Monday, July 26, 2010

Montessori Monday: Water Serving

One of the things I appreciate the most about the Montessori method is the idea of setting up a child's environment so that they can have a certain level of independence.  I think that too often we under estimate the abilities of children.  I also think that allowing children a certain level of independence helps boost their self esteem.

If you visit any Montessori classroom you will probably see some type of pouring activity in their practical life section.  Students typically start our pouring with beans or other dry material and eventually move up to pouring with water.  I decided to put all of this pouring practice to use in our house by setting up a drink station for the kids.

How this station came about:
For awhile, I felt like I was filling up sippy cups all day long.  The kids would usually take a drink, set their cup down somewhere, lose it, and then ask for another sippy cup full of water.  Between the two of them I was filling up cups every 20 minutes all day long---and then going through the house and collecting all of the lost cups so I could wash them.  It was insanity.  I decided that a big part of the problem was our whole sippy cup set up.  Sippy cups don't require care.  You can just throw them down anywhere without having to worry about them spilling.  They almost invite the child to be careless with them.  Another part of the problem was that we simply had too many cups.  Lots of cups = lots of dishes! And finally, a huge part of the problem was that the children currently had no way of getting a drink for themselves. 

So I set off to think of a way to make this possible for them to do.  Some would call this neglectful parenting, I call it Montessori!  ;)

Here is where the kids are able to pour themselves a glass of water whenever they want.  Every morning I set out clean glasses, fresh ice, and fresh water.  The rest is up to them.   So far they have loved it! 

Here is a close up of the little side table I added to our sink.
It took some tweaking to find a setup that allowed the kids to do this independently. 
At first I tried storing all of this stuff next to the sink, but it was too hard for Sophia to reach around things without knocking over a cup.  She needed more room, so I used a clear plastic bin as a side cart to give them some counter space.   Even though it is just a plastic bin, I tried my best to dress it up and make everything look "pretty" and nice for the kids.  That way they would know that these glasses are something to be taken care of.  Not something you just throw on the floor.

One the side cart we have a glass for each child.  (Marcus gets the blue glass, Sophia gets the green.)   They also have an ice bucket, ice tongs, a coaster, and a napkin to store the tongs on. 

On the sink I am storing the pitcher of water that way they won't have to carry it anywhere. 
 It took a little tweaking to find a process that they were able to do independently.  What we finally found worked the best was to have the child fill their cup full of ice.  (They LOVE using ice tongs by the way!!)  Then place their glass in the metal sink and pour water using both hands on the pitcher.  (The metal sink is able to catch any spills.)  Then when they are finished, they know how to wipe up any spills and rehang the towel. 
To see what other Montessori inspired activities we have gotten into this past week, check our our weekly wrap up post here.
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Learning and Playing: Our week in review

Here are just a few highlights from Marcus and Sophia's week playing and learning....

Learning Trays:
I had the following learning activities on the learning shelves* for the kids--

1)  Animal Domino Set
Aren't these things cute?  I just love this toy.  These are made by Plan Toys and like most Plan Toys they are extremely durable and well made.   I love these dominoes particularly because they are extra large.  So even very little hands can be successful at stacking them and manipulating them.  Marcus and Sophia don't yet understand the rules of the classic dominos.  However, we played some matching and grouping games with these.   The kids also had fun setting up long domino chains and "huffing and puffing" them down like the big bad wolf.  The other activity that they came up with was using the dominos to build a train across the floor.   All in all this was a very popular tray that promoted basic math skills (matching and sorting); language skills (talking about the animals); fine motor skills (setting up domino chains); and creative skills (pretending to be the big bad wolf and building a train).  Not bad for a simple toy! 

2)  Nuts and Bolts Matching
I found these at a Once Upon a Child store near my house.  (That is where I buy most of our toys.)  These are old school Melissa and Doug Nuts and Bolts.  I can't find these on amazon anymore to link them up for you, so they must be pretty old.  The came in a wooden base that you can actually screw the nuts into, but that proved too difficult for Marcus and Sophia.  So, I took them out and put them on a tray instead so they could twist the bolts with their hand.  I like this particular nuts and bolts set because it emphasises both colors and shapes.  Each nut and bolt is a different color and shape.  The st is also self correcting.  (Only the yellow nut will match the yellow bolt.)

3)  Magnetic Dress Up Doll
Sophia really enjoys this toy.  It helps build vocabulary by teaching her to describe the dolls clothes.  It is also a good toy to practice dexterity as she has to manipulate the tiny little pieces to dress her doll.

4)  Star Counting Game
This was a practice in counting and math. Basically each laminated card had a picture of a spaceship a moon, and some stars.  At the bottom of the cards were three numbers.  (Different numbers were on different cards and they were not in any particular order.)  The child had to count the stars and then put the clothespin on the correct number.  I downloaded these cards for free from some site, but I now completely forget where I got them from. (I hate that!)   If anyone recognizes them, please leave a comment so I can give credit. 

