Thursday, August 29, 2019

Learning about the weather

We have loved doing some weather activities in the past couple weeks, and being more aware of the weather, the clouds, temperatures and wind. We also had a fantastic summer but the rainy season just caught up to us so the boys have been enjoying some rain and mud play! Here is a recap of our weather learning activities!

WEATHER WHEEL AND WEATHER JOURNALING

This was one of my 5 year old favorite activities, he is in a phase where he draws everything so the weather journaling was very interesting to him! I created a weather wheel from cardboard and felt, used weather that we have often in our area and although we rarely have snow I added the snow because my 5 year old loves it.
Then every day after each meal Alex would grab his weather wheel, heads outside to look at the weather, looks on his wheel what the weather currently is and draws it on a chart I prepared for him. He really enjoyed doing it and added lots of personal touches to it.

RAIN ART

This was my 3 years old favorite activity! I drew the people, taped the umbrellas and people under the umbrella with blue painting tape and taped them to the easel outside (it is messy, they had purple paint all the way from their toes to the top of their heads). I gave the boys complementary colors and pipettes, and let them splash.
They had so much FUN splashing the colors!! So much so that the process is all they cared about but I thought the result was pretty good too. Also if your kids are really eager, like mine were, make sure you tape it really well, as you can see on the kids painting I have a few lines under the umbrellas where the color leaked. We ended up doing this one several times with just white paper as they loved the process.

4 WEATHER SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS

Alex often asks how wind is made we started by making wind in a jar. Since this was a success we did 3 more!
Wind in a jar: we used 2 jars of cold water, colored red, 2 jars of hot water, colored blue (the jars have to be exactly the same size), carefully, use a plastic card to keep the one you are flipping over closed and stack them. Then remove the card. Finally we watched the hot water go or stay up and learned that when hot air meets cold air the hot wants to go up therefore creating wind.
Rain cloud: this one is a classic experiment! Add water and shaving foam to a jar and with a pipette add watercolor (or food coloring). The color will fill the cloud eventually falling out creating "rain". This is an easy and fun activity and even more fun for the boys since pipettes are involved!
Tornado in a jar: we put water, soap, white vinegar and food coloring in a jar, closed it and shook it to make a "tornado". The shaking has to be in a perfect circular manner or no tornado will show. The shaking motion was hard for the boys to make and only I could get the tornado to happen, which made it less interesting for them (although they tried very hard).
Cloud in a jar: we placed hot water in a jar, sprayed hair spray on top and placed a bowl of ice cubes on top). Then you can see the cloud form between the water and the bowl! It was kind of neat, plus when you remove the bowl you can see the "cloud" leave the jar!

CLOUDS ART

We took a better look at the clouds and decided to paint them using blue and black paint and cotton balls. My 5 years old had NO interest. My 3 years old loves painting so I made the cloud formations I know and are the most common and Matisse enjoyed painting, sticking cotton balls on the paint and painting the sky and the clouds. We talked about how clouds look different and there are lots of different ones and that they bring different weather. I had the names ready, but my boys are clearly not ready so I will keep that for a while and see if an interest resurfaces later on.

PAINTING THE SKY

We took the painting outside and painted the sky on a mirror with blue tempera paint and shaving foam!
In the mirror they were able to see the clouds, the sky (and the trees) and they had a lot of fun with the paint and the foam. At some point they let go of the paintbrushes and dug right in with their hands! They also drew more clouds on the mirror with their fingers! It made for a fun sensory messy play and a different painting experience!

Learning about the weather hands on activities for preschool kids

Weather science experiments for preschoolers

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Baby-Led Weaning


When my oldest was born I had never heard of baby led weaning (it's a bit of a redundant theme in my posts 😅), so we did all the standard spoon fed purees and slowly introduced chunks. Because of his bad kidneys my second didn't really eat anything until he was 1 so he only did chunks and he self fed right away.
And then came my third child, I made 1 puree and he really disliked been spoon fed so I gave up, let him have the spoon and started from scratch with baby led weaning (BLW) at 6 months. It is so much easier then purees (very convenient with a 3rd child) and at 10 months he eats pretty much anything I give him and the same as us.

BLW and Montessori

Although different from the Montessori approach to feeding, BLW is popular with people who are Montessori-inspired for several reason:
▪︎it is child-led
▪︎the child has the freedom to self feed, and it is one of the first independent self care act they perform
▪︎the child can stop on his own when he is full, therefore learning healthy habits of not overeating

What do they eat?

