A little more Waldorf

So I’ve been away for a while.  I’m now 17 weeks pregnant.  I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from Hypermesis Graviderum when pregnant.  This has been my worst pregnancy so far.  I spent 2 weeks in hospital and had to get a PICC line for TPN which made me worse and was eventually used for my IV meds.  I spent October and November bedridden and lost 18lbs.  Thankfully I’m now through the worst of it and am slowly recovering.  Baby has stayed strong through it all (if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks two years ago and so this is always a worry).

However my pregnancy has not only been difficult for me but for my husband and children as well.  My husband has been amazing taking on all the responsibilities and taking care of me.  The children suffered a lot and many behavior problems came up due to lack of consistency, attention and boundaries and way, way, way too much TV.  As I was recovering I began to plan how our life would look when I was well and what we’d do about homeschooling.  I felt that the nourishing routines, simple, natural toys, and quiet rhythm  and activities of Waldorf was really what our family needed as we healed from this difficult time.  Having a mother sick and in hospital is very traumatic for a child.  Their world is turned upside down, their mother doesn’t have time for them and needs to be alone, she’s hooked up to wires and nurses come, they don’t understand what’s wrong and it’s scary to see her sick.  So I’ve rearranged the playroom (again), we’re not doing any formal school for December and are focusing on creating a rhythm, stories, songs and traditions of Hanukkah.  I purged toys and they will be getting more natural, Waldorf inspired gifts for the holidays.  I still have a lot to put back in order in my home but my strength is limited so I’m careful not to push myself or I relapse.  In the new year I’ll do a video of our new play/school room.

One thing I changed was to put the dollhouse in the basement (I’ll probably sell it) as it was so big and was rarely played with.  I put the lovely Plan Toys furniture in a basket and the kids love creating their own house with blocks.  It’s so much more imaginative and saves on space.  And now the furniture gets more play.

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The Power of Reading

Great article.  It’s amazing how something as simple as reading is so beneficial for our children.  Moms can do it, Dads can do it, Grandparents, older siblings, babysitters.

The neuroscientists at Carnegie Mellon mapped the brain while people read fiction and found that the same brain networks are engaged while imagining a fictional story in your mind’s eye as when you witness it in real life.

When you are engaged in reading a fictional story your brain is literally living vicariously through the characters in the story at a neurobiological level which can make children more empathetic to another person’s pain and suffering.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/one-more-reason-unplug-bedtime

Real Tools

My daycare kids and Pumpkins love to play doctor.  This play is enhanced with the use of real doctors tools.

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I had to sneak the photo so I wouldn’t disrupt their play.

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Waldorf promotes using natural toys that aren’t too realistic to inspire the imagination and to not awaken the dreamlike state of the child whereas Reggio encourages the use of real tool for children.  It’s up to you which way you lean for your family.  Here is a wonderful Reggio inspired blog that discusses real tools:

http://www.playathomemomllc.com/2013/12/creating-play-spaces/

I purchased our doctor’s kit tools from Amazon.  Click the picture for the Amazon link.

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I also put in some medicine measuring spoons and medicine dispensers that look like a needle I picked up from the grocery store pharmacy section.

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What are some other real tools you could give to your children to enhance the depth of their play?

Imagination

I love the imagination of children.  We think we have to buy them all these toys.  I mean, they have to have a toy cow and horse and pig and chicken and donkey and goat and dog and duck and rooster or how can they play farm?  And then they don’t play with them and they make their own toys which are so primitive yet they love them.

This is Pumpkin 1’s “Camel”.

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Actually it’s a mommy and baby camel with the gas pump cord being a “leash” (she was “walking” her Camel with the leash before).  She was very proud of her camel.  More proud than of any toy we have because this is something she made herself.

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Give your children the gift of imagination and pride for their creations by not overwhelming them with toys.  Just a few simple, open ended toys, especially some building toys and you’ll be surprised at how entertained they are.  Less is more.  If your children are bored the best thing you can do is instead of more toys, take away toys.  Boredom is the seed of imagination and imagination is the roots of creating.

Bunny Love

During the holidays I made my daughter an adorable bunny she just loves.  She bring it everywhere and sleeps with it every night.  She named her Floppy.

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Floppy is made from an upcycled sweater that was Merino wool and possum fur and is stuffed with pure wool.  She’s super soft and realistic feeling.

She was just too cute that I made another for my shop complete with food to feed her all made from 100% wool or wood.  Floppy 2 is waiting for a little girl or boy to love her to bits.  (click picture for link)

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Table Top Bowling

New in shop:

This lovely, all natural, wood toy lets you play bowling anywhere! It’s a perfect game to take with you as it comes in a lovely fabric storage bag. Set the pins up on the table or on the floor. Can you get a strike? A spare? A wonderful non-toxic, eco-friendly toy that encourages skill, hand/eye coordination, activity and imagination. Comes with 10 pins and 2 balls.

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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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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.

Keeping your Kids Warm

Here’s an interesting Waldorf article for musing on regarding the importance of dressing children warmly.

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/