What We’ve Been Up To.

Pumpkin 2 is growing up fast.  Not only is he potty trained day and night, he no longer sucks his thumbs (thanks to some applications of juice from our Aloe Vera plant) and he no longer has a nap.  The no nap has meant huge changes to our daily schedule and including him in “school time” now.  It has also meant a lot of changes for me to figure out how to work with both of them but, it has been going better than I expected.  It’s also had benefits as the day can be more relaxed since we don’t have to make sure nap time is on time.  Yesterday he preferred to dump the shapes from the pattern pictures everywhere and to make the coloured peg people crash into each other, but he is also having periods of work too.  Here’s him sorting Plant and Animal Cards.

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We’ve been doing music as a group activity.  We match bells and then work on rhythms.  Rhythm is way too advanced for Pumpkin 2 but it’s something he wants to be a part of.  They really like this drum I got from Amazon.  Pumpkin 1 has been resistant to learning rhythm but she needs to for her piano lessons so the drum was a great motivation.  We did have a good talk about how to treat the drum (I could just see Pumpkin 2 trying to stand on it) and it’s kept up high to only be used with me.

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Pumpkin 1 is working on linear counting.  She got bored with the Golden beads so I thought it best to take a break and work on something new.  It worked because she was interested in them again the other day.  I also found out that you don’t have to do subtraction with them before multiplication and since she wasn’t keen on subtraction, multiplication will probably be the next step.

These are the Teens boards I printed off and laminated from Montessori Print Shop.  I put some velcro on them because I think it makes it more fun and eliminates the frustration of accidentally shifting the cards.

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We’ve been learning about Vertebrates and the types of Vertebrates and I got a skeleton of a pigeon on huge discount from Affordable Montessori.  The kids were fascinated.  Pumpkin 1 is holding a laser light I was using to point out the spine or Vertebrate.  I thought they’d be scared of it but I guess they haven’t been exposed to the idea of skeleton’s being scary.  Pumpkin 1 as been asking a lot of questions about the body and so I plan to do a unit study on the body soon.

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Here she is sorting out the Types of Vertebrates cards I made.

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I also got these from Amazon and the kids love them.  They’re quite fun and were cheaper than X-Rays of bones.

Pumpkin 2 is my cuddly boy.  He’ll sit on my lap for hours if he could.  It’s funny because he can be so full of energy, literally bouncing off the walls (yes literally, he loves to crash into them and fall on the floor) but he’ll sit so nicely on my lap and just look at a book or play with cars or watch his sister.  I try to soak it up as much as I can because I know it’s not going to last forever, but I also need to get things done.  It’s such a difficult choice, snuggle him a little more, or get to the list of things I need to do.  I usually pick snuggle.

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What Montessori is really like with a 2 year old….

So Montessori with my kids is very child directed.  It’s often really hard to let go and let them choose what work they want to do but we have to trust their inner needs and processes.  What you see in blogs is only the best parts.  It’s usually skipping the difficult parts, the children being silly, the children being grumpy, the children lying on the floor and not getting up, the children making the Toob figures attack each other, the children throwing a material or insisting on doing it incorrectly.  Here is a good moment with my 2 year old.

 

Here is a real moment with my 2 year old during the same work session.

I didn’t get a video of him trying to walk on them.  He also tried to walk on the Brown Stairs.  He may be a little young still so I’ll keep things light and I put them away when he’s not treating them with care.

Pumpkin 1 also was being difficult today.  Wanting to do the Golden beads and then pretending she didn’t know the names of the numbers or just refusing to talk at all.  It’s so frustrating as a parent teacher because you worry and work so hard and then you’re left trying to figure out why and you always feel like you’re failing somehow and that you have to prove yourself to everyone who may think you’re making the wrong decision.  I’m not sure if the work was too easy for her or too difficult or she just wasn’t interested.  I’m leaning towards it being too easy and am hoping when the wooden cubes and squares for the addition come in she’ll be challenged.

So, I hope this post makes you smile and breath a little easier when your kids are stressing you out.

