Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2020

Montessori Style Toy Rotation

I wanted to write about our toy organization and toy rotation structure because I don’t know what I would do without it. It is a technique that helps keep our home organized and the children, mostly my toddler, focused. 

If you want to know how to manage toy rotation in a small home with multiple children, then you came to the right place. 

Safety

The first thing I would normally say is that I “follow the child,” but in this case, there is something more important. Safety. 

I am not going to follow the child when he is interested in touching sharp things, chasing poisonous animals, or reaching dangerous heights.

If you are reading this, you might have one child, children of the same or similar ages and stage of development, or you might have multiple children of different ages or stages of development. 

Safety is a big factor.

Whether you know it or not, you already complete some aspect of toy rotation simply by making sure your child's toys are safe. 

There are lots to toys and tools that are perfectly fitting for some, often older children, that are hazardous for other children. If you ever waited to give a toy to a child based on maturity or recommended age, you have already completed this part of toy rotation.

How do introduce and maintain toys in the home that are not ideal for all of the children? How can you entertain an older child while keeping the young one safe?

One way around it is to communicate with the child who is ready for a more complex toy and play up how special a toy is. Be transparent about how another child in the home should not have it until they are either older or reach an x, y, or z milestone. If it is dangerous, say why. If it is fragile or breakable, be transparent and describe in detail how easily a sibling might break it if they get their hands on it. These discussions are necessary whenever your child encounters any toys that require extra safety measures.

1. Small Parts 

Anything that is small or pliable to fit into a curious baby's mouth is a concern. A lot of babies explore with their mouth and the limited teeth that they do have to discover new things about their surroundings. Items that should stay away from a baby or a young child include: 1) play-do, small balls, magnets, batteries, screws, caps, anything granular like sand, art supplies, and toy parts like eyes just to name a few. 

The technique that I have encountered described in "Montessori from the Start" suggests an older child having a box with these more dangerous or sensitive items and telling the child that they are his, her, or their special things that should stay in that box away from a sibling. 

2. Sharp or Fragile Toys

Anything that can be sharp or can easily break off into sharp pieces is dangerous. My toddler loves nature, but bringing sticks into the house is a limitation he has to live with. We also have a dog that likes to chew on her bones and other chew toys. Those all have sharp edges that can cause cuts and scratches to a young baby or child who may not have learned caution about unfamiliar textures. 

Secondly, in our home and against canon Montessori, we do not use glass. My children are very tactile and we already had enough accidents with ceramics to learn that things break and that cleaning up is very hard. Even Christmas decorations containing glass are either completely inaccessible to little hands or put away for the future. Yes, plastic and ceramic ones are not the same, but I have heard enough horror stories to convince me that these safety controls are just a mild inconvenience. 

3. Complicated Toys

Anything that is too complicated for its own good can be a safety concern. This might be a bigger issue for households with children with larger age gaps, but babies will always find buttons. Any remote controlled cars, or anything else with buttons that produce a movement should not be accessible to a small child. They will not learn much about the world and might get an injury instead. 

4. Baby-proofing

Any structures and baby proofing should be age appropriate. If a child is a climber, or even if the child is not a climber, furniture should be secured if it is unstable. If this is not possible based on where you live then you can limit the access of the child to certain areas without your supervision. 

Inventory

Now that the safety part is done, the next step is to complete an inventory of the toys that you have and if needed organize the toys, e.g. put sets together, keep the same blocks together so a child does not get frustrated from trying to make two incompatible blocks work together. I divide children’s toys by form and function:

1. Teething toys

2. Sensory toys

3. Cars and trucks

4. Stuffed animals and dolls

5. Puzzles

6. Arts and crafts

7. Sets or stand alone games 

8. Balls

9. Animals

10. Blocks

Everyone's methods will probably be a bit different based on their needs. 

The Montessori method suggests only a few toys out in order to help the child learn new skills instead of sheer distraction and entertainment. I wish 5 toys were enough, but here my excuse is that I follow and know my children. 

While one of each toy from the above categories sounds like a lot, that’s what works best for my family with the exception of special interests. All of the special interest toys are out and we are not sorry. 

