Safe, Edible Slime

Having a 2 year old who likes to taste an array of weird and gross things, I really appreciate sensory play recipes that are safe to ingest.  Though I don’t recommend letting your little one chow down on this slime (plus it doesn’t exactly taste wonderful) if they were to try a sample, it won’t hurt them.

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This slime is just so fun to play with.  It’s gooey, slimy, shiny, squishy, stretchy, wiggly, bouncy and it doesn’t stick to your hands so the mess is limited (bonus!)  And, you only need 2 ingredients!

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What you’ll need:

1 tbsp Metamucil

1 cup Water

Food colouring (optional)

Mix the above ingredients in a large microwavable bowl (larger than you think you’ll need).  Put it in the microwave on high for 5 mins.  It should boil over the top of the bowl.  Remove and let cool slightly.  It should be gel like.  If needed microwave for another 3-5 mins.  Dump onto a surface to cool – careful, it’s really hot!  Once cool to touch, it’s time to play!

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This kept my daycare kids entertained for an hour!  A whole hour, it was amazing.  We put it in a ziplock bag after for them to take home.

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At Last…Our Playroom/School Room

I finally have our playroom “almost” how I want it.  It’s not a very big room so it’s been a challenge to have everything I want organized yet there still be room to play.  This room doubles as a playroom/daycare room/school room so it’s not an ideal Montessori room.  Also with Pumpkin 2 going to be getting into everything before I know it, I’ve had to arrange things so that materials with small parts are up high.  So, with that in mind, enjoy your tour!

Lots of light from the two windows.

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Looking to the right of the room.  Against the gate is a carrom board, a game from India.  You can’t see them but beside the chair is a pail that holds two carpets for doing our work on.

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Looking to the left of the room.  Do any other mothers have the same problem of their stuff being all disorganized while the kids’ toys are all neat and tidy?

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The drawers on the right have all the craft stuff.  The containers on the top usually have pipe cleaners in them but the kids use them up fast.  The shelf has the metal insets on the top, below is the geometric cabinet and board games, below that is a basket with cards for the cabinet, emotion cards and the land form trays.  Bottom shelf has a toy laptop and the doctor’s kit, playdough and a file with different types of craft paper in it.  The shelf is a 9 cube shelf that I put together without all the dividers so that I’d have more space.

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This white shelf is an end table that I’ve made into a light table.  The world map puzzle is stored on top as there isn’t really anywhere else to put it.  Underneath are puzzles, movable alphabet and in the container is pre-reading card activities.  On the bottom are puzzles and our magna tiles (a favourite with all the kids).

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On the window ledge here you can see the small pieces from the pink tower and the knobless cylinders.  On the shelf I have the knobbed cylinders which have small pieces in them and the sand paper globe which also has the pin that is a choking hazard.  The top row is a shape sorter, our French books and Montessori puzzles.  Below that is board books, Wedgits (another favourite) and a stacking toy and puzzle.  Bottom shelf is toy trucks, object permanence box and Hape peg puzzle.

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This is our reading corner.  I need to make it a little more cozy.  And maybe a mirror on the wall.  You can also see the dressing frames leaning against the shelf.  I need to find a place for them still.

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This is our main Montessori shelf.  The drawers on the top hold the objects for the language sounds.  There is also some cards and a container of cards, some Toob figures I just got and a bingo dabber picture done by Pumpkin 1.  First row is magnetic Mighty Mind, Melissa and Doug spelling puzzle and sandpaper letters.  Next row is some fine motor activities, the knobless cylinders, and the touch boards and Thermic tablets.  Below that is my cloth spindle “box” and number peg boards, the baric tablets and weigh scale and the geometric solids.  New row is the pink tower, Melissa and Dough latch puzzle and the colour box.  The bottom has the brown stairs, screw board and our music instrument box.  To the left of the shelf is the red rods.

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This is our calendar and weather chart and the shelf has our toys in it.  Cars, Jenga blocks, Barbies, animals, connecting toys, tools, peg board, Little People, scarves, Pumpkin 2’s toys, and Duplo.

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This is our new Elves and Angels’ kitchen.  The shelf has a box of dress up clothes, play food and dishes and above that the Leaf cabinet and our music collection.  Above that is materials for Practical life activities (out of reach of Pumpkin 2) and above that is a bunch of stuff for crafts.

