The Montessori 3-6 Prepared Environment has a large component focused on Culture.
This section of the environment encompasses many things but it’s aim is to slowly and gently introduce the child to the world around them. This is the very first step of Montessori Peace Education.
This week’s book (which can be found here) is awesome in many ways. It showcases 12 animals and their characteristics. It acts as a tool for adults working with children to create mindfulness and open ended discussions about how these descriptions relate to them. It can also be use in dramatic games for children to act out each of the characteristics of the animals.
However most importantly (and this is where the Montessori Culture aspect ties in) it exposes children to another people’s culture. Each of the animals described by young people in the book, is a totem animal or “doodem” in the Anishinaabe First Nations tradition.
The author’s note explains the importance of totem animals in the Anishinaabe culture and how they can act as guides for young children.
The importance of differences and ultimately our similarities between our cultures and our communities has always been strong. However perhaps it is even more important in today’s world.
If you are looking for books that speak to tolerance, understanding and knowledge there are many excellent ones for children. Speak to your local librarian, teacher or bookshop owner for ideas.
With the holidays finished we are back into our normal rhythms. That of course, means it’s Book Club time and this week’s books are gorgeous must haves for any Montessori home’s Non-Fiction Research/Reference section.
The first book found here is absolutely stunning. It’s done in a completely different way then I have seen before and covers everything in its two page spreads from tigers in the Siberian snow, to humpback whales off the coast of Chile.
The pictures are modern, clean lined and yet have so much detail. We are absolutely in love.
The second, companion activity book found here is equally gorgeous. Sectioned into the continents it is a perfect at home workbook for any geography lover. So much to colour on each page and a large wall map and stickers are included.
We purchased these books for a young Montessori friend’s 4th birthday, however on seeing their beauty and the ability to use them over the years with Quentin, I decided to order copies for our own reference materials shelf.
Like anything else in our minimalist home featured here, we choose books extremely mindfully especially when purchasing them. Here are some of our “rules” for purchasing non-fiction books that fit with both a minimalist lifestyle but also (and much more importantly) a Montessori lifestyle:
- Books must be reality and science based
- Books must be able to hold a child’s interest today, tomorrow and next year
- Purchase a small range without duplicating a subject. We don’t need 20 penguin books. A really good one will last years and we can supplement the rest from the public library, although really we shouldn’t need to.
Books about the world around us are some of the most important you can share with a child. A child is never too young to be exposed to that world.
The first Day of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on the year past. It was an amazing one for children’s literature and it was extremely hard narrowing down our favourites.
A note to anyone new joining us, we only review books we have actually read cover to cover and enjoy having in our home. These are books we truly have loved and not simply seen on another “best of” list.
When we finally came to a decision, these were our favourites of 2016:
Sleep Tight Farm is my favourite on this list. It is everything I look for in a children’s book. Beautiful simple pictures that fit the rhythm of the story, which is in this case, the simple act of slowing down and bundling up for Winter. A gorgeous book that fit in perfectly to our family’s Solstice celebration, this book is suitable from 2 years old and up and would be loved by any budding farmer or family looking to capture the spirit of the season.
The Wish Tree follows a day in the life of Charles a boy looking to find the tree and tie a wish to its branches but ends up being delayed along the way. It is a book of Grace and Courtesy and it’s author is one of our favourites whose other works can be found here.
A Child of Books is so simple and yet so stunning. The artwork is the masterpiece here. If you haven’t read it, you must go and find a copy. We feel it fits so well with the Montessori philosophy, and it’s message is for both young and old alike.
The Darkest Dark was a Solstice gift for Quentin this year and combines our family’s love of science, space and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. It’s about a boy overcoming his fear and following his dreams. Perfect for any parent and child who have struggled through the bedtime routine.
If you are looking to add some Montessori friendly fiction to your child’s bookshelf, here are our tips:
- Reality based over fantasy for under 6. Children under six are still making sense of the world. They crave real experiences and being exposed to books they can relate to is incredibly important for normal social and neurological development.
- Look for descriptive language. Rhythm, rhymes and rich language build a child’s language bank. If you want them to have a large bank of vocabulary, they must first be exposed to it.
- Awe and Wonder. Just like in our Non Fiction post, these two words are the most important when looking for materials to fill your Montessori space. A book should grab a child and suck them in. It should feed not only their mind, but their soul.
We absolutely adore good quality non fiction books in this house. Ones that are gathered carefully and mindfully have the opportunity to last for years.
This year was an excellent one for children’s books both fiction and non fiction and it was hard to narrow down our top choices, but nevertheless, here they are:
Atlas of Oddities has loads of interesting facts such as Metallica was the first band to play live on Antarctica. The modern clean pictures that accompany the facts are perfect for us. With so much detail, yet easily laid out, this book will last us years.
Shackleton’ Journey is excellent and geared towards the 6-12 Second Plane, but it also suits one particular four year old boy who loves penguins. A story of the epic journey in detail, the drawings open up deeper conversations, and give an opportunity to expand learning.
Insect Emporium is the perfect addition to anyone’s Nature Table. The drawings are gorgeous and there is just enough info to intrigue a 3-6 year old without overwhelming them. It is a must for insect lovers both adult and child alike.
Hello Atlas holds the illustrations of on of our favourite artists Kenard Pak. This is our absolute favourite non fiction this year. This book focuses on the language differences of peoples and cultures around the world. However it is in that focus that the reader learns just how similar we all are and that really all it takes is just a friendly hello to a stranger. An extremely important message going into 2017.