This week, our special interests are animals and teething toys.

Decide on a Number

Much of Montessori guidance regarding toys features quality over quantity. A few well-selected and often rotated toys will do more for play time than lots of overwhelming toys that may not captivate the child's attention or allow the child enough possibilities for play. 

While others might have suggestions, I have seen good videos suggesting 5-6 toys, I don't think there's quite a perfect number unless it's the one for your child. 

Some children want more variety than others and some might play with two toys at the same time that might be counted as two by a parent. 

I will be honest, we stick to about 10 toys between the two children.

My oldest started the day by playing with dinosaurs, then solved a puzzle, just to shift to playing with balls with his brother. My youngest enjoyed teething toys instead of the dinosaurs. 

I know what sensitive periods my children are in and offering toys that do not meet those needs will just clutter up my already small living room.

Observe

I guess observing is aligned with the first concept of following the child. I observe when my children start playing with a new toy. I watch how they discover a toy, and if and how they continue playing with a new toy.

Their sensitive periods may play a part in the different things that I observe. It will be difficult for a child interested in biting and tasting new textures with his mouth to avoid doing that with a new toy, but another child out of this sensitive period may never bite on a new toy.  

Children may develop special interests that stay over months or even years. I will be honest with you, some toys I have shifted into a "set" that I now count as one toy and I just watch my child play with this set every day without it ever growing old. This is how our "big cat" toy set developed. The manner with which he plays with his set might change including playing outside on the grass, washing the toy set with soap and water, or playing pretend with the different cats.

Rotate

Like previously mentioned, some toys aren't for rotation, like the big cat set in our home. Instead, we rotate many toys around it. 

Our rotation cycle is completed based on our children and their interest in different toys. If a toy is unique enough, then it stays out for a while. Likewise, if there is no interest, we simply rotate it out after giving it a chance for about a week. 

Children will not miss any toys they do not play with. 

Storage Options 

This can be its own journal entry. The premise of Montessori education is that you do not need to have the entire toy isle in your home to ensure your child is captivated and actively playing with toys and hopefully learning new things. That said, it seems, at least from experience, that a lot of logistics go into preparing a space ideal for learning. This preparation includes having the right toys at the right time with the help of storage.  

I cannot speak on the experiences of others, but we have 3 types of storage methods in my relatively small home. 

The reason we have 3 types of storage is because a little bit of clutter looks like a mess in a small space. And without a plan, it is easy to store toys in any available nook and cranny including on shelves in the linen cabinet, in my bedroom closet, on dressers, in shopping bags, in craft boxes, and on top of the drier in the laundry room. You get the idea. This made rotating toys so much harder because we had to spend time looking for them. 

I highly recommend anyone interested in toy rotation to have a storage method in mind before starting so that mistakes like the ones we made earlier in our journey could be avoided.

Immediate Storage

Immediate storage includes anything that a child of any age can get to or into. This storage is the location of where toys live. My oldest interacts with this method of storage which is typically baskets, bins, cups, etc. He can put things back easily without confusion. 

Doesn't this mean that a child can get this toy any time? Yes, that's the point. 

I want my child to feel comfortable to get a toy instead of having to ask us for it.

This storage must be intuitive and baby proofed.

Does this mean that an older child can get to more toys than those in rotation? Yes, and that is a part of growing up. Children will explore almost every inch of their home with impressive curiosity. 

My toddler can open closet doors, but he will not ignore toys that are immediately available just to search through a hard to navigate closet.  

Short Term Storage

Short term storage is anything that is harder to get to and is not baby or toddler friendly in its entirety. In our home, this is a nearby closet and chest that have toys organized just out of reach of the child. Toys are stored efficiently instead of visually. 

This is where toys are stored that might not be at the right age or stage of development for either child in my home. And this is the place where toys go when they are being rotated. 

My older child has opened closets to find toys that he was excited about, but this was very seldom.We will make short term storage friendlies for my toddler to navigate over time, but right now he does not have a lot of interest in using closets to find toy treasures.