Pretty much the same as us, but with no seasoning. I cut it in little chunks or long strips so he can grab the food.

Here are some ideas:
Fruits: pears, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, slightly cooked apples, blackberries, oranges
Veggies: carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, okra (he LOVES it), potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, bell pepper
Grains: pasta, bread, oatmeal
Meats and dairy: eggs (although mine does not like it), sausages, chicken, ham, turkey,  cheese (because we are a French family!)

Also I want to mention regional differences: my first 2 were born on the West Coast and I was given a list of 20 items to not give until 1 year old and a shorter list to not give until 2. We are now in the South and I was told he can have anything starting at 6 months (except honey, wait until 1). So even though I was given much more freedom with my third boy, I'm still not as adventurous as I could be.

Where do they eat? 

In our case he eats at his high chair because he eats all his snacks and meals with us and we eat at the table. If you want to be purely Montessori he would have to eat at a weaning table but we feel he should sit with us. My oldest, Alex, did have his own table next to ours.

How do they eat?

We offer him food on a plate, with a spoon and a weaning glass with water. The plate has a suction cup so that it doesn't fall on the floor right away, but that is my own personal preference,  and it is not Montessori. He likes to hold the spoon in the hand with which he does not eat. He loves  using the weaning glass but at this point there has been much more water on the ground than in his mouth! 😅 but I say embrace the mess! We do not use a bib, but we never have, I think because my oldest used to rip the bib away every time.

Why we like it?

It gives him independence and an early start on portion control. It helps develop his pincher grip. In addition, it is much easier than purees and he can eat very similar to us.
Baby-Led Weaning and Montessori Weaning


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The importance of nature and how to explore nature with an infant



I think that most of us here know or understand that nature is important, there have been studies done, but also just going outside and taking a good breath can feel so good. However, let's be honest, taking an infant out in nature can appear to be a very complicated task! Especially if you live in a city.

TIPS ON TAKING AN INFANT OUT IN NATURE

Here are some tips on how I have been taking my babies out in nature based on their age and abilities.

Infants

I took my children outside from the time they were a few weeks old. I would grab a blanket (I have a nice foldable one with a strap) and let them lie on their back and look around, at the sky, the trees, the leaves... it was always one of the quiet peaceful times of the day. It can be at the park or just in the backyard, at that age just the rustling of the leaves is interesting.

Rolling and scouting 

As they get older they will roll on the blanket and look around. They will start scouting to the edge of the blanket and get their first taste (literally and figuratively) of grass!

Crawling

Now comes the crawling phase. This is when they will adventure off the blanket and start discovering the natural world first hand.  If you have a mouther, in my opinion, this is also the hardest phase. My 10 month old eats everything: paper, grass, books... you name it, he will eat it!

During this phase I am very careful, I make sure that anything he grabs is mouthable and I even select and offer natural items that are large and unlikely to break into small pieces. If he mouths something I deem not acceptable I ask him to give it to me, take it and say "I won't let you eat this rock, it's too small" and offer an alternative with 2 choices "but you can have this branch or this rock" (in a respectful language). However I still follow him and let him crawl where he wants as long at there is no danger.

Walking

And then comes the walking, this is my favorite time as they are free to explore the most (and generally are less interested in eating everything by then). This opens up a lot more options for them and also us.

LIVING IN THE CITY

Now, if you live in the city and do not have a backyard try to find a park close to you. My first 2 were born in Las Vegas, where our very small backyard consisted of a pool (nice for a dip but not good to let a young child play around), concrete and fake grass (note the huge lack of nature!). I took them to the park nearly daily, either walked there or drove there, I knew all the parks in the area. We also had a little water and sand table at home for them to splash in.

To select your park, make sure to pick one  that fits your child's ability. If you have a new walker, for example, select a park with nice flat areas that are easy to walk on. You can also pick a small playground with small stairs for them to practice (even with crawlers, my babies always climbed stairs before they walked!)

MULTIPLE KIDS

I have 3 boys, ages 10 months, 3.5 and nearly 6. We now live in a mountain area and have a nice backyard for all of them to play in so we spend a lot of time just being in the yard. We still like to go to the park for a change of scenery. I select the parks to try and fit all of my boys but really I go by the baby. For example we have an amazing wood natural playground close to the house however it is rocks and wood chips so I rarely go with my little one as it is not convenient for crawling.

