Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Montessori Toddler Program Mother's Day Tea Preparations

If you are a mom here in Belfast, you may have seen one of these:

But the rest of this post is meant to be a please don't read THIS post.

We've been making allot of these...

And we've been working on a special one of these...

And TODAY we are practicing by having a Teddy Bear Tea Party! Every child is invited to bring a teddy bear friend to school to share tea with. The teddy bears will wait out on the deck to be invited in, when everything is ready.
I found it's helpful to have a dry run (i.e. without REAL beverages). Then the children know what to expect and with each day closer to the special day when their Mothers come for Tea; they feel more and more confident and invested in this beautiful tradition.

Past Mother's Day Tea Posts:
Many Hands Make Lite Work

What do you do in your classrooms to get ready for this Special Day?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Toddler World Map with Animals

I've wanted to make one of these for a while now. April vacation allowed me the time and with this unfortunate tummy bug going round and round my house, I've been home to do projects I had been putting off.
First I made the bean bags: I cut the continents from felt, sewed them onto blue fleece and then made them into bean bags. Next I made the mat from that same blue fleece and a large piece of black fleece (a throw blanket I found at Goodwill for $1.99 did I mention, I LOVE Goodwill).
I cut two large blue circles for the hemispheres and sewed them to the black fleece, next I sewed the black fleece to one of Little One's baby blankets (a light blue thermal one). Then we played with it!

Little One (almost three years old) couldn't stop touching the big blue circles. And when he wasn't touching them, he was holding a bean bag continent. I think the rest of his class will find the sounds and textures of this work appealing as well. Then I introduced the animals. Middle Man, from across the room, came to see what we were doing and quickly took over the game. An experienced Montessori student, now in the upper elementary class, he knew which animal belonged where and wasted no time informing Little One of their correct 'where a bouts'. He was very frustrated with me that there were no animals for Antarctica available (I left those at school!).

Little One ended up moving all the animals about and really playing with it, which made me happy. It was obviously a learning material most suitable for toddlers not ten year olds. ;)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

(pen and ink~Jennifer Howard)
So I've been working on a felt, AIR, LAND and WATER mat...obviously I'm not quite finished or I'd be showing it to you. But it's coming along.
In honor of Earth Day I wanted to share some of our family celebrations:
It is April vacation right now, so school is not in session. This allows me more time to do things with my own children and to create!!!
So what to do...
Some previous Earth Day posts & ideas for celebrating Earth Day this year:
Lost & Found
Flower Pot Scrubbing
I Love the Earth
Encouraging Spring
The Earth The Air The Fire The Water song

With your kids:
Decorate canvas bags to be used for grocery shopping
Share the story of the Universe with your children
Leave food for the Earth Fairies
(hint they live in the woods and enjoy the same foods as birds)
Ask your children to teach you a song about our Earth (they are bound to know one)
Wash ALL the windows in the house (my kids actually enjoy this chore!)
When was the last time you made a mud pie?
Pull out the spring time puzzles!

If it's warm enough: Wash the car!
Offer to do yard work for someone who can't do it themselves.

Visit these blogs for some other very GREEN ideas:
Making Paper Bag Books
Make a Nature Can with Plum Pudding
or try Art Projects For Kids: Recycled Art Projects

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cut Paper Design: Friends

Just finished! This is an illustration for my next book. What do you think? Question: Does anyone out there know how to rid my scanner of this thin green line? Thanks.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy Feet

The red rods take on a new life when made into a spiral maze! My toddler friends LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this! So proud they were, walking round and then choosing a friend to go next. While they walked I sang,
"Walk around the spiral,
Walk around the spiral,
Walk around the spiral
and then please choose a friend
to the tune of Frank Letos' "Walk around the Circle" song.

Something Springy

My husband took the kiddos away for the day and this is one of the pieces I was able to finish! Wooho! Thank you my love. I feel like a new woman!
Please do not reproduce without my permission~Thank you

Friday, April 17, 2009

Visiting Japan

Montessori Papa's upper elementary class has been studying Japan! Their studies culminated in the Childrens Festival which the school celebrated yesterday (the actual calendar date is coming up on May 5th).

In preparation for the festival each elementary child made a carp wind sock, wishing tree wish~carps (which Middle Man shared with me, that he had written: PEACE), they they created props for a traditional Japanese folk tail play which they performed for the kindergarten class, prepared food for the feast (rolled sushi, tempura veggies & soba and udon noodles to name a few yummy items!) and when they return from April vacation they will have an opportunity to create their own Japanese Mon (similar to a family crest). Here are some pics of cardboard block prints I created to show examples of what they might create.

First I drew an image of a lotus flower on the cardboard, then using an artist's knife I removed the top layer, to create a stamp or relief painting image. Next I loaded up a rolling pin to apply the paint to the card board and when the surface was evenly cover with paint I put a blank sheet of paper on top of the image and again rolled over the paper with a roller (no paint). Then peeled it up and ta-da!

