Free Printable – Life Cycle of the Robin

There’s a Robin’s nest that we often pass on our walks and today the babies were hatched.  I realized that the kids didn’t know that eggs hatch into baby birds so I created this Life Cycle of the Robin printable which the children helped cut out and glue into a book.  They love the little books that they make.  You could also laminate the cards and make them into an activity or game.

Robin Life Cycle

Robin Life Cycle

Images are from Flicker and available for commercial use.

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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.

15 Months – What’s Pumpkin 2 Up To

Here are some activities Pumpkin 2 has been doing.  He’s now 15 months.

This is from 14 months.  It’s a large to small circle puzzle.  He also has a 3 shape (square, circle, triangle) puzzle.  They’re purchased from here.

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These are also from 14 months, they’re dowels and rings.  Pumpkin 2 really loved them.  I got them out a little late due to being sick so he was already able to do them with ease.  Also purchased from the above link.

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This is Pumpkin 2’s first experience with playdough.  It’s home made playdough from the recipe on my blog here.  We scented it with cinnamon and cloves.  He’s poking it with a baby gum massager which has bumps on it that make a pattern in the dough.  He also ate some of it too lol.

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This is Pumpkin 2’s favourite activity (other than toy cars, he plays with toy cars most of the day saying “voooo voooo voooo”).  He gets this activity out several times a day.  The seasoning shaker and mini dowels were both purchased at the dollar store.  He had just finished dinner so you can hear him burping lol.

His other favourite activity is to take all the pieces from the division puzzles and blocks and put them in the hole of the rolled up carpets or put a piece in some random place that takes me forever to find.

 

Window Writing

I love the big windows in our new playroom.  They let so much light in, the kids love looking out them and they’re great for some window writing (in a princess dress of course).  A new way to draw and create.

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Card Activities for Toddlers

I finally broke out the laminator I got for Christmas (thank you to my mother).  I had to order more laminating sheets though since I’ve misplaced mine.  I must say, going by the cost of laminating at Staples, the laminator has already paid for itself.  If you don’t have one and plan to home school, you must get one.  This is the one I have and it’s great.

I recently printed and laminated some land/air/water activity cards, geometric solid cards and French clothing cards.  Montessori Print Shop has a great selection of printables for use with toddlers.  The quality is great, you get the download instantly and you can save it on your computer to print out again if needed.  Here are some examples:

Animals and Their Shilouettes - Montessori Cards for Montessori Learning at home and school.

Toddler Five Senses Cards - Printable Montessori Toddler Materials for Montessori Learning at home and school.

Toddler Geometric Shape Cards - Printable Montessori Toddler Materials for Montessori Learning at home and school.

What should I be doing with my Toddler?

I see this time and again.  Young mothers with usually just one child, usually under 2 years of age, stressing out that they’re not doing enough and that their child isn’t concentrating long enough or isn’t interested in the Montessori materials.  First off, parents need to not confuse the preschool Montessori materials and curriculum with toddler activities.  Most Montessori materials are designed for ages 3 and up.  Can you use it with a 2 year old?  Sometimes, depending on the 2 year old.  But you can’t force it on them.  If they’re not ready or interested then all you can do is wait until they are.  Montessori is about the child leading.  You follow the child’s interests and stage, trusting that the child instinctively is drawn to what they need to learn and develop at the right time in their life.

So, what should you be doing with a toddler?  Well, you should be providing them with food, shelter, clothing and lots of love and affection.  Anything else is bonus.  Child will learn in spite of us, not because of us.  Your toddler doesn’t need tons of fancy toys or a room full of the best quality activities to learn.  They are learning every moment.  They are learning by watching you, they are learning by talking to you, they are learning by playing in the grass or snow, by climbing on the couch, by you reading them a story, your child is developing and learning every day.

Now you can help your child to discover more, you can foster interest in learning and independence, but you don’t have to wear yourself ragged by doing it.  If you’re feeling over-whelmed then you’re doing too much and you need to step back and just enjoy your child and these years.  There are some things you can do without draining yourself and the amount you do and how often is up to your family and your schedule.

