Montessori at home

Here the article I had published in Juno Magazine, Winter edition 2014

I’m a Montessori teacher, but first a mother. When I had my daughter, almost 7 years ago, I already had plenty of experience in childcare and a background in psychology but I was also living abroad and isolated from family support.  I remember spending a month at home in Belgium and all my family members were carrying her around, she was delighted and contented. Alone with me, she didn’t want to stay anymore on a playmat.  She wanted me to help her to sit up or to carry her around.

As a first time parent, I fell in the trap of buying lots of stuff to try to keep my daughter occupied.  It didn’t really work. A good friend of mine recommended How to raise an amazing child by Tim Seldin based, among other philosophies, on Montessori  education. The book promotes the freedom of movement and an uncluttered environment. I was hooked and tried straight away with my daughter.  This was how Montessori education made its entry into our home and is still very present in our family life.

You might be familiar with the Montessori as a school system, but what does it mean to raise a child the Montessori way? In our everyday life, we prepare our home to help our children to thrive, explore freely and become independent. We observe them and adjust the activities we provide in order to respect their needs and sensitive periods of development.

Babies and toddlers observe us all the time and they learn that way. Their only purpose is to learn life skills to become independent human being. That’s why they are so interested by kitchen utensils, laptops, keys, purse and mobile phones! For a young baby, a treasure basket full of everyday objects to explore is far more interesting than any plastic noisy toys.

There are some simple steps that as a parent you can take to have a child-friendly home. For example, why have fragile decorations that your toddler is not allowed to touch? This intense phase of exploration doesn’t last for long. In our house, we don’t have knick-knacks and fragile vases. I have plastic containers, kitchen utensils and baking material in the lower drawers so they can explore it.

What about toys? We have toys of course but only toys that follow our children’s sensitive periods. I rotate their activities regularly to avoid boredom and I present them in an orderly way. Children less than 6 years have an immature brain and the order outside helps them to order their thoughts. If their toys are classified by type, they will be able to classify in their head too. It will improve memory and concentration. And they will play better! You don’t have to buy anything expensive, some of the best activities for my toddler are just a collection of little boxes and bottles to open and close.

Now that my eldest is almost 7, I can see the long term benefits of this philosophy. As long as I prepare the environment, she can be totally independent. She knows where the art and craft material is and decides what to do and take what she needs to do a piece of art. She is in charge of her toilet and dress up by herself every day. During the school holidays, she loves to have projects and to learn about something specific. Following the Montessori ideas of learning through the 5 senses and hands-on material, I help her to explore a subject of her choice. In this way, I have found the Montessori philosophy to be of benefit to us all.dscf2346dscf2347dscf2348dscf2349dscf2350

Update from that beautiful space that was our home!

We had just moved in our new home, my son was 2 and 5 months, my daughter just 7. I had managed to have all their toys downstairs, saved a few very girly that belongs to my daughter in her bedroom (and more books upstairs) but look at those uncluttered shelves!

As I’m “challenging” myself and my hoarding tendencies (with the excuse that it’s for the kids!), I will take an “horrible” after pictures of those shelves and an after “after” picture when that toy’s space is organized again!

 

 

 

 

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Montessori challenge – the bathroom

bathroom-storage

Welcome to the first month of the Montessori house challenge (use the hashtag #montessorihousechallenge when sharing about this challenge). I have started this challenge with our bathroom because I have done many improvements recently.

I hope you have enjoyed the video. If you want to watch it, here the replay on fb.

How to improve your bathroom quickly to support your child, first ask yourself those questions:

  • Observe the room and how your child is using it. Every time your child asks for your help (or when you go and help him without him asking), try to see what prevents him to do it by himself.
  • Depending of your child’s age, encourage your child to be independent regarding self-care. As rule of thumb, if your child walks, he can attempt most of his self-care needs with little support.
  • Does your child have access to the sink? Can he see himself in the mirror?
  • Does your child have access to his toilets accessories?
  • Can you child reach the light switch?
  • What kind of bath toys does your child have? Does he play with all of them? Can he access his toys by himself?

Now, here my quick fix for the questions above:

  • access to the sink and mirror: try a stool but check carefully if your child can then see herself in the mirror. My son was not complaining about not seeing himself, my daughter was able and it took me months to realize that my son was not looking at himself in the mirror, it might explain why he was not keen to brush his teeth by himself? In our bathroom, we have two stools as we have two children of two different sizes.
  • access to their accessories: it’s best at this age to keep their own accessories separate from the parents’ ones, mainly because they will see them better and they will take ownership and responsibility for their own stuff.
  • light switch: one reaches it by climbing on the stool, my son is still too small so I added an extra cord (as it’s a pull down cord switch).
  • bath toys: very quickly the number of toys can climb up but really, children don’t need that much! Even just some empty containers can be enough (we used to have an empty plastic juice bottle in the bath, it was by far my daughter favourite toy). Sort and reduce until you have a manageable quantity for your child to handle.

