Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A marathon of work

I hope you all had a nice Christmas - We spent it in France with my family and had a wonderful time.
The three of us came back to the UK refreshed. Finn especially has very much been enjoying his playroom since we got back.
Today he chose work after work on his shelves, completely independently, putting his work away each time.
Even before getting dressed, he insisted on building a house for his animals. I helped him build it and we sorted the figures into herbivores and carnivores. He noticed by himself that there are many more herbivores than carnivores, which will be helpful groundwork for when we learn about food chains.

He then chose to practice screwing, which engaged him for a good while.

Threading small pony beads on an embroidery needle, for the second time today already. The first one was just after waking up. He asked me to count the beads with him as he threaded them (61 in total), then pointed to a random one and asked me what number that one was. We had to count again from the start. He was absolutely enthralled by this repetitive counting, which made me think that now would be a good time to introduce the number rods to him.

As you can see from the picture below, it wasn't! He had difficulty watching the presentation, and even more difficulty doing the work himself. He simply wasn't into it so we packed it away, got dressed and went for a walk.

I didn't mean for him to resume his work period in the afternoon but he did, choosing the geoboard.

He then chose to do all of the card works available on the shelves.

Here he is making animal families, asking me questions about their names, and about how we can tell "which one is the mummy and which one is the daddy".

He surprised me with his patience when stacking the cards to put them away.

A favourite work of his is sorting animals according to their means of transport.

Matching botanical drawings with photographs of the specimen.

Matching objects with their silhouettes.

Nesting dolls x2 for increased difficulty.

Here he is looking at the objects "van", "pig" and "box", casually and correctly answering my requests ("please show me the object that ends in x/ begins with v/ has the sound i...")

He said he was going to write "no" from "no, you can't come into my house!" from the three little pigs.

He then had me read a silly word, which he made sure had alternating red and blue letters for easier reading.

His final work of the day, Melissa and Doug's "See and Spell".

Wow, that's a lot! I'm amazed that he tidied everything away after him each time!

And now the little worker is asleep, recuperating from a hard day's work!

Can you tell what a proud mummy I am?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Round and round the Pink Tower

Ahh... the Pink Tower. The most emblematic Montessori material.
I have a bad habit (call it incompetence if you like) of offering Montessori lessons too early, and the Pink Tower was one of the victims of my ignorance as I showed it to Finn before he was 2. This material is better suited to children between 2.5 and 3 years olds, as that is when they begin to have an interest for size seriation and building. After Finn didn't show much interest a year ago, our Pink Tower went into storage. I mentioned it a few times to him after he turned 2 and a half, but he was never interested.
Last night, as I was browsing through a Montessori website, he spotted the Pink Tower over my shoulder and said "we have that! Can I do it?" I shut my laptop quicker than my shadow (never miss an opportunity!) and retrieved the object of interest for him.

I demonstrated to him and then he had a go. Then it was my go again apparently. Then his again.

"It's beautiful, mummy."

Walking around the tower was a highlight for him. He loved that part and wouldn't stop!

This morning, he asked to work with the tower again... Not to build it, just to walk around it a few more times...

I love my cheeky boy!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Our Africa continent box

The playroom tour gave you an overview of Finn's learning area; now it is time to look closer and take a peek inside our continent boxes, our most loved learning material of all time! You already had a look through our Asia continent box, so today Finn and I are taking you to the lands of the elephants (who's read too much Babar...?) !
Putting away the South America box... before choosing the Africa one

Who's the scary mummy...?

....laughing underneath his bandages!

Our Africa continent box is full to the brim with interesting pictures and artefacts.

A Masai statuette, an Egyptian scarab, a sand rose, a flamingo feather, coins from Algeria, African music, a map, postcards, bandage to become a mummy, a djellaba...

A keyring with pictures of Africa-related books we own that are stored in a basket in the room.

Home made matching cards of people and animals, which are now used to play memory games. Here's a post about how I make our picture cards.

