Plant Care Work

Do you have indoor plants in your home? Do your young children like to help water plants or do they spend time digging them up or playing in the soil more often than not? 😄 Children playing with the indoor plants can be frustrating but we have a solution!

Show your children how to help care for your plants. They will love being involved and they will quickly learn respect for plants and odds are, they will stop playing in them!

Indoor plants are used in Montessori classrooms to teach Care of the Environment to young children. It is a great way to engage little hands in being helpful and developing careful movements. Here is a simple plant watering presentation that you can set up very easily and get your children involved today.

What you will need:

🪴A tray or basket
🪴A small watering can
🪴A sponge or small washcloth for spills
🪴A small potted plant

Set up the materials and invite your child to receive a lesson. Sitting on your child’s dominant side, present watering pouring. Make sure to hold the watering can in your dominant hand and support the spout with your other hand. This will allow for a more steady and controlled pour for your child. Draw attention to how much water should be given and discuss that once you have watered your plant for the day, we don’t need to water it again. Show your child how to clean up any spills using the sponge and then ask them if they would like a turn.

Note: if you want to make sure that only a small amount of water is given to the plant you can either pre-fill the can or you can have a line on the can indicating how far your child can fill up the water too. A pre-filled can is a great option for younger children. As they progress in preparing their own water activities, the fill line is a great option for slightly older children from about 3-6 years.

Allowing for plant watering work in your classrooms and homes is worth considering. The value in teaching responsibility and care are numerous and it helps in the development of a whole range of skills including coordination and fine motor skills. Try it today!

Other Plant Care Extension Ideas

1. Have you tried Leaf Polishing work? Here’s an idea of how to set this work up. You would present it in a very similar manner just drawing attention to the delicate leaves and the care we must take when polishing them. You can include scissors and teach how to remove a leaf that has died.

2. You can also set up a plant misting work as the one here. Allow children to mist the plant or individual leaves then carefully wipe them off.

3. A small duster can be used like this example below as well for a dry dusting.

 

After you have presented each of the above individual works and your child is independent at each work, you can take this idea a step further and create a whole plant care basket. You would keep all of the cleaning materials inside this basket along with a plant care apron for your child to wear while he/she is doing this all important work. Here is an example of what that might look like.

What is in our Plant Care Basket:

•child sized gardening apron
•a child sized watering can
•small pair of blunt scissors
•a small sponge
•a misting bottle
•a small terry cloth dusting mitt or towel
•a small duster
•a bowl for collecting dead leaves or trimmings

We keep our plant care basket on the shelf in our classroom or home studio. We usually remind the children that it is time to care for our plants since they only need to be looked after a few times a week. By bringing down the basket on plant care days, children know it is available work. We also have a similar care basket outside for all of our outdoor plants.

Object to Picture Matching

In Montessori classrooms and homeschool classes, 3 Part Cards and picture cards are used in a variety of ways to help teach vocabulary, word recognition and even pre-reading skills. These kinds of cards and the activities that go along with 3 Part Cards help to provide different ways for the child to internalize the information they are learning.

While Little L isn’t showing lots of interest in 3 Part Cards yet, she does love matching pictures and objects! So in this lesson,  she is only using the control card containing both the object and name of the object to match the farm animal with its figurine.

This is a perfect activity for Toddler age children. They love objects of any kind and naturally gravitate towards them.

When we present objects, we naturally teach vocabulary by saying the name of the object and maybe the sound or noise an object makes or we can point out colors and shapes. Then we can add picture cards and show our child how to match the object to the matching picture card.

This example of Little L matching the farm animals to the cards was exceptionally fun to watch because instead of using the farm animal figurines that I had set out for her (the ones that matched the cards), she grabbed animals that were different colors than the animals on the  picture cards. I didn’t correct her.  I wanted to see how she would figure this out. So here is what happened………….

The animal figurines Little L decided to use for this activity.

Once she placed the pig (which was the same color as the card), she began to focus on the horse and the cow. Both of these objects were different colors than the horse and cow on the card, so I could see Little L trying to figure out or discriminate their differences in color.  Her wheels were spinning! :)

In the end, she realized that although the cow in the picture card was black and the cow object was brown, she finally determined that it was still a cow. Such a simple yet amazing moment to witness!

Do you use 3 Part Cards or picture cards with your children?

When to Introduce Grace and Courtesy Lessons

In a Montessori Classroom or home, Grace and Courtesy lessons are continuous and vital building blocks that create a peaceful and cooperative environment. By giving brief grace and courtesy lessons each day, children become mindful of what they are doing in the classroom and at home as they move through their daily routines.