Pumpkin 2’s First School Day.

I decided on the spur of the moment today to try doing some school activities with Pumpkin 2.  He’s 2.5 now and a real handful.  He’s so different than his sister and can drive me crazy yet be so sweet and adorable.  He’s high energy, always on the go, always doing whatever he wants no matter what I say.  I’m hoping school time will help him learn to focus better and redirect some of that energy.  We do try to get outside daily and he got some gross motor toys for Hannukah.

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His first activity was the Geo-Cabinet.  We did the presentation tray with cards and then the circle tray.  He really enjoyed it and it was just the right challenge for him.  And yes, he has one circle incorrect but he corrected it.

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Next he did the Pink Tower.  He did it all correctly the first time, though the second time he didn’t.  Go figure.  But he was very proud of himself.  He loved to be using the materials he usually is told to not touch (which he touches anyway).  He did handle them very carefully.  Hopefully getting to use them will help him learn to respect them since he had a habit of throwing everything for fun.

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Then we tried the brown stair.  He had more trouble with this one, I think because he just wanted to put it together to drive his toy car on it so wasn’t focused.

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He really enjoyed the Knobbed Cylinders.  He did them all.  They were just the perfect challenge for him.  I really love this material.  I find it so pleasing and satisfying.

Here’s a video of him at work.  I love the concentration on his face.

 

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His final work was matching Toob insects to their picture.  This was actually a bit of a challenge for him.  Matching objects to pictures helps children learn that things can be represented in picture or 2d form.

All in all it was a great 1st day.  Pumpkin 1 didn’t help him too much which I was afraid of and she kept telling him, “good job!”.  It was cute.  We did his school work in the morning and hers in the afternoon during his nap time.

 

Potty Learning Update

So how is our potty learning going?  It’s going great actually!  I was getting worried at first and lots of people were telling me that he isn’t ready but I felt differently.  We went on holidays for a week and I went with a casual approach.  We did pull-ups in the car during long trips and camping but training pants at the cottage.  He started to catch on at the cottage and went in the toilet a few times and even told me before hand he had to go a couple of times but the cottage is small with the bathroom close by.  Now we’re back home again and he’s figured out what to do on the toilet but since our only bathroom is upstairs he’s not really telling me before hand or in enough time.  He’s still going in his pants most of the day because he won’t stop playing and refuses to sit on the toilet most of the time but since I’ve realized he will go when he is on the toilet, I’ve resorted to bribing him.  Yea, not very Montessori, but it works lol.  He gets a jellybean (not very healthy either, it’s what I’ve had on hand) if he’ll sit on the potty.  Sometimes as a mother dealing with a screaming tantrum throwing child while another child is demanding something and you have other children you have to watch, you just have to do what works.  So with the success of the jellybeans I’ve been pretty excited.  If I get him to sit on the toilet regularly he has less wet pants.  He’s so proud when he uses the toilet it’s really cute.

I think taking a causal approach to potty learning is the best.  No 3 day methods or forcing things.  If he really doesn’t want to use the toilet I don’t make him.  I don’t want it to be a power struggle and you can’t make a child go if they don’t want to.  Keeping calm and not stressing keeps him from getting upset and keeps it enjoyable.  To do this you may have to alter you house a bit – roll up rugs or cover them, have a potty nearby, do more laundry, buy training pants and covers.  But you want it to be something positive.  Also I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “being ready”.  If you see it as a process like learning to feed themselves and learning to talk, rather than a goal you achieve, then you can start introducing them even as infants to sitting on the potty.  Also giving them the chance to become aware of their body by putting them in training pants really helps things to click even for young toddlers.  If I ever am blessed to have another child, I think I’ll start introducing the toilet early.  I highly recommend the book “Diaper Free Before Three“.

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I also think though, that you have to do what works for your family.  If that means jellybeans, so be it.  If that means waiting until they’re older, then that’s what you do.  The only thing is to not scare or punish or belittle a child over potty learning or to allow it to stress you out or become a power struggle.  If you feel this is happening I’d say to take a step back, put them back in diapers and just enjoy their short toddler years.

