How to present puzzles in Montessori fashion and what does absorbing from environment actually mean?

In the early phase of development, Maria Montessori distinguished two phases: first one up to 3 years old in which the child absorbs the environment and second period 3-6 years, in which the child realizes the environment by the work of his hands. Also she has already 100 years ago noticed the childs sensitivity for order. Let me make few important quotes:

A childs sensitiveness to order may be noticed even in the first months of his existence. A positive manifestation of it may be seen in the enthusiasm and joy which children who at seeing things in their proper places.

Already from this quote you might notice how important the environment is, since children absorb everything and have a need to find a thing in  a certain spot. Don’t you remember playing hide and seek with your kids when they are young toddlers? They always expect that you will hide at the same spot especially between 1 and 2 years old:D

Obviously the love of order in children is not the same as that of adults. Order provides an adult with a certain amount of external pleasure. But for the small children it is something quite different. It is like the land upon which animals walk or the water in which fish swim. In their first year they derive their principles of orientation from their environment which they must later master. And since a child is formed by his environment he has need of precise and determined guides and not simply some vague constructive formulae.

From my previous blog posts, you already know that Natalia loved puzzles already with 14 months and I have described her journey till 30 months. Even now, every night before going to sleep she takes some puzzles from her shelf (now she takes 30-50 pieces puzzles) and then she has to assemble them at least twice, she is now in this sensitive period for puzzles where she enjoys repetitions. Once done, she says mommy please one more time before goodnight story, and like that usually few times.

Unlike Natalia, her brother is not interested in puzzles at all. And that is fine, we are all different. World would be so boring if we would all have the same interests.

It is necessary, then, to give the child the possibility of developing according to the laws of his nature, so that he can become strong, and, having become strong, can do even more than we dared hope for him. M.M

So far he has enjoyed only wooden puzzles and shape sorter, and thanks to observing him I have realized puzzles should always be presented in assembled and not disassembled fashion. In that way they are much more appealing. At least, they are to my children. You might wonder how did I notice it?

I ll give you few examples. When  Miro was 14 months the circle puzzle presented in such a way that circles were in a separated basked and empty puzzle on a tray he never took it. Whenever I would leave it intact, he would take it to the table and play for 15 minutes, repeating the assembling and disassembling process.

Or one more recent example – on our table we have a decoration in which we place tooth-picks, it consists of few flower petals which you can assemble on the top of each other. Miro just takes it and from time to time reassembles. Few weeks ago he replaced the petals of this plastic decoration with the petals of the real flower since he found it more appealing. I was not very happy he destroyed my plant but I kept my emotions for myself and told him we do not want to hurt plants:D

 

 

 

 

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Preparing bird food

In case your kids love birds just like ours do – they will enjoy in preparing winter snacks for birds.

What do you need to prepare a bird winter snack?

Some seeds – we used sunflower seeds

Raisins

Coconut fat (or any other animal or plant-based fat)

Muffin form

Procedure:

Let your kids cover the muffin forms bottom with seeds and raisins. Later instruct them to put coconut fat into a bowl and heat for 2 minutes in microwave. Than with a spoon they should transfer the melted fat into the seeds just enough to cover them, leave outside or in the fridge for few minutes. Use toothpicks or something else to make a whole in the middle to put a rope through it and hang on trees in your garden or in the wood close to you:)

Easy and fun practical activity:D

Enjoy and let me know if you try it:D

 

 

Great budget friendly board games

As many of you know I love to DIY many of our Montessori materials. But since I love so much board games myself and we do not have a TV at home, very often I am like an eagle when visiting stores such as TEDi. Yesterday I managed to purchase three different nice toddler friendly games, each for less than 3 euros:)

Just wanted to share with you if you live close to TEDi or dollar store to check them out, good quality games do not need to be expensive:)

Both Miro (21 month) and Natalia (3.4y) love them! Especially the Biber one:D

Did you find something budget friendly recently?:D

How to introduce music to your children if you have never received any formal music education

