Our favourite Montessori friendly Spring gifts

March 20th, the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere is a big deal at our house. 

Spring. New leaves, new life and warmer weather. There are also so many beautiful cultural traditions and celebrations around this time of year. 

Like all holidays, we as adults tend to want to give the children in our lives “all the things”. But as we mentioned here, it is the experience a child seeks, not the stuff. 

And so, we as Montessorians (and as aspiring minimalists) try to advocate for spring holiday gifts that facilitate a child’s imagination, curiosity and sense of wonder. 


We love making these adorable Pom Pom rabbits found here. The Montessori side of me loves the fine motor hand movements required. Scissor practice is also great Practical Life activity for toddlers and up. Crafting with a child is a beautiful way to spend a day. 


A beautifully curated “basket” of new kitchen gadgets and baking supplies found here, invites a budding chef into the kitchen for shared baking time with a loved one. 


This sweet little set from Montessori Services with a few packets of seeds tucked in is perfect for toddlers. Spending time in the backyard together and watching your garden grow is such a lovely way to connect with a child. 


A DIY Nature explorer kit (or a purchased kit from here) is one of our absolute favourite gifts to give. The gift of nature is a powerful one to give a child. One whose benefits will last a lifetime. We love these postcards by Playful Learning to tuck into our exploring kits. 


And then, there’s simply the act of giving nothing at all. Of instead being mindful of what has been given to us, and sharing that love of all things new and bright and green with a child. 

Because that’s what they really want. Not our stuff, but our time. 

Montessori Geography for the 3-6 year old child

The prepared environment whether indoors or out is where a Montessori child finds Awe and Wonder. The beauty of the environment sucks them in and doesn’t let go. 

The Culture section of this environment is my absolute favourite. It is diverse, centres around Peace Education, and opens a child’s eyes to the world around them. 

We have been using the materials of Waseca Biomes for years. ​

They are detailed, diverse and above all beautiful. 

The Seasons Mat and Celebration Sun was an early favourite. Not just for birthdays but also to learn the months and seasons  of the the year. 


We recently purchased the Landforms Mat and we have been continuing the work Quentin has done in his 3-6 classroom with the landforms. It is an awesome material because it brings the landforms together in a holistic way while gently moving into the abstract. Quentin loves following the prompts from the Level One cards such as “Fly, drive or sail to a body of water surrounded by land on 3 sides. Above he chose to move his sailboat to the Peninsula. There is a Level Two set and Level Three set included so this material will be relevant to him for years to come. 

We love these materials so much that we wanted to share them with other families. 

  
We are giving away this full set of the Africa Savannah Theatre Mat. It includes the theatre, grammar card set, animal tracks rubber stamps and sequence cards. 


To enter head over to our Instagram or Facebook accounts. 
We are so thrilled at the thought of a child being awed by this gorgeous material. 

Sunday Book Club: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Spring is just around the corner for so many of us that here, we have had the garden on our minds. 
We love this book. It is perfect for connecting to what’s going on in our own garden behind the scenes. 


The illustration style is one of my favourites. Simple, clean and clear and yet with a bit of whimsy all done in a soft colour pallet. Each page offers the child so many things to discover. 


Children love to watch things grow. If you’ve never considered growing vegetables before why not try this year? Many of the veggies shown in this book can be started as seed on a window ledge and Montessori children love Care of the Environment activities like misting tiny seedlings. 

Something new on the shelf and a surprise

It’s no surprise that I am absolutely in love with good quality, Montessori friendly culture materials. In fact I would cautiously argue that the Culture section of the 3-6 Montessori classroom is perhaps the most important of all the 5 areas.

So, when I saw that Waseca Biomes had just release their final Biome mat I couldn’t resist, because it also just happens to be the thing Quentin is madly in love with. 

We have loved Waseca Biomes for years after we first purchased their Celebration Sun and Seasons mat (you can seen Quentin using it here). We also use their Primary Level Introduction to the Biomes Curriculum (offered for free download here) but we hadn’t yet purchased any of their Biome mat materials (found here). That all changed when I saw the Antartica set. 


The cloth mat is extremely detailed. The 2 Part Card set it comes with matches exactly and Quentin had no trouble finding the place on the map with the drawing on the card as a guide. 

He loved reading all the cards to find the correct names and places. It was something he can do independently however even emergent readers could match many of the names simply by looking at the letter patterns, and the picture offer the control of error. Here he is double checking a particularly tricky name. 


