Thursday, January 31, 2008

Art & Play: Shadows

In the spirit of the upcoming Groundhog Day (Feb 2nd) today's art activity was painting our shadows. Here Stella and her Mother, paint Stella's shadow with bright blue and red. The children enjoyed striking a pose and filling their shadows in with colorful paint. It was a really lovely class I have to say; there is something about using one's whole body to create.
A BIG piece of blank paper becomes something new and magical, a dancing shadow.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Sense of Wonder

"A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

--Rachel Carson

My nine year old took this photo. When he took it I remember asking him why he was taking a picture of sand and he said to me, "Mom, you're just too tall to see what I see."
To which I responded, "What if I kneel?" and he laughed.
This exchange reminded me of at time when a little girl at Cornerspring sat next to the flower bed one spring. I went to her and asked what she was doing, to which she replied,
"Shhhh, I'm listening to the flowers. Can you hear them?"
I told my son this story and he said, "You couldn't could you?"
I answered, "No, but I believed she could."
He smiled and said, "Okay, maybe if you kneel you'll be able to see what I'm taking a photo of. Take another look and I'll try and show you."

Then I saw it. Okay, he had to show me...he saw a face.
Can you see it too?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Monday was suppose to be the day I got all the laundry done. 'Little One' had other ideas. So did his big brother, 'Bigger than me'. With a day off from school my 15 year old had made 'plans', plans that included ME driving into town and picking up his buddy (who I would later have to drive home as well) plans to play Guitar Hero III and eat junk. "A fun day off" he told me, "You know, I need a break, I just finished a week of mid-terms Mom."

A break? It's been a while since I had a break myself and I admit I felt some envy brewing in me. So I took a break from laundry and instead played with Little One and the laundry basket.
I thought we covered the concepts of IN and OUT very well. It was fun, slowing down and taking a 'break' from the list of things I felt needed to get done.

My oldest and his buddy, played with Little One for a bit outside, which was really a 'break' for this Mom. I watched from the front window as my tall son took care of his little brother, holding is hand while they walked up the hill, then as he made sure to drag his hands so together they
s-l-o-w -l-y slid down the incline.

"Mom!" My big boy shouted excitedly when I came out to take pictures,
"He's talking! He said, 'IN' and then when we got to the bottom of the hill and stopped, he looked at me and said, 'OUT'!"

So now it's Tuesday, and the laundry is piled higher than ever, but I don't care. I am so blessed and days like Monday help me to remember what's important: Being flexible.

I did mention to my big guy that next time he makes 'plans' that include me driving him places or picking people up, that I would like to be asked ahead of time. I pointed out that I am willing to be flexible but that I appreciate him showing consideration for me and the plans I may already have in place.

Looking at these pictures this morning I realized something sad but true, soon my big guy will be able to drive himself places and sledding with his little brothers will be a thing of the past.
It makes my heart ache how fast they grow up.

Monday lessons learned:
Being flexible is important
Making memories is important
Taking pictures of my children happy together is important (to me)
Learning about IN and OUT with one's whole body is important

So in closing, to all of you hard working, laundry doing, meal cooking, house cleaning, taxi driving, home-work tutoring, peace making, always teaching, always loving Mamas & Papas out there....
Take a break today. You've earned it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More ABC materials

My little one enjoyed his home made ABC book so much that when I found this charming Alphabet book (while thrift shopping) I decided to pair the items pictured with manipulatives my guy could play with. Most of the items I found around the house! He enjoys matching up the toys with the pictures and although he is working toward speaking words still; I know he is gaining so much from working with this material.

This work could easily be created by using an alphabet strip or the movable alphabet; and for an older child I would probably do that but for my son, (who is 20 months now!) finding two objects that match two pages of this book, makes this an activity that he can be successful at rather than a daunting task he doesn't have the attention span for yet.

And I've observed him with this material, interesting he doesn't choose to 'find' the same two objects every time; he usually chooses the object first from the basket and then finds them in the pages of the book. When he uses this solo he finds maybe four or five objects and then moves on, when we read the book together he wants ME to find ALL of the items to match the pictures before moving on. I like to do this with him, knowing he is getting to see, touch and hear the letter sounds.

Most of us have an ABC book (or two) if finding matching objects to all the photos/drawings is too difficult a task, modify this activity by finding items around the home or classroom that begin with the letter sounds.
Most of all have fun and enjoy your time with your child(ren).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harold and the Purple Crayon

When I was a little girl this was one of my favorite stories:
Harold and the Purple Crayon

Crayons were always available to me as a child, (my parents were both artists) and Harold lived in a world of blank paper! What could be better? As a parent & teacher I have read this story many times with children. I thought you might be interested to know some of the activities I have followed it up with.

