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Less is Absolutely More

I’ve always tried to rotate toys and only keep a reasonable amount of activites out at a time. Somehow between being really pregnant and then having a second child I lost my focus on activities and managing the toys. X’s interests had broadened and I was worried about packing something up that he may want to play with. 

Then I felt overwhelmed. I felt overwhelmed by the boxes that never got unpacked when me moved, because I was too pregnant. I was overwhelmed by the baby clothes Q had already outgrown. I was overwhelmed by the tornado of mess that follows my husband around in our small home. I was overwhelmed with the fact that I was constantly cleaning but there was still clutter everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the fact that soon my husband wouldn’t be here to watch the kids all weekend while I cleaned the house.

Then I read Marie Kondo’s infamous book. I wanted my house to spark joy and be easier to clean.

So I started my “KMing” journey. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’ve certainly made progress.

I’ve sorted through closets, unpacked lost boxes. I’ve sent bags and bags of stuff to charity. With each bag that leaves I feel a little lighter. With each finished organizational project I am better able to utilize our crafting and sensory supplies-because I know where they are. I got rid of toys I hated or toys that don’t align with my parenting goals. I kept less out on the shelves. 

Then Christmas happened. While the volume of gifts was reasonable and I’d packed away old toys to make room for the new- X wasn’t motivated to play independently. Plus playing with his brother involved dumping every toy in the house in the middle of the livingroom and walking away. It wasn’t working.

I realized that most of the toys out were amazing, but required adult help. Plus there was still too much. 

So I packed things away. I pulled out a few things that would spark independent and creative play. I rearranged to bring fresh inspiration. And I did something I’ve never done before, I cleaned out our play kitchen. X loves his kitchen and uses it regularly. But it’s always the same pot and same felt vegetables that get used. So why do I keep so much stuff in there? Dishes, felt food, pots, pans, a sandwhich making kit…I took it all out. I put our Melissa and Doug ice cream set and cookie set inside, closed the door. I anticipated a mad (almost) 3 year old and pulling it all back out.

  
What happened, was magic. He played with it for hours. Using each piece as intended, going through all of the steps and then starting over to do it again.

Then this morning after breakfast he asked to watch a movie. I agreed because there had been no whining or crying or tantrums (mornings have been a little rough around here lately). Then he said “never mind Mama, I want to make cookies.”

And so he did.

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Toddler Sorting Activity for Early Math Skills

I think X is going through a “sensitive period” for order. Montessori speaks about children being more receptive to building different skills at certain times. She referred to these times as “sensitive periods”. If we as parents, teachers or care givers can observe when these periods are happening, we can provide tools and activities to maximize them. Forcing the Bloom made a great post here about observing our children. I have yet to take notes on my observations of X, but it’s a GREAT idea! I do however reflect on what I’ve noticed about his habits and play to better provide him with projects and Montessori inspired work.

This activity is one of those. X helps put away his toys and activities; if normal things in his environment are out of place he fixes them. I ask him to assist me in picking up, carrying in groceries and cleaning the house. He very obviously enjoys the meaningful work. Sorting items is not only supporting a need for order and fine motor development, but it is also early math work. Not only is it great for building skills, but it’s easy to set up and very inexpensive.

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I purchased this egg tray for a dollar. I pulled these wood pieces from a set of building blocks we have and VIOLA! 

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I encourage X to place the blocks in order as opposed to randomly. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. To further the math experience and add a language component, we count as we place each block in it’s spot. This could also be used as a great matching set up when he gets older. Colored dots, shapes or numbers could easily be applied to take this activity to the next level.

Stay tuned, I will be making a post later this week about the practical life activities we’ve been incorporating into our days!

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Montessori Inspired Toddler Art Area

Today I’d like to share with you the art space I’ve created for X.
We live in a small apartment. As much as I’d love to have an art room (for me and X!) we just don’t have that kind of space. BUT I was determined to work within the space we do have.
I love art. I love viewing it, sharing it, talking about it and most of all CREATING it! I love crafting as well (I’m no snob). I’ve been looking forward to creating keepsake crafts with X since before he was born. He’s now starting to take more of an interest. We’ve dabbled here and there (like my post for edible infant finger paints) but it rarely held his attention for long. He’s had crayons and paper on his shelves for months and had very little interest.
Recently things have changed. He uses his crayon and play-dough trays multiple times a day now! It was time to set up a creative space where artistic play could be readily available. I think it’s important for children to view and be surrounded by beautiful things. I framed two “mommy and baby” animal prints and hung them at his eye level. I repurposed an old coffee table that is just the right height for him to work at while standing (he prefers to stand during most of his art and montessori activities). There is a shelving unit to the left to store more supplies in the future. This is positioned on one wall in our living room.
I really feel that it’s important to incorporate child friendly areas to all parts of our home. After all, he’s 1/3 of our homes inhabitants! I really look forward to sharing more of X’s special areas with you soon!

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Sensory Bins for an (almost) 10 month old

Lately I’ve been providing X with sensory bins to play with. This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing for a while. The challenge is he still is putting things in his mouth, especially new things. So I’ve stuck to edible sensory play. So far we’ve explored oats and dry macaroni.

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Primarily he enjoys picking it up and putting it on the floor, feeling it with his hands and mouth. He hasn’t really interacted with the tools I’ve provided with the sensory Medium. Honestly I think he won’t start using the tools until the medium becomes familiar. At this point it’s new and exciting all on its own! Here is another situation where I need rein in my enthusiasm and provide the same medium multiple times. Babies learn from repetition, so I’m sure there is much more to be learned from macaroni and oats in the future!

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For Thanksgiving I made a veggie platter and purchased a disposable tray for transport. The clear lid has proven to be a great container for sensory play. I love that it’s clear and the sides are low, so it’s easy for X to access the medium. A conveniently perfect and unexpected find!

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Montessori Baby: Observations

One of the biggest “rules” of Montessori is observing the child. Not only giving them the freedom to explore, experiment and learn; but observe them doing so. Which in turn gives you insight as to activities or materials you can suggest to them that are within their path of exploration. This is a concept I’m trying to strongly implement in raising baby X. I will periodically record my observations here.
The biggest lesson and challenge for me is following his lead. While I may want him to focus on shape sorting, forcing him to do so will gain us no ground. He won’t advance with shape sorting and we’ll miss the opportunity for him to advance in the areas HE is focused on.

X’s current areas of focus:
A. Gross motor skills (crawling/climbing)
B. Eating and drinking
C. Pincher grasp
D. Nature observation
E. Babbling

Activities to help him develop these skills:
-Provide obstacles and things to pull up on. (A)
-Encourage self feeding. (B, C)
-Provide small cup for drinking (B)
-Make stacking cups and other toys that encourage pincher grasp available (C)
-Colorful rubber bands around a bottle (C)
-Daily walks (D)
-Time to handle grass/leaves/etc. (D)
-Read books daily (E)
-Engage in conversational exchanges, ask questions and repeat sounds back (E)

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