Do you need to involve your children in the KonMari process?

Marie Kondo doesn’t specifically talk about children in her books. She mentions that children over 3 should be able to participate in the process. She also says that you should take care of your own belongings and don’t try to declutter your family’s things. In extension, many parents have understood that they shouldn’t sort their children’s toys, clothes and books without their permission. Therefore, parents ask their children, at least as young as 3, “do you want to keep that toy?” or “should we find 5 toys to give to children who don’t have any?”. When this tactic could “potentially” work with a children over 7 years old, it will unlikely work for younger ones

Why? Because children under the age of 7 (and surely under the age of 4) lack empathy. It means that they cannot see the wold through someone else perspective. They will unlikely grasp fully the idea of charity (they might agree to donate to please you or will do it, thinking that their toys will be back, magically when they ask them back), they will surely be very “attached” to all their toys if they see them (object permanence is another concept that is still developing in the very young ones so the out of the sight, out of mind is true for babies and toddlers, seeing their toys during the process, while you ask them, will surely reignite an interest for that toy). I believe that Marie Kondo is the Queen of decluttering but she doesn’t have a clear knowledge of child psychology and child’s development.

So what happens when your ask your child? For sure he is willing to keep all his toys, including the broken ones, the ugly ones, the one he has never play with until you show it to him, the noisy ones that drive you crazy, the book with a awful naughty child who has to go to his bedroom without supper (so not your parenting’s style, offered by the family!) that you don’t want to read again!

Why you involve, with good intentions because Marie Kondo suggested it, your child in the process, you will have little success. Maybe you will manage to remove a few toys or books but for sure, the huge amount that you wish to remove will remain because every toy, when you ask a child, sparks JOY!

Also you, the parent, are the one who bought the toy in the first place (or who are allowed a well intentioned person to bring that toy in your house), therefore, I consider that you should take responsibility for the sorting and decluttering of your child’s toys, which will allow you to face the amount of children’s belongings and be able to understand why you bought so many or that kind of toys. And hopefully, never coming to that tipping point again!

I give you now my own analysis of my own toy’s situation in my own home. While in general, we don’t have many toys that I don’t value, we were starting to have too many in some categories and for some, now very clear, reasons.

  • books: I used to go to the charity shops with the kids to treat them and they were allowed to choose books. Because it was cheap, it was always “yes” and I didn’t check much the content of their choices. We ended with many books that I didn’t like to read at all and were far from what we wanted our children to learn (some very heavy on the fiction side)
  • magazines: when I was back to work, I used to go food shopping after work with both children who were cranky and demanding so I was saying yes to a magazine that they were barely reading when back at home.
  • small toys that come with magazines and Kinder Surprises: for the same reasons as above, I bought Kinder Surprises quite often for 18 months. Out of guilt and to have 5 minutes peace!
  • educational toys: as a Montessori teacher, I couldn’t resist an educational toy and I had for example, multiple rhyming games, letters games, stacking games… And we didn’t make enough use of all of them to justify to have so many (to be fair when I was back to work, some were at work with me and obviously came back to my house when I left)
  • art and craft: that category was overflowing and so untidy that I had given up doing craft with the kids. I couldn’t face the time it was taking to start a craft activity as I had first to dig into the mess to find what we needed.
  • soft toys overflowing too: My daughter has 53 soft toys (she counted then yesterday!), my son around 20. My daughter has pocket money and she was allowed to buy whatever she wanted when going to the charity shops. She always wanted a new soft toy. For the past 9 months, I stand firm and told her that she cannot buy a new soft toy at all. In addition to this collection, we had made an habit to “offer” a soft toy to the children when we were going to Ikea. Well then, how can we complain about having too many soft toys when clearly we, the adults, have said yes to the extra ones every time.

Knowing that I was mainly responsible for the kind of toys we had and the amount, I did most of the decluttering process myself, swearing every second of the process that I will never ever again buy a soft toy at Ikea, never ever again buy a Kinder Surprise or magazine out of guilt, never ever again buy any kind of toy without making sure it was really purposeful or truly desired for some good reasons.