Long Term Storage

Our long-term storage includes the attic and the basement. Once a toys has made it there, it will likely stay there at least a season.

If a toy might work well for another child and might get too much wear and tear if kept within reach of older children, it will go in the attic for safe keeping.

Reintroduce

The best toys are those that can captivate children in our home despite differences in age and stages of development.

Based on time, place, and culture, growing up is a unique experience and learning periods can be different for different children.
 

While not always possible, I personally like toddler and preschooler toys that double up as sensory play toys for my baby so that each child can reach full potential in my home without having double the toys out of their storage area.

Likewise, I have noticed that my older child would be interested in playing with some of the baby toys out of curiosity and his ability to play with a higher degree of understanding and coordination. He can now count the legs of an octopus and group baby toys by color.   

 

 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Our Experience with the Montessori Floor Bed

 

What is the Montessori floor bed? 

It is just what it sounds for the most part. It is a bed on the floor. It can be just a crib mattress with linens or it can have a wooden frame, canopies, and even be a part of a bunk bed arrangement. If you have the imagination, the sky is the limit if you start at the floor.  

Aside from the teaching methodology, a floor bed is typically the go-to solution in cases were a bed frame does not fit or is cost prohibitive. These beds are very common and it would be simply a lie to suggest that they did not exist before Maria Montessori. 

The novelty of the Montessori floor bed is that it is meant for a baby or a toddler. It is used as a teaching tool to help a child build confidence and independence by not needing a caregiver to put him or her into or out of the bed as with a typical crib. Being on the floor, it also alleviates the risks of babies falling from its height or the bed itself toppling on an unsuspecting baby. 



Source: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2719785

Why should you use a Montessori floor bed?

The generic answer is that it provides your growing and developing child a degree of independence to move around in and out of bed without a worry for child safety. 

My personal answer is that while I love the built-in independence and an opportunity for child development while maintaining safety, I also love it for night time feedings. Neither of my children slept through the night no matter where they slept. I often woke up for night time feedings and found it was easier to lay down next to them and feed them. It was comfortable and did not require lifting the child over a railing.  

Our Montessori floor bed story

I always thought that I would have a Pinterest ready room. I always wanted to have matching colors, a crib, all of the typical nursery items. And then, I got exposed to Montessori education and realized that a floor bed might meet my family's needs a bit better. 

I get a ton of questions about using a Montessori flood bed in my home. So I wanted to write an article to answer some of the most common questions and describe my experience. 

I also considered building a more structured bed so that it felt more official, but I soon decided against it since a base raised the bed off the ground, and any framing could cause a potential injury to my baby. We ended up setting up a crib mattress on the floor with a fleece blanket next to it for accidental falls or movements in the middle of the night. 

Was it cheaper than investing in a crib, yes.

Did I do it for all of my kids despite difficulties in room sharing, yes. 

Would I do it again? In a bigger house, yes. 

The floor bed was very helpful when my son would wake up early and play with toys in his baby-proofed room while my husband and I could stay in bed a little longer and know that he was safe and entertained. That alone to me is worth it. 

Considerations

If you are considering a floor bed, I want to make you aware that children adjust to it differently depending on what they are used to. That said, my oldest was exposed to our floor bed and pack and plays and it was more of the environment than the bed that determined his sleep quality.

Along the same note, it is hard to have your child adjust to the floor bed when the environment noisy. 

Some babies experiencing separation anxiety may leave the bed and try to find you when they would simply cry for your attention inside their crib. The floor bed does not fix separation anxiety.

I also wanted to speak up and say that while most people have found no issues with the floor bed, especially after presenting them with its role in teaching independence and safety, I have received a few comments from family along the lines of a proper toddler bed being more "classic" and a default-- ahem-- I mean, a better choice. And to some, the floor bed is too much of a new or a different concept, and that is okay. I for one, would not change it since it brought so many good things to my family.

Floor Bed Update

We have shifted to using a floor bed in a SHARED nursery. Space is at a premium in a house that we had over-grown. And that is okay. 

