Toddler matching activities: Farm animal Mother and Baby

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Since Quentin seems to be right at the beginning of a Sensitive Period for matching, I thought we would try some animals.

A few months ago I had borrowed a “Farm Animal” tub from our local toy library. We kept 6 in a basket on his shelves. At 15 months (13 corrected) he’s making the connection that every object everywhere has a name. “Dat?!” He would demand, pulling a pig from the basket. “Pig” I would assure him, trying to convince him (and myself) that the thing he was seeing was a pig despite its complete lack of any realistic features.

The Montessori pedagogy advocates for the use of real images (and real anything else) for children under the age of Cycle 2 (ages 6-9).

By showing care in the toys you choose for your child, you are showing him that he is important to you. You are sharing what is beautiful and meaningful to you in life. You thereby help your child in turn look for beauty and logic in the world around him.

-Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen, Montessori from the Start

We decided to return the tub and purchase some Scheilch animals instead. Although plastic and not a natural material, I feel their realism outweighs that aspect.

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Quentin fell in love with them immediately. When he chooses them from his shelves, he takes out each one from the basket and places them standing up. He is aware that there is a “big” one and a “little one”, but doesn’t match them together every time.

This time when he asks “Dat?!” he smiles when I say “Pig”, satisfied with my answer.

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New on our Shelves

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Today I made Quentin some fruits and vegetable cards for matching. After lusting after the ones on Michael Olaf I decided that I would search and see if I couldn’t find an alternative. These are from Mr. Printables. The are beautiful, show a real image and of course are free of charge. I printed off 2 sets and then laminated them for better durability. I presented them to Quentin by picking 3 cards and laying them down neatly left to right. I then picked up each card and slowly said the name of the image pictured. When I had presented all 3 cards I asked him for a specific one (ex. Where is the banana?). 3rd period lesson anyone?

He got it right away.

On a side note he clearly is ready for a work mat. If anyone has a suggestion or recommendation, it would be welcomed.

The Things They Say That Drive Me Crazy

This may surprise you but I’m not talking about my children. I’m talking about others who are talking about my children. Does anyone else (especially Montessori Families) feel this way? That bubbling anger I feel inside, when someone discounts my child as nothing more than a, well a child.

“He’s not making memories”

Referring to Quentin. I suppose they are suggesting that he is, biologically, younger than the age where his adult brain will one day be able to recall.

Although I have never responded to this comment, it makes me feel like shouting. Is it assumed then that because the child won’t remember, it doesn’t matter?

“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”

– The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori

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It is so much bigger than memories.

Montessori: Our Cosmic Education Journey

The goal of Cosmic Education is to guide the child toward an initial examination of the question “Who am I”

-Children of the Universe: Cosmic Education in the Montessori Elementary Classroom -Michael and D’Neil Duffy

I know how to provide Quentin (14 months) with a developmentally appropriate prepared environment. It’s easy for me to make/purchase materials that facilitate the sensitive period he’s passing through.

Anthony is a different story. A boy who at 12 stands taller than me. A boy who sometimes hides behind a tough persona when surround by others his age, but still seeks hugs before climbing into bed every night. What do I do for a boy that is a man who is a child?

Cosmic Education beginning around the age of 6 and progressing through to the age of 12 was in short, Maria Montessori’s way of tying all the subjects of study in a classroom to the bigger picture so to speak.

We are at the end of that journey. Anthony knows the 5 Great Lessons.
But how do we implement them into his life?

The answer is simple. We walk. Or to be more precise we hike.
This is made all the much nicer by the fact that we live in a rainforest on an island in the Pacific. Yes, although it may shock some of you, Canada isn’t all ice, and houses made of snow.

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Yesterday Anthony and I hiked to one of our favourite beaches. It’s a 2km hike through the forest.

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Some of the trail is board walked but most of it is rugged terrain and leaves us sweating. The trees are old. Very old. Some of the fallen ones support their own biome with the growth of new life. Excellent fodder for conversations about the universe.

