Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mixed Ages

This weekend, I understood why Montessori was so keen on mixed age environments. We had visitors from out of town, including kids ages 11, 8, and 6. Our children were so engaged and well cared for the whole weekend I feel like I hardly even saw them. Even 5-month-old Jake got to be in on the action. To boot, the other mom noted that her kids had never seemed so grown up, busy, and happy.

I think I can now understand why my grandmother handled 8 children so well (something I find inconceivable at times): not only could they help to care for each other, but they also lived in a neighborhood teeming with kids. It reminds me that kids are incredibly self-sufficient, if we just put them in the right environment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Intentional food spills: Too many choices?

Okay, fellow Montessorians. I understood it when he was 9 months old - dumping his juice on the floor, spilling his cheerios - then, it was an experiment. I guess now it's an experiment, too. It's just that this time, it's not about what happens to the cheerios, it's about my reaction.

This all started on Easter Sunday. Alex, our three year old, "spilled" his cereal on the floor. At first, we thought it was an accident - the byproduct of trying to carry his bowl from the dining room to the living room. But when the second bowl ended up on the same spot on the floor, we knew it wasn't a mistake. Our reaction was pretty dramatic - shock, followed sending Alex for some cooling out time in his room (more for me than him), followed by clean-up together that was not quite as matter-of-fact as we might have liked (maybe not enough cooling time?). The rest of the day was pretty much a disaster - between lots of limit testing and a delayed nap, we all felt pretty awful before it was all said and done.

Yesterday was a pretty normal day, so I had chalked up the intentional spilling to the excitement of Easter. But this morning it returned - after denying a request for a tuna fish sandwich, first cereal, then fruit, then juice went on the floor. Alex is now at school fairly hungry, and I'm setting out to do some hard thinking about what to do.

I wonder if the source of this new behavior is the culmination of a growing uncertainty about our food "policy." I've thought about why I denied the sandwich request in the first place, and I think it was because the request seemed like part of a larger issue.

As Alex has grown, we have made more food choices available to him. There are generally two or three dry snacks available in the cupboard (goldfish, a granola bar) and two or three perishable snacks on his shelf in the fridge (yogurt, a cheese stick, fruit). Two kinds of cereal are also available for breakfast, although lately Alex has been asking one of us to pour a different kind of cereal for him or has wanted something else altogether for breakfast. Snacking has become an issue, too. We've been fielding requests after dinner, which I don't particularly like. I think it's likely that we're offering too many choices, and it's time to get clear about what the food policy is. So...

Breakfast is self-serve. There are two kinds of cereal, and a glass of orange juice.
On non-school days, there will be a snack available between breakfast and lunch. Self-serve.
Mom makes lunch.
There will be one snack post-nap.
Mom makes dinner.
There is one small Easter treat after dinner. (I could write a whole separate post about treats)
Bedtime snack will be served during Curious George time.

I will try to coolly handle spills - clean up, and no more of that food. What seems tricky here is the difference between intentional and unintentional spills...any thoughts?

We'll see how this works. I'm open to suggestions!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toilet Learning, Part II

It's been quite a while now since Alex began using the toilet exclusively, and I've kind of forgotten exactly how it all happened. In my last post, I remember noting that we had to set limits on where pee could go. I think shortly after this, Alex decided he wanted to use the "big" toilet - without the assistance of a seat. He learned to climb up by himself, and I think using the same "material" that we did made a huge difference for him psychologically.

The final piece of the puzzle was #2, and I eventually caught him in the act and helped him onto the toilet. I'm not sure if overcoming his resistance was "Montessori" - I can hear echoes of "follow the child" in my head - but I knew that once he did it once, he would realize it was okay. And he did - one time was pretty much all it took, and he began using the toilet consistently.

We were nervous to take him out of cloth diapers at night, but they were consistently dry when he woke up, so finally we did. To date, he has never had an accident at night.

I imagine toilet learning is different for everyone - it would be great for others to share their stories, successes, and strategies here too.

The next piece for us is generating enough comfort for Alex to go at school - I'm pretty sure he never does.

I'm back!

Okay, it's been an awfully long time since I've posted. In that time, we've moved, started Alex in Montessori school, and had another baby - Jake, now almost four months old. I'll try to simultaneously get caught up on the major happenings with Alex and keep up with the latest in our family.

I look forward to conversing with all you Montessori parents out there!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lessons for Twos

I'm on the lookout for good activities for get the ball rolling, I thought I'd share some that we've done recently. Hope others have good ideas!

-Slicing cucumbers
-Sharpening pencils
-Washing hands
-Putting on pants
-Setting the table
-Rolling and unrolling a placemat
-Spreading peanut butter on a tortilla
-Catching balloons
-Shooting baskets
-Drawing with crayons, markers, pens, etc.