If you are looking for Montessori friendly non fiction books here are some hints:
- Realistic, science based and age appropriate are paramount features
- Beauty like anything else in the Montessori environment is important. Choose books that are beautifully laid out.
- Awe and Wonder are some of the most important words in the Montessori world. Choose books that invoke both awe and wonder not just in the child, but in yourself.
I have been excitedly waiting for this week to arrive. The week when I would finally get my hands on the masterpiece of an old friend.
A story of a small traveller and his adventures through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The illustrations are her own and each is carefully taken from her own photographs of her real life adventure.
Each page is rich and full of detail. Quentin loved learning the names of the different places and his questions led to us pulling out one of his maps and exploring further.
Amberlea and I grew up in the same small town. We’ve each travelled the world on our own adventures. We now live in two similar cities but on the opposite sides of this big country, raising our own babies. This book invokes both a sense of adventure but also (especially for me) that overwhelming feeling of gladness upon returning home.
Her book and other beautiful works, can be found here.
“Winter was made for warm blankets and large books”
We love giving books. They are such a simple gift but the benefits last a child their lifetime.
There are some absolutely fantastic non fiction books out there for children.
Here are some of our favourites.
Animalium by Katie Scott Gorgeous illustrations and facts, the animals are classified into the kingdoms. This book is stunning. Each image could be framed to go on the wall. It’s great for 3-6 Montessori children and it’s essential for 6-9 Montessori children.
Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska Perfect for a a geography lover. So much information on countries around the world including landmarks, peoples and animals. An ideal book for 3-6 year old geography lovers or anyone wanting to bring the study of the world into their homes.
Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman Our absolute favourite and go to book for our Nature Study Wednesdays and any time we want to look something up. If you had to choose only one off this list, this would be it.
Natural World a Compendium by Amanda Wood This one was new to us this year and we couldn’t be more thrilled. So much information on the different animal kingdoms, biomes and everything else you would want to know. This is an amazing book and we love looking at it, but it’s full use won’t be realized until the 6-9 age range. However, it is a book that will definitely hold its value for us and I like that it has the ability to stay on our book shelf for years to come.
Body: An amazing tour of human anatomy This book was Anthony’s. It’s been in our house for 12 years. It is excellent for close up detail of all internal and external human anatomy. We love that it has see through film pages that overlap to see seperate systems and organs.
Books are so easy to give. If you want to give a Montessori friendly non fiction book here are the most important guidelines:
- Good quality. A child should be able to return again and again
- Reality and scientific based. The information should be current, scientifically backed and non biased
If you have favourites not listed here please let us know. We would love to feature them
I love a good Autumnal picture book.
Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland and Ella MacKay
This has been one of our favourites for a while and it’s always a little bittersweet for me pulling it out of storage. It means that Summer has gone.
So, on this our Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought instead of feeling wistful, I would share it with you and welcome in Autumn.
Elly MacKay’s paper dioramas are stunning as always. What we love about this book is that the text is simple but pared well with more detailed information such as the migration of geese, weather patterns and the shortening daylight.
A good book for costing up under a blanket with.
“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.” – Maria Montessori
This book intrigued me the second I saw it. Many in the Montessori world but too strong of an importance on the indoor environment, and not nearly enough of an importance on the outdoor one.
The Introduction of the book speaks so exellently to this that I thought I would simply quote it instead of trying to add to it.
“Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where we can find peace and wonder. It is not limited by time nor confined by walls, and even today we can not control it completely. It is much larger and older than we are, and its rhythms resonate deep within us. Nature is where we are from and where we belong, and our survival is intricately linked to its existence. For children it is the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, it’s creatures of all shapes and sizes, its abundant plants, some edible, others toxic. Nature offers a myraid of opportunities for risk taking, for a wealth of learning and entertainment, and for freedom, seperate from the adult world.”
Pretty amazing stuff.
There are four sections: Nature Explorers, Forest Arts, Survival Skills and Wildlife Team games. Each of the activities clearly lays out what is needed and what the minimum age suggestion is.
The cover recommends this book for ages 3-11 and I would have to agree, although I could easily see doing this with teens such as expanding on the “Building Shelters” and “Sleeping Bear” activities.
Such an amazing book for schools and homes looking to expand on their Nature Studies and to just get out and explore the natural world around us.
“The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and claws. . .”
They All Saw a Cat is an fantastic new release about how different animals see the world. From a bird’s eye view to a skunk’s view of a black and white world, each animal sees the cat differently.
So beautiful, fun and educational. There is also a deeper message. We each see the world slightly differently. But it is the same beautiful world. We can embrace our differences and be mindful of everyone’s unique view.
We love being submersed in nature. There are so many beautiful experiences to offer to a child, by simply being out in nature.
Collecting treasures from our trips as well as memories came naturally and with that came the need for a place to store everything.
Nature journalling can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. We chose the simpler side and I enlisted some help.
This book came highly recommended and I’m so glad we got it. It is gorgeous, takes us through every stage and sets the bar high for our future journalling to strive to.
The pages are beautiful enough for both Quentin and I to just flip through and discuss. From flowers to animals to landscapes we have poured over its pages.
My hope is that Quentin may decide to use this independently as he gets older and it will certainly hold out for him if he does.