All posts by ourmontessorijourney

What are we learning at 18 months

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” (Maria Montessori)

S and I have been doing alot of activities that require concentration lately. Besides working with the purposeful educational toys we do alot of activities that can easily be set up at home at close to zero cost.

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this develops concentration, hand-eye coordination, we are using pipe cleaners and colander

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We are using pigs and a chocolate tin for this activity. S is immensely engaged whilst developing a number of skills through this learning experience.

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This has to be one of our favorites at the moment. I find such activities to be hugely popular by young children. Photos speak a thousand words here. So much learning is being unfolded as the child explores each item of the treasure basket. I sometimes just sit back and watch S as she eagerly opens each bag to find the treasure hidden inside. It is fascinating to watch her enthusiasm and the amount of effort she puts in to overcome the difficulties.

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we are learning to peel an egg, slice it with the “egg slicer” and eat it.

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Soon I will write a post about gardening and how it helps the young child to learn about our mother earth and sustainability. All we do at the moment is watering our winter veges and daffodils. We are in a middle of a cold and wet winter, very much looking forward to spring so we can get out more often and plant some more veges. I have done a course on composting and that will also be next on our to do list.

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learning to use tongs, transferring activity and at snack table.

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Weaning table must be one of the best pieces of furniture we bought for S. I can not imagine not having it. She sits there and enjoys having her food in peace. She goes to the fridge, chooses what she likes to eat, and takes it to her low table and has it for snack. It is the most enjoyable thing to watch. I find it so reassuring that she is able to identify her needs (hunger in this instance) and find appropriate ways to meet them. I believe this gives her a strong feeling of security and belonging. When she is finished she cleans up after herself. It is so rewarding to see how an 18 months old is so capable and I am so pleased that our prepared environment allows this natural learning to unfold.

The wonders of play dough

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Today S and I made some play dough together. It is so easy and cheap to make. This is the recipe we used. We made two batch, a blue one and a yellow one. I used cooking salt this time because we ran out of fine table salt. I actually liked it better cause the texture was rough and was a whole new sensorial experience.

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Play dough is so versatile and offers many learning benefits.

  • This open ended-activity promotes creative thinking.
  • It strengthens the muscles of hands and tendons as preparation for pinch grip and writing. Fine motor skills and dexterity are developed by manipulating the dough, kneading, rolling, poking, pulling, molding, and shaping it.
  • A great medium for sensory learning, smooth/rough texture, warm when made, cold and hard later.
  • We can indirectly teach children about colours, shapes, weight, temperature, texture, etc using this medium.
  • It is so calming and soothing. As an adult I find it so relaxing when I squeeze/squash/manipulate the dough. It is the same for the little ones, a fantastic way to relieve stress.
  • It is such a simple activity but has so many extensions. Add a bit of aromatic oil/cinnamon or cocoa powder/dried herbs and it suddenly becomes a whole new learning experience, a different texture, smell, and feeling. Mix in some sand/rice/seeds/couscous/oatmeal and we have a new sensory learning.
  • This incredible substance promotes concentration and focus.

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You could provide a wide range of additional extras and allow your child to freely exercise their creativity. They will be engaged for a long time. Make a batch for play date and it will open up an opportunity for enjoyment, communication, negotiation, cooperation between children. I keep mine in an airtight container and it lasts for at least a week or two. I use primary colours and let S explore them and mix them together and create secondary colours. We both enjoy the time we spend together when working with play dough. It just amazes me how such an easy to make and cheap play item  could be so good for children on so many levels. It makes me think we don’t really need to spend so much on toys, sometimes we better go back to basics and learn to appreciate simple living!!!!

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P.S. Deb from Sixtineetvictoire made a batch with rosewater and no salt! that will be the next to do on my list!! click here to view some gorgeous photos of her work.

 

 

 

16-18 months

Besides working/playing with toys/Montessori materials, we do a range of other activities. There are days that we just don’t do much and there are days we are very busy. Here are some examples of what we have been up to!

very proud of our little herb garden, love the smell of our basil leaves, they are thriving and looking absolutely gorgeous, S loves to pick the leaves and smell them, feel them, and put them in her mouth, what great sensorial learning! We are right in the middle of a very wet winter, can’t wait for the spring, we got all our child size gardening tools ready and a huge front yard with a big vege garden that has been neglected lately!!!

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this is such a cool ride on toy

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rice and beans, exploring texture and sound, sorting (separating them, mixing them)!!!

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lots and lots of art activities

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S enjoys pushing her pram rather than being pushed in the pram!! yes our short walk can become rather long but let’s look at it from our little intrepid explorer’s eyes

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We are learning how to put shoes on and how to take them off independently! S can do it all by herself at 17 months. This is something that she has learnt all on her own (observing adults in the environment and imitating them in her self-formation journey). To find out what type of shoes is appropriate for children who are learning to walk see this post from Kylie from howwemontessori.