For the carp stamp I began by drawing the fish on the cardboard then I applied craft glue and yarn to fill the image in. I also cut around the image so that I could give it some height, hopefully preventing smudging. The yarn didn't look as cool as I had hoped but the kids liked it and that is what's important.
I can't wait to see their family mons! I have been invited in to read my book for them and I am going to ask if I can take some photos of their Japanese projects to post for you all. The masks they made are amazing!

A few MM notes about introducing Culture studies:
Start small and keep it simple.

Begin by admitting that you don't know everything about the culture you are studying, but just like your children, you are looking forward to learning more.

Convey curiosity and adventure. Pretend that you are going with your children on a trip.

Always speak with respect and care about the culture. Children are emotional sponges remember and they will pick up on your underlying tones.

Make sure that everything you share with your class/child about the culture is authentic and accurate.

Visit your local library! If your children's librarian is as helpful as mine, you will come away with a wealth of materials!(Many thanks Jane!)

Music sets a tone (your librarian may be able to recommend some CDs for you to share)

Ask your student's parents for help! You may be able to borrow artifacts, artwork, clothing, even prepackaged foods from families that may have traveled to the country you plan to study. It never hurts to ask. A relative might also enjoy visiting your class to share about their experiences.

Incorporate the country of study throughout your classroom. From food prep and practical life activities to art appreciation and sets baskets!

"As parents and teachers we can help our children learn to live in peace and harmony with all people. We can do this by introducing them to different places in the world, and filling their minds with wonder and fascination for all the different cultures at an age when they have yet to encounter the kind of attitudes that breed fear and prejudice. To learn of far away places, to dream, to imagine, to hope to go there some day has always allowed children and adults to embrace the whole world and to care about its well-being. There is no educational objective more important than to bring our children into full membership of the human family."
~~Tim Seldin President of the Montessori Foundation

For more info and delightful movies you can order to share with you children visit
The Little Travelers Mama's blog! Last night we watched The Little Travelers Visit Japan movie while eating our dinner Japanese style; sitting on the floor with chop sticks!

My hat is off to those of you introducing culture studies as home! Homeschooling is a grand adventure in and of it's self! Pulling a culture study together takes allot of time and research; pace yourself and start small. Simple matching sets can be created using post cards and magazine photos. Perhaps these could be cut and pasted by your children to be laminated later for future uses? Please share links to YOUR cultural studies. Thank you!

A wish for PEACE for all the world's Children~

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'Little One' hasn't felt like eating lately.
Trying to be creative, I attempted to make something he would enjoy for breakfast this morning. This is what I made and this is his reaction. He didn't like my fruit face. Instead he he ate a cookie monster waffle from Earth's Best. ALL he wants to eat is CARBS and dairy!!! I'm going a little bit nuts over this. I think he has a yeast infection/issue/problem...I'm not sure what to call it but he seems to like foods that feed yeast. He has bright red cheeks, chronic chapped lips and a diaper rash. If you have any ideas/suggestions I would appreciate you sharing them. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the PL Shelves This Week....

"Peaceful Feet" This isn't so much a Practical Life work as much as a Grace and Courtesy or community building activity but in our room it was born out of necessity for busy twos! Running is a common trend among toddlers; they can help themselves! So I put this work together to encourage slower movements and to bring a focus on deliberate and purposeful walking. I simply traced a shoe of Little one's and cut out felt foot prints (about 10) included in the basket are a peace dove (Christmas ornament) and a Tibetan bell with a pipe cleaner handle. The idea is the children set out the foot prints (to tread lightly and slowly upon) and carry either the dove or the bell as they walk peacefully along. a younger child would carry the dove, an older child the bell, being careful not to make it ring. This could be done along a tape line or around a circle rug or anywhere really.

This bunny was a candy box. I used sharpie markers to color in the dishes to match with corresponding color pom-poms. Include wooden tongs and this tweezing activity can simply be tweezing to transfer OR a more challenging color matching activity.

The next two photos are of another color matching work I created using playdough container covers (the color circles) and a dollar store storage jug with a twist off top. I cut a hole in the handle of the top and used the tape to cover any possible sharp plastic. I realize the dark tape takes away from the presentation but it doesn't seem to deter from the toddlers wanting to do this activity. They LOVE this, from the twist off top they can do themselves, to the "curplunk" sound the lids make as they fall in. This is a big hit (and it cost just under $3 to pull together). If these types of playdough lids are not available to you, milk container lids would work also. They don't come in bright colors but you could cover them or paint them or even affix an image to them to create matching pairs.

What's most important is to have fun! Use what's available, during these tough times, we all need to spend less money and to re~use materials when possible.
Happy Spring!
In PEACE ~ Jennifer

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Little Bird Told Me...

