Thursday, 27 February 2014

Montessori materials in our home: Part 2

I didn't know there would be a part 2 to Monday's post. And I didn't think I would change my mind about what I had observed.
But... Finn surprised me and has been choosing to work with the cylinder blocks (1 and 2) almost constantly since yesterday!
They are on his shelves, along with the knobless cylinders, which he has been choosing as well. He likes to fit a few of the knobless cylinders into the cylinder blocks and pretend they are trains. So... he still has some way to go before he reaches some kind of concentrated effort, but I am now confident that our Montessori materials can help him on his path!
We started with a more formal Montessori environment two weeks ago. By more formal, I mean one where I can be 100% present for him without being tempted to do chores at the same time. This means that we have devoted what should be his bedroom (he sleeps with us for the moment) to a Montessori-style room.

His shelves contain some Montessori sensorial materials and other things like nesting owls, beads, lacing cards, an open and close basket, some matching cards... He had completely ignored the Montessori sensorial materials until yesterday, when he discovered them (although they had been there all along and I had presented them to him). Now he can't get enough of them and is ignoring the other bits and bobs in the room!
Trust the child! Trust Montessori!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Montessori materials in our home

We decided to buy a few Montessori materials for Finn as he will be home educated using the Montessori method. We figured out that it was worth it money-wise as we can sell them on later. We bought a few second hand (Pink Tower, Brown Stair, Insets) and a couple new (Knobbed and Knobless cylinders). The only other materials that I would like to purchase are the Geometric solids, possibly some Puzzle Maps later on and that will be it. We'll make the rest (well, some of it!) ourselves.

Finn pretending that the cylinder block is a train. You press the green "buttons" to make it go, apparently!

Something that I had not thought about regarding the Montessori materials became most evident this week. Finn has done a lot of peg puzzles in infancy and toddlerhood. He progressed so much that he lost all interest in them many months ago. I have now put all of his puzzles away, awaiting a better day than the one you get thrown down the stairs out of boredom!
When I received the cylinder blocks, shortly before he turned 2, I had a hunch that he would be able to replace the cylinders easily due to his work with peg puzzles. I gave him block 1 to try and he seemed to enjoy the work... for a few seconds. He replaced five cylinders in a flash before running away.
This means to me that he was ready for the puzzle part of the cylinders a while ago, and I have missed an opportunity for concentration. Also,  and most importantly, at the time when he will be interested and ready for work with size gradation and seriation, he will already be bored with the exercise of replacing the cylinders and the material will hold much less learning value for him.  
By complete coincidence, I stumbled upon this article last week. Written by Angeline Lillard, it addresses the issue of add-on materials such as puzzles in a Montessori environment and the effect they have on children's learning. It mirrors exactly what I have observed with Finn.
This leads me to think in a different way about these materials that Maria Montessori specially designed with children's learning in mind. What is their place in the 21st century when they are competing against other educational materials? Especially in people's homes?
Have you observed a similar situation with your children?  What are your views on bringing Montessori materials into the home?


Friday, 21 February 2014

Tissue paper dots collage

This activity is perfect for a rainy day, like we have been having... hmm... every day.

You just need some sticky dots and tissue paper circles (I bought mine from Rainbow Creations for those of you in the UK).

I drew a line between each sticky dot so that Finn could cut in between. He then stuck each dot on the window before peeling off the backing.


All that was left to do was to stick the pre-cut tissue paper circles to the dots! 

Ta daa!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Breakfast by himself

Most mornings, our breakfast table looks like this.

Finn loves being able to add the toppings to his porridge all by himself. 

Exercising his hand muscles while his porridge cools down...

Practising his transferring skills...

Making a choice between raisins, cranberries, flaked almonds, oat bran, sunflower seeds... of all of them at once!
Grace and courtesy are also part of the game as he learns to serve others too.

There is no better practical life activity than the one that feeds you.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Our Asia continent box

I didn't think I would introduce Finn to the continents boxes so soon, but he spotted them in the cupboard and insisted to have a look inside!

We are very lucky that my brother and sister-in-law went to China last year and brought back lots of surprises. 

Finn has had a lot of fun wearing the traditional Chinese costume and pretending to eat with the chopsticks!
Of course at just 2 years old he doesn't have a concept of what Asia or China are, so this is just a tiny little introduction to the diversity of our world.

Our Asia box is by far the fullest - all the other ones are mostly empty, including the Europe one where we live, shame on me! I would love to swap things with bloggers from other continents as it would keep me motivated AND fill my boxes! Leave a comment if interested!

Have you got continents boxes? What treasures have you got inside?

Friday, 14 February 2014

Melted wax crayons

I'm sure this is nothing new for most of my readers as it is all over Pinterest. This activity is great for children of all ages but I think it's rather ideal for toddlers.

 Practising fine motor skills as they peel off the paper, break the crayons and arrange them in the tray...

Witnessing the magic as the wax melts (170 degrees in the oven for 15 minutes)

And finally enjoying their new crayons!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

What else can you do with Lego?

Wrap them up like little presents...

 for an easy, toddler-friendly crayon rubbing activity.

Photograph and print...

for a matching game.

Cut up some nice stickers (or sellotape some pictures)...

for a manipulative challenge!


Friday, 7 February 2014

Playing the Sound Game (I spy) with a 2-year-old

I haven't posted for 6 months, I am very sorry for anyone who awaited new posts! I have a good excuse for  my absence though, I have been busy doing my Montessori teaching practice! Not quite finished yet, but the end is getting close!

Now that Finn is 2, saying more words every day and still signing often, I thought it was time to start the Sound Game (as described in Muriel Dwyer's booklet about writing and reading), also called I spy (as in David Gettman's Basic Montessori).
The Sound Game is a pre-reading activity used to improve the child's auditory skills with the aim of preparing them for reading and writing. When the child has mastered all the stages of the Sound Game, they should be able to identify any sound in any word, therefore paving the way for their future literacy.
There are six stages of the Sound Game in the Gettman book, from being able to guess what word begins with a certain sound, to being able to analyse all parts of multi-syllabic words.
I have just started the first stage with Finn, and not only is he enjoying it but also doing really well!
Here's what I do.
I started by leaving gaps for him to fill while reading aloud his favourite books. A good one to start with is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell as every page ends with the sentence "I sent him back". Finn really likes saying "back" when I leave a gap. I then increased the difficulty by leaving gaps in rhyming text, so not necessarily always the same word. Now, he can fill almost any gap in any of his well-known books.
One of our evening rituals is for me to lie next to him while he falls asleep. I stroke his cheek and say "I'm stroking your ch....." emphasizing the sound CH while leaving a gap for him to fill. I then go on to stroke his hair, saying "I'm stroking your h.....", kiss his h.... (hand), blow a raspberry on his t....(tummy), tickle his f.... (foot), etc and he fills in all the gaps.
During the day, maybe at breakfast, I may also say something like:"what do you use to eat your porridge and that begins with "s"? He will say "poon". Not being able to say all the sounds does not prevent him from being able to guess. If he couln't say "spoon", he could just point to it.
Here's another example: "what animal goes clippety clop and begins with h?" He can't say horse, but he can do the sign for horse, and he does.
Finn is trilingual, and sometimes he manages to give a correct answer in the wrong language. For example:
- "what fruit is round and begins with a?"
- "pomme!" (apple in French for those of you who forgot or never knew)
Gradually, I will give him less clues and give more focus to the sounds.
Try it with your child! They may well surprise you.
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