Montessori friendly STEM activities: Rainbow crafts

Sewing is one of our favourite Practical Life activities to do in the 3-6 Prepared Environment.

We love that this kit by KiwiCo is focused on the science behind rainbows and that it comes with everything your child needs to create some fantastic fibre arts projects!

Like their “Tinker” subscription box for 9 years and up that we reviewed here, this Koala level is well laid out with easy instructions to follow.

Kiwico is offering Our Montessori Life followers a free one month trial of any subscription box in their lineup!

Follow this link to see their entire selection of subscription boxes and choose your free one!

A Montessori field trip: An observation in the classroom of Diamond Montessori

As I’ve mentioned before in this post I love the opportunity to observe other Montessori Prepared Environments.

Ashley Speed, the founder of Diamond Montessori is not only a personal friend, she is an AMI trained 3-6 Montessori Guide and our leading resource for inclusive children’s resources such as books, card materials and community resources.

And so while I have been accessing her wealth of knowledge (found here on Instagram) I had yet to be able to observe in her own 3-6 classroom. It didn’t disappoint.

The lighting was soft but surprisingly well lit considering the amount of rain streaming down outside in Vancouver. The shelves were orderly and well planned.

However it was not the gorgeous set of bells nor the orderly shelves I had made the trip for.

You see Ashley is a regrettably rare form of Montessori Guide. She fills her environment with her own passions down to the smallest detail.

Her carefully crafted Museum full of rock, mineral and animal specimens calls to a child’s sense of awe and wonder.

Her handmade wooden calendar and cultural cards invite a child so effortlessly to learn new concepts.

Even the tiny porcelain drawers and handcrafted fabric pouches add colour and beauty to the space as well as practicality.

All of this pays off. I arrive before the morning class does and witness the ease in which each child comes into the class, transitions into their indoor shoes and sets to work. Many choose cursive writing practice. The transition is not a lengthy nor a noisy one, and the classroom has been set up to provide enough walking space between the work tables allowing for ease of movement.

One child chooses from the extensive Geography materials and sets to work finishing a local map. The hand felted solar system stored in the basket called to me and I wished I had longer to stay to work on it myself.

January is often the time when schools in the northern hemisphere are setting their classroom rosters for September, and welcoming observations. If you have yet to observe an authentic Montessori prepared environment in action, now is often the time.

Thanks to Ashley for allowing me to be part of her morning. I left very inspired.

Back to school the Montessori way – Part 2: Routines 

The Summer days are counting down. At home we are well on our way to settling back into our school routines. As we spoke about earlier here, clear, consistent gentle rhythms will easy your child into the morning and nightly school routines. 

More importantly though, it will help prepare your child for the routines of their classroom. 


One of the easiest things to do is use routine cards. We love these free printable ones. They are not too childish, easily understood and large enough to be gripped by small hands. Laminated with a small dot magnet on the back and stuck on Quentin’s fridge, they have held up for years of daily use. He can easily see the order of his tasks and he has the ability to change the order should he choose. 


Books can help prepare kids for what to expect in the classroom as well. These are some of our absolute favourites and you can find out more about them here

The more routine you implement before your child goes off to school the better they will be prepared for their days. 

Don’t wait to until the first day of school to start getting up early. Start today. 

Here’s our tips: 

  • Figure out what time you need to get up to get everyone fed, clothed and out the door. Then set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than that! 
  • Get up even on the days you don’t need to. Even if it’s just a little bit earlier. It will help your young child keep that routine going. 
  • Get dressed every morning, even on holidays or weekends. Don’t wait till noon. This is a common mistake. 
  • Practice, practice practice your child’s self care tasks. Your child will need to know how to change their outdoor footwear, recognize their name, open their lunch containers, put on their jacket and use the bathroom completely independently. As a 3-6 Montessori teacher, I implore you to give them the confidence they need to get through their day without you by making sure they can do these task independently.
  • Set a bedtime routine that is gentle, allows for lots of family closeness and above all calm. We like to make sure that Quentin has a bath with some lavender essential oils and a warm towel to dry off with Then afterwards we sit with a candle and an essential oils diffuser going before getting him into his bed and reading together. This entire process can sometimes take two hours. It means that we need to make the conscious decision that his needs must come before our own. It ensures that he is truly calm and feeling reconnected after his busy day away from us. 

