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.