Be an Example

The lessons can be more formal at times but mainly they are just examples of how to do things and are simply stated. For example, a teacher, guide, parent or caregiver might say, “I’m moving the chair quietly” or “I am returning my work where I found it” These simple examples allow a child to observe then practice what you are doing. Without even inviting the child to practice the activity, they begin to practice because children want to copy what they see others doing.

Grace and Courtesy lessons teach everyday social customs and kindness which are vital practical life skills for children to practice daily.

It’s important to show a child by example how to extend an invitation, how to decline an invitation, how to ask if you can join an activity, how to enter a room, how to wash hands, how to clean up after themselves and how to extend an apology.

“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit. It is the teacher’s joy to welcome the manifestation of the spirit.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

Check out our chart for ideas and approximate times by age to introduce certain grace and courtesy lessons to your child. You can certainly introduce lessons at any age, but we find that this guide gives you a pretty solid timeline for appropriate lessons based on a child’s ability to understand certain concepts. With that said, always follow your child! :)

 

What kinds of Grace and Courtesy lessons do you practice in your homes?

Introducing Practical Life Activities to Children

How Can You Introduce Practical Life Activities to Children?

Practical Life is the foundation of a Montessori program. It is the gateway to learning for young children and such a simple yet important part of a child’s early years!

We usually start children doing practical life work and tasks around the age of 18 months. Some children will begin showing interest a little earlier or a little later. Use this chart as a guide for things that are appropriate to introduce your child to during certain stages and age brackets. We’re sure that you’ll find many other activities to do with your child too as you follow his/her lead!

 

The Importance of Giving Lessons

Giving lessons or allowing a child to observe gives him/her opportunities to “practice” the task and are key elements in Montessori environments.

  1. Prepare the environment or work/tasks that you are introducing
  2. Give the lesson
  3. Stand back and observe

We like to work alongside our children when appropriate like while doing dishes, folding laundry, etc. We work on the task without giving much input to how our child is doing his/her task so that they can practice with confidence.

Remember, only step in when your child asks for help or they are doing something that could be dangerous. Let them explore as much as possible.

Also….and this can be a tough one but, resist the urge to refold the towels or rewash the dishes. Allow your child time to learn themselves even if the steps and movements aren’t quite there yet… They will come! Practice makes perfect. Well, perfect for them and their growth and learning that is.

You’re a Guide

Finally, keep in mind that most activities that you will do with Toddler aged children (18 months- 3 years) will be done with guidance from the adult. Once a lesson is given, work alongside your child giving guidance as necessary but still allowing for a lot of freedom of movement. As they near the age of 3, they will be very comfortable with these tasks and will be able to do them with very little to no adult guidance. This is where Maria Montessori’s words of, “Help me do it myself,” comes into play.

 

To learn more about Practical Life in Montessori check out our post, The Importance of Practical Life.

 

Montessori Basics Principle #6 Part 1 – Montessori Peaceful and Positive Discipline

Montessori Basics Principle #6 Part 1

Montessori Peaceful and Positive Discipline

Whenever we talk about discipline and the theory behind why and how we discipline, it takes some processing. Discipline is a big subject! It takes time to absorb our beliefs behind it and the possibility of new ideas surrounding it. During discipline workshops at my school for staff and parents, I often ask a series of questions to help them start thinking about discipline.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and ask yourself the following questions.  Go ahead….write down what comes to your mind. Then read on to see how your ideas align with some of the Montessori Principles that govern peaceful and positive discipline.

Think of a memory that you have about a time that you were punished or disciplined as a child…..

    • What were you feeling?
    • What were your thoughts about yourself and the person who was discipling or punishing you?
    • Did the punishment change the behavior in any way? How?
    • What kind of disciplinarian do you think this person was? (authoritative, permissive, uninvolved or authoritarian)
    • Do you think the way you were disciplined influenced the way you discipline?
    • What does “discipline” mean to you?

Any interesting revelations? Taking some time to reflect on past discipline experiences can be a little eye opening.

As a parent or teacher guide, discipline is an important topic of discussion. The most important foundational element to understand is that discipline isn’t something that we impart on someone else, but rather, it is found inward. It is created by each individual person through self-discovery.

Depending on how you answered some of the above questions, the idea of self-discipline, especially in small children may seem  foreign to you.

In this post, we hope to help you understand the many facets of the Montessori approach to discipline and why we believe this way of guiding children is so conducive to raising healthy and happy children.

Spiritual Preparation of the Adult

As you wrote answers to the above questions, what are some of the feelings you had? Did you notice any correlation between how you discipline and how you were disciplined?

Most of us learned about discipline the old fashioned way through obedience and punishment. Obey or be punished.

Punishment and discipline usually comes in the form of a frustrated adult upset with a disobedient child. Accompanied by fear, shame and disconnection. 😢

We have been taught that in order to get a child to behave, they have to fear the consequences. But compliance might be easier than you think! And emotionally better for adults and children too! But first, we need to take a look at ourselves.