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You come through the forest and descend a long staircase that empties onto the beach. There’s a waterfall that falls from the forest above onto the beach below. It’s beautiful and quiet with the exception of the waves crashing onto the beach. We laid out a blanket and our packed lunch in the shade of the cliffs.

We talked. I listen a lot and try to observe the boy that is changing. His body hasn’t grown at this rate since he was an infant. In fact Montessori likened this age to infancy. The child is deconstructing itself in order to build a new self. An adult self.

After lunch we walk the beach and stop at the waterfall.

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Even the biggest boy can become the little boy when presented with water and dirt.

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He needs a Guide more now than even perhaps in his first years.

A Saturday at the Market/Toilet Learning next step

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There’s nothing better than taking in a farmers market on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Beautiful wholesome foods, locally farmed. Friendly faces and lots of sensorial experience.

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Quentin is surveying the playground. He is a quiet and reserved child. He will usually observe instead of rushing in.

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In the end he never made it passed the bar.

On a side note, this was the first time Quentin stayed in underwear for an extended journey. I haven’t worked up the courage to keep him in underwear if we’re going more than 15 or so minutes from home. Today we were out for 6 hours. We (I) have to reform my thinking. I have to shake off my embarrassment. So what if he has an accident? This is Quentin’s journey, not mine. I’m just the guide. I have to show I believe in him, not show that I doubt him.

We took him to the bathroom when we got to and left each location today. He went every time. We brought a spare change of clothes including clean underwear (just in case), & left the training diapers at home.

We never needed the change.

Novel Ideas

This post can also be found on the new page with the same name. I’m hoping to keep this going there.

A room without books is like a body without a soul-Marcus Cicero

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We are a family of bibliophiles. I have fond memories of my Father reading to me every night. I spent many a sunny summer day, perched in a tree, surrounded by open fields, feasting on literature. So, when my parents came to visit us after Quentin came home, the first thing my Father and I did was make him a bookshelf.

On Quentin’s shelves for July: (the following contains affiliate links)

Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Simple text, colourful artwork and a happy ending. There’s a reason it’s stood the test of times.

Jon Scieszka’s Seen Art
A small boy accidentally visits the MoMA looking for his friend Art. A great story and introduction to many artists and their work. Probably suited for 3yrs+ but Quentin loves the pictures.

Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see
Quentin asks for this every night. Not exactly Montessori due to the unrealistic colouring of the animals, but he loves pointing out the animals and claps at the end when we turn the page to the children.

Lois Elhert’s Eating the Alphabet
A new one for us. The artwork is stunning. A fantastic vocabulary builder for Quentin. Anthony enjoys reading the history of the foods in the back pages.

Lois Elhert’s Color Farm
This one is interesting. I love the geometric shapes, but the animals are too abstract for Quentin to identify them. Still, he loves the cut out pages. We will return to this one when he’s a little older.

Jon Scieszka’s Science Curse

Don’t ever tease a wee amoeba
By calling him a her amoeba.
And don’t call her a him amoeba.
Or never he a she amoeba.
‘Cause whether his or hers amoeba,
They too feel like you and meba.<

We’re also full blown science nerds.This is really just us making sure Quentin assimilates.

Lara Vaccaro Seeger’s Green
Also a new one for us. One of the most beautiful children’s books I have ever had the pleasure to read.

Although most of our rooms have bookshelves, not to mention the books on our bedside tables and coffee tables, this small bookshelf is one of my favourite things in the house. It is a memory holder representing a lineage of book lovers and holds my memories of my parents, grandparents and even my great grandparents sitting in a quiet spot reading. It is also a memory builder. Many a quiet hour has already been spent feasting.

