Plane Travel: Montessori Minimalist essentials 

We have some long flights coming up next week. We’ve been gathering Montessori compatible items to help Quentin enjoy the trip. When we travel, we keep the shared values of minimalism and Montessori with us. 

These are the items in Quentin’s carry on bag this trip. 


First an foremost we pack homemade, highly nutritious snacks. Lots of them. Reusable containers, cloth snack backs and leakproof BPA free waterbottles help keep us minimal and zero-waste. Filling water bottles after security mean that all of us stay well hydrated which helps blood circulate, keeps us alert and above all, calm. Not having to think about purchasing food not only helps us stay minimalistic, it honours the child. He can eat or drink when he needs it, just as at home and at school. 


A new pencil case and good quality note book coupled with our forever loved Lyra Ferby coloured pencils offer everything from quiet colouring to games and mazes. For minimalists these are the bare bones essentials. They offer multiple options for open ended play. 


These Usbourne First Nature Bug cards coupled with Safari Ltd. Insect Toob are going to be something that Quentin will really enjoy. Quentin loves small figurines and even though he is crossing into the Second Plane he is still very much in the Sensitive Period for small objects. Toobs are perfect because they are fairly realistic for the size of the figurine, they are inexpensive and long wearing.

 Small animals and matching cards can help a young child sit still and can lead to lots conversations about everything from parts of an animal to biomes. The options are limitless which makes them perfect for packing. 

 
I scoured local bookshops and online stores searching for a sticker/activity book that was Montessori compatible. Regrettably the majority were cartoonish, heavily gender stereotyped and just plain awful. It quickly became clear that the sticker book world has not truly embraced the Montessori world. Even the animal themed ones were much too simple for Quentin. The other hurdle to factor into our unique situation is that Quentin at just turned 5 years old is able to read. At a 9-12 year old level. Searching desperately I stumbled upon this. 

It’s absolutely brilliant. It encompasses all of Quentin’s passions. Geography,  landmarks, culture. And it’s not childish. Sticker books are fantastic for children who no longer put things in their mouth or for younger children that enjoy the repetition of the fine motor movement with close adult supervision. 


We get lots of questions about options for families that want low to zero media for their children. Our favourite answer to this is an IPod shuffle with volume limiting child headphones. We load it up with Quentin’s favourite music currently The Avalanches and also the entire Barber of Seville opera. We also absolutely love audiobooks. There are so many amazing, Montessori compatible children’s audio books. Having the ability to choose his own media and quietly sit listening, helps him stay calm, and keeps him engaged in the journey. 

The wallet pictured above is no longer available but it is the best children’s wallet we’ve seen with excellent play cards and money. Setting up the seatback tray, we can easily set up many open ended games with it that take up little space. 

All of these items easily fit into Quentin’s backpack found here

Part of being a minimalist family is that we keep very purposeful and edited wardrobes. Quentin doesn’t have many clothes as we choose to instead spend our money on a few good quality certified organic items rather than filling a closet with cheap alternatives. This makes it incredible easy to pack. He can easily pack his clothes and his Care of Self items into his suitcase which also qualifies as his second carry on bag, eliminating the need for checked luggage. 


All of these things are only a small fraction of the bigger picture. Montessori is not about the stuff. It’s about the child. So even with all of these items in his carry ons, without the Prepared Adult, things can easily slip away from Montessori values. Our actions are so much more important than the stuff we buy our children, so here’s our tips for making a plane trip as Montessori friendly as possible:

  • Prepare well in advance, and have your child participate in the prep, allowing them to feel like part of the process instead of just being dragged along.
  • Get to the airport with plenty of time. A small child needs extra time to walk, observe and process this extremely sensorial environment. They will need to use the bathroom and eat more often. Rushing will not help any situation. 
  • Most airlines offer early boarding for passengers with young children but we actually prefer not to take it. The less time cramped on the plane the better. We board with general boarding. 
  • Get up and move. Allow your child to move how they feel comfortable to if it’s safe to do so. Stretches, walks, massages, legs bends in the aisle. People get it. You are travelling with a young child. A walking child is better than a screaming child for everyone. But most especially the child. 
  • We take the red eye. We fly when our child sleeps. Because if there was ever any hope of them sleeping on a plane it would be at night. 
  • Take only essentials and you will most likely be able to fly with just carry on, skipping baggage carousel chaos with an overtired child in tow. 

Above all else, slowing your pace and following the child will help everyone enjoy the trip. The airport and travel are some of the most stressful times for families. Acknowledging your child’s emotions, physical limitations and interests will go along way to keeping those Montessori values close at hand. 