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exploring colours in different ways

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learning the concept of floating and sink, soluble and unsoluble

Sand, oil and water in one bottle, water and rocks in another

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sensory learning experience, coloured rice, got the idea from here

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we are refining our self-help and self-care skills, developing concentration, independence, and self-esteem through learning to self-feed at our weaning table

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a short walk on a cold winter day, the feeling of a gentle breeze,  feeling safe and secure with Daddy!

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how much learning occurs by just being free in the nature? being able to feel the texture of sand with your whole body, walking,rolling,crawling on the leaves of trees on a beautiful autumn day, walking bare feet on grass, rocks, sand! take in the beauty of nature with all senses! We MUST allow learning to unfold naturally and what better place than in nature, our beautiful mother earth!!

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“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself- consciously to the soughing of the trees.”

Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

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learning to play on the beat with our African drum!

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ball skills, throwing, catching, kicking, very important for coordination, gross motor and cognitive development

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the dirty dishes go in the dishwasher after finishing our snack (we are in the process of setting up a washing station)

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Please share with us some other DIY activities you do with your toddler?

Our little helper in the kitchen

We have been doing lots more food preparation activities this week, thanks to our DIY learning tower.

Since S is helping out in the kitchen my job has become easier in a way. She is happily engaged while I am cooking dinner.

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I love our crinkle cutter, easy to hold and cut, and safe to use independently

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learning to hold and use tongs, very tricky

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adding dressing, and we are now ready to eat

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Here, we are learning to spread some coconut oil on a piece of cracker. We are using a small child size spreading knife and a small natural bamboo chopping board on a tray. We love using coconut oil because of it’s texture, smell, and taste and it is a natural moisturiser for skin, a great learning opportunity to actively engage all senses. We have started to use unrefined, organic, raw, cold-pressed coconut oil, what type of oil do you use?

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Food Preparation

Food preparation is one area of Practical Life activities.

I am going to start with cutting a banana. The reason I have chosen banana as a start is because it is soft, easy to peel and cut, and S loves eating it.

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Until now I’ve been giving S small pieces of banana and mandarin (with the skin on) to peel and eat (like the pictures above ).

Now it is time to take it to the next level. Here I have set up the activity on a low table with all the materials we need. I am going to use a spreading knife for safety reason.

This instruction is just a guide, to break down the activity into steps so we can remind ourselves how complicated our every day tasks are and how much effort and concentration it takes for a small child to carry out a simple task.

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1)sit on your child’s dominant side.

2)tell her “today I’m going to show you how to peel a banana and cut it”.

3)pick up the banana, hold it with your non-dominant hand.

4) peel it with your dominant hand.

5)put the skin in the bowl (or whatever you are going to use).

6)place the banana on the chopping board.

7) pick up the knife and hold it with your dominant hand.

8) hold the banana on the board with your non-dominant hand (make sure yours arms are not obstructing the child’s view).

9)start cutting the banana from left to right into small pieces.

10)once finished chopping, put the knife down.

11)pick up the tong and hold it with your dominant hand.

12)pick a piece and put it on the white plate. Continue doing this for all the pieces.

13)now pick one and eat it and offer one to your child.

14)once finished eating together, put the skin in the rubbish bin/compost bin.

15)now invite your child to have a turn.

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With an older child, proceed to wash the dishes in the sink.

(as S is still very young, I cut the ends beforehand and make a small cut on the sides so it is easier for her to peel. Once she masters this I will teach her to cut the ends herself)

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Practical Life Activities

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What are “Practical Life activities”? and what’s their purpose? 

Based on Montessori’s observations, at this age toys do not satisfy the child. What she needs are things that require her maximum efforts. In the previous months, the child’s goal was to exercise her hands and master her body movement. Now, she needs to “conquer the environment”. For this purpose, she wants to do “what she can do as soon as she can” to master the world. She begins to watch and imitate what her parents do. Montessori introduced the term “cycle of activity” and defined it as “exercises which are complete in themselves, even if they have no direct outer purpose… but are preparation for the activity which is to come… children do these things that seem useless, with great care and interest. They seem useless to us but the child is preparing himself and learning to coordinate his movement” (take pouring water as an example which prepares her for later activity of cooking/baking). The purpose of cycles of activity is not only to assist in coordination of movement but also to indirectly prepare her for later actions, to deepen her concentration, and to develop “constancy and patience” in her. Each sequence in a cycle of activity has a specific learning purpose and repeating it over and over again helps the child to get engaged at a deeper level. Montessori believed what the child needs now is to work with “structured materials” that allow her to imitate the adults in the environment and to follow her natural interest in completing cycles of activities. For this, Montessori introduced “practical life activities”, activities that are real and relate directly to adults’ everyday life (e.g. food preparation, dusting, washing dishes, baking, etc). Such activities are selected based on what adults do in their everyday lives. Their purpose is “to respect the possibilities of human life as found in the small child”. This means the adult is no longer a servant to the child but he/she is an educator that is using practical life activities as means for developing collaboration between the both of them.

