Sunday Book Club: Awesome nature resource books for school

The weather has changed. There is a crispness in the air suddenly. Talks of school (whether at home or away) have been circulating in our friend circles. With that, the conversation ultimately turns to books. Old ones we pull out of storage and dust off, and new ones that we have passed in book store windows or online that have sparked our interest. 

I am always looking for nature resource books. These books are my greatest love both in my 3-6 classroom and at home. They often have the best quality illustrations, can be used by even the youngest child, and the good ones will keep a child turning the pages for hours. 



Amazing Animal Journeys by Jason Cockroft
Such a beautiful resource of animals that migrate around the world. 


Quentin thought it was hilarious that this book almost matched the Montessori colours for the globe. The beautiful illustrations and simple but interesting text are what drew me in. An excellent book to add to an animal life cycle study or biome study. 


Natural World by Amanda Wood
This book should be on every shelf, in every school, everywhere. It has been celebrated in good book circles around the world and I was lucky enough to find it at our tiny library. This will be one that we purchase for Quentin’s Montessori home space. 


It’s attention to detail is superb. It carefully uses coloured tabs to classify subjects into 3 areas. The introduction page speaks for itself. 


We have been using it with our August nature study of a pond, but it will have far more applications in the months and even years to come. This book will last us long after Quentin has left the 3-6 classroom. It is suitable for a child 3-12 years. 


Quentin loves that it has included penguins.

Are you looking for good quality resource books to fill your learning space? Ones with beautiful illustrations or photos mixed with the right amount of information will keep them coming back for years to com. 

Summer Road Trip Part 2: Our travel activities 


Summer road trips are such amazing opportunities for adventure and learning. But they can also be stressful. Hot and long, both parents and children soon find themselves tired and irritable. To avoid this we plan our trips carefully and think about how we can minimize the stress. We also think about safety. 

Our road speeds in Canada vary, but they are usually set around 100 kilometres an hour. That means everything in the car is travelling at 100kms an hour. Loose objects in the car can become dangerous weapons even at much slower speeds. Plastics shatter as easily as glass and books hit as hard as boulders. So when packing things for Quentin to do in the car, we always put safety first. 

Our number one pick is the small iPod Suffle with volume limiting, child sized headphones. We put lots of his favourite music and some audio books on there. It is small, compact and easy to use. Quentin will often only do this on long trips. He is content to sit and listen. 


“Busy Books” are another favourite. Sewing, matching games and felt dress up figures. This one was made for us as a gift. 

A small soft covered Moleskine note book and our Lyra Ferby pencils are another favourite. He can draw, or just make notes. 

He keeps everything including some water in a water bottle in the little backpack shown here. The pack keeps his things contained, in a soft shell and he takes each out one at a time to work. 

We also talk. About what we see, the things we are going to do etc. 

Even with activities, small children still need to stretch their legs. So we make sure to plan stops. Things that will enrich our trip, give Quentin an opportunity to run around and just have some fun. We Follow the Child. Quentin can usually go 1.5-2 hours in the car without stopping. If your child needs more frequent stops, respect that by giving their little bodies what they need. 


For Quentin it’s penguins. If we are near our closest aquarium (which we almost never are) we always stop. 


Then there’s the hotels. They must have a pool, for night time cooling off before bed. When we get there, we make sure it’s a big comfy bed for him to lay out on. A bed he gets all to himself. We let him bounce, make forts and just, well, just be a kid. 

Summer Road Trip Part 1: Food Planning to ensure Peace in the car 

What images come to mind when someone mentions road trip to you? Majestic countryside? Vast, salty seaside? Beautiful sunsets? 

Yes, and also bored, fighting, overstimulated children. 

To minimize this last image, we plan ahead. Pick some interesting stops to break up the drive and most importantly back a cooler. 


I’m always surprised when I get asked why a normally calm and happy child is suddenly hyper, angry, or destructive. My first response is always (like in any Montessori situation) to observe child (or adult!).

Did you confine a small child to a tight space for extended periods of time? Did you feed them packaged, processed, fatty or sweet foods? 

Taking the time to prepare wholesome, delicious food will keep everyone happy during the long hours while ensuring no one is reading nutrition labels, worrying about fat content or trying to decipher the chemical list. 

Back row: Coconut Chia yogurt, fresh cut veg, fruit and nut couscous, green salads
Front row: Raw energy bites, fresh fruit, organic cheese, banana choc. chip muffins. 

Sunday Book Club: Best Summer Exploration Books

With Autumn and Back to School looming just around the corner, we are compelled to spend as much time as we can outside. 

I love picture books that ask children to think outside the box. To be open minded, to try something new. All of these books do that. From finding wild in unexpected places, to bears trying new things. From finding an unlikely new friend to looking at the ordinary in an extraordinary way. 

These books invite a child to look at the world with awe and wonder. Two big, important words in the Montessori world. 

As an after note: “Explorers of the Wild” is written in the first person. Think hard about which of the Explorers it is. That is the genius of this book. We are more alike than different. 
Book info:

Summer Activities: Pond Exploration 

Quentin and I are finally off on holidays together. I had wanted to find a little nature project he might enjoy. 

