Sunday, January 19, 2020

Frozen II: Lessons in Healthy Emotional Growth and Relationships (for EVERYONE, not just the kids!)

After weeks of anticipation, I finally saw Frozen II, and as a mental health professional, was joyously taken aback over and over. From anxiety to the depths of depression, healthy relationships to the joy and healing powers of finding and being true to yourself, this film is beautifully packed with important messages and examples for viewers of any age. I was so moved, I felt compelled to talk about some of them here. If you haven’t seen the film yet, there are definitely SPOILERS below, so beware.

Let's kick it off with what I found to be the most shocking piece in the film. Depression and a Disney movie? We’ve got it in Frozen II. Halfway through the movie, after dealing with some tough emotions stemming from her past, we see Anna in a black cave, crying and beaten down after seemingly losing Elsa and Olaf, and the writers allow her to stay for a bit in this dark, hopeless mental place. She states and shows her absolutely raw pain. This is reality for all of us at some point in our lives, it’s certain that we’ll be brought upon terrible times and moments, yet our society doesn’t often make it okay to feel that way, so many people hide away and suffer alone. In their solitude, some even take their lives. Anna seems to even be close to this, slumped against the cave wall, stating, “Hello darkness. I’m ready to succumb.” The fact that Frozen II allows children to see that it’s normal to be in a rough place is promising, then they also see how she starts to overcome. She can feel her feelings as they are, as we all should, but doesn’t give in to the dark. Slowly, step by step, she accepts that nothing will be the same again, rises-up to repeat a mantra (great coping skill) that all she can do is “make a choice” and take steps towards “the next right thing.” It’s a wonderful, realistic, and important moment. [Link to this song, because there's just so much good in there, on YouTube: The Next Right Thing]

Another scene where feelings are quite blatantly addressed is when Kristoff/Sven states “You feel what your feel, and your feelings are real. C'mon Kristoff, let down your guard.” This is especially powerful coming from a male character, even if Krisotff doesn’t do it directly, but through Sven. Society tends to raise boys to shut off their feelings or else be negatively labeled, leading to some pretty rough coping for them in hard times. This also leads to boys failing to communicate feelings straight through into adulthood, hurting their relationships, as well as themselves. I hope that plenty of boys will see this film and ingest the message that all feelings are normal and okay.

The idea that we can only control ourselves is clearly brought to light in this film. When Anna tells Elsa, “You are not responsible for their choices” around the history of the people of Arrendelle (or, as we discover, her grandfather), it’s such a true statement that most of us need to hear. We cannot control what others do, nor should we feel guilt for their choices. Thank you to the writers for sending this message to those who will watch this movie again and again and have that idea hopefully cemented into their mind. The idea that we are at fault for what others do (our children, etc.) causes unneeded pain for us all. In addition, the fact that Elsa and Anna did what they could to make things right, even if they weren’t the cause of the problem, was a lovely display of good character necessary for the health of today’s world. 

Frozen I and II are strong with female power, and though the relationship between Anna  and Kristoff is present and a good example of two healthy people, this story line isn't allowed to dominate. The main plot focuses on the development of the strong relationship between Elsa and Anna, and Elsa with herself. No fairytale romance focus here, as with the original Frozen, and it’s what we needed to continue to see. No love interest is more important than family and doing the right thing. Anna states and shows over and over that she believes fiercely in her sister and puts her first. It’s a strong example around staying strong and true to others. When Anna tells Elsa “You’ll always have me” we have no doubt that it’s true, because she continues to prove it, even in the most challenging times. It’s the reason Elsa can fully rise to her true self. May we all have at least one person with whom we serve that role, and at least one who plays it for us. 

