A Montessori field trip: A trip to Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria

This has been a trip that has been a long time coming. 6 years in the making. And so, after months of planning, vaccinations and packing we are finally here.

I love travelling around the world to visit different Montessori environments. This one is particularity near and dear to my heart because I have been here (in spirit anyway) from the beginning. Before there was a school or children to fill it.

There is a vibrant and beautiful 3-6 classroom here and I will feature it in an upcoming post but what I wanted to focus on firstly was the Toddler Community at Fruitful Orchard. Authentic Toddler communities are hard to find in Canada and we don’t have a single one in our own community despite the fact that we have two Montessori schools that go from 3-6 all the way through high school.

It has all the tell tale signs: tiny chairs and tables, light, bright and airy, but it also has some gorgeous personal touches that the owner Junnifa Uzodike has carefully arranged.

The beautiful artwork and custom fabrics immediately caught my eye. The tiny carved reading bench with hand made cushion is just perfect for two small friends to sit together and look at books. As a side note the books featured are excellent for toddlers.

Perhaps the best part of this Prepared Environment is the tiny working sink, counter and real working oven at a toddler’s height. So often we see the opportunity to cook with heat taken away from toddlers. Here they regularly bake.

The Vocabulary shelves offer the toddlers a rich variety of new language and the chance to explore different items.

One of the most important part of a Montessori Toddler Community is the Practical Life lessons. Care of Self and Care of Others are the foundation of the Montessori Toddler years. That’s why when we knew we were coming I contacted Miniland USA and they rush delivered not only their beautiful dolls but also some warm weather outfits.

Toddlers love repeating. This little one removed the clothes of the doll, named all the body parts and put the clothes on again and again. It is so important for a young child to be able to see this Cycle of Activity through. The repeated fine motor movements and vocabulary solidifies key social neurological concepts that they move forward and build on. Dolls that a child can identify with (either by hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, genitals or physical features such as freckles, scars or implants) are incredibly important for all children. It gives them a chance to see them self and to practice all those Care of Self and Others lessons they have been working on. Often a child will mimic with a doll what they have experienced in their day.

We have been here a week and have a month left to teach in the 3-6 classroom, offer consulting and just spend time. The memories formed here will last long after we leave.

Montessori Practical Life Food Prep: Hand pressed juice

“The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment therein is the very essence of a useful education.”- Maria Montessori

We absolutely love the independence a Montessori Child’s kitchen provides.

Although Quentin mostly uses the regular height countertops of our home’s kitchen now at almost seven years old, he still uses his little kitchen for food prep.

Of all the juices we have pressed over the years, grapes are his favourite. Here he is at 3 years old pressing them.

And here he is today with the same little juicer that’s been going strong all these years.

One of the reasons we love this juicer so much is that it is completely useable by even the youngest child. The hand crank and the plunger keep little fingers out of the way and the fact that it’s see though means you can observe every step of the juice extraction.

The pulp exists at the end of the cone an we love examining that as well. The children in my 3-6 Montessori classroom are always fascinated by the entire process and lots of questions arise.

“Why doesn’t it taste like my juice from the store” is the most common one I get in the classroom. It always makes me smile because I remember back to that day of a little apron clad Quentin in the kitchen and his own oh so distinct Quentin answer:

“Mine doesn’t taste like the one from the store, mine just tastes like grapes. I guess cause mine doesn’t have any garbage in it.”

We purchased our juicer all those years ago from here. If your child is hesitant about new flavours, hand pressed juice is often a favourite even if you mix two flavours together.

New Montessori at Home Materials

It’s been a weekend full of sunshine and the promise of Spring here. And so I was thrilled to pull some gorgeous new language materials out of the postbox this weekend!

If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that we love following beautiful, hard working creative small businesses and Hobbs Farm is one of our absolute favourites.

It’s even more wonderful that they are Canadian and they can be purchased here in Canada!

I’m going to frame these beautiful alphabet cards to use as art in my 3-6 Montessori classroom’s Language area.

Wishing you all a beautiful end to your weekend!

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.

Montessori Book Club: This year’s favourite Winter books

We have been rotating our book shelves with week to fill them with our favourite winter themed books. We have previously posted some of our favourites here which include our favourite winter wordless book Fox’s Garden.

In November is a gorgeous testimonial to the gathering of family at this time of year and nature’s slow curling up for winter. The illustrations done in oil on paper, exude warmth and also the chill in the air.

We wrote about Sleep Tight Farm here. Two years later it’s still one that we all eagerly wait to pull out of storage and put on the shelves.

Frozen Wild: How Animals Survive in the Coldest Places on Earth has been sitting in my cart for a year and I finally purchased it for my 3-6 classroom. Jim Arnosky is an amazing artist and this book reads almost like a field journal. It’s fold out pages give some fantastic detail on the adaptive nature of the creatures with share this world with.