In the story (for those of you who have not read it) Harold takes his crayon with him on a walk where he proceeds to draw adventures, supplying everything he needs. When he needs more light, he draws a moon to shine on his path. When he wants a walk in the forest, he draws a tree. But occasionally Harold's drawing has some unexpected results, as the dragon he drew to protect the apples frightens him his hand shakes and he draws the waves sea. In the end, Harold's purple crayon and imagination comes to the rescue and we find him safe at home in bed. It's a delightful tale written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson. (Did you know there are over ten Harold stories!) These activities follow the story, share the story aloud with the group first, familiarizing them with the story before beginning the activities.

Purple Crayon Activities for Children:

1.) Cooperation: group activity: Creating a Purple Mural
(or a red, green, yellow...mural)
provide the children with a large piece of butcher paper or newsprint
various shades of purple (crayons, markers etc.)
encourage them to create images from their imagination

2.) Coloring to music.
Play music without words, while the children listen, they can draw with crayons.

3.) Story dictation
Encourage the children to make up a story while drawing and you record it. When done, read it back to them (or share with the group) aloud while the child displays his or her drawings.

4.) Act Out the Story!
Provide a large cardboard purple crayon props and read the story out loud at circle.
Every child can be 'Harold' and move their crayons in the air 'drawing' the images in the book.

Have fun!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Creating a Center-PEACE

Your children may enjoy being asked to make this very special contribution to the family meal. Don't wait for special holidays to set the table in a sacred manner. Any meal can be lifted to a feeling of loving care with a vase of flowers, perhaps "the good" dishes, a table cloth, whatever feels right in creating a sense of grace.

Some of us have been collecting treasures for years (sea shells, river stones, drift wood, buttons, fabric scraps etc.) these treasures and your child's creative eye will together become a beautiful centerpiece for your dinner table. While you are finishing fixing dinner ask your child if they would like to create something beautiful for the middle of the table. Make sure you express how important this task is and how all eyes will see what they make for the table.

Provide your child with a tray or box with supplies to choose from (whatever treasures you have on hand will be fine) limit them to three items (or else you'll have trouble seeing one another at dinner time!) and let them know that if they enjoy doing this, that the other items can be used next time. Provide a place mat or piece of felt (to help define the centerpiece space) and encourage them to be creative!
Remember: a newly picked dandelion in a jelly jar of water can be a simple center piece that brings us great joy.

There is something very special about being asked to make a contribution. Your child may take on this task with loving care and enjoy this new responsibility. If they don't, make something yourself, remembering to take a moment before your meal to enjoy it's beauty.
Here are some of my favorite Center-PEACE displays that have graced our family's dinner table (and made me smile) over the years:
  • a sea shell, a blade of grass, a driveway stone (they look like crystals you know)
  • a juice glass with water, a sprig of rosemary, and a shiny penny
  • a Harry Potter Lego piece, and two stones that looked like mountains
  • my grandmother's bone china sugar bowl filled with grapes,
  • a post card of a photo Martin Luther King Jr., a glass heart and a tissue paper flower
What's important is taking a moment as a family to celebrate one another and the beauty of our world.
(and should you do this activity and want to share, please comment and let me know what your children came up with!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Golden Unit Bead Earrings!

My friend Deb made these little beauties for me! I LOVE them! Thank you Deb.
Mrs. Frizzle eat your heart out!

Art & Play: Snowman song

Hi All,
Here is the Snowman song I sung with my Art & Play class at Waterfall Arts today:
[sung to the tune of "I'm a Little Tea Pot"]

I'm a Little Snowman:

I'm a Little snowman short and fat,
Here are my buttons, here is my hat!
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away!
(the "Splat" is optional)

I thought I would pass the words along for those of you who want to sing it with your kiddos. Today's Art & Play activity: Tissue paper stained glass votives can be found at this terrific BLOG page: Bella Dia (festive fairy lights)
Remember to have fun and enjoy your time with your children. (The "Splat " part is especially fun, fall to the ground and lay flat like a big puddle of melted snow.)

