Rhythm and Routine

Rhythm and Routine

89739882_10156602285711058_1090431036120104960_oThis isn’t a new topic in our community, but this is a new experience, and we find ourselves asking, now what? Toddlers thrive on routine and consistency, and with new social distancing practices in place and many parents now working from home, we find ourselves suddenly grappling with managing new dynamics in our home and are wondering how best to meet the needs of our little ones during such an uncertain time. I don’t know about you, but when I started seeing suggestions for setting up a schedule at home for my kiddo, the educator in me thought, Ok, I see some value in this, but the parent in me, thought, Oh no, I don’t think so, we’re going to get through this in our own way. No alarm clock, no appointments, no pressure to do something, and NO feeling guilty for not adhering to a self-prescribed schedule!

Now, I will admit that we are slowly settling into a very loose schedule, and the structure, although lax, is giving me a greater sense of peace. And, really that’s what it should be about, right? Instead of a schedule, I encourage and invite you to start thinking about what daily rhythms and rituals might bring your family peace during this time. Remember that your schedule doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s nor does it have to look like “school.”

Yes, toddlers need consistency and routine, but they can also be resilient and adaptable, at least, they are learning to be. In truth, we all are. Keep in mind that most of us are so accustomed to living by our daily calendar, many of us have forgotten how to just be. Children are actually really good at this. Play is their work, and, yes, you will find yourself needing to engage them regularly, but you don’t have to fill every moment with activity for their sake. They will be ok!

Ease into this upcoming chapter. Breathe. Establish some daily rituals that feel good and ground you, and do it at your own pace. Set up a loose schedule with a lot of space between activities. I know some of you will be working from home, so that may present you with some different constraints which will require some creativity and support. We’re hopeful to share some ideas with you that will help you out towards that end. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself and do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family. You’ve got this, and we’re here cheering you on!

Math in the Toddler Community

Math in the Toddler Community

IMG_0714Math is truly a part of everything we do, and what I appreciate most about the Montessori approach to math is the hands-on, holistic perspective of the subject. Simply, it is not something that children begin learning once they are older and more “capable.” It is something integral to their daily routines even before they begin speaking.

Furthermore, in a Montessori classroom, math is not “taught” to children, and it is not a subject which children are expected to master in a vacuum. It is integrated into every aspect of the child’s experience, including practical life where sequence and concentration are routinely practiced.

Here are just a few more of the foundational math skills which children are practicing daily in our community through social experiences, language work and practical life:

  • Classifying and sorting
  • Learning comparison words such as big and small (measurement)
  • Learning about the concept of more and less (one of the first lessons a toddler masters!)
  • Sequencing and order
  • Identifying patterns
  • Reasoning and comprehension
  • Cause and effect
  • One-to-one correspondence, and,
  • Spatial relationships

Interested in reading more? I encourage you to read Math and the Infant/Toddler by Catherine McTamaney on her blog the Montessori Daoshi, a great resource for both teachers and parents on all things Montessori!

Help Yourself to some Oregano!

Help Yourself to some Oregano!

IMG_4369You may have noticed that our oregano doesn’t mind the cold. In fact, it seems to be thriving, and, frankly, I love to use it in my cooking but there’s only so much we can eat! My favorite use for it is in soups and rice, but it’s a great all-around herb for adding more flavor to your dishes, especially in Mexican and Italian food, yum!

This week we added some to the salsa we made in class, along with some fresh tomatoes, garlic and onion, all super great foods for your body. Oregano, specifically, is high in antioxidants and a great booster in warding off bacteria, viruses and inflammation especially related to the sinuses.

For this reason, it’s a great herb to use all year long, but especially at this time of year!  We dried some this week and are sending some home with you in paper bags that the children decorated. Please do help yourself if you ever want to take some more home or let me know and I’ll pack some up for you!

If you want to dry it quickly, this is the method I used which I found super convenient. You can also tie it in a lovely little bundle and hang it somewhere dry and dark until the leaves are completely dry, though this takes space and a little more patience.  🙂  Either way, once your leaves are dry, you can seal them in an airtight jar in a cool and dark space to use at anytime!

Fruity Songs

Fruity Songs

imagesWe have been enjoying talking more about fruit this month and trying new flavors! We enjoyed making our fruit salad together earlier this week, and the children enjoyed eating it even more. Today we felt, smelled and tasted a kiwi and a pomegranate, and it was pretty great to have the children asking for more! In addition to trying the fruit, they got great practice sitting at the table and using their listening ears and watching eyes. We were able to talk about safety in the kitchen as well as how much fun it can be to try new foods!

Here are a couple of fruit-related songs to try at home!

Mango Fandango
Mama! Mama! I want a mango

Papa! Papa! Please, papaya.
No, no Nana, a ripe banana
Kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi quince!

Red berries, berries blue, these are fruits so good for you,
Cherries, cherries sweet and new, and coconuts, yes they’re fruit too!

