It could sound like I am going to talk about Practical Life activities but I want to talk about taking care of our self.
It is Christmas, it should be about love, compassion, generosity. I see a lot of this out there. However, I also see a lot of overscheduled families, stressed moms, overwhelmed dads who are running around stores and streets in search of the perfect present for the people they love or for getting the ingredients needed for this big meal prepared for guests.
I understand, I have seen it, I have been there too but at some point, I made the choice to say no. I love Christmas, the lights, the baking, the time off to be with the ones you love.
When we go to our families (France or Canada) we end up traveling so it has its challenges but once there, I refuse to overschedule, if people want to see us they come to us at our parents’ house (I did 5000 kms to be there already). I make sure I help my mom with preparations but we do share tasks for Christmas, nobody is loaded with the burden of doing it all for almost 20 people. It took a few years to figure this out but now it feels better. Everybody can enjoy it.
When we stay home with no family around, then it is about self care, love, family (just ours) and friends. If people are available, great, if not, we will be under our blanket sipping on champagne and reading books with our little one. There will be some family calls and presents opening and great food but I won’t stress over it. I refuse to stress over it. I also always make sure I read a book over the Christmas break, it’s my time to just relax and also enjoy a puzzle (tradition brought by my in-laws).
Your children, they need connection – board games, books read with you, sliding outside in the snow. They can help, they can chop, spread, pour, set up tables – and quite young I’d say. Remember modelling self care is important, remind yourself that they are part of the family so helping and having fun together chopping veggies and tasting recipes while singing Christmas songs really loud is part of the fun.
So my message is ENJOY. THE. CHAOS. and ENJOY. THE.FUN.
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).
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.
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.
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 !
I am back with more tips about Montessori at Home. Today we will talk about toys.
There is no such thing as a Montessori toy – Maria Montessori created materials for the classroom not toys (per se) even if we can always argue that these material are toys as they learn through playing with these. Material have specific purposes into the classroom and are meant to be used by Montessori trained Teachers (Guides) for a classroom use – or specific homeschooling use (which also needs training).
What I mean, when I use Montessori friendly toys, is that there are toys that have certain functions that are absolutely aligned and agree with Montessori principles.
There are characteristics for these toys, they can be rotated based on the child’s needs and interests – after you carefully observed your child at play.
First I am going to starts by asking you a question ? Look at these pictures.
Not Montessori aligned
How would you describe the toys in the first picture ? The ones on the 2nd picture?
Now here is a list of characteristics for Montessori Friendly toys and see for yourself which picture would be the one we want in our house.
CHARACTERISTICS of Montessori Friendly Toys
We want appropriate toys that fosters concentration, learning and independence.
– Natural material – because they give some sensorial feedback through their texture and warmth – which does not happen with mainstream plastic toys. This does not mean that plastic is to be banned altogether. We need to be smart about our use of plastic.
– Purposeful – We want some toys to isolate a concept so the child works on something specific – something you observed they are into and need. You don’t want all toys to be this way but a few are nice (ex: puzzles)
– Self-correcting – No adult required, the toy gives feedback to the child.
– Open ended material – They foster concentration and focus as well as imagination and creativity and are welcome in Montessori homes. A mix of these with purposeful toys make for hours of independent learning. (ex: building blocks)
– Realistic – No fantasy – No need for a weird cartoon mermaid to make music when your child just needs an instrument to make his own magic happen. Children from 0 to 6 love realistic toys and learn so much from them. It is also less scary and fosters imagination.
– Engaging – the child does the action not the toy – the child should be active not passive (“Active toys make passive learners” like a dear fellow Montessori mom I know would say).
– Fosters independence – Children will always need to connect with us through some of their toys and books, however, lots of toys are just so engaging that the child works by herself and builds self-esteem through it as well.
– Developmentally appropriate – offer toys based on your child’s interests and abilities. You want it to be interesting for the stage they are in and also be challenging so they learn from it through a deep concentration.
– Beautiful – attractive – which does not mean bright colours necessarily or visually busy
* All toys will not fit in all categories of course but this is meant to be a guideline. I usually go for a minimum of 2-3 characteristics in one toy and I think about this as I am making a list for my daughter for Christmas before handing it to grandparents and godparents. I want quality over quantity.
This shape puzzle fits in many categories, it is made of natural material and is purposeful as well as self-correcting, realistic and engaging, it is also attractive and pretty but no need for extra. This puzzle has seen hours of work by our daughter from the age of 16 months until 24 months and she still uses it at times and so do some of her older friends during play time. We also have another one similar where shapes are split in 2 or 3 so the challenge is higher – I am telling you, hours of engaging play.