Maria Montessori recognized that before we could effectively work with children and assist them in their journey to self discipline, we must first understand our own ideas behind discipline. (This is part of the Spiritual Preparation of the adult. We talk about what this is in great detail in our first basic principle post here).

Being a peaceful and positive discipline practitioner whether as a parent, teacher or caregiver takes patience, kindness, perseverance and an understanding of oneself. It is also important to understand the child and how children develop.

During our “spiritual preparation,” we begin to understand first our own perceptions about discipline. We work to get rid of old perceptions of discipline and start fresh. Then, we open our eyes to understanding the needs of children and their development. This spiritual preparation brings enlightenment.

Children are extremely capable of  learning to regulate themselves (self-discipline) with the help of enlightened adults guiding them.

Montessori’s Foundation For Discipline

Discipline, according to the dictionary, is something that is imposed on someone. But the root word or latin meaning of discipline, is “disciple” or “to teach”. So if this is true, then imposing a heavy hand out of control would not be the correct way to “guide” a child towards self-discipline.

In a Montessori environment, we encourage and guide children through many opportunities in movement and exploration. This eventually leads to self-discipline. Self-discipline is long lasting and so much more effective than controlled obedience. Self-discipline requires development of senses, thought, self regulation, mastery of mind and body, as well as respect.

Although Maria Montessori didn’t use the term positive parenting or discipline per say, she taught about the many important facets of a child’s education and development. Her foundational beliefs of giving children opportunities to develop independence is the very thing that leads a child to inner peace and discipline.

So how do we guide children to become self-disciplined? How do we create a learning environment that is fun with less meltdowns and more peaceful developmental growth? Let’s look at what Montessori believed children needed in order to become the best version of him/herself.

Dr. Montessori’s foundation of discipline is simple:
•respect for yourself
•respect for others and
•respect for the environment

Children gain this “respect” through purposeful movement, mastery of the mind, mastery of the body and community connection.

 

 

Purposeful Movement

“The undisciplined child enters into discipline by working in the company of others; not by being told that he is naughty…Improvement and rectification can only come about when the child practices voluntarily for a long time.” – Maria Montessori

Have you heard the adage “Children are meant to be seen and not heard?” This has always disturbed me. Children NEED to be seen and heard. They are on their own journey of self discovery, development and are forming their mind, body and spirit. If children are silenced out of fear, they grow up to be people who are not fully developed intellectually. They will most likely do the same to their children and the cycle will continue.

Many people have a difficult time with allowing children to move freely, often and sometimes loudly. I’m convinced this is one of the reasons that children of today watch as much tv as they do. It is so they will be still and silent. Now don’t get me wrong, TV has its place. But using TV as a means to keeping children quiet and still most of the day can cause serious developmental delays.

When we use TV or any electronics for long periods of time, the desired effect might actually backfire. Children have an innate desire and need to move, explore and create. Since watching TV and using electronics is generally passive, undesired behaviors can and will occur. Eventually arguing, non compliance, frustration towards siblings and even laziness will start. Have you seen it? Yeah….not fun!

As Montessorians, we understand that movement, not passive obedience, is what leads to self mastery.

“Since the child now learns to move rather than to sit still, he prepares himself not for the school, but for life.” – Maria Montessori

It is the responsibility of caregivers, parents and guides to help children learn important foundational skills. This is obtained by carefully curating a peaceful, nurturing and engaging environment. A place where children have opportunities to master skills of inner discipline through repeated and deliberate practice.

Let children explore their environments! Finding ways to allow children what Montessori termed “Freedom of Movement within Limits” is the key to a child beginning along the road to self-discipline.

You might be thinking that giving young children freedom sounds chaotic and honestly, it could be if you don’t understand the method behind the idea. Montessori has been thought to be the program that allows children to do whatever they want. I’m here to tell you that this idea cannot be further from the truth!

Montessori is about boundaries, limits, guidance, trust and mutual respect.

Mastery of the Mind and Concentration

We prepare an environment based on observations of our child and what we believe their interests and needs are. By doing so, we hope that they find materials and activities that “call to them” drawing them in as they begin to develop deeper and deeper levels of concentration. It is through this state of joyful concentration that children begin to master their mental control.

Activities should engage the hand and the mind. They should allow a child to repeat a physical movement such as dish washing, water pouring, cutting work, solving a puzzle, learning to tie their shoes, helping with the laundry, preparing a snack ,etc. Eventually this repetition helps a child to bring his/her will into a more controlled state of being.

Maria Montessori observed that self-discipline or what she termed “normalization” always comes about through concentration on a piece of work.