Sunday Book Club: The Barefoot Book of Children

“Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.” – Maria Montessori

It isn’t often that we stumble upon a book so completely Montessori in its message. A book that shows a gentle look at children from around the world in a multitude of family settings and personal circumstances.
“The Barefoot Book of Children” found here is a masterpiece of Montessori perfection. It has vibrant, realistic images, rich descriptive text and above all, promotes Peace Education. 


What we specifically love about this book is that it’s the telling of a child’s day. Children 0-6 years old identify most with stories that feature children like them. They want to be able to connect with the characters in a real and concrete way. However, regrettably few children’s books offer that to all children. 

It’s also important to offer books to your child that feature a wide range of racial, cultural, and geographical differences to their own. They must see that there are other children who may be slightly different than them for one reason or another, but whatever the differences, we all inhabit this one small planet and when examined, despite our differences, we have many similarities. 


This book touches on so many of those similarities. We all have our own space that is special to us where we seek peacefulness. 


We all have a family. No matter how big or small, close or far away. 


We all seek communication. Look at all the amazing languages featured on this spread! Can’t read them all? Neither could we. Not a problem. Keep reading the answer is coming.


“We all have love to give.” 

This is the most important message of this book. It emphasizes that even the youngest child can show another love and empathy. We love that it showcases simple ways to show love instead of giving material gifts. 

Building empathy and understanding are key features of Montessori Peace Education. The simplest way to do that with children is to show them that despite our differences, we are all the same. We all get up, go about our days and have our families how ever that looks to each of us. 


The best part about this book (aside from the gorgeous artwork) is the reference section. This book is such an excellent starting point to teach Peace Education in the 3-6 year old classroom but it is also excellent for teaching the Fundamental Needs lessons in the 6-9 and 9-12 year old classrooms. Each of the pages of the story are complemented with more details in the reference section. This is where we discover all of the different languages featured in the picture above. Quentin loved learning what languages they are and what the translation is. 


It’s no secret we love Barefoot Books. They are an entire collection of award winning, beautiful, diverse books for every child from birth into early teens. We own many of their books and learning resources, some of which we have featured here and here and here. We were absolutely thrilled when they offered to send us this newest edition for a free and unbiased review. 

If you are looking to add diversity to your child’s bookshelf but aren’t sure where to start head over to Barefoot Books and browse through their easy to follow sectioned catalogue. We are sure you will find something to get you started. You can also follow along with them here on Instagram and here on Facebook. They are just wrapping up an amazing collaboration of planting trees around the globe with every purchase of one of their books. 

Taking Art Outside

 “Let the be children 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.” Dr Maria Montessori 

Process Art is not only important to us as a family and as a trained Montessori teacher, it is the only kind of art advocated for by the majority of those in the childhood social neurological development world for children under the age of 8 years. 

For us, it just makes sense to take Art outside. Art is all about the sensorial world and there’s no better Prepared Environment that plays to the senses than the outdoors. 


At the beach or in the forest, nature can inspire the child and spark their imagination. 


Art also helps us extend what we’ve been exploring as part of our monthly Montessori Nature Study

A little preparation can go along way. Here are some of our favourite things to bring outside:

  1. A thin, easy to carry watercolour palette
  2. mini clipboard to secure paper and provide a writing surface
  3. A large watercolour paper pad cut into quarters for easy transport
  4. This workbook is becoming a fast favourite.
  5. As is this one
  6. Nature Anatomy is our absolute favourite Nature Study book and the one we have been using for our own Nature Study for the past year. 
  7. Lyra pencil crayons are some of the best on the market. Vibrant true tones that spread like butter on the paper and the Ferby is the perfect size for little hands. 
  8. A well made, well fitting child sized backpack to keep all of it in. 

We also love adding audiobooks to our art times. Calm classics quietly read in the background help prepare a space for peaceful art. 


All this with a healthy homemade snack and water bottle and you are set to make art outside.

Even the youngest toddler will enjoy squishing fingerpaint onto paper while under a big tree or beside a quiet stream.  

If outdoor art is new to you take it slow and prepare in advance. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Think about your own child’s interests/abilities. Do they love crayons over watercolours?
  • Go at a peaceful time of day. Tired and hungry children are not happy artists. 
  • Process art is exactly that. Let the child lead. It’s about the scribbles and sensorial input, not about how much the finished product looks like you wanted it to look.
  • Art can be messy (and that’s a good thing). Prepare in advance with something to clean up spills, wipe fingers and pack wet things home in. 

