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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How do I use my fifteen to thirty minutes of self-care per day

Self-care is crucial throughout all our life. Sometimes when metamorphosing into parents we forget about its importance, which can result in negative consequences.

So how does my me- time look?

Sometimes my self-care does not necessary mean that I need to do it without the presence of my children. What I found out recently, and works great for us,  is every morning when they wake up (between 5 and 6 since the time change) we do at least 30 minutes of Yoga. And we all have fun. I must say I am super happy with the Children Yoga cards I bought for my kids which makes it inviting for them to join me in doing some yoga exercise. (e.g. lets pretend to be a cat, let’s be a leopard, lets be a tree etc. Natalias favorite is leopard and Miros cat licking milk pose:P)

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Sometimes after we practice yoga they go to their own room to play with some duplos or other open-ended toys we have available. That gives me time for some extra exercise:D Here are my favorite tools for doing my pilates excercise:D Miro likes some of them as well (especcially wobble) 😉

After they are asleep, depending on how much energy I have left I try to read some of the books that relax me:D

How do you spend your self-care time?:D

books i like to read
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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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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 :)))