I want to take the time and say that extra measures are necessary to ensure safety for babies is maintained. After all, they will first learning to crawl out of their floor beds in shared spaces where they might come across things that belong to other family members. 

We have had to use some creative baby-proofing to ensure that some of our shared furniture met met our standards. We wanted to create a space that was safe and interesting for our child to explore and we did that by making sure sharp edges were guarded. I will say that it was a bit heartbreaking covering some beautiful tables that were masterfully refurbished by skillful family members, but it is worth it. I will say this, it not much more difficult to have a floor bed in a lone, completely baby-proofed nursery than it is to have one in a shared nursery.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

10 Love It or Leave It Montessori Concepts

My main goal as a parent is to enable my children to thrive in their time, place, and culture—everything else is secondary at best.

There are many Montessori concepts that I cannot live without and many that were not even considered. I wanted to share the 10 Montessori education concepts that we adopted or left behind in my home.

#1 Kept: Follow the Child 

This is a big one, every child is different and every child will find joy in their own way. 

#1 Left: No Movement Hindering Devices

Movement hindering devices are said to slow down teh growing and developing process for the child. They are restrictive and are made for the convenience of the parent rather than the benefit of the child. I know. 

I love my piece of mind and my 4Moms Mamaroo more than I love the Montessori Canon concepts. I love putting my child in the Mamaroo as I complete small tasks. It is wonderful to watch your child get some rest after being fussy from gas or teething. It is wonderful to see your child being soothed to sleep when you yourself are not in the best shape of your life from missing months of sleep.

#2 Kept: Weaning Table

I love our weaning table. It was a place of so much fun and love when it came to trying new solids for the first time. The table has seen a series of messes, but it was also the place where my child learned to sit at for meals. It was also the place where my child learned to get a bowl or plate. 

All of these things were completed with relative independence and I do not believe that a high chair can offer the same level of control for the child. 

#2 Left: Breakable Glasses Right After Bottles

The concept is great in theory, children need to learn to treat things will respect just like they will have to do when they are older. Using the glasses made out of actual will teach them in a safe and controlled environment that they need to be its stewards. 

Well, we had a few incidents with cups and mugs both on purpose and by accident. Cleaning up is not fun and it is important to understand for yourself when the risk of cuts and embedded glass shards in tiny feet is not worth the reward. This was our case and our experience.

#3 Kept: Floor Bed

I don't know what it is like to have a crib. I had babysat children who had cribs when I was younger, but honestly, I cannot even comment on that experience because children are all different. 

We chose the floor bed because it made sense. It was the bed that could not topple over from a climbing or rocking of a toddler. It was a bed that allowed my baby to wander and explore the entire room at his own will. 

#3 Left: Not Mixing Uses for Objects

I have heard from many teachers that the purpose of an area or an object should be singular to avoid giving your child mixed signals. For example, a bed space is for relaxing and not for jumping. 

Well, while some aspects of this concept make sense, like using a spoon in food, it did not make a lot of sense for other things. My child taught himself how to jump on his bed. He uses his bed trampoline with lots of joy that even suggesting that this bed should have a singular purpose goes against following the child. My child is also a very clever problem solver and often uses objects not for their intended original purpose.

#4 Kept: Meal Preparation

My toddler loves to use knives, forks, and spoons. Sometimes when the meal includes lots of vegetables, I think he enjoys preparing it much more than eating it.

#4 Left: Potty Training Style

I was one of those mamas that thought that if I followed guidance and direction from a book, that it might all work out with my child. I had a basket of diapers, wipes, changes of clothes in case of accidents, etc. I had two kids of potties. I did not bribe. And not one thing worked.

Well, it just so happens that my child is just as stubborn as I am. And that's okay. It just means that sometimes he wants to use the potty and sometimes he will do everything possible to avoid using it. It is hard to keep a potty routine with him because his intake of food and liquids changes from day to day and nothing has really helped.

#5 Kept: Personal Care

One of the things that I love about Montessori is that it helps children become independent. This is a huge focus and I love how my child has been able to do this. 

