Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog


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Toddler Activities: Busy Bag Ideas

I was very excited to have a second Busy Bag exchange with a group of awesome moms.  I am part of a mom group through Meetup.com and one of the organizers in the group hosted a Busy Bag Swap party, the second one of the year.  These parties are great!  Each mom picks a simple craft activity and makes one for each mom attending the party.  At the party, each mom shares their toddler craft.  So you go with let’s say 12 Button Snakes and you leave with 12 different activities!  How cool is that!  I have slowly been pulling out the activities and adding them to our Montessori shelf.  I like that these activities were educational, simple to make and cheap.  I made the Button Snake and was excited to discover I had most of the material already.  I recommend having a Busy Bag swap with your friends!

A few of the Busy Bag activities: 
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Here are links to several of the activities we received at the Busy Bag party:

Money Saving MomButton Snake

Some What Simple – Wacky Sacks 

The Rigneys – Felt Board and several other ideas!

Intrepid Murmurings – Pasta Sorting

Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers – Texture Boards 

Playful Learning – Chalk Blocks

Wise Bread – Moon Sand

Here are some other Montessori activities we have on our shelf this week, including a holiday activity.  On the top shelf we have two small puzzles, an empty feta cheese container filled with puff balls, a plastic dish filled with holiday mini-clothes pins, several heart shaped cookie cutters, and a block of flower arrangement foam with golf tees and a hammer to stick in the foam.  On the second shelf we have a basket of large foam letters, an old chai container with a hole on top for sticking in q-tips, more puff balls to place in a water color tray, and an empty Odwalla jug with red popsicle sticks to be placed inside.  The bottom shelf has art (a fireman to color), a shape sorting box (Ikea), and blocks.  Whew!

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I enjoy doing shelf work with B.  We sit together on the rug and talk about the activities.  He is very careful to take work down and put it back.  B is 20 months and often does not want to do what I think he should do with the activity – or at least what I had planned.  It’s tough to keep my mouth shut!  I show him the activity and then try and keep quiet.  I try and let him play and explore the material however he wants.  This is as much a learning process for me as for him!  I can NEVER guess what he will find interesting.  That’s also what makes it interesting and challenging for me!

Another favorite activity these days is taking pictures and videos so that B can see himself.  He laughs at himself and asks to see pictures of Nana and Papa (Grandma and Grandpa) on the phone!

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Montessori in the Home – Toddler Activities 18 months

I have been working on our Montessori playroom for MONTHS!  I did the bedroom first but the downstairs area took awhile.  It took time finding a shelf and desk.  I finally bought the shelf at www.alisonsmontessori.com.  I found the Ikea desk and chairs at a consignment sale.  We have been doing activities off the shelf every day now!  Baby B (18 months) loves it and it is so easy to keep neat and clean.  All other activities and toys are stored away and rotated during the night when he’s sleeping.  On the shelf we currently have: a velcro bag filled with ping pong balls, a tray of wooden leaves and small pumpkins, two bottles that are filled with lava lamp oil and have sparkles and beads inside (sealed closed), a small etchy sketchy, a 1/2 size egg carton filled with pom poms, a puzzle, a wooden airplane, a tray with paper and a crayon, a stack of plastic cups, and a basket with colored pipe cleaners (he stick them through the holes).  I also put out a felt board with three fish and the numbers “1” “2” and “3”.  Another favorite is the clean-up basket where I keep a small broom, cloths, sponge, and spray bottle with water.  We practice cleaning up together after he eats at his table, although the dogs get most of it.  He also enjoys his new (used) rocker set up next to his basket of books.  He immediately grabbed a book and started reading while he rocked (it lasted about 2 minutes – but that’s okay!).  We have been working on eating at the small table while fully set.  Usually everything goes okay although it’s messy.  He loves to practice cutting and using the spoon and fork.  The dogs get their fair share of the meal, which they worked very hard for.  Now we just need to tackle potty training!  We just started this week 🙂