Pumpkin 2 has really enjoyed these two potty books.

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Potty Learning

So this is not a post about how to potty train your child.  There are so many ideas, theories, methods out there and every child is different, responds differently and every family situation is different so I really don’t think there’s one straightforward approach to potty training.

What this is, is me sharing what’s happening in our home, our frustrations, our joys, items I’ve found essential.  Hopefully it’ll encourage some who are struggling with what can be a difficult time.  Hopefully it’ll make some of you laugh to remember your experiences.

So Pumpkin 2 is 25 months.  With Pumpkin 1 I was a first time, gung-ho with lots of time Mom who did Elimination Communication.  It was wonderful.  From about 7 months she started pooping on the toilet every morning and I never had to change poopy diapers again.  Pee kinda went out the window when I got pregnant with Pumpkin 2 and was sick so I toilet trained her for that around 25 months.  I put her in underwear and jogging pants and she peed in them for 2 days and then was trained.  She didn’t start telling me when she had to go until she was about 3 but as long as I took her regularly she rarely had accidents.

With Pumpkin 2 I was doing daycare and just didn’t have the time it takes to do Elimination Communication so this is a very different ball game.  Pumpkin 1 already knew what to do on the potty when I started training her.  Pumpkin 2 has no idea.  He sits on it, says, “Psssss” and then “All done” and gets off.  So for the last week and a half I’ve changed soiled underwear and he’s peed on the toilet 1 time.  1 TIME in over week.  You can imagine how discouraging that can be.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me he’s not ready but I disagree.  He’s very excited about sitting on the toilet or potty, he holds his pee for long periods, wakes up from naps dry and wants to wear underwear.  I really feel once he catches on what he’s supposed to do he’s be trained.  I think without the accidents, he’s not going to learn.  They’re part of the process of understanding his body.

So what I’ve been doing is putting him in underwear during the day, encouraging him to go to the potty but not forcing it and cleaning up messes.  I see every wet pants as a learning moment as he realizes how his body works and the sensations that go with it.  He’s now often telling me right away when he pees and poops.  A little victory yesterday was when he told me he had to pee just seconds before he did.  And he did the tiniest drop of poop in his potty and was absolutely elated and proud of it.  He loves to sit on the different potties we have and on the toilet.  The key I feel with potty training is to not let it become a power struggle.  You can’t force your child to pee and poop on the toilet.  It has to come from them so you need to allow them to be in charge of it.  Get them to do as much as they can like pulling up and down their pants, flushing the toilet, washing their hands.  If it becomes a power struggle you’re going to lose.

I find putting him in underpants with training pants on top absorbs most of the mess with maybe a small puddle but leave him soaking enough to make an impression.  If I want less of a puddle I’ll put jogging pants on him as well.  If we go out I’ll put waterproof covers on him.  Night time he wears a diaper and nap time he wears a cloth diaper.

These are the items I’ve found invaluable.

Training Pants:  These have been super hard to find in Ontario.  I have some Gerber Training pants that were my daughter’s and my mother ordered some from Amazon.ca but they’re expensive to get.  I haven’t been able to find any Gerber ones anywhere.  Walmart has some George ones but the crotch is so narrow it’s pointless.

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The only other training pants I’ve found that are absorbent but not waterproof are Osocozy.  They’re mostly cotton and are quite well made.  The legs are a little more snug on my chunky monkey though who is wearing size 3T.  I recommend having lots and lots of training pants and underwear.

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Waterproof Covers:  I love the Motherease covers.  The can be pre-snapped and pulled up like underwear, they’re breathable, they’re bulletproof and they’re affordable.  And they also have cute prints.  I put these on when we go out and over cloth diapers at nap time.  Pumpkin 3 is wearing size Large (he’s more than 30lbs).

