Favourite board games

As a family, we enjoy playing board games. We started when my daughter was 2 years old. She was already able to count and quickly learned to count on the dice (up to 6 even if she was loosing her focus with more than 4 dots on the dice).


Her first board game was:
Orchard Toys The Game of Ladybirds. A great first math/counting game.


Then we were hooked to the Orchard toys, designed and made in UK! So many that we like! I find most of those board games at the local charity shops.
Orchard Toys Shopping List Game

Orchard Toys Lunch Box Game

We also like to play with non competitive games like this one, where everyone has to collect fruits before the crow reaches the end of the path.
HABA My First Orchard My Very First Games This is the youngest ones version, there are different versions of this game.

We also have the travel version with cards.

We are also big fan of classic games like draught, snakes and ladders and simple card games.

My 9 year old has started to play chess too. By the way, there is a guide book about how to learn to play chess the Montessori way!

Another favourite brand is Djeco and we have many of the card games. Because we travel often to our family in Belgium, the kids have been offered many games from that brand, easy to bring back home in the suitcase, and also easy to play while travelling.

Djeco Card Game – Batamino
 It’s a first game of battle when the player who has the biggest animal win (you see numbers on the cards too). We enjoy this game together with my son since he is 3, with his big sister too (4 years gap so it’s sometimes challenging to find games that they will both enjoy)

Djeco Card Game – Diamoniak
Be the first person to build a castle in one’s own color. More advanced in terms of rules. (recommended for children aged 5 to 9)

Here another “classic” from our own childhood and I love to play with this one. My son used to play in my team until very recently. He can now play by himself with only a bit of input from me.
UNO Cards

We also found this antic game in my husband’s grandmother house. It was his mum’s game that he played with when he was little. We brought it back home and now we play with my 9 years old. I used to play this game too as a child and still enjoy it very much!
Dujardin – 59062 – Mille Bornes Fun & Speed Card Game – Metal Box
Other classic toys we like: Mastermind and Who’s who!

A last one that I might order to get in time for New year eve to have fun with the kids.

Hasbro Pie Face Game

What are your favourite board games? Share in comments!


Santa Claus and Montessori

At the playgroup, we had our Christmas/End of the term party. While I themed it with Winter and some of the Christmas symbols, I didn’t go heavy on Santa and there is a reason why, I don’t make my own children believe in Santa.

And that was the first question of one of the mums at the playgroup this morning, why don’t Montessori teachers celebrate Santa? My answer in a nutshell: because it’s not real and our children learn about the real world around them.

As a Montessori teacher, I’m a firm believer of the reality principle. It means that children first must be introduced to the real world, must know the difference between what is real and what is fictional before being introduced to fantasy. Fantasy is an imaginary world, created by adults, by the abstract mind of the adults. Children have a concrete mind, abstraction comes slowly and later (after 6 years old).

It’s especially true for the children under the age of 6, during the first plane of development.

Maria Montessori discussed fantasy and reality quite extensively and believed that fantasy was an adult imagination imposed onto the child. Children are credulous and will believe what adults tell them. They will embrace our fantasy world but they will not understand that it’s pretend for quite a while.

Santa Claus, as presented by parents, to their children, is part of that fantasy world. We might believe that it’s part of the traditions, part of the “magical” childhood but it’s mainly a lie, even if it’s a lie that we tell to “please” our children. Also, a vast majority of parents will use the Santa Claus story to keep children well behaved for the whole month of December (at least). Not to mention, that nowadays, the Elf on the shelf is acting like Big Brother, monitoring all bad and good actions of the child.

As a Montessori teacher, I’m against all forms of rewards and punishment so clearly the idea of threatening my children that Santa will not come if they are not good is a big no no.

In our family, we don’t pretend that Santa Claus exists. Full stop. No elves, no gift from Santa, no cookies and warm milk… Nothing like that.

But now that my daughter is 9, we read the story of St-Nick, I explained to my children who was St-Nicholas, that he is celebrated the 6th of December. That he was kind to people and children of his time and he was well known to give gifts, anonymously. We have books with Santa in them, when my children were very young (and my youngest is 4 so still young), I used to say, Santa Claus is in the books, it’s a story. And I avoided Santa stories until my children were over 4.

But no, I don’t make them believe that a man comes into their house at night. I find it creepy to encourage my children to believe that it’s ok for an old man to come into our house at night. My daughter questions on a regular basis if the house is safe, she is afraid of burglars so I’m not going to tell her that our house is safe, locked but the chimney, hey! No problem, you come in and out and you will never be seen!