Continuing with relationships, Kristoff and Anna are also a fantastic model for adults and children alike. Kristoff is clearly completely in love with Anna, as we see with his proposal attempts and heartfelt solo song in the forest, but it’s also a healthy love. Kristoff sees Anna as her equal, doesn’t need to control her, and lets her be herself and do as she feels she needs to. When he comes across Anna running from the Giants in the forest, he states, “I’m here. What do you need?” rather than trying to save the day, it shows the respect he has for her. He knows she doesn’t need him to take over unless she asks. He also states “My love isn’t fragile” and has no upset when Anna apologizes for leaving him in the forest because she felt the need to support her sister. Sure, he was sad and worried, but also knew that was normal and okay. In "Lost in the Woods" he sings "Again, you're gone, off on a different path than mine, I'm left behind . . . .You had to go, and of course it's always fine. I could probably catch-up with you tomorrow.Relationship goals all over the place here. 

Elsa’s solitary scenes, when she’s about to figure out she is what she’s been looking for (and Elsa thereafter), were visually stunning and equally empowering. Elsa doesn’t need a romantic relationship to be whole and happy. She is focusing on herself and figuring out who she is. In today's world, it’s becoming more “acceptable” to not be in a relationship and to define yourself on your own, and Frozen II firmly supports the idea. Sometimes it can be best to develop our basic selves before throwing our lost and confused selves into a relationship. The fact that we have Elsa as a character to look up to in these ways can only make current, and upcoming generations of women, and our society in general, that much stronger.

In the Frozen films, we not only see the depths of depression, but anxiety as well. Since the first Frozen film, Elsa has been suffering from anxiety around her magic, and then the pressures of becoming Queen at a young age. I can’t recall another Disney “princess” who so clearly suffers from a mental disorder, but with over 18% of the population dealing with anxiety, I appreciate a strong character like Elsa demonstrating it. In Frozen II we see Elsa’s continued anxiety around being Queen, as well as trying to fit in as she’d like with her own family and friends (we see this discomfort in the charades scene). Her deep desires for freedom, and something better suited for her, conflict with the roles she’s expected to play. When Elsa decides to follow the mysterious voice, heads off on her own and pushes through challenges through the dark seas and beyond, she faces her fears head-on, discovers herself, and we see the anxiety melt away. Again, the message and example is an important one.     

Anxiety impacts our thoughts, and can cause our ideas and beliefs to become distorted, and this makes a quick but important appearance in film. In the moment where Elsa tells Olaf, “That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted” it sent the message that in times when we’re afraid, we should check the validity of our feelings a little more closely. Anxiety lies.  Past trauma clouds our thinking when triggered. The only quote I have in my counseling office is, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s simple, yet deep, and incredibly true. Check and change your thoughts and you can change your behaviors, and therefore your life. It’s a lovely seed to plant in the mind of our children, and a reminder for many grown-ups. 

We see in Frozen II that it’s okay to grow and change, find your own path, and be in a place where you’re happiest and fit in best. This also isn’t always an easy journey, as the song “All is Found” near the end sings, “You had to get a little lost, on your way to being found.” Elsa knew in the beginning, “deep down I'm not where I'm meant to be,” but tries to fight the feeling, which we see was a mistake. Moving away from Arrendelle is a huge change for Elsa, and everyone, but she does what’s right for herself, and she has the support of those closest to her...because that’s love...letting others be free to be themselves.  This is one of my personal favorite realizations in my adult life, and I love that it’s here for children to normalize from a young age. Again, their “love is not fragile” -- they all understand that their feelings haven’t changed, despite being a bit physically far away. This security is a lovely model in a society today where families, and even spouses, aren’t always living in the same locality due to people living out their dreams, wherever they may lead them. 

Thank you to Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez for creating such an important piece of work supporting the healthy rise of future generations, as well as us adults in tow. This is a DVD that will be added to my collection not only for my son, but to use in my counseling with children, and to enjoy myself. Bravo!

Frozen 2 Official Website:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Where have we been?! Where can you find us now?

Hello! So yes, it's been awhile, right?! I'm happy to report that Ty and myself are alive and doing very well. I'm currently a counselor to at-risk youth and their families 45+ hours a week, which has become one of my new passions. Balancing that with being a single mother to a very sweet, energetic child the last 2.5 years hasn't left me with much free time for the blogging world!

