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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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

 

 

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

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

 

Exploring lacing game – The tree

In our family we love playing games together. Apart from spending precious time together, kid can learn so much during playing . Some crucial things they learn during and develop with time is patience, taking turns, listening, memory and cooperativity.

We are always excited to try some new board games. Recently we got an amazing opportunity to try a new lacing board game developed by Linit Design . I got especially interested in this game as it incorporates a traditionally important Montessori activity of bead stringing and lacing into a board game possibility. It is such a great material to practice fine motorics so here is how our kids explored this game.

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As with all new games and toys I first let the kids explore material on their own. After opening the wooden box containing all the parts of the game – Natalia immediately went for a lace and started lacing through the wholes in a tree. She already had experience with bead stringing – and making necklaces of big beads – so her next activity was “bead” stringing all the corresponding leaves, fruits and flowers.

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As a third step after few days of exploring material and observing me how I combine this lacing and bead stringing activity she did it herself. And believe me it is not so trivial;) Just this activity itself requires patience and fine motor skills, especially from a freshly turned 3 year old:) Her little brother was just observing what she was doing and then trying to place all laces into the wholes – practicing more a pegging activity, which is his favorite thing lately.

The game comes with a wheel turning around with an arrow which can point on one of the objects that can be laced to the tree. As the authors have imagined this game can be play with up to 5 players, and once you have your turn, you turn the “wheel” and you get the object which you are supposed to attach to your tree initially. If you got cherry at first, the goal is to collect all cherrys and lace them to your tree before other players fill their trees with other objects. But the most beautiful thing about this game that you as a family can invent so many versions of this board game and play it at your home, in more competetive or cooperative manner;)

After playing shortly with the turning of the arrow,  Natalia noticed that the arrow can points just in between two fields. And here came our family idea – why not to use this moment and instead of turning again introduce another element to the game. We have decided to introduce a dark grey cloud which would be placed in between two trees, after the arrow is placed right on the border between two fields. Huge storm would be achieved once in between each of the two trees (we placed 5 trees in a circle) there would be one grey cloud. Additionally, we decided to turn it into a cooperative game – it was all player’s goal to fill in all the trees with a corresponding element (e.g. all cherries on one tree, all apples on another, etc.). We had to lace all the elements to all the trees before the huge storm would arrive. Once there were five grey clouds – we lost from the huge storm which would take all our fruits and flowers from the trees. It turned out into a big family fun:)

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For us this was a unique experience – a board game which at the same time has all characteristics of an open ended toy. At the moment Natalia is mostly interested in using it to build her own necklaces and bracelets, and guess with time, many more versions of this game will appear according to imagination of our kids:D

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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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