Monday, June 3, 2013

Montessori Moments: 2 years and 3 months

These "Montessori Moments" posts are meant to highlight some of the ways we implement the Montessori method in our home. Many of the activities that are featured--cooking, cleaning together, going out into nature, etc.--overlap with other parenting philosophies or might seem like things that parents just do with their children intuitively. I've still chosen to highlight them here because they are integral to the Montessori approach to parenting and education and fit within a comprehensive continuum of activities that support children as they undergo the important work of forming themselves. For more information about incorporating Montessori into the home, I recommend How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way for a basic overview. For more insight into Montessori as an educational philosophy, I recommend Montessori Today. When trying to implement Montessori with infants and toddlers, I recommend Montessori from the Start and my favorite resource, which is a DVD documentary of Montessori at home with a 20 month old called Edison's Day.

Montessori Moment #1: Helping with Dinner
  • Henry is chopping the mushrooms for the pizza, spreading on the sauce, and sprinkling the cheese. It is very, very hard for him not to eat while he cooks, but it's such an important lesson in delayed gratification, self-control, patience (sometimes we eat while we cook, but more often than not we try to resist the urge). The knife he uses is from Montessori Services ($2.95). It's kept in a place where he can retrieve it independently (just like the cutting board). Helping with dinner builds Henry's fine motor skills, helps strengthen his focus and concentration, gives him authentic opportunities to practice problem-solving, helps him feel like an integral member of the family, and develops his sense of pride.

Montessori Moment #2: Baking Together

Montessori Moment #3: Balling Melon
  • Henry uses a melon baller to create bite-sized pieces of watermelon. He's wearing an apron that I made for him that has a stretchy neck strap and a waist strap that can be fastened independently. There's a free DIY pattern available here (that needs to be sized down for toddlers), or you could buy one from my lovely friend who sells them on Etsy (including ones sized specifically for toddlers).

Montessori Moment #4: Working Independently at a Table
  • Each of Henry's toys has a separate spot on the shelf to minimize over-stimulation and help him absorb a sense of order. If we had more toys, we would rotate them out every couple weeks to help maintain interest and engagement. Most of his toys are made of natural materials, such as wood. We purchased this toy from Amazon and paired it with a ceramic bowl. The ceramic bowl helps Henry cultivate care. He knows that it will most likely shatter if he's not careful with it. It helps him understand natural consequences and cause-and-effect. Working through the sequence of taking the activity off the shelf, completing it, and putting it away helps him develop focus and concentration. This material has a built-in control of error, so Henry knows when he's done it correctly. He experiences his own sense of accomplishment based on his actions rather than relying on praise from Matt or me.

Montessori Moment #5: Lots of Time in Nature
  • According to Montessori philosophy, children at this age have absorbent minds and are literally forming themselves from their experiences. Being immersed in nature helps them internalize beauty, joy, and a deep appreciation of the world around them (which later helps lead to stewardship of the environment). Children this age are also trying to understand the concrete world. Instead of spending time in front of screens, Henry spends a lot of time outside. On the weekends, we try to take trips into nature. During the weekdays, we go on walks to the farm in our neighborhood, go to the park, or let Henry simply roam around our backyard.

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Annalisa said...

Hi Sara -- I would love to know what else you guys do with that toy? Aside from colors, stacking, sequences, counting, etc we get about 7 mins of play with my 23 mo old. Or what else do you do with Henry aside from cook and be outside?

Kelsey said...

Henry is getting so big! I want to set up some shelves in our kitchen where Dashiell has access to kitchen tools and his own plate, etc. I'm so excited to cook with him one day! Love these examples.

Sarah said...

Lovely! I just set up a cabinet with my son's utensils, plates, bowls, glasses, etc. he loves getting his own things for meals and snacks. Thanks for more ideas.

mamaschlick said...

I loved reading this! Inspirational and just pleasant to read and see. Henry is a doll! Thank you for sharing.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Annalisa! Henry plays with that toy independently. Taking it off the shelf, completing it, and putting it back on the shelf only occupy him for five minutes tops. Then he moves on to other toys.

His schedule is as follows:
7-8 = Wake up, read with us in our bed, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, put shoes on, head to school. Self-care is such a slow process with a 2 year-old; there is not usually time for playing in this morning block. If there is a little time, Matt and Henry will usually take Hoss for a short walk in the park behind our house.
8:15-3:00 = School
3:00-5:00 = Usually outdoor time. Often we stay after school to play on the front lawn for about a half hour. We used to go to the park, but now we go over to our neighbor's house more frequently to hang out in her backyard until Matt gets home. Henry plays in her fountain, swims in the hot tub, eat snacks, finds dog toys in the yard, etc. Sometimes we're just at home, and Henry can occupy himself for an hour by playing with his toys inside and then going outside in the backyard by himself (I usually watch him from the windows while I start dinner).
5:15 = Matt gets home and Henry follows him into the bedroom while he changes. I start dinner. Then Matt and Henry come to help (or Henry starts to play).

After dinner it's usually already time for bath/books/bed. Sometimes there's a little time for family dancing, tickling, chasing, etc.

No single toy occupies him for long stretches of time. He mainly moves from toy to toy. He also finds things and turns them into toys, like the paint brush roller or a tie from one of my maternity shirts.

On the weekends when we have an entire day with Henry, we try to get out of the house more often (without overwhelming ourselves or Henry with overstimulation). Matt usually takes him and Hoss to the dog park while I walk; I usually take him to the grocery store while Matt runs. After nap, we'll go explore our new house, go to the feed store, go out to dinner. We try to be home by 6 if we can for the evening routine before 6:30 bedtime. On Sundays we have church in the morning, then nap, then we'll go to a creek or something in the afternoon before making dinner.

Of course there are day-to-day variations, but I just wanted to give you a sense of how he spends his time. Hope that helps!

Irene Tan said...

Love the ring counter toy, my mother in law has this at her place. My son LOVES to play with it when he gets there but I will try to do something similar to what you suggested in your post. He has mastered the threading aspect but haven't used it with a ceramic bowl. Have been cultivating that elsewhere by getting my son to use a jug and glass properly but would be good to try some of these activities at a proper table for him. I am enjoying reading your blog posts, thanks for sharing.

Laurena said...

Montessori Education is a precious gift which should be available to all children, everywhere. We know that given a great start, children find ways to learn which are right for them.

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