Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coffee Sunflowers




What young hands can do....
twist green construction paper to make flower stems, brush on glue, sprinkle coffee...sniff, and admire.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Adjusting to School

When children enter a new school or child care environment emotions can run high. (for everyone). It doesn’t matter whether the child is returning to a familiar school or starting someplace new. They will be meeting new people, changing their daily routine, and discovering new ideas, skills or concepts. The unknown can be a little scary, especially when you are small.

Children have a hard time controlling their response to a new situation. As adults, we have the ability to meet children where they are emotionally to ensure that the transition to a new situation is as smooth as possible. While every child is different and will exhibit their own, unique personality, understanding how children in general develop emotionally can help us make informed choices regarding how we react to a child’s behavior.

Beginning around seven months, babies become mobile and actively explore their environments. Ten-month-old Matthew, for example, quickly scoots toward a colorful ball that has rolled into a far corner. Halfway across the room, he stops and turns toward his favorite caregiver. She smiles and says, "I see you, Matthew. I see you crawling toward that ball!" Having touched base with this important person, Matthew comfortably continues his exploration.

Children this age are also developing preferences for specific people and styles of interacting. Sixteen-month-old Sally always looks for Miss Kim when she is upset. When Miss Kim is not there, it takes Sally a little longer to pull herself together, even when she is lovingly comforted by another caregiver.

The benefits of a strong bond between a toddler and her primary caregiver far outweigh the stress caused when her primary caregiver is unavailable. And if the primary caregiver is unavailable our children will be comforted by someone else. This works especially well if communication is good between caregivers and parents.

Sarah, a feisty two-year-old, protests when Aline, her teacher, tries to coax her inside for lunch, so Aline tells her that she can go back outside right after nap. Sarah takes one last run around the play yard before she slowly walks inside. She is trusting Aline to follow through on her promise, and Aline will. They are building a relationship based on respect and trust.

Toddlers are wonderful relationship builders, especially when their expanding need for autonomy is respected. Gradually, they begin to relate the positive feelings from their first relationships to other adults and children as well.

However, they are new to all of this and can become worried or overwhelmed when they are cared for by too many adults.

Positive relationships during the first two years of life have a dramatic effect on a child's ability to empathize with and care about other people. Early bonds of love can set the stage for how children feel about later relationships.

more on this later's the weekend and my family is asking me to make pancakes. Apparently I am not going to get to finish typing this post. I hope this was helpful to someone. I've gotta run....Mommy duties prevail.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quiet Time Activities

Most programs have two caregivers with 10 toddlers (sometimes more or less depending on state regulations). In that group of ten there is often a balance between younger and older toddlers; leaving you, the teacher, with two groups of children.

One groups still naps twice a day, the other group has graduated to one longish nap mid-day. What to do? Well, the goal is toward more independence. We all know that as the children in the younger group mature they will eventually phase-out the morning naps. So we need to plan our programs to accommodate the individual sleep schedules but also follow the schedule most of the children will one day follow and some of them already do, this is best practice. But it's not easy to do.

What does this mean exactly? Do we keep young toddlers (who are obviously in need of sleep) up until their older peers are ready to nap? NO.
Following the individual sleep schedules of your children is a very important piece of providing a nurturing home~like environment. Rushing young children who most likely only come two or three days to your program, through what their body is in need of (two naps) is not recommended.
Follow the lead of your children.
Yes, it would be helpful to have only a few children or three adults, but if you are like many programs, these scenarios are of a luxury nature.

In my classroom, I have prepared the environment to include several cozy 'nooks' for morning nappers. There are two caregivers and eight toddlers presently. I use my observation skills and the information that parents give me, to access the young toddler's need for a morning snooze. Because it is the nature of the younger toddler to play and explore solo and the older toddler is beginning to look to other children for interactions; the younger child is less likely to "get caught up in play" and disregard their body's need for sleep. More often the young toddler will choose to watch and settle down in a cozy spot to see the other children play and explore. Their first choice of places to do this is always a caregiver's lap. However, as those of use who do this work know, this is not always a possibility. And that is okay, at home with older siblings and busy schedules, it is not always a possibility either. But it must be able to happen at least 50% of the time it is needed. If we are always up moving about, we are moving too much.
So, your young toddler has fallen asleep while others are busy at play? Most likely they will rise when you have just gotten the other older friends down for their naps. :)
The key to success is to have things ready before your day even starts! I call them "Grab and Go" activities. Baskets or bags that contain activities or works that come out during these moments. You know: Quiet things to do. Felt board stories, care of the environment exercises (ex: chair scrubbing, window washing, plant care). A few pictures from our week.

Between naps...while other friends are napping:

Please share....what quiet activities do you do while children are napping?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Montessori Life Magazine

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Look on Page 42 in the upper left, for an advertisement for Parent child Press!
(my copy came in the mail this week) I am very excited that my little book is being advertised in AMS's Montessori Life Magazine AND that it is next to Aline Wolf's Guide to the Montessori Classroom!!!
(please excuse me for tooting my own horn, I just had to share!)
hugs to all,

International PEACE Day


Light a candle for peace,
Light a candle for love,
Light a candle that shines,
All the way around the world.