Luckily we live in the 21st century, when so many educational materials are available online. I never went to music school or learned to play any music instrument as a child. The only contact with music I had, was through dancing. I did some latin dancing during my elementary school, so I had a feeling of rhythm and tempo but no official theoretical knowledge of it. After I met my husband, who comes from a family where everyone plays at least one instrument I felt like I missed it in my life. But, it is never to late to start:) I started learning to play guitar during my PhD, it helped me a lot to deal with stress and my dear husband thought me some basics of playing keyboard. One thing was sure – I knew one day when I ll have kids I will want to provide them with as much music education as possible. For those of you, who like me, have not received any training in music you might find following blogs extremely useful:

https://montessoripianoteacher.wordpress.com/

http://www.piano-keyboard-guide.com/read-piano-notes.html

https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2014/08/montessori-music-tray-building-rhythms.html

https://meaningfulmama.com/teaching-music-to-kids-a-lesson-in-rhythm.html

So when do you start to introduce music to your children?

The inner ear of your baby is already fully developed when you are 20 weeks pregnant. The more you listen to various music during pregnancy, sing songs, dance, your baby will feel it. Now there is already a lot of research how baby learns their mother tongue already during the time inside the belly.

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/151201/ncomms10073/full/ncomms10073.html

And nowadays, we know, how beneficial music education is to the developing brain of our child. You are teaching your kid music already by singing lullabies and reading nursery rhymes. I have already previously written about benefits of reading rhymes to small children when learning new languages. Clap to musical beat with your little ones, dance, move your body in rhythm. Buy percussion instruments that are in child friendly size. All the instruments that are in the photo below I purchased for less than 20 euros in total.

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Already your 6 month old baby will love to explore some of the percussion instruments. Miro loved the tambourine and maracas as a baby. Now his favourite are xylophone and the music bells. Very often, after my husband is back home late afternoon we have family concerts, where kids play some percussion instruments followed by my husband playing on keyboard. Discuss loud and soft volume with your kids, fast and slow tempo and high and low pitch. For example for discussing (playing with concept of) tempo sometimes we dance while using percussion instruments, so we say now we ll be fast as a snail (slow) and then will turn into a cheetah (fast). Honestly I was amazed how both of my kids can distinguish between low and high pitch even when they are close to each other. We started distinguishing it on the keyboard – I would play some notes and then they would say that it either sounds like wolf (low pitch) or like a bird (high pitch).

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Last month I started introducing in more depth the keyboard to Natalia since she showed a lot of interest in it. Initially I drew the patterns of the keyboard so she had fun finding the corresponding patterns on the keyboard itself. Additionally she explored herself high and low pitches from bells and tried to find corresponding pitches on the keyboard.

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Additionally, using washi tapes I marked some keys on the keyboard in the same colour as the corresponding bell so the songs she knows to play with bells she can play on keyboard as well (such as Mary had a little lamb).

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Another way to explore music is by reading books which are accompanied with the CD. We have quite a nice collection:) And both of our kids love to listen to them. Their favorite is Peter and the wolf.

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What do your kids enjoy the most?

Please share in comments:D

 

Montessori approach towards teaching math

Maria Montessori had a big passion for mathematics and she recognized the importance of teaching mathematical concepts in the early childhood (2,5 (3)-6 years especially). She has developed numerous valuable materials for teaching mathematics. Unlike the commonly used approach in most kindergartens where children are taught to count by pure memorization and not understanding the value – in Montessori environment from the early age hands on experience is stressed out, and kids can feel the value of numbers.

Before jumping into mathematics materials there are numerous pre-math skills that should be mastered first, even before counting. One of the first pre-math skills that happens even without specifically preparing the environment for it, is sorting – it can be sorting by colour, sorting by size, by shape or by texture. I have noticed Miro performing his first “sorting” when he was 9 months old, when in his kitchen  treasure basket he had orange and purple muffin cups and just out of sudden he started placing purple ones into purple and orange into orange. Most probably he liked the appearance of it, but it looked like his first sorting “activity”.