5)  Lacing Cards
The kids see me sewing all of the time, so they were excited when I told them that they could sew with these cards.  However, they quickly lost interest in the lacing.  Instead they mostly pretended to eat the foam food.  :) 
6)  Fruits and Vegetables Cutting Set
You will have to forgive this picture.  As I type this, most of the fruits and vegetables are spread across the living room floor.  Very few got put back on the shelf like they are suppose to.  So I used the stock photo from amazon so you could see the toy we have. This is an ingenious idea for a toy.  The wooden fruit "components" are held together with strong velcro.  The child then uses a wooden knife to "cut" the toys apart.  Marcus and Sophia love pretending to cut the food and serve it to me.  This is an excellent fine motor activity.
 Plan Toys Assorted Fruits and Vegetables 
(Photo courtesy of 
*To see more information on how we use our learning shelves, please visit this tot school post here. 
Other fun learning and playing:
We had a light alien unit theme going recently.  Marcus was interested in checking out some books about aliens so we just kind of went from there.  (Hence the space ship math activity above.  I made that to tie in with our theme.) 
We made Letter A's in the shape of aliens...
....And we made Alien Masks.
We also played with Moon Sand.  (Speaking of moon sand, I also found a recipe for making homemade moon sand.  I can share that if anyone is interested.  The commercial moon sand is so expensive, so I was glad to finally find a decent homemade version.) 
Marcus and Sophia also experimented with their hanging monkey toy.  They learned a lot about weights and balancing a scale with this. 
The kids also brought out their beginner pattern blocks.  They each choose which pictures they wanted to build with the shapes.  They were very proud of their creations so they each wanted me to take their picture why they laid by their work.  :)
 And we also made a Batman Letter B to add to our alphabet books. 
Sophia also hung out in our listening center while she read her nursery rhyme book while following along to the CD.  She just loved doing this!  This is a great activity for building print awareness.

..And as you know, we love books at our house!  These are the books that Marcus and Sophia chose to read this week.
Saturday, July 24, 2010

What my children are reading...

" I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." 
~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

Here are the books that Marcus and Sophia picked out this week...

Winnie the Pooh:
Sophia has always been a big Winnie the Pooh fan, and this week she wanted me to read these two pooh stories.   

Pooh Goes Visiting by A.A Milne
Winnie-the-Pooh Story Box: "Pooh Goes Visiting", "Eeyore Has a Birthday", "Tigger is Unbounced", "Piglet Has a Bath" (Winnie the Pooh)

Eeyore Has a Birthday by A.A. Milne
Eeyore Has a Birthday (Pooh ETR 2) (Easy-to-Read, Puffin)

 The Vampire Bunny (Bunnicula and Friends)We have just recently began to read books that take several days to finish.  I was surprised that even Sophia (27 months) was able to remember what we had read from a few days ago and follow along with the story.  The chapter book that we read this week was chosen by Marcus.  It is the story of Bunicula.  Bunicula is a vampire bunny.  He has all the standard vampire traits:  he is nocturnal, he has a strong aversion to sunlight, he has fangs, etc. etc.  However, instead of sucking blood like a human vampire, he sucks the juice out of vegetables.  Marcus (who is facinated by scary things) LOVED this story. 

Little Chick's Big Day by Mary Deball Kwitz
This is a very cute little story about a little chick who thinks he is too big to take a nap.  So he runs away when it is nap time.  However, after being gone for a bit, he decides that he misses his mommy (Broody Hen) and comes back to take his nap.  This book has special meaning to me because it used to be mine when I was a little girl.  I always look at building a home library like building a bank of memories.  I hope that someday Marcus and Sophia can read some of their picture books to their children.  For that reason, I plan to keep many of the picture books in our home library even after the kids grow out of them.

Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone
The Three Little Pigs Book & CD (Read Along Book & CD)This was a story that the kids love for me to read.  I do a voice for each of the pigs and the big bad wolf.  :)  The kids really enjoy Paul Galdone books.  He has illustrated many fairy tales and classic tales.  Fair warning, however, Paul Galdone does not sugar coat these traditional tales.  For example, in this version of the three little pigs, the wolf eats the pigs who live in the house of straw and sticks!
Counting, Number, and Letter Books:
Sophia and Marcus choose three titles that delt with counting, numbers, and letters.

Three Billy Goats Gruff retold by Ellen Rudin 
This is a repeat from last week, but the kids request this book so often that I had to include it!  

Books about Letters and Numbers:
The kids also happenend to pick out several books about letters, numbers, and counting.

The first was Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom* by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Anniversary EditionThis title is a must read for every child.    For those that don't own a copy of this book, please immediately stop reading my blog and go and order one online.  ;)  You will be glad that you did!   The book is the story of some lower case letters who leave their upper case parent letters to climb a coconut tree.  Soon the letters crash to the ground when their is not enough room.  The story is written in a sing-song rhyming verse.  It is a very fun read and many children I know have learned letter identification just from reading this book

Ten, Nine, Eight
The second book was Ten, Nine, Eight* by Molly Bang.   I really love the illustrations in Molly Bang books.  They are full of detail and bright colors and really draw the eye in.  This is a delightful book to read to your child before bed.  It is the story of a father tucking his little girl into bed.   As she is getting tucked in, everything in the room is counted.  I like that every day object were counted.  My children have fun counting along and trying to find everyday objects.  I love that the book portrays a father in the caregiver's role.  I think that too often father are left out of picture books.

Looking At Art 123: How Many Do You See?The next book was my personal favorite from the week.  It was Looking at Art 123:  How Many Do You See?  (National Gallery of Australia)  This was a library book that we checked out, however, I am adding it to our list of books to buy because I will be very sad to return it.   I will be combing the internet and garage sales for used copies.   (I often fall in love with books that I check out of the library.  Does that happen to anyone else?)   This book shows an extreme close up of very famous painting.  On that page it gives you a hint about the painting and asks how many of a certain object are in the painting.


A Bed of Yellow
And Walls of blue
This bedroom is tidy
But not very new

How many chairs can you see?
(Turn the page and you see this painting)

*  A Sonlight P3/P4 Title

To see what other kids are reading, please check out Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns and Feed Me Books Friday, and Read-Aloud Thursdays.


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