Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Montessori Mama!

With my training fast approaching, school ending yesterday and a whole year off, I've been thinking about nothing but Montessori. The home environment should be a place for the child to explore and grow in every developmental area within a safe and nurturing environment. There should be opportunities for practical work, sensorial exploration, language development, growth of his mathematical mind, and most importantly development of independence and confidence. Here is what we are up to in our Montessori home environment:

Floor bed: Dominic has given up the fight against bedtime, and for months now has had a beautiful bedtime routine. He takes a bath, gets into his PJs, reads a book (with our help of course), and goes to sleep. We've cut bottles out of the equation, but he does get 1/2 cup of warm milk in a sippy cup on nights that he is struggling to go down (not so Montessori... can we call it "following the child?")

Eating: This has been a BATTLE at home. At the Smith's house, his NaNa can feed him just about anything, but he has become increasingly difficult at home. So I had a conversation with Ms. Jacinta the other day, heard all about her fabulous little Montessori wonder of a granddaughter, and I had an epiphany. We were eating all kinds of things, and offering him other stuff (because we've been kind of junky eaters lately). So today I put exactly what I was eating on his plate (making sure it was healthy, and even adding cooked carrots to my own diet), and he ate every bite (except the ones that missed his mouth and ended up on the floor). I also offered him a tiny toddler sized fork that looks just like regular adult flatware, and that was a huge deal for him... he LOVED it.
After the meal he cleared his dishes, with me carrying him to the sink, he scrubbed them with the brush while I held them in the sink, propping him on my knee, and he then put them into the dishwasher on his own. I then let him wipe his own tray with a towel (why were we not doing this sooner?!). OH and midway through the meal I offered him a juice glass (mini version of my glass) and showed him how to use two hands to lift it to drink, and he went to town. Gradually tipping it more as he was more comfortable. When he started to put his hands into the cup, I took it. I would quickly return it as he begged for it, and he continued just the right way. It was PRECIOUS! Again, why weren't we doing this sooner?

Playing: His room still has one low shelf unit with three levels of shelves. The bottom shelf has an assortment of musical percussion instruments and a natural snake pull-toy (from Plan Toys). The second shelf has a tray of balls, a set of nesting cups (which are about to be rotated out as he's lost interest), and three turtles who are propelled by the balls that make their shells and feet. The top shelf has his pounding bench, which he is now able to fully manipulate, flipping the pegs as he finishes hammering them, and placing them in the correct shaped cutout. There is a basket of books on the top shelf, which he regularly visits, bringing us one book to read, returning it to the basket, and bringing another... OVER AND OVER again. There is also a xylophone representing the diatonic scale of C. He LOVES to play the xylophone, and I was so glad to find one that had the true scale.

He also has a set of toddler sized broom, mop, dust mop, and dust pan, that he has enjoyed test-driving. There is a shelf of stuffed animals in the closet, and a family of elephants on his rug by his rocking chair. He enjoys picking up a stuffed animal and carrying it around, or snuggling it. Lately he's been practicing differentiating the elephant family, today carrying the mother elephant on his shoulders like Ryan carries him around.
Generally we help him to play with only one toy at a time, reminding him to clean up as he begins to move on to the next. There is a large supply of other toys on a high shelf in the closet, so we can rotate the toys as he loses interest or gains interest. Keeping the shelf organized, with each toy returning to the exact same spot every time has aided his development of an orientation to his space and his sense of order. He knows exactly where things belong, and can help when they are out of place.

Our favorite activity is definitely listening to music and dancing with him. He LOVES music, of any kind of music, and has really taken to dancing. He particularly enjoys funk and techno along with harder rock while he's with his dad.

Furniture: The floor bed is kind of the focal point of the room (the thing everyone wrinkles their nose at when they see his room). Next to his bed is a toddler sized upholstered rocking chair that I salvaged from the roadside and slip-covered (so it is totally machine washable now). His clothes and cloth diapers are in a dresser near his closet, and we will start offering him a couple choices a day when we get a little closet shelf to place those options on. The changing table has been out of his room for a few months now because he enjoys acrobatic diaper changes, and we've gone to the changing pad on the floor method, which works well. He has a small basket for a laundry hamper and delights in putting his dirty clothes in it. I still have my rocking chair in his room because we do occasionally rock with him, and we sometimes like to sit in a chair while we are with him in his room.