-Matching shapes, colors
-Smelling spices
-Finding things in the house that are a particular color
-Using shapes to create patterns

-Reading books

One of the things I'm finding is that I have trouble sustaining a series of activities - we often do one and then sort of roam about afterward. I wonder what others experience at this age? Do I just not have enough out to do?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Source for Activities

Here's a great source I found for Montessori can purchase the albums, take the entire course, or just view the table of contents and go it on your own.

Diapering / Toilet Learning

So we're reaching that stage where a) diapering is not Alex's favorite thing to do and b) Alex has been showing signs of readiness for toilet learning.

On difficult changes....

One tactic that has worked well for us is to have an audience for diaper changes. My son loves stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs, the animals from his farm...if he's playing with them at the time, they come with us to watch him get changed. This has worked well for putting on coats, shoes, etc.

Another strategy that seems to work well is letting him choose a place to get changed or choose a book to read while being changed (we change standing up, so I put the book on the closed toilet seat and comment on the pages while I work).

I would rather involve him in the process, but he is just not interested sometimes, so we try to be creative. Sometimes nothing works or I'm not patient enough to try different things, so I scoop him up and just do it.

On toilet learning...

Around 20 months, Alex began to show signs of readiness to use the toilet. I don't quite remember any more what led me to thing he was ready - maybe dry diapers? interest in sitting on his toilet? During changes, I would invite him to go on the toilet and he would do so fact, it seemed as though he was holding it in order to go on the toilet (except poop - which is still very much a private, diaper-oriented venture).

When we returned from our holiday travels, we invested in some padded underwear and tried a week diaper-free (except at night). It was great at first...we would regularly invite him to use the toilet and he would go...but then it all turned sour. Alex became very interested in peeing everywhere it was possible to pee. In fact, he got so good at holding and releasing that he could hit seven or eight spots in one go. I know the toilet learning articles suggest calmly involving your child in the cleaning up process, but this was more than I could handle patiently!

So for a while we just went straight back to diapers with occasional invitations to use the toilet (which he refused). Now that some time has passed, we offer an invitation - do you want to pee in the toilet or in your diaper? We remind him that these are the places where we pee. I worry about him feeling ashamed if he makes a mistake, but at the same time think it needs to be clear that these are the (only) places where pee belongs. He now does a mix of peeing in the toilet and in his diaper. Until he shows consistent interest in using the toilet exclusively, I think we'll avoid switching to underwear.

I would love to hear other experiences or tips!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sleep: Age 2

Sleep is such a huge issue for parents of young children and has been a hotly contested issue in our household, so I feel compelled to begin a new wave of updates with an update on our sleep situation.

We have now graduated from a crib mattress on the floor to a full mattress, mainly because it is larger and more comfortable and accommodates both an adult and a child. Though the transition was not difficult at all, I wish we had done this from the beginning for our own sakes! Nursing would have been much more comfortable without my feet hanging off the end of the bed!

We have removed the gate from Alex's door. I guess we reached a point where we felt confident he would come find us at night rather than wander, so we decided this was an appropriate way to offer him independence to get what he needed at night (namely, snuggles).

We now have a consistent bedtime routine with a flexible start and "end" point. When Alex shows signs of tiredness, we put on pj's and watch two scenes from the Sound of Music. He brushes teeth, gives kisses, and reads one or two books with us before lights out. Jeff and I have different approaches to what happens from there...he usually sings until Alex is asleep, while I do a soft, guided imagery ("Let's think about when we were in the woods today. We parked the car in the parking lot...") leading to instructions about how to get to sleep ("Now we'll close our eyes and breath slowly..."). I try to guide him about 85% of the way to sleep and then say goodnight and leave the room. It usually works pretty well.

More often than not, Alex comes and finds us at around 2-3am. Usually I notice him climbing into our bed, but I hardly ever wake all the way up. Around 6:15am, he climbs out of bed, tells me "Mama wake up!" and goes out into the kitchen to pour his cereal. Since I still have to get the milk for him (he can't open the fridge), I stumble along a few minutes behind. Thank goodness for automatic coffee makers.

Alex still naps about 2 hours per day, and we don't worry to much about how he gets to sleep for nap. Yesterday, he fell asleep on Jeff's shoulder as Jeff was talking with a contractor about our bathroom! He sleeps in his bed and comes to find us when he wakes up.

What I love about our current system is that we are continuing to gently move toward sleep independence while still getting a full night's sleep. There are no tears and no late-night battles. What I don't love are cold toddler feet and the early morning squirm! But I imagine I'll even miss them when they're gone...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's This New Interest All About?

With this post comes a promise to renew my efforts to post regularly. There's lots going on as we approach Alex's second birthday...toilet learning, dressing, sleep, language, preparing food....

But for the moment, I simply have a question for my fellow Montessorians...

One of Alex's new favorite activities (probably THE favorite activity) is "set-ups." He will take a group of plastic animals or trains around the house and line them up in different positions in different locations. Today, for example, he kept lining them up on various tables with all their tails in the same direction or putting them all under the covers of his bed. What is driving this??