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

 

 

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

Toddlers in kitchen – how to encourage their independence in the most busy place at home

Kitchen is a sacred place in every home. It is a very busy place, where on daily basis various meals are prepared. Apart from cooking fun, also most of cleaning happens here on a daily basis. So maybe you wonder – why would you like toddlers to have full access to the kitchen, where they can make the biggest mess possible. Because this is the place where you can observe their growth in self-confidence the most at their young age. I have written already about importance of independence in children, but this is the hot spot to nurture it.

What you need to do first – is to lower your expectations, you can not expect that with your young toddler helping you around you will finish the same fast or the same clean. But with time you will:) Think of what skills are included in preparing certain meal – e.g. mixing, peeling, pouring liquids, measuring, cutting, etc.

With very young toddlers – such as 12 months, you should really not have high expectations. My son who is 13 months at the moment is mostly into chewing vegetables or fruits that his sister cuts. But that is also very important – he is observing and absorbing the environment. All of you who have siblings know that the younger one always would like doing the same as the older – that’s why for example when Natalia is preparing muffin mixture, I ll give a tiny bowl to Miro as well so he can mix with his spoon. You do not need to wait that your child is young toddler – Miro was with us in the kitchen as a baby, exploring various cooking tools (on the picture below with 8 months):)

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In order to motivate your young toddlers to participate in the kitchen – you should not give them immediately tough stuff to peel, you do not start from peeling a potato (sometimes it is still hard for me:P). But a courgette is a perfect candidate, Natalia was peeling and cutting courgettes with wavy chopper with 18 months. Another important thing is that you should have kids size tools. In the picture below you can see our current kids kitchen equipment:

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For example apple slicing has been a hit in our family – and introducing this tool caused that Natalia finally started eating more apples. Just one hint – it is very hard for your toddler to do it all in one goal (I learned it the hard way), but if you instruct to first cut the apple in half and then slice – than it is easily doable.

On the photo you can see a snail tool and wonder what it is – exactly the same thing I wondered when I got it four years ago as a Christmas present. It is an orange peeler – I did not really use it myself, but I gave it out of curiosity to Natalia to try to and she loved it! I always had big nails so for me it is never a problem to peel an orange, but for toddlers it can be quite challenging. I am so happy I did not throw it to garbage long time ago, as it finally found its daily purpose:D

Another recent hit in our family is the hand mixer. I never had one when I was growing up, but decided to purchase it as an experiment for Natalia and it was such a great decision. She loves this tool. It is the first thing she shows to her friends that come over, and if Natalia would make a menu for day it would definitely need to include preparation with a hand mixer.

Hope you enjoy your time with your toddlers in kitchen:)

What is your toddler’s favorite kitchen tool and recipe?

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!!!:)

Puzzle journey – from 14 to 30 months

Puzzles present a very valuable and fun educational tool for toddlers. Their benefits are numerous, ranging from development of problem solving skills, cognitive skills, fine motor development to increase of self-esteem in your child. You can purchase many on flea markets and you can even make your own puzzles (giving them a special value).

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Natalia started showing interest in 2-piece puzzles when she was 14 months old. She enjoyed them a lot. Apart from developing necessary fine motor skills and problem solving, she was also learning a lot of new vocabulary. Her first puzzle set was about “What fits together”. Only when proper pair of puzzles would be coupled it would fit. The joy and pride in your child’s eyes when they manage to assemble their first puzzle is just something priceless.

Since she really loves cars and for that matter all transport vehicles, she also enjoyed a lot “Things that go” puzzles. That one she still likes to take from shelf and assemble them or do sorting activities with them (according to land/water/air transport, number of wheels etc.). Her biggest passion are animals, and following that, she has 3-6 pieces puzzles about animals. At the moment (soon will be 30 months) she  finds challenging the 6 piece puzzles about farm animals and the 3-D dog puzzle.

Follow your child’s interests and pace and enjoy!:)

Land, water, air presentations – Montessori inspired activities – or how to make long walks with your toddler even more exciting

The best thing about letting your toddler lead your way for a walk is discovering many exciting things yourself – e.g. you notice coo-coo birds in your neighbourhood, observe insects whose existence you were never aware of, and maybe most importantly, you learn even more how to appreciate all the tiny details around you.  Additionally you get amazed by the sense of orientation of your kid has and who will never stop surprising you, even finding the way home, when you start feeling slightly lost;).

From most of our walks we come back with bunch of different rocks or leaves or acorns. Last week I decided we ll take three glass vials on our walk, and I told to Natalia we are going on the expedition to collect samples of land, water and air. She was very excited and within first few meters she started collecting earth samples. It was not a super easy task since the vials were very narrow – but it did not bother her. After collecting the corresponding sample – you can use the opportunity to discuss the animals you saw around the spot where you took the sample, which are other animals your child knows that also live on land, variety of lands etc.

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We are lucky to live in a small city through which river crosses many times, and getting to the river shore is very easy. Since our daughter loves to spend time near all kind of water surfaces in the nature – that was her favorite part – collecting sample of water from the river. There she also tried to find a stone which would be small enough to put in the vial which contains “land” sample.  Close by she was observing angler fishing the trout, making it a full experience.

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On the way home she noticed a lot of blackbirds. That moment I used the opportunity to bring attention to the last vial we took with us, to collect some fresh air inside😉 We discussed what is air already long time ago (when you fly often you can’t avoid the topic). In case you never mentioned the air term before – the best way for a toddler to experience it and understand is when feeling it. On a day without wind you can blow some air into your child’s hair and hands and let him do the same to you. You can mention how it is important and that we breathe in and breathe out the air.

Our daughter was so proud of this “expedition” that even weeks after she proudly shows her land, water, air vials to grandpas and tells the story how she collected them. I ve realized we should do something like this more often, using our weekend trips etc, since she liked so much the activity of collecting different samples in different vials (jars).

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There are many activities you can do including this topic. One of our daughter’s favorites, which she chooses very often, is assembling a landscape out of felt and then sorting her animal figures on the appropriate part (either land, water or air). It can lead into a very long independent happy play. Another beloved activity around this topic combines assembling puzzles “Things that go” and sorting various vehicles depicted on puzzles in different categories, those that are used for transport on land, water and air. You can for example print and laminate cards presenting various transport vehicles and use it for the activity.

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