First off is to read to your child.  Studies have shown that is the one activity that will give your child the greatest benefit.  Next, instill independence in your toddler.  Allow her to choose her own clothes.  Use stools so she can reach the sink to wash her hands.  Use a bed that she can get in and out of herself.  Make her toys accessible to her.  Have a low coat hook so she can hang up her own coat.  Let her put her own clothes in the hamper.  Things like that.  The next thing is to get him involved in what you do.  Both my child loved to sit in their high chair from when they were 5 months old in the kitchen and watch me cook and clean.  I’d give them some toys or some food to play with and would talk and interact with them.  Now I try to get my 2 year old to help in the kitchen as often as I can.  We have a vintage step-stool chair that she can climb up and sit at the counter.  When you’re cleaning, give him a small broom and pan or a spray bottle with water and teach him to clean too.  It may be a little more work now but before you know it they’ll be able to help you.  My toddler is able to put away the utensils from the dish washer.  Toddlers need lots of gross motor play.  They are still learning to balance and run and jump or even walk.  Montessori materials often require fine motor skills that your child is not yet ready for.  They find the materials hard and give up because they can’t do them and because they want to develop their gross motor skills right now.  Get outside as often as you can.  Have some gross motor activities inside too, such as riding toys, rocker board, or a tunnel.  I’m trying to find these in Canada as they’d be a great balancing and active toy.  If you have the space, bring an outdoor toy, such as a plastic slide, inside.  You can hang a climbing rope or swing from the ceiling.  This awesome playroom even has a rock climbing wall.  Your child also needs lots of free play to develop their imagination.  I like many Waldorf ideas.  Open ended, non-battery operated toys made of natural materials when possible are perfect for this.  Your child doesn’t need a ton of toys, just a few basic ones such as blocks and building toys, a doll, some kitchen toys, some car type toys and a few scarfs.  Let your child play and invent and be creative.  When you have time you can set up some life skills activities for your child such as pouring, spooning or scooping materials between containers.  You can introduce some sorting activities.  And the Knobbed cylinders are also good for 18 months+.  You don’t have to do them every day and have them themed for the season or change them out every week.  Do them when you have some time.  Also when you have some time do some sensory activities.  There are tons of ideas out there and they’re usually fun for mama too.  And crafts.  Crafts don’t have to be fancy at this age.  Children usually love to color.  At 2 you can try letting them learn to use scissor if they have the motor skills for it (using tongs helps them learn the open and closing motion).  Again, when you have time.   Dance with your child, sing songs, play games, tickle them, and don’t always jump in to help them, let them try to figure it out themselves and only help when they’re reaching the frustration point.

For infants, don’t confine them to playpen or exersaucers all the time.  Give them a safe area to roll around and explore.  And lots of time to interact with you.  When you have to confine them so you can get housework done, try to have them nearby where they can watch you.

I have found my daughter learns the most at random times.  Sitting on the toilet and playing “where’s your mouth/eye/head” she learned all her body parts in English and a bunch in French.  Seeing a sign in the store she learned letters.  And yes, she’s learned stuff from watching TV and playing with a Tablet.  Yes, I let my children watch some TV and play with electronics.  They’re part of our world and she sees me using them every day.

The great thing about Montessori is you provide the materials, show the child how to use them, and then let them work with them while you sit back and observe.  But if the child is not ready for them yet, or can’t focus for long, or isn’t interested, that’s ok.  It’ll come when he is ready.  And the great thing about home schooling is you don’t have to do it every day or for hours.  A toddler will most likely only stay focused for a short period.  Normalization isn’t to be expected until the preschool years, ages 3+.

I hope I’ve helped some mothers feel less guilty and to step back and enjoy their child rather than feeling they have to give them some perfect environment for them to develop.  It’s because we love our children so much that we want to give them everything.  But sometimes in doing that we loose sight of our children and become caught up in activities.  It’s overwhelming for us and for our children.  Yes, as your child gets older, if you plan to home school you’ll have to do more planning and activities with them.  But don’t rush it.  Don’t rush your child’s development.  Let them be who they are and learn at their own rate.  They’re only little for such a short time.

