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

Our Shelves at 2 1/2

How did we get here? A two and a half year old. A school boy. With Quentin in Montessori school during the week, I am even more aware of the fact that I want his home materials to compliment, not compete with his school day.
I don’t have time to pull together themes, these activities are simply based on my observations of him and my knowledge of his stage of development.

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Top shelf: Marble maze (Anthony’s), zipper dressing frame, marbles, wooden marble run blocks

Middle shelf: Pasting tray (with veggie pics), felt button tree & leaves, box of numbers & penguin counters, cylinder sequencing puzzle

Bottom shelf: playdough & tools, lock box, geometric shapes, short to tall sequencing puzzle

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Top shelf: Lighttable, brass bell, nature tray, globe

Middle shelf: plastic objects & matching cards (currently lifecycle of sea turtle), Mystery Bag & objects (currently textured tiles), cutting practice, pencil crayons & notebook

Bottom shelf: vocabulary matching cards (currently veggies), colour cards, sandpaper numbers & letters books, threading beads.

These activities are not used every day. It is more often that he will choose one to work with for a period of time before his bedtime routine. On the weekends he will use more. I like to leave the materials out for a good long time to make sure that he’s really been able to get a chance to use them.

We also have some quiet “open ended” toys out. The wooden train set gets regular use. There is a basket of blocks, and some accurate construction vehicles that he uses often. A tub of musical instruments gets us dancing around the line. His barn is a favourite and the only toy in his bedroom.

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My Montessori storage cupboard needs a good clean out and overhaul. It seems he has just gone through a large change in ability and many activities are no longer right for him. I’m trying to come up with ideas of how to hand things down to other Montessori families. If anyone has ideas I’d love to hear them.

It’s hard to believe he is growing up this quickly.

What’s on our shelves

I promised I would post this and so here it is. These are the main ideas or experiences we have on Quentin’s shelves at almost 24 Months. We rotate them as needed but I’ve tried to keep it really simple. A puzzle out for a puzzle in, a wet pouring out for a wet pouring in, a colour activity…well, I’m sure you get the idea.

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Row 1: Basket of Animals used for vocabulary/matching
Art activity: crayons, paints, pasting tray, play dough
Scissor/cutting practise with strips of paper and box for scraps
Fine motor/sequencing activity: nesting dolls

Row 2: Bowling pins and ball. Thank you Essential Montessori
Vocabulary/matching cards: currently Alphabet Cards. Thanks So Awesome
Books: Letter and Number Work
Colour sorting activity: currently Primary Lacing Beads

Row 3: Practical Life Dry Transferring: currently pompoms with tongs Thanks How We Montessori
Practical Life Wet Transferring: currently water with pipette. Thanks again How We Montessori
Knobbed puzzle: a wide selection. Everything from trucks to sequencing
First jigsaw puzzle: matching adult animal to baby

Row 4: Geometric Shapes
Lock Box

I haven’t included the “outdoor” materials but I will do a separate post on them shortly as the weather is getting warmer and we are spending more time outside.

We also have a beautiful hand made zipper dressing frame made by my Mother, and of course the light box that Anthony and I made, but this for the most part is it. This is what keeps his little hands moving, and the fire in his eyes burning all day long.