Category Archives: Toddler Materials

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Keeping a Toddler Happily Busy on a Long Flight

Regular readers are probably tired of hearing about our upcoming trip, but it’s finally almost here, so I thought I would share some of the things I’m packing to keep 23 month old Annabelle happy during our 26 hours of travel. Fortunately 8 of those hours will be made up of layovers, so running around and using up energy should fill the time quite easily. For the other 18, here’s what we have: Continue reading

Here's how it looks all neatly laid out in the basket. The star is the topper and the red felt is the tree skirt. Annabelle has been taking this out every day.

Montessori Monday: Winter Has Arrived!

… even if there is no such thing as winter here at 14 degrees north of the equator.

When I was teaching, I always loved the first day back to school after Thanksgiving. We teachers would have put away any and all fall related work and decorated the classroom to correspond with the season. It was such fun to see the awe and excitement on the children’s faces when they arrived to see their classroom transformed.

Now that Annabelle is a bit older, I was able to do something similar with our home. On the day after Thanksgiving, I put her to bed and then busily went about the decorating, putting up the tree, switching out the books in her baskets, and changing out the activities on her shelves. I had far more fun than you can imagine, giggling with excitement all the way as my husband sat and wondered what he had gotten himself into. Below are a few photos to show what Annabelle has been working on since winter arrived in our house.  Continue reading

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Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I get silly excited when I find large and small versions of the same thing.

Of course no specialized gear is required for the family looking to include their kids in the kitchen. Everyday items do the job just fine, but finding tools that are scaled to the child’s size can make things a bit easier, and help to empower children who might otherwise struggle with items that are made for adults to handle. Long before my daughter was born, I developed a keen eye for child-sized gadgets and cooking utensils. I often joke that the reason I worked a second job while teaching was to pay for all of the things I would buy for my classroom. Of course the school would always provide me with the funds for things I truly needed (and then some), but when you happen upon a miniature cheese grater while out grocery shopping, you don’t wait for the school to approve your purchase. You just buy it.

I was always surprised by how difficult it could be to find items designed with children in mind, so I was constantly on the lookout for things to add to my ever expanding collection. When my daughter became interested in working with me in the kitchen, I already had plenty of tools on hand, but I have made new discoveries along the way and continue to compulsively grow my collection, so I thought I would share some tricks of the trade for those who are still preparing a space for their own kids in the kitchen. Continue reading

Montessori Monday: Animals and Such

I’ve been promising a post on the alternatives to store bought household cleaning and personal care products, and I promise that’s coming tomorrow, but I’m excited to link up to Montessori Monday at One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now today.

Why am I so excited, you ask? I finally found a box I’ve been digging around trying to find for months now and you would have thought I’d discovered a coffee can full of cash. I was delighted to reunite with my animal models and finally be able to share them with Annabelle. They’re not made of natural materials, but they’re one of those exceptions I mentioned in my Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys. They are far more realistic than anything made of wood or other materials I have seen, so they’re an important part of my personal stash of learning materials.

One new basket on Annabelle’s shelf contains a few of the control cards from the Juvenile Animals Nomenclature (3 Part) Cards that Montessori Services sells and models for the corresponding animals. Annabelle is a bit young for three part cards at the moment, but she loves to carry photos of various things around the house, so I had ordered these for her and planned to put out the picture cards only. She enjoyed them, but loves this matching activity with the animal models much more. She does it over and over again!

I have also put together a basket that contains just the adult male and female animals from the same families as those shown here. Annabelle loves to carry them around, pair them, and have me say their names. Of course both baskets can be combined to make Farmyard Animal Families – one of my favorite zoology activities, just because I love to see all of the animals grouped together. At Annabelle’s age, this is simple exploration and matching, but older children can gradually learn the names of the different family members through three period lessons, if they’re interested, and many extensions can come from that.

I have many other fun ideas for these and our other animal models in the near future. The possibilities are endless, hence my adoration for them!

