Montessori Christmas reading list for parents :)

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

Here are some of my favourites by Maria Montessori herself:

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

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

 

Other books I like not about Montessori education:

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

Other books Montessori approved:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have some merry fun !!!

 

Our first year of toys (1) – Christmas shopping list

Hello everybody,

I am in Christmas mode today as the first snow hit Halifax. We got out for a walk in the snow and it was delightful though my daughter does not understand what the big fuss is about yet.

With Christmas spirit comes the baking and reminiscing about our last year with our daughter and the baby students we had back on the West coast.

So I though I would put together a list of the toys, material that were a big hit from birth until one year old. It might help some of you gather nice things for a baby you have at home or love outside of home.

From 0 to 6 months:

The first thing I used was this black and white book. You can also use a Munari mobile.

black and white book

 

There are also nice sets of Montessori material for babies and we got ours from Etsy or a local Montessori company in BC Canada (http://www.beginningmontessori.com/five-pack/).

baby toys
Our 3 month old baby with 2 of the toys you can find in sets of Montessori toys.

You can also find alternatives in wooden toy store or on the Internet.

As you go you can use all the different Montessori mobile as you mix and match with the grabbing toys:

 

Here are some of the toys I did not get for Alexis but I would have liked. I got them for other babies around me since then like the colourful bead grasper or its natural alternative.

After a while, some of these toys would be used as teether of course and we found other alternatives so her senses could be enhanced:

  • teether ball from the sensory balls
  • A wooden teething ring
  • a silicone teething ring that she also eventually used as a bracelet
  • someone offered us one like this one that was going into the freezer, it was a big hit for her when she was hurt, but always make sure there is no leak and that they are safe to use prior to give to baby and after each time you wash it.
  • last but not least our famous French Sophie la girafe.
sophie la girafe
4 months old baby and her giraffe.

 

I was looking at our last Christmas pictures and what she had on her blanket on the floor was pretty much a bunch of these teethers including the interlocking disks and always a few board books, never forget books.

I will come back soon with what worked for us from 6 to 12 months.

Have fun shopping for these little ones !

It’s still Autumn !

Hello everybody !

As much as I want it to be Christmas already, I realize that we are still in a Fall mood, weather is cooling down, the leaves are still falling making the ground beautiful with warm colours. I LOVE FALL !

As we are more settled in our new home and as we are welcoming a new student in our home preschool, we still have some Autumn fun !

girls in fall leaves
Playing in the leaves !!!

Today, I took the girls out for a little outing and we ended up spending quite some time in the garden, raking leaves (best Fall practical Life activity ever !) and playing in the leaves we had raked in big inviting piles!

It’s not a matter of age, I had fun, my young toddler had fun and our new girl student also had fun ! It was so beautiful and nice! This was enough exercise to all be hungry for lunch!

fall poking
Art activity: Poking !

Right before nap time, our student and I had time to do some drawing and poking. I love poking as an art activity because it refines fine motor and is an alternative to scissors to cut shapes.

We will enjoy the last days of coloured leaves falling on the ground and will welcome Christmas time with open arms.

 

I hope you will as well ! ? 

 

Taking care of the adults as well

Hello everybody!

This is by a nice day that I write to you from our new home and province of Canada. We are still unpacking and figuring out where things will go but we are starting to see how our new home will turn out.

daddy daughter
New life in a (not so new) city where our toddler can safely walk with Daddy.

There are rooms that are quite ready: our daughter’s room (floor bed, child-size wardrobe, as well as table and chair), the soon-to-be Primary classroom, bathroom and the kitchen. THE ESSENTIALS to our family. The rest has what we need with no extras. We are aspiring to more minimalism without necessarily be what I would call minimalist (yet… something to aspire to).

 

In the past week, our daughter has been going through a lot of milestones (not the one you see in parenting books) and is hitting a growing spurt so it has been a lot about the child of the house and her constant need for food and sleep. 🙂 It is quite fun even if it is challenging to keep your own life under control.

So I am trying to keep the cool Montessori mom attitude on but let’s be realistic, I am exhausted!!! We went through a biiiig move and it is a big transition for everybody including the adults. We are more than happy to be back in a place where we have friends and we feel the love, however, we are also trying to re-establish a business and a family life.