Another reason why I'm so busy is that we started homeschooling/unschooling this year! Tyler is in "Kindergarten" though his brain and development have been all over the place, so learning at home has been an easy solution to ensure that he's getting both the challenges that he needs and some special attention where he deserves it as well. It wasn't an easy decision to make, and truly a scary one at first, though I find it's working well for both of us. Teaching Ty is what I've been doing all along, so why not continue?!

While I'm not blogging, I've found it fast and simple to utilize Instagram to share our schooling journey, including some activities. You can find us at . If you wanted to peek at what we were doing before September, you can view our older Instagram as well by searching user name: Rougeurbleu.

Ty has been especially focused on the areas of Math, Science, and Geography this year. We've also been working on feeling identification and coping skills, as well as a good amount of physical activity (especially gymnastics), as I truly believe in developing the whole child, not just academics!

As always, you can also find activities (counseling activities included now as well) via my Pinterest boards: It's amazing to see how many hits this blog continues to get, and so many of them are thanks to pinners on Pinterest!

I can't rule-out an occasional post about a topic or two here on this blog, so if you're following, you could certainly stay put. For now, I wish you all happiness and love, and perhaps I'll see you over on Instagram! :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

12 Activities Using Plastic Easter Eggs and Egg Cartons

Buy a bag of plastic eggs, save an egg carton, and BAM, you have fun, hands-on activities for your kids from age one to mid-elementary school!
Note: To make these activities Montessori-friendly, be sure to only provide exactly the right amount of eggs (i.e. 12 eggs for a dozen carton).
For the youngest set, simply putting eggs into the carton is enough! If you're playing with the child rather than letting them work alone, this is also a great time to name each color as they place them into the carton. This activity naturally works on 1:1 correspondence, though your child will likely have no idea they're learning early math concepts!
Depending on your child's counting interest and ability, have them count each egg as they place them, either using a dozen or 18 count egg carton. You could certainly also cut a carton in half  or thirds for just beginning to count. Another variation is to have them name each color as they place the eggs.
For color identification, have your child place all of just one color you've named into the carton.
As shown in the picture above of a similar activity, paint or use markers to color each individual cup and have your child match the eggs to the colors.
Paint color patterns into the cups for your child to recognize and place in order, saying the colors/pattern out loud. Use simple patterns for the younger child (i.e. blue, yellow, blue yellow), more complex patterns for those who are ready (i.e green, pink, blue, green, pink, blue) or even more complex for the child who needs more challenge (i.e. blue, yellow, yellow, green, blue, yellow, yellow, green). 
Give your child a pile of 12 opened eggs and let them match the tops and bottom to the same color. This works on matching as well as motor skills; getting those eggs together can be tricky (though maybe that's just my own fine motor deficit showing)!
For the blog. Fractions with eggs and a carton. I.e. how many of the eggs are yellow...four twelfths. Poor babe was sick here two weeks ago but still wanted to learn.
Fill a carton of eggs with various colors and ask your child to tell you, for example, how many green eggs there are, how many blue eggs, etc.
In the photo above, Tyler is working on fractions. He has had a good understanding of these first and knows about numerators and denominators. I would ask him how many of a specific color there were and he would give me the answer in fraction form (3/12ths of the eggs are blue). For a beginner you could start with the top row full of one color and the bottom row filled with another to show about halves.
Ty has recently learned to count change, so to make it even more fun (not that the ability in itself isn't thrilling to a child), I put several coins in each eggs and let him count how much was in each. For a beginner you could put one penny or other coin they're familiar with skip counting by in each egg and have them count the total. For those who are more advanced, counting the total amount of change in the carton (each egg having several coins) is fun, either by hand or for those learning to use a calculator as well as decimal points.
Linking-up with mountains of great ideas at Living Montessori Now

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Easter-inspired Math Meals!

Like many young children, Ty can be a pretty picky eater. Add to this some serious texture issues related to sensory quirks and you've got some major challenges. I'm often looking for ways to make eating more fun. While browsing the seasonal section of our local grocery store, I came upon these classic deviled egg trays...and had an a-ha moment!