Now go and enjoy. If you happen to try an outdoor art session we would love you to share it with us on social media either on our Facebook page or on Instagram by tagging us. 

Sunday Book Club: A little robot fun

Robots are a bit of a fascination around here lately so it was lucky I happened to stumble upon this book at the library this week. 


The images are fantastic and the story is a simple and sweet tale of a little robot trying to find its arm. 



Each page has you lingering over the image. So much to look at. 

This is a great one for ages 2+ and anyone who loves graphic art. 

Sunday Book Club: Life by Cynthia Rylant

We love books about “the big picture”. Books that ask us to take a step back and appreciate what we have. This is an important concept to introduce to children. It helps build resiliency early and is one of the building blocks of Montessori Peace Education.

Life by Cynthia Rylant is a gorgeous new book that speaks to us all starting out small, and that it won’t always be easy but we will all grow. 

The artwork is what drew me originally to the book. It’s understated but full of colour. 


This is one for every Montessori home and classroom. Younger children will enjoy identifying animals and older children will be able to use it as a jumping off point for empathy and resilience discussions which are so incredibly important starting in the 3-6 age group and continuing right through to adulthood. 

We have absolutely love it. 

Sunday Book Club Summer Edition Part 1: Books, activities and more

We love Summer and all that it has to offer.

With school over, the boys and I have been spending lots of time outside. We always take a Montessori approach to home learning, which simply means that we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning. 

However, we do love finding new and interesting activities and books that help spark that curiosity. Quentin has been interested in pond life and so with that in mind here are some of our favourite fiction books for 3-6 about the topic. 


Over and Under the Pond is absolutely excellent for exploring a pond biome and life cycles. It’s perfect for introducing these concepts to children 3 and 4 or opening up larger discussions for the 5’s and 6’s. 
Pool is beautifully drawn, imaginative and above all completely wordless. We love the picture story’s ability to suck a child into the story teller role. It’s so interesting the differences in descriptions and abstract depth that come when you read this book in a mixed age setting and ask them to read it to you. 
Beyond the Pond is such a favourite that we’ve featured it before. Intended for children who are in the Second Plane, we began reading this when Quentin was 4 because of the richness of the text. If you want to introduce words such as “extraordinary” and “raucous” into your child’s vocabulary, sit down with this book. 
In the Red Canoe is the story of a Grandfather and Granddaughter gently paddling around a lake, taking in the wildlife, told through the eyes of the child. It’s gorgeously illustrated and a soothing read at the end of the day. 

The lily pads are in full bloom at our local freshwater pond. We often take art supplies with us in a backpack as well as some snacks and a blanket to make a day of it. 


Watercolours are so easy to bring outside. They dry quickly, clean up easily and are just so pretty and delicate. 

I love having little ideas ready in case Quentin asks for Art, or is looking for a new game, or has an interest in a specific nature theme. Allyson of Tanglewood Hollow produces some of the best Montessori compatible Nature Study themed materials out there. She has recently opened a printables shop here. I’m absolutely thrilled as now I can get her materials and immediately download them to take with us or display in our Montessori workspace.

Last but not least a Giveaway 

Summer Giveaway 
The Summer Curriculum found here, is “a guide of 26 pages filled with summer songs and poems, art exploration, garden activities and games, science exploration, reading, and more! Make a nature weaving, do some garden yoga, race invertebrates, and build a terrarium!” 

Stay tuned Monday July 10th on our Instagram feed found here as we are thrilled to giveaway one professionally printed copy of the Summer Curriculum for you to use to help create all that “awe and wonder” that we as Montessorians are so passionate about. 

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer. 

Montessori 3-6 Biology and a giveaway 

We love anatomy models so when Annie of Dockan Lotta contacted us to ask if we were interested in honestly and without compensation reviewing their soft anatomy doll we jumped at the chance. 


We love that this is a huggable doll. We also love the size. Arms, legs and torso are openable with hook and eye closures so a child can explore every inside every aspect. 


Quentin loved the ease of use. The doll is big enough to explore independently but manageable. He also loved that each organ has its own flap inside. 


The best part of this anatomy doll is that it can actually be played with. Unlike plastic models it can be used as a doll to carry around and be cared for by the child. 

We are so in love with this that we couldn’t just keep it for ourselves. 

That’s why we are going to give one away over on our Instagram feed! Join us there to enter and good luck to everyone! 

Sunday Book Club: Our favourite books Birth – 2.5 years old

Language is the first gift we gift our children. We speak and sing and read to our children at a surprisingly early age in Montessori: At eighteen weeks after conception when an unborn child begins to hear. 

