Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sensorial for Tots: DIY

Photo credit: Bright Tomato Learning in Australia

The Smelling Bottles are a super popular Montessori Sensorial exercise for children in the Primary class.

For younger children, you can use scents and language in an overall experience without any special setup. Select something like cinnamon bark, hold it and sniff it. Now hand it to your child to sniff. Say that it is cinnamon. Put the cinnamon in a small jar with a lid on a low shelf in his or her home classroom or bedroom, so that it can be taken out and enjoyed. Add a new scent the next day. A vanilla bean, nutmeg, chili pepper, basil leaves, dried orange peels, and other different scent objects make wonderful additions to this collection.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toddler Cooking Project:

We discovered that baking fruit is a wonderful cooking project for toddlers and parents.

What to do:

1. Setup a child-sized table for food preparation. You and your child wash hands (make this a ritual for all food preparation and your child will do it automatically later). Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Have four apples ready.
3. Ask your toddler to take the apples from the bag (or refrigerator or wherever you store them) and wash them.
4. Your child will wash the apples at a child-sized sink.
5. Have a baking dish ready (not a non-stick).
6. Your child can apply butter or olive oil (butter can be spread by hand and oil can be spread with a wooden or plastic spatula).
7. Your child can place the apples in the pan.
8. You put the pan in the oven.

We usually cook the apples until the juices burst the skins because they taste so good that way. This requires about 45 minutes.

The beauty of this project is that the apples do not require any preparation (later, your child can practice cutting, coring, and peeling them).

You take the pan out of the oven. When it is cooled enough, your child can use a large metal spoon and one hand to take each apple out of the pan and place it on a plate for serving. The apples are great eaten plain, or your child can experiment with topping them with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Putting Parenting Into Perspective: Notes from a Dragon Mom

Notes from a Dragon Mom, an article by Emily Rapp in the NYTimes, puts most of our usual concerns for our children aside. I have selected a few quotes below to share, and I highly recommend the article for parents and teachers alike.

"MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state. He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.

How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?

Depressing? Sure. But not without wisdom, not without a profound understanding of the human experience or without hard-won lessons, forged through grief and helplessness and deeply committed love about how to be not just a mother or a father but how to be human.

...And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creating a Montessori Environment at Home: Electrical Outlets

For those of you who have our Montessori for Infants or Toddlers album, you will have read our section on safety and setup of a Montessori environment at home.

One common problem is the placement of electrical outlets, especially for those of you who need them for lighting (e.g. older houses with no ceiling lights).

A solution that we have found effective is to take a wooden cabinet with locking doors, cut a hole in the back, and put a power strip inside attached to the wall. You can run the cords up through the top of the cabinet to reach what you need. Bolt the cabinet to the wall to make sure it will not tip over -- some toddlers display the most agile of climbing abilities at an early age!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Foreign Language Exposure

We posted a short piece on ourMontessori Mandarin blog regarding bilingual experiences and infants.

The article discusses the usefulness of bilingual exposure in developing and broadening a child's language capabilities.

In the classroom, we try to present basic foreign language material for very young children. For example, try counting in a foreign language, singing a familiar and easy-to-follow children's song or phrase (e.g., good morning, good morning, good morning...in Chinese, Spanish, or whatever language you speak).

If you do not feel your language skills are up to par, find someone to spend 30 minutes several times a week, if possible. Some parents put together a small play group and find a Spanish-speaker (in areas where it is easy to find Spanish speakers) at a local college or among the group of parents. You can also find some success in looking for foreign parents who would like a language exchange group -- we have successfully paired Mandarin speaking parents working overseas with English speaking parents, for example.

The language exposure can be super simple. The idea is to introduce your child's brain to the sounds and cadences of another language at this key point in his or her life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick and Dirty Flammability Test for Children's Products

Wanting to avoid chemicals in material, we wanted to use wool insulation at home. I had some wool fleeces, so thought to wash them, soak them in boron (for insects), and felt them for the ceiling. Then we got a few samples of wool for wool insulation vendors...

It occurred to me to test the wool to see if it burned. Sadly, my own washed fleeces burn. Not well, but if you leave a match on them, they do keep burning on their own. The other samples from Oregon Shepard extinguish themselves.

Some time ago, I also tested a natural latex mattress (latex from the rubber tree). It burned too well to want to use it for a child.

So, I'm suggesting holding a match to anything in question. Not that it's the most scientific study, but, hey, it weeds out some contenders. Not that I am suggesting garbing your child in flame retardant soaked chemical clothing. Just sharing what we're doing here.

Ideas? Send 'em along!