Monday, June 30, 2008
Play is the central activity of childhood. For toddlers, play is the way they learn about themselves and their world. It is also the way they begin to master many fundamental physical, social, and intellectual skills and concepts.
Recently my nine year old pointed out to my two year old, that HE didn't even know what a 'play date' was. My two year old's retort (because he was clearly offended) was: blowing a raspberry.
No seriously, of course he knows what a play date is. It's his life's work after all. But this back seat conversation between brothers and a recent successful toddler play date for Little One and his best girl pal Miss S, inspired me to write about the importance of toddler play and how we as parents and caregivers can support it.
Being a supportive adult means responding to a toddler's initiations in play and by expanding the scope of play while still allowing the toddler to take the lead. It takes time to learn how to do this successfully. Caregivers who tailor their behavior to the toddler's activity and then respond thoughtfully and appropriately will help the child to move ahead in all areas of their development.
The following are a list of suggestions; ways we can be supportive caregivers in a Montessori toddler classroom (OR home environment/playgroup):
*Prepare the environment and have a plan. (more about that later)
*Observe children’s play (this can not be said enough: Observe, Observe, Observe! You will learn so much. Toddler’s are valuable teachers of teachers.)
*Allow the children to be as independent as they are able.
*Avoid interrupting children’s play unless absolutely necessary for a scheduled routine such as lunch or nap (in which case warning should be given ie. the turn of the rain stick sounded, a musical chime is struck, etc)
*Let the children know that you are interested in what they do by encouraging them to talk about their play.
*Be available to assist children when your help is needed.
*Encourage the children to explore and experiment with open ended materials in their own ways with the least amount of direction.
*Reserve the word “No” for messages about safety; instead encourage your toddler(s) to use the materials in a different way. Model the behavior you desire.
*Avoid needless conversation with other adults.
When caring for a group of toddlers it will only benefit you and the children you care for, if you prepare the environment ahead. Have many of the items you foresee being popular (ex: balls, blocks, shovels in the sand box). And now,
about that plan…
Like Mary Poppins with her carpet bag, you’ve got to come prepared.
Any Barney fans out there? Remember “Looking in my Barney Bag, to see what I can see…” Every seasoned teacher knows to bring a bag of tricks along when caring for a group of toddlers.
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
and card board boxes
Despite all the convincing evidence out there that toddlers learn best through play, many caregivers still enforce large group lessons (in my opinion this can be similar to herding cats). And the result is a lot of adult directed time and squirmy toddlers. A group of toddlers cannot be expected to learn the same thing, the same way, at the same time. It is better if groups form spontaneously and if you’ve ever worked with a group of two year olds, you know they will! Your game plan should be:
"Go with the flow" Of course, have your ‘bag of tricks’ ready and waiting and pull from it what you see the children need as they need it. Follow their lead.
Setting aside a specific part of your toddler’s day for “lesson giving” is an idea full of good intentions but it is also often unrealistic. The reason being that every moment of a toddler’s day lessons are being given, valuable information received, learning is always taking place and just because you may be ready and willing the children you are caring for may not be. You've gotta be flexible and patient. That’s why your role is so important. You are your child’s guide. They take their cues from you and you have the power to peek their interest and to nurture their discoveries and exploration.
My suggested guidelines for planned activities:
1.) Allow the children to do for themselves as much as possible, avoid the temptation to make the activity easier for the adult by doing it for the children.
2.) Introduce activities and materials with enthusiasm, model how you want the materials to be used.
3.) Allow children to make mistakes and trust in them to problem solve (Don't jump in to save the day!)
4.) Be prepared to drop your plans and instead follow the children's lead, by expanding on the play they are already involved in.
5.) Prepare the materials you may need ahead of time.
6.) To prevent frustration,learn the developmentally appropriate expectations of your children.
*Source: Young Children Mag. March 1985
Most of all enjoy your time together,toddlers are ever learning at this age and at the same time they are so wise beyond their years! Pay attention, close attention, they have so much knowledge to impart. And if you haven't in a while, get down on the floor and PLAY.