The Ross Sea however, he knew. “That’s were penguins are Mama.”


The command cards that come with the set are divided into 3 levels of difficulty. Quentin does well with the first level and I’m glad that there is room for growth. As with all our materials, to help keep our home as minimalistic and clutter free as possible, we look for items that won’t just be used today, but for years to come. 

The Antarctica Portfolio seen in the second picture is a perfect companion. I will post separately on it as we delve into its activities but it is something that will be perfect for a geography and animal lover like Quentin. At 4 years old and a strong reader for his age, he can use the Set One card materials independently, only occasionally stumbling on a longer word. Because of this I feel the entire Antarctica set could be used with a 3 year old in an adult lead situation and increasingly independently from 4 years old. 

As a side note I laminated all the card materials because I will also use this in my 3-6 Montessori classroom, and I need the cards to stand up to 20 pairs of small hands, however if we were simply going to use it at home, I think I would have left them unlaminated.

This is a long weekend where we live and it has given Quentin extra time to explore with his penguins on the mat. I’m certain he will enjoy it for years to come. 
As an added bonus Waseca Biomes is offering free shipping on their products for US customers until March 12th, 2017 and free shipping of the Biome Portfolios at any time.

Oh yes, and the surprise. 

Waseca Biomes has graciously offered to sponsor our giveaway of one of their larger materials sets! The details will be announced at the end of February but we are so thankful to them and also very excited to extend this giveaway to all of our followers worldwide including free worldwide shipping on behalf of us. 
“The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown by attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea, of greatly ennobling inspiration” – Maria Montessori 

February Nature Study: Weather 

“This is the time to immerse children in the stuff of the physical and natural world. Constructing forts, creating small imaginary worlds, hunting and gathering, following streams and pathways, making maps, gardening and shaping the earth are all perfect activities at this stage.” – David Sobel


I love sharing the wonders of the natural world with a child. Even in the Winter there are so many interesting things you can open their eyes to. 

This month we are studying weather. We were fortunately blessed with a freak snow storm earlier this week and as the flakes continued, we decided to pack a picnic and head out to one of the beautiful beaches in our area to observe the rare weather pattern first hand. 


The best part about studying nature is that it is low cost and extremely accessible, even in more populated areas. 

We keep a well fitted backpack for Quentin stocked with a water bottle, a note pad and pencil, some small collection containers and a magnifying glass. These things are nice to have but aren’t necessary. The most important thing is as always to follow the child. We stop when something has caught his eye like these small stone structures stacked by someone else enjoying the beach at some point this winter. 


Most of the beaches here are tumbled rock. We find a quiet and sheltered place under the overhang of the forest, open our picnic and watch the waves. Tides are something Quentin has experienced living next to the Pacific but we haven’t gone into detail about them yet with him. The constant crash of the waves is something he is aware of but that’s where his interest stops. Instead, we watch the snow gently fall and talk about water vapour and clouds and catch snowflakes on our tongues. I have remembered to bring our pocket microscope purchased here and we examine some of the flakes. So much detail in just a tiny flake. 

Nature Study is an excellent winter boredom buster. Properly bundled, going outside for even just a few minutes to collect snow for melting crafts, feeding the birds or following tracks will help children connect with the natural world in all seasons and also help them build strong memories with you. 

Sunday Book Club: The Journey

Continuing with our theme of knowledge, understanding and tolerance from last week, The Journey was recommended to us by our friend and passionate Montessori teacher Ashley Speed of Diamond Montessori

It is a story of a family forced to leave everything behind, a mother’s courage and bravery guiding her children through an often scary unknown and ultimately it is a story of hope. 

Told from a child’s perspective, the beautiful modern images open up further discussion while reading. It is a great read for a child 6 and up or anyone looking to get a small glimpse into the struggles of refugee families. 

January Nature Study: Moon phases & constellations 

January was all about looking up into the night sky. We gathered some simple DIY materials and borrowed some books from the library. I love it when nature studies are simple. No special materials required, although sometimes they are nice to have. It’s really just about appreciating what’s around you. 


We use this book for our monthly nature study. I made some constellation tiles with some inexpensive wooden discs from our big box craft store, my electric drill and a fine tip marker. Quentin loved shining the light through the holes to make the constellations appear on the walls. It was a truly hands on experience for him and he quickly learned the name of some of the constellations. 


