Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog

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Montessori Trays: Why they work

What’s up with the trays?  The first thing you will probably notice about a Montessori-inspired home or Montessori classroom is the TRAYS.  In our home, I use whatever is available – wooden trays, wooden bowls, woven baskets, plastics serving dishes, etc – usually picked up at a consignment shop like Goodwill.

I didn’t really understand the purpose of the trays until my three-year old had friends over who pulled everything off our shelves and threw things on the floor.  We actually didn’t mind but Boaz busily put everything back into their correct places.  Order and placement is ingrained into his habits and nature.

His learning experience begins when he enters the room.  How are things organized?  How are they grouped together?  The next challenge – can he pick up the tray with the activity and carry to his table or the floor to play?  This requires balance, coordination, and focus.  When he’s done, can he put it back without dropping it before getting a new activity?  Again – focus, attention, patience.

Don’t give up before they start!  At first, they may throw things on the floor.  After awhile they understand the process.  And this process – organizing toys and activities on shelves with trays or other containers – makes clean up quicker!  It also promotes continual learning development from the minute they enter the room.  That’s why we love Montessori trays!

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Just ONE Box

If you could keep just ONE box of toys or activities for your child, what would you keep?  I’m not talking about the essentials, like clothes, food, diapers, etc.  I’m talking about the extra things that keep our kids busy, usually called “toys” but not necessarily.  Some people need to make serious decisions about what to grab from their house, such as in the case of a fire, flood, or tornado.  But at that point, you aren’t thinking about toys as much as family momentos or essentials.  Luckily, I did not experience such a dire situation.  I did, however, find myself in a situation where I could only bring one box of toys for my toddler with us on a trip.  And they had to last us for about 3 months (and a few long car trips).  My husband is working on a 13 week project in NY city and I decided we (B and me) should go too.  That meant leaving our big house for a tiny apartment in the city.  What could I bring to keep my toddler busy for 3 months when I only had room in the car for only ONE medium size box of toys?  I had time to plan but in the end time didn’t matter.  I ended up waiting until everything else was packed and we were actually getting into the car to leave before I packed the toddler “toy” box.  I picked a few things (the educational activities) and let B choose the rest.  We are one and a half weeks into our trip and so far so good.

Here is a link to my YouTube video where you can see what we decided to bring.  It’s not much!

What would you bring for your kids if you could only take ONE box?  What are your children’s favorite toys or activities?  Have you ever had a similar experience?

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Montessori Finds on Etsy

We are enjoying our Montessori toys found on Etsy!  All the handmade toys from Essential Montessori look amazing!  I bought the tic tac toe board with apples for B.  He’s having fun just feeling them.  We’ll eventually play the game but for now we just sort and place them.  I can’t wait for a baby shower so that I can get the mobile and baby gift set!










B has also enjoyed his Wormy Apple from The Elephant Playthings.  This was a great introduction to lacing.  B figured it out right away and has been very engrossed with the activity all day.  The wood is very pretty and smooth.  The apple is just the right size for B’s hands.  The wooden sewing “needle” and string are durable and well attached.  Nice purchase mom!  Thanks you’re awesome!  (The only praise I will get.)

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Merry Christmas Montessori Style!

Merry Christmas!  We had a wonderful morning opening presents with family.  This year was special because it was B’s first Christmas were he actually understood the concept of opening presents.

With all the gifts under the tree, an empty paper towel roll can be just as fun!  Goes to show the power of DIY activities.











Christmas Montessori-style in our home means most of the gifts are put away after an initial romp and brought out slowly as part of the regular toy circulation.  After opening presents Christmas morning, B became tired and overwhelmed by all the new toys and quickly fell asleep before lunchtime.  At just under 2 years old, he is sensitive to order and simplicity.  Me too!  Everything was cleaned up and put away before he got up from his nap and he didn’t mind one bit.  The old(er) activities were just as fun.  A few of the new trucks made an appearance later in the day but only one new toy at a time.  This helps minimize messes and allows B to clean up his own mess without getting overwhelmed.

On our shelf this week we had a couple of holiday inspired activities.  I pulled out some wooden Christmas mice that were fun to line up and organize by size.  We talked about the concepts of “large”, “medium”, and “small”.  I gave B a box filled with balls and he practiced opening the clasp.  B also enjoyed sorting the red and green popsicle sticks that I had stuck in a small stocking.  His new toys included a Brio train set, Tinker toys, a wooden truck, two battery-powered trucks, and puzzles.  I think that was everything.  His stocking had stickers, plastic bugs and lizards (for counting) and a book shaped liked a truck.  Christmas afternoon we went to a park to play.  By 6pm B was asleep again!  He normally goes to bed around 7:30 pm or 8 pm.  All the stimulation of Christmas wore him out!  Me too!

What are your holiday family traditions?  Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?  Stockings?  Have traditions changed as kids got older?  Favorite Montessori-inspired ideas for the holidays?  I’d love to hear from you!  Happy Holidays!!

Here are some other links to Montessori-inspired holiday activities:

Montessori Home – 5 Great Montessori Ideas to do with Your Children 

Racheous – Holiday Hop

Pinterest Holiday Board by Missmatchedcows

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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 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: 














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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Main Street Children’s Museum in Rock Hill, South Carolina

Baby B and I enjoyed visiting the children’s museum in Rock Hill.  We went last week when it was rainy and we couldn’t go outside.  Rock Hill is about 35 minutes south of Charlotte along highway 77.  The museum is right in the downtown area so there is plenty of parking.  The museum there is smaller than Discovery Kids in Huntersville, North Carolina but there is still lots to do.  Their website has a good picture ( and I have provided some below.  Baby B really enjoyed the play-kitchen.  He’s 14 months but I think there was more stuff geared towards older kids.  He’s just getting to the age where he wants to sit in a small chair and maybe sit along enough even to eat!  We are practicing using a kid fork.  Baby B also like the kid-size broom and the wooden train.  There’s a wooden train at the Barnes & Noble in Birkdale Village, so he was used to that toy.  The museum also included a tree house, a ship, dress-up clothes, and fun pulley.  In the end, I have to admit that Baby B probably most liked the kid-size toilet although her refused to sit on it.  He just liked flushing it!

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Busy Bag Ideas – Easy to Make Toddler Toys

Last week I attended my first Busy Bag party!  It’s a great idea.  One mom hosted the party at her house and the other moms brought homemade toddler/baby toy for all the other moms.  So, I made 8 puff ball containers – one for each mom at the party.  Each mom presented their toys to the group and then passed them out.  I left the party with 7 new toddler/baby handmade toys.  Pretty cool!  All the moms were REALLY proud of their toys and we all loved sharing what we had made.  We plan to do it again and use new toy ideas.  There are lots of ideas online.  Below are two that we have enjoyed so far.  I made the first one – the puff ball container.  I always save all my yogurt and butter containers, so I actually had 10 of them in the cupboard.  I knew they would come in handy at some point.  Baby B loves it!!  The second one is cut up pool noodles on a rope!  Baby B loves to pull them off but hasn’t figured how to put them back on the rope.  He’s only 14 months 🙂  You should be careful about your baby or toddler eating either the foam noodle or the small puff balls.  They shouldn’t be left alone with the toys.  You can use these toys to teach numbers, colors, and math concepts like adding and subtracting.  Have fun!



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