Build a castle, a puzzle, a pile of pillows!
Smoosh some playdough, some berries, a wet sponge!
Every child, every child, is a child of the universe
Here to sing, here to sing, a song of beauty and grace
Here to love, here to love, like a flower out to bloom
Every boy and girl a blessing and a joy
Every child, every child, of man and woman born
Fed with love, fed with love, in the milk that's mother's own
A healthy child, healthy child, as the dance of life unfolds
Every child in the family, safe and warm
Dreams of children free to fly
Free of hunger, and war
Clean flowing water and air to share
With dolphins and elephants and whales all around
Every child, every child, dreams of peace in this world
Wants a home, wants a home, and a gentle hand to hold
To provide, to provide, room to grow and to belong
In the loving village of human kindness
~From the album: Raffi Radio 1995
Don't you just adore that? I love it. I don't much care for the rest of the album but highly recommend this particular song.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
As you may have observed, my blog is having some technical difficulties and it is very annoying for me. I am working it out but not without stomping away from the desk in total frustration, several times now.
I hope to get it all worked out soon.
Wish me luck.
PEACE to all of you,
as always thank you for visiting me.
Friday, June 27, 2008
A few famous names came to mind right away: Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Monet, Jackson Pollack, and I realized that they were ALL men. Talented artists who I love and adore but still, ALL men, and there are little girls who are artists! And so I began searching out some more talented artists (who happened to be female) to balance my collection. Easier said than done...
Should you want to enrich your classrooms or homes with Artist Baskets of your own, these are the female artists I added to my list:
- Mary Cassatt
- Georgia O'Keeffe
- Grandma Moses
- Frida Kahlo
- Beatrix Potter
Materials: Flower fabric (not shown)
Georgia O’Keeffe doll representation(s)
Small easel with several small prints of her paintings
"Watch where I go to get today’s story."
Unfold the flower fabric. As you smooth out the wrinkles say . . .
"What could this be? Are these flowers? I like flowers; I wonder if the artist we are going to learn about today enjoyed flowers? Let’s see what else we have in this Artist’s basket."
Set up the small easel incorrectly at first, as though you had never seen one before, then right it, nod and look in the basket for a painting to display on it. As you do say things like . . .
"I think I recognize this, it is so colorful, yes, I think I’ve seen this picture before."
Place the Georgia O’Keeffe doll on the flower fabric.
"This is the Artist who painted these pictures. Her name is Georgia O’Keeffe.
Let me share with you, the story of her life."
Place the small
"This girl is
Pause. Pick up the silk flower and tuck it over your ear or in your hair (if possible).
She loved nature and drawing and painting the things that were around her.
I know of children who enjoy doing that."
Smile at the children and look around the classroom at their artwork admiringly.
Place your hand to your forehead and slowly look high and low and all around..
"When she grew older she left home and traveled to New York City. While in the city first she painted the city."
Pause to show a painting of a city scape done by O'Keeffe
"Do you remember what Georgia liked to put in her hair?"
"Flowers! Yes, flowers. Are there fields of flowers growing in a city? No...and Georgia missed the flowers."
So she had an idea."
Place the city scape painting back into the basket and slowly reveal a painting of a flower by O'Keeffe
She would paint flowers SO BIG that the busy people who lived in the city would STOP being busy to enjoy something beautiful, even if just for a moment."
Pause to admire the painting, take the flower from your hair and lay it next to the easel.
"Georgia longed to see more places and more beautiful things; so she packed up her paints and moved West.
This time she lived by a desert. She painted landscapes and cactus flowers."
Pause to show another painting of O'Keeffe's
"Georgia painted every day. She almost always wore black and white
and she always wore something special in her hair."
Pick up the silk flower and place it again in your hair.
"Do you know what that special something Georgia wore was?
Yes, you're right, a flower!"
I followed the presentation of this Artist's Basket with an art project. Flower prints. Using a shallow pan the children dipped their chosen flowers in the paint and then placed them on to paper to make a print.
