect the child’s freedom to choose his activity. If he is not willing to work/play with something, then he will not be able to focus and then concentrate on this activity. 

AND NOW FOR SOME IDEAS OF PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES you can have in your home!!! List non-exhaustive, I give more to the families I work with over time.

unloading dishes
Unloading the dishwasher – 16 months old

3 places I find are great for practical life work are :

the kitchen: washing hands at the sink (provide a learning tower or step stool, depending on the age of your child), pouring their own drink (glass and water should be ready for them on a shelf), setting up the table (it can start as early as they can walk, they love helping), transferring anything to a bowl – for the sake of it sometimes or to help with preparing a meal. I also like to have a sponging activity so they can transfer water from one bowl to another via the sponge (cut for the size of their hands), it is a great strengthening activity for the hand and it’s fun. Sweeping is a must and it can be done anywhere in the house. Washing the dishes or loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning, wiping the table and chairs, washing fruits and veggies (there is special brushes for these), slicing a banana, opening individual cheese, transferring anything with a spoon… the list goes on and on.

learning tower

Our daughter at 11 months standing in/on her learning tower.

COOKING is also a fun activity ! Prepare things measured up first and they can do the rest and mix it up.

cooking prep
prepare ingredients first for young toddlers
slicing a banana
Slicing a banana

 

The bathroom and laundry room: washing hands at the sink (again a step stool or tower will help or have a station ready with a pitcher of water for them to fill a big bowl where they can wash their hands + soap it’s so much fun once they are past the oral stage), brushing their teeth (have a station next to the washing hands station for a cup with toothpaste and toothbrush ready to go), transferring laundry from basket to machine and vice and versa, matching socks, folding clothes…

Outside: watering the plants and garden, sweeping the patio, raking leaves, using a shovel (their size) to make a hole in order to plant seedlings and seeds, carrying wood, branches, shoveling snow…

rake
A small rake goes a long way in the fall !

 

FOR A FEW MORE:

  • tearing paper (page from an old newspapers or ads)
  • dusting
  • mopping
  • cleaning windows
  • make the bed
  • opening, closing containers (can start very early before they stand up)
  • nuts and bolts
  • locks and keys (can be done early id you tie the key to the lock)
  • pouring grain, water
  • using scissors
  • painting

If you have any questions about how to set up the activities, don’t hesitate to ask!

The Child in the Family

The title “The Child in the Family” is the title of one of my favourite books from Maria Montessori. Today I would like to share some important aspects people tend to forget about children. All quote are from this book.

1- Babies should not adapt to our needs as newborns. We should be there for them and HELP them be comfortable so they can adapt to this bright, noisy world we live in. We, as adults, are not more important than our babies. We need to adapt to each other in a respectful way with all the love we have.

Let’s remember being a baby is tough:

At birth, he is ejected from this home {the mother’s womb} to live in the air. […] he is pushed from perfect repose to the exhausting world of being born.

So we can make it welcoming for the new baby to arrive in our world:

The newborn child must become the object of knowledgeable care. Even holding him requires the utmost gentleness […] tenderness. […] That graceful little being, whom we overwhelm with material things and who is almost like a toy to us, must inspire reverence in us.

2- Let’s not forget about Sensitive period and Human tendencies. There is one thing we tend to forget when our child is young, she does not like change !! So if you feel overwhelmed by this child’s obsession to see things in the same place. Read my posts (above) about it and feel free to email me to ask questions. I might be able to help.

The child has a positive need to see objects always in their accustomed places and used for their customary purposes. If anyone disturbs this familiar order, the child is deeply offended.

3- My third point today is about what we call misbehaviour.  You feel like your child does not obey, takes forever to comply etc etc   I get it, it is frustrating and sometimes infuriating. However, your child is actually not doing this to bother you. If you are having a hard time with tantrums and what people call misbehaviour from your child, the chance is high that your child is the one suffering from it in the first place, so we need to be the adult and HELP OUR CHILD.

We do not understand children’s acts for themselves and instead continue to see them as forms of misbehaviour.”

This last part is to illustrate my point about how positive discipline is a great tool to see these behaviours in a new informed light and can help you find tips to overcome them or at least help you (and your child by the same occasion) see it as it is, through knowledge about child’s development.

My advice is to go to your library and pick up one of Jane Nelsen’s book on positive discipline. If you feel like it’s never available (very popular these days) or you do not have much time to read, message me for help.

After all, it takes a village to be a parent. 

What do you know about Positive Discipline ? Do you apply any tools from it ? YOu might be and not even know about it !!!

Montessori home (Clutter or not clutter)

Hello everybody !

I am back with some Montessori Home tips for the next little while. This one is about CLUTTER !!! One of the main aspect people notice in a Montessori space (classroom or home) is the lack of clutter (in the children areas at least).

It is the trend to talk about decluttering weather we follow a KonMari method or another Minimalist approach. If it has become such an important topic, it’s because WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF, TOO MANY THINGS ! People feel like they are possessed by their belongings and consumerism is not helping. Everywhere there are advertisements of one kind or another telling us we need this or that and pushing us to buy.

