Montessori Nature Study: Ecosystem of a pond

Our year long Nature Study begins again after a month off in July. 


The first week of August we explored pond dipping again. It is such a fun and easily prepared activity for kids of all ages. Dip a net into a pond and gently dump the contents into a clean container filled with the same pond water. You will be amazed at what you find. 

We recorded some of our findings in our Nature Journal. It’s interesting to observe how a child’s mind has grown and evolved in just one year. The different questions being asked and different observations made are fascinating. 

This year, observing the ecosystem of a pond has been particularly special. We are currently travelling and so the pond we are observing is the one from my childhood. 

There are so many things to share with Quentin. The holes dug by turtles and the remaining egg shells, the small minnows that swim past your toes. The smell of the water, and the crunch of the sand. A highlight for him was feeding the swan family and talking about their role in the ecoystem. 


Pond ecosystems are virtually endless with a wealth of information to satisfy children of all ages. Everything from naming different animals for toddlers, to life cycles to the microscope world. 

This particular pond has four generations worth of memories for my family and I’m glad I got to share it with Quentin today. 

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.