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 I would live to Miro when he 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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Gardening in November

If you are like us situated on the Northern hemisphere, having snow around at the moment, you must ask yourself what am I talking about -gardening in november?!?

There are plenty of plants that can be planted in November!:) And that is indeed a great thing since my kids love gardening and spending time outside in our garden.

Since we planted tulips in October, Natalia requested we plant some purple plants in November. So our purple choice is depicted in the photo below:

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Do your kids also enjoy gardening? What is their favorite thing to do in the garden?

 

PS As you can see we planted them last week, before the snowfall:D

Dealing with a strong-willed child or how did I hide crocs from my son

Before having Miro, I thought “strong-willed child” is a term invented by modern society to justify complaining of modern parents about their children due to lack of discipline.

Oh, boy was I wrong!

As defined by psychologists strong-willed children are people who are not easily swayed away from their viewpoints.    

On contrary to Natalia, who was an extremely calm baby, after being fed sleeping for 4-6 hours, her brother had to be fed every 30-45 minutes, constantly carried for the first 6 months and required a lot of attention. And hey ,we are the same parents, one would say with second one it should just get easier due to having experience already, right? Well, not truth in our case;) Do not get me wrong, I love him with all my heart and this is not a post to complain, just to empathise with all my fellow parents of strong-willed children and give a small piece of advice how to survive two first 2 years:)

How to notice if you have a strong-willed child?

From the first day in the hospital – baby will require much more attention than other babies, hysterically crying if separated from a mother just for a short period of time. Needing constant contact, CONSTANT CONTACT.

Any piece of advice to survive first few months?

Get a great baby wrap and baby carrier, it will make your life so much more pleasant for the first 6 months of babies life. When you cook, go shopping, write grant proposals, wherever, whatever you will need a baby carrier with a strong-willed baby.

Give up from the idea of putting a strong-willed baby in a baby bed,,,it will simply waste too much of your energy and it will not work out. Co-sleep with your baby, enjoy the cuddle, time will come for your little one to be ready to separate for the night from you (with Miro I had to wait 19 months:P).

Ask for help. Anyone. A friend, neighbour, family. In order to have a normal shower without a screaming baby, having few minutes of peace, especially during first 3 months you will need help and do not be ashamed of asking for it. There is a reason why we have a phrase: It takes a village to raise up a child.

It will get better. Remember that. Stick it as a magnet on your fridge!

But it does not mean it gets much easier. Each development mile brings new challenges. They are very stubborn. When they want something, you can not simply rationalise it, offer a different choice or any other parenting trick that works with your other child. It just does not work.

For example, Miros favorite outdoor shoes are crocs. And as you can imagine I was not very happy that still in November he was going outside in Crocs. Natural consequences do not really work (hahah ) – even if his feet are frozen he will not admit it! He will want to show you that he is right! So the only way to get rid of crocs before the advent was to hide them in our basement. Sometimes, you just need to be radical:D

Your strong-willed child will test your limits (and nerves) on daily basis. Hang on there, and let them learn from their own experience whenever that is an option.

Encourage independence of your strong-willed child – it will make your life so much easier.

Routines are the key for the dealing with strong-willed children, and this is a tough one for us due to our passion for travelling. But we try to stick to the routine as much as possible, and we are aware of tantrums to appear when we break the routine too much.

What are your challenges with your strong-willed child?

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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

Why do babies and young toddlers put everything in their mouth and what can we learn from it?

For sure you have observed your baby trying to place everything in mouth, whatever can be found in the close surrounding. You might have wondered why are they doing it? What is so appealing in trying to chew that wooden basket in which you placed some balls?

Baby’s mouth has more nerve endings than any other part of the body. If the baby really wants to find out what something feels like, she has to put it in her mouth. This is the way they explore the world! They are using the mouth to test the hardness, texture and taste of various materials. It is a very important experience. Additionally, a need to chew on something in order to relieve the pain of teething is an instinct within babies. There is no need to prevent this experience – only to be careful that it does not present a potential choking hazard.