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So that is our playroom.  It’s been a long time in the making and will probably still go through changes.  It’s not ideal, lots of things out of reach, but I think it’s more important to be safe.  Most of the Montessori material is too advanced for Pumpkin 1 but she’ll be old enough for it before I know it.  Also I use it with my 3 year old daycare child and sometimes with my after school daycare children.  I think I’ve done a good job with the amount of space we have.  Everything is organized and not too cluttered.  The toys are mostly open ended toys or learning toys.  We have a nice area on the floor to work and a beautiful table to work at, just the right height.  The rocking chair is great for me to watch from and nurse Pumpkin 2 in.  The room is safe enough for Pumpkin 2 to roll around and pull stuff off the shelves at his height and Pumpkin 1 can reach most of the things.  The gate keeps the dogs out and the kids out when need be and keeps them in when I need them in.  The walls are simply decorated and I’m able to display the children’s art work.  I did put things above their eye level but I don’t want things ripped of the wall and the paint ruined.  So, would you like to come and learn with us?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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The Farm

I like the idea of doing Unit Studies as it’s a way to allow me to introduce multiple subjects under one heading.  Pumpkin 1 is interested in animals so I decided to go with The Farm for our first unit study.  We had a planned trip to a farm with the Early Years Center, however that was a disappointment.  It was freezing cold and Pumpkin 2 got fussy and I wasn’t about to nurse him in that freezing weather so we left early.  Pumpkin 1 did get to see a real tractor though which she was excited about.

I printed off some free farm animal nomenclature cards from here http://www.montessoriforeveryone.com/assets/PDF/Farm_Animal_Nomenclature.pdf and laminated them.  I already had Schleich farm animals from my home daycare (I love these, they’re pricey but they’ll seriously last forever, unless your dog gets one, yea, that’s happened.  I put them in the dishwasher regularly and the colour doesn’t come off at all).  I got out the Fisher Price barn I had and purchased a little tractor.  Pumpkin 1 quickly picked up matching animals to the cards and I was surprised at how much she enjoyed doing it.  She likes to put the wrong animal on the card and say, “Nooo” and then move it to the right card. I didn’t do the word cards yet but I might soon.  Even though she doesn’t know her alphabet, it can’t hurt to see the word with the animal and begin to associate it.  I’m also teaching her French (as I learn it myself) and so I worked on naming them in French with her too.  We sing Old MacDonald and a song I found to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” that goes “Dans la ferme il y a un….”  I have some books about the farm I’ll read to her, in French and English.  I plan to do the unit for about a month.  I’m thinking of a farm sensory bin and a corn pit in an inflatable pool.

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Some of our beginnings

A lot of Montessori activities can be purchased at the Dollar Store.  With toddlers you want to focus on life skills such as pouring, scooping, folding, etc…  and find motor skills.  Pumpkin 1 loves learning and already knows her colours, shapes, some letters and numbers to 9.  We’ve been doing some colour sorting.  A muffing tin works great for sorting.  I glued foam colours to the bottom and she sorted out coloured paper clips.  For fine motor skills I found this play dart board made up of posts.  I gave her pony beads to put on the posts.  It was tricky but she did get the hang of it.

Montessori method has children do their activities on trays on mats.  This defines their work area and helps to contain messes.  We don’t have any mats yet but the tray was purchases at the Dollar store.

For Pumpkin 2 I try to give him visual stimulation and sensory stimulation.  Mirrors are great (also can be purchased at the Dollar Store) and you can print off black and white patterns to place at eye level.  Toys of different textures are great for touch and mouthing.

Pumpkin 1 sorting paper clips by colour

Pumpkin 1 sorting paper clips by colour

Fine motor skills with pony beads and all dressed up

Fine motor skills with pony beads and all dressed up

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Pumpkin 2 looking at a contrasting colours book

And the journey begins…

After much reading online I’ve decided I really like the Montessori style of education.  I love the hands on learning and the working at the child’s pace.  My experiences as a mother have shown me the benefits of teaching children to do things themselves and to sometimes stand back and let them try without rushing in to “save” them.  I also like the organization and the teaching children to clean up after themselves 🙂  I don’t think I’m a purest when it comes to Montessori (Pumpkin 2 won’t be sleeping on a mattress on the floor), but it’s my basis for teaching and I’ll add in other elements that I like, such as music, art and of course lots of free playtime.  I’m still new to everything and am learning as we go.  This is the beginning of our journey.