Now for the great accessories to have in the bathroom, check the picture above and here what there are:

1. Zelta PS Resin Toothpaste Tube Squeezers Flatteners Crocodile Shaped Multi-colored 3 Pcs I’m buying this one as we have tried an automatic toothpaste squeezer and it was a disaster!

2. Kids Toothbrush Timer ~ 2 Minute Smiley Sand Timer for Brushing Children’s Teeth (Blue), there is one with the Ikea storage board but as I said in the video, that time is very long!

3. Ikea stool we have that one, and a smaller one that they don’t do anymore at Ikea but it’s on sale elsewhere so here is the link IKEA CHILDS FOOT STOOL / STEP WITH ANTI-SLIP FÖRSIKTIG

4. Ikea Storage board set with suction. This one is very sturdy so far, attaches properly to tiles and glass (we use it on the shower screen) and it’s at our children’s level. My son loves it!

5. Munchkin Quack Bath Caddy: I didn’t buy this one as we have a nest that I have just attached to two suctions hooks. But if my children were younger, I would have invest in that storage as it makes them access their toys easily. My children are 4 and 9 and can manage the nest storage by themselves.

6. Suctions hooks from Ikea: so far, I cannot fault those suctions hooks. In the past, I had bad experience with suctions systems so it seems that in 15 years, those systems have made lot of progress. Which is good as it’s so practical when you don’t want to drill holes! We have one for my son bathrobe (pajamas are in their bed generally and my daughter has hooks in her bedroom for her bathrobe), one for the towel next to the sink. Another idea for towels and bathrobes/pajamas was to add over the radiator hooks or to drill in the door to add hooks to the children’s level (but I was not keen to damage the door).

7. Another suction mirror from Ikea: if you don’t want to go for the big panel, this one is perfect too!

Not pictured is the accessories to wash their hands, as seen in the video, I found the little nailbrush at Tiger (UK shop).

Also here a few things that could be reallly useful

A tap extender (I haven’t try this myself) New Faucet Extender For Toddle Kids Children Hand Washing Leaves Shade

An over the bath, sink for toddler. We had the same one when my daughter was a toddler. We didn’t took it with us when we moved from Ireland to UK (I don’t remember why! I would say because she was getting older and we were not planning a second child at that time). But it was very useful and practical.

Not pictured either are the bath toys my children enjoy the most (the ones I kept after a much needed sorting)

Green Toys STCA-8586 My First Stacking Cups what I like with this one, it’s that it’s great for pouring but also for counting and volume comparison.  Each cup is numbered on the bottom from 1 to 6 and is volumetrically accurate. Fill cups 1 and 2, for example, and it will equal the volume of cup 3.

Green Toys Blue Handle Submarine Bath Toy ideal for Babies and Toddlers

By the way, Green toys are Made in USA and of recycled milk jugs, very safe and ecological toy.

Alex Rub a Dub Pals Stickers for the Tub bath toys: I bought this out of the blue as it was super cheap at my local TKMaxx, and they have played most of the time with it ever since. (I think it was for Christmas two years ago)

Marine Figure Set – 12 Piece Sea Life Toy Figurines: my children have lots of plastic animals, they are, IMO, one of the best toys to have (I will write an post about that resource!)

And a simple plastic doll is great to bath too. My children also like bath crayons but I cannot find a brand that doesn’t dissolve after one or two baths. If you have a good recommendation, I’m listening!

And involve your children in your cleaning routine for the bathroom. In our case, we wipe the shower screen after use. I figure that as my children love to use the squeegee already on the windows, they might enjoy this activity in the bathroom too. Other tasks they can do in the bathroom: empty toilet paper in the bin, put their own dirty clothes in the laundry basket (our own laundry basket is in the corridor or bedroom), wipe sink and counters (they can use a mix of vinegar/water/essential oil to clean), spray the mirror (same mix to clean). They can hoover/sweep and mop the floor too with your help. I would leave the cleaning of the toilet seat to the grown up.

As my children are older, I didn’t chat about potty training but if you need advice/tips for this, comment below and I might do a post about our own experience and how to potty train the Montessori way.

I hope you have some ideas and are ready to tackle your bathroom if it needs improvements. What are your challenges for your bathroom? Please share in comments!

Thanks for reading!

If you blog about the challenge, grab the button

Montessori-family
Montessori-family

I have created a linky for the Montessori house challenge so if you have a blog with a post about how you have set up a room/area following the Montessori principles (or helping your child to be self-sufficient), feel free to link it.

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