Though it's been a while, some of you may remember that Tyler enjoys math. A lot. A lot, lot. The very idea of updating the huge amount of math we've covered truly makes my head spin. So, anyhow, using a Sharpie, I turned the tray into a clock! Tyler was instantly intrigued. He enjoys saying "I ate all of 1:00!" and enjoys eating his way around the clock, getting a good variety of foods as he goes. We've been doing this for a couple weeks now and it still works to make meals more fun for him!

For children not interested in or ready for the concept of clocks, you can simply use it for number recognition: "What food is in six?" or "What number are your beans in?". Of course the kiddos can help fill their tray as well: "Where do you think we could put your carrots? Two or three?" and then the child's task is to find that number and fill it. You could teach even and odd numbers to a child who's ready by, for example, placing fruit items in the even spots and vegetables in the odd. Or look at halves by making one half of the clock veggies and the other fruit. Hands-on math fun!


I should note that in order to fill the whole clock I often have to put the same food in two spots, but children who eat a wide variety of food (this is not Ty) could have little nibbles of everything. Kids love choices!

What do you do to make meal-time more fun and interesting? Please feel free to share in the comments!


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Our New Montessori-Inspired Playroom

For anyone who's read through my previous posts on our Montessori-inspired home environment and thought "I don't have enough room for that!", this one's for you! If you've missed the others, this was our recent Montessori Preschool environment as well as our original Montessori Home.

Since moving in with relatives two months ago, we've had (as expected) much less space to work with. I can't say that I'm unhappy as we've been given our own bedroom, bathroom and this room to use as a playroom (and they're all conveniently right next to each other), but it was a challenge nonetheless to fit what usually sprawled all over the house into mostly one room! This is what I've done and I have to say I'm much more pleased that I imagined I would be (plus a free place to stay while we get back on our feet is a blessing no matter what)!

I was able to fit three shelves against one wall, currently holding geography, literacy, science, math (okay the whole middle shelf is math as that's still his main focus), puzzles, sensorial items, blocks and some pretend play (which he isn't that into these days, showing imagination with verbal stories etc).

This window makes the entire room for me. Natural light makes me feel so alive! I of course didn't wish to block the windows with furniture, so I lined his book baskets underneath. One basket is for books I know for sure he can read completely on his own, and another is full of math related books. The rest are a mix though I'd like to make one full of books by the same author or illustrator. There are also some three and five pound weights pictured there. Both his father and I do cross fit (me just as home for now) so he's definitely imitating that and wanting to be "strong" like us and enjoys lifting weights.

I've set-up our Weather Center here in this window with an outdoor thermometer, and indoor thermometer as well as our old cards and laminated weather board printed free from Montessori Print Shop.

I'm pretty sure I'll never get rid of this overstuffed chair. We spend so much time here snuggled under blankets and reading. Yet another basket of books is pictured here as well and is where we keep our library books.

Another a little boy with bed head doing some early morning reading.

This corner holds his favorite games (rotated often as everything is), musical instruments, his old journals from last year which he enjoys reading, and a cd player with books on cd from the library and music cd's. The cd player gets a tremendous amount of use.

Ty isn't one to do work at a table very often, but his play doh gets a lot of use here. It was originally on a shelf downstairs for use at this other table, but he insisted the play doh come up to the playroom where we spend the majority of our time. He still enjoys his chalkboard and reading the date and any other messages or pictures I've left him here. A basket with softer balls and scarves is available for large motor play, though he often prefers doing headstands in the chair or jumping and somersaulting off of it for his indoor physical activity (yes, I'm rather liberal with such things...he's way too active to deny him).

Another view of the room. I created the number wall cards myself with cardstock and number templates found online (this was a while ago so forgive me for not having a link). This morning he wanted to work in a numbers workbook I bought him for fun for his birthday. I'm not too into workbooks for learning, but this is just fun practice working with what he already knows and helps him practice writing small and on lines, something he could work on (though I'm not too concerned about this at age three unless he is).

Another view. Here Ty is putting some cling-on decorations onto the window. I recently bought some Crayola window crayons for him that crystallize in the sun and can't wait to try them out!

Downstairs in the dining room there are shelves with toys that are best used on the kitchen floor (the rest of the house is carpeting other than the small bathrooms) such as cars and floor puzzles and the game Twister, as there's simply more room to play it in the living and dining room areas.