Our daughter stopped being so much interested into putting everything in her mouth and chewing it after she turned 13 months (maybe cause she already had most of the teeth by that age). But her little brother with 15 months is still very much into exploring many things with his mouth. He ll take everything that seems tempting from the floor and put it into mouth – ranging from a snail to various flowers and grass. In case of the sand from the sandbox I let him explore, I just gently tell him sand is for playing and not for eating. I guess his natural instinct tells him to put it in his mouth as it helps him tremendously as a pain relief from teething. Since I am not a botanist and flower expert, thanks to him I have learned a lot about eatable flowers and plants. I find the following links very useful:

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/surviving-in-the-wild-19-common-edible-plants/

https://matteroftrust.org/14760/62-edible-wild-plants-that-you-didnt-know-you-can-eat

https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/daisy-herb-benefits.html

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Daisies are really a common sights in the parks now in spring and he was attracted to them, especially when he had a runny nose;) Apparently they are very healthy and used as herbal remedy for common cold, bronchitis and other inflammation of upper respiratory track. We should definitely trust to our own and our children’s natural instincts;) In Austria daisies are a sign of spring, there is even an expression if there are 10 daisies below your foot, than you know that the spring is there. They are even used to prepare some meals.

This week we have decided to give it a try to prepare a daisy dish:)

The list of ingredients you will need in case you want to try it as well:

4 potatoes

1 parsley root

1 onion

100 g coconut milk

700 mL of soup broth

1,5 spoon of olive oil (or sunflower but we always use olive in our kitchen)

pinch of salt

150 g of daisy flower

Young toddlers can fully participate in making this dish and it is important to them to do so, as I have already written previously.

1. step: Wash the potatoes and clean them well. (very young toddlers can do this part and it helps a lot as the preparation for the peeling process). Wash the parsley root.

2. step: Peel the potatoes and parsley root.

3. step: Cut potatoes, parsley root and onion in small pieces. (On the photo Miro just tried to copy his sister in order to cut a potato – he still does not have force and technique to cut the raw potato, but he is trying hard to learn from his sister.)

4. step: Place everything in the big pot on hot oil, stir it a bit and add the broth in it and let it cook for 20 minutes.

5. When everything is still cooking in pot, wash the daisies, put 1/3 on the side for the decoration of the soup and 2/3 add to the rest in the pot after vegetables have been already cooked for nearly 20 minutes.

6. Puree the soup, add coconut milk and salt and mix it all well.

7. Serve in bowls and decorate with daisies and enjoy:)

Let me know which flower recipes did you try recently or how did your kid inspire you to try something new:)

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Miro’s Montessori journey 12-15 months and importance of movement

One word could describe the last three months in the best way – MOVEMENT. Since Miro started walking with 11 months, he has been working a lot on exploring world around him, climbing and running wherever he could.

Maria Montessori has devoted even a separate chapters in her books dedicated to Movement (it can be found both in The Absorbent Mind and The Secret of Childhood). Already in the beginning of the 20th century she stated:

If mental development is spoken of, people say: “Movement? There is no need for movement; we are talking about mental growth!”. When they think of mental improvement they imagine all are sitting down, moving nothing. But mental development must be connected with movement and is dependent on it. This is the new idea that must enter educational theory and practice.

Even though she stated this in the beginning of 20th century things have not improved much more one century later in most schools and kindergartens. We can hope and spread Maria’s voice for the better world of education:)

Miro enjoys long walks, few weeks ago when we went for gymnastic class he has walked 3 km without a problem (till then he was mostly walking only up to 1 km to reach the park). It took us almost 2 hours to reach it, but he was so proud and he discovered so many things on the way – various insects, stones, leaves and much more. We can all learn so much from the nature. Sometimes his big sisters points him to some insect or flower and then they examine it together. For me those moments are so precious and bringing me lots of joy. I have learned about so many insects that I had no clue about and thanks to Miro I saw that an oak tree seed can start its development even in a sandbox:)

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Apart from balls, Duplos and wooden blocks for building he has been interested in certain educational toys we have at home. Below on the photo are the ones he has shown most interest in, over the last 3 months.

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All this materials appeared on his shelf on a tray once he turned 1 year old. In the first month he had most fun with the pop-up toy. It was mostly about fine motor skills and placing them inside the hole and then pressing with a finger to pop-up. Just very recently he started also sorting them according to colour, but not all and not always:)

What I like most with young toddlers they do not need any kind of “lessons” they learn everything by exploring on their own. That is why I love Montessori friendly toys so much, cause they are self-correcting🙂 Sometimes big sister steps in and wants to show her brother how it is supposed to be done and why, but I see no harm in it. She is his teacher on daily basis anyway, modelling him how to dress up, where to put shoes, where should the things be, etc.

For example sorting the circles by size toy – in the beginning Miro used this toy as an instrument, clapping the circles one into other, and he was more interested in the noise they produce and how do they clash with the floor. When he was closer to 14 months he started using this toy as a puzzle and being interested in where does certain circle fits into.

Another one that before he mostly liked to take out to use as building blocks, but now likes to assemble (guess its sister’s influence) is the shape sorter.

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Enjoy the beautiful spring and let me know what are your little ones up to:)

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 :)))