Lastly here’s some gentle words of caution:

  • Swimming lessons, sports and outings are very important but in the first weeks of school can create extra stress. Consider putting them on hold for the first month at least.
  • Your excitement may not be shared by your child. Be prepared for anxiousness and crying. Keeping the same routine every day and reassuring your child you will come back and get them will help. 

Back to school is a big transformation for any family regardless of if it’s your first time or not. Instilling routines that help prepare your child for separation, independence and the rhythm of your day will go along way to decreasing anxiety for all those involved. 

Sunday Book Club: Outside your window: A first book of nature

We love nature themed books and this one is absolutely stunning. 


Broken down into the four seasons, it’s the artwork that first drew me in. Stunning collages accompany songs, stories, recipes and so much more. 


Each pages collage is beautiful and perfectly captures the mood of th season it describes. 



With so many ideas to try and stories to share it is sure to be a favourite for years to come. 

Practical Life:The kitchen

  
Practical Life, the heartbeat of the home. If I had to start all over these 6 are the ones I would rush out and buy. And, as an added bonus, each of them is under $10. 

For anyone just starting out, these 6 favourites will completely transform your child’s role in the kitchen. Your child will now (after a little guidance) be able to make their own snack and help prep family meals. Such an amazing feeling of independence for the child. 

  1. Multi use kitchen tool (our absolute favourite on this list)
  2. Glass Pitcher with lid (we use this for water at Quentin’s drinking station)
  3. Crinkle Cutter knife (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  4. Vegetable peeler (ours is from Kylie’s gorgeous shop
  5.  Egg/Mushroom/Strawberry Slicer (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  6. Strawberry Colander (our newest addition and already a favourite) 

Do you have favourite child sized kitchen tools? Have you found something you can’t live without at your house or classroom? Leave a comment. We are always looking for products to review. 

    Practical Life: Kitchen tools at 4 years old

    “Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.”  – Maria Montessori

    Quentin has been prepping food and since he was 17 months old.


    At 4 he is fairly self sufficient. 

    We have recently added cooking with heat as seen here in this post. Having child sized real tools is crucial, but so is trusting your child. He now uses a regular kitchen knife. It is sharp enough to cut through carrots and other hard vegetables. His electric skillet (we use this one) gets hot enough to actually cook things quickly. This is not carelessness on our part. It happened slowly, with small steps mastered first and of course there is always adult supervision. 

    The items pictured above are his most used food prep tools. The small grater is perfect because it has many attachments so he can use it as a grater, zester, juicer etc. 

    His small rolling pin is the perfect weight for his still tiny hands and he has become pretty good at rolling out pastry. 

    The kitchen is such an integral part of the home. It’s where families come together. If your child has yet to try some food prep, start slowly. Observe them to find their interest. Being in the kitchen is a wonderful way to connect to each other. 

    Sunday Book Club: Play the Forest School Way

    “Let the children be 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 as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.” – Maria Montessori


    This book intrigued me the second I saw it. Many in the Montessori world but too strong of an importance on the indoor environment, and not nearly enough of an importance on the outdoor one.

    The Introduction of the book speaks so exellently to this that I thought I would simply quote it instead of trying to add to it. 

    “Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where we can find peace and wonder. It is not limited by time nor confined by walls, and even today we can not control it completely. It is much larger and older than we are, and its rhythms resonate deep within us. Nature is where we are from and where we belong, and our survival is intricately linked to its existence. For children it is the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, it’s creatures of all shapes and sizes, its abundant plants, some edible, others toxic. Nature offers a myraid of opportunities for risk taking, for a wealth of learning and entertainment, and for freedom, seperate from the adult world.” 

    Pretty amazing stuff.

    There are four sections: Nature Explorers, Forest Arts, Survival Skills and Wildlife Team games. Each of the activities clearly lays out what is needed and what the minimum age suggestion is. 


