Love. Companionship. A best friend.
My husband just came out with it 'Caspar needs a dog'. My husband always had a dog as a child. He has fantastic, fond memories. We want the same for our children.
Many readers will remember the passing of our last dog. It's too painful for me to even re-read the post. While it was well over a year ago I didn't feel ready for a new dog. But this isn't about me. This isn't my dog.
It's for him. Tomorrow he turns six. Happy birthday sweet Caspar.
There are days when I just know that Otis needs something new and engaging on his shelves. He has his favorites but often he's restless, needing something new for stimulation. Sometimes it's just the newness of an activity that gets his interest.
I open our cupboards, often our kitchen cupboards, art cupboards. I walk through our garage. Thinking, thinking. Hoping that something will come to mind. And it usually does. I've never set up an activity like transferring pom poms before, but remember I'm getting desperate and he loved it.
Sink and float? Open and close? Locks? How about magnets? There are endless opportunities to use everyday household items for activities. It takes me approximately two minutes to prepare. It's always good to have a couple of spare trays. It's also good to always have a few ideas in the back of your mind (this is when Pinterest is useful). But when all else fails I just look to what we have and hope that inspiration strikes.
Otis often surprises me in what he is interested in. Don't think that something is too 'young' or too 'old' for the child. If you are not sure give it a go. Transferring pom poms was easy but engaging, he's practising to master. Magnets were easy too however it was a new concept, something new to think about. Most of all I love it when he rushes to his shelves when he's noticed something new. And I know that I've prepared the tray working with what we've got.
This month I wanted to share three authors that we have been enjoying. Three fantastic authors and great illustrators too. Amazingly my book wishlist is getting low but I guess it's time to start thinking about Christmas titles too. This post contains affiliate links.
I've mentioned previously that Otis loves Lois Ehlert's Eating the Alphabet which we have as a board book. Straight away her other titles were recommended and I wasn't disappointed. If you love bright and bold colours you will love these. Planting a Rainbow and Lots of Spots are stunning. Perfect for children like Otis who won't sit for a long story and need a lot of visuals to keep their attention. We also love Planting a Rainbow because we can identify many of the plants in our own garden.
This series from Dianna Hutts Aston and Syliva Long has also come highly recommended. Simply the most beautiful and engaging books about nature. They highlight the beauty and wonder in the world. It has stimulated many discussions (with Caspar) about how amazing our world is. Perfect for inquisitive children.
Although we haven't read it yet, An Egg is Quiet is also a part of the series. For home or school I think these are classics.
I came across Joyce Sidman when I was looking for children's poetry. The Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is perfect poetry for bedtime. Swirl by Swirl - Spirals in Nature is illustrated by Beth Krommes, they have also worked together on Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Let's say her illustrations are... bold and captivating.
As always I'd love to hear what you are reading.
When I first opened the shop I knew I had to start small. I needed to start with the essentials and build the store from there. I'm happy to say the store has been open just over two weeks and already I've been able to introduce new products. I've started to expand the range and will continue to do as as long as I can find the right suppliers and I am meeting demand.
New this week in the kitchen we have some Number Cookie Cutters and the fun Cherry Chomper. The Chomper is great for children and adults and cherry season is just around the corner. The Number Cookie Cutters are good for working on number recognition and fun in the kitchen (cutting out cookies, pastry or even cutting numbers out of foods like slices of cheese or bread) or for playdough or clay work!
I have a long list of materials and tools I'd like to introduce in the Practical Life range. New this week we have a Set of Four Funnels (for pouring and water play, great for the bath), a Paste Jar with Two Applicators and a large Easy to Read (Indoor/Outdoor) Thermometer. Caspar uses his thermometer to record the temperature on this free download from Montessori for Everyone.
When I first discussed with a friend that I was working on opening a store, she recommended an Australian company which makes a variety of blocks. These three are the first I've decided to stock including the Natural Construction Set, Colourful Rainbow Blocks and the First Sound Blocks. The First Sound blocks would make a great first birthday gift.
When it comes to puzzles, I'm simply stocking what my children love. For older toddlers (Otis) it's a large floor tractor puzzle, and for Kindergarten aged children (Caspar) it's the Children of the World Puzzle. We are also stocking the Matching Baby Animals Game. I featured it here on the blog many months ago but after that I couldn't find it in stores. Well you can now find the game with us. It features lovely, clear images of baby animals which can be used as simple language materials or for matching.