Best Buds

It's so nice to have a good friend. Isn't it? Someone to laugh with and cry with, who hears what you are saying even when you don't say a thing? I am blessed to have several of these truly special people in my life. Thank you to all of you, my dear friends who I treasure so much.
Thank you for your encouragement with Maria Mouse and life in general. I love you and appreciate you being in my life. I just felt the need to say that. As my Little boy grows and each day is a NEW something, a new word, a new discovery, a new skill...I realize how quickly time passes. I don't want time to pass by without expressing how much I am blessed to call you my friends. So! To you and you and YOU, thanks for standing be me and supporting me with such love and grace. I'm really glad you are my friend.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Water Color Magic

Find yourself needing 15 minutes of time? Set down this 'magic' tray in front of your child and 15 minutes you shall have! No child I've met can resist making watercolor pictures.
Materials needed:
1/4 sheet of water color paper
a pencil (to write their name)
a set of water color paints
a sponge for easy clean up
small jar for water

Mix it up a bit by adding a subject matter for the older child, perhaps a book on Vincent Van Gogh and a vase of sunflowers to paint? Be creative, enjoy your budding artist and if time allows pick up the brush and paint a picture yourself.

In peace~~MM

Lacing Cards

Materials needed:

Thin, round shoelaces or yarn with tips wrapped in masking tape

Craft foam or thick cardstock/cardboard

Hole punch

Make large, simple shapes out of foam or cardboard. Punch holes along the edge of each shape, all the way around. Let your child weave the string in and out in any way he/she likes or show him how to do a simple “stitch”. For young children, provide a pipe cleaner ‘needle’ this will help little hands get through the openings easier. (Pipe cleaner needle: a piece of pipe cleaner about 1 inch long) *the photo is of my little one stringing colored pasta :)


Finger play: I am Special

Who Am I?

(Bring your hands palm up, to your shoulders)

I am me.

(point to yourself)

And I’m as special as I can be.

(Frame your face with your hands)

When I look in the mirror

(Look in the mirror)

I’m proud of what I see

(Place your thumbs under your arms)

Cause there’s no one in the world

(Shake your head)

Just like me.

(Point to yourself).


Monday, January 14, 2008

Let it Snow!

Today is a snow day. My boys are home from school and hot chocolate is on the menu. We expect 10 to 12 inches before it's over and my nine year old is thrilled!

This simple tweezing work is a winter favorite. I thought I would share it with all of you. The foam snow flakes were purchased through a craft catalog (original purpose:snowy arts and crafts). When they arrived, we teachers noted how they were a bit too thick for gluing but would be perfect for tweezing! Soon this Everyday Living activity was created and has been present every January since. (It is also nice color sorting work!) The small tweezers can be tricky for young three year olds but most seem up for the challenge. This is good example of an inexpensive Practical Life work, most of us have small tweezers at home and with a few small items and bowls (or plates) this work can be pulled together relatively quickly. Have fun!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Meet Maria Mouse!

Hi Everyone,
I would like to introduce Miss Maria Mouse. I am hoping one day her stories will be on the book shelves of Montessori classrooms, public libraries, book stores and homes everywhere! A grand idea I know, but I can dream. My children enjoy her stories and I am hopeful other children will also. I'll keep you posted about her journey. Thank you all for your words of support and encouragement!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Post number 50!

I can't believe this is my 50th Montessori Mama post. It has been just a few months since I started writing this blog page and already I have met (through the power of the Internet) many wonderful people who are raising amazing children; talented Mothers and teachers who share with me & all of us, so generously of themselves, their ideas and inspirations!

I feel blessed to be in such good company and look forward to connecting with more of you. Raising and educating children is our very important 'work', sharing it with you, sharing our experiences and challenges, successes and surprises makes it all so much MORE,
more meaningful, more magical, more enjoyable. Thank you.

~~Montessori Mama

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Beauty and Wonder Table:

A little table or small shelf dedicated to a changing array of beautiful objects from nature.
Some ideas are: sea shells, rocks, pine cones, snake skin, moss covered bark, bird feathers, beach glass, fossils, perhaps even an animal bone or antler discovered on a nature walk.
This area for the classroom is kept tidy, beautiful and is constantly changing. A small basket of magnifying glasses are kept near by for the children to make closer observations.
At the beginning of the school year a letter is sent home to encourage whole family participation in the collection of items for the Beauty & Wonder Table. It is our hope that upon nature walks or while vacationing; families will make discoveries and bring in their treasures to share with
the school community.

Photographs of natural objects have been welcomed additions to our Beauty & Wonder Table when it has not been possible to remove those items from nature.

*Note the binoculars on the floor, a young friend was sitting near by looking out the window at birds prior to me taking this photo.

The Prepared Environment: Honoring Our Earth

I can't say enough about the importance of the prepared environment. Having taught in both settings, one with a beautiful, well thought-out and cared for environment and others that were not...I can say with enthusiasm and certainty that the classroom that is thoughtfully prepared is the one I prefer to be in; and the children were more settled and happy also.