For more information about creating O'Keeffe type art projects with your children please visit: KinderArt
Thank you for reading!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
For her birthday I gave her a set of the Reflection Cards I make. She has been sharing with me (via email) the words she has chosen. This gave me the idea to chose a card from my own set and to share it with all of you.
Today's word was:
Monday, June 23, 2008
I know transitions can be trying. I think all parents and teachers know this. But sometimes I forget it. School has ended, and summer has begun...so too have my 'Middle Man's' transition woes. Today is the first day of summer camp at Cornerspring! I am hopeful all will go well; yet I worry this additional transition might result in total melt down come bed time.
Sunday morning by 7:30am I needed to take the two younger boys OUT of the house. Dad was sleeping (after working the night shift) and 'Taller Than Me' was too.
Thing one and Thing Two however, were bouncing off the walls, having eaten b'fast and gotten dressed by 6:15am! (YES! You read that correctly) Both boys were ready to go somewhere. Now please understand something, we live in the woods.
A beautiful forest actually, and truly and there are more than enough wonderful stimulating things surrounding this tiny house in the woods, for two small boys to have fun for HOURS.
But NO, this is not what was to happen. 'Middle Man' was outside maybe 3 minutes and returned frustrated with the 'BUGS'. I looked out the window and saw 'Little One' happy and filling his wagon with sticks...but I had hoped my ten year old could look after my two year old while I finished my cup of tea and watched them from the sofa in front of the bay window. But NO, apparently not.
So...because we are blessed to live on the coast, I piled them into the car and drove to the beach. It was low tide!
(The above photo was taken last year not yesterday morning because to have brought my camera would have required more thought than I had at that moment. Also the above photo is not of the beach we visited but I really loved the sunlight)
"LOW"and "TIDE" are a coastal Mama's two favorite words at 7:30 in the morning. I sat down in the sand with my newspaper and my now cold mug of tea...
Thing One and Thing Two EXPLORED.
It was lovely. 'Little One' could have stayed for hours...
'Middle Man' had to use the bathroom about 15 minutes into our coastal escape. Then he cut his finger on a rock(?) I'm still not exactly sure how it happened but thankfully it was a small injury. Small but in need of a hug and a band aid.
We got back into the car. Home again jigity jog...
This was the daily calendar's picture:
Sometimes, I forget. I forget how hard it is to be an almost ten year old Spirited child, who isn't sure what will happen next. When we returned home 'Middle Man's' finger was magically mended, TLC and a small band aid was all it took. Little One added his two sea shells, four rocks and one very large piece of drift wood to our nature shelf and sat down to a pile of board books.
It had been a FULL morning and all BEFORE 9am.
Every time I think it is difficult to be 'Middle Man's' Mom I remind myself how difficult it must be to be 'Middle Man'. Especially during transition times.
Thanks for reading this...
Saturday, June 21, 2008
~John Drinkwater, "The Sun"
So how do you celebrate Summer Solstice?
The following is a list of ideas of ways to celebrate Summer Solstice with your families:
(I collected these ideas from various sources over the years, forgive me for not giving credit where credit is due!)
- Have a Summer Solstice potluck dinner or lunch that features seasonal fruits and veggies and dishes that are the color or shape of the sun.
- Sing: "This Little Light of Mine"
- Watch the sun set with your family in silence, invite your children to paint or draw the sunset with you.
- Sleep outside!
- Eat outside (but of course)
- Take a Nature Walk~stop to study the plants and flowers in bloom. Notice the shapes, colors, and textures.
- Do the yoga "Salute to the Sun"
- Shoot off fireworks (or light sparklers which is tamer :)
- Make sun catchers with colored cellophane.
- Fill a jar with yellow and orange marbles and water, ask your children to pick wild flowers to put in the jar; this vase will grace your table.
- Fill your bird feeders
- If possible: take a walk along the beach.
- Build a bonfire at sunset and dance all around it!
- Use sidewalk chalk.
- Create paper plate mandalas.
- Use only candles to light your evening activities
- Make your own Sun symbols like wreaths, spheres, disks, medallions or mandalas, using readily available materials such as gold foil, yellow, orange, white, and gold ribbons, flowers, herbs, fabric, paper, and/or pipe cleaners.
- Research the sun-reverencing peoples of our world by joining in their prayer (this is a nice way to include a geography lesson).
- Mow the lawn for someone in your neighborhood who can't do it themselves
- Cook your best dish and give it to an overworked mother with young children....if this is YOU, ask your children to cook dinner for you tonight! (*with another adult's help).
- Play music or sing for someone in need of visitors
- Make a specific resolution for tomorrow...
- Make a salad sprinkled with edible flowers
- Are there any berries ripe where you are? Go berry picking!
- Hike a hill to be closer to the Sun!
- Lie in the sun. Close your eyes, relax your muscles one by one, and feel the healing rays of the Sun *USE SUNSCREEN!
- Play a game outside!
- Play They Might Be Giant's song: "Why Does the Sun Shine?"
- Teach your children the words to the Beatles' song: "Here Comes the Sun"
- Create a spiral using the Montessori red rods and walk it with bare feet!
Please share your ideas with me.
Blessed Be Our Glorious Sun!
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tonight I was a the person who chose the items for our Center PEACE I picked these items:
A pine cone
A Magic Box (more about that later)
A card recently sent to me by my niece and nephew (whom I adore! Thank you guys)
A jar of grape jam given to me by a family who attended my ART+PLAY class as a thank you.
(They made the jam!)
It is sad for me, that ART+PLAY has come to an end, but the experience was wonderful and I learned so much about myself as a teacher. I will always be grateful for my time at Waterfall Arts.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Here Little One discovers a slug.
I believe children are spiritual beings who can bring us adults to that joyous place of wonder.
IF we pay attention that is. It is very easy to get lost in the stresses of our adult lives, isn't it?
"Wonder is an exceedingly important stimulus for the human spirit. It can arise only from an attentive observation of reality. Education to wonder is correlative with an education that helps us to go always more deeply into reality. If we skim over things we will never be surprised by them. Wonder is not an emotion of superficial people; it strikes root only in the person whose mind is able to settle and rest in things; in the person who is capable of stopping and looking." Sofia Cavalletti
And so a small orange/brownish slug that I might have stepped over (or possibly accidentally stepped on) became a catalyst of my education.
"Pause a while, ponder a moment and then begin again." ~ my Mama used to say
What will your children teach you today?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
With only one more Art+Play class left before we break for summer, today was ton o' fun. We made paper bag hats! Using paper shopping bags we decorated them with pom-poms, pipe cleaner curls, ribbon, and colored paper. Some were more extravagant than others but everyone left with a very fun funky hat. I think the parents may have enjoyed this project even more than the kids! I can't believe Art+Play is almost over. I am going to miss these kids so much and their parents. I've enjoyed playing and creating with them but most of connecting. Being a parent can be lonely at times, we worry if we are doing well, if we will ever be able to finish a sentence again, if in gaining this amazing person (people) if the part of us we loose will ever resurface? A deep reflection maybe, but connecting with other parents of young children, even ones you only see once a week for an hour, is so important for one's sense of self.
I hope you are able to finish a thought today. It took me over an hour to post this! While typing the following happened:
I changed a poopy diaper, made a cup of tea, made two lunches to go,
I finally got my oldest son to add his contribution to Dad's father's day gift before he caught the bus, my husband came home from work (yes, at 6:30AM) and went to bed, I helped Middle Man with his science homework, unclogged a temperamental toilet, drank 1/4 of my now cold tea, un-stuck an unfortunate toddler from under the dinning table where he found himself stuck and screaming, looked up the weather report on line to know what Middle Man should wear for school because even though his bus doesn't come for another hour he is SO excited about school today that he wanted to be dressed and ready to go....
let's see I imagine more than that happened but that's what isn't a blur. Did I mention I only had a 1/4 of my cup of tea? Now it's 7:06am....I hope you get to finish a HOT full cup of whatever gets you going this morning. The point of this post was to share how much I appreciate connecting with other parents...
