Grace and Courtesy: Playing Competitive board games

Do your children play board games? They seem a bit antiquated now I suppose. We love them though and we are constantly on the look out for new ones. 

Quentin enjoys Bird Bingo (seen here), and Snakes and Ladders (seen here). Today I introduced Checkers because he’s been asking how to play. 


The board was made by my father for me when I was a child. Old and worn it was a perfect match to the newly oiled wooden checkers that arrived in the mail today. 

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from competitive games. Concentration, patience, critical thinking. All the things the latest childhood research is telling us we need to teach more of in school. 

I think there is something much more important. 


“I won Mama.” A smile beginning on his lips. Then, a hand reaches across the table. 
“Good game Mama. You tried hard.” A tiny hand shakes mine before sitting back to survey his achievement. 

“Wanna play again?”

Montessori 3-6 Botany in the Home 

I have always advocated against the need for the true Montessori didactic materials in a home setting. The reason for this is that there are an endless supply of ways to explore the world with your child in the home environment. And you don’t need any formal training to do it. 

So, having led with that, we don’t have a Botany Leaf Cabinet, or Parts of a Plant cards. We simply go outside and garden. 
 
Gardens are so perfect for children. A feast for the senses at every level, a connection between what is grown and what is consumed by animals, insects and humans. And, most importantly, Practical Life. The ability to plant, care for, and harvest one’s own food. Even the youngest of children can help. 

  

Gardens can come in any shape and size. You can grow vegetables in a field, a large wooden planter box, in a small pot on a balcony or even a windowsill. 

If your thoughts turn to the fact that you do not have a green thumb, don’t worry. 

Your child does. 

  
Try sprinkling lettuce seeds into some soil, cover and leave a small spray bottle near by with a little water. Your child will feel such a sense of accomplishment when the first green stems poke through the soil. 

Spring: Naturally dyed eggs

  
Sunshine, birds chirping and lots of time outside. We’ve been off on Spring Break and trying to spend as much time as possible together and relaxing. 
Egg dying was also on the agenda this weekend. Naturally dyed eggs are easy and fun for all ages. 

You don’t need much except patience. 

Materials:

  • White hardboiled eggs
  • Sheer stockings/pantyhose
  • Plant material 
  • Natural dying material 
  • White vinegar 
  • Tall mason jar

We used yellow onion skins, purple cabbage and blueberries. But the list goes on and on. Try experimenting with spices, beets, tea and anything else you’d like.

  1. Use one mason jar for each colour
  2. Put your dying material into mason jar
  3. Put in 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  4. Place a small piece of plant or flower onto egg (optional)
  5. Wrap egg tightly in stocking and tie it tight (optional, keeps plant material in place)
  6. Place egg into mason jar
  7. Pour boiling water into mason jar until egg is covered 

Leave for 3-6 hours, or overnight. 

Drain the jar when done, unwrap eggs and compost the dye material. Simple and beautiful. 

    
Have a safe and weekend. 

Sunday Book Club: Our favourite fictional Winter books

Yes, Spring is right around the corner, but it is not here yet. So I thought I’d share our cosiest books to curl up with under a blanket.

   
 I had a friend ask about children’s poetry, and I have included some. I find it’s a hard balance with kids poetry. I’m not looking for silly, but I am looking for rich language that can be understood by a young child. Not easily found in the poetry section. 

 
  
Montessori friendly fictional books are no different than non-fiction. They are beautiful, rich and ideally reality based. This last part is a bit tricky when dealing with fiction.  I don’t mind a bit of whimsy, but I try to leave out the anthropomorphic animals. 

  
Fox’s Garden by Camille Garoche 
This is part of a wordless books series. It is a beautiful story of a child’s compassion. The artist works in paper cutout dioramas and the pages are stunning. 
  