You are going to ask where I am going with this post… well.. I am calling for parents to be gentle with themselves. I am often quite harsh on things that should not be done to, with or in front of children, I despise the use of technology as a distraction for young children etc etc BUT I do think that to be the best parent we can be, we need to take care of ourselves. So this is my call for Montessori parents (and all parents really) to take the time to breathe, shower, read, meditate, exercise – all of them or even just one can make a big difference.
Why ? Because to be able to take care of children all day everyday, we need to be ourselves and be our best version. My Montessori trainer was saying that even if you are sick and you need to be with children, then you will be the best version of what you have to give that day even if it is not as good as it was the day before. You try !

To me, it means, planning things in my passion planner and take the time to fill my 5 minute journal with good thoughts, go for a walk with my family and meditate. It feels good, it helps recharge and keeps me sane and patient when things don’t go according to plan.

I have an anecdote for you: I have set up a tray with 2 jugs for my 15 months old daughter to start pouring water as she loooves water. Well, as she sees me pouring from jugs to glass regularly, she has changed my plan and decided that this tray deserves her cup on it (see picture).

pouringtray
It started with 2 jugs and our daughter added her cup to it.

I let go of it because this is what makes sense to her so I step back, observe and realize that she wants to use the jug to pour water when she wants to drink (“boi, boi” – which means boire/drink in French). So now the tray has changed to one jug and her cup and she also has another jug and another cup ready in her kitchen drawer in case things get dirty during the day. IT IS OK !!! The plan changed but for the best so I am a happy parent with a happy toddler who is learning how to pour water.

SO please parent, be happy, enjoy some YOU TIME to be able to enjoy some family time.

Let me know how this goes!

 

Power of being together

Hello everybody  and Happy Thanksgiving !

I have been away from the website for the past few weeks as we were/are busy relocating our life (and business) to another province of Canada. My husband drove with some of our belongings from Vancouver to Nova Scotia as our daughter and myself would spend about 10 days in Alberta in my husband’s family.

As a Montessori parent, I focused a lot on making sure I could ease this transition for our toddler. She has been wonderful even if she did not like the change. Her sense of order is definitely shaken off and Dad was not around for over a week. This has been hard ! However, by making sure the routine of the day is about the same and placing some of her material around the in-laws’ house, we survived.

One big thing this transition is teaching me is: I LOVE spending time with my daughter one on one even more than I thought! We are taking the time to stare at each other’s eyes and laugh, we sit in the grass at the park and just listen, feel the wind and respect each other’s need for peace and quiet. It has been great!

peace and quiet in AB
Watching at my daughter being present and enjoying peace and calm.

Don’t get me wrong, we are both ready for the new house and to meet Dad at the airport tomorrow but this time together in a different place made us even closer so we could remain strong in this time of change.

My husband, as a wonderful Montessori parent is already in the new place and the priority is: making our daughter ‘s bedroom so she can see she has her space and she can be in a place made for her. We purged a looot for this move and I think are evolving towards more minimalism but for the sake of my toddler’s sense of order, we kept her bed, child-size wardrobe, chest and chair – by respect for what she likes and knows.

We are lucky… we are happy… we will be reunited soon and we can all be thankful !

I will be back soon with more Montessori and parenting articles when we are unpacked. In the meantime, take the time to gaze at your beautiful children’s eyes and see how much they love you, they are thankful for YOU!

Explain to me the Planes of Development

You might have heard this phrase: Montessori Planes of Development OR someone saying : Children from the 1st plane do this or do that.

This plane is not one that flies in the air or helps you travel. Maria Montessori created this term meaning a phase of development. According to her, there are 4 planes of development and each plane has characteristics, I will talk briefly about each of them. Hopefully, at a later date I will be able to go deeper in explaining the first plane that we consider the basis of all hence, the most important.

« Each lasts a period of time, each has its own needs and mode of behaviour ». Maria Montessori, The Four planes of Development, AMI booklet.

It seems obvious, when one knows about the development of the child that these planes are influenced by the sensitive periods and the human tendencies. Indeed, those, guide the child in his behaviour and his interests influencing directly the different needs of the different phases of development, especially in the young child.

Montessori also talks about the planes of development as a “succession of new births”.

1st plane – from Birth until 6 years old

This plane is the one of Infancy and it is divided in 2 subplanes. It is a plane of remarkable changes.