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Here is this month's list and the reasons why I think you should check them out also:
Everyday Unitarian: If only we lived closer! Some Sundays I don't actually pull it together and go to church but thanks to this spiritual Mama I can stop by her blog instead. I've always felt living the seven principles of the UU faith to be a tall order; this talented and prophetic writer challenges me to live the principles and to examine the way I take care of our earth, raise my family and voice my concerns and opinions. With grace and humor she informs and makes me aware. I am so thankful for her.
Doobleh-vay: This lady knows how to write! This mom of three, entertains and inspires me weekly. Check her out when you want to test your song lyric skills or learn how to make fabulous shadow puppets. She makes me smile every time.
The Write Start: Being that I am a visual learner this Mom's photos delight and impress me. She has such a gift and lucky for us she shares it with the world. Creative ideas and (did I mention) beautiful photos? (Honestly, I have dial up and I wait for them to load). She's clever AND crafty, such a wonderful combination!
A Bit of This and That: On the other side of the world there lives a Mama after my own heart. She is most certainly a kindred spirit and every week I learn something new when I stop by to visit. Her little boy is oh so photogenic and bright! She even has Montessori materials she has created for sale. A Must See!
Walk Beside Me: This artist and devoted Mama of one, shares about her adventures in homeschooling using the Montessori method. She creates most of the materials her son uses and motivates me to think creatively.
Mama's Village: Do you like pizza? Organic food recipes? This urban Mama loves to share her amazing food creations and stories, so it's time to pay her a visit. For some reason I am unable to leave her messages! I don't know why but it never works :(
I hope she reads this and knows how much I enjoy her blog.
The Artful Parent: Every time I read this amazing Mama's blog I feel like bowing and saying, "I'm not worthy" she is AMAZING! Did I say that already? You'll be so happy you paid her a visit. As a writer for many parenting magazines, the leader of a toddler art group and as an artist herself, how she has time for writing this blog is beyond me. But I'm so glad you do Jean, thank you!
Well, there you have it another list of favorites...I will post another set when time allows me in July because there ARE so many other great ones out there!
I had a lovely day today. I hope you all did too. I shared a celebratory end of the year lunch out with my fellow Cornerspring Montessori teachers and I spent some time with my two younger boys creating a father's day gift for Montessori Papa. (he sometimes reads this, so I will share after Sunday).
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
My end of the year gifts to teachers are complete! Phew, finished and ready to be wrapped then delivered. I made each teacher a 25 card set of Affirmations to share with their future students at morning circle (or whenever).
Together Middle Man and I thought up the sentences and I encourage you to write your own with your children. That, on it's own, was a creative and learning experience for us both.
I brought a set with me to church this weekend and even the older children (ages 11-14) wanted to pick one and seemed to enjoy sharing with the others the card they chose. It's fun and a nice was to connect as a group.
I am selling these sets with bowl/dish for $20 locally. If you live in the area and would like to purchase a set please contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to buy a set and do not live locally still contact me and HOPEFULLY I can get paypal up and running and complete some order requests.
But, I will say this is an easy project to do on your own and with your children; I encourage you to try it yourself and enjoy the process most of all.
Monday, June 9, 2008
*NOTE: there is WAY too much water in the vase. My little friend helped me mix the colored water and he preferred it that high, and because he was part of the process (creating this work) I honored his idea that this was the amount of water he would need to fill the suction cups. When the work was complete and all the suction cups full, he said to me, "I didn't need that much water."
This practical life activity is one of my favorites for the five year old child. *It takes great amounts of concentration and fine motor skill.
Preparation activities: Baster, other works were trasfering liquid takes place.
soap pad (used here a dino shaped one but not at all necessary)
small vase or vessel for holding water
sponge (*the sponge would usually accompany the work on the tray, I offered a sponge to my young friend off camera)
Have fun and enjoy!