The Snow Rabbit by Camille Garoche
Yes, this author and her wordless books have made it onto this weeks list twice. But if you’ve read these stories, it’s easy to see why. This is her latest, published only last Fall. I love how the child gets to make up the story from the beautiful dioramas pictured in the pages. The simple, selfless love of a child for her sister is the theme of this book. I love that these books get Quentin talking about what he’s seeing in the pages. These are great books for anyone looking to explore emotions or virtues with a child.
  

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
Given to us by a close friend years ago, this book continues to be one of Quentin’s favourites. It can be enjoyed by a child as young as 18 months (or possibly younger) and it is perfect for the child who has trouble sitting still through a story time. Lots of actions like tapping, knocking and shaking the tree make this a really fun book for the younger child. I like that it goes through the seasons in a simple way and shows the differences.

  

Good Night Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons by Margaret Wise Brown
I am always interested in the hidden work of authors that is published posthumously. Especially ones from my own childhood. So when this was published last year I hurried to get my hands on a copy. Such a beautiful quiet day or bedtime book. Simple poetry and songs that Quentin really enjoys. Our copy came with a cd as a bonus. 

  

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol
This one surprised me. I was looking for something else and it caught my eye. I’m so glad it did. A soft and gentle lullaby about a small child going to sleep while the rhythms of  nature continue on all around. This was another good find of poetry for young children that wasn’t fantasy based. Just a simple account of a child going to sleep, but so beautifully written. 

Sunday Book Club: Our Favourite Science books 

  
I am loving the science books spread out all over the house this week. 

Quentin is really coming into an interest in the natural world. Until recently I have always struggled to find good quality science books that offer interesting information, yet keep it at a level that will engage him.

  
Here are some of our favourites: 
   

 

Animalium by Katie Scott

The animal kingdom like you’ve never seen it. This book has become a favourite around the world and opening the first page it’s obvious why. It’s a must have for Montessori book shelves at home and at school.  

  

Story of Life: Evolution by Katie Scott
More of a fold out timeline than a book, it is stunning. I have never seen a timeline done with such detail and beauty. Although this concept isn’t introduced until the 6-9 Montessori classroom, Quentin is fascinated by the different creatures and the information given for them. There is information on one side and pictures on the other and it’s just executed so perfectly that even a young child can take pleasure in reading it. If your child loves dinosaurs, mammoths and everything in between, this is the perfect book for you. 

  

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman
This is my favourite over all Natural World science book. It covers everything, not just animals, is small enough to tuck into our hiking pack and is easily held by little hands. 
  

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies
This one is right on the cusp of Quentin’s understanding. He loves this book because it’s subject matter ties in so well with the use of his new microscope. He is beginning to make the concrete connection to the microscopic world. Our nature table is a great place to find things to put under the microscope. When we go for nature walks he will now find something and ask what it might look like under the scope. This, like all the books on this list is a book he can grown into. He enjoys it now, but his true understanding is yet to come. 

Montessori Friendly Books 2015

   
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Anyone who follows us on Instagram knows I have a love affair (read addiction) with good quality children’s books. 

So, why not showcase our latest finds once a week, on a day where maybe you can grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy what we’ve discovered. 

Montessori friendly books are no different in criteria than any other Montessori  material. They are good quality, beautiful and for the most part reality based.

I decided that the best Montessori friendly books published in 2015 would be a good place to start, and so, here they are:

  

Her art is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen for children’s picture books and she’s Canadian. I love books that speak to a child’s ability to change their environment by including nature. 

A boys bland and ordinary pond has no bottom. “How extraordinary! Cried Ernest D.” Adventure, in the everyday ordinary with some nerdy prose. Oh yes. This was a hit right away. 

This is our favourite and I’ve written about its brillance before. It amazing, mindful and perfect for every age.

A beautiful science book. It follows its predecessor Farm Anatomy, and the illustrations are spectacular. It will have a place on our bookshelf for years to come. 

This is was published in October, and I’m so glad. We have Fox’s Garden and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this. Her books are wordless and centred around a child’s compassion. This time it’s the love between too sisters. The cut paper dioramas are stunning. 