“For this we must provide ‘motives of activity’ so well adapted to the child’s interest that they provoke his deep attention…”The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.” – Montessori The Absorbent Mind

When we see a child connect with a material and repeat it over and over again, we know that the child is on his way to this transformation of self regulation and discipline. It is always an exciting time even if we just see moments of it at first.

Through carefully preparing environments and giving lessons on the materials that are of interest to a child, we begin to see concentration levels increase and independent joyful play come forward.

Mastery of the Body

Learning to focus and master the body is an important destination of self- discipline. As parents and caregivers following the Montessori way, we can assist a child with this development in several ways. First, we need to recognize that we can’t master something that we do not practice. We have to allow our children room to move and feel their body in order to be able to master it. This is where a carefully prepared environment comes into play, not to mention patience and faith. 😄

By preparing an environment that says, “Yes” to our child, we are allowing them freedom to explore. To create. To manipulate and express through movement. A “Yes environment” is one that has been prepared with the child in mind based on observations of their skill level and development. Think of it this way, if we set up a room for a preschool aged child with work for an older elementary aged child, not only will the environment be frustrating to the preschool child, it will create frustration for the parent guide as well. You might find yourself wanting to say, “No!”. Making sure that we have things  that are developmentally appropriate in our child’s environment that we can say “Yes” to is a win win for everyone!

Freedom of Choice Within Limits

Think back to a few paragraphs above when we mentioned setting limits. The “Yes” environment that you create will be one that you control. You set up the things that are of interest to your child but that they are developmentally ready to use. When they make a choice within your limits, they can only make good choices, yet they have been given the freedom to choose which is that part that drives their development appropriately.

Freedom of movement within limits allows the child to experience the use of all of his/her senses but touch is probably the most important sense to a child during the preschool years. This is an important way a child learns. Have you heard this expression?

“Tell me and I forget,

teach me and I remember,

involve me and I learn.”

Have you ever told your child “don’t touch” or “put that down” only to have them get really upset with you and even start a tantrum? Of course you are protecting them or something else from strong hands and potential danger but did you ever think that by telling a child “no” over and over again, you are actually helping to create a naughty behavior?

An excerpt from Dr. Montessori’s own Handbook p. 88 reads,

The tendencies which we stigmatize as evil in little children of three to six years of age are often merely those which cause annoyance to us adults when, not understanding their needs, we try to prevent their every movement, their every attempt to gain experience in the world (by touching everything, etc.) the child, however, through this natural tendency, is led to coordinate his movement sand to collect impressions, especially sensations of touch, so that when prevented, he rebels, and this rebellion forms almost the whole of the”naughtiness.” 

What wonder is it that the evil disappears when, if we give the right means for development and leave full liberty to use them, rebellion has no more reason for existence?

Are you beginning to see a contrast from a more traditional approach to learning? Many learning environments are always asking a child to “pay attention”, “sit here”, “don’t touch that”. A Montessori environment is different. Montessori allows for freedom of movement and choice.  A child is free to choose work that is engaging to him. This means that here is far less room for unwanted behavior to occur.

Lessons, Practice and Repetition

As a teacher, parent or guide, we model processes of work daily. We give lessons with less words and more slow and precise movement. It is almost an exaggeration in the presentation so that the child has the opportunity to process what he/she has been shown. Believe it or not, a child will almost mimic perfectly a lesson or thing they see an adult do whether intentional or not. Think about that. I’m sure you have seen your child copy what you do or say on more than one occasion.

When we provide activities such as pouring, a child must master how quickly and how much movement is needed to pour without spilling.

When a child carries the bell from one end of the room to the other without allowing it to ring, he/she has to practice not running, so the bell won’t make a sound.

When cleaning a leaf on a household plant, a child has to practice self-control and gentleness in order to handle the delicate plant leaves without tearing it.

Tonging, spooning and scooping activities allow for practice in controlling a child’s hand movements. The list of Montessori activities goes on and on but you get the idea.

As we give opportunities to practice control of movement through engaging activities, little by little, our children begin to master themselves.

Grace and Courtesy lessons are also a part of being given opportunities to learn how to move. Things like showing a child how to greet someone, or how to walk around someone’s work, or how to carefully and considerately ask for help or to join in on an activity with another child.

In our homes, this practice might look like carefully carrying dishes and putting them in the sink quietly, quietly pushing in a chair, putting clothes in the correct place once we get out of the bath, or cleaning up our work or toys at the end of the day.  Do we throw them into a basket? Or do we carefully arrange them back on a shelf where they belong?

I always like to ask the child to show me how to do something once an initial lesson has been given. “Can you show me how to__________(fill in the blank)?” By doing this, we allow the child to become the teacher and have ownership over the process or activity they are carrying out. This also allows for more practice. Almost magically, over time, we begin to see the child refining his/her movements, moving more carefully and capable of slowing down in a more graceful presence.