#5 Left: Personal Hygiene Toddler Sized Area

I love all of the spaces, I must have looked through all of the Montessori personal care areas. I love them all, but after trial and error, we had to pass on a toddler sized space. 

We had no room. And I do not mean that we had not room for the setup of our dreams where my children love. We had no room, our bathroom was super small and we were already storing the baby bathtub and a stepstool, so it make no sense to have another setup. And it also made no sense to have something in my child's bedroom either.  

At some point, I think I might do a roundup of Montessori personal hygiene spaces that I loved, but will never be able to replicate.

#6 Kept: Nursery Mobiles

One way that I prepared for my babies and their development was to make mobiles based on Montessori principles.

#6 Left: Walking Learning Aids

There are several items in the Montessori world that are adopted as enabling tools to help babies and toddlers develop walking skills on their own. The two items that come to mind are a walking aid wagon and a model stairs to help children learn how to go up and down stairs. 

These are all great and I'm sure some children will love them, but I cannot justify having them in my home. They occupy space and are bulkier than other products. Also, I believe in teaching a child on a real stairs. 

#7 Kept: Toddler Chores

I have to admit that I was overwhelmed by the amount of chores that I had completed before my baby learned new skills to take care of himself. It was just like taking care of a baby  who happens to be the size of my toddler. 

It is a game changer when your toddler starts taking care of themselves like never before. This might be developing emotion intelligence, or learning to make breakfast, putting toys away, etc. I was awed by the interest and I was very happy when this happened because I got a break to them be able to do other things like support their emotional development, coping skills, meal preparation, potty training, etc.

#7 Left: Montessori Classroom Education

This is a lot to unpack here. I love Montessori schools and I have many Montessori teacher friends who believe in this education. 

I am not against it, but it does not fit my family right now. We had limited options in our area for an infant Montessori classroom in our area and we were not interested in switching schools or separating our children to go to different schools. Due to these logistical issues, it was not in the cards.

A reason why I am completely okay with this, is because to make a message consistent or to make it stick it's necessary to bring some of the same concepts into your home so your child is surrounded by consistent messages. I already knew that I was going to replicate some classroom concepts in my home, and this change in our education plan was just another reason to do a really good job with the materials and setups I bring into my home.

#8 Kept: Toy Rotation

Kids behave better when they aren't bored. If I give the same thing for my toddler to do or play with every day, then that thing or toy turns into a sculpture. It might as well not be there. So as a result we try to do gentle cycling through.  We solve a lot of the problems with storage rotation, this way the majority of items are within reach for my toddler, while my baby has a more structured play environment.

#8 Left: Having Things on a Tray or a Basket

The purpose of preparing the space for your child and preparing the necessary objects, materials or tools all on one tray or all in one basket is to prepare your child to then succeed on their own. Ideally, there is minimal direction. 

I do like this, but it is not possible to complete this in a small space, I would have an infinite number of things in storage to meet the footprint requirement. 

And what's more, is that I like our children learning where everything "lives" in our home. I do not want to send any mixed signals to my child who is just figuring out that shoes go on the shoe rack and not on a "tie your shoes" tray.

I can say similar things about food preparing utensils, sensory play toys, etc. 

I have used baskets for strategic sensory toy storage, so maybe I am already doing this without knowing.  
 

#9 Kept: Choices 

Choices are a part of life and becoming a responsible person in our time, place, and culture involves making more of them as we grow and develop. Choices work themselves into Montessori education by providing children with limited and open-ended choices. 

We love this concept and have adopted it through offering different choices for food, outfits, books, and activities within reason.

#9 Left: Not a lot of books

We have a children's bookshelf where all of the books live although book rotation is great, a part of me is very thankful that I never made the commitment to make an elaborate book rotation schedule.  

#10 Kept: Concentration

This one is very simple, unless we have a doctors appointment or something of similar importance, we let our children concentrate on their chosen activity. 

They are learning focus and being able to focus for increasingly longer periods of time. And that in itself is a precious gift. We do not interrupt their happiness.