I help children under 6 to discover a world that is real, that they can touch and explore. They imagine with objects and what they see, touch, taste, hear and smell. The whole Santa tradition is totally imposed upon them, it would be totally my doing, my fantasy, to make them believe. For sure, children are credulous, they will believe their parents because they have no reason not to trust their parents. They must trust their parents, basic survival instinct! But what do we do to this trust when we tell our children a few years later that it was a lie? I know it’s a lie to please them, to play with them but well, it’s still a lie. On the other hand, if our children tell lie, we tell them that it’s not good to lie and sermon them about the virtue of the truth. Not sure why one is allowed but not the other.

In addition, I read this article about fostered/adopted kids and Santa and how traumatic Santa could be for those kids and it reinforces again my guts instincts not to carry on this tradition. Even if the majority of children don’t have trauma, every child has his own sensibility and we don’t know in advance if a child will be scared, worried with some of all parts of the Santa traditions or we don’t know how a child will react when he will know that Santa doesn’t exist.

And historically, who is Santa Claus? Who is Father Christmas?

Father Christmas in the UK was first associated with adult feasts and not related to children until the Victorian times. He was the spirit of good cheers spreading joy on Christmas day (Green coat by the way at the time!). Then in 1848 in New York, an article described different ways to celebrate Christmas eve around the world and included the tradition of St-Nicolas giving presents. It’s then that St-Nicolas became Santa-Claus and was merged with Father Christmas and finally started to be associated with Christmas day.

I have also difficulties explaining to my own children why we donate toys at Christmas for the children who don’t have any if Santa comes around and distribute toys (why then some families don’t have any? What do other parents answer? That Santa gives one gift to each child in the world but those poor children don’t have toys from their parents?). As we don’t celebrate Santa, I just explain that some parents don’t have money to buy toys so we help them.

And lately, I also feel that there are new traditions or traditions from other countries to be embraced, and a good marketing plot to make us spend more and more.  A Christmas eve box, the elf on the shelves (sold out everywhere at the beginning of December, the elf from the States), the Advent toys calendar (not the simple chocolate one, you must have a Star War one? A make up one if your child is a teenager and not just one in fact, give them 3…), the reindeer food ultra well packaged… I had a big overwhelming sensation this year although I knew I was not going to do any of this. But it was everywhere and I can sense that some parents must feel that they must do all those traditions, by fear of their children missing out (we have heard since the 1st of December that my son’s best friend has an elf on the shelf and my son did ask where is our elf then?).

Those are all the reasons why we don’t celebrate Santa in our house.

However, we celebrate Christmas as a family and we spend time together. We offer a few gifts to the children and if we have guests, we offer them gifts too. We decorate the house and the Christmas tree (Christmas tree has nothing to do with the Christmas/Catholic/Christian celebrations by the way). We eat well and we play games and go for long walks.

Now, as it’s a Montessori inspired blog, I would give the Montessori advice that I give to all parents who ask me:

If you want to introduce Santa Claus, delay until your child is able to talk about it. It’s easy to do with the first child, not so easy if it’s your second. Don’t overdo it until he is able to talk about it. Let your child explore the myth, the ideas around Santa by himself. Let him ask questions but answer vaguely or with questions. Don’t give him adult-made answers to his questions. For example, he might say, does Santa come in the house through the chimney? Ask him “what do you think?” (my daughter at the time replied that he was too big to come through the door). If your child comes back from the nursery talking about Santa, you might just say “who is Santa?” and you will then know what she knows already. She might try to explore the ideas with logic and compare to what she knows of the reality (like he lives in north pole with polar bears and reindeers, more than with elves?).

Also, avoid the naughty list/good list, don’t use Santa as a threat (think of long term, what are you going to do on the 26th of December 😉 )

I found that letting my child explore the ideas around Santa by herself was the best compromise: I didn’t feed them with big lies and their desire to believe (reinforced by the fact that they are exposed no matter what) was respected.

My daughter talked about Santa from around 3 to 5 years old and my son has really started this year to be passionate about the subject (he is 4). And they are welcome to express their ideas but their gifts under the tree are from us, with all our love.

To my family to your, I wish you a Merry Christmas or any other celebrations, happy time together and let me know your thoughts!






What is worth than being sick?

Being a mum and sick.

Being a mum and sick and being self employed (and missing a day of work, aka loosing money)

Being a mum and sick and taking care of the kids, anyway.

Being a mum and sick, having the husband taking care of the kids, the dinner and the house but expecting you to get the grips and help (thanks God for a lot of paracetamol)

Being a mum, recovering just in time to collect the family at King Cross and coming back to a sick child.

Being a mum, taking care of a sick child during the holidays.

(all the previous statements + a puppy who is not toilet trained and likes to nip feet, constantly)

Being a mum, 3 days before Christmas, no Christmas tree, Christmas decorations made by children stick to every wall with blue tag. Couldn’t care less what we’re going to eat for Christmas.