Community Connection

Once a child learns to control his mind and body, he is ready to practice being a part of a community or part of daily family life. You might be wondering what this means? Aren’t your children already a part of your family? Yes of course they are but we are referring to that part of community that co-exists with each other harmoniously.

Children begin to understand the rules of community through his own experiences. Until he has gained control over his mind and body through practice, it is very difficult to expect a child to be a part of a larger group. Following rules or engaging appropriately in team play or family life in a soft and controlled way would be very difficult. A child first has to learn to walk before he runs.

Maria Montessori said it this way,

“How can we expect them to do their work carefully and patiently, if care and patience are among their missing gifts? It is like saying “walk nicely~” to a person without legs.  Qualities like these can only be given by practice, never by commands.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 209)

Children learn to become community members by being involved in community. Mastering skills of self-discipline through thoughtfully curated environments with the help of adults who guide by giving opportunities in freedom of movement as well as daily choices. We will begin to see a child who thrives in a community of rules. They will naturally begin to respond with kindness, patience, sharing, protection of the rights of others and with genuine concern for others.

It’s important to remember that discipline is a journey. It is something that requires practice. A child grows stronger as he learns to master his mind and body and continues to practice his new skills daily.

Providing our children opportunities for development in self- regulation is also a growing period for adults. As we learn to create “Yes” spaces and let go of old antiquated ideals of what discipline really means, we enjoy our own growth and self discovery.

So, let your children make choices! Give them opportunities to lead their education! Trust in the process of “freedom within limits”! Guide them through Grace and Courtesy lessons, and watch them begin to find that part of them that feels contentment and control. Before you know it, they will have long moments and stretches of self-discipline. And you will have more peace and harmony in your homes and classrooms!

 

 

Rock Washing Work

Rock Washing Work

Maria Montessori recognized and understood that children were eager to work, even when the work seems like a chore to adults. Their work is their play and while working, they are forming and developing foundations in organizational skills as well as intelligence. Washing and cleaning activities in the classroom or at home provide exactly what children need for development of concentration, independence, caring for the environment, becoming aware of order and sequencing and gaining control over their movements. And for kids, it’s just plain fun!

Rock washing is a variation of dishwashing. There are many different ways to practice the sequential steps of washing but rock washing is a favorite in our homes. Rock washing is a great way to satisfy a child’s need for sequential work and get your backyard or schoolyard rocks sparkling clean all at the same time! 😂

 

What You Will Need:

  • Tray with lip or small dishwashing tub
  • Bucket with water or other water source
  • Empty bucket for dirty water
  • Pitcher for scooping out water
  • Bowl with rocks
  • Bottle of soap, bar of soap or dispenser of liquid soap
  • Sponge for cleaning up spills
  • Scrubber for washing the rocks clean
  • Towel for drying
  • A work apron (we use a plastic one here but any kind of apron works. A cloth apron is great because it is a control of error.
  • Allowing the child to feel that he/she is wet but any kind of work apron will work.)

Lesson:

Extend an invitation to the rock washing station to your child. Carefully and with intention, give a lesson to your child going through all the steps in the activity.

        1. Take the pitcher and fill it with water from the water bucket.
        2. Pour water into the large bowl.
        3. Choose a rock to place in the bowl.
        4. Squeeze soap in the bowl.
        5. Pick up the brush in dominant hand. 
        6. Hold the rock in the water with your other hand.
        7. Begin to scrub the rock. 
        8. Turn the rock over and repeat.
        9. When satisfied, rinse the brush in the water and shake out excess water.
        10. Put the brush back on the tray.
        11. Lay out the towel and place the wet rock on the towel for drying. Bring up the edges of the towel around the rock and rub or pat the rock dry.
        12. Pour the water into the empty bucket
        13. Take the bucket to the sink or if outside a designated area in your yard and pour the water out.
        14. Replace the items back where they were found.
        15. Ask your child, “would you like a turn?”

Give your child lots of time to explore and work with this material. Observe, observe, observe. If your child is missing some of the steps you gave him/her, give another lesson another day. Don’t intervene or interrupt unless they ask you for help. While they are working with this material and any other, they are gaining knowledge and learning through play.

Note: For Toddlers and younger children, we suggest using less steps. For instance, instead of having your child go to a bucket or water source to get water, have the water already inside the pitcher. Or instead of having the child dry the rock with a towel, have them place it in a bowl to dry outside. You can simplify however you would like and add more details or steps as your child shows readiness.

Here are a few other ideas of variations that your child just might love! Try one today!