While I don't wish to become a 'toy' store I couldn't go past stocking a couple of fun, developmentally appropriate toddler toys. The Pound and Roll Tower and the Pop-Up toy which I've shown Otis using many times before (it's still on his shelves!) are new in.
The much loved Strawberry Slicers and Pie Moulds are back in stock and everything (with the exception of the wooden trays and Cognitive Development cards) will be back in stock this week. I've found a new supplier for the wooden trays who offers a greater variety of styles and sizes however this could take a few weeks or longer to finalise. Hopefully this week we will receive our new pitchers (in two sizes) and there are more kitchen items coming soon.
Rather than continuously bombard you with shop talk, I think I'll provide a weekly or fortnightly update here, perhaps on the weekend. I hope you don't find that too troublesome. I don't have the desire to run two blogs or two Facebook pages so hopefully I can maintain the balance using the existing sites.
We've had a lovely weekend however we are thinking of all those effected by bushfires, we're hoping conditions improve soon.
When I mention Montessori items, I'm thinking Montessori in the home, not for homeschooling but for living. Not necessarily Montessori designed materials but materials and toys a Montessori family might find useful and enjoy! If you are in the U.S, this post is for you! These are all Amazon affiliate links.
Items the same as stocked in How we Montessori Shop.
Children of the World 48 Piece Floor Puzzle by Melissa and Doug (pictured above)
I have complied gift guides before with many links. Here are a few more ideas.
Otis recently recieved a set of these huge magnetic insects which I can highly recommend. If you are in the US you are really fortunate to also have access to Montessori Services and Michael Olaf. Etsy is also an excellent place to find Montessori at home materials.
I am still short of ideas for Montessori at home shops for Europe and Asia. If you have some suggestions please leave a link.
There are so many words to describe the last two weeks. It has been crazy fun and crazy busy!
What can I say other than you are an amazing group of parents, teachers and care givers. I've learnt there is a strong demand for Montessori materials for the home and that Montessori in Australia is alive and well!
I am now concentrating of getting my stock levels back up and introducing new products. The intial range was based on the essentials while now I am purchasing lots of the fun items and broadening the base range. I have recently listed three new sets of blocks, of which Caspar and Otis are enjoying. Puzzles and new kitchen items will follow soon. I've also updated the photographs of our aprons which look fantastic.
Otis is also thrilled at having new matching cards to work with and today worked with all these pictured. These cards are also great for building vocabulary.
This week I hope to get back to posting here with some regularity and also have lots of books to share in our what we are reading page. Thank you for your patience while I've taken some time out from this space to attend to the shop.
For overseas readers I'm compiling a list of where you can get some of our products (or very similar) closer to home. International shipping isn't always an option and when you can it's best to get items locally. Tomorrow I will post my Favourite Montessori Items on Amazon list! However I'd love to share with you other sources of Montessori in the home products across the US, UK, Europe and Asia. If you know of a store that stocks Montessori materials that you can recommend or would like to share, please leave a link. I know lots of readers would appreciate it. Let's compile a list of Montessori (in the home) resources across the world. I know with your help we can do it.
Some days Otis could work all day. He did all of these repeatedly after spending the morning at our Montessori Parent-Toddler Class. If you have taken a photograph of your children using some of our materials and you would like to see them published, please email them to email@example.com.
A few weeks ago Irene sent me a picture or two of her son Joshua working. In the background I could see his work shelves and of course I asked to see more. I was delighted by this clean, simple but inviting Montessori environment. I hope you enjoy the tour! Words by Irene.
My son Joshua is 20 months old at the moment and we live in Melbourne. We have been following Montessori since he was around 6 months old. I became interested in Montessori as my husband is a Montessori child himself and he attended a small local Montessori kindergarten. Once I had a little time on my hands I started looking into it and the independence, free thinking and sense of order that Montessori encourages really resonated with me. I have always admired my husband's creativity, spatial awareness and problem solving abilities, qualities I think he developed through his early Montessori experiences. It pleases me that Joshua is showing the same qualities and loves working to build things as well as mastering puzzles, posting items and shapes. Montessori has taught me to follow the child’s lead and provide the tools support his learning in an environment that is orderly with beautiful materials. At 20 months it has become clear to us that the environment we have provided for him has been invaluable in assisting with his development. His concentration level has improved so much and he appreciates beautiful things around him.
My reading started with recommendations of "How to Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin, "Teach Me to Do It Myself" by Maja Pitamic and "Montessori from the Start" by Paula Polk Lillard. These were my first books to get a good idea for activities and processes to encourage and implement at home. I am currently reading "The Joyful Child" and “Child of the World” for further ideas and information. I loved the above resources as they speak to the reader in an easy way which makes implementing Montessori at home very simple and not as daunting.