On his larger table, which sits in the kitchen, there are several mediums for drawing, writing and art as well as paper and a chalkboard/wipeboard. I am soon putting together all of his craft supplies in a nearby storage container. He isn't too into art other than paining these days, but his morning nanny (I've recently needed to return to work of course, being a single mom now) is an art major so she may be able to come up with some neat ideas that he's interested in!

We will likely be moving to our own place by the summer so look forward to yet another post on our Montessori-inspired environment coming soon. I have to say I enjoy creating these spaces!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Montessori Home Preschool

Before circumstances forced me to move out of state last month, I ran a small Montessori-inspired preschool in my home, Montessori Minds. It isn't easy starting a preschool and being the sole owner, advertiser, environment, handbook and contract creator, researcher, bookkeeper, teacher, shopper, janitor etc, but it was my dream long ago to have my own school, and even though I only ran the school for six months, it was worth it! I loved what I did, the children truly enjoyed coming to school, and parents (who soon became my closest friends in the area), were thrilled. I miss it and the children (some shown here with permission) terribly, but seeing that the first post on our Montessori home over year ago is still so popular, I am happy to show and perhaps inspire my readers with this environment as well.

I regret the quality of the photos. I was only able to utilize my phone during this time.

These were our Montessori and Montessori-inspired work shelves. From left to right: Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics and Literacy. Work rugs were in a bin on the left and a work table to the right. I handmade the number wall cards with cardstock. I purposely made the odd and even numbers different colors and graduated the shades.
It amazed me how quickly the children often remembered to work on a rug and return materials to the shelf, and were truly delighted in remembering to do so. This photo was from just the first couple weeks when they were getting the hang of it after several demonstrations (the room configuration was different here as well). Kids love when everything has it's place. Great confidence builder!

Left to Right: Tomas the cat (beloved class pet!), Building/block area with lots of room to build and carefully selected materials (think Wedgits, Twig blocks, unit blocks), Music Center, Games and Puzzles shelves. There were boards the children could lay on the carpet to make building easier and less frustrating.

Montessori-inspired works, activities and toys that children lacked an interest with were rotated out frequently and replaced with other items. Shopping daycare closing sales and consignment stores allowed me to keep a large closet full of wooden, quality items cheaply!

Another view of our music, games and puzzles area as well as our Calendar (wipe off version), Weather Center (cards and board free here from Montessori Print Shop), and chalkboard. Not pictured was a large corkboard with clothespins glued to it for children to display their artwork. Inside the closet they kept their coats, shoes, and each had a large, labeled drawer at their level where they could easily access their own clothes, bedding etc.

This room (traditionally the dining room) was for (from left to right) our Art Center, Writing and Pretend Play. Our cultural box from Japan sat on the bottom of the art shelves and a world and USA map hung from the walls along with laminated photos of people from all over the world (created easily in this post). The table was used for free art, offered art and science projects, as well as snack and pretend play.

Lots of space to spread out and explore our Japan Box.

This was our reading area, with plenty of books with on array of topics and favorite authors, including easy readers, seasonal books and library books that covered each child's current interests.

They loved sitting in the cozy chair solo or together, reading to each other or each engrossed in their own book. A child-sized rocker was available, but who can resist an overstuffed chair? I certainly can't!

Sidenote: I loved that the entire school was visible to me from anywhere I was, including when in the kitchen. This was a townhome that really worked out for the purpose of a small school! In case you're curious, we used on of the bedrooms (upstairs) as a media room with the television, couch etc. Utilizing your living room as a play space may work if you feel you need space and are willing to be a bit non-traditional.

Our outdoor area was just as important as indoors. We utilized a sandbox, water table, trikes and bikes, slide, balls of all sorts, ball hockey equipment, bowling, baseball, monster stompers, golf etc and as you can see, we did messy play like shaving cream and painting (with feet) outdoors in the summer!