Decorations: This area is a little bit lacking (still). I have added a series of black and white African animal photos above his shelf at his eye level. I also framed three 5x7 art-show postcards from a local artist that feature abstract paintings in different color families above his laundry hamper. He often takes them down for a closer look, which is totally safe because they are framed in cheap IKEA frames with plastic "glass fronts." He also has a lamp on his shelf that we use when he is winding down.

Toileting: recently he has shown an interest in his little toilet. It is a cheap one from IKEA, and he generally sits on it backward, but he does have an interest. He is also becoming proficient at signing and saying "poop" when he has one in his diaper... we're working on getting a little warning for that one! As long as he has an interest we will let him sit on his toilet in the restroom while we give him all of the "potty language" we will be using: pee, poop, toilet, clean, dry, diaper, etc. Our goal is not early potty training, but rather to help him communicate with us when he has that need and offer the little toilet as often as he is interested. He doesn't seem to have an aversion to wetness yet, despite being in cloth diapers for the past several months.

Outdoor exploration: Our back yard is an open area for exploration at this point. He plays with sticks and rocks he finds on the ground, often enjoys climbing over garden barriers and examining the trees. He also enjoys going to the park and climbing the play structures and swinging. Over the weekend we discovered that he enjoys swinging in a regular child swing (as opposed to the infant/toddler swings). The one at my parents' house is low enough to the ground that he could almost get into it on his own, and we stayed with him any time he was swinging.

Things to come: I will be adding to his room a small kitchen mat in a basket that he can use to delineate a workspace, as his toys become more complex, and as the number of peices increase.

In the area of decoration, I would like to have some family photos printed and hung at his level throughout the house and in the hallway. I want to sew some curtains for his window and a curtain for his closet. His room also needs a full length mirror (his length) and a table and chair for dressing and grooming and working. I just found out my neighbor is a woodworking hobbyist, so maybe he can help out in this arena... I think some homemade bread is in order!
Outside I would like to begin a garden with him, so he can harvest himself a little snack when he is outside and taste herbs. It would also be great for digging and watering. I will probably be buying a kiddie pool to keep back there for the summer (which lasts approximately 7 months in Houston). I want to paint the mini adirondack chair we have for him to relax. I would like to add an outdoor shelf to put some garden tools and watering can.
In the kitchen I would like to start some basic cooking with him. Maybe I'll pull in a low table so we can do projects down low (and I'm going to scout craigslist for a learning tower, to get him up to counter height). We'll try some breads and maybe some sauces or dips for veggies and crackers.
For art, I would like to invest in some high quality "block" crayons, since he is not ready for a pencil grip these allow him to hold on with his whole hand and are thick rectangular prisms that seem pretty difficult to break (I had a dream that they were super cheap at walmart, but that is indeed only a dream). I would also like to reconstitute some of my clay from the garage and pull out my wooden tools and ribs for him to play around with some ceramics... never to be glazed (unless i can find a friend with a kiln... Vindictive Pottery or Anne the Potter, maybe?) I would also like to purchase some art prints and frame some that I already have at his level around the house, probably on a rotating basis. As Maria would say "the best for the smallest among us!"
I'm also wanting to situate the communal areas to accommodate Dominic. Right now we have gates up blocking the living space off from the hallway because we don't want him to have open access to the kitchen and living room (lots of breakables and electronics... oh and gas stoves), but I would like to have a little nook for him in each of these spaces so he can feel more at home. This includes getting the learning tower and possibly investing in one of those expensive Svan high chairs so he can climb right up to the table (since he is quite the monkey). I also want to find some nice toddler chairs on the cheap (like the Michael Olaf option). Another idea is creating a playroom in our in-progress guest room.

So that is the current status... we will also be making some changes to welcome baby brother to the homestead... so we are guaranteed to be derailed from many of these projects and pick up others along the way. What are you guys up to on the homefront? Any tips for getting it more accessible for toddlers? Know where to find any of the "wishlist" items for cheap? Know how to insert photos in these dang posts? Help? I hope you are all well, and would love to hear what you are up to!

1 comment:

  1. on the blogs you follow, you're missing Bill's "and an iron man on the side"