I get a lot of inspiration from blogs and online resources - of course How We Montessori, The Full Montessori, Montessori Child, Feeding the Soil and recently Sixtine et Victoire for ideas on work spaces, activities and general thoughts on positive parenting. Pinterest is also a wonderful resource for finding and pinning ideas I have so that I can refer to them at any time. I have also found Aid to Life, At Home With Montessori and Michael Olaf are also fantastic for information on specific issues such as toilet learning and encouraging movement and dexterity. We also attend a Montessori Toddler group so there are sources of inspiration there for activities but also for presentation of activities, for example Joshua seems to be more drawn to painting and cleaning there simply because of the different presentation so I observe and change things at home to facilitate and promote these interests. Joshua’s work area has evolved considerably since he was born and continues to do so as his needs and interests change.
AREAS OF INTEREST
1. MAIN WORK AREA: This is located downstairs and we have set aside an area in our living room as Joshua enjoys working nearby while I am cooking or cleaning. Often he will come and get up on his step-stool and either take his afternoon snack and watch me cook or will want to help cut things up and sample. He works with his own tools - he has a chopping board, wavy chopper, whisk and a few other things. Baking time is particularly fun, I try to bake with Joshua at least once a week.
As the living room adjoins the kitchen and is tiled, we decided to put down a large low pile mat to define the work area. Practically speaking it is also a lot nicer to work on a mat rather than sit on the cold floor. We put in cube shelving as it was nice and low for accessibility when he was younger but we added another taller shelf as his interests changed. He has a small table and chairs and a small art area where he draws on the blackboard or paints when he feels inspired to.
We keep a small woven basket on the shelf. On our daily walks Joshua collects a few small treasures such as little sticks, rocks and flowers which he deposits into the basket when he returns. This is available for him to explore at a later time at his own leisure. His particular collecting interest at the moment is stones, he was excited to find some white quartz stones the other day. Other materials in the shelves are rotated periodically based on my observation of his interests.
A set of unit blocks that are permanently on display and easily accessible. Joshua has showed very strong interest in building blocks so these are displayed invitingly (inspired by How We Montessori). Joshua’s Christmas present is more unit blocks and this will complete the set he has with some more complex pieces so that he can commence undertaking some further exploration.
2. VEGGIE PATCH: We recently updated our garden to include a veggie patch. Joshua is responsible for watering the patch every day and keeps pointing to his favourite, the tomato plant. I think he is anticipating eating some lovely home grown tomatoes in the not too distant future, I hope our patch can oblige him. This is teaching him a love of plants and on our walks everyday he is more interested in flowers, trees, leaves and other bushes.
3. TOILET LEARNING AREA: We have two stations, one upstairs and one downstairs. These are easily accessible and have been set up to facilitate the toilet learning process. We make clean trainers and underwear available in baskets and a bucket for washing. The basin is easily reachable for washing hands as we have a sturdy step and the upstairs basin serves as water play, care of self and for washing hands.
4. SNACK AREA: This has been setup on a small table that was made by Joshua’s great grandfather and will eventually become Joshua’s bedside table when he is ready for a big bed. I try to make this area interesting by rotating the picture on the wall of beautiful art works. I am particularly interested in impressionist artists so I have been putting a few of my favourites there for Joshua to appreciate. I am looking at getting some life prints of butterflies and bugs to display as he has expressed a strong interest in these lately.
5. DRESSING AREA: Joshua has a cube chair that serves is multipurpose – he sits to help dress himself in the morning but he can also stand on the chair and look out the window or push it over to the light switch and turn the light on and off. Joshua also has a laundry basket in his room that he puts his used clothes into before bath time each night.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Some of the first “Montessori” activities we commenced with were life activities which I feel are so important for development. These are able to be done easily at home and we purchased all items for these locally. For specific activities I followed Joshua’s interests, which are mainly shapes, puzzles and colours. Some of the items we have on the shelves at 20 months are:
Irene also mentions that Joshua has a second work area upstairs where they have utilised an existing bookshelf and devoted the bottom shelves to Joshua's materials. This is an area where he can work when he wakes in the morning or while Irene is doing household chores upstairs.
A sincere thank you to Irene for the gorgeous pictures and detailed explanations. Thank you for sharing your spaces with us Irene.
You can also find Joshua's gorgeous little tea set at Windmill Toys.