My crew often went on bike rides or walks around the neighborhood and into the woods to explore, discovering all sorts of bugs and claw marks from bears on the trees. We were playing out back one day when we heard construction vehicles and went on a walk to investigate (shown above). We were often finding different kinds of workers around the neighborhood to excitedly observe. There are plenty of learning experiences that you can't simulate in a classroom or even with books!

We often brought our work table outdoors for snack during our summer session. Nothing like relaxing with the sound of birds and scampering of squirrels in the fresh air while you enjoy a healthy nibble!

We also utilized a large field with a hill nearby where the children simply ran, raced each other, played games like duck-duck-goose, and they were exceptionally good at finding caterpillars, as shown here.They were a sweet group who truly loved creatures big and small.

Until perhaps another day and place in my life, goodbye Montessori Minds. It's an absolute thrill to do what you love!

If you're following along on Mobile, you may not see my links. You can get updates and follow our journey through:


Find new ideas I adore on Pinterest

Or get a behind the scenes look at our daily life (and new activities before they hit the blog) on Instagram. Username: ROUGEURBLEU

Monday, January 14, 2013

Road to Literacy: Part Two. We Have a Reader!

Well, it's been a while huh?! I'm shocked to see that I have well over 200,000 hits and am still getting over 5,000 people on my blog on a monthly basis despite not having a new posts in so very long. Thank you! Welcome to everyone who's joined me on our Montessori-inspired adventures!

Life has changed and changed again in some major ways, one way being that I chose to become a single mother in August and we've now lived in three different states in nine months. I'm pretty sure that after what I've been through and continue to struggle with, I can handle most anything! I unfortunately had close my Montessori-inspired Preschool a few weeks ago due to moving, but a positive is that I have access to a computer so I hope to be able to catch-up on Blogger. Blogging was a very fufilling and positive part of my life and I hope to get back to that on a regular basis!

So, with that out of the way, on to the last many months of literacy work! I can't exactly say that I've done a huge amount of work with Ty due to life circustances and focusing a bit more on the children in my former preschool rather than developing tons of new lessons for him, but regardless, he began reading before his third birthday and is now quite an impressive reader! I won't likely recall everything we did, but here are the main activities. Please excuse the large photos and a bit of a chaotic layout. I'm not used to the new Blogger yet and the laptop I'm using isn't allowing me to do everything I'm accustomed to.

Disclamer: Reading at age three is not typical or a milestone for this age. Maria Montessori believed that each child was born with their own timetable and their own interests and following that lead, rather than pushing a child into learning, is the best way to allow a child to feel joy and success in learning...for a lifetime. I believe it as well!

If you missed the Part One On The Road To Reading: Eight Months of Montessori Literacy Work, be sure to check that out for pre-reading and writing activities. It's my most popular post with 43,415 hits to date. I'm so happy that parents and educators are finding the information helpful!

I have to say that Ty's road into sounding out words (not just reading words he knew by sight) happened quite randonly one spring morning when I had a gut feeling and decided to write some rhyming words on his chalkboard. I demonstrated how to sound out the word "fat" (as he's known his letter sounds for a long time), then asked him to sound out mat...and he did...and he continued on with the rest of the list by himself! I wrote another word family, "fun/sun/run" and repeated the process. He struggled a bit more but was fascinated with the concept of sounding out words. I knew then that I needed to start the next steps towards reading!

Everyday Phonological Awarness

To continue with Ty's phonetic awarness, we naturally played some word games in our everday life and play. With me being such a kid at heart myself, our home has always been a bit of a silly one. Incorporating goofy rhymes all over the place was natural:

"Okay, I'm going to go get into the shower, flower, power, hour, cower!"

"What is that over there? Is that the cat bat who sat on a flat hat?!?"

Either that or I would mess-up reading a book or singing a song, using a rhyme in place of the real word.

"Twinkle, twinkle little car, how I wonder what you tar"

"How much is that froggie in the window? The one with the waggely snail..."

I did this stuff half because it made Ty break out into the best case of the giggles every single time, and then secondly because it helped him discriminate sounds. He also loved correcting me. Before long, he was doing it himself with real and nonsense words, sounding like a Dr. Suess book (we love those)!

