Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Display

Weeks before it started to show signs of spring outdoors, I planned our spring display and purchased everything we needed at my newest favorite store, Hobby Lobby. I was desperate to take down our dismal winter display and was growing quite impatient! A few weeks ago, Tyler and I finally noticed buds appearing, the temps were climbing and I couldn't get it this up fast enough! The display has brought a lot of cheer to the focal point of our living room and Tyler has enjoyed every bit of it.

Once I saw unfinished wooden flowers in the store, I knew that I wanted to paint them and for Tyler to practice putting them into small vases, but I struggled with figuring out how I would keep them from constantly falling over and frustrating him. This basket was perfect! There's a place for each vase and a large, long area to store the flowers. He enjoys this activity quite a bit and I've noticed him playing switch-a-roo with vase placements lately as well.

I wasn't sure how well the Montessori Flower Arranging activity would go over with Tyler, but it has been a huge hit! He truly enjoys taking the flowers out, examining them, and returning them to the vase. I bought several different types and colors of fake flowers so we could work on naming and color recognition. A few colorful butterflies grace the bottom of the tray as well. I imagined creating a long tray for line work with these, but that hasn't yet happened!

Tyler's favorite part of the display for certain is his basket of spring-related books. Many of them are from the library and happened to be lift-the-flap books which I've found that he, as a peek-a-boo lover, just adores! He spends quite a bit of time looking at these with me as well as independently.

Bird watching has been a peaceful, soothing activity for all of us lately. Our wonderful next-door neighbor has several bird feeders hanging off of a wire strung between trees in his backyard, and they are perfectly visible to us through the dining room window as we eat our meals. Ty also enjoys getting onto his step stool and watching them throughout the day. The feeders are quite popular with our neighborhood bird population and we are able to watch and name a wide variety of birds for Tyler. These little birds and nests were an unexpected find that he likes to look at and take in and of their nests. I expected the birds to be in pieces by now, but he's been surprisingly gentle with them!

I also hung a few pieces of spring and floral inspired art from the calendar used for our Art Display in the area. I have another activity idea that is more geared towards Easter, but it made the space too cluttered, so I'll soon place it on the work shelves instead.
How have you brought the excitement of spring in your home? Feel free to share a blog link if you'd like!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Fun With Lacing Beads

I thought I would update the last few weeks following a timeline of activity occurrence, but Tyler really enjoyed the activity I made for him today, so I just had to share!

This is a simple toy for lacing beads onto that I've had on my mind for weeks now, similar to the bead tree I made previously. Just a block of wood, dowels, wood glue and my Dremel Trio were all I needed. I'm finding that these Melissa and Doug jumbo lacing beads are quite versatile!

Instant attraction

My little stacker realized that he could keep the stack going above the dowels, and challenged himself with this task often.

This instantly found a nice cozy home on his shelves. It feels so great to handcraft toys for my little guy! 

Sponge Transfer

Ahhh, things are back to normal in our household, and a bit earlier than expected! This morning I rotated books, toys and works, put a new twist on some others, and completed a new woodworking project. What a glorious feeling! Now to begin the daunting task of writing the fourteen blogs I currently have under my hat, starting here with the Montessori sponge transfer work. It's difficult to know where to begin!

To set-up this activity I used two bowls, one empty and one with a small amount of warm water, and placed them in a shallow pan. I cut a clean sponge in half to ensure it would fit well in his hand. You could cetainly use more water than I did; I didn't want to trigger Ty's dumping instinct!

I then used a silent demonstration to show Tyler how to dip the sponge into the bowl with water to soak it up, and then squeeze the water out into the empty bowl.

Soaking-up the water

Learning to squeeze

Oops! On the floor.

Noticing that holding the sponge closer to the bowl results in better aim.

Got it!

Squeezing water is a practical life activity that prepares a child for other activities such as wringing out a dish cloth and washing a table. It is also a bit of a science and math experiment! Next time I will use a full-sized sponge so he can practice using two hands to wring as well. Adding a bit food color to the water is another fun option!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Whew! I really thought that I would have a bit more time to blog during our family month of madness, but it just hasn't happened. Caring for and playing with Ty, playing nurse to a diabetic cat, cleaning, preparing activities as well as attempting to take a moment or two for myself has been quite a balancing act, though truly enjoyable as well. I love being busy!

