The addition of art

Quentin turned 18 Months old this week. I realized that I hadn’t really given him some art trays. So although we have done art together for awhile, I felt it was time to make it accessible to him on his shelves.


My Mother sent some beautiful hand made orange pumpkin spice play dough. He squished it and poked it and pulled it off his fingers. We have been demonstrating how to role it into a ball. I love home made play dough. Easy to make, chemical free, and you can make any colour or scent you want. I’ve added a shape cutter to the tray, but really it’s all about the sensorial experience.


A new pasting tray. The little round box hold bits of paper, but really it could be anything. I have plans to add “things” to paste like fabric, buttons and feathers.

We have also had our Stockmar Block Crayons on the shelves forever.


We’ve also done painting with a brush, but I have to prepare the colours on a plate. I’m hoping that these new activities will be more self directed. I love seeing the joy on his face when he realizes he’s made something.

I’ve been asked for the play dough recipe. A big thanks to my Mother for sending it so quickly.

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp .cream of tartar
3 tbsp. of oil
3 cups of water

Place all of the above ingredients in a pot, and place on stove.
Cook on medium heat until dough begins to form a ball, by coming away from the sides of the pot. Remove from pot and knead until desired consistency.

You can add food colouring and spices while kneading if you wish. Let cool slightly and place in a container with lid. Should last between 2-3 months.

Quentin’s Shelves 18 Months


It seems like I close my eyes for a second and when I open them, time has left me behind in the dust. Who is this crazy haired boy standing in front of me dancing and singing, and what has he done with my little baby Quentin?

October has been unpleasant for us. In the midst of it all, (with the most welcomed help of my Mother) I have been making/purchasing new “Works” for Quentin, desperately trying to keep up with his changing self.

He has completely entered his Sensitive Period of Maximum Effort. Montessori defined this as the time (usually beginning around 15 months) when the child will test his limits. Lifting, carrying, climbing, pushing. In short his maximum strength used to bring his physical body to new levels of independence. This, coupled with an explosion of Language has completely redesigned the baby we knew into a toddler.

It’s fascinating that the adult world has named this phase “The Terrible Two’s

Examined under a Montessori microscope it is something very different.

  • The child becomes defiant/the child has the mental capacity to make choice
  • The child becomes physically aggressive with objects/the child tests & strengthens their body so that they may have a better understanding of the world: physics, sequences, social reaction
  • The child seeks mischief & trouble/the child is more independent & able to leave their parents to explore the world confident that their parents will be there upon return
  • The child has temper tantrums/despite everything, the child’s mind is still young, self centred and incapable of forethought, hindsight, or consequence, but extremely capable of wonder, love, and self worth
  • All that being said, I have been rushing to try and keep up with him. I can’t show you everything (I just haven’t had the time to photograph it) but I can show you what is on his shelves.


    Top Left to Right:

  • basket of animals (rotated between farm and ocean)
  • dry pouring 2 vessels of equal size
  • fruit and veg cards for matching (4 each set)
  • Middle:

  • art medium and notepad (rotated between crayons and paint)
  • pumpkin spice scented play dough
  • Bottom Left to Right:

  • wooden stringing beads
  • wooden lock box
  • fine motor open and close activity (rotated with snake game)
  • These are the things that engage him. I am in the middle of making him a pasting/gluing tray, and I have my Parents hard at work on some bean bags to help direct his need to throw.

    It is such a fascinating age. I see new things in him everyday. I wonder what I will see tomorrow?


    Do you bake at home? It’s one of my favourite things and yet it was (shamefully) the thing I had not yet given Quentin a real opportunity to do. He would do a small part. Turn on the mixer, get out the bowl, but really he would just work in his kitchen while I did it. Maybe once in a while mix in the flour.

    What was stopping me? I don’t know. How complicated it would be. Or the mess factor I guess.

    How very UN Montessori.

    I took the push I was getting from Deb and Kylie and plunged in…with something very simple.


    At his weaning table, ingredients divided into bowls ahead of time, some of the dry ingredients premixed.


    He started with stirring the oats already in his mixing bowl. I asked him if he wanted to pour. He said yes.



    Then he wanted to stir for a bit. There was a small “sampling”. He didn’t like it.



    He eventually said “Done”, got up and took off his apron. I cleaned up his table, got out his lunch and he ate while I rolled the Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies into balls and placed them in the oven.