Especially at this early age, you do not need to prepare any special activities, just engage your young toddlers in practical life and they ll gain their pre-math skills in no time;) Engage your young toddlers in emptying the dish-washer – put the drawer with all eating utensils and let your kids do the sorting activity you do on daily basis and they ll be extremely proud of helping you at the same time. Dishwasher will get empty so much faster with the help of your kids. They ll put plates to the drawer for plates – and the plates need to be sorted by shape and size (at least we have special place for each of them at our home;)) Another sorting activity hit in our home is – matching socks after they are washed and dried Natalia is a master in it already for a long time, and ofcourse I am the guilty one when someones sock is missing;)) Miro (14 months)  just started to join her in this fun sorting activity, he can match those that are really colourful and very distinct – but matching various daddy’s black socks still presents a challenge for him (for me sometimes as well:P).

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Another great place to do various sorting activities is outside🙂 I believe children learn the most by spending most of their time outside, that is why I try to make sure no matter what is the weather we spend at least 3 hours outside. Outside we can observe the birds, the trees, sticks, compare their size, discuss their colours and shapes. And sticks, seeds and rocks are the best open-ended toys out there and they are free😉 Natalia started counting in the woods, when trying to make a tower. I asked her how many pine-cones shall I help her to find to finish the tower, she asked 4, and when I brought 4 she counted to check on me;)

Counting appeared naturally at our home – when sharing oranges, i was always counting how many pieces goes to daddy, Miro, Natalia, me, whenever we cooked I counted out loud number of spoons of flour, sugar etc. At the moment she is in sensitive counting period – she counts number of steps she walks onto, counts fruits that Miro ate, etc. But before she started counting, she spend a lot of time doing various matching and sorting activities in woods and in kitchen. She started counting till 3 (in 3 languages) with 24 months, and now with 34 months she counts till 10 with confidence. Since she started getting confident in counting I decided its high time in making some DIY Montessori materials.

The first one I made are number rods, I painted them yellow and purple cause I had sufficient enough of those two colours, and we were out of red and blue;) I would like to add few citates of Maria Montessori (The Discovery of the Child) about this amazing material:

“The advantage of this material is that it represents united together, although distinct and countable, the units comprising each of the represented numbers. The rod of 5, for example, is  all one piece representing the number 5, but the five units are distinguishable by the different colour on it. This overcomes a very great difficulty, that of adding one unit after another in a sum total.”

“The rods correspond to numbers and gradually increase in length unit by unit. They therefore provide not only an absolute but also a relative concept of numbers. Their proportions have already been studied in the sense exercises. Here they are judged mathematically, and this provides an initiation to arithmetic. These numbers which may be handled and compared lend themselves immediately to various combinations and contrasts. By placing the rod of one unit next to the rod of two units, there is produced, for example, a length equal to that of three units.”

Today I have presented the material for the first time to Natalia and she has grasped the concept immediately, she has arranged it initially by size and when I asked her if the shortest one corresponds to one, what does she think the next one in size corresponds to she immediately answered two. When I asked her to randomly give me a rod that would correspond to five she gave me the right one. I am so happy she enjoys this material!! I really enjoyed a lot making it:D Guess it is not so difficult for her since we have been reading lately a lot of counting books such as One Gorilla A counting book and Anno’s Counting book, as well a lot of counting in kitchen on daily basis;)

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I really love math and I am so happy my little girl enjoys her beginning math journey as well :)))

Montessori inspired activities for Valentine’s day

This year is definitely a special one, as the Valentine’s day and the Ash Wednesday collide on the same day. It is a nice way to mark the beginning of the lent period about which I ll write more in the next post.