Continent boxes are such fun to put together and use! They have been adored by Finn since he was just 2 years old.
They are contributing so much to his knowledge of our world and he can really relate when he hears the name of a continent. This, I'm sure, is such a strong cultural as well as emotional foundation for him as he grows up figuring out his place on Earth.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A visit to our playroom

Come with me for a playroom tour! This room is everybody's favourite room in the house, so it definitely deserves its own blog post.
Our playroom is actually the second bedroom in our house, which will eventually become Finley's bedroom when he is ready to move out of ours (that is, not soon).
This is the view from the landing. The natural light makes this room particularly inviting in the morning.

I'm very pleased with the way our continent boxes are displayed. They take little space and are still easily accessible. I was very lucky to find the perfect shelves! They are also quite easy to make, even with cardboard. You can find many tutorials online for using cardboard to make shelves.

I got a few questions about the set of felt numerals I made and whether Finn uses it. The answer is yes! They are perfect and they have been used a lot recently (most days) to teach Finn numerals through games which he enjoys (involving movement mostly).

 There are two cupboards in this room which are very practical to store materials that are out of rotation. Finn sometimes asks to have something from the cupboard, and we let him have one thing only. When he is finished with it, he must put it back in the cupboard. If he wants to keep it in the playroom for longer, then he needs to put something else in the cupboard. That way we ensure that we never have too many materials out and the room remains tidy and inviting.

 The basket on top of the shelf holds books that are related to particular continents, and they are linked to the continent boxes with a miniature picture of the front cover inside each box. More on that in a future post.
The box with the "oo" peeping out is where we store our felt letters and phonograms. We loved the numeral set so much that I made those out of felt as well!  

DIY dressing frames in a DIY booksling... you'll find a lot of DIY in our house!

Here's the best part of the playroom: the block corner. The platform is a coffee table without its legs. It's now a permanent, hard surface, work area. It's ideal for many works. Blocks, obviously but also jigsaw puzzles and so many more things we don't necessarily realise would be better on a hard surface.

And finally, his chair and table, which are in fact rarely used (in favour of the wooden platform), except when he was very into tracing insets (he's having a break with that, now). Next to the table are our zoology puzzles.

Is there anything I forgot to mention? Do let me know in the comments if you would like to know more about anything.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The waiting has begun

1st of December... Christmas will be here soon!
Our Autumn table has transformed into a wintery Christmas display.
Advent is such a special time as we patiently (or not so patiently) wait for 25th. Making cards, choosing gifts, baking biscuits, reading special Christmas books... This is so magical, especially for children.

 A simple paper nativity scene, a felt board snowman, a branch of holly, nuts to crack, baubles, a tree to decorate...

And what is in those small, advent calendar bags? 
A nut for the nut bowl. A small ornament for the tree. A few rocks and/or gemstones to collect in the red wooden box.

Happy advent everyone, enjoy your festive preparations!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Favourite toys: Christmas gifts ideas

Today's post is about Finley's favourite toys, as I thought it may be helpful to some of you as Christmas presents ideas. We own all the toys and materials in this post and none of the links are affiliate.

