Our New Play Kitchen

We had a plastic Step 2 play kitchen that I bought second hand for our playroom but I’ve been trying to move toward more open ended toys and activities with a bit of a Waldorf touch.  The kids didn’t play with the Step 2 kitchen much and the cupboards and fridge were so small.  Kids love kitchen play because it’s something they see us grownups do every day.  It is important to get your children helping you in the real kitchen but I believe that imaginative play is important too.  I sold the play kitchen I had, it went quite quickly as Christmas was coming up and I hope it made another little child very happy.  Next I had to decide which kitchen to get.  At first I was thinking of getting a Kidkraft kitchen.

I really liked this one.  It had everything, even a little washing machine and would make a little house corner in the playroom.  But it did seen kinda small when you look at it in relation to that boy and it just seemed to be too much going on.  I wanted simpler, something that didn’t do everything yet was beautiful.  Then I found Elves and Angels.  It is a family owned company out of Maine that has been crafting natural wood products for 25 years.  I decided to go with Sylvie’s kitchen as I wanted something a little larger so it would last as my Pumpkins got older and taller but I wanted to see what the kids thought.  I showed 3 of my daycare children separately the two kitchens and asked them which they liked better.  The children were ages 3, 5 and 9.  I thought for sure they’d pick the KidKraft kitchen but they all were very definite that they liked the Elves and Angels kitchen best.

IMG_8194

Julianna at Elves and Angels was great to work with.  I was able to purchase from Canada and though shipping wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.  And I got it at my door in just a week’s time.

I debated not getting the ice box but I’m really glad I did because Pumpkin 1 loves it and was trying to play with it as I put it together.

IMG_8195

The counter on the kitchen is just the right height, Pumpkin 1 who is 2 years old and a little tall for her age can easily play on it but there’s still room to grow.  I’m glad I purchased the larger kitchen as it has a little counter space and the shelves are lovely.

IMG_8192

It was super easy to put together.  I did it all myself with Pumpkin 2 watching from his high chair and Pumpkin 1 “helping”.  It took just over an hour to put the two together.  It’s made from Northern white pine with a linseed oil finish and formaldehyde-free Baltic birch plywood backing.  The quality is excellent and it’s so beautiful  It’s truly heirloom quality.  The only down side is it’s pine (they do have hardwood options for more money) so it will dent and scratch and the hinges snap back a little quickly but it’s not a big deal. I’m so happy with my purchase.  Now to save up for a doll house for Pumpkin 1’s 3rd birthday.

IMG_8196

Yes, she has a bow on her head, lol.

Yes, she has a bow on her head, lol.

IMG_8198

Advertisements

What Materials Should I Get for my Preschooler?

This is the difficult question for all parents starting out in Montessori.  There are so many materials and they can be quite expensive.  Do I need them all?  Can I substitute something else?  What can I make myself?  Why do I need that material?  It can be so hard to decide.  First off I recommend reading David Gettman’s “Basic Montessori”.  When you have an understanding of what the purpose of each material is, you’ll be better able to decide what you need now and what can wait and what you can skip.

There are lots of DIY ideas online for Montessori materials.  For me, however, I just don’t have the time to make things.  I don’t have time to go shopping to find the materials to make them, and then I don’t have time to put them together, and maybe it’s just because I’m in Canada, but often it costs the same, if not more, to make it myself.  And then what usually happens is I’m not happy with the result and I wind up purchasing what I tried to make and I’m out the money I spent trying to do it myself.  So I tend to purchase.  If you have the time and skill to make things yourself, go ahead, just don’t under-estimate the amount of time it’ll take and the expense.

So, what should you buy for your little preschooler?  Well here’s Pumpkins and Me’s must have Montessori list: (Links to my favourite Canadian site to purchase from IFIT in the headings)

Knobbed Cylinder Blocks: If you have a 2-3 year old, these are a big hit.  Heck, even I love doing them.  They not only stimulate spacial recognition, the knobs help children learn proper pencil grip.  I don’t recommend the Mini Cylinder blocks because they’re too easy. Your child will figure them out quickly.  If you can’t afford the whole set, Montessori Outlet sells them individually.  Blocks 1 & 3 change by height and width, blocks 2 & 4 change by just one aspect, either height or width.  Blocks 2 & 4 are more challenging than 1 & 3.  If you can, especially if you have a little one, get the whole set.

IMG_8171

Pink Tower:  This is another must have in my book.  Now you might be wondering why you can’t just use plastic nesting and stacking blocks or the like.  With the Pink Tower a child can feel the difference in weight between the blocks.  Also they’re all one colour so there is nothing to distract from the sensory learning experience of size.  Also the sensory materials tend to be in groups of 10 to start awareness of number grouping.