Our list of books for children under two may surprise you, but if you have been following along for awhile it likely won’t. 

Here’s the possible surprise. I don’t read infant books to infants. In fact I actually really detest them. Yes, there are certainly some nice ones out there. Global Babies seems to be popular especially within the Montessori Social Media world, but it’s stereotypical dressing of children from different cultures is disappointing. Not all children from Asia or Africa or Europe or any of the continents dress in traditional garments. The text is also fairly lacking. 

So what do we do instead? We read language rich books. Right from the beginning. 

Here are our favourites. 

Sounds Around Town was one of Quentin’s very first books. It is full of such rich language, a multicultural setting without specifically touching on it and interesting artwork. 


Red Rubber Boot Day was given to us 15 years ago for our oldest son’s second birthday. He loved it so much because it features a boy doing similar things he liked to do. The artwork is stunning and so is the language 


I am leaf. I am fish. I swim by Mr. Humphrey who lives next door, standing in his yard with no shoes on. And Mr. Humphrey says to me, “It’s a fine thing, feeling wet grass, on bare feet, in green rain.” 

Just phenomenal. 

Journey Home from Grandpa’s was another first book of Quentin’s. We must have read this over 100 times. Again the repetitive text is not dull like other toddler focused books. It is instead richly descriptive. 


Alfie Gets in First is only one of the most amazing series of books by Shirley Hughes. It is our absolute favourite Montessori compatible children’s book series for 0-6. 

When Mama Comes Home Tonight was another of Anthony’s favourites. There aren’t many great books that speak to a Mother’s role outside the home and what they do when they get home. We love the kind and loving images. 

Good Night Moon needs no introduction. It has been a favourite since 1947. It also has soft and flowing text that is perfect for a toddler bedtime or rocking an infant while feeding them. 

Books express so much about who we are and what we hold dear. When reading with a child at any age, choose a quiet time of the day, a comfortable spot in your home and relax. 

Start early. A child begins learning language while still in the womb, but it is also never too late.  Finding time each day to share a book with a child will have lasting neurological and social effects.  Not only on the child but also the adult. 

May Nature Study: Butterflies and other Insects 

The warmer weather has finally arrived and so we spent the majority of our May Nature Study outside. 

Studying insects is one of the easiest topics to do because they are accessible on almost every continent, there is a large variety and children are most often fascinated by them. 


We began our study by exploring different species of butterfly with the help of these beautiful cards from Alice Cantrell of Twig and Moth. We use so many of her materials because they are well priced, printable at home and above all beautiful. 


We enjoyed some old favourites on the topic. This book is fantastic. The art style and amount of information are perfectly paired. 


We also enjoy this book and we recommend all of this series. It is our favourite nature series for the 3-6 age group. 


Lastly we decided to take a field trip to our local butterfly sanctuary. It is so beautiful there with so many different species of butterflies and moths. At just turned 5 Quentin now does really well on learning outings. This will serve him well as he progresses into the Second Plane of Development. 


Montessori asks us to “Follow the Child” and this simply couldn’t be more applicable than when out and about. We travel at his pace, and stop when he wants to. This gives him an opportunity to really take in what he is seeing, to ask questions or to return to something he wants to know more about. 


We both agreed that a butterfly sanctuary is a gorgeous spot to take photos. 
If you have been looking to start a nature study, insects is a great place to start. Books from the library, and simply stepping outside are all you need.  

Our Montessori Life: Our week in pictures

The weather is getting warmer and school is coming to and end in less than a month for our oldest. Time to start reflecting and looking ahead to what summer will bring. 

This week we:
Spent a lot of time outdoors. 

It’s here that the children can move how they truly need to. “I wish I had half their energy” is a phrase we hear often when at the park. True. But also true is the fact that kids actually do have a tremendous amount of energy that needs to be expelled. It can either happen in a meaningful joyful way or it can come out in the worst way and at the worst times. We choose the joyful way. That means getting off the couch, packing a quick and easy snack and water bottle and heading outside. It could be to the park, a big attraction or simply just our own backyard. As long as we get out. 

This is what he’s looking at. 



Added some new friends to our backyard garden. 

3 Coturnix Quail. Quentin is at the point where he can actively care for an animal with little to no help. These tiny creatures open so many possibilities for him to discover the world around him. He helps collect eggs, feed them and ensures they have clean bedding. 


Spent time together in his school classroom as we enjoyed his Mother’s Day tea. 


Used the Moveable Alphabet to compliment his self directed learning.

There was so much more but these are the highlights. 

How was your week?

 If you have something you would like us to share that is Montessori related, please let us know, we would love to feature it.