1. Makedo kit. We have the Makedo kit for 3 and it is not an exaggeration to say that Finn uses it daily. This would be my safest, go-to idea for any child aged 2+. All you need is some recycled
materials such as cardboard, plastic trays, lids... and the child can build whatever they want using the safe saw and pins. Adults also enjoy joining in the building so it's a great family activity. Have a look at this post to see some of our creations.
2. Finn received his first Duplo as a Christmas present last year (when he was 2) and they have been played with every day since. I can't praise Duplo enough. Imagination, fine motor skills, developing patience, dealing with frustration when things are not going as planned, early maths concepts... so much to say about the little bricks. If you buy a set, make sure it contains some sort of wheels!  Finn's favourite thing to make has long been "digger-planes."
3. Realistic animal and dinosaur models such as Schleich, Papo or Collecta. Those are so detailed, with realistic proportions and colours, that they really are a pleasure to observe and manipulate. We have an ever expanding collection of dinosaurs, wild and farm animals that is used often in block play. They are also used in early science activities, for example leaning about habitats and sorting animals according to their characteristics (does it fly, walk or swim?)
4. Dancing/juggling scarves. These are much cheaper than play silks as they are made out of nylon. They are so versatile that they make an ideal addition to any child's toy collection. We have given them as gifts several times and all children have loved them. Finn uses them for dancing, dressing up, making dens, ties them together to make one long rope, as beds and blankets, skirts... These scarves have been in very regular use since he was about 2 years old.
5. Colouring puzzle. We bought this puzzle recently and I can't say it's actually one of Finn's favourites yet as he's a bit young for it (it is aimed at children aged 6+). I think it is perfect for Montessori in the home though because of its sensorial appeal. At the moment we only take apart the outer ring of pieces and Finn enjoys putting them back on, matching the colour shade of each piece to the ones already on the board. He is very attracted to this puzzle and the way the colours merge into one another. I can imagine him becoming increasingly able to complete more of the puzzle by himself as he grows up.
6. Chime bars. We went for chime bars instead of the traditional Montessori bells. At this stage, we like that notes are colour-coded. The quality of this set is excellent and the sound is very enjoyable. The great advantage of chime bars over a metalophone or xylophone is that each bar is removeable, multiplying the uses. For example, Finn and I play a game where I take two bars out, space them out quite a bit, and play a very simple tune, just three notes, for him to copy. It would be a lot harder for him if the bars were too close together and if there were too many bars. We are very happy with our choice of first musical instrument and Finn enjoys playing these immensely.
What are your children's favourite toys? What do they play with most often?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Introducing... the Bean Lab!

Pouring beans from one jug to another... back and forth... endlessly...
A classic Montessori exercise that strengthens hand muscles, improves hand eye coordination and concentration through repetition. One that only some children take to.
Finn has never, ever, been attracted by a tray containing two jugs and a handful of beans, no matter how many times I offered it.
Classic Montessori tray
This, though?

We call it the Bean Lab!

Containers of different shapes and sizes, a variety of utensils, LOTS MORE BEANS, and the permission to make a mess offer him many more possibilities for exploration.
Not only does he pour, but he also scoops, transfers, uses his (sometimes wild) imagination to make concoctions, learns to level the top of containers, finds out which containers are equivalent in volume, and so much more.

He spent most of today working at the Bean Lab and even found out he could make slides out of Pringles boxes to make some kind of a marble run for beans!
So, which of these two set ups get your vote? Which one do you think your child would enjoy most?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A merry Montessori Christmas to you from Tower High Learning!

Would you give a child a Montessori material as a Christmas present? I know I would (and probably will!)
Maybe not a division board - unless the child is a maths fanatic - but puzzles, cultural and practical life items? Definitely!

Check out the selection of materials available from Tower High Learning below. Which is your favourite?

Tower High Learning are being generous this Christmas and offering readers from France a special discount on postage! By using the code 10UKP4FR at checkout you will get £10 off shipping for any orders over £50. If you meant to place an order with them, now would be a good time! The code is available until Christmas.

Grow Grow Grow is a Tower High Learning affiliate. I wouldn't recommend a company that I'm not entirely satisfied with.

Happy shopping!

Friday, 14 November 2014

3 ideas to repurpose children's art

Some children can be so incredibly prolific when it comes to art, especially in the stage of discovery, or process art. This is when the focus is on doing rather than achieving a masterpiece.
The products of the discovery are often beautiful in spontaneity and many parents choose to keep them to remember their little explorer many years from now. But piles grow as we lack space to store them all and threaten to take over our already covered walls.
Here are 3 ways I have found to not only store, but showcase Finley's beautiful art.

1. I used the edge of the Montessori inset frames to trace a square on the paintings and cut them out. I arranged them in a geometric pattern on a piece of coloured card and framed it. 

2. We make banners! Lots of them. I cut the art into triangles and Finn helped me sew a straight stitch through them all on the sewing machine.

I find bubble wrap printing is ideal for banners. I sandwiched our rectangles between a long piece of washi tape folded over lengthways.

 3. Cards! I used the same template as for the collage (the edge of the Montessori inset frames) to cut out the art to make cards. We have quite a stock of cards ready to be sent for all occasions now!

What are your favourite ways of reusing your children's art? Please share!

And remember, Grow Grow Grow is on Facebook now! Have you liked our page yet?

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