So, my first post about some of the changes we’ve made in our house to incorporate the Montessori philosophy was mainly about his toys and I wanted to share some of the other changes we’ve made as they come along.
One of our first steps to encouraging Knox’s independence was to give him access to all of the things that he needs on a daily basis. It’s often our instinct as parents to put some of these things out of reach of our children, but, when you really think about it, doesn’t it just make sense to allow our children the opportunity to learn how to care for themselves instead of assuming they need us to do it for them. After all, we understand our children’s abilities pretty well, and, of course there are certain things they are still unable to do, but we can present them with challenges or things we know they can master easily. Accomplishing small things like this will give our children a sense of pride and help them to understand that we trust them so they should trust themselves. It also allows for mistakes, which give us as parents a chance to react in a positive way, helping them to learn from these mistakes.
His cabinet, which is a low cabinet beside the refrigerator that he can easily reach, holds all of the things he needs to set his place at the table. Many Montessori families and schools allow children to use glass/ceramic/breakable materials, however, we felt that, at Knox’s age, it was safer to provide the plastic-ware that he was used to. I do allow him to drink from an open top glass from time to time, with my supervision, to get him used to the feel of it and to express the importance of handling it carefully. I don’t feel comfortable with him having direct access to it at this point in time, but that’s just me. He uses silverware to eat most all of his foods and he does drink from an open-topped cup when at the table.
He has a shelf in the fridge with healthy snacks (fruit, yogurt, cheese, etc), and things to spread on crackers or bread (butter, jelly, cream cheese, etc) along with a spreading knife so that he can practice spreading.
He also has a basket shelf in the pantry with bread and other healthy snacks (crackers, granola, fruit, peanut butter, etc) which is well within his reach, hanging on the bottom pantry shelf. He often helps himself to these items, though he may need help getting the container open, he is getting practice in opening it himself.
3. Learning Activities/Games
Just a few activities we’ve enjoyed recently:
1. Banging pots & pans: Obviously, this is just plain fun! Great for sensory development and a fun music activity.
2. Pouring water/transferring activity: This enhances fine motor skills and is also a sensory experience. it encourages Knox to begin to understand the concept of volume (see picture #6 - all of the containers are different sizes, so watching the water and how it forms to each container is a wonderful educational activity that he really enjoys).
3. Cooking (mixing granola): Teaching Knox practical life skills, any cooking activity is also a sensory experience as Knox gets to feel the food with his hands. The pouring of different types of liquids/powders is also great for developing fine motor skills. it’s also a great way to get him to eat healthy foods. often times if he is involved in making the food, he will want to eat it right away.
4. Spooning macaroni/beans: Spooning (solids from one container to another) is a great fine motor activity, this is also good for sensory development. Knox loves the feel of beans and macaroni and also loves the sound it makes as it hits the glass or plastic container he is transferring it to.
5. Color mixing/pouring: This activity is a scaled down version of one meant for a child who is a little bit older, but Knox truly enjoys it and it encourages him to learn his colors. I use the 3 primary colors (red, yellow, blue), as those are the ones we are focusing on at his age. He pours the colors from a small cup (medicine cup) into this 3 compartment glass container (which is actually an old candle holder). I show him to put each color in separate compartments. We then identify the colors he’s poured and then pour a bit more color into each little cup and ask him to mix them and see what new colors they make. (Don’t you love his butterfly apron, by the way!)
7. Sticks in holes: Another fine motor activity that keeps Knox entertained is placing these wood craft sticks (which are dull, unlike toothpicks that can prick him) into the top of a spice container.
I feel like these activities, along with many others that I try to rotate out everyday, strengthen his little attention span and also encourage his development in many ways. Most of them are things that I have to supervise, which gives me the chance to observe how he is learning and what is most interesting to him so that I can find new challenges and follow his lead when it comes to presenting them.
I’m still working on some other DIY materials and plan to do a separate post on DIY Montessori, but I wanted to share this project that we recently finished. I got the idea from this blog when I was researching inexpensive ways to make sandpaper letters. These letters are used as tools for prewriting, spelling and reading. While Knox is obviously still pretty young to be learning to read and write, he has developed an interest in letters. We have a magnetic set that we use on his whiteboard and I also have a set of alphabet stamps that he enjoys, so I figured this would be the next step to introducing letters to him. Right now, I just encourage him to trace the felt letter, feeling it’s composition, and we also, of course point to letters and identify them. He seems to consistently identify 1 or 2, but I try not to be too aggressive about getting him to learn them all, as it’s not something I expect him to at his age. I’m following his lead - I provide him with the materials and if he brings attention to them and asks me about them, we play with them and discuss them.
We are having fun and both learning a lot around here lately, so I intend to continue the makeover and also to extend it to the new baby with some fun baby materials, armed with a somewhat different way of viewing baby needs when it comes to learning. I think the main thing I’ve learned throughout all of my research thus far is that all children want to learn, they are designed to learn. It is just our job as parents and educators to provide them with opportunities to do so by observing their interests and following their lead. It’s so important to understand that all children learn differently and their personalities lead them into learning different things at different times. There’s no need for comparison or cause for concern if they aren’t all doing the same thing at the same time (actually, I feel that it is cause for celebration - what a boring world it would be if people were all the same!).
What we do know is that early childhood is a hugely important time for learning and that, like they have since they were born, our children will show us how they want to learn.