Orange oranges, lemons yellow, fill my tummy sweet and mellow
Vitamins grown on a tree in pretty packages for you and me.

Oh they travel many miles, fill our hearts with many smiles
Sweet delicious tasty treats from Mother Nature a gift to eat!

I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas
I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas
I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas

Repeat by substituting different vowel sounds . . .

For example, O loke to ote, ote, ote opples and bononos. Our friends think this is the best!

The Apple Tree
Way up high in the apple tree, two little apples smiled at me,
I shook that tree as hard as I could, down came those apple, mmm, they’re good!

What’s the weather?

What’s the weather?

Some of our favorite weather-related songs . . .

What’s the Weather? (Tune of Oh, My Darling)
What’s the weather, what’s the weather, what’s the weather like today?
Is it cloudy? Is it sunny? What’s the weather like today?

If All of the Raindrops (Link for melody)
If all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be!
Standing outside with my mouth open wide, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!
If all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be!

If all of the snowflakes were chocolate bars and milkshakes, oh what a snow that would be!
Standing outside with my mouth open wide, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!
If all of the snowflakes were chocolate bars and milkshakes, oh what a snow that would be!

If all of the sunbeams were lemonade and ice cream, oh what a sun that would be!
Standing outside with my mouth open wide, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!
If all of the sunbeams were lemonade and ice cream, oh what a sun that would be!

Mr. Sun  (Link for melody)
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, hiding behind the tree,
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden sun, please shine down on me!
These little children are asking you, please come out so we can play with you.
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden sun, please shine down on me!

The Toddler Language Curriculum

The Toddler Language Curriculum

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Here’s a little more on our language curriculum from our young friend’s perspective, and the skills we are work on introducing and reinforcing in our community!

My vocabulary and communication skills are increasing daily! I am constantly absorbing sounds, words and meaning through work, play, stories and songs. At the age of two, I  will likely display a word explosion and, by the time I reach the age of three, I can do much more!

Within the next year, I will likely . . .

  • Have a vocabulary of 50+ words
  • Mimic adult sounds, words, actions
  • Begin to form simple sentences such as, “I am hungry.”
  • Be able to answer simple questions such as, “Where’s mommy?”
  • Be able to follows simple commands
  • Follow simple grammar rules
  • Enjoy listening to stories
  • Ask, “Why?”
  • Understand descriptive words like “big” and “small”
  • Use descriptive words like “soft” and “hard”
  • Display an increase in imaginative and fantasy play
  • Define the use of simple tools and common household items
  • Recount events
  • Display an emerging understanding of “past” and “future”
  • Scribble with a crayon/marker
  • Begin to use open-ended questions
  • Begin to understand and explain cause and effect
  • Make-up stories
  • Retell stories
Language & Literacy for Littles

Language & Literacy for Littles

“What the hand does, the mind remembers.” Maria Montessori

I’ve always loved language, was an avid reader as a child and received my BA in Language & Linguistics. I then moved to Austin to become a literacy tutor where I developed an even greater respect for the power of language and the written word. The impact it has on even the youngest children is tremendous on so many levels. There’s a lot of talk in educational circles about the “right” way to teach language, reading and writing in particular, and there is certainly value in numerous approaches.

In Montessori, we teach children “sounds” rather than the names of letters which are abstract for children to understand. In addition, before reading and writing, children learn to identify letters through touch through the use of sandpaper letters. We’ve talked before about the importance of a hands-on work for young children. They rely heavily on the use of their tactile sense to absorb information from their world and that information is transmitted to their brains where neurons are firing away and synapses grow in strength through repetition creating a foundation for future academic work.

Similarly, in the toddler community, rather than teach “writing,” we ensure that we are providing plenty of opportunities for our young friends to refine their pincer grasp, an essential skill needed for holding a pencil and writing! Remember, that whole concept of increments? Again, through repetition and through advanced fine motor work, the child displays an increasing readiness for writing down the road.

As mentioned, I believe there is value in a number of approaches, though I greatly respect the Montessori approach as it is rooted in respect for the child’s developing brain and psyche. Personally, I also believe that the process should be fun!

I once worked with a little guy who was labeled a “troublemaker.” I once asked him to do something, and when he complied, someone, (an adult), sarcastically asked, “Wow, how’d you manage to do that?” I was caught off guard, and said, “I don’t know. I just read to him.” And, it occurred to me that the word “just” does not belong in that sentence.

Reading is the most valuable thing you can do with your child at home at this stage! It opens up the world to them. Taking them to the library, allowing them to choose their own books, reading and re-reading those books, using silly voices and different tones, those are all valuable contributions to your child’s journey. If they’re ready for more, we encourage you to make it fun. For example, you don’t have to buy sandpaper letters for use at home; you can make letters in shaving cream or finger-paint! Similarly, you can offer your child to draw shapes in sand or salt in lieu of a sand tray. Chances are if you’re enjoying it, your child will too, and they will be reading and writing in the blink of an eye!