#10 Left: Minimalist Classroom-like Play Space

This is an aspect that is partially controlled by finances and the mechanics of our small home, but we do not have a classroom space. We do not have an area in our living room or their bedrooms that functions as a learning classroom space alone.

Instead, just like in most homes, our tools are in their logical spaces. 

The toy kitchen with functional equipment is next to our real kitchen and the toddler sized gardening tools are in the shed next to their larger counterparts. 

We love it this way because our children live and learn in the same space where we live so that once they are big enough to use the grownup tools, they are right there for them to use.

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2852905

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Montessori From the Start

I wanted to take the time to talk about one of my favorite parenting books. This book is called Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.


As a mother of two, I grow to value this book more and more each day. I think that I reread it twice now and I can honestly say that it was a really good guide for teaching my two children life skills.

It was also the first book and first major resource that I found to include everything from before birth to three years of age. I have framed many resources that I have found on the internet within the timeline and content of this book.

The book content is divided into 10 wonderful chapters that cover an overview of human development from the lens of Montessori education including: the environment of a newborn, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, communication development, and life skills involving multiple sequential tasks.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is on page 18. It summarizes our endeavor as parents, "Today, although some of us enjoy the greatest affluence the world has ever known, we find that developing a home environment that serves the human spirit, a home of beauty, order, and simplicity, remains a very challenging task."

Reading that sentence puts things into perspective. Many adults crave an environment such as this themselves. And to be quite honest, there are a few good habits and life skills that I would like to build on. Everyone keeps learning some things regardless of age. Similarly, as we get older, our environments change potentially in surroundings or the people surrounding us.

I found the beginning chapter covering the preparation of the nursery for the child to be very enlightening and made me appreciate the book immediately. Instead of promoting that themes should be ever-present and all linens should match, or that the latest gadgets are required, this chapter goes back to basics. You are the most important person to your child. Things help, but a child can still be happy and develop a good sense of self with just the basics.

Using this Book with One Child in the Home


My eldest is now almost out of the age range covered in this book and I can confidently say that I have tried the majority of lessons with my child, and the majority of them were helpful.

He got to experience a nursery with a floor bed, a few toys, an adapted mirror, a changing area on top of a refurbished dresser, a rocking chair, mobiles, and a side table for essentials. We did include a humidifier, a fun color on the walls and some other things that were not completely Montessori, but for the most part, it was simple.

I think a lot of people would highly enjoy the middle chapters covering practical life and personal care skills. I can tell you that I had the sequence of "toddler knives" planned out for a long time. And I was a lot more excited than he was when I adapted the Duktig from ikea to allow him to store child sized things and complete child size meal preparation. It was special to watch my child make parts of a meal or make a snack. And I think these chapters guide the parents to allow their children to become more independent than before because it can be a bit emotional to watch your child outgrow a stage.

There were ups and downs following this book. I had tried all of the advice on potty training and it was still hard. Some things will always be harder than others.

Using this Book with Two Children in the Home


I was lucky to have read this book before any of my children were born because I would not have been able to implement anything otherwise. It is hard to manage the needs of two children at once and it is even harder to manage these needs while also teaching them and helping them become more independent people. It is much easier to just take care of them when you are constantly running around. And it is harder to patiently watch your oldest put on a shirt with his head and arm coming out of the collar when his younger sibling is fussing over a toy that he threw just out of his reach.

What I learned was that my at one time useful mobiles now got more attention from my toddler than captivation from my newborn. And as a result, these shapes were often thrown across the room. Likewise, my younger child liked to bite on my older child's animal toys as much as his own teething toys. And my older child was happy to provide them.

Limited intentional lessons, those typically presented on a tabletop, in a basket, or a tray, are now almost seamlessly integrated with the rest of the house. My youngest child has a zone where his lesson items live and that only includes mobiles, teethers, and shapes, while my oldest child has the command of the rest of the house where he knows where everything lives.

So there have been times that required more perseverance than others. It is not easy to be a mom when you are outnumbered and it is not easy to Montessori when you are outnumbered. 

I will cover how I have adapted and implemented the techniques, toys, suggestions, and lessons within this book and others.






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 mo...