First subplane – from birth to 3 years old

The first 3 years are extremely important and the child learns more in this 3 years than it will ever learn for the rest of her life. The child has her Absorbent Mind working at full speed but in a total unconscious way. She learns everything and absorbs everything from her environment through her senses: good or bad. Hence the importance of a prepared environment and adults as prepared as anything else. The child goes through Sensitive Periods, enhancing certain learning at specific moments.

open space for movement
A prepared environment for babies and young toddlers showing the importance of movement

The environment given to the newborn child who is helpless and starts from nothing yet has everything to learn, is very important, as important as the first embryonic life in the mother’s womb but in a different way. In utero, the child is making his body, out utero, the child works unconsciously on his mind and psychological life.

Spoken Language is remarkably developing and so is movement.

Mack and wagon
Learning how to walk !

From 3 to 6 years old, the Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods are still very important, some of it still totally unconscious. However, the child can grow towards the 2nd plane being more and more conscious that she is learning. The child is a sensorial learner, she needs to socialize and also need to be independent to understand where she belongs in the world around her.

2nd plane – from 6 to 12 years old

« The child is calm and happy. Mentally, he is in a state of health, strength and assured stability. » Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

There are still changes happening, the child keeps growing and looses her baby teeth. However, the child seems more stable and put more importance in understanding why things happen and work more with abstract concepts (which was not the case in the 1st plane where reality and pragmatism is what children live for).

Socialization becomes more and more important and the child thinks for herself and her group (friends, siblings…). A certain sense of Justice (right or wrong) appears to defend herself and the group she belongs to. This is a good explanation to these children from 6 years old  and up going to the teacher/adult “telling on other people”. They are not trying to be mean, they are trying to understand where the rules are and where right and wrong apply. If you read Maria Montessori, she has stories about it. 😉

3rd plane – from 12 to 18 years old

The third plane is the one for adolescence. This a period of transformation in a similar way to the first plane.

Subphase 1 (from 12 to 15 years old) Puberty

Subphase 2 (from 15 to 18 years old) Adolescence

« We can think of a man bearing a great burden, who still has love for his home, who is fond of philosophical exploration, of production and of creation. To my view he is not yet an adult man, he is an adolescent. » Maria Montessori, The Four planes of development, AMI booklet.

              The third plane is one for major changes, deep transformations physically, psychologically and of course emotionally. Personally, if we read more about what Montessori had to say about the 3rd plane we would change the way school works. 

Adolescents are seeking acceptance within a group, they still need protection but seek work that has a lot of meaning.

Certain schools in other countries offer programs that seem adapted to what adolescents need. Here is an example I have heard about : Hershey Montessori school.

4th plane – from 18 to 24 years old

The new adult chooses his own actions, he is not under the umbrella of older adults as much as he used to be. He makes decisions for himself, starts choosing a career, he finds his mission in life.

To help him to do that, he usually goes to university as he seeks education and cultural understanding.  This will also give him great lessons to know what is valuable.

He is now part of the society, with a more specific goal as he feels reponsible to the world around him.

« Culture and education have no bounds or limits ; now man is in a phase in which he must decide for himself how far he can proceed in the culture that belongs to the whole of humanity. No matter what he chooses, he must realize that culture never finishes. He should realize this fact at this stage, in order to keep up with evolving humanity, Education should continue through life. » Maria Montessori, The Four planes of development, AMI booklet

I also question myself if university fully prepares students/young adults to what is expected of them in the adult world. This is another question for another time.

 

I hope this can clarify, even if brief, what are the planes of development, according to Montessori.

“Help me do by myself”

The title of this article is a pretty famous quote used in the Montessori world. It says it all.

Independence is not about making the child go faster than he can or because we think it’s easier, it’s about the child.

Many people going through their child’s meltdowns and tantrums do not hear in the cry of the child the famous: “Help me do by myself!”

I am not saying it’s easy and we will not avoid meltdowns and tantrums altogether, they are part of the child’s development and discovery of his place in the world. However, we can have a prepared environment that helps the child feeling he has power over this world she belongs to.

My first advice for any caregiver and myself (I repeat it in my head often) is to TAKE the TIME for the child to be, discover, observe, smell, taste… experience what is around – without the adults nagging, running and pressing them to finish what they are doing. Easier said than done for sure, but it deserves some thought and it is also a matter of respect for the child.

And remember, do not intervene to “help” unless it is being asked by the child (for toddlers or babies it might just be a cry or a complaint) or for a matter of safety, the child needs to struggle to learn, it’s part of his learning path to independence.