Light a candle for me,
Light a candle for you,
That our wish for world peace,
Will one day come true

Sing Peace Around the World
Sing Peace Around the World
Sing Peace Around the World
Sing Peace Around the World

This song was written by Shelley Murley, a musician and Montessori teacher. My toddler class last year, sang this song each day as part of circle. It is a beautiful song and I encourage everyone of you to visit Shelley's Sing PEACE Around the World blogspot.
I had the pleasure of taking part in Shelley's presentation at the AMS Conference in New Orleans this past winter; I wished I could have invited everyone one of you to join me. It was wonderful!
May PEACE be with you,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cloud Conversation

I learned tonight that Sister Anthonita Porta died this afternoon. Tears of great loss fell as I started to type this. I wanted to write something profound and beautiful, something that would tell those of you who did not have the pleasure of meeting Sister Anthonita more about her. All I kept thinking was, Heaven now has one more angel, how very lucky we all are. Then I thought about Anthonita finally getting to meet Dr. Montessori; how happy she would be! I think their conversation would go something like this:

"It's very nice to finally meet you."
"And you as well."
"I've heard so many wonderful things about you."
"And You! Tell me a little about yourself."
"I was a teacher of teachers."
"So was I."
"I loved children."
"So did I."
"People told me, my smile could fill a room."
"People said that about me too. Welcome to Heaven Sister."
"Thank you Maria, say do you have any cigars? I've always wanted to try one."

Goodbye sweet Sister Anthonita you were loved by so many, you made us laugh and cry, sometimes in the very same moment. You were a wonder and an inspiration. I learned so much from being your student and I will never forget you.

Please read my past post: My Favorite List when time allows you.

Ways to Connect with Parents


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I thought I would share with you some of the ways we connect with our families at the Nest. (the Nest is what we affectionately call our toddler classroom)
The first picture is of the coat hooks, conveniently located under the parent board :) The parent board has the snack calendar posted on it as well as the school calendar for quick referencing and other postings that change frequently (to attract attention). Some examples of additional postings:
the local library's children room upcoming events
parent education opportunities

Just across the way (diagonally) from the coat hooks are benches for the children to sit on while taking on and off their shoes/slippers or to wait for other children to be finished getting ready to go outdoors. Above these benches is the dry erase board where I write daily messages for parents, both at the start of the day and the end of the day.

Morning Messages like:
"Welcome All! Today is So & So's 2nd Birthday" or "Have you signed up for your Parent Teacher conference?"
[you get the idea]

Afternoon Messages like:
"Today in the Nest we...."
Then I list out who brought snack and what it was, songs we sung, books we read, and the activities we enjoyed.

Parents have said this helps them reconnect with their children and it's helpful for me when writing in the children's journals each day. Young children can have difficulty communicating what they did during the time they spent apart from their families; providing parents with even a little info (for ex: "snack was water melon slices and pretzels") gives them a conversation starter.

When you haven't seen your little one, reconnecting and sharing about the time apart is special and important. It is our job as caregivers to help families with this process.
Having recently started back to work after summer break, I feel so grateful to my little one's primary room teachers for the the information they share with me about his day. At 3 years old he is only able to tell me about the last 10 minutes of his day. He lives in the moment; and that's all he cares about. I want to know what materials he used, who he played with, if he napped or liked the lunch I packed him? When my son's teachers share with me a funny story from his day, it's like I won the lottery!

I hope you are all having a wonderful school year so far.
Enjoy your kiddos,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hand Washing Toddler Style

Toddlers LOVE water! In an effort to conserve water and to minimize the interest in the bathroom sink, I came up with this:
I took photos of Little One washing his hands, step by step, and then put them up for a visual guide. I plan to introduce this set up next week. Before lunch set up time, each child will wash hands and then take their lunch box from the lunch box shelf.

The set up is sequenced left to right beginning with:
1.) wet your hands
2.) one squirt of Method soap
3.) rub your hands together to create bubbles (sing the hand washing song)
4.) rinse hands in rinsing bin
5.) dry hands with small cloth
6.) put cloth in basket

Hand washing song:
"This is the way we wash our hands,
wash our hands, wash our hands.
This is the way we wash our hands
before we eat our lunch."

I will also mention that the floor has a non-slip pad and that the water bins are filled only 1 inch high with fresh warm water after every third child is finished cleaning hands. This method is not preferred when a child's hands are especially dirty, the idea is for the young learner to experience the repeated action of following step directions, taking turns and the sensory experience of warm water; not necessarily getting one's hands clean.

Happy Hand Washing!
Montessori Mama

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New School Year



I've been so busy this week with Phase-In etc. that I haven't posted anything. I wanted to share about our classroom pet, Dorothy, the gold fish. Little One, who started PRESCHOOL today, promptly placed a pine cone from the nature shelf in her tank upon being introduced. She has survived and hopefully will continue to survive for years to come. However, because I don't want the children to touch our gold fish, I needed to created something the children could do to become aquainted with Dorothy.
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Second picture: Our hand washing station! I'm excited about this...more about it soon.
I hope all of you have had a wonderful first week back to school. I'm ending this week feeling excited about the year ahead. It's such an honor being entrusted to care for these amazing little people.

Little One is off to a good start too. He seems to really enjoy his primary classroom and teachers. So far so good. Fingers crossed :)


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

17 Again

I can't believe you are seventeen!
I was just seventeen....well okay it's been a while but still. Where does the time go?
I just wanted to tell you and the world, that you make me proud and I love you.
Enjoy your youth, enjoy no commitments, no responsibilities, traveling, becoming, learning, and growing up. Take your time. I love you and happy Birthday.
I am so happy you are my son.
Love Mom

Where in the World?


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