    The cover recommends this book for ages 3-11 and I would have to agree, although I could easily see doing  this with teens such as expanding on the “Building Shelters” and “Sleeping Bear” activities. 

    Such an amazing book for schools and homes looking to expand on their Nature Studies and to just get out and explore the natural world around us. 

    Sunday Book Club: They All Saw a Cat 

    “The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and claws. . .”


     

    They All Saw a Cat is an fantastic new release about how different animals see the world. From a bird’s eye view to a skunk’s view of a black and white world, each animal sees the cat differently. 

    So beautiful, fun and educational. There is also a deeper message. We each see the world slightly differently. But it is the same beautiful world. We can embrace our differences and be mindful of everyone’s unique view. 

    Sunday Book Club: Best Montessori back to School Books

    Hello September. For those of us in the Northren hemisphere we gathering school supplies and retrieving lost lunch boxes. 

    Montessori back to school has similarities with mainstream education. The first few days are spent getting to know the ground rules and making new friends. However, there are some important differences. 

    Grace and Courtesy lessons are introduced the first day of school. What’s expected of the child is modelled with role play lessons not written down on a chalkboard. Real life examples are used and the children take part actively instead of sitting in their desks listening to the rules. 

    If this is your child’s first time going to school it can be a little intimidating and so I’ve compiled our favourite books to help prepare little ones as the head off. 



    A little Peace is one of our favorite Peace Education books. It is perfect for the first weeks of school and anytime after that. It’s photographs show children all around the world sharing a smile, lending a hand, and spreading peace. It focuses on an important Grace and Couresty lesson. That peace can happy easily, by offering those around you the simplest of jestures. 
    The Invisible Boy puts the reader in the shoes of Brian. A small shy boy who is kind and has a gift for drawing but is picked last for teams, whispered about at the lunch table and wishes the floor would swallow him up. The illustrations are beautiful and I love that there are discussion prompts in the end pages. This is a great book to open up conversations with a child about friendship and respect for others. 

    Jack goes to Montessori School is my absolute favorite back to school Montessori book. There are many books about a kindergarten day or a preschool day but sadly very few about what a Montessori 3-6 child experiences in their school day. How goodbyes are said, how to roll out a mat, what the classroom looks like and what materials are used are all featured. This book should be read by every Montessori family and should be in every Montessori schools lending library. 

    Giving children ample time to process the transition to school is important. Giving them a head start on the Grace and Courtesy lessons will go a long way to helping them feel connected and at home in the classroom. 

    Sunday Book Club: Awesome nature resource books for school

    The weather has changed. There is a crispness in the air suddenly. Talks of school (whether at home or away) have been circulating in our friend circles. With that, the conversation ultimately turns to books. Old ones we pull out of storage and dust off, and new ones that we have passed in book store windows or online that have sparked our interest. 

    I am always looking for nature resource books. These books are my greatest love both in my 3-6 classroom and at home. They often have the best quality illustrations, can be used by even the youngest child, and the good ones will keep a child turning the pages for hours. 



    Amazing Animal Journeys by Jason Cockroft
    Such a beautiful resource of animals that migrate around the world. 


    Quentin thought it was hilarious that this book almost matched the Montessori colours for the globe. The beautiful illustrations and simple but interesting text are what drew me in. An excellent book to add to an animal life cycle study or biome study. 


    Natural World by Amanda Wood
    This book should be on every shelf, in every school, everywhere. It has been celebrated in good book circles around the world and I was lucky enough to find it at our tiny library. This will be one that we purchase for Quentin’s Montessori home space. 


    It’s attention to detail is superb. It carefully uses coloured tabs to classify subjects into 3 areas. The introduction page speaks for itself. 


    We have been using it with our August nature study of a pond, but it will have far more applications in the months and even years to come. This book will last us long after Quentin has left the 3-6 classroom. It is suitable for a child 3-12 years. 


    Quentin loves that it has included penguins.

    Are you looking for good quality resource books to fill your learning space? Ones with beautiful illustrations or photos mixed with the right amount of information will keep them coming back for years to com.