Around the house, we have some activities to enhance the child’s independence, here are the ones we have around for our toddlers right now:

  • washing hands station
  • Wiping a table after snack and lunch (they take turn as it is very popular)
wipe a table.jpg
1 year old wiping a table
  • bringing plate to the table – setting up the table for lunch or snack
  • brushing their hair – and they love looking at themselves in the mirror
wardrobe.jpg
Our daughter’s wardrobe: drawers for underwear, onesies… and then we leave out and for choice the main part of the outfit for her to choose in the morning.
  • child-size wardrobe/cubbies/hooks – to allow the child to choose his clothes in the morning This means, you choose a couple of outfits that are weather appropriate and from these, the child can choose which one she wants. Or it can simply being able to take their coat, hats from a hook in the entrance.
  • Learning tower – to observe or help in the kitchen
learning tower
Learning tower
  • and any other activities where the child is helping you or doing by herself, she is learning.

A lot of these activities are what we call Practical Life activities. Since our toddlers are growing up fast, we offer Practical Life work on our shelves as well, such as:

  • open and close boxes
  • open and close bags
  • nuts and bolts
  • locks and keys
  • dressing frame – right now we are working on velcro

Our toddlers can put on their hats on their own and are also working on taking off and putting on shoes and there is definitely a lot of independence in everyday tasks like this one.

puttinginshoes
16 months old girl putting on shoes.

Observation and Patience are key for the adult but this is worth it, the child is being herself and building herself by becoming independent.

 

Tell me what you do for helping your child being independent ?

 

Kitchen fun continues

Hello everybody !

August is almost over but we still have a week of kitchen fun before September.

I will be talking, in the next few weeks about a subject I cherish because it is SO important for our children: Independence.

In most of what we set up for children, we look for independence of use which will be building self-confidence and self-esteem for their life!

One thing we use for independence in the kitchen are:

-a low shelf with some dishes (bowls, plates…) and other activities that rotate and are related to the kitchen.

kitchen shelf.jpg

-a learning tower so the child can be at counter top level to help with the cooking or cleaning and /or observe what you are doing.

learning tower
Our daughter on her learning tower, always enjoying watching or helping around !

 

-a table for washing hands or dishes at their level.

These are great options for you to consider – and you can do a lot by yourself without breaking the bank!

 

To enhance the kitchen experience, we also have smelling boxes, a total sensorial experience with boxes they can match (eventually) or just explore as they go through the kitchen.

 

 

 

For language, we have a favourite this month and it was a gem to find: Pots and Pans book!

pots and pans book.jpg

 

 

Let’s keep having fun in the kitchen and talk about Independence even more in the next little while!

 

How do you involve your child in the kitchen ?

 

 

August at Chez Mahé: kitchen and cooking!

Hello everybody!

We have been back from vacation for about 2 weeks and our young toddlers are really getting back into their work and as we have walkers now, we go for bigger walks.

In our classroom, certain material have changed as the children grow older and others have not so we can meet everybody’s needs – we have different ages after all!

shelfaugust
Some hand-eye coordination material on our shelf this month!

At the top:

Nesting dolls – this is a bit hit, our toddlers love them (I put only 3 out)

Stacking nesting bowls – children have been nesting for a while and as we reintroduce it later, they start stacking the bowls. Ours are colourful but if I was buying them again I would take the monochrome version, I like it better for children to focus on the size instead od the colours.

Stacking rings – it is still popular with our toddlers – I started with 3 rings, then 4 and we will get up to the whole set. Later one, they will use it to grade but at first we use for hand-eye coordination only.

Palette of pegs – this is very new to our toddlers and it is now used to place the pegs in the wholes – patience before they are all in. Later on, we will use to match colours with the beads.

On the bottom shelf:

Stacking boxes – a large version for gross motor work as well… for nesting or stacking later on!

Beads on serpentine – this one is from IKEA and it works well to help practice crossing the midline.

Hammer and pegs – they love it, it started before one year old with matching the pegs in the holes and then hammering goes way beyond the age of one!

This month is also the month for cooking !!

cooking vocabshelf
Language shelf with pots and pans, utensils and their matching cards and books about food!

We got our utensils back on the language shelf and I made some matching cards – the first matching cards are the pictures of the actual utensils on the shelf and about the same size… why will you say ? Because young children learn from reality, the real things so to recognize a utensil on a card starts with the picture of the one they know. In a few weeks or months, depending on how the matching goes, I will bring out the same utensils but with a slightly different colour, shape… so the matching becomes more abstract.

 

On these shelves we also have some pots and pans made out of stainless steel so they are safe and can be used for cooking – we will keep it to mixing for now.

We are making snack together and it’s a lot of fun !

What do you do for introducing cooking to your toddlers ?