Bring it on 2017!





Recommended Montessori readings

Here are the recommended books to start with the Montessori education.

I read all those books and they are all very helpful for parents with children under 6.

How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way: first book I read when my daughter was 6 months old. I reviewed the toys I was giving her, simplifying everything around her. Beautiful pictures and activities to do for older children too.

Montessori from the Start

Considered as the bible to understand Maria Montessori education (without reading Maria Montessori herself), easy to read too and mainly for children under 3.

Learning Together: What Montessori Can Offer Your Family

Written by the Montessori Centre International, UK. It’s especially written for parents too. Very practical too to help you with how to set up your house the Montessori way.

Montessori Read & Write: A parent’s guide to literacy for children
 This one is great for children aged 2 to 6, tips to help with reading, sound recognition, learn the phonetic way and all activities can be done/created easily at home.

Child’s Play: Montessori Games and Activities for Your Baby and Toddler of Pitamic, Maja on 25 July 2008
 Written by a very experienced Montessori teacher, easy to do at home activities for your baby and toddler.

And of course, if you want to read Maria Montessori herself, start with these ones:

(make sure you read a Clio edition, it’s a better traduction and the traduction is really important as some translation from Italian to English were rubbish the ideas badly understood, AMI recommends the Clio publication)

By Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind (The Clio Montessori series) (New edition) [Paperback]

The Discovery of the Child (The Clio Montessori Series, Vol.2)

Secret of Childhood

Happy Reading!


My own kids list!

My children are older that the children I have in the playgroup so their Christmas list is different. I though you might be inspired if you have children aged 4 and over (my son is 4 and my daughter is 9).

In general, my children have 3 to 5 gifts each, some of them are second hand or bargains found during the year, and some are more “specific” requests from them. Every two years, we spend Christmas and/or New Year in Belgium, where we are from and they receive then lots of presents as they don’t see extended family often. This year, my own family is here (Grand-parents) so they have presents from their Grand-dad in addition to our presents.

This year here what they will get:

Books. My children get books all year long, mostly from Charity shops, mainly because I’m rubbish at using the library, I’m always late and I have late fees to pay all the time so I’ve stopped my membership to the public library and buy cheap books with them and give them back after use… But for Christmas, I choose a few specifics ones to keep.

The Famous Five Collection 1: Books 1-3 (Famous Five Gift Books and Collections)
My daughter is an avid reader and she read every day constantly, she is into classics lately (she read My Secret Garden, Little Women…). I hope she will enjoy the Famous five as there are plenty more to read after the first 3.
 1000 Animals (1000 Pictures): another Usborne book, this one is for my 4 years old who loves all animals and like to look at pictures of animals and mainly play with animals!

Their special requests:

Here what my daughter asks for. I was quite ok with her choice although I make my own kinetic sand (cloud dough) but why not, the set is not expensive. Obviously my son asked then for something similar so the castle is my son’s choice and the ice cream is my daughter’s choice.
Motion Sand® Castle Bucket Playset

Kinetic Sand Ice Cream Treats Playset (Pink)

And not pictured, an wooden easel for my daughter to paint outside and a hulk dress up for my son! He is into Super heroes and we indulge him from time to time (he has a Spider-Man costume bought offered to him two years ago).

I still have to wrap everything!

Treasure basket

The treasure basket is not specifically a Montessori activity but it fits perfectly with the ethos of the Montessori education.
In fact, Treasure baskets belongs to the heuristic play.
I started to give a treasure basket to my children when they were able to to sit up by themselves (around 6 months old).
At first, it was a mix of objects made of different materials.
When they are older, I vary the kind of content to explore.
Here only metallic objects (very noisy basket!)
Only fabrics/soft toys/silk
Wooden objects
Here Louis, 9 months at that time, exploring the basket
In the playgroup, this area is also very popular with the older children as they can imagine whatever they want with the content of the basket. 14962772_960194027420520_7738741232854008562_n
Adding some kitchen paper holder and rings, bracelets of all kind is also fun and note the natural items such as starfish or big shells.
Home made items are also a nice addition, just make sure, it’s safe to play with



Take a tour: Montessori playgroup.

Take a sneak peak in the Montessori playgroup I run in Letchworth, UK.

I run this group previously in London for 3 years and now I run it again after a break of nearly two years (as I was back to work as a Montessori teacher and manager in a small Montessori preschool).

My own son goes to another local Montessori school where we hope he will pursue his elementary education (he is currently in his second year of primary).

And here I am, introducing every week, Montessori to around 20 families.

You can see the whole set up, I’m lucky to have access to child-size chairs and tables. It’s a pack away so lots of work every week! Please enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!