This has been on our shelves for a while too. I love the simplicity of it and of course the artwork. Take home message: home is different things to different people but it is always where the heart is. 
There was one that despite all my efforts didn’t make it in time. The distributor has promised to send a new copy out, so I will continue to wait. 

This one will be well worth the wait I think.  

 

So that’s it. If you have any good suggestions let me know. Opening a child’s world to books has such a fundamental and lasting impression on them. Collections don’t need to be big. Public libraries, thrift stores, and friends book swaps are easy places to score great finds. 

    Montessori family reunion: A social experiment 

    What happens when you take two Montessori from Birth children, who live thousands of kilometres a part, who have never met, never spoken to each other, and place them in a Prepared Environment? 

      

        

      

    You get instant friendship. 
    We had the extreme pleasure of hosting Jasper and his family from Milkweed Montessori.

    What transpired in our all too short visit was Grace and Couresty, as they prepared snack together, demonstrated materials and talked about their lives. Jasper talked about his trip and friends back home in his own Montessori Casa. Quentin talked about our recent family goings on and the up coming school holiday. 

    Their was a quietness to both of them and it was magical to watch them both move around my classroom. Jasper tried the binomial cube (and completed it successfully) while Quentin got out the geography flags. They sat side by side as if they had done it 100 times before and it was beautiful. 
    We are off on Winter holidays now, and my classroom is closed up, the shelves draped. 

    Our upcoming weeks will be filled with peaceful home life and we will do our best to not fill it with busy holiday nonsense. To aid that, I’ll take a break from this space in order to fully be in the moment. 

    Thank you to all my followers and friends. This has been a good year. I will see you on the other side of 2016. 

    Montessori Practical Life: Homemade Gifts

    The holidays are so special to each of us. We all have our traditions that are close to our hearts. 
    For me giving homemade gifts is one of those special traditions. Simple acts of love and kindness, carefully made and gifted to loved ones. What could be better?

    This is an excellent opportunity for Practical Life activities for children 3-6 and older. 

    Here are some of our favourites.   

      
    Cookie making. Little hands rolling and cutting dough into stars, trees and snowmen. Rolled cookies are easy and inexpensive to whip up. Placed in a little tin or box a child can proudly deliver, they make a great gift. 

      
     Printable note cards your child can help fold and assemble. These are from one of my favourite artists Alice Cantrell. Her Etsy Shop is a must for me when I’m looking for a beautiful paper gift to send. I also use many of her works in my Montessori 3-6 classroom. Quentin loves picking something out, going through the printing process and assembling the finished product. 

      
     Drying oranges. They are so easy to do and they make quite a statement when wrapped with cinnamon around a gift. Quentin made these almost completely on his own. I simply placed them in the oven. 

    That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy. If you have some favourite homemade gift ideas I love to read them. I’ve included the instructions for the dried orange slices below. 

        

    Changing seasons: Materials and Exploring

      
    I love tying what we have on the shelf with our bigger picture. Montessori is about immersing a child in rich, holistic experiences. 

    So, when we want to explore the changing seasons, it only makes sense for us to find some beautiful Montessori friendly materials. 

    And then, go outside. 

      

    There is so much for a child to take in when walking in the forest. We purposely seek out quiet, peaceful spots where we can really take in our surroundings. This doesn’t have to happen in the middle of nowhere. A quiet corner of the park will do. We stop, practise some mindful breathing and really listen. Even at 3, Quentin has been able to master this with practice. 

      
    There is just something about sitting beside a stream. The water starts rushing with the heavy Autumn rains where we live. We could just sit all day. 

    In Autumn our favourite shelf activities include: leaf garland sewing, crayon/charcoal rubbings of leaves, and using Autumn themed free printables a like this one and this one

    Materials collected from nature walks also make great counters to go with number cards. 

      
      
    This is a beautiful new multi level puzzle we were gifted from Mind Set Learning Tools. Such perfect timing.