IMG_8179

Knobless Cylinders There are so many things that can be done with the Knobless Cylinders.  Each box contains 10 cylinders of varying heights and widths.  They can be combined into so many patterns and there are many extensions that can be printed off to use with them.  However they aren’t introduced until Period 5 in Gettman, but I use them with my 2 year old, they’re a little advanced for her but a 3 year old would have no problem with them.

Geometric Solids:  These are a wonderful sensory experience for children.  My 2 year old likes to match them with the bases.  She’s learned the names of most of them already too.  There are other sets out there that are cheaper.  Here’s some from Scholar’s Choice.  However, like the Pink Tower, I think it’s best if they’re all one colour.  Also, keep in mind that the Nomenclature cards usually depict the blue Montessori shapes.

Geometric Cabinet: This is an expensive purchase but I feel it’s an important one.  You could try making your own out of foam board but I think it’d be a tricky task.  This material has so many uses.  A puzzle, learning shapes, the knobs are good preparation for pencil holding and as the child learns to trace around the shapes and the frames with their finger they’re preparing for tracing the metal insets.  Also, if you can’t afford the metal insets, you can have your child trace the insets in the Geometric Cabinet if you’re ok with them getting marked up a bit.  The Geometric Demonstration Tray is sold separately, so you might want to get it as well, though it isn’t really necessary.  For $5 you might want to consider getting the Control Chart as some of those names of triangles are tricky.

IMG_8039

Binomial Cube: This isn’t something that you can easily make yourself and you’re not really going to find anywhere else.  It’s important for developing the child’s visual perception of three dimensional patterns.

Red Rods: These wouldn’t be too hard to make yourself.  I was going to get my husband to make them but I was sent them by mistake and decided to pay to keep them.  They are quite big but I think that makes the sensory experience that much more interesting.  I was tempted to purchase just the Number Rods but the lines would distract from the sense of length.  Numbers aren’t introduced until Period 3 in Gettman so I’d recommend getting the Red Rods.  There is also small Number Rods available, so you could save money by getting them instead of the large ones.  If you’re lacking in space I’d recommend getting the Rod Stand as well.

IMG_8180

Sandpaper Numbers: These aren’t introduced until Period 4 in Gettman so they’re something you can wait on.  They wouldn’t be too difficult to make yourself.  I don’t recommend the Sandpaper materials from Montessori Outlet.  They put some type of glue on the wood and cover it with coarse sand.  It’s sheds like crazy, making a mess, and feels terrible, it’s just too coarse.  The sandpaper materials for IFIT and Affordable Montessori are much nicer.

Sandpaper Letters: These are an important material for learning.  Combining touch with learning cements it in the brain.  You want to teach the lower case letters first so don’t purchase the Upper Case letters until later.  Also, you’ll need to decide if you want to teach cursive or print.  Cursive is usually taught in traditional Montessori but nowadays many schools and parents teach print.  I have heard it’s a read chore to make these yourself but you could try.  Affordable Montessori has a mini set in print of both lower and upper case.  Here’s a different option from IFIT that has number and letters but it looks like they are groved into wood rather than sandpaper letters, but they would serve the same purpose.  There is also a set on Amazon.ca

Sandpaper & Colour Globes:  These is also difficult to make yourself, but there are several DIY tutorials on the net.  This is introduced in Period 1 in Gettman.  The one on IFIT is said to be not good quality.  I have the Sandpaper globe from Affordable Montessori and it looks very similar and the quality seems fine to me.  The children really like to feel the globe.  In Montessori the continents each have a colour that is used on the puzzles and the globe so that is why you might want to consider having the Montessori globe rather than a regular one.  If money is tight, just get the Sandpaper Globe.

IMG_8166

Moveable Alphabet:  This isn’t introduced until Period 4, after the I Spy game and the Sandpaper letters are completed.  Why the Moveable alphabet rather than just magnetic letters?  Because the Movable Alphabet comes with multiples of each letter so the child can write words.  Writing comes before reading in Montessori.  Also there is the option of cursive letters.  This is something that you can wait to get.  Montessori Outlet offers the letters separate from the box so you can save money, but I recommend getting a box as it allows you to store the letters sorted so your child isn’t frustrated trying to find the letter he wants.  However, you might be able to find other storage options.  I haven’t reached this stage yet but I think you’d only need the lower case.  By the time your child is using upper case they will most likely be writing on their own.  Another option is to print out multiples of each letter and laminate them or purchase this.

What about all the other materials?

Brown Stair:  This is expensive and not necessary, though there are a lot of extensions you can do combining the Brown Stair and Pink Tower.  If you can afford it, it’s nice to have.  If you can’t, then you’ll be fine without it.

Spindle Box: This is one thing I made my own version of.  Read about it here.  There are also lots of other DIY ideas on line.  Another option that I actually like better and is great for younger ones is this from Scholar’s Choice.

