I’ve had a burst of Montessori happenings at my house recently since baby girl is needing more useful activities to channel her toddler energy in the right direction. She’ll be 18 months old on Valentine’s Day. She’s trying to do everything herself now, even showing attempts to dress herself. I’m following her lead and she’s testing my speed to keep up. Baskets of baby toys on shelves, push toys and balls around the house are not cutting it for her anymore. She’s more curious, communicating, climbing, and so on.
I’ve been making lesson shelves for her and began introducing her to choosing trays of work and restoring her space. After having some local friends asked questions about this, I’ve decided to start a weekly post called Montessori Mondays, sharing ideas of how our family is living out Montessori ideas at home.
I have a 12 year old still going to a Montessori school. Which means for 10 years I have been transferring Montessori school philosophies into our daily home life. We are a true Montessori family. It’s easiest to show these things during the early years when lessons are practical and simple, before math curriculums and the history of life on earth are being learned. Now and then I’ll will check in and tell you what my older girls are doing and what Montessori looks like beyond the primary years. For now I’m going to catch you up on how I’m keeping up with baby girl.
Below is the first true lesson shelf I have created for her. The shelf is part of our Pottery Barn play kitchen we’ve had for 10 years. I do incorporate a lot of what we already have around the house. Since I’ve been at this for a few years, I have a lot to pull from. And I save a lot of things that might be useful to fill gaps of time.
Here are the lessons: a water pouring tray, a tray of scooping beans, a tray of acorns for transferring, a tray with tongs to sort colored pom poms into colored plastic shot glasses I saw at Kroger and felt inspired to use, a tray of vintage wooden beads (they might have been mine when I was a kid) and pick up sticks that I hot glued a bead to one end so the chunky beads don’t fall off during this intro to stringing beads lesson. This is all just stuff I came up with while watching the kinds of things she is gravitating towards these days.
Now the tricky part is teaching that these are lessons and not just toys we dump on the floor. We put water in the water lesson at dinner this weekend and she sat at the table transferring the water while we ate peacefully. Yes it was messy. That was fine. It really helps to have older siblings around to help teach the lessons. They enjoy this. This is second nature to them.
“Let’s restore our lesson,” just flows from their mouths while working with her which they both see as play. Do I still find various parts from these lessons around the house? Yes. But baby girl is starting to learn. So far, we just take one tray off and sit on the floor next to the shelf since walking and balancing a tray of items is till a lot to ask of her. When she wants to do the water lesson, or small bean scooping tray, she points and says “eeeya eeeya” asking for help accessing those. She is not allowed to just play with all these materials and use them in other ways than what is intended here. She must use them properly, just as she would be taught in a Montessori classroom at this age. My third daughter attended Montessori school at 15 months old. With many young children, the lesson there was simply learning to handle the tray and return it to the shelf. Materials were sparse on the shelves until the basic understand of how lessons were treated was properly established. Naturally, it’s a little different at home and one-on-one.
Below is our coffee table in our children’s library area. The two drawers are filled with random things and books she can open and have access to, which she examines and strews all over the floor. But she handles these lessons the way they are intended. She already knows the difference in these two activities offered to her. These three lessons are not new to her. If they were, there would be more excitement to examine them with more toddler spirit. The lessons are: putting pom poms in the mason jar, using the magnetic stick to move around the pieces of cut pipe cleaner (taking them out and putting them back in is part of the exploratory play) and thirdly putting play coins in the “piggy bank” mouth of the mason jar.
The pipe cleaner bottle is leftover from a busy bags swap I went to years ago, that I posted about here. The trays I had in my supplies I’ve collected over the years. Someone asked me how I store things I am not using…So here is a picture of my basement storage area for making lessons. There’s also some bins of legos the girls don’t play with anymore I’m saving for baby girl. Plus our bins of movies and games and larger baskets that go in and out of rotation at our house. I’ve been on a mission since December to majorly clean out our things, to make everything in our lives more organized, and allow more time for important experiences. That’s a whole other post. But that’s why this is so organized right now.
Here are a few action shots of baby girl doing lessons, plus how she occupied herself while I was experimenting on the kinds of things I should set up for her. When it’s just the two of us home, she stays pretty close to me. Therefore I must find little ways to include her as my helper so I can get some very basic stuff done. I’ve learned not to expect accomplishing more than the basics with a toddler “helping.” Pulling things out of the dryer is always fun. And so is feeding the dog. She LOVES to scoop. The dog has been eating A LOT lately. oops.
Part of incorporating toddlers into our daily lives is accepting their forms of play. This water table of moon dough is available to her in my basement anytime we are downstairs. She is learning to keep the moon dough in the table. She uses pots and pans and such from our play kitchen to dig around in it and fill containers, scooping and dumping etc.. When she is finished I invite her to sweep up the floor around the table. Sweeping is part of the play. She enjoys it! We are not rushed. The laundry waits. We sweep moon dough.
Naturally, she moves to wanting to get herself dressed. I swear, I just follow her lead. Children are incredibly able when we let them be themselves, and set their environment up for success. After she was dressed I asked her where she got her outfit and she showed me this.I have this little self care area set up where she brushes her hair and chooses her shoes and socks. With three older sisters, she knows all about brushing her own hair! lol. She’s been putting a brush to her head with swooning sisters awing over her since she was very small. She has that “lesson” down pat. Getting a clip or any kind of bow in her hair is a different story. I’ll just wait till she wants to do it herself.
This was one of the rare days when her hair wasn’t covered in coconut oil. She plays with a tub of it nearly everytime I shower. For me, the shower is worth it.