Earlier this week we wrote about Winter is Coming here. It’s has been read multiple times a day in both my classroom and at home. I have no idea why I waited so long to purchase it but I’m so glad it will have a place on our shelves from now on.

Lastly this is a newly released book with the text written by Margaret Wise Brown.

Sandwiched between the book ends of her beautiful poetry is her story of a new calf being born into the cold and the young boy Jonathan who cares for the animals of the barn. It’s absolutely stunning. Although we picked up our copy from our local library this would be a perfect gift for any small farm loving child and it can be found at major book retailers world wide.

What winter themed books are gracing your book shelves currently?

We will be splicing in some of our favourite holiday and tradition themed books in the coming weeks.

Book Club Summer Edition Part 2: More Books and activities a year later

One year later after we wrote part one of this post here we are settling into our summer rhythm once again. And once again we are following the Montessori approach to home learning, which means we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning.

Books and extension invitations are such a fun way for us to spend quality time together. These are some of our favourites this year.

The Darkest Dark is a favourite Canadian read here. Astronaut Chris Hadfield recounts a story of his childhood of big imaginations, big dreams and being afraid of the dark. We love the illustrations and comical and relatable moments. It’s perfect for kids 3-6.

Max and the Tag Along Moon is by the multi award winning Floyd Cooper. His soft paintings tell a gorgeous story of a small boy’s love for his Grandfather who reminds him that the same moon that shines over them together will shine over them when they are apart. Max watches the moon as it “tags along” all the way back to his own house. Perfect for kids 2+.

We have written about some of our own favourite moon and space nature activities here.

Straw painting is so easily accessible to children beginning around two years old. It requires nothing more than a straw and some coloured water. We have loved making constellations over the years.

We also watch the Perseid Meteor shower every year in August. I have fond memories of curling up with Quentin in the back yard hammock, wrapped in a blanket, watching the streaks of light cross the sky. You can find all the details of that meteor shower here. If you aren’t in a great viewing location for this space event, research what you can see. Summer is the perfect time for star gazing.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses was recommended by our friend Fred Ted and Company. I’m so glad they did. It’s our favourite new book on our shelves. A true story of a young boy who lives in New York and dislikes the noise and crowds. He instead decides to seek refuge in Central Park and build tree houses. A book about following your passion despite what people may say, it is an excellent read for children 5 and up.

Westlandia has been on our shelves for over a decade. It was our oldest’s absolute favourite as a young boy. Another story of a boy who doesn’t quite fit in and decides to follow his own path. There’s a reason it has stood the test of times in this house. Well written with extremely rich language and beautifully coloured pages, this story sparks imagination, follows the Montessori Great Lessons and ultimately showcases that it’s not only ok to be different from the masses; it’s essential. It is essential reading material for all children but especially those that feel like outcasts. Ideal for children 7+.

Our own front yard tree house was there long before Quentin came along and gave both the boys so much fun. Anthony especially. He would spend summer nights up there, lantern light glowing through the window, curled up in his sleeping bag reading with a snack. Regrettably it had to come down earlier this year. Quentin was devastated as he was not yet big enough to climb the rope ladder independently. We will have to consider a rebuild when he is older.

We keep all our Montessori compatible outdoor space ideas on our Montessori Outdoor Space Pinterest Board here. There is something for everyone from the beginner looking to bring in a little outdoor play to the advanced builder looking for their next project.

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer.

Montessori friendly infant materials: Giveway

Ethically sourced, chemical free, Montessori compatible infant materials are often hard find. We love discovering local shops that have both quality and Montessori at the forefront of their design so when Anson the owner of CUBOS approached us to test their new shape sorter the CUBOS-lite, we were thrilled.

Made from hardwood, finished in a natural beeswax polish, the pieces are stunning, easy to grasp and fit easily through their correct holes. The easy open lid will delight children as they can store more than just the accompanying blocks inside.

The CUBOS-lite Kickstarter campaign opened yesterday and can be found here for anyone looking to purchase this beautiful Canadian made heirloom toy.

We are so thrilled with it that we are giving one CUBOS-lite away starting today on our Instagram feed found here. Follow the link for your chance to win!

Montessori and plastic animals: A lifetime of learning

It’s no secret we love Schleich animals. Our Montessori Grammar Farm has grown from its humble beginnings and remains one of our most used open ended toys we have. 


We first wrote about our use of Schleich figurines here. At 13 months (corrected age because he is a preemie) Quentin used a small selection of animals familiar to him for vocabulary work, and exploration. People often ask us to clarify the use of plastic over wood, especially when the Montessori pedagogy is known for its use of natural materials. 

The answer is a simple one. Reality based material trumps natural material every time. It is far more important for a child to see that a cow has four hooved feet that are distinctly different from a pigs cloven feet than for every material to be made of a natural material. 