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I also love their Sandy’s fitted diapers, they can be used as super absorbent training pants if wanted but my son doesn’t notice he’s wet in them.  If you’re looking for a cloth diaper for a new baby, these are great – durable, absorbent, never have blowouts, and really affordable.

Potty Chair:  We have several.  We have the Baby Bijorn which is really nice.  It has a nice high splash guard which is great for boys.  We also have the Becco Potty.

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I used to use it for Pumpkin 1 for EC.  It’s nice and small for babies.  Pumpkin 2 has taken a liking to it.  I believe they’ve changed the design of it but the one we have is nice and low and squatting is known to help release the bowels.  It’s also biodegradable and can be put in your garden when finished with it.  But it’s still durable.  Our is 3 years old and is still like new.

Toilet Seat:  Pumpkin 2 likes to sit on the toilet like the big kids.  It has been a problem though finding a seat with a high splash guard.  It turns out the cheaper seats are the best.  This one has a nice high splash guard, handles, and a hook to hang it.  It’s nice and soft and comes apart for cleaning.

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Other things you’ll need are a stool, rags and cleaner for messes and maybe a portable potty.  Also a wet bag or something to put soiled clothing in.

A great book to read about potty training is “Diaper Free Before Three”.

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I do wish that I had started with potty learning earlier.  It’s not so much about “training” but learning about the whole process.  If I were to go back I would have started putting Pumpkin 2 to sit on the potty in the morning and a couple times during the day.  But hopefully without pressure and with patience Pumpkin 2 will eventually be using the toilet regularly in a few months.

Baby Toys Set

I love this beautiful set of Montessori inspired toys for babies.  It has materials that baby will play with from a few months old right up until toddler-hood and most can be adapted for play beyond that.  The natural wood is so lovely and safe for mouthing children.  Each toy will engage a baby and help to develop many skills from gross motor to fine motor to object permanence.  I wish I had something like this when my son was a baby but now it’s available for your little pumpkin or makes a wonderful baby shower gift.

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New Baby Toy Set

This beautiful set of my favourite toys is now available.

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This baby set includes a cage rolling rattle made with cherry spindles and colored balls inside. It makes a lovely clicking sound when rolled and encourages baby to creep after it. The ball and jar is so much fun for baby to explore object permanence and open and close. The ring stacker is a huge hit with babies, staring with putting the large rings, which double as wood teething rings, over the peg and as fine motor skills increase, baby begins to put the small rings on.

Letting your Toddler Be

I see this so often and fell into this trap myself.  People new to Montessori and excited giving their under 2 year old materials and then getting frustrated that their toddler won’t play with them or wants to throw them.  “My 9 month old won’t sit for more than 10 seconds and I can’t get her to do any of the activities I put out”.  “My 20 month old only wants to pull everything off the shelves and throw it”. What seems to be forgotten over and over again, the very core of Montessori – “Follow the Child“.

Your child intrinsically will learn what he needs to learn at the time he’s ready to learn it.  This is especially true when it comes to babies and toddlers.  With or without a pull up bar you child will learn to stand.  With or without a push toy he will learn to walk.  But each child will do this within his own time frame.  When it comes to Montessori for toddlers, just let them be.

It’s frustrating, I know, to have a beautiful room set up with lovely materials and your child only wants to run and throw everything.  Or to see blog posts with children the same age doing all these activities.  There isn’t something wrong with your child.  There’s something wrong with your expectations.  If you child wants to throw everything, then they’re at a sensitive period for throwing.  This is great, give her bean bags and balls to throw.  If you child wants to dump everything, great!  She’s at a sensitive period for dumping, give her things to dump.  If your son wants to climb the shelves or wont sit still, he’s at a sensitive period for gross motor skills, try a trampoline or a slide inside or a balance beam or mats to tumble on and lots and lots of outdoor play.  Your child keeps getting in the way while you clean, give her a broom or cloth.  You don’t do presentations with toddlers.  You can play with some of the toys and have them watch you, or better yet, have an older child play with them, but there is no need to try to get your child to sort objects by colour.  When he is ready, he will.  Like my son who was playing with the counting bears.  I looked over and he had sorted them by colour, all on his own.