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Montessori Open House

I had a great time at our Montessori open house this evening!  Our 16 month old attends Christian Montessori School.  He’s moving from the infant room to the toddler room this year.  Very exciting.  I had so much fun checking out the various shelf work available in both toddler rooms.  As you can see I took lots of pictures!  Can’t wait to try some of the ideas at home.  I loving watching the kids enter a new room and immediately get the concept of working off the shelf.  This shows me that the design is very suitable for toddler learning.  Everything is at their eye level and easily accessible.  Everything is interesting to them.  I enjoy the “supply list” and “wish list” presented by the teachers.  They aren’t our individual, personal supplies.  They are supplies for the whole room.  This makes me feel like I’m part of the school community and involved in his daily activities.  Same with assigning a family to bring snacks each week.  It fosters a sense of family and community.  Looking forward to school on Monday!

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Montessori At Home: Toddler Activities

I’m slowly incorporating Montessori into our home!  It’s sort of addicting!  It’s so much fun that I’m almost obsessed with finding more activities.  There are moms out there doing some pretty cool things with their kids.  You can find neat DIY ideas on Pinterest, YouTube and WordPress – pretty much everywhere.  Moms love to share ideas :).  Here are just a few of my recent favorites: Racheous, JadyMahoganyHomemakerPinterest searches.  So, what are we up to?  This past week has been an explosion of words.  Baby B is 16 months old and this week I have really started to hear a few words clearly.  This week I heard “water”, “itchy”, “out”, “kitty”, “doggie”, “daddy”, “mama” and “moo”.  Everything before sounded like “dadadada”.  He could identify lots of things but I think now he’s getting the hang of language.  I think using sign language helped but that’s another topic.

LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES

Since Baby B is working on words, I created a word display and a word basket.  All things I’ve seen other at-home Montessori moms doing.  Very cool.  I made a place that he could easily see while playing and displayed the word “cow“.  He says “moo” for cow.  After I made the display, we went over it together.  1.) I had the word written out on a dry erase board.  2.) I spelled out cow with magnets.  3.) I put up a picture of a cow.  4.) I displayed a plastic toy cow.  5.)  I let our dog stand in the picture because he looks like a small, baby cow (seriously).  Baby B loved it!  Later when we were talking about a cow he ran over to the display and yelled “moo!”  We are still working on saying cow but that will come.  As long as he loves learning, I’m in!  I also created a word basket (sorry no picture).  I put a few objects in the basket that were common and around the house.  I used a cup, ball, rock and small foam bird.  We sat on a pillow and I showed him each object while I said the word slowly.  He played with them and put them in his mouth.  Then I asked him to find each object I named and hand it to me.  Good time to practice please and thank you.  As you can see, the game can be expanded very easily.  You could talk about colors, numbers, stories and matching.  There are many possibilities.

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SENSORIAL ACTIVITIES:

We are experimenting with homemade play dough this week.  I made a batch of whole wheat play dough.  The recipe was from Elizabeth G. Hainstock’s “Teaching Montessori in the Home.”  That book has lots of great activity ideas.  I borrowed it from the library along with “Teach Me To Do It Myself” by Maja Pitamic.

Play Dough (Clay) pg 84

3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water (with coloring), and 1 T oil

I used whole wheat flour and it turn out fine.  Baby B liked to smash it and pull it apart.  I gave him a small, wooden hammer to pound it.  We also practiced pounding with our hands.  I rolled it into long snake-like strips and let him practice cutting with a toddler knife.  Today I saw him cutting his dinner food so I think it helped!  We also did finger painting with Veggie Baby Finger Paint by Wee Can Too.  I bought this at The Baby Grocery Store along with several healthy snacks.  He loved finger painting and stayed at it much longer than he does with crayons.  He didn’t even try and eat it!  Amazing.  🙂

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Montessori Baby Room Ideas

Here’s a video of our baby’s room that is organized and decorated based on the Montessori philosophy.  Check out the YouTube video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROs3QIeB998.  Don’t laugh!  I’m not good at making movies and I kind of ramble.  🙂

