Sunday, September 28, 2008

Helping Hands

It's no secret that toddlers LOVE to see pictures of themselves, so why not make a book using pictures of your toddlers doing what they love to do? I take allot of photos...I have a small digital camera that fits in my pocket and I carry it around with me. When the opportunity presents itself, I snap away! It's a nice way to review my day (as I am obviously a visual learner) and it's a tool for bridging the gap between school and home for parents. With the photos I take I create materials for the classroom. Here is a book I made for my classroom called, "Helping Hands".

and here is one of its pages...

and here is the back cover...

the children choose this book every day. I am working on a another copy because they all want to hold this one. I'm sure I'll end up with several similar books in the classroom before this month is over! (MM note* the paper used is a combination of scrap-book paper and recycled wrapping paper. This book was laminated and spiral bound to protect the pages.)
Happy picture taking!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pictures from my week...

It's been a long but fun week. With my assistant out yesterday a substitute was needed and as you can imagine, my toddler friends were not so keen on this idea at first. It went well though, eventually they warmed up to her and enjoyed her stories and play dough ideas. Thank you Jane!

This photo is of Little One playing with dolls in the PEACE corner. Both of his older brothers are into the dramatic arts so participating in dramatic play is a favorite of his day. He enjoys visiting the PEACE corner to play with these soft dolls; he makes them talk and sing and dance in front of the mirror. Catching him there lost in his play is one of my favorite moments of my day.

Here is a photo of a not quite two year old girl who has carried her chosen 'work' to her rug and has begun playing. The interesting part about this is that moments before I snapped this photo, this little girl was standing and watching a small group presentation of this activity. She stood off to the side and watched curiously and intently. As soon as the work became available to be chosen off the shelf, she picked it up and brought it over to her work space. I observed her use the materials just as I had done, even repeating some of the same language that I had used. This young learner only attends school twice a week and this was her first time using a rug for her work. It was a very rewarding moment for me.

We use the sand paper letters every day it seems; this is a very appealing Montessori material for young twos! One of my students is especially interested in rubbing the letters and asked to color them. I wouldn't have normally introduced this extension this early in the year but the child's interest was there and so were pumpkins! I set up a stationary crayon rubbing work that includes:
a real pumpkin to admire
the sand paper letter 'p'
an orange crayon
and metal inset paper

[I am happy to share that this work has been very popular]

I'll post more tomorrow, we are in the middle of a storm here in New England...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Window Hangings

The children seemed to enjoy making these pretty window decorations, both the process and the end result. (Which is odd for such process oriented beings) They were very interested in which one they made and in the telling of that very important fact to others. It's really very sweet and I'm happy they like them. I anticipate we will be working with clear contact paper allot this school year.
So this is how we did it:
We (teachers) cut pieces of contact paper into various shapes and placed them sticky side UP on the table in front of each child. Then we provided them with cut paper scraps, flowers and leaves. The children chose which objects to stick on their paper and where they wanted everything to go. Once they were done with their creations we covered them with another piece of contact paper, then punched holes in the top and added yarn to hang from a stick. (*The child collected the flowers and leaves and even the sticks!) They seemed to really enjoy the project and the end result was beautiful! Almost every parent has commented on how pretty they are hanging in the window.
I try and do this project every season, using various materials: pine needles, dry leaves, beach sand, brushed wool...the list is endless!
*Remember to include the child's name some where, we wrote them on a leaf shaped piece of paper that they added to their almost finished creations.
Happy Collecting!
Montessori Mama

Carrot Picking

Okay, besides my little guy trying to run away, the carrot picking activity was so much fun! Our toddler friends seemed to love being part of such a grown-up task. They searched for the perfect carrot and carried it with pride up to the deck where we washed and scrubbed the dirt from them. Even the smallest set of hands took part and all tried a carrot (some children ate two or three!)
What are your child's favorite veggies to harvest?

Oh sure, he looks cute...

Here's a picture of Little One just before he made a break for it and ran toward the street!!! With my heart in my throat, running as fast as I was able, I caught my little Houdini just as one of his rubber boots made it over the white line. AND, while running away from me he looked back and smiled, laughing a delighted thrill seeker cackle and picking up speed! Where did this boy come from? He's such a dare devil! My husband doesn't even ride a bike and I always wear my seat belt. Who's kid is this?
I imagine him one day rock climbing every weekend in Acadia and just for kicks, bungee jumping off the Belfast bridge!

Then today while I had my head in the dryer attempting to do a week's worth of laundry, Little One just happened to find himself in Montessori Papa's side-table drawer, where he discovered a book light. I closed the dryer and stood up to see him standing in the kitchen with the clip end of the book light sticking out of his MOUTH! Yes, you guessed it, he was sucking on the light bulb! No real harm done, he didn't chew on it or swallow it, so I guess it's okay...
But I couldn't help thinking it's a good thing I'm not on a reality TV show.
AND it made me appreciate my Montessori classroom that much more. There is nothing more important than a well prepared environment. Okay, maybe that's an extreme comment. But man do I wish I had an assistant here at home! And less stuff to get into. *Please note: We have safety locks on just about everything (including the refrigerator door and toilet seat cover because he is so curious)

By the way, that's a photo of him after he just pulled a carrot from the children's garden at Cornerspring. More about that soon....
It appears that Saturday is my blogging day, now that I'm working outside the home Monday through Friday. I'll try to pick an evening during the week to blog also.
I hope things are going well for all of you!
Remember this cautionary tale and Keep a watchful eye on your toddlers they can move mighty quick! (Although I suppose if you have a toddler, you already know this fact.) :)
Montessori Mama
aka Mom to a busy two year old boy and going crazy want to come?
In the past 4 months I have called poison control 3 times
RE: half a tube of acrylic paint (white), 2 Surfs Up tattoos, and the liquid inside a plastic ice cube (it's NOT water by the way)
Please don't think less of me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Toddler Conflict Resolution

Some one recently posted a very good question I would like to take a moment to answer.
Q: How do I handle conflict with Little One?
A: Well, since I am presently a teacher of toddlers (10 children with myself and one wonderful assistant) I will share with you, not only how I handle conflicts with Little one at home but also how conflicts are handled in the classroom. (It was my photo of our classroom peace corner that inspired the question.)
At home: Being the youngest of three, Little One has, well, very little to get into conflicts over. He is often given what he wants, as he wants it,to be completely honest. And when he wants something he can not have, we tell him so using simple clear statements and comfort him while he expresses himself. (i.e.we listen to him scream and hope he gets over it quickly) And he usually does move on quickly because my husband and I decided years ago (with Middle Man) that we were never 'giving in' to a screaming toddler ever again. If he wants something we model for him how we want him to ask for it politely and we support him in getting it for himself (when possible) and we try and provide him with as many opportunities as possible for him to independently take care of his own needs (by preparing the environment).
At School:
Our Toddler PEACE Corner is a space for friends to go and sit and just 'be'. There are beautiful & interesting things to look, a soft pillow to sit on, dolls for playing with...
And this is how the space is used by even our youngest friends. Conflicts are not often resolved in the PEACE Corner; they are resolved as they occur usually with the help of an adult. To share an example:

Two children are interested in the same toy, they each have hold of it and are pulling and yelling or crying, neither child is willing to let go.

The teacher joins the duo and begins to calmly state her observations and ask questions:
"I can see you are both wanting this toy. Let's work together to figure out a solution/ or way to make it work. (I once worked with someone who said "Make it work" and now all I can think of is Tim Gunn!!)
State the obvious: "There are two of you and only one toy" What can we do? Then offer the desired answer: "We could take turns with the toy." or "We could use the toy together, we could SHARE" (one of my favorite words!)
Next ask to hold the toy and assure the kiddos that they will each get to hold it too. Demonstrate a way to use the toy and then how to share with a friend. Offer the toy to one of the children and say,
"I will sit by you while you play and you can show me how you two SHARE with one another."
The expectation is clear, and if possible the two children will use the item one at a time. Most likely the child waiting for his turn will become disinterested or distracted and no longer want to wait for their turn. When I see this happen I try to remember which child didn't get their 'turn' with the item and later when it is not being used I lead them to it, so that they can choose it off the shelf for them self and have their turn (If the want to of course).
Now, just like sometimes with Little One, things don't always go that smoothly, often a two year old will cry or yell or tantrum. Depending on their temperament and the time of day. Sharing just before lunch or rest is probably not going to happen.
But this is what we try to nurture, this is our best practice. If both children are still fussy or becoming aggressive, I will remove the object from the equation and distracted with something new that I have many of or a puppet. (I'm a big fan of puppets)
I could talk more on this and will in future posts. Write now Little One wants his big brother's new National Geo Kids magazine. I've gotta GO!