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We have a fancy shape sorting toy with lots of shapes.  One day I realized my son could do it, without any help or teaching from me.  I never taught him to do puzzles, he just did them.  When your child is ready for pouring, you won’t need to make them do it, they just will, over and over again.  If your child is ready for the knobbed cylinders, they’ll do them, and do them again and again.  If they are resisting, then they’re not ready.

Pressuring a toddler to do an activity when they’re not interested and introducing primary materials too early can be detrimental.  It can turn the child off the material so that when they are at a sensitive period for it, they won’t want to do it.  Remember their absorbent mind will absorb their feelings about that material.  Or they may be bored with it because they’ve played with the materials and it doesn’t have the appeal of being new and will resist presentations with it in the primary years.  Sometimes we don’t realized we’re pressuring.  I didn’t at first.  If you’re feeling frustrated, then let it go.  Put it away and just watch your child play.  Try to see where your child is really at.

A toddler doesn’t need expensive materials.  He needs to run, to climb, to play outside, to help you while you do housework, to play in the bath, to look at books, to throw balls and ride on cars.  My son’s favourite fine motor material came from the dollar store, the spice shaker with dowels.  Keep in mind when you see a blog post with a toddler doing an activity, majority of the time it only lasts for 5 mins, if that.  Toddlers work in little burst of energy but they rarely last long.

I did way more “teaching” with my daughter and not much with my son and he’s coming along even quicker than her, because he wants to be like the big kids.  Though he started talking later than her his vocabulary seems to be coming along faster than hers.  He’s always copying the older kids.  Today he came stomping over “uuuunt, uuuunt, uuunt” just like the older kids do when they’re mad.  It was so funny coming from a 21 month old.  If you can get your toddler to play with multi-age groups of children, that will really benefit their development.

Another thing to remember: too many activities, too much colour and things going on is very overwhelming for a child.  It’s best to have only a few things out for them, things for the sensitive period they are at.  Keep the room tidy and minimal and simple.  This of course is harder if you have several ages of children, just do your best to keep the room organized.

A final issue I see often and have realized in myself is the idea that fine motor activities are better or more important than gross motor.  You child needs to master gross motor movement, to be in control of their core, before they can master fine motor movement.  Don’t dismiss the importance of running, of climbing stairs, of playing outside, of jumping and throwing and kicking.  These skills are very, very important.  If you want you child to develop their fine motor skills and increase their attention span, then give them opportunity to exercise their gross motor skills.

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In the end though, it’s not about having your child ahead of other children.  It’s not about proving how wonderful Montessori is by showing what your child can do.  It’s not about having your child do what you see other children doing in blogs or boards.  It’s not about all the beautiful materials.  It’s about your child, about them being allowed to be and explore at their own pace, in their own way.  Trust your child.  Let him be.

Fiddle Rattle

I’ve been working on this rattle for a while.  It took several attempts to get it right.

I call it the “Fiddle Rattle” because it has a bunch of objects on it for baby to fiddle with.  Beads and a spool to slide and spin and it rolls across the floor.  And like all my toys it’s natural and eco friendly.  A toy you can be proud to give your baby to play with.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/224745391/fiddle-rattle-baby-toy-baby-rattle?ref=shop_home_active_1

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Cage Roller Rattle

Very excited about this new addition to my store.  This lovely rattle rolls across the floor making a clicking sound from the wooden balls inside the cage.  It encourages little ones to creep forward after it and as they get more mobile eventually to push it and crawl in pursuit.

Click the photo to be taken to my Etsy store.

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Pumpkin 2 was very intrigued by the balls in it.  He LOVES balls.  Yea, my kids aren’t those model looking children you see in some photos for toys.  Pumpkin 2 has a bandaid, his first ever, from a cut he got and he got into the yellow dye I used to color the wood toys.  It’s food grade though so no worries.  I love how you can see him so closely inspecting the rattle.

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