Toilet Learning the Montessori way…was not what we did…

I have been putting this post off. It seemed it would be one of those “do as I say, not as I do” scenarios. I have also received the full brunt of people’s opinions on the matter and I guess I’m dreading adding to that by posting this.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning, or to be precise, August of last year. That was when Quentin was out of the NICU, home from further hospital stays and things were finally settling in at home (4 months after he was born). With regards to toilet learning, Montessori homes/Nidos use cloth so as to give the child the opportunity to feel wetness, right from the beginning. Boy, did I ever have high hopes. My baby would never know the horribleness that is the disposable diaper. The waste, the chemicals. That was before he was born. After 4 months of being put in disposables by nurses, he was hooked. And to be truthful so were we. Please understand. We had beautiful, soft, natural, expensive cloth diapers given to us, and we did use them. Sort of. Every time we put him in them, this happened:

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And then this

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If they make cloth diapers for preemies, we certainly couldn’t find them around here. The beautiful soft cloth diapers were bulky, hot and hard to move around in. He got frustrated and so did we.

If at this point you’re rolling your eyes, stick with me. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Desperately wanting to bring Quentin’s diapering more in line with our Montessori values, we got a potty for him, and placed it in the bathroom when he was 8 months. This was only to have him see it. The Montessori pedagogy states that a child passes through the Sensitive Period for Toileting between 12 & 18 months old. We wanted to have him used to seeing the potty by then. We made no reference to it other than to casually say “Potty. That’s Quentin’s potty.” whenever we were in the bathroom with him for baths or while we brushed our teeth.

At 9 months we began Quentin sitting on the potty. Again it was not to do anything. Just to sit while we were in the bathroom. Following the child, we helped him off as soon as he did not want to be there, and we never left him there for an extended period of time. He would occasionally pee. It was more of a coincidence than anything.

At 10 months we set up his “Care of Self” area in the bathroom.

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I made the small shelf out of 1/2 metre of trim, some pretty scrapbook paper and a cereal box back. I ordered some pretty laminated fabric with a red that matched the potty (because yes, I’m that person) and made a little waterproof pad. We have the worlds smallest bathroom. We needed something that worked without getting in the way. The shelf holds Quentin’s tooth brush, comb and soap with dish nicely.

We started really observing Quentin’s toileting routine. We started taking him to sit on the potty after every meal, before leaving the house, coming back to the house and before bed. Each time, we asked him “would you like to pee?” and only kept him there until he wanted to go. If he protested, we would not take him then and try later.

He caught on immediately.

At 12 months we decided that we were far enough along to progress to underwear at home. We searched everywhere for something that would fit him. I had wanted to try “Under the Nile” since I had read good reviews from other Montessori families. I ordered their smallest size (12 month) but Quentin is in (still!) 3-6 month clothes. They were just too big and not going to work.

I scoured the web and came across these.

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I sent off Quentin’s measurements and she made them for me. They are perfect.

At 14 months (12 1/2 corrected age) Quentin has been successful in staying dry all day (including naps) for the past 3 days. We continue to take him, and he lets us know by yelling if we’ve left it too long. We’re trying to add the ASL sign for toilet to his repertoire of signs. He takes pride in “going,” saying “I did it” and flushing the toilet after I empty the potty. We (here comes my disclaimer) have never used rewards of any kind, nor punishments for Quentin. When he has an accident, we will ask “Did you pee in your underwear?” He will usually answer with his noise for yes. Then we walk him to the bathroom and help him get into clean clothes and wipe up any mess. We never shame or scold him. Just carry on with our day.

I’ve ordered this to complete his “Care of Self” area.

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I had no idea these existed until I saw it Pinned. It attaches to the bathtub. The perfect height.

I never expected the backlash on the topic. From complete strangers but also sadly from family.
“Really cracking the whip” is a mild example. “Oh! Well! You do Montessori (accompanied by an eye roll) is more hurtful. The list goes on.
We are not completely delusional. We know there will be accidents, and we have chosen to wait a little before trying “diaper less nights”. Montessori’s definition of Toilet Learning is that the child learns to recognize and control his/her elimination. Not just dry pants. There is not so much a start, although maybe at birth, and not so much an end as there is a progressing in aptitude.

It may not be the right way for everyone, and I know that it definitely is not a strictly Montessori way, but it is the way our family has done it. We just “Followed the Child”. Hey, maybe not so far off the Montessori path after all.

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