WILDERNESS

I apply the same considerations to wilderness as I do for parks. We have been to the river and to the beach at the lake and we take our blanket and a tent for the lake beach and let him explore. At the beach he really enjoyed the sand and the water, at the river he loves the rocks and the running water. At the river we try to find a spot with larger rocks or a large flat rock that make it easier for him to crawl or stand on however I have seen him crawl into little rocks and not care (it looks painful to me but he is fine!)

BRING NATURE INSIDE

And if you really cannot go outside because the weather is much too cold or stormy, you can always bring nature inside. For a baby under one: just a basket with a few natural items; for older kids: a nature tray or table.

For more on he Montessori Baby see Language and Communication with a Baby the Montessori Way
Exploring nature with an infant. Why and how?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Baby Communication and Language the Montessori Way


I am lucky to have discovered Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) from Janet Lansbury's blog while I was still expecting my first child  (and even before I discovered Montessori). What I read on her blog absolutely resonated with me and I believe it strongly aligns with the Montessori philosophy especially in regards to language and communication.

Both Montessori and RIE have similar basic principles: respect of the child, trust in the child's competence and drive to learn, a safe prepared environment (or "yes space") and free uninterrupted play.

RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION

When it comes to language during the first year of life, both Montessori and RIE advocate for respectful communication with the child, and communicating with the child as a whole person and not an object. Here are a few things you can do to respectfully communicate with your child:
  • Talk kindly with correct language and in a normal tone of voice (no baby talk), using the correct words for things.
  • Explain what you are doing or about to do such as "I'm going to pick you up now", "I am changing your diaper".... When we do this the baby knows he is respected and also assimilates a lot of new language. With time they will understand and start helping you like putting their hands through the sleeves.
  • Do not interrupt a child who looks content and is not in danger. Ideally prepare a "yes space" so that there are minimal interruptions. They are developing their concentration.
  • Listen to them, and after talking to them give them a chance to respond. This gives them the basis for making conversation later on.
  • Be present during daily care activities such as diaper changes and feedings. Do not rush through them, they are a great time to bond and connect. As they grow, they can be more and more involved. For example: let them go grab a diaper to help you.

LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES

You can also do some simple activities with them to increase their exposure to language. The first one of course is reading simple reality based books to them. See below for more information on books. Other activities are:
  • Listen to songs and nursery rhymes.
  • Sportscast when they are trying something new and having a hard time such as "I see you are trying hard to roll over" or "you are so close". Then when they reach their goal, as with older kids you can state "you did it, you rolled over". You can sportscast often or little. Personally I do not sportscast too often as I feel it may be distracting (I am one of these people who can not concentrate with music or noise in the background) but I like to do it when they show they are trying hard or having a hard time achieving something.
  • Offer very simple choices "do you want this blue ball or this red ball?", it offers some freedom, at this age though, mine likes grabbing both 😅
  • Show them things and use descriptive language "it's a red truck with a long ladder"
  • Repeat the sounds they make. This may not be RIE nor Montessori but a "cooing" conversation is one of the sweetest thing I have done!
  • Treasure baskets: some simple treasure baskets with similar elements such as a basket of common animals, a lot of items of the same color, balls of different textures, the same shaped Duplos of different colors. When the child picks it up sportscast and describe the item, the color, what it is, how it feels. I should note: at this age we are only doing this for language purposes, not for actually learning colors and textures.

FIRST BOOKS

At first start with black and white or high contrast books, then add simple word books with realistic pictures (we love animals and baby books with real photos) and then move on to rhyming books.
Above are some of our favorite books:
- "Global Babies" by the Global Fund for Children
- "Mini Masters Box Set" by Julie Merberg
- "Mama's Milk" by Michael Elsohn Ross
- "If I were a Whale" by Shelley Gill


BILINGUAL KIDS

In addition to this, we are a bilingual family. We have been doing the One Face, One Language method and both my 5 and 3 year old children are bilingual. I do not speak English to them (although I speak English to my husband) and they do not speak English to me. We have used the same methods highlighted above just in a different language and with a lot of French books! 😊

We use shelves that separate books into English for dad and French for mom to avoid confusion for older children. These shelves have worked great for us and we starting using them around 18 months.

I also strongly believe that any amount of foreign language is beneficial. Even if the parent is not fully bilingual, has an accent (I sure have an accent when I speak English and some French people say I have an accent when I speak French now!) or if it's only CD's, songs or books. You can even learn together!
Baby communication and language the Montessori way.

Our Favorite Art Activities

When we are home we have a few to go art activities that we enjoy doing. But first, we always have an art cart with art supplies availabl...