Washing work Variations:

  • washing dishes
  • vegetable washing
  • peeling eggs and washing
  • scrubbing potatoes
  • car washing
  • horse, dinosaur, baby washing
  • seashell washing
  • brick washing
  • toys or truck washing

The options and variations of washing work are endless.  In our school, dishwashing is always available but we also have washing activities on the shelf that we rotate in and out for variation monthly or even weekly depending on our students interests and needs.  Once you get the hang of setting up washing work, we know it will be a staple in your homes as well.

A Bright and Peaceful Light

Bundled up in warm winter clothing, drinking hot chocolate and singing Christmas carols as a diversion from the freezing cold, our family went to see Luminaria last night. A beautifully decorated outdoor scenery of trees and buildings that went on for what seemed like miles on end! With millions of lights cascading over acres of area, you can imagine it truly was a magnificent display of bright lights!

It also just happened to be December 21st, the winter solstice; the shortest and darkest day of the year……and to top it off, Jupiter and Saturn aligned (which hasn’t happened since 1226) creating a magnificent “Christmas” star just to the Southwest of us. Did you see it? We didn’t have a telescope which was needed I guess to see it’s total brilliance, but we all knew it was there and we were able to see it enough which added to the already lit up sky! Believe me, all of this “light” irony wasn’t lost on us as we meandered through the beautiful light show and under a bright Heavenly star last night. We felt such a sense of gratitude and joy!

Different Forms of Light

Light!!! Light in all its forms just makes me feel so happy! I love the sun, a brightly lit Christmas tree, candles flickering on a table, the stars at night, big city lights and Disneyland lit up for the holidays! :) Seeing all of these different kinds of lights on the shortest and darkest day of the year brought comfort and a blessing to my heart. And it made me think of all the years that we have celebrated at our school and with our family, the importance of being a light to others and bringing peace whenever we can.

Peace and Love Lights

For the last several years at our Montessori school, we have implemented a peace program that we use all year long that’s based on the book, “Honoring the Light of the Child” by Sonnie McFarland.

Peace and Love Lights

We teach our preschool students about the love lights that they carry inside of them but most importantly how they can use their inner light to bless others. Have you ever noticed how little children naturally bring light into your lives?

They are meek, mild, unassuming, true, faithful, unwavering and joyful! They are the perfect age to teach about peace and how being peaceful in all that they do makes the world a better place!

Light the World

Going right along with this idea, our church has a Christmas time initiative that has been done for the last several years as well called #LightTheWorld. Everyone who wants to participate is challenged to share their own inner lights as we all help light the world one person and good deed at a time.

Today amidst the many challenges that we are facing, I am grateful for daily reminders that we also have soooo much light in our world, in our lives and in our hearts which brings us all hope!

This holiday season it is our wish that we will each remember to “Light the World” as often as we can with our own inner love lights just as little children do so naturally………this light and service to others is truly the magic of Christmas.

-Barbara

Our Approach to Staying Healthy

As the fall is winding down we all know that colder months and flu season are on their way. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure we are taking really good care of ourselves. Before the winter sets in, we are stepping up our already amped up hygiene routine at school and at home. How about you?  

Taking care of our bodies by eating foods that are high in vibrational energy, (think green and colorful clean foods) getting lots of vitamins especially from juicing (yummy!), daily exercise and time in the sun are all some of the ways we boost our immune system around our home. You can read Kayla’s article, “Immune Boosting Eating” here and learn about how she keeps her family healthy with immunity boosting foods. And of course, we can’t forget the importance of hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks when around others besides your own families at home.

 

Regular hand washing is a great way to help combat illnesses so we feel it’s important to devote time to teaching proper hand washing to our young children. We try to make hand washing fun at school and in our homes by using our hand washing cards and having a child sized hand washing station set up and ready for use. You can find our free hand washing sequence cards and hand washing song for FREE here.

Singing our “Hand washing song” is a favorite way to get the littlest of our students and babes at home to enjoy their time at the hand washing station. Download the printable, laminate, cut apart the various materials and post near your bathrooms or hand washing stations. Sing the little song included with the printable to the tune of Frere Jacques and watch your littles wash the germs away! We have also included a set of sequencing cards so you can work with your child on the sequential steps included in the hand washing process.

Prepare a Handwashing Station

Preparing a hand washing and self care station is pretty easy. Here are a few things that you will need:

  • Hand washing Basin and Pitcher. We love this one from Montessoriservices.com. Or you can use a large bowl and pitcher that you have around the house. I found a perfect pitcher at Homegoods for $3 and put it together with a deep ceramic bowl.
  • Gather together a hand drying towel, small soap bottle, an apron, a towel to clean up spills on the floor, a sponge for spills on the table and a bucket.
  • You can also add a nail brush and a little dish for keeping jewelry in while washing hands if you want.

After setting up this area, present this material to your child through a Montessori Lesson in hand washing. You can find a great video here on how to show the steps of hand washing to your child.