The outdoor environment needs to be rich with meaning and purposeful activities of exploration of the natural world. The following is just a short list of some of the types of materials to support a purposeful and fertile playground space:

  • A child grown garden with wheel borrows and appropriately sized garden tools available to the children.
  • A wood working bench
  • A sand box
  • A water table,
  • Climbing equipment providing not only gross motor exercise but also different view points and perspectives
  • Space for indoor work to be taken outdoors as well as art work opportunities for the children to take photographs of and draw the natural world around them.
  • Art supplies and outdoor easels

The classroom should represent a living and changing environment and the children need to be offered an opportunity for solitude and expression.

The classroom Beauty and Wonder Table, sometimes called a Nature Shelf, provides the children with items from nature to admire and research.
Montessori said that, “Nothing is better calculated than this (to care for living things within the classroom and home) to awaken an attitude of foresight.” She taught that we need to provide children with the natural world so that they may gain an appreciation of it, feel comfortable in it and learn how best to care for it, our delicate planet earth.
Ways to support this philosophy in your classroom or home:

  • Caring for plants
  • Caring for the items on the Beauty and Wonder Table
  • Caring for pets
    • Caring of the environment activities such as:
    • composting snack & lunch scraps
    • using cloth towels and napkins (and laundering them)
    • washing tables, chairs, anything really!
    • dusting
(see earlier posts: Montessori at Home and Clean up Magic)


Friday, January 4, 2008

DO Touch

Children are enthusiastic touchers. They are passionate about touching things, experiencing different surfaces and textures.

So often we say, "Don't touch" but today (because I need the reminding myself), I encourage you to say,
"Do touch" to your children. The sense of touch is a primary way children have of classifying their experiences and learning from them. It is important then, for them to have many opportunities for tactile experiences in the classroom and at home.

Typically you will find the following materials available to children in a Children's House (3-6 year old Montessori program):

A basket containing rough and smooth items:
This is an introductory activity to introduce children to the variety of textures. The basket contains beautiful, natural objects that have interesting textures and that allow the child to classify "rough" and "smooth"
Touch boards
There are 3 boards in this series. The boards (covered with various grades sandpaper) aims are to observe, compare, discriminate and refine the ability to determine different textures.
Touch tablets
A box containing 5 pairs of sandpaper covered tablets. Each pair has a slightly different color and gradation of roughness.
Fabric Box #1
A box or basket containing approximately 8 pairs of different type fabric (velvet, wool, silk, gauze, burlap, corduroy, cotton, satin, linen, muslin, etc.). Each fabric piece is about 6" square and the edges are finished.
Fabric Box #2
The same organization as Box #1 except the fabric is all the same color and varies only in texture.

If you do not have these Montessori materials available to you rest assured. Simple activities such as passing a sea shell found at the beach, can be included in circle activities. By sharing interesting natural objects you will encourage your children to develop their tactile sense, you will offer them new vocabulary when describing the items (rough, smooth, coarse, silky) and you expand their scope of the natural world by exposing them to items they may not have an opportunity to see in their back yard.

If you are able, creating a nature table is a wonderful way to introduce a variety of nature's gifts to young children. It is also a nice way to encourage the children to observe the natural world around them; ask them to bring in objects from nature to share with the group. I think I'll post more about that...

Today I say, "DO TOUCH" and enjoy the sensations and discoveries you may have.
My toddler and I made the following observations this afternoon:
Evergreen trees are prickly, a cat's tongue is rough, the inside of my fancy shoe is smooth,
water is wet, snow is cold, towels just out of the dryer are warm and soft...


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

B is for Book

For Christmas I made this A B C book for my little one. Friends and family suggested I share it with all of you. It was lots of fun to pull together, it took a bit of thought and planning to find items for each letter. Much like scrap-booking I chose photos I thought would work well together and things I didn't have pictures of I photographed.

Toddlers are always making connections between familiar objects and people. Even though Peek-a-Boo is still a favorite game by the time they have reached 18 months they have a well established understanding of object permanence. What is gone, is no longer forgotten. For example the letter 'P' is for Papa Joe, my Dad, who unfortunately my little guy doesn't get to see very often. Except now he will see a photo of him every time we read this book. My hope is that through photos and stories and phone calls my son will remember his grandpa between visits.

The cow is my son's current favorite animal, the stuffed version being a favorite toy. Because I am a Montessorian I felt compelled to present both his toy and a photo of a real cow. Crayons are used daily around here a house hold staple for sure; and lastly wearing his big brother's crown is a favorite dress up. Using photos of your child(ren) will also attract them to this one of a kind book.

Once upon a time I ran a child care program and we made an A B C book using the children's names and classroom surroundings, almost every year. This is a wonderful group project, introduced at circle you'll have children coming in every day presenting you with objects that represent the letters. It includes everyone and familiarizes beginner readers with the alphabet.

Have fun!

Where in the World?


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