If you have any question or need more support, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help you set up your home with Montessori principles in mind.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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 INTENTIONS. It 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?)
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 ; 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.
This is a follow up article on toilet awareness that I would now call toilet learning. You might notice we don’t use the expression toilet training – which makes me think of a bootcamp of some kind or a dog class. This is not what we do here honestly. We take each child as they are and take the time with them, during their sensitive period to address the toilet, the underwear, the pee and poop that goes now in the toilet/potty instead of the diaper.
I had talked about the first phase so I will dive into the 2nd phase, the one everybody wants to know or stress about. We, personally, don’t stress about it because there is nothing to stress about unless you have some major anxiety around excrement. It might not be the most fun part of your child growing up but honestly, it’s as bad as we let it be and how we react to it. It’s a major milestone but not a big deal. No reward or punishment necessary.
Around 18 months, as our daughter had been in cloth diaper since birth and she knew how to tell us about being wet, we started talking about how we would (in a near future) not have diapers and would wear underwear like adults do.
We made sure to offer the potty/toilet on a more regular basis before she would ask so the pee would more often go in the potty than in the diaper. Then, over the Easter break, when she was 20 months, we just put all the diapers away and brought in the brand new underwear. In our case they are organic cotton training pants that are slightly thicker in the middle part so some of the pee is caught in it. It does help the child feeling the wetness and sometimes they can stop and make it to the toilet to finish, if not, the pee will be partly caught making the mess a little less big to clean up. They are also easy to put on and off for your toddler to be independent going to the toilet.
We did set a timer every 45 mins for the first week or so and then would wait 1 hour to let her hold it longer or for her to feel it and let us know she needed to go. Honestly, it has been going great. We do have accidents at times (when she is tired, or the schedule is out of the routine) and it took an extra 2 months for her to feel like poo could also go in the potty and not in the underwear. No worries, this is pretty normal to tackle pee before poop.
Since about 22-23 months, she is able to say it or go by herself. At 25 months, all poo are in the potty or toilet and pee as well (except for bad days).
Before 20 months
After 20 months
We basically explained (and read a book about it) and switched from diapers to underwear. We use pull ups for nap and bedtime so she is independent putting it on and off. The difference to her was not that big because she had been preparing for this for a long time. We keep about 7 pairs of cotton underwear in the basket. At the end of day or when an accident happen, she takes off her underwear by herself and puts it in a pail we have in the bathroom. Then, she takes another one or take a pull up to go to bed.
She also have the choice to use the toilet instead of potty and we respect her choice. Eventually, the potty will phase out and she will go only on the toilet, like our students do.
Children can use the adapter when going onto the big toilet.
Children are also asked to wash their hands every time they use the bathroom. It makes for a more hygienic way of life. We ask this from girls and boys.
I hope your journey into toilet learning is stressless and can be appreciated like the milestone it is.
Tell us about your journey !! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.
Hello dear parents, grandparents, teachers and all caregivers,
after a summer full of visits from family, here we are, back into the school year.
The temperatures have lowered, we lived with the consequences of Hurricane Dorian for a few days and I remember to be grateful that we are all safe and ready for a new school year.
Children are back to a regular schedule and with the 3-hour work cycle comes also the careful picking of the books displayed for the children. I think September has its own perks because we can talk about apples and the soon-to-arrive Autumn equinox. It is pretty exciting. So here is what is happening in our school:
we are talking about apples through books read at group time, we discuss what can be done with apples. It opens many possibilities from talking about seasons and fall approaching to words we can use to describe the taste of different types of apples. It can all be fascinating if you let the children lead the conversation.
Ready to peel and core our apples from the Farmer’s market
Two of our students at work cutting apples before placing them in the slow cooker.
apples if not eaten by direct biting, require some practical life skills such as peeling, coring, cutting and such. We made apple sauce yesterday and it was wonderful. Go see our instagram pictures, you will see more about it. In the next few days/weeks, we will make more apple goodies. I am inspired by apple turnovers or apple pies. Children were all involved in the process and got to try different tasks. They loved it! They also loved the apple sauce for snack.
This is all possible at home with your child(ren) as well. Why not picking apples in an orchard as well over the weekend?!
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.
I am back with some tips for a Montessori Home. This time we will talk about Practical Life activities.
What is Practical Lifeand 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.
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.
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.
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…
FOR A FEW MORE:
tearing paper (page from an old newspapers or ads)
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
If you have any questions about how to set up the activities, don’t hesitate to ask!