I set out an art invitation of making constellations with some watercolour paint and paper, a straw and a black crayon. Quentin greatly dislikes product art and it is not recommended for children under 8 years of age. Instead, its all about the process. The invitation held the prepared materials and he chose where to put his paint, how to blow the paint through the straw to get the affect he wanted, how to connect them and most importantly when he was finished. He sat for a moment looking at it, then went to get his Orion disc and found they were similar. 


This book was absolutely fantastic as an introduction to the stars. It gave a brief history of how each constellation got its name and Quentin loves turning off the lights to see the book glow in the dark. 


We used our beautiful Moon Phases cards from the unbelievably talented Alice Cantrell to learn some new vocabulary and interesting facts. 

Lastly we bundled up, packed a warm blanket and a thermos of hot cocoa and went out into the night to observe the differences in the moon phases and the brilliance found when we stop a minute and stare up at the night sky. 

Sunday Book Club: Sometimes I feel like a Fox

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. 

A Montessori Home: Organization, Storage, Toy Rotation and how to live a minimalist lifestyle with kids

It’s a new year. I always get the deep need to declutter and purge after the holidays. I also get asked frequently about what living a minimalist life looks like with 2 kids. So I thought I would get at least some of the details down. 

Before I start, I wanted to state that living as a minimalist looks different to everyone. Our way of doing it may not be right for another family, but it is definitely right for us. 

Most importantly living minimally also means living mindfully. We think about our home and lifestyle in a very concrete way. We think about what we want to convey to our children. What do we want them to remember about their childhood? What do we want them to remember about us? Thinking about those questions is the first step to decluttering your life. 

Step One: Self organization 


The most important part of the Montessori Prepared Environment is the adult. The entire environment depends on us as the guide to observe, and prepare it to fully meet the needs of the child. Here is this week’s pages in my bullet journal. To ensure privacy I have selected this upcoming week before things get scribbled in and filled up. Keeping a bullet journal is directly linked to my own mindfulness and therefore my sanity. This little book and our big wipeable monthly calendar on the fridge are where we write everything down. 

Step Two: Material storage & organization 


This is it. As you can see, there isn’t a lot. This is where some of the minimalism comes in. The most common misconception I see on Facebook and Pinterest is that Montessori is about the materials. In short, about the stuff. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Montessori is actually about the child. The pedagogy was originally designed for people who had nothing. Not having everything is a very good lesson to teach not only our children, but also (perhaps more importantly) ourselves. 

Another misconception is that there is a difference between toys and materials. This often allows for the excuse that we need “all the things” because they are learning materials. Yet in Montessori, learning is joyful work and purposeful play. Your child sees no difference between a material and a toy. 

Your child doesn’t need fancy teaching time clocks, balancing beams, sensory boards etc. Instead a few good quality materials offering a range of experiences are key. 

The same rule applies to “shelf work” as does in Practical Life. We don’t give them pretend food, we let them chop carrots. Why then would we give them pretend experiences? Instead, bundle them up and go out for jumping running and balancing. Allow your child to explore different textures, sounds, tastes and smells within your home and community. 


Independence is a cornerstone in Montessori. When choices or access become overwhelming, independence suffers. This is Quentin’s closet in his room. The IKEA Trofast system has worked well all these years. There is a little video of him using it at around 18 months here. There aren’t many clothes, but they are all ones he loves. The top yellow bin stores pj’s the middle one stores shirts and the bottom one pants. The basket below stores socks and underwear. How do we keep this space minimalist?  The answer is simple. We don’t buy more clothes than he needs. 4 sets of pj’s, 4 short sleeved shirts, 3 long sleeved shirts and 3-4 pants. Not having a large wardrobe means we can spend more money on the pieces he has, allowing us to choose sustainable, healthy options. 

Step Three: Prepare purposeful environments


Quentin’s room has remained the same since we switched it here. Like all things Montessori, items and areas have a distinct purpose. Bedrooms are for rest. He has a bookshelf by his reading area tipi and his wooden barn is stored here but that’s it. There are no toys or materials in this space. It is light and airy and cosy. Perfect for relaxing. 



This area (all one space) shown above is on the first floor of our house. It has been his Montessori area from birth. The area houses his open ended & gross motor play items (shown in the second picture), work table, work mat, Montessori shelves and Art table and shelves (seen behind the shelves in first pic). It has changed so much over the years but also remains the same. Everything has a purpose and a place. This is where he keeps 100 percent of his materials. There is a wall map to the left of the slide. His cube shelving holds every material out at the moment. He has both learning materials and open ended play materials in this space. 