Personally, I haven’t involve much  my youngest in the process and I decluttered my 9 years old bedroom before asking her about the remaining. Here what I have cleared out by myself with no regret or guilt:

  • clothes, I know which ones were the favourites and I donated the too small ones, the ones with holes or stains (these ones to the recycling), the ones that I bought for my children but they didn’t like them (the clothes on Sale or for example, my son refuses to wear jeans as they are to “crunchy”) and I donated some good clothes as I had just too many and some were in the bottom of the drawers all the time.
  • hair accessories for my daughter, she uses the same hair bands constantly and wasn’t even aware that she had more in a drawer.
  • bath toys: I donated all the babyish toys and kept only the ones I have observed them playing with.
  • broken toys or incomplete toys (so many puzzles with missing pieces!)
  • books that I don’t want to read because of the inappropriate message (I received some children books with a very strict and punitive parenting style and I didn’t want to read about corporal punishment and banishment anymore or I picked some books at the charity shops without paying attention to the very moralistic messages and with a closer look, those stories didn’t resonate at all with our lifestyle)
  • toys received with magazines or kinder surprises (collection of Minions, anyone?)
  • most of the magazines
  • I have clear out all the art and craft material by myself (as seriously my children didn’t have a clue how many paint, glitter, or kind of paper we had)
  • if you want to follow the Montessori principles and offer an non overwhelming play area, I would encourage you to sort all the batteries operated toys by yourself and keeping them at a minimum (we have a remote control car and that the only battery operated toy we have)
  • duplicates toys if you have (like stacking toys, different kind of blocks), here you can definitely rotate.
  • I also cleared out all the board games by myself, I know which ones they like to play with and the ones I bought because I found them “educational” but clearly they are not attractive for either of my children.if you have many tv character toys, I would suggest that you have a good clear out in this category too. Those are very prescriptive toys with a clear scenario and don’t allow much exploration. However, children can be seriously attached to those toys. If this is a big category in your family, maybe observe your child for a while and see if he plays with those toys, put them away for a while and see if he asks for them.
  • I then ask my son to sort his soft toys as it’s more of a “sentimental” category for children. Well guess what, not one went away! But I’m now extra firm and no a single new one will come in.

Regarding my son’s toys, not a lot were donated or thrown away. I have mainly divided by two each category and kept half away in storage. This is to insure that it’s not overwhelming and that he is able to tidy up the small remaining. He has clearly noticed that some toys were missing and asked anxiously for those toys (for example, he used to have a huge box of plastic animals that I have now sorted by subcategories, leaving only one or two out at a time), I have shown him where are those toys and he knows that he can ask for them whenever he wants. He seems so far, contented with the remaining.

Regarding my daughter who is older, I have involved her in the process much more. First of all she is 9 years old and well able to understand that she might have too many toys. She also observed me decluttering the rest of the house and was curious. For example, she has a collection of Knick-knacks and she decided to sort them the KonMari way: she held every object in her hands, feeling if it was  sparkling joy or not. I was very impressed when she let go of half of the collection. I asked her about every craft set she had and some other toys in her bedroom (especially the character toys that I didn’t particularly valued such as Petshops, Disney princesses, . We let go a big quantity (books, some younger toys,  craft sets, colouring books…) and even some toys that were brand new that she choses  to donate to charity.

I haven’t finished my son’s bedroom especially as he has now received around 20 new toys for his birthday (thanks to his friends at school) and I have now to find a space for those new toys. It’s more about rotating in this case to make sure those new toys are played with.

Let me know if you are sorting your child’s belonging the KonMari way and how it works in your house!

 

 

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Best Montessori toys for Easter

I have always associated Easter with Spring, outdoor and good weather. So in our family, the kind of toys we buy at Easter are essentially nature and outdoor orientated. Following the Montessori principles (real tools, to practice life skills or explore the world), I present you my selection.

This year, we are offering a bike to my son and a two wheels scooter to my daughter so only one gift as it’s quite expensive.

But here a list of the things I have offered in the past or ideas that I will forward to our family:

Easter plastic eggs: the best buy ever! We do an Easter egg hunt and the first time we did it, my daughter was 2. Then we had to hid the eggs in turn until the Summer, it was her favourite game. And there are so many activities you can do with a set of Easter eggs (make sure to have two of each colour, I’m planning a blog post with ideas so stay tuned).