Well, to make a Montessori home, you do not need to be under clutter or to buy all the toys and make it expensive if you don’t want to or cannot. Montessori is way more than that (see previous posts!!).

To start, let’s just talk about our children and how we can make it easier for them and us to feel more peaceful in a de-cluttered environment.

When it comes to choices, and Montessori education offers choices to the child, LESS IS MORE. We do not give the child too many choices because it becomes overwhelming (we feel the same when there is too big of a choice in the grocery store for example).

baby shelves
Here is an example of what was set up for our daughter at 10-11 months. Shelves are clean, clear and attractive to the child. Certain activities need to be displayed in baskets or tray to make it easier for the child to access or take off the shelf. 

In our home, for our daughter we have one clear box of activities and toys for her stage that we keep in the back (closet, storage room…) and we keep only 6 out on her shelves in the main room. This is enough. These activities are chosen carefully based on her level of interest in certain things and where she is in her development. These work on language, hand-eye coordination and art right now.

She does not feel overwhelmed, we don’t either. Her space is calm and she knows how to place back her activities on the shelf when she is done using it.

For example at almost 21 months, she has vocabulary cards, nesting dolls, a puzzle, a basket of building blocks, a tray with paper and crayons (she can also ask for another medium if she feels like it), a basket of bean bags. Some of them are closed ended activities with a direct purpose (but we encourage imagination as well) and others are open ended activities to let her express her creativity.

The rest of our house is also prepared for her so she has lots of Practical Life activities easily accessible and freedom of movement through the house.

That’s it for now, just think about how you could purge extra toys/activities that are too loud, too bright, too overwhelming, broken, unattractive. Then, reorganize what you keep in clear bins and then choose 6 for your child to put out in her play/work space.

By de-cluttering toys, we bring order and peace to our children: LESS IS MORE.

How do you keep your child’s space out of clutter ?

Praise vs Acknowledgement: a Montessori perspective

I have been thinking about this article for months and I was waiting for my head to finally feel ready for it. Praise versus acknowledgement is an important subject when it comes to self-esteem and confidence.

We went from one extreme to another, in the past, people were expected to work hard, and no praise was given or expected and on the contrary, negative criticism would be given to fix mistakes. A few decades later, we reached the other side of the spectrum, people are scared of hurting children’s self-esteem so they started to praise and “GOOD JOB!” and “GOOD GIRL/BOY!” were heard all over schools, homes, stores, everywhere.

But the irony is that none of these did any good to children’s self-esteem or confidence. They were both focusing on giving an opinion of the result of what a child or an adult would do. The old times created people with low self-esteem and the latter created a generation expecting constant external validation without which they cannot feel confident.

Psychology studies seem to find that an in-between is best. Montessori falls into this category.

pink tower process
It is the process that counts.

 

What we want is to have children happy and proud of the work they did and the process they used, we don’t want to focus as much on the result. Why? Because the result can be depreciative when a lot of work has been put into it but what we want is not to discourage people (child or adult). Being discouraged will make the child stop trying. However, an acknowledgement of the process keeps the child making effort until she can realize she succeeded. Montessori activities provide a control of error that helps the child see if she reached the result that is expected. Be patient, the child will get there by herself.

 

 

What can we say instead of “Good job!… Amazing!… Good girl/boy”

In Montessori we :

  • Acknowledge the result (« You did build the tower”, “You helped me put the dishes away, thank you!”, “You read that word all by yourself…)
  • Encourage the effort or the process (« You put a lot of effort into this work”, “I see you used a lot of blue, do you like blue?”)

 

It is more about showing the child we have noticed what she is showing us. If it is the first time they do something, you could comment on the result but you don’t have to, especially if the child still seems very focused and is not asking for external validation. We also acknowledge (but not praise) when the child seems to want us to notice what she did.

happy smile
The smile of inner self-esteem and confidence growing after a lot of work has been put into this button frame.

This is why we think our activities through, what is offered to the child has a meaning to us, the child needs to work at it and she might feel frustrated at first because it is not easy but with acknowledgement of the effort, she can keep on going until she is satisfied and happy of the result herself. What we want is to avoid the NEED for external validation that is very present nowadays. A friend told me recently that her partner has been praised constantly as a child and later on. He is now constantly frustrated because his boss does not seem to care about his work. How is he going to overcome this ingrained feeling that he does not need someone else to feel validated.

My final word would be : “Let yourself be proud as a caregiver/parent but let the child be proud without you, in all independence.”

As a parent/teacher, I do feel proud of my child/students and when I do, I pat myself on the back because it took some work to prepare the right environment for them and I reward myself at time (your choice of glass of favourite drink, little sweet indulgence such as a croissant for example) but I let the child build her confidence. I also watch for these satisfied, inner happiness smiles children have when they feel proud of themselves: they did it by themselves and for themselves.

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.