Another word play game I liked to use with him was a guessing game with beginning, middle and ending sounds. After playing a couple times and giving the answers so he was familair with how to play, it became a bit of a regular game. For example:

[Making our daily smoothies, something he's very familair with] "I'm thinking of something that we need that ends with the /t/ sound..." [yogurt]

"It's raining outside, I think we're going to need something that sounds like /oo/ in the middle" [boots]

"I hear something in the tree that starts with the /s/ sound. Do you know what it is?" [squirrel]


This brilliant idea was floating around on Pinterest (wish I knew who started it) back in the spring and I jumped on it! The above imagine isn't my own as I apparently didn't photograph Ty with this activity, but it is exactly the same. You simply use Easter eggs, choose several words that rhyme, tape or write them on with permanent marker, and by twisting the egg, your beginning reader can read the words from that word family. Fun! Ty also enjoyed breaking the eggs apart (not part of the activity) and putting them back together was good motor practice!

Another activity I created was matching words to their objects. I used all CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) words with traditional sounds. This is a pretty standard work in the Montessori community.

Tyler is still a math-driven child, so matching numbers to their words was really fun for him. He also quite enjoyed trying to teach our cat Tomas his numbers! Sometimes he was a patient pupil, but most times not, much to Ty's frustration.

The Nomenclature Cards I made him when he was a young toddler came in very handy as we were working on reading. I was able to cut the words from the bottom of one set and have him match the word to the picture card. Another Montessori standard.

Once Tyler started showing that he could read or sound out many words, I started writing a sentence on his chalkboard every night before bed for him to discover in the moring. He beamed with pride everytime he was able to breeze through and read an entire sentence!

The photo above and to the left is of a phonics game I picked-up at a consignment store (where I buy many of our toys/games) called "Fall into Phonics". One side of the board is used to build simple words and descriminate if they're real words or not, while the other side (and another set of dice) work with blends in the same fashion.

To the right is Tyler sorting air, land and water animal cards. I have to say that sorting is much easier when the child can read the labels. I no longer have to read them or include a photo next to the words, allowing him more independence.

The Learning Journey Match It! Rhyme
Rhyme It! Puzzle matching game. Thirty rhymes are included with this set, though I ususally only put about six to eight different pairs out at once. These are great for beginning readers as well as pre-readers; several of the children in my home preschool were successful with these puzzles thanks to the photos! Highly reccomended.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell
Another product we liked was Melissa and Doug See and Spell. I first used the CVC boards, then as his reading advanced went up to the four letter words. I only provided the letters needed (and the exact quantity) to make this activity a bit more Montessori.

What was wonderful about removing the many extra letters from the See and Spell was that Ty was able to use the others (kept in a seperate wooden box) to create words much like letters in the Montessori Moveable Alphabet, which is used to help children "write" before they're able to form letters well. He enjoyed creating his own words much more than using the word boards!

A very recent purchase (Chirstmas present) has been Magnetic Poetry First Words. He can read every one of these and delights in me making him sentences for him to read (the longer and weirder the better). He often creates his own silly sentences but doesn't think very hard about real sentence structure yet. Even though they're magnetic, he likes to just use these on the rug as well.


I can't say that we've stuck to one series or type of books for Tyler to practice reading on his own. He tends to read whatever he feels like to himself, choosing from our large library, sounding out words and asking on occasion if he struggles. Most of his reading is to himself, though I love when he reads aloud (and thinks I can't hear him). It's absolute music to my ears and I'm shocked at what he can read in brand new books! If I ask him to read to me he sometimes refuses. He's still one who isn't always likely to "perform" on cue and can be shy with what he knows (unless it's math!). Reading to me often has to be his idea as he truly just enjoys just snuggling in my lap and being read to! I greatly enjoy that too!

When choosing beginning reader books from the library, I often just go by his interests, that being either math concepts or animals he adores. This was the first book he ever read by himself in September, just having turned three and having never heard it before. He couldn't get enough after that first time, reading it over and over for days with a huge smile on his face. For fun, there's a video posted below of his second time reading it. It amazes me to look back just a few months ago and realize how much his fluency has changed!