One, Two Buckle My Shoe!

Practical Life: Shoe Buckling
I spied this pair of shiny black buckle shoes while at the local Goodwill Store. For $1.99 I found our classroom's most popular practical life work! This one pair of shoes has been on several pairs of toddler feet since being introduced on Monday.
I'm going back there soon to try and find some Velcro sneakers, most of my students wear them, and I think these would be equally popular as an activity.
Happy Buckling!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dancing with the Dolly....

When I was a little girl, my mother used to pick me up and spin me round the kitchen floor. We would dance and she would sing,
"Dancing with the Dolly with the hole in her stocking, knees keep a rocking, hole in her stocking, dancing with the dolly with the hole in her stocking, knees keep a rocking oh my!"
Dancing is one of my favorite things to do. Dancing with my boys, dancing with my husband, dancing with my girl friends...
Lately we have been doing allot of dancing with our toddlers at Cornerspring. Here's a picture of Little One with a rainbow ring to twirl. We were dancing to Frank Letto. What are YOUR favorite children's CDs? Please share!

Some of my favorites are:
Frank Letto
Sweet Honey In the Rock
Buckwheat Zydeco

Dance like no one is watching!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Peace and Quiet

This is a picture of our classroom's Peace Corner. The basket on the right holds several little cloth dolls to be used for play acting, conflict resolution between our almost 3 year olds, and simply to hold for comfort. The star fish is obviously not a soft texture but is beautiful and an exotic item to a toddler's eyes. In the corner are a set of my child's affirmation cards and a post card that has an image of hands of various sizes working together to carefully hold seeds. There is also a kaleidoscope and (not pictured) a view finder with a disk of baby animals. (I think it was being washed at the time of this photo!) Little One spent some time in the Peace Corner yesterday, making the little dolls talk to one another in the mirror. He moved too quickly for me to get a photo of him!
Peace to you~

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bye Mom, It's Off to School I Go

Well here he is, Little One, not so little anymore, off to "MY school". Everything is "MY" this week. He's happy and aside from some occasional transition issues, he's lasting until just about lunch time before he starts asking for Middle Man (his favorite person in all the world) his big brother. Lunch is tricky, but I think it will get easier next week when other children will stay too. Tomorrow is the last day of Phase-In.
Montessori Papa is hanging in, his first week teaching 6 to 12 year old children in a Montessori classroom. Middle Man is one of his students. This should be an interesting year for our family. Little one with me, Middle Man with Papa, Bigger Than Me a sophmore in high school! Yesterday was his birthday, he is now 16!!!
Where does the time go? Bigger Than Me was once upon a time, Little One and it seems only Middle Man's age for a moment! Tonight I signed his permission forms for Drivers Ed!!!!!
Next week I'll post about the classroom works. Some of you have been emailing me for details. The MOST popular activities in the toddler room right now are:

Mellisa and Doug's wooden veggie cutting
the one to ten teddy bears
the pink tower
the five little ducks language book basket

I'll share more soon.
As always,
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On the Same Page

We're off to a great start. My assistant Mallory and I are in sync. I couldn't be happier. She's sweet and smart and obviously wants to learn more about the why and how come of the Montessori way.
And I love it when she calls Little One, "Ollie", like they've always been chums. He adores her and I couldn't be happier...did I already say that?

Here's hoping you and your co-teacher/assistant or spouse, are getting off on the right foot and enjoying one another as you begin this school year together.
There are so many joys in this work; sharing them with someone who is looking in the same direction as you is such a helpful added piece that makes the bumps in the road easier.

Phase in is a wonderful thing. With fewer kids it is an opportunity to get to know each one of them (and their parents) and to have the afternoon for conversations with your co-teachers. A time to share observations and connections made.
Little One has successfully napped at school these past few days! Say a prayer he will continue to when other small people are trying to do the same thing.
How is school going for YOU?
Montessori Mama

Where in the World?


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