Though the hectic schedule continues, today granted me a bit of time to craft a balance beam for Tyler, something I've hoped for him to have for quite some time as I've caught him challenging his balance by walking on things he probably shouldn't. Though it was extremely simple to make, I had to take a quick moment to pop-in and take a moment show it off! So far he can't help but use it every time he needs to head down the hallway...and honestly, I can't either!

I can't wait to share what we've been up to the last few weeks with all of you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Speeding-up yet slowing-down

Certain times of the year are very busy for my husband, which means extra busy for Tyler and I as well. Now is certainly one of those times! We've tried several new activities that I'd love to share with plenty more coming-up, though it will be difficult to blog as often for the next couple weeks (and even more so now that Tyler and I are sick yet again). You can be assured I'll be a bit of a blogging fool when things get back to normal!

For now, here's a sneak-peek at part of our spring display, flower arranging. The flowers are beginning to bloom all over the neighborhood and we're following suit indoors!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Acting-out Stories

There are so many wonderful extension activities to do with children and their favorite books (far too many to list here), and as a book-lover and someone with an English degree who focused on the importance of children's literature when obtaining my Child Development Associate, I'm quite tickled that he's has taken to one of them already! When reading to him, ideas for activities are brewing in my brain, but most are for an older Tyler, not a child of 18 months. I'm more than happy to repeat this little activity over and over (and over and over, in pure toddler fashion!).

This is a scene from Sandra Boynton's book "Night-Night, Little Pookie" where a very silly little Pookie hides under the covers from his Mommy when getting ready for bed. Ty brings the book to me and we maybe get through the first page before he can't take the anticipation anymore and flips to this page.

And then, the hiding! If there isn't a blanket handy, he covers his eyes with his hands.

Sometimes he really let's the drama build, staying underneath for a while and saying "Hmmmm" or giggling when I continue to ask where Pookie could be...

Then the reveal and the "surprise!" He's barely out of the covers before he's patting the page asking for me to read it again.

I'm now looking more closely at scenes in some of his other favorites that he may enjoy acting-out. In another part of this book Pookie hides along the side of the chair where his Mommy can't see him, and I believe he's doing that as well. Maybe showing Tyler how to play hide-and-seek should be next!

A Day of Peace

Are you one of the 1,683,527 people participating in this event today? Sure, it's a Facebook event, yet this is how beautiful things start! Perhaps a day of such behavior will stick with some and carry-on into other days. Maybe the modeling of such kindness will resonate with others, spreading it deeper and wider across a number of people. Ultimately, I do believe that people are "good" and wish to be "good". I also believe that American society has changed to a more selfish and egocentric one, and that being friendly and truly understanding seems more difficult as a result. This is a good self-check for many of us. Maria Montessori would certainly approve.

This is what the creator, Stephen Shoemaker, has proposed:

Wouldn't it be amazing?
Just one day in the year where we all held our tongues.
A day where we ignored others' shortcomings and made a valiant effort to be kind and understanding. 
A day where we all got along. It's sad that we are all at a point where we should do this, but it's even sadder to know that we easily could every day, but refuse to do so.

Rule #1.Say not a single unkind thing about anyone or anything. If at all possible, try not to even think a nasty thought. If we do, reflect on why it was that we thought to say it in the first place.

Rule #2.
Show everyone we cross paths with some genuine human compassion. Be it with a smile or kind words, just spread some love.

Rule #3.Make not one person the exception to the rule. Not everyone deserves to have roses thrown at their feet and have a holiday in their honor, but nobody deserves to feel alone. Reach out. Talk to someone new. Care about them, and we will be cared for in return.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Looking at Light and Dark

Every morning for several months last fall, Tyler would wake up, climb over me and grab the flashlight next to the bed. He would then give me the sign he used for music, wanting me to do "Little Bunny Foo Foo" on the wall at least ten times before we even thought about breakfast. It was an interesting wake-up call! When the flashlight batteries died, I wasn't eager to replace them, so the flashlight "disappeared" and was forgotten by both us of. A few months ago I placed a small flashlight that he could turn on himself in his treasure basket, but he was more interested in other treasures (likely my fault for not showing him how to use it again). When he brought it to over the weekend me with a curious expression, we naturally began our explorations. 