Microscope:images I remember fondly my first microscope and I can wait to offer one to my children (BIG HINT to grand-parents!!!). Anything that encourage the children to get in touch in nature is great!

Magnifying glasses:41YdRoVm68L

Both my children have a magnifying glass and use it for outdoor exploration but also in various activities inside. It can be left on the “nature’s table” if you have one.

Binoculars:91p3PGLP54L._SL1500_

we bought a pair a few years ago at Kew Garden. Now that Louis is 5, we need a second pair as my daughter is not forthcoming to share hers (I remember that she bought it with her own pocket money). I would advice a real efficient pair of binocular and not bother with a toy’s one.

The little book of Woodland birds songs:

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we bought the garden one for my daughter. This one is next on the list for her.

Nature treasure hunt cards: to be honest, I should be able to do this game myself but lacking the time, I’m thinking of buying this one for a while. Just to have an incentive to explore when we are out and about. Sometimes, it’s me who needs a push as the children most of the time have their own ideas.

Gardening tool’ set: 81C1cVG0pWL._SL1500_My children love to help in the garden and we have tools for them and gloves! The gloves are super important for them!

Wheelbarrow31Y135GQWVL: My son received one when he was around 2 and he had, and still, such a pleasure to transport wood and stones from one side of the garden to the other. Last year, I dig my first vegetable patch and I had to remove lots of stones, my son participated greatly by taking them away. Prefer a metal one that it’s sturdier and heavier, so it’s not falling when your child fills it. And as he will have to make an physical effort to push it, that will give him a real sensation.

Butterfly growing kit81s-IlhtOpL._SL1500_

we did the experience last year and I’m planning to do this again this year. However, it might be better to wait for a warmer weather to start it. With the kit, you will receive a voucher to order your butterfly’s eggs so you can decide when to start (make sure you have 10 days at home ahead of you and warm weather).

Tuff tray51M0pNOIo9L._SL1000_

Use this as a sand pit, sensorial exploration tray, outdoor table, painting table, planting pots table and much more. Obviously you can play inside too. If your child is under 2, I would not bother with the stand for now and just take the tray. This one is coming to the playgroup!

Balance bike61PkXw6X9rL._SL1000_

this is the one my child is currently using. We offered it to my daughter 7 years ago and my son inherited it. It’s great for balance and confidence. Highly recommended.

This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost for you! Thank you for supporting this group and the Montessori playgroup!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too many toys!

 

Are you screaming when you enter your child’s bedroom/playroom? Are you fed of tidying up your child’s toys? Is your child complaining that he cannot tidy up when you ask him to do so? (well he might not be that clear but he might say like mine: “I’m tired”)

20170126_11361320170321_090628How to get from the picture on the left to the picture on the right?

Is your child not able to play independently? Is your child saying that he is bored despite owning 100 toys? If your child is younger, does he require your presence and input to play?

One of the reasons (if not the main reason) might be that he has too many toys!

When families visit my playgroup for the first time, they are generally impressed by the layout of the playgroup. As I would do in a home environment, there are different areas and every activity is set up on a mat or in a basket/tray. Children can clearly see every activity and are able, with support, to put them away. Although there are many more activities that you would need in a home (as I cater for around 12 children), children are not overwhelmed, distracted, disruptive or bored, they choose and are happily playing for one or two hours.

 

So what’s the secret?

In the Montessori education, less is best. And what kind of toys/activities you offer is also important as well as the way you present them to your child. Many parents coming to the playgroup will quickly decide to change the kind of toys they offer to their children as they notice how much their children are engaged in the playgroup.

So what is too many toys exactly? Can we give a number? I was kind of stunned to share pictures of my child’s car’s collection in a local FB group, asking for advice as I thought he has too many. Other parents quickly replied to me that the collection was nearly “minimalist”. You see I was kind of worried regarding my own children’s amount of toys as my youngest was still not able to put them away. The amount started to add up: cars, train set, plastic animals from all around the world, soft toys, dressing up, building blocks, Duplo’s, a growing collection of Legos, little peoples, kitchen and all the accessories… Not to mention the art and craft material and all the various board games or educational material available. Every category of toys was fine I suppose but the sheer number in each was overwhelming. And that amount might be very different for each child.