Fizzing Fun

I saw this on another blog, I can’t remember which one but it seemed fun and easy to set up so we gave it a try the other day.

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It’s a tray with baking soda and then cups of vinegar coloured with food colouring.  The children used eye droppers to suck up the vinegar and squirt it onto the baking soda causing a wonderful, colourful fizz.  Pumpkin 1 wasn’t able to figure out the squeeze/squirt motion of the using the eye droppers and she wouldn’t let me show her how so she just had fun swirling the eye dropper in the vinegar or in the baking powder and causing little fizzes.  My daycare 3 year old was able to do it though and had a great time.  I actually eventually emptied the soaked tray and refilled it.  It’s a great way to practice the pencil hold and to strengthen fingers and increase fine motor skills.  It’s also a good cause and effect activity and science experiment.  There was some color mixing too, and most important, the children had fun.  It also was easy and inexpensive to set up and not too messy (if you don’t count spilled vinegar as a mess, if anything, my table got a good deep cleaning lol).

Practical Life Skills

Toddlers and preschoolers love life skills activities.  These stimulate so many senses and skills.  Large and fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, prediction, etc.  They are also inexpensive and easy to set up. Here are two we recently did.  My daughter loved spooning the lentils with the little spoon.  The 3 year old I was babysitting wanted to do the pouring into a cup and then pouring back into the bottle with a funnel over and over again.  It was messy at first but she soon caught on how to do it.   I got all the things in this post at the dollar store.

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The Best, Most Awesome, Softest, Non-sticky Playdough ever

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What kid doesn’t like playdough?  What adult can’t resist squishing playdough as well?  Playdough is great for developing hand strength and fine motor skills as well as creativity.  But the store bough stuff stinks.  Like literally, smell-wise.  My husband even complained about it the other day.  Making your own playdough is simple and easy and non-stinky.  I’ve made our own before but recently I tried this recipe http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2012/12/08/best-homemade-playdough-recipe/ and it is awesome.  I have to admit, I had a hard time giving it up so that the kids could play with it.  The secret is to use coconut oil.  Usually you can find coconut oil in the oil section or in the natural products section of your grocery store.  The coconut oil makes the playdough extra soft and it doesn’t stick to your hands as much.  You don’t need a lot.  Get the virgin kind and use the rest for cooking.  Coconut oil is great for your health, and is a wonderful body moisturizer and even for your scalp and hair.  So make up a batch of playdough for your kids to entertain them while you treat yourself to a hot oil treatment.  For a full sensory experience add some lovely scents to your playdough.  We added cinnamon, clove powder and nutmeg to ours for a Pumpkin Spice playdough which my children and daycare children adore. You could also add vanilla or mint or essential oils.

Anyway, here is the recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • assorted glitter (optional)
  • assorted essential oils (cinnamon for red, sweet orange for orange, lemon for yellow, lemongrass for green, peppermint for blue, lavender for purple)
  • bags, ribbon, mini cookie cutters & gift tag for packaging

Instructions

  1. Measure flour, salt, cream of tartar, water, & oil into a saucepan. You can easily double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe for a bigger batch.
  2. Place saucepan on stove with burner set to low and begin stirring. The time it takes to turn into playdoh varies, but expect it to take between 10 and 20 minutes to become solid. A bigger batch will take longer.
  3. Once the mixture begins to thicken and look less lumpy, add the food coloring and essential oil. It is not necessary to measure–just keep adding color and scent until it looks and smells good.
  4. Keep stirring. If your kids are old/careful enough you can help them stir until it gets too thick. Once larger lumps begin to form, you’ll know you are getting close. Keep stirring!
  5. Towards the end it will begin to get really thick and difficult to stir. Don’t worry if there are small lumps in the dough. It will be sticky but keep stirring. The play dough is done when it pulls away from the sides and all sticks together in one big lump.
  6. Set on silicone mat or other heat-proof surface to cool. If dough seems too sticky you can knead it with a little flour.
  7. To add sparkles, sprinkle dough generously with glitter, then knead dough until sparkles are evenly dispersed, adding more glitter if necessary.
  8. Repeat process for additional colors; store in airtight container or bag.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)