It is also extremely important to note that the Montessori pedagogy advocates for real world experiences for children. So although having all the African animals is very sweet looking on your shelves, your young child will have no concept of how tall a giraffe really is, or the size difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee unless they have had a chance to see these animals in real life. It’s for this reason that we chose North American farm animals as the animals we first introduced to Quentin. And as it turns out (five years later) these and his Forest animals are the only ones he’s ever needed models of. 


We wrote this post two years ago as his farm had expanded and the animals he originally had were still holding up. 


This is his farm today. 


He has used it in many Montessori language works such as “Nouns in the Environment” “Logical Adverbs” and simply just word building with the Moveable Alphabet. 


And of course, most importantly he uses it to play. The animals pictured are the same ones he used when he was 13 months. This is the reason we choose Schleich. Because they look as new as they did 5 years ago. 

Opened ended play is an overlooked piece of Montessori because many confuse it with fantasy play which is not condoned in Montessori. Imaginative, child led reality based play is very much encouraged. So his horses definitely don’t fly, or talk (because those are untrue concepts perpetuated by adults to children) they most definitely, nibble hay, gallop quickly, prance slowly and fall into the category of Mammal. 

This kind of play helps a child understand their world and gives an adult endless opportunities to open up age appropriate conversations with kids. Everything from vocabulary building in toddlers to life cycles for preschoolers to “A day in the life of a farmer” sequencing for elementary kids. 


So while I go back to driving the tractor up to the orchard to harvest the ripe apples, consider adding animal figurines in a purposeful way to your child’s environment. Think about the ways you can open your child’s eyes to the beauty of the animal world and it may surprise you what you learn together. 

Montessori Birthday Gift Ideas



Montessori Birthdays hold a special place in my heart. A “Celebration of Life”. 

It couldn’t have a more fitting title. 

I’m often asked what my recommendations are for gifts that fit with Montessori values. There are many fantastic options out there, so I thought I would offer a unique perspective on gift ideas for the 3 year old. Or rather, Quentin would. 

Being a “Montessori from Birth” child, coupled with the fact that he attends an extended day Montessori school 5 days a week, I thought it would be interesting to sit with him in his Montessori Space and see what he could come up with for gift ideas. 

Me: “Quentin, what would you give a friend for their Birthday?”

Quentin: “Candy.”

Me: “Yes, but what about something to play with. What are your favourite toys?”

Quentin: “I like my animals and buildings and you have to have a tractor for a farm. Oh! And I like my picture cards and alphabet cuz you can make all the sounds and match them and I know all the sounds and the words and that’s gonna make me read soon.” 

Me: “Ok. What about things to play with outside. What do you like to do outside?” 

Quentin: “I like to ride my bike cuz it’s fast. I got a new wheelbarrow and my working things for outside and I have real working gloves cuz, yah, sometimes your fingers get dirty and I don’t like that. And you know what Mama? I got rhythm bells too and those are for big boys cuz you have to ring gently or it’s a bad sound but I like them.” 

He sort of wandered off after that, but I thought his answers were sufficient. 

He came back later and helped me find the images to make the above picture. 

Starting at the top left: Bruder TractorBruder Recycling Truck (his upcoming Birthday gift), Rhythm BellsEarly Rider LiteSchleich animals,  Wheelbarrow & Tools

Despite the “toddler-esk” nature of his answers, some interesting things stood out. He likes to play with beautiful, reality based, good quality things. These qualities all fit within Montessori values. 

The animals and buildings he’s referring to are his Schleich animals and his Safari Toob Landmarks seen here. Both offer detailed replicas of real world things. Bruder vehicles are built to scale and have moveable parts but, (and here’s the best part) have no sounds, flashing lights or batteries. It’s all the child’s imagination. His bike, wheelbarrow and garden tools (“working things”) allow him to be out and exploring the world, but in a real way. Unlike typical toddler musical instruments, his rhythm bells offer a true to tone sound, allow him creativity with the musical scale and help him practice gentleness. 

When I’m looking for a Montessori friendly gift, I look for something well made, reality based and ultimately something that could grow with the child. I also try to “Follow the Child” as best I can. If the child likes art, some good paints and brushes with a nice art pad is always appreciated. There are endless real child sized tools for a budding chef or carpenter at Montessori Services. Most importantly, the gift of something homemade and from the heart can often be the best gift of all.

I came to find him when I had the picture ready to see what he thought. 

“But Mama, you forgot to do the candy.” 

Our Montessori Shelves 14 Months

A bit of a flashback, but for those of you who are curious:

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Our Montessori Shelves 14 Months
Top shelf: basket of plastic Schleich animals for matching mother to baby, a pouring activity, shape puzzle and homemade imbucare box

Bottom shelf: wooden acorn colour matching, homemade ring stacker, clothes pin pincer grasp activity and Pom Pom fine moter push activity