 

This lesson from Maria Montessori was developed at a time when it was pretty common to use a wash basin. We still like to use them today because it is a great way to teach steps and sequencing, it gives opportunity for independence (what all preschool age children crave) and honestly, is just a really fun way to wash your hands.

You can, of course, use the sink instead and adjust how you present the lesson slightly. Either is totally fine! The goal is to just get our kids to wash their hands!

Here are the steps: Show your child first, then have him or her do it after you finish.

  1. Fill the pitcher with warm water and pour it into the bowl.
  2. Put your hands in the bowl and cover them with water.
  3. Lift hands and let the excess water drip into the bowl.
  4. Place one pump of soap on your hands. We use the traditional Montessori method of a small bar of soap but with all the illnesses it might be wise to use a squirt bottle filled with liquid soap or a pump bottle.
  5. Rub your hands together to make some soapy bubbles. Sing the hand washing song from our free handout while you massage and wash each of your fingers and thumbs, rubbing the palms and the backs of your hands. This should take at least 20 seconds but if you’re giving a lesson to a child older than 2.5, you can stretch it out. Sing the song twice!
  6. Follow up the wash with a dip back in the water and rinse your hands.
  7. Reach for the hand towel and dry your hands completely.
  8. Put everything back where it goes.
  9. Carefully dump the water in the bucket. Dry the bucket, then use the sponge to clean up any spills on the table and use the large towel to clean up any spills on the floor. Put the used towels in the dirty clothes basket, reset everything and let your child give it a try.

It might seem like a lot of work to prepare, but once this is set up and your child has been given a lesson or two on how to use the hand washing table, he/she will begin to look forward to doing this work everyday, several times a day! Another win for promoting healthy living!

Oh and feel free to download our free fruit and veggie matching cards here and use them to promote colorful, healthy foods!

Wishing you health and happiness!!

-Barbara

Immune Boosting Eating

Introduction

I received my B.S. in Exercise and Wellness from Brigham Young University and some of my favorite classes and units were all about nutrition. I have always found food, nutrition, and diet lifestyles interesting!

Now sometimes talking about food can be a sore topic for discussion. This could be for many reasons. Maybe your child is a persnickety eater and you don’t want to hear anything else that your kid ‘needs’ to be eating because it’s a battle you know all too well… a battle you’re constantly losing. Maybe you have a poor relationship with food and a lot of the emotions you feel relating to food are fear or anxiety. Maybe you are so overwhelmed that you cannot fathom adding another item to your “Good Mom List.” (You know that list in your head that you made up with ridiculous high standards that if you don’t meet the mom guilt comes crashing in, enveloping you in negativity and stress… I know other people have this too… right?) ;)

Food is Medicine

Whatever the reason, food can be a sensitive subject, but it can also be a powerful and beautiful topic of discussion. Like what I want to discuss today. Drum roll please… “Immune Boosting Eating.” I probably didn’t need the drum roll because the title gave it away… but I digress.

Proper nutrition and exercise are two of the best ways to stay healthy and boost your immune system. Western medicine is an amazing gift, but there can be natural medicinal properties in fresh foods, too. Below is a table full of food I personally love incorporating into my family’s diet to boost our immune systems. The table identifies the nutrients of each food, and what they can do for you. I also provided some linked resources if you wanted to read further into the nutrition and benefits of each food. *Note they are not listed in any particular order.

My Top 18 Immune Boosting Foods

 

Category Food  Nutrients Benefits Resources
Fruit Kiwi vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, antioxidants  Skin health, heart health, anti-inflammatory better sleep  LINK
Fruit Orange fiber, vitamin C, thiamine, folate, and antioxidants Heart health, kidney stone and anemia prevention, anti-inflammatory LINK

LINK

Fruit Pineapple vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 Disease fighting anti-antioxidants, vitamin C, promotes growth and healthy metabolism  LINK
Fruit Blueberries Fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese heart health, bone development, disease fighting anti-antioxidants  LINK
Fruit Strawberry fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate Promotes normal tissue growth and cell function, skin health, heart health, blood sugar regulation LINK
Vegetable Spinach vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, magnesium, iron, vitamin B2 Fights oxidative stress, help moderate blood pressure, eye health, heart health  LINK
Vegetable Broccoli fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K Skin health, anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, may shorten or reduce symptoms of colds LINK
Vegetable Cauliflower fiber, antioxidants, choline, sulforaphane,  Brain development, nervous system health, protects against chronic disease  LINK
Vegetable Celery vitamins A, K, and C, folate, iron, magnesium  Anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, low glycemic index LINK
Vegetable Carrot beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, antioxidants Promotes growth, development, immune function, eye health LINK
Vegetable Ginger Root gingerol, fiber, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin C, folate, magnesium Anti-inflammatory, fights against bacteria and viruses, brain health, heart health  LINK