IMG_7994

Colour Boxes: There are tons of colour activities you can do with objects around the house or make from paint chips that this is defiantly one area you can skip purchasing.  If you did want to purchase, IFIT has a Box 4 that can be used for grading shades and matching colours.

Metal Insets: Definitely not necessary but they’re really nice.  You could instead have your child trace the shapes in the Geometric Cabinet or get some stencils to trace.  If you can afford it, I’d get them.  Montessori Outlet sells them without the stands so you can get them for a little less.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Baric Tablets, Sound boxes:  First off, my feeling is that these are great in a classroom, but not necessary at home.  There are so many daily experiences you can give your child without these.  Feeling ice cubes, feeling how heavy things are, talking about soft, smooth, rough toys, different sounds, etc… Also it’s not too hard to make your own touch Tablets and Sound boxes.

Bells: Music as been shown to expand brain development.  If you can have your child be part of music classes that’d be great.  My daughter is going to start piano lessons around 4 or 5.  Montessori bells are really expensive but I’m planning to do what the mother at What Did We Do All Day blog did.  I purchased my bells from Scholar’s Choice.  If you can’t afford it, do make sure music is a part of your day.

Dressing Frames:  I have these but I don’t find them practical because the way you do up snaps and buttons and zippers on a frame is different than when you do it on yourself.  If you know someone who can sew, these are a much better option.  Or just teach them with their clothes.

Construtive Triangles: The blue ones are not too expensive if you want to purchase them.  My plan is to make them out of foam.

Mystery Bag:  At $12 it’s quite affordable, but at the same time you could make your own with objects around the house.

Map Puzzles: These are quite large.  You can easily make a world map out of felt.  Here’s an awesome one I’d love to make if I had the time from Imagine Our Life.  The advantage to the wood puzzle is that the child can trace the pieces to make their own maps.  If you can afford it, get the World Puzzle.

IMG_8165

Zoology and Botany Puzzles: These are quite affordable, so if you’re looking for some more complicated puzzles for your child, you might want to get a few.  Otherwise they’re used for teaching parts of the animal and plants in Period 3.  I think a child can learn just as well with Nomenclature cards and growing beans in a glass jar.

Botany Cabinet:  Not necessary.  You could easily use cards to teach classification by leaf and have a child trace the geometric cabinet frames with a cuticle stick.

Land and Water Form Trays and Sandpaper Cards:  The trays can be made with Plasticine in plastic trays.  If you can afford it and want something more lasting then I’d purchase them.  The kids really love them.  The sandpaper cards are easy to make yourself.

IMG_8096

Trays, Jugs, and Practical Skills:  These are best bought at places like the Dollar Store, Target or even at Thrift Stores.

IMG_8026

Waldorf Style Rocker Board Review

I was so excited to give this gift to my daughter (and son, though he’s only 6 months) for Hanukkah.  I didn’t even have to show Pumpkin 1 how to use it, she figured out right away how to make it rock.  “Wee wee, wee weee” she did it for quite a while.  I turned it over and she then had fun sliding down it.

IMG_8144

These are amazing, open ended toys that will give your child hours of fun.  Too often in Montessori we focus on the fine motor skills, but the gross motor skills are important too, especially for preschoolers.  A rocker board, also called a moon board or a balance board, is a great way for children to develop their balance and gross motor skills.  In the winter we don’t get outside to play as much as we should and so I was looking for ways for Pumpkin 1 to be active indoors.  The board can be a slide, a chair, a bed, a teeter-totter, a bridge, a cradle, a boat, a wall, the imagination is endless.  And it’ll grow with your child.  It’s a toy all ages will love (I even tried it out myself 😉 ).

My little gypsy crawling under it.

My little gypsy crawling under it.

A good place for a nap

A good place for a nap

Pumpkin 1’s favourite is to make it a bed (she’s all about pretending to sleep) and I have to rock it and sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

IMG_8142

Row, row, row your boat

The board is made from plywood laminated into a curve and can withstand 145lbs of pressure.  The boards’ edges are all rounded and they are finished with either a scratch resistant polyurethane varnish or a natural, non-toxic shellac varnish.  I choose the shellac finish.  It’s very sturdy and durable and will last for years and years.

IMG_8147 IMG_8149

This is one toy you won’t regret purchasing.  If you google it you’ll see tons of excellent reviews for rocker boards.  And here’s the great news.  Tim at “The Carpenter’s Son’s Apprentice” is offering a discount to my readers!  He’s got a wonderful online store http://www.thecarpenterssonsapprentice.ca/index.html  He is really great to purchase from with amazing customer service and fast shipping. This is a bonus for my Canadian readers as I haven’t seen these boards available anywhere else in Canada and shipping from the U.S. is expensive.  He also ships to the U.S. for my American readers.  There’s still time to have it for Christmas if you hurry.  Here’s the link for the promo:  http://www.thecarpenterssonsapprentice.ca/Store/Store-MoonRockers-PumpkinsPromo.html