Before this, by late spring or early summer, Ty could read months and days of the week in random places. He quickly picked up on abbreviations for these as well without me teaching him. I place some of this on the fact that we continued to write in his journal every night. Watching me write also seemed to awaken something in his mind and he would sometimes watch me quite carefully as I said and wrote each word. He now enjoys going back to his old journals and reading through them (how he deciphers my terrible handwriting is a mystery) or asks me to read specific, favorite days. If you missed our post on journaling, calendars and time concepts last year, you can find it here.

It's amazing to see how much of the world is open and available to the child once they begin. Here, while making Christmas cookies, Tyler reads a line or two from the cookbook, telling me our next step.

We just moved, but through the spring, summer and fall were were within walking distance to our local library! Utilizing the library was absolutely instrumental for finding easy readers and books that drew Tyler due to their subjects, be it math, Winnie the Pooh, dogs, llamas, octupus or Curious George. Finding books that interest the child helps really develop a love for reading! I always happily lugged back an at least 30lb sack of books from each trip. The library has been a special place for us to visit since he was a baby; it's truly one of our favorite places to be no matter where we live!

Audiobooks became a huge favorite with Tyler last April and his hunger for them has only intensified. We've been lucky to always have libraries with large collections for us to borrow from. He made the 12 hr move to our new home a couple weeks ago without a whine or complaint thanks to plenty of books to listen to!

Just around the corner from us our town also started a free library last fall. It was simply a case where you could take or donate a book and anyone could take what they needed and return it when they were finished. I found this an absolutely beautiful idea and we used this community resource frequently.

Ty has picked-up on many of the rules for reading and blends on his own. For a while he wanted me to trace my finger under words as I read and studied them carefully. He also follows along with this audio books. These two things seemed to have helped him figture some things out on his own. I did teach him many rules and oddities (silent e and h, soft c and g, oo, ee, ou, etc) as we came across them after he really started learning to read and sound out words to lessen the confusion a bit. I've had it quite easy as once I tell him something it's typically in his brain for good. While I studied-up on traditional Montessori methods, there are no lessons to develop or repeat for many of these things. I feel a bit jipped in a way as I felt ready to teach, yet relieved as well and just keep plugging on towards the next thing!


We haven't practiced this skill much due to Tyler's lack of interest most times, but here are some exmaples of his work. I believe his perfectionism gets in the way of writing many times unless he suddenly feels confident and writes randomly. If he can't write a letter perfectly the first time it often sends him into a meltdown. We're working on the concept of having to practice some things rather than getting everything "right" the first time. It's a bit of a tricky road for us at times. For beginning writing exercises, be sure to check out Part One.

Writing in Montessori really goes hand-in-hand with reading. A couple mornings after sounding out the above words, Tyler came downstairs in the morning and wrote this, telling me this was the word "fat". Indeed. He isn't one to sit down and practice writing at all, other than numbers, so whenever he randomly writes words it shocks me as I didn't even know he could write some of the letters he makes!

His name. He really struggles with the "r" so he rarely wants to write this. If he can't be perfect he doesn't want to even try sometimes so of course I don't push it. He has no need to practice this at age three unless he wishes to!

He is a cute woodland creature lover and during my preschool one day after finding a picture of a deer on an old caendar with one of his friends, decided to write "deer". He did ask me how this one was spelled first.

Visiting a play room after Open Gymnastics, Ty discovered these magnetic letters and decided to spell-out kuhlanu (pronounced koo-tha-noo, which is more of what he was going for in his spelling), the Zulu word for the number five (he's decided to learn how to count to ten in several different languages recently). I go back and forth on puchasing a full Montessori Moveable alphabet for him or not, even though he can write if he wishes to, becauses moments like this are stunning, and he was so very proud of himself!

I hope that his post has been helpful in some way to you. Because I wasn't doing many formal lessons with Ty, we've skipped many traditional literacy activities (though we may go back to be sure he has it all down). You may want to check out the Montessori Primary Guide for more work in this area.

Be on the lookout for more catching-up posts on our preschool environment, play room in our new home, a huge math post, and miscelaneous Montessori-inspired activities, coming soon!