(Please refer to chapter six of Montessori From The Start book by Paula Polk Lillard to explore this concept in more depth).

When are practical life activities introduced?

Montessori suggested around 15 months of age when the child can independently walk. This is only a guide. S took her first steps around 15 months of age. It means for her it has to be when she is confident to walk steadily on her own.

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How should we set up a practical life activity?

When preparing/setting up practical life activities we must use materials that are real, child size, suitable for the job, durable and safe, and allow independence and repeated practice. Once we gather them we must think every step of the practice through from the child’s point of view. When we break down a simple activity to a number of small steps we realise how complicated our every day actions are and how much concentration and effort the child needs to carry out the task.

Once we gather the materials we put them on a tray in order from left to right and invite the child to watch us carry out the activity. We perform the activity slowly exaggerating and emphasising on each and every step. We position ourselves next to the child (not in the front) on the side that she can see better (usually to her left). Once we finished demonstrating we invite her to have a turn. It is important to follow the same sequence every time we demonstrate the same activity so she can remember but as she practices over and over she will develop her own system and explore it in her own way. Remember, the end product is not the purpose and the child is not interested in the finished job, the process is important (e.g. when wiping a table she enjoys the actions, she is not looking for a dry table). As she practices she becomes more proficient and she will get there in her own time. At this point, we must step back and do not interfere. We allow her to become deeply engaged. Praise and comments takes away her concentration and distracts her to get back to where she was, a simple smile is enough to show her we are happy with her effort.

Through repetition the child learns to correct herself because of the feedback loop between the brain and the hands. We must be patient and allow the child to take all the time she needs in her self-formation.

I will be sharing some practical life activities that I have set up for S in a separate post. I will break down each activity into small steps that makes it clear how important it is to demonstrate clearly each and every step to the child.

DIY Learning Tower

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This is such an exciting post for me to write. My husband and I have just finished building a DIY learning tower. I did not know such a thing existed. Dinner time has been abit of struggle lately. S wants to be picked up to see what I am doing up on the counter. She is always holding on to my legs, pulling my pants lol begging me to pick her up. I always end up cooking with one hand and it just becomes so hard and frustrating for both of us. So one night I thought I should really be looking at how I can involve her in cooking. I googled “toddler helping in the kitchen” and I stumbled across this idea. In fact, this is a Montessori thing. It is designed for your toddler to independently climb up the steps and it is safe. Using this your child is able to help out in the kitchen. So the next day I ordered an Ikea step stool, borrowed a power drill from a friend and on the following weekend we went to the local hardware store and purchased all the materials we needed for our little project.

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Here are some pictures of how we made the tower. I referred to Darwin’s learning tower as a guide. There were a few hiccups and this project was alot harder than we anticipated but we managed to complete it and the finished job is not bad at all. I love it already. It cost something around $80, not cheap but I’m sure we will get plenty of use out of it and it can be restored to a step stool when S grows out of it.

Now here are some handy tips. Please first read the above link a few times carefully, look at the photos below, put the two together and you will have pretty good understanding of how to carry out the task. Then consider the following points that we figured out along the way.

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1) do your own measurement because you do not know what type of wood you will be getting at your local store. We got a square prism type 30 by 30mm. I chose square because it made figuring out the measurement easier and I didn’t need to worry which side goes where unlike a rectangular prism. for the side bars we used the same wood, giving it the same look all around.

2)We got the hardware store to cut all the timber to the size we wanted and they were so helpful and did not charge us anything (they usually charge $1 per cut) but we got our measurement wrong and ended not getting the exact look we hoped for.

3)Our dowel is 16mm thick, we drilled a whole on each side all the way through. One thing is to make sure the dowel is perfect fit as it could wobble in the hole when your child is holding it to climb up and down.

3) This is very important, make sure your screws are not longer than the thickness of the posts and the side boards combined. Ours were longer and we had to make another trip to the hardware store to get some shorter ones, adding to the cost of the project and alot more hassle.

4)Now where you decide to drill the screws just think about it before you do it, you could easily run into another set of screws that you drilled in before. Just think about the next steps before you do something, making sure you don’t have to undo things.

A big thank you to my darling husband for all the hard work. This is his first DIY task and he certainly made me proud. He doesn’t know I am actually thinking of another project for him to do in the near future, maybe to build a low sink???

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Here S is using her learning tower for the first time, I did some baking and she stood next to me, peeled some mandarins, had them for morning tea, and here she is helping to wipe the bench top while I am tidying up in the kitchen.