I have noticed that over the last 3 years, I have let the toys collection growing without paying too much attention to it. As we moved from a two bedroom flat to a house I was able to hide the mess in a cubby storage and I agreed to tidy up after him as he was still “little”. However, my Montessori training was coming back to me and my desire for my children to become more independent was more and more acute. Therefore I decided to purge drastically. It’s not that our toys were not great but we had too many in each category. Mainly I divided by two the train set, blocks set, duplos and stored away the remaining. I sorted the animals by continents/habitats and left only dinosaurs and one other category out at a time. I sorted the cars by kind too (wooden cars, metallic cars, cars from the movie “cars), set of diggers with people…) and left out just one set with his garage. And so on for each category. Since, oh miracle, my son has mostly put away his toys by himself after playing. He also spend more time by himself in his bedroom.

However, my son is 5 and your situation might be quite different. When I had only my daughter and when my son was a baby and a toddler, I was more aware of the importance of the environment and took a long time to set up trays and baskets of activities for them. I had around 8 trays/activities at any one time and it worked wonders. Along the way, I lost my Montessori principles but thankfully I’m back, for their own good, and my own sanity as it really helps our family life when both kids are able to tidy up and are happy and contented with their play.

My playgroup is a good sample of what you could do in your own home for a child under 4 and the principles are still the same for older children.

Do you want to find more about my classes and support? Do you want to find more about my classes and support? Just click here!

 

 

A Giveaway!

I have reached a milestone on my fb page! I said that I will run a competition when I reach 2000 likes and I have now 2003 likes! So a big thank you!

I’m delighted to see that many of my new likes are also local and families who come to my playgroups so even better.

I have this great book to giveaway:

Learning together: What Montessori can offer your family from Kathi Hugues

It is published by the Montessori centre International and an invaluable reference for parents.

It’s easy to read with many ideas to create a Montessori inspired house but also tips about behavior, child’s development, communication, … It is also beautifully illustrated.

This competition is open for a week starting the 14th of February to the 21st of February.

To enter, please follow the instructions on the rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Montessori challenge – the planning!

Hi everyone!

This coming Thursday, I will go live on FB for the second month of the #montessorihousechallenge. I hope you will be able to join me or to watch the replay later.

I’ve been very busy since the first video making lots of changes in my house but also in my “life” in general in order to simplify it, to bring more of Montessori at home,  to promote independence for my children and to help us all to connect as a family. (or I would say that the connection is a natural consequence of the changes).

So the challenge itself will be as follow:

  1. January: Bathroom
  2. February: kitchen, snack and food preparation
  3. March: Cloakroom, getting ready to go out of the house
  4. April: Clothes storage in children’s bedroom and dressing skills activities.
  5. May: Art area, how to access art material, art activities and process art
  6. June: Books: storage, display, rotation, reality based books
  7. July: Toys storage and rotation
  8. August: Hopefully, a video during our camping trip or time abroad!

While writing this list, I realize that I don’t have enough “house” ideas to cover 12 months properly unless I repeat myself. So from September, what would you like me to show you? What would you like me to talk about? Let me know in comment as I’m open to your ideas!

See you this Thursday!

 

Positive songs

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In addition of being a Montessori teacher, I have recently qualified as a Yoga teacher for children. In the yoga children classes, I use lots of music. I started to be very careful choosing positives songs only. Some popular songs with the tween/teen have such a degrading message so I have started to listen carefully to the lyrics making sure I make them listen only to songs that are appropriate.

At the same time, at home, my 9 years old started to sing loudly all the songs on the radio. Very popular songs… And one more, most of the songs have content that are not appropriate (heavy sexual content, lots of sad songs, crude words…). And I was constantly explaining the meaning of those songs as my daughter was asking questions.

Two years ago, we stopped listening to the news on the radio. I was in the car with the children much more and I was able to tune out when there were the news, the kids were not. At least twice a day, they were exposed to local news of murders, kidnappings, war in the world, news about cancer. While all that is the reality of this world, my then 7 and 3 years had no need to be exposed to it every day. They were anxious about it, asking questions: “where did it happen? will they die? will I have cancer? Is it dangerous to do this or that?”. After two years without news (as we don’t listen to news on the radio as a family and us, parents, we don’t watch, read or listen to news otherwise), we feel much better, less concerned on a daily basis and we have less fear and anxiety. It’s such an habit that as soon as we hear the news jingle, we turn off the radio and my daughter makes sure she reminds me.