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Years ago a dear friend sent this post card to me (she knows me very well). Anyway, I crafted the post card into a magnet and every morning it is the first image I see when I retrieve my lemon water from the refrigerator. And it is soooooo true. It makes me giggle to myself and also take inventory of what still needs to be done around here. A tidy house is important to me, I guess because I am a bit of an overachiever? (Please don't comment on that, I'm working on it really) I'm guilty of wanting everything in it's place and needing order to feel comfortable.
My girl friends and I have discussed this a number of times. The verdict is in, I'm a contradiction. I DO want a clean house, so much so that I create a list of 'To Do's every morning after looking at this post card. However, at the end of the day I've probably crossed off three out of the ten I wrote. What happens is a BIGGER part of me likes to PLAY and yet another part of me is very slug-like when it comes right down to it. How important IS a well kept home?
I grew up in chaos (sorry Mom & Dad) the third child of artists. We would often pile up papers and move paint and brushes to clear a spot to eat dinner. It worked, it was fine, everyone was fed and clean and healthy. We didn't entertain much but we made beautiful pictures and sang along to the radio and drove to the beach most every evening to watch the sun set together.
Let's face it there are more important things than a clean house, right? Then why do I feel so uncomfortable when I look around and everything is a mess? It drives me nuts. There are five of us in a very small house and we have allot of stuff. I hate it but we do. My husband talks about becoming minimalists and traveling some day...(honestly that freaks me out MORE than a messy house).
Yesterday I taught Little One how to use our vacuum cleaner. It was shear bliss I felt when I watched him master pushing it about the room, sucking up pieces of rice cake he had dropped.
I take pride in raising three sons who one day will disprove stereotypes and clean toilets, wash dishes and fold laundry!
Anyway, this post is mostly a personal ramble, sorry and thanks for reading. We will return to your regularly scheduled Montessori programming in the near future. I hope all of you take time every day to play with your kids and that if your carpet looks like mine you are able to roll with it. Do we really want them to remember we kept a clean house or that we played farm with them, making all the animal sounds? "MOo, BaA, Hee-HaW"
Signing off from creative chaos central,
While shopping at our brand new Goodwill store I made a wonderful discovery! I found a copy of Nature Crafts for Kids by Gwen Diehn and Terry Krautwurst, a book I had once owned and treasured. I lost my copy years ago when we moved to Maine and have longed for it every summer because of the wonderful nature crafts it possessed. And yesterday I found it! Stuck between some children's stories and only $0.99!!
Some of the craft ideas it instructs with beautiful photos and easy to follow step by step instructions, are:
- How to make paper with inlaid leaves
- Walnut printing
- turnip lanterns
- Mushroom spore prints
- Making nature kaleidoscopes
- How to make sun prints
- Wild Flower candle making
- constructing a cement bird bath
I highly recommend this book for parent/teachers working with elementary age children.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Jiang Xiaojuan and her baby
Little Warrior and her family
Julie Clapp's husband Jon
The people who thought this up:
I know this is a short list, but I am planning on posting this type of list weekly. I was inspired to do so by the ever inspiring and ecologically minded Shannon of 'Unmitigated Bliss' and my oldest son who sadly recently said, "All news is bad news, have you ever noticed that?"
and I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Who are your heroes today?
I gave it to Little One to decorate with buttons. He had a blast!
Surprisingly (unlike the blue playdough) not one button went in his mouth. I was so happy. I watched over him very carefully and helped him with dispensing the glue. My only regret, not enough buttons! This activity could have lasted much longer if I had had more buttons or bottle caps or something else for him to glue down.
I should begin by saying that this lovely playdough experience ended with Little One eating a fist full of blue playdough. That said, the actual sculpture making experience was lovely up until the snacking started. So if your little one is not hungry and enjoys playdough play I recommend giving him or her sea shells to stick in the dough. PS: My nine year old enjoyed this also.
I have been experiencing computer troubles lately and getting frustrated, things seem to be better now (my husband is my savior!).
More to come!