LINK

Vegetable Garlic manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium Prevent and reduce symptoms of colds, protects against oxidative damage, detoxifying benefits, bone health LINK
Mixed Nuts monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, antioxidants Protect against LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, promotes gut health  LINK
Meat Chicken protein, B vitamins, selenium, antioxidants, zinc Promote physical health/stamina, cognitive health, skin health, heart health, sleep quality LINK
Meat Salmon Omega-3 fatty acid, protein, B vitamins, potassium, selenium, zinc Reduces the risk of disease, heart health, brain health, energy production LINK
Raw Unfiltered Honey Antioxidants, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, potassium Fights bacteria, brain health, wound-healing, aids in digestion LINK
Dairy Greek Yogurt Protein, potassium, calcium, probiotics, vitamin B12 Brain health, bone health, muscle health, gut health,  LINK
Grain Whole Grain Bread Fiber, B vitamins, protein, antioxidants, plant compounds Aids in digestion, anti inflammatory, heart health  LINK

Making it Happen

It seems like the world is hyper aware of everything we can do to stay healthy and food really is one of the best ways we can make sure our bodies are in prime condition to fight off bacteria, infection, and viruses.

Fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meat makes a huge difference in our diets. I myself am a fan of the ‘Flexitarian Diet.’ I like this form of thinking because it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t cut out any one food group and can be a sustainable choice compared to many of the fad diets out there. Our bodies crave a variety of nutrients and a balance between the food groups. Balance and variety give our bodies the best chance at developing a strong immune system.

Getting the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients will not only have a positive effect on your immune function, but will give you more energy, reduce oxidative stress and benefit your overall physical and mental health.

We hope you are happy and healthy! Comment below with your favorite health foods for the family! :)

 

~Kayla

The Importance of Practical Life

Practical Life activities are the foundation of the Montessori Method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori over 100 years ago. They were then and they are now of greatest importance in assisting a child to reach his/her full potential in an Early Childhood Montessori Program whether in a formal school setting or in our own homes. For this reason we place a strong emphasis on the Practical Life areas in our homes and in our classrooms at Children’s House Montessori.

Children want to copy or do what they see the adults in their lives doing.  This is why your child probably asks you over and over again if he/she can help you wash the car, do the dishes, try on your shoes or clothes, help you cook, dress themselves, etc. Maria Montessori said, “Imitation is the first instinct of the awakening mind.”

 

 

Although the components of the Montessori Practical Life curriculum are numerous, it can be broken down fairly easily this way:

  1. Practical Life teaches children to care for themselves and care for their environment thus giving them a sense of independence, self confidence and order. What child doesn’t say, “Help me do it by myself.” –Maria Montessori
  2. Practical Life activities are instrumental in helping to develop a strong foundation for each individual child. If these activities are rushed or skipped, a child will not be able to reach his/her full potential in a Montessori school or a home environment. In fact, Dr. Montessori said, “it’s not until a child struggles in the other areas of the Montessori environment that the origins of the struggle can often be traced back to the lack of experience or time spent in Practical Life.”

I have always loved the ideas and creativity behind the Practical Life area of the Montessori Classroom because it allows the child to actually “do” an activity they want to “imitate” rather than just “pretend”. For this reason, we suggest having prepared Practical Life areas and activities in your homes that are designed for small bodies and hands so that Toddler and Preschool aged children have daily time to practice skills naturally. Take a look at baby E practicing his Practical Life skills by pouring and watering flowers.

 

 

The list of ideas and activities could be endless, but here are a few basic Practical Life activities that you can easily incorporate into your daily home routine:

  • washing dishes in a child-sized sink or you can use a Toddler Tower to get your child to your adult sink (we love this one).
  • preparing their own snacks
  • setting a table for meals: We love to use child sized plates, cups and silverware. Here are our favorites from Amazon (flatware) and Montessori Services, (plates, cups).
  • tonging and scooping objects into small containers or bowls   
  • pouring liquids or dry items
  • completing cooking projects following sequenced cards or steps in a recipe
  • cleaning up spills or accidents using child sized brooms, mops and towels.  You can find some great options here. 
  • planting seeds or flowers in the garden, pulling weeds, raking or shoveling dirt
  • cutting flowers and completing flower arranging work
  • polishing silver, rocks or shoes 

We encourage you to take a look around your homes and think of ways that you can create a space full of Practical Life work that your child can engage in and grow from. Notice ways that you can incorporate daily activities and exercises into your routine with your developing and budding child! Not only will daily Practical Life activities help your child become more content and confident, they will find more joy in their daily routines and they will also be provided with a foundation for a life-long love of learning.

 

 

Don’t forget to visit our website here for more Practical Life things we love. 

-Barbara