    So what did I take away from it all? It wasn’t hard to do. The pre measuring could have happened during a nap or after he went to bed for the next morning, but I did it while he was just in the other room and it didn’t take long. It was good that I had lunch ready to go so he could move onto something and I could finish and clean up. It was also good that it was a simple recipe. No exact measuring, no complicated ingredients.

    I also saw the concentration, and delight in Quentin’s eyes throughout the process. He named (repeated the name) of each ingredient as it was added, and he knows that he made something for the family. He contributed to family life which is a big deal in the Montessori world.

    The best part was just being able to share something that I love with him.

    Our Day in pictures


    It was a day that found us unexpectedly at home.

    From the top left: Painting after breakfast in the work space. Magazine reading. Foose ball match between Anthony and I. Quentin watches but doesn’t try to interfere. Quentin helps with his laundry.

    Middle Row: Quentin and I walk to get the mail. We spot a puddle and come back with boots on. We need eggs for baking. A trip to the market is too far for Quentin to walk. Anthony pushes him.
    With eggs ready Anthony bakes banana loaves while Quentin watches, too tired to help.

    Bottom Row: Up from his nap, enjoying the loaf his Brother made. Anthony working in the yard. The late afternoon has brought the sun. The leaves are starting already. A “thank you” for helping with the leaves. Quentin’s first time in the tree house. “No Anthony, I will not let him ride up in the bucket!!” After dinner, back where the day began. This time Anthony is finishing something for school and Quentin is quietly putting his wooden acorns through the hole in his rocker.

    This was 7am-7pm.

    There was more. Meals, trips to the potty, book reading with Quentin before nap. Sewing with Anthony while Quentin napped. Anthony vacuumed before we even went downstairs to the workspace this morning. Rob came home from work, Quentin had a bath and went to bed and Anthony packed his lunch for school tomorrow.

    Tonight (like most nights) we relax either together or everyone doing their own thing. Sometimes we tidy up a bit, sometimes not.

    Usually our days apart fly by, almost at light speed. I’m so grateful for this day that the boys and I got to spend together. Looking back through the pictures, I’m even more grateful that it took its time.

    The Magic of Montessori

    I haven’t really written about Quentin’s journey into the world, and I’m not sure I’m ready now.

    The night before his early morning (5:36am) birth, as we waited in the hospital, the medical team now sure that the contractions were not going to stop, the Paediatric Doctor came into our room. The message he brought was one we had been working so hard from the first ultrasound to avoid.

    “A baby born this early……blindness, hearing loss…..mental retardation.”

    I don’t really remember much else of that sentence, but I remember the next two clearly.

    “We’ll have to take him right away. You (my husband and I) and he (my still unborn child) are going to have a long road ahead”.


    He was beautiful to us. Right from the beginning.


    This is him weeks later in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit technically not even born yet. Holding his face, like he did on so many of the ultrasounds.
    While we waited for his homecoming, we went over all of the options in care available to us. His hearing and vision were fine and he did not require any immediate physical therapy. Preemies born this early (and earlier) are delayed in their development. An Infant Development Nurse was assigned to Quentin. She would come to our house once a month and help us form a plan to help him “catch up”. She would watch for areas that perhaps we could pay extra attention to.

    We didn’t need to talk for long. There was already a complete developmental package available to us and it began at the hour of birth. It covered every area: the ways to soothe him, the essential materials needed, even the way to organize the infants room. It was all broken down and categorized for us. All we had to do was follow it. The Absorbent Mind would do the rest.

    This is the Magic of Montessori

    This is Quentin today:


    His nurse, a wonderful, caring women embraced Our Montessori Life from day one, having no prior knowledge of the pedagogy.

    On her 12 month visit she reduced his visit schedule to once every 3 months. “It’s amazing that he can do that.” She kept saying throughout the visit.

    Last Wednesday (16 months) she came again.

    “I see no reason to continue to follow him.”

    “Children his age, even his birth age, aren’t usually able to do those things (puzzles, pouring, matching, chores).”

    I didn’t say anything at first. Maybe the huge grin on my face prevented it. But I wanted to say that actually, children his exact same age all around the world are able to do these exact same things. They do them in homes and schools and church basements and mud huts. I wanted to say that we are part of a community, that its all laid out. I wanted to say that we just did what others have done for over 100 hundred years before us and that all we did was to start down the path. I wanted to say that all children could do it, if just given the chance. But I didn’t. I just stood there.

    As she was leaving she shook her head and said again that she just couldn’t believe it.

    This time I didn’t hesitate. I managed to say: “That’s the magic of Montessori.”