We started off in the kitchen, which was very well lit at the time. We noticed how it was hard to see the light when shone upon objects. We then moved to the more dim hallway.

Then on to a room where the windows were still blacked-out from nap.

Here he found his baby and decided to feed it (a look into his future quite likely!). My flash actually went here, so I tried to re-create the lighting in Photoshop.

He then gave me the flashlight and grabbed a book. Asking with sign language to please read.

So we did! Tyler was kind enough to hold the flashlight for us.

A sweet moment.

Tyler has since made many trips around the house with his flashlight, with and without me with me. When exploring together, we do things like play with shadows, shine the light on different objects and name/them, notice the differences when a room is bright or dark, and we turn the light on and off for cause and effect. Seeing that our area of the country is likely to see a lot of bad and stormy weather the spring, getting Tyler used to walking around dark spaces with a flashlight now may be a good idea!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Montessori Education Week

It's Montessori Education Week! This is my celebration post and small tribute to Dr. Montessori. I'm finding, via personal messages and comments, that many of you are using my blog as one of your ways to learn about Montessori, so I hope to soon have a post that will talk more in-depth about Montessori philosophy and what it entails from my understanding thus far. It is certainly a difficult concept to summarize!

Dr. Maria Montessori

“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds maybe sown, to grow under the heating flame of imagination. Our aim is to not only make the child understand, and still less force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. We do not want complacent pupils but eager ones. We seek to sow life in the child rather than theories to help him in his growth, mental and emotional as well as physical and for that we must offer grand and lofty ideas to the human mind”   
 --Dr.Maria Montessori

For a video on how Montessori works, view "Montessori Education for the Early Childhood Years" by The American Montessori Society here:

For simple ways to celebrate and practice Montessori in your home or classroom this week (or always!), visit this link:

Stacking Madness!

While building blocks aren't a Montessori material, it's hard to find a lot of official Montessori activities for this young age, and few parents have only Montessori works in their home anyhow. Blocks are wonderful for creativity, hand-eye-coordination and are self-correcting in a way...when they fall down it's usually because you've made an error!

Ty has now hit his second stacking phase. At around 11 mos, he really enjoyed stacking simple wooden and squishy blocks, impressing us with up to six block towers, but it didn't last long. Blocks became boring and his block center was often ignored. I couldn't figure out how to entice him.

In an attempt to cure his block boredom, I gave him unit blocks for Christmas. He was occasionally interested in building with the cylinders, but it wasn't a popular activity. After a few weeks I took them out of rotation. When introducing them again after about three weeks, I decided on a whim to only use 4-5 of each shape to avoid overwhelming him with a large basket of blocks, and to sort them in this container by shape. Aha! He took to this instantly!

I've found Tyler building some pretty creative towers using many shapes at once, (the most interesting not caught on camera of course) and he takes his work quite seriously. There were a few days when the poor babe would bawl when his tower would fall, then, still crying, would instantly start again. Determination!
Happy with his work!

I like that with the unit blocks he is handling true shapes and getting a real understanding of them and how they fit with others rather than just looking a photos of shapes in a book. This is a very Montessori idea in-line with the geometric solids work he will do as he gets older.

Stacking beads from his bead tree. I've noticed him stacking object from his treasure basket as well!

Interesting way to stack these cups! To be quite fair, I actually have trouble stacking these cups myself. This particular brand seems to be a bit flawed in its fit. Great for nesting too though, a favorite activity.
Color recognition, talking about size and shape...despite the difficulties stacking, I do love these simple cups!

A no-cost way for kids to have fun stacking is to save food boxes and containers for them. I keep these in a kitchen cupboard, though you could use box or crate to store them in as well. Great for keeping a little one busy while you cook! [Note: Tyler's a decent builder, but he didn't build these towers, I did!]

Another no-cost way to keep a little stacker happy is to provide big boxes for them to stack (i.e. diaper and shipping boxes). How fun to build a tower almost as big as you are...and to knock it down! Older kids would likely enjoy making forts. I keep a bunch of boxes in our basement and Tyler is a huge fan. You can buy a set of cardboard blocks that are more attractive, but these work just fine for us right now!  

What items get stacked in your home? I'm sure Tyler would love some new ideas!