In other news, right after I wrote about how I simply integrate Practical Life exercises and don’t place EPL activities on Annabelle’s shelf, I ended up giving her a bit of out of context, but still enjoyable practical life to do. Follow the child, right? Sometimes what I’m working on in the kitchen just does not appeal to her and she’d like something of her own to work on. Here she is spooning star-shaped ice cubes and loving it. She practiced a bit with tongs as well, but is still finding them to be a bit of a challenge.

I have also finally decided to grow some food. Better late than never, I say. Annabelle really loved helping me plant seeds and has enjoyed going out to check the plants and give them water each day. She has also been working with me as I try to prepare a space for our little seedlings that are ready to transplant. I have been really surprised by how much that interests her!

It is quite tempting, however, for her to grab handfuls of soil from fledgling plants, or just pull out tiny seedlings. There is also one pot in particular that is the perfect height for her, and she can’t help but step in it. My thinking is that this is simply age-appropriate exploration and is a natural part of her becoming acquainted with gardening. That said, I’m open to suggestions from those of you with extensive toddler gardening experience.

On the weekend, Annabelle and I went to check out the Micronesian Cultural Fair for awhile and she loved it. I was surprised by how long she was content to watch some of the traditional Chamorro dancers. It captivated her, and yet again I was pleasantly surprised by what a great date she was. We met up with friends, but I know I would have enjoyed myself quite well if it had been just the two of us instead.

And those are the Montessori-related highlights of our week of living and learning together. What did you and your family learn this week, and how did you go about learning it? I would really love to hear tidbits from you, too!

The Montessori Toddler’s Closet

When I first walked you through Annabelle’s nursery, she was three months old and there was nothing Montessori about her closet. We’re renters, and had plans to move out of our current house a year later, before Annabelle would really develop any interest in getting her own clothes out or dressing herself. So, I decided not to make any major modifications to the closet itself. Now she has nearly reached the ripe old age of seventeen months and we’re still here which is a topic for another post, but means that it’s time to make some changes. This week, I have finally Montessori-ized her closet and I thought I’d share with you how it was done.

The closet itself has two sides with sliding doors, and one side is dedicated to storage. The other side has a rod for hanging clothes, but it is at adult height, of course. In order to make it toddler-accessible, I purchased a tension rod – the type designed to serve as a curtain rod in your shower – and placed it at Annabelle height, toward the front of the closet for easy access. It is adjustable and doesn’t require any hardware, so I haven’t made any lasting changes to the house that I’ll need to undo before we leave, and it only cost about ten dollars. Easy!

Because Annabelle’s closet is so narrow, the stall sized shower rod worked perfectly, but there are longer rods, made for full size showers, that would work for a larger closet. If you have the type of closet that extends for the entire length of a wall, however, you may have to get creative. One idea would be to place a heavy piece of furniture, say a bookshelf or cabinet, inside the closet and set up a tension rod between one closet wall and the edge of the furniture.

Annabelle was in the room when I set everything up, so she saw me hanging the clothes and immediately came over to try her hand. She hung one thing and signed “more” until I handed her something else. This continued until all of the clothes were put away. She loved it! I made sure to put only clothes that are suitable for everyday wear so that when we’re getting ready to go someplace and Annabelle chooses an outfit, I’ll never be tempted to veto her choice, because it will always be appropriate.

I placed baskets in the bottom of the closet for items that don’t go on hangers. On the far left are waterproof trainers for when we’re going out, then there is underwear for when we’re home (side note: I have discovered that bloomers are perfect infant/toddler underwear. Why didn’t I think of this sooner!?), then there are pants, and finally socks. In our house, shoes are near the front door, so they didn’t require any consideration here.

The only thing I’m trying to figure out now is how to utilize the storage space that is above toddler height. Good spots for storage and organization are hard to come by in this house, so I hate to see any closet space going to waste! If you have any ideas, let me know!

I have been busy transitioning just about every area of the house to accommodate Annabelle’s ever developing independence, so I should have a lot to share with you in the near future. I was caught a bit off guard, since I didn’t expect to be here in this stage of toddler-hood, but I have really enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to adjust and organize things to suit Annabelle’s changing needs.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for creating a closet or other dressing space for a toddler or young child? How have you made changes to your living space to accommodate your children at various stages? I would love to hear from you!

I’m linking up with Montessori Monday over at One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now!