I often see parents asking about how many materials to have out at one time and when to rotate them. I also see the answers. Some say 2 weeks, others say four. However the true Montessori answer is as always follow the child. If your child doesn’t use a material, observe to see why. Perhaps it is either too difficult or easy. Perhaps they are bored. Careful observation of your own child will tell you when you need to rotate items. 

In truth, our shelves rarely get rotated. We do our monthly Nature Study and that tray of items gets changed sometimes weekly. However at 4 years old, it is Quentin that rotates the shelves. If he is tired of a puzzle, he takes it off the shelves to the storage cabinet (shown above earlier) and switches it out. If he wants something out of his science box or geography box, he goes and replaces what is out with what he wants. Sometimes I will rotate something if I see a particular interest, and I will definitely take something out if it is no longer challenging such as his Montessori Blue Language Series, but mostly it’s him. 

How do we make minimalism work in this space? We don’t purchase many items and we don’t have multiple items that do the same purpose. Not having many items means that all items we have get a lot of use. When we do purchase or make something, we are mindful of its purpose and choose good quality over quantity. 

Here is his kitchen space. 

I feel this particular part of our home doesn’t need any more explanation here. It is purposeful, neatly contained and beautiful. If you are interested in learning more about our kitchen space, there is lots of information under the “In the Kitchen” category of this website and loads of videos and pictures on our Instagram account listed above. 

Lastly here is our living room. 


Like our media room, our dining room and my office, there are no materials or toys here. This space is intended for gathering as a family and with friends. I don’t leave my bits and pieces of crafts and hobbies here and we all respect each other by keeping our own personal things in their prepared spaces. Implementing this early on has meant that all of us as a family are mindful of bringing things into this space and the other shared spaces of the house. Because of this, these spaces don’t feel cramped with kids stuff. It doesn’t get messy and it invokes a feeling of calm for all who use these spaces.

Staying organized and living minimally seems like an impossible task but it really isn’t. 

Here it is in a quick overview:

  • Keep in your house only what you need and the things that bring you immense joy. Get rid of everything else. 
  • Organize yourself and your spaces so that you are prepared, calm & having to clean less

Most importantly the number one, easiest thing you can do is to simply put down your wallet. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Your house won’t be cluttered and your kids won’t be entitled if you simply follow this one step. 

Because when it comes down to it, your kids don’t want your stuff.

They want your time. 

December Nature Study: Winter Solstice 

The celebration of the return of the light. 
This is the time of year we focus on simplicity. When commercialism seems to be pushed just a little bit more, we instead look to tread lightly. It’s a time when Montessori Grace and Couresty have an intent focus and when Peace Education is at the forefront. 

Here are some of the things we do to continue our Nature Study in the month of December: 



Making Nature garlands as a treat for our local birds is an excellent way to practice sewing skills for little fingers. We use a tapestry needle for easy grip and sharpness. These can be modified so that even a toddler can help and they make great gifts to bird and nature lovers. 


Cinnamon Stars are easy and perfect homemade gifts. Quentin has been using the hot glue gun for years now but if this is your child’s first time using one, we recommend giving a lesson first and hand over hand helps keep little fingers safe. 

The stars look beautiful attached to the outside of a package too. 

A homemade Yule Log is a classic favourite. Quentin loves making the meringue mushrooms. 


Nature walks on cold, crisp mornings offer a chance to follow animal tracks and see the changes the cold brings to the natural world. On this walk we examined frost patterns on leaves and watch some ducks test the ice before going in. 


We love books in this house and Solstice wouldn’t be complete without curling up together for read aloud times. This book is our favourite non fiction Winter Solstice book for the 3-6 age group. I use it in my classroom and we have used it at home since it was published in 2014. 

This book is also lovely. We enjoy different fables from around the world and Quentin loves making the connection of where the fable originated to the region on his world map. 

This one has been a favourite of our house for years. We began reading it with Anthony on Solstice night years ago and Quentin now enjoys it although it is very much intended for a child in at least the Second Plane of Development. 

Lastly we all sit as a family and light homemade beeswax candles and listen to this amazing Canadian taken all too soon singing about the above fable. It is a beautiful song of a mother’s love for her child and has been Quentin’s favourite since before he could walk (if you follow us on Instagram you may have seen him sing it).

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8Puvx70wReg

As the afternoon sun fills our house on this the shortest day, we hope that whatever your family is doing in December, it is restful, peaceful and joyful.