In order to celebrate and spread love during this week, kids have been very busy making various Valentine crafts. My personal favorite is the heart-shaped canvas – which Miro and Natalia painted, put some fingerprints, than Natalia drew the shape of our hands. I cut the hands and Natalia glued it onto the canva. Precious present for the daddy and valuable decoration for our home;)

In order to spread the positive spirit of Valentines around, we have decided to make special Valentine’s postcards for our old neighbours who do not have family in the town and to make their day ( Natalia insisted making a special one for our neighbour who has cats so we visit her also today). (if your toddler is well skilled with cutting they can do everything on their own – how to make your own you can check here)

Additionally I have prepared some tray activities for my two little explorers:

  1. Sort the hearts by size – for Miro and any toddler below 18 months just putting them one inside another is an amazing exercise. For the older toddlers they can align the hearts based on their size in line and do whatever variation of exploring the material. I purchased this heart models (it’s for making heart-shaped cakes) in Tedi for 0.75 euros.

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2. Transporting the red-painted rice with a spoon into the hearts  – for older toddlers, also practicing counting and following the “instruction” to fill the heart shape with certain number of spoons.

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3. Lock and key🙂 Since Natalia asked me during last week why are their so many locks on the bridges across the river and how to open them, here is a love lock activity;)

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4. Exporling the properties of magnetic heart😉 we cut the heart from the magnetic paper and the kids could explore where will it stick (at the moment it is sticking to our dishwasher;))28125616_10155981801613190_858171374_o

Enjoy!!!:)

Our Montessori journey from 0-12 months

Tomorrow our little boy will no longer be a baby, but officially a young toddler. The year has passed in a flash. So how did this year old journey look like? During the first month we were getting to know each other, we all cuddled a lot. That is the most important thing for your baby – to get familiar with all family members, recognize their smell and feel their love. Your newborn needs no special equipment, no toys – he needs only you (source of love and food;).

“The baby should remain as much as possible with the mother directly after birth, and the environment must not present obstacles to his adaptation ”  ~Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

If you are friendly with sewing machine, in the last months of pregnancy you can sew a topponcino, it can help the older siblings to take the newborn gently in their arms;) In many Montessori homes, special mobiles are prepared for the baby. Some are very nice and in the link provided you can find many resources. I must admit we did not make any particular. I think Natalia was much more impressive for Miro, than any mobile would be. She was bringing him the paintings she made, surrounding him during the first month with various black and white photos he got as a present etc. And she insisted on holding him a lot. During the first 3 months of his life, most of the time when was not eating or we were not on a walk, he spent with his sister (on her lap or lying next her). In spring when he was 2 months old we were spending lots of times outside, so he could lie down on the blanket and observe the nature. He travelled to another country with 1 month and during his 12 months he has been on 14 flights and had opportunity to observe various things which offered him much more than any mobile or toy could.

“The childrens’ eyes are like two stars, fixed, looking intently at something. The logical conclusion is that in order to grow, the child in this first period of life must see many things. He must look at the external world in order to be prepared for the future, a future where he will be capable of movement.” – Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

With 5 and a half months he started crawling and exploring his surroundings much more independently. Soon afterwards he started standing – and wanting to “help” with setting up the laundry.

He explored the whole flat and based on his special points of interests, depending on what I would be doing with his sister, he would have a special basket to explore. For example when I would be preparing lunch with Natalia he could explore various kitchen utensils. He loves musical instruments so when his sister would want to assemble some puzzle – I would make sure that next to her puzzles he has his basket with musical instruments.  Around 7 months I introduced him Object Permanence Box which he still likes a lot, so that activity is always around and with it around, Natalia can also do some things alone, without intervention of her little brother. He still is quite a food explorer (I wrote about our BLW journey in the last post);) Last month, when he turned 11 months I made him a DIY box for inserting buttons, which he also enjoys.

But most of the time your child will simply amaze you by making a special toy or activity by himself. For example few weeks ago after playing with DIY button box, he started placing pencils through holes into the wooden box where we store all our pencils and crayons. Or when few days ago he just started wiping the table after he finished eating;) Time flies so enjoy every day of your parenting journey! In case you are wondering for some other fun practical activities you can do with your little ones I really like the overview written here. Enjoy observing your children and learning much more about the world surrounding us with them:)

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