We are lucky enough to have the Pacific on our doorstep, but we also have a few fresh water spots around. I found this fantastic nature study and wanted to try it with Quentin. August is about pond exploration. 


An inexpensive net, a clear plastic container for observation and a notepad for recording and you’re set. It’s easy for a young child to scoop the water, and examine their finds. 


Montessori always advocates for reality based experiences before abstract ones. Being able to go and actually see the ecosystem of the pond helped solidify concepts for him. 

He compares his findings to the reference book. 

It was a lovely way to spend a morning and as we carefully put the contents of the tub back, he made plans to return. 

Sunday Book Club: The Forest Feast for Kids

 

“You are what you’re eating ate” – Chef Dan Barber

We love to give our our boys new experiences. We love to see them try new things and make something come together from nothing. 

There is no easier way to do that, than in the kitchen. 

We also believe the above quote to be completely true, and so whenever we can, we seek out delicious, real, whole foods, that fuel both their heads and their hearts. 

That is why, when I stumbled onto this cookbook for kids I fell in love with it before I ever actually held it. Before I ever turned the pages. 


The pages are beautiful and clearly laid out. 


I love that there are some preliminary things to cover first. 


We don’t have a hand blender but found it wasn’t essential, although it would have been helpful. 


The recipes ranged from Quentin being able to do them completely independently, to us enjoying working together. All of them were simple, healthy foods that were delicious and easy to make. 

I can’t say enough good things. This is simply a must have book. 

Our Child Sized Kitchen: A history


Of all the questions I recieve about Montessori, our little kitchen gets more questions than anything else. So, I decided I’d better put all the details in one place.

We bought this IKEA kitchen for Quentin for his first Christmas. An odd gift to give a premature 8 month old yes, but he had just started to wean, and we knew it would be perfect in the upcoming years. 

There is nothing more important in Montessori than respect for the child, and with that, there is no greater respect than the Prepared Environment. 

Somewhere that is their own. Somewhere they can keep their things independently, neatly and in a reachable space. 


This picture was first featured here. It is our first set up of the kitchen. It houses Quentin’s tiny porcelain weaning glasses, first dishes and some fun yet practical kitchen tools that waited for the day he could use them. 

Just like when we set up his Care of Self area in the bathroom featured here, we set up the kitchen far earlier than he could use it. The Absorbent Mind of a child is always watching. A parent or teacher needs only to model the behaviour consistently for the child to start mimicking it on their own. He watched us remove his dishes, return them, clear his dirty ones to the tiny sink. And so it wasn’t long before he was doing it independently. 


Here he is just after turning one. At this point it was mostly exploration. But it quickly became more. 


I wrote a post here about our essential kitchen tools. Although we have added many more now, these 6 are still our important ones. These are the ones that get used everyday.  Providing your child with real working tools is critical in Montessori. This has never been a play kitchen. He slices, chops, pours, strains and peels real food. Some may become alarmed at the thought of small children using sharp knives and tools. However, it is extremely important children be given the trust from an early age. There must be many lessons on safety, concentration, and use. These don’t simply come because you tell your child to be careful and then hand over a knife. Modelling, many experiences and dialogue with a parent are needed. 


Here he is just before two years old washing his dishes. A small liquid soap dispenser and dish to hold a sponge (half the size) allowed him complete independence at an early age. We installed hooks beside the kitchen to keep his aprons within easy reach. Many of our kitchen accessories came from Montessori Services

We don’t have plumbing on this wall. The cost of installing plumbing was completely unreasonable when he will only use the kitchen for less than 7 or 8 years. We drilled a hole in the bottom of the plastic sink and he uses a flat plug. He fills the sink with warm water from a pitcher and when done, pulls the plug and it emptied into a bowl inside on the shelf at that time. It now drains out a little hose and into a bucket that he empties. 

These were all the first skills he required. His kitchen has evolved over time so that now, at four it includes cooking with heat. 


A small electric skillet allows him to cook a variety of things. Above a veggie burger for his lunch. Below he’s making scrambled eggs for our dinner. 


I’ll get the disclaimer out of the way now: He is capable, but he is still young. Whenever Quentin is using heat or a sharp blade, I always have both eyes and my full attention on him. His independence and his safety are my responsibility.

So, how does one replicate this? It’s like anything else you would put on your child’s Montessori shelves. This is a process of many steps. Start small, with one task at at time. If they don’t put away their own dishes now, they are not ready to cook independently. 

Modelling is key. Show them how to wash dishes, cut fruit, peel vegetables. This is joyful work to children. Not chores. 

Keep the environment based in reality. If you truly want them to do Practical Life kitchen work, the kitchen must be real. There must be a useable surface space. There must be a useable sink. 

There are so many play kitchens on the market. Brightly coloured ones with flashing lights or sounds, and media characters. These along with play food, toy utensils and the lack of water and heat will confuse the child ultimately setting them up for failure. 

If you truly want them to succeed, look for a kitchen that you would love to use. 

Please feel free to leave questions or comments and I will do my best to answer them.