Monday, June 7, 2021

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

 The Great Outdoors with Toddlers


One great way to ensure that toddlers appreciate out beautiful planet is by giving them increasingly more outdoor and wilder experiences.

I want my kids to try to leave the world better than it was. This is what I try to do, although things get hard day to day to be mindful like that. 

One way to get them motivated to save the world and to conserve the wild spaces and the plants and animals that inhabit them is to show it to them, and in time immerse them in it. 

Where the Wild Things Are

I am here to step on my soapbox and declare that you don't have to go far, from vegetable garden and the front steps to local puddles and parks, the wild things are right there. And right now, the cicadas are having some notoriety in Virginia with brood X. That's the magical thing about toddlers, if you just point out how "close" the wilderness happens to start from your front door, they will get it. 

And I am here to also say that I hate bugs, but they are a part of nature. There will not be an ecosystem that we know today that does not rely on a bug, or a bug looking creature to do something very important. It takes all kinds. 

What I love about these wild spaces, as limited as they can be at times in suburbia, is that it shows children how much we and our actions are in balance with nature. They don't have to go far. 

And unlike the zoo or farms, the creatures are free to do as they please. 

It's Harder to See Creatures in the Wild

One thing that I have taken away exploring local parks with little ones is the appreciation for little creatures and their ability to play hide and seek. 

My oldest had a hard time at seeing frogs, snakes, and turtles in the wild because their bodies blend into the background of pond, dirt, and leaves. Here is a turtle that was a lot more obvious!


I think it's a matter of safety to keep the little ones aware of what may be especially dangerous growing in the local area and how to avoid it. 

My overall goal is to eventually see most of the national parks in time as a family; however, the little ones will not get much out of it if they are not prepared to look at the details. 

For this reason, I love the different day camps and classes offered to tinker in nature and really get close to the funny creatures lurking under leaves and in shallow ponds. 

Teaching Children Outside

In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the great outdoors is showing my kids the things in real life that they normally see in books, art, toys, and movies. 

It's one thing to see a fox on a page, it's another thing to see one down the street!

One consistent theme of the Montessori method seems to be to avoid adding too much fiction to children earlier on. It is one thing to help preschool children broaden their imaginations, but it is not useful to have cartoon-like animals in baby books since they are not like that in real life. I think that by removing what kids will unlearn later on, we are saving them and ourselves trouble for later. However, following learning of the "real" animals, the books and cartoons are super enjoyable and I don't mean any harm by this delay in using them. 

Another aspect of teaching children outside is that not every animal is like it is in the books and some animal are not your friends. We as grownups avoid wasps and snakes and it is important that children learn to do likewise. 

You Don't Have to Go Far

I wanted to end this update on a note to say that you don't have to and should not go far in order to have a good time. Kids can only walk a handful of miles comfortably and this number gets much smaller with higher temperatures and hill inclines. If you wanted to conquer some personal records, it might be a good idea to leave them with a babysitter and head for the great outdoors on your own for now.

Staying close will not eliminate their sense of discovery. They will enjoy looking under rocks, lifting up leaves, and following every dead-end trail. In fact, one of the things that I enjoy is that they are easy to keep track of when they are not running around my home or the backyard, but instead concentrate on looking at a new bug or plant. It's quite nice and I don't have to carry tired kids as a result. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Duktig and Meal Prep Finds for the Montessori Toddler

Duktig and Meal Prep Finds for the Montessori Toddler

One of the many things that I love about Montessori is that one does not give to the mind more than the hand in the early years of development. Even as an adult, I would say this is still a great concept to follow. 

So naturally, I gravitated to the idea of having a play kitchen be a functional play kitchen. 


With inspiration brought on by books, websites like Montessori Services, and other Montessori blogs (The Kavanaugh Report), I was excited to start exploring meal preparation with my little one!

One reason I fell hard for the Montessori teaching method was the use of increasingly more “real” tools in the kitchen to complete meal prep.

Updating the Duktig 

To say that the Duktig from Ikea is an amazing toy would be an understatement. There are so many ways to customize one and many Montessori parents had made modifications including water dispensers and functional sinks in order to have a sense of "realness" to the play. 

We had completed the very minimal of taking out the stove top component and substituted it for a functional cutting board with the use hot glue, and eliminating the non-functional faucet. We had a water dispenser, but it lead to a creative perpetual wet mess with our oldest child that we took it out and haven't used it in several years. We had, however, adopted the use of a filtered water dispenser for the entire family that our kids have started to use. 

One thing to keep in mind is that some of the Ikea items that are child size are not intended for contact with food and therefore it is highly not recommended to use them as utencils, pans, etc. I didn't just want the play thing, I wanted a real thing and I think this is something that many other parents feel as well, especially on the Montessori educational path.

Instead, we had adopted only the cups, plates, and bowls from Ikea. Other things were acquired from Montessori Services and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. 



One of the things that many find amusing about the Montessori method is that it does not shy away from small children using knives in a safe manner. Having once cut myself and earned a small scar when I was younger, I wanted to ensure that the same issue could be avoided with my kids. 

Practice makes perfect, the same applies for knife use. The very first knife that we had used as almost comic looking, an avocado knife from Zyliss. I had found it in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and immediately knew that it was perfect for practicing because the edge was not sharp and the grip was easy for a small child. 


Cutting Utensils

Instead, we had adopted only the cups, plates, and bowls from Ikea. Other things were acquired from Montessori Services and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


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