According to a survey, one of the biggest contributors to daily stress is watching, reading or listening to the news (see here).

If you’re interested, read here how we can be literally addicted to the news. Very interesting!

Since I make sure I read good news on my fb feed through pages such as Uplift connect, Good News shared, Actions for happiness, etc… They are many others! That way my feed is covered of ultra positive stories of people helping the best way they can their direct community.

So, on the same principles, I started to question the songs we were listening to. I noticed that I had a tendency to listen to sad love songs, melancholic songs about life (lost of youth, regrets, past mistakes and failures were recurrent themes of those songs) or politically engaged songs (but with no positive solutions more about the world is damned, what are we gonna do!). And as my children were more able to understand the lyrics, the messages started to concern them too.

Clearly I was raised with those songs. But clearly they were not uplifting songs and I started to notice how much they were impacting my mood. I think I noticed it more recently as I was using positive songs in my “work” and coming back to my “sad classics at home” or enduring songs that I didn’t choose on the radio. It’s new for me to spend so much time driving so I’m more exposed than ever.

So recently, I have consciously decided to listen to positive, uplifting songs “only”. I have created my own playlist and if my mood is low, I put those songs on and quickly my mood changes for the better. It makes me sing, it makes me dance, and my children love those songs too. They also have a positive message about appreciating live, about trying, about pursuing and accomplishing your dreams. They make me strong, fearless and happy!

Studies have found that hearing happy songs can raise heart rate, lower stress levels, and increase immunity to illness. Check this article about the surprising health benefits of listening to music.

So here my playlist in no particular order:

  1. Robbie William: Love my life. I use this song in my yoga class and we practice the 3 warrior poses with positive affirmations, my 4 years old knows it my hearth and what is a better message that to say “I love my life, I’m beautiful, I’m powerful, I’m free, I love my life, I’m wonderful, I’m magical, I am me, I love my life”
  2. Marvin Gaye: Ain’t no mountain high enough. It seems to me that it could be a message from a parent to his child, it’s how I understand it and it’s the message I want to send to my children
  3. Pharrell Williams: Happy. Just a happy song!
  4. Happy days (generic of the tv show): because every day is a happy day (good bye the argh it’s Monday!)
  5. R Kelly: I believe I can fly: If I believe it, I know it’s inside me… I believe I can fly!
  6. Louis Armstrong: What a wonderful world.
  7. Lou Reed: Just a perfect day
  8. Jimmy Cliff: You can get it if you really want it. Another one that my two children sing along. They keep saying what they want to do with their life after singing this one and how they will achieve their goals! Yes even my 4 years old (he will be a builder, build an entire city named after him so he has to be strong and to be strong, he has to do sport and eat lots of proteins!)
  9. Israel Hawai: Somewhere over the rainbow
  10. Katrina and the waves: Walking on sunshine.
  11. Shakira: Try everything. (and if you have seen Zootropolis, you can use the story of the rabbit becoming what she wanted to be to reinforce the message of the song)
  12. Bob Marley: three little birds. I’m sure you will agree, that using “Don’t worry about a thing, because everything is gonna be alright” is surely uplifting.
  13. Bobby Mc Ferrin: Don’t worry, be happy.
  14. James Brown: I feel good
  15. Josh Groban: You raise me up. This is the message I want my children to get from me. I would feel that I have done my “parenting job” properly is as adults, they want to sing me that one!

They are some other on my list that are more for me to listen to as part of the text is not enough children orientated like Cold Play: hymn for the weekend (as telling to teenagers in my classes that love is like a drink, and life like a drug is not a great message) or Relax from Mika (I love that song so much! I danced during my first pregnancy daily on it and with my daughter in my arms for months but there is a sad side in it and as my children are very inquisitive, I don’t want them to question too much about the meaning).

What about you? Do you have positive songs that you like to listen to? Share in comments!

 

 

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!