How to make a nest from a paper bag! So we did. You roll the bag from the top to the bottom curling it under as you go, next fill your nests with glue and all sorts of fun nesting materials: yarn, pipe~cleaner 'twigs', & pom-pom 'eggs'.

This was a quick and easy toddler Spring art activity. Every child wanted to participate and left carrying their very own nest. I heard some parents mention the Easter Bunny might even visit and leave something IN their nest!
Got paper bags? Then you've got bird nests to build!
Happy nesting...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Photos from this week....

~Yoga~ Stretching like starfish....

Chasing bubbles....

Exploring a new work...

It's been a long week and it's only Wednesday night. Yesterday my town experienced some flooding due to heavy rain. Our driveway was washed away and there was left a four foot drop from the pavement. It has been repaired since, thank Goodness! School was closed due to the flooding and many streets were also closed. I stayed home (obviously we couldn't GO anywhere) but I was sick, so I stayed in bed.

Today it was back to school, business as usual. Busy toddlers exploring their world.
The children are getting excited about Spring and flowers and MUDD! The playground has been a ton o' fun since the rain came....she types with a smile and a wink. These photos are from Monday and today. They LOVE Yoga! And I am so very happy they do. There have been some restless bodies lately, as you know, "Spring Fever" is most likely the cause. Although from this tired teacher's point of view there is nothing more exasperating than one toddler readying the troops with a call like, "Come on everybody, let's RUN!" INSIDE! Someone ALWAYS gets knocked down or falls and tears follow. Running inside is not okay. Today's response: "But Miss Jennifer, we can't run outside because of the MUD!" She has a point...a toddler needs to RUN.

In other news...
Taller Than Me shined during a recent school music concert and Middle Man got the part of the Tin Man in our local children's theater's production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz! And Little One is still coughing but getting better each day.
His favorite phrase: "Will you play with me?"
PEACE to all of you~I've gotta go play.

Look Who is in the Sand Box!

This is a BIG thank you to Didier & Paula for new sandbox sand! The toddlers are thrilled beyond words and so are their teachers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Small Hands and Small Spaces

Hi All, I'm home today with Little One due to his cold, ear infection, wheeze~cough~possible asthma and chapped lips (which out of the four, bothers him the most). He told me this morning in toddler speak:
"Me no go to school today Mama, me chapped lips."
"Well yes, of course, stay home my dear."

And my wonderful director Paula thoughtfully arranged things to accommodate my need to be Mommy to just my little one today. THANK YOU PAULA! And Thank you Mallory, and thank you Sarah and anyone else who rearranged their day for me to be with Little One. I truly appreciate it. Sometimes a kiddo just needs their Mama.

My plan for today: Lay low and cuddle, drink lots of liquids and get plenty of rest!
Of course those of you who follow this blog know me; and you know that translates to:
Cuddle yes but ALSO, do 15 loads of laundry, wash a sink full of dishes, vacuum and post a blog entry!

The title of this one: 'Small Hands'
Is in reference to a toddler friend of mine who has small hands that fit just right (she told me) in my great big hands. Yesterday at nap time, I lay on the floor next to my small hands friend and sang a lullaby. She smiled through the whole song, occasionally blinking her tired and heavy eyelids but stayed awake to tell me,
"You don't sing like my Mommy, but I still like you."

She then told me she couldn't sleep and when I asked her what I could do to help, and she said:
"Hold my hand?"
So of course I did and she fell to sleep.

But as I lay there I thought about just how small her hand was. Just how little these beings are. Each day I spend my day with them and sometimes I forget how BIG this world must be for them.
Lately the children have been finding small spaces to hide away in, in the classroom (under the tables, behind the curtain we use as a closet door etc.) This has been a bit frustrating on a few levels because sometimes this can lead to exclusionary strategies on the part of some children and because small spaces only fit small bodies and so helping children get out of these small spaces can be a challenge when you are big.

But their recent behavior has taught me that these kiddos are in need of places at school that allow them to feel BIG in size. I've been working so hard to provide opportunities for our children to practice their developing independence and practical life skill building but have I been preparing an environment that nurtures their need to feel big?

This weekend I made some changes to the classroom environment that I hope will do just that! I created a number of spaces using the shelves to create three sided nooks, next I put a comfy rug or several pillows in the spaces to make them cozy. I recently framed a collection of mono-prints that the toddlers made, so I hung the two frames low so they could be admired by all. Yesterday two out of the ten toddlers told me they liked the new spaces, without me asking them. I'm taking that as a success! Time will tell but I think it feels better now.

Do any of you have suggestions, things you do at home or in your classrooms to provide small spaces for small hands? Please share.
Be healthy and hug the one you're with.

Where in the World?


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