Our one year old attends a Montessori school, although he’s only in the infant room.  Even in the infant room you can see the focus on order, simplicity, and independence.  He seems happy and we like the teachers.  I understand that each Montessori school can be different based on the Head of the School and how they decide to run things.  I think it’s important to like the folks who are in charge since they can determine the learning atmosphere and choose the teachers.  To learn more, I attended a few evening classes about expanding the Montessori philosophy into the home.  I also read Montessori Play and Learn: A Parents Guide to Purposeful Play From Two to Six by Lesley Britton.  Based on my limited study and neophyte knowledge on the subject, the main ideas as I see them are providing children with the opportunity to learn through play, promoting independence, and demonstrating through example a love of learning.  In a Montessori classroom, children can move through curriculum at their own pace and they learn from older students.  There are no rows of desks like most of us remember from school.  Children choose their workspace and they may use a mat or table.

Based on these ideas, I set up our baby (almost toddler room) with a colorful mat in the center of the floor to focus his attention.  Even though he moves all over the room, I lay out new toys for him to play with on the mat.  I spent ALOT of time de-cluttering the room.  This took several attempts.  Eventually I cleared out the closet and put all the toys in the closet.  Then, I pick a few things and displayed them on the empty bookshelf in an organized and easy to access way.  All the book were also put in the closet.  The books that I put out stand upright so that the covers are showing.  I use baskets to group toys together, which is very common in the classroom.  I put pictures at floor level and put out pictures of family.  There is also a plant in the room to bring nature into the home.

Based on these ideas, I set up our baby (almost toddler room) with a colorful mat in the center of the floor to focus his attention.  Even though he moves all over the room, I lay out new toys for him to play with on the mat.  I spent ALOT of time de-cluttering the room.  This took several attempts.  Eventually I cleared out the closet and put all the toys in the closet.  Then, I pick a few things and displayed them on the empty bookshelf in an organized and easy to access way.  All the book were also put in the closet.  The books that I put out stand upright so that the covers are showing.  I use baskets to group toys together, which is very common in the classroom.  I put pictures at floor level and put out pictures of family.  There is also a plant in the room based on the idea of bringing nature into the room.  

I think the room still needs work.  I would like to add some artwork, more family pictures and more plants.  I know that some parents don’t use a crib to encourage independence but I think we’ll wait on that.  I will eventually add hooks on the walls or clothes baskets for him to put clothes for the next day.  Hopefully he’ll learn to get up and get dressed on his own as soon as possible.  I also want to get a stool or string to let him turn the light on and off.  It’s a learning process for us both.  It also takes time to continue to change the room and rotate toys every two weeks or so.  I think, however, that the organized and uncluttered room is much better for him in the long run.  Looking forward to hearing some other ideas!  😉

 


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School Options: Public, Private, Homeschool?

My husband and I have started having long conversations about school.  Is public school or private school better?  Should we move closer to the school we choose?  Should we move to a new school district?  Are social relationships as important or more important than the education provided at the school?  Does the school not matter as long as the parent is involved in education?  What about homeschooling?  What about religious or Christian schools?

My almost one year old is enrolled at a Montessori School.  Since he’s still in the infant room the actual “school” part has not really played a huge part yet.  But even in the infant room the neat, orderly, natural philosophy of the Montessori atmosphere has been amazing.  This school also has a Christian curriculum were the kids learn Bible stories, which seems like a good idea.  The downside is the small size of the school and lack of school directed sports.  There is always the option of community sports.  The school also does not provide high school.  Should a child be at the school they intend to attend for high school as soon as possible?  For example, if you want a child to attend a certain high school, should they start there at pre-K if available?  There is so much to think about.  We going to start by touring schools nearby and talking to parents…blogging about it 🙂

If you are interested in the Montessori philosophy check out these YouTube videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZLq5Uttq8M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqOyLBAzyFs