Giving Tuesday: Fruitful Orchard Montessori

“A child is both a hope and a promise for humankind” – Dr. Maria Montessori

We spent just over five weeks living and working at Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria this past summer. The kindness and love shown to Quentin and I by that school community could no be repaid in a life time.

However, we would like to try.

And so on this Giving Tuesday, we hi,boy ask all of you in our amazing community to join us in supporting Fruitful Orchard as thy endeavour to build an Elementary programme.

A programme that will allow the oldest of those beautiful children I fell in love with this summer to stay.

Follow this link to read more info and give to this incredibly important journey.

Montessori Book Club: Birdsong

The seasons are changing here. Autumn is definitely fleeting and Winter has crept in. It is the perfect time for family and friends and reflection.

This new book Birdsong from Greystone Books is a beautiful story of a child that moves to their new home with their mother and meets their new neighbour, an elderly woman who loves nature and art as much as they do.

It highlights each season beginning with their arrival at the new house and how things are different.

We loved how the complexity of the intergenerational friendship is highlighted but in a gentle way focusing on how the child must navigate this and ultimately finds a connection with their elderly neighbour in art.

We absolutely love this book and were thrilled that it made the Globe and Mail’s “100 Books of 2019”! If you are looking for a beautiful “own voices” story this will definitely be a favourite for years to come.

Montessori Multi-age Art Activities: Colour Mixing

Colour mixing is such an easy and inexpensive art activity for children of all ages and can easily be done by the youngest child.

As with all Montessori compatible activities, art should always be child led and about the process not the product especial in the years between 0-6.

For a toddler colour mixing can simply be a transferring work. Above, Quentin at 18 months carefully transferring blue food colour tinted water from one small jar to another with a long pipette. This strengthens fine motor control and concentration. He loved sucking up the water in the pipette and carefully squeezing it out into the other container. Sometimes we would adjust the amount of blue or yellow dye to affect the shade of green that would inevitably be made from his mixing but this was for the most part involuntary by him. He was simply absorbing what was happening.

For the 3-6 age group, an easy to carry tray with the primary colours and a slotted dish, a bowl to dump used water and a sponge for clean up make colour mixing exciting. Children at this age love to experiment with each of the primary colours and it’s still very much about the process here. In the classroom we talk about their favourite colour, what happens when you mix blue with red, red and yellow, yellow and blue, but for the most part they are experimenting and absorbing the experience of those experiments.

By the time the child reaches Elementary, multiple mediums such as paper to spray invite a child to continue their experiments. Small spray bottles and containers (the exact same ones from when he was 18 months), help a child keep their work contained and orderly.

A colour wheel is clearly understood by this point and the child can follow it to achieve the desired colour or make their own.

It is always fascinating to see the social and neurological development at each stage. At 7.5 years old, he commented on the imaginary tastes of his colours such as “root beer” above, and mint tea in a previous combination. It’s still amazing to see him quiet himself as he did in his toddler days and focus on the task at hand.

There are endless colour mixing ideas on Pinterest and around social media. If you haven’t tried it with your little one here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple and age appropriate. Trying to explain the why and how of everything to a toddler won’t make it enjoyable
  • Be prepared for spills. Sponges, bowls, towels and play clothes help make this successful for the youngest child
  • Follow the child. Let them truly experiment with colour. If all they make is green over and over that’s ok.

Montessori Summer Book Club: Pacific Northwest Books

When I was looking for books to bring to Africa to show the classrooms I would be teaching in my own home, the animals I see everyday and the general landscape, these two gorgeous ones immediately sold me.

A Whale’s World showcases the amazing ocean we find our tiny island home in. The photographs are stunning.

The story follows a local pod of orcas on their journey in search of food. Quentin loved showing the children here in Africa the different aspects of orca life and the many other Pacific Northwest sea animals featured.

The underwater pictures are rich and colourful and the text gives a clear and concise story filled with facts.

A Bear’s Life showcases our same beautiful part of the world but from the perspective of the forest.

The same rich beautiful pictures and engaging text take the reader on a journey through the temperate rainforest and along the beaches that border it.

The section of the Spirit Bear was particularly fascinating to the students.

These books have been a beautiful link between the classroom here in Nigeria and our home. They are perfect for children 3yrs+ who love animals or geography. For older students, they offer endless possibilities for extended self directed research projects.

Montessori Art Activities: Creating with Clay

I love the feel of clay in my hands. The simple way it moulds into new forms and the meditative way you can roll it in your palm.

Process art is extremely important in Montessori especially in the early developmental years. It strengthens so many aspects of the newly developing Prefrontal Cortex region of the brain and helps children learn to regulate emotions. Process art that allows a child to expand all of their fine motor movements is even better as it also refines the sensorial input areas of the brain and aids in concentration.

And so when we were contacted by Simply Playful offering to gift us their Clay Kit found here , we were thrilled.

It comes neatly contained in a lockable clear carrying case and is a kit designed for four users which we love. It’s fully stocked with everything from round placemats (not shown in the above pic) to metal buckets, tools, accessories like sequins and sparkles and of course enough clay in the primary colours plus white to allow four users to work easily.

It includes the book “Mix it Up and some idea cards which as luck would have it included a penguin.

This beautiful set invites the child to work and the easy open containers keep everything sorted by accessible. Quentin loved settling in after a long school day to quietly work with the cool clay. Right before bed this was the perfect wind down activity.

We love that this Canadian company understands the value of open ended process art and we love all of their different invitations to create found on their website here!

This set is perfect for children ages 3+ who no longer put things in their mouth.

Montessori Book Club: Spring nature books

Spring is finally catching up here on the west coast of Canada and that means we are rummaging through our book shelves and rotating in all of our spring favourites.

This book is absolutely stunning. We first purchased it in the Autumn, but Spring is one of my favourite seasons and I couldn’t help but share it now.

We love the visual beauty of a well done pop up book. This one has so much to offer as well as some Montessori compatible text that adds to fostering a child’s curiosity.

We also love adding some of our Schleich animals to create a small world open ended play scene at a nature table or on a mat.

How are you rotating in materials into your space to fit with the changing seasons?

Montessori Book Club: A new book about inclusion

This is a gorgeous new book from the best selling author of The Word Collector.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds was released at the end of February and it has become one of our most valuable books I use in my classroom.

It’s pages are done in the same simple style that showcase a number of powerful ways children can make their voice heard.

We love that it is easy to read and can be shared with the youngest preschooler although this is an excellent book for opening dialogue with elementary students.

This is a book that can be used both at home and in schools or communities with young children to empower those who may have trouble expressing themselves or don’t feel they belong or fit in. We especially need to show these children that they are loved, their voices matter but most importantly that they can make a difference.

Montessori Book Club: Little People Big Dreams – Maria Montessori

We have been waiting for this book for what seems like forever!

If you have never explored this series you ought to. Based on an amazing and diverse group of powerful, world changing women the latest book in the series showcases the woman who’s teachings we have built our own lives around.

The pictures are done in the same style as the rest of the series and the text is perfect to share with children 3 years and up.

It follows Maria’s life timeline and although we wish it showcased more, we think it’s perfect for the age group it was intended for.

Perhaps the best part of the book is this time line in the back with more facts for the adult or older child reader. This timeline pairs perfectly with this set from Diamond Montessori!

Montessori Book Club: Anti Bullying Books for Preschoolers

February in Canada holds Valentine’s Day, Family Day and also Anti-Bullying Day. So many opportunities to continue conversations with children about empathy and continue our work in Peace Education.

We’ve written about some of these titles before but today we wanted to focus on one we discovered by chance at our local library.

This book was a delightful surprise. It is absolutely perfect for the 3-6 year old crowd.

It’s simple text hides big conversation starters.

We love the diversity within its pages and its powerful message.

It’s the perfect sharing book for a group of children in a classroom or just simply with our own children at home. It explains that we are who we are, it’s ok to be who you are and that the feelings we feel are also what other people feel. This is an important first step in fostering empathy with young children.

What books are you sharing with children in this month of love and kindness?

A new Christmas Book

When this book was featured to be released I knew we simply had to have it. So much so that when I found it wasn’t going to released here for a while I ordered it from overseas.

We are big Shirley Hughes fans and I can remember being read her books as a child. This one didn’t disappoint.

The end pages say it all. Her beautiful realistic artwork and simple yet rich text grab the reader right away. This book has the perfect mix of interesting ideas to make, as well as some lovely stories and poems.

We used to make these simple paper lanterns when I was very young.

As with all Shirley Hughes books they have a distinct British feel with simplicity at the heart of the text. This book can easily be lovingly tucked away each year, ready to bring out the next year to awaiting little ones.

We hope you are enjoying a peaceful and restful weekend.