Why I love Prime on Amazon

Clearly, it’s an affiliate link article today!

It’s going to be Prime day starting tonight for 24h.

I’m happy to promote Prime on Amazon because I clearly use it all the time for the past 3 years. It started with a free trial that we were not really planning to renew. But as our shopping habits were becoming more and more online, we kept our Prime membership.

We buy most of our “things” on Amazon. I know that some people will say that it’s not cool not to buy from small and local shops but hear me out on this, if you wish. First, we buy a lot local and we eat and use local services as much as we can. But we have a specific diet, we use organic products, we like specific toys (Montessori and educational). More and more, we couldn’t find those items in local shops. More and more, we had to order well in advance on different online shops and as a busy family, buying on Amazon was an easy, affordable option. With Prime, it means that most of the time, we can have the gift, food supplement or whatever we wanted to have quickly, on our doorstep the day after we have ordered (including weekends). It was a life saver at Christmas and a life saver when I organised my classes at the last minute.

Now our Prime membership is not just about a fast delivery for free. It’s also access to Prime video streaming and again, great when we don’t have a tv subscription anymore (as we wanted to avoid advertising and rubbish programs). We also have access to Prime music which I used extensively for a year (now I have to say that we have now a Deezer account that I prefer as I need lots of music choice for my Yoga classes).

In brief, Prime customers are able to:

  • Listen, ad-free to over two million songs, hundreds of hand-built playlists and stations with unlimited skips
  • Access Prime Music through Fire devices, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, laptops or desktop
  • Listen anywhere, anytime with offline playback on your phone or tablet
  • Listen to Prime Music on your echo with Alexa
  • Benefit from all other additions Prime membership has to offer besides music
  • Get unlimited, FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of items
  • Watch over 15,000 movies and TV episodes with unlimited instant streaming
  • Borrow from thousands of titles from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
  • Secure, unlimited photo storage with anywhere access

I haven’t use much the Kindle Owners library and I still have to figure out the photo storage.

I have checked in advance what will be the great Prime deals during Prime day and there are a few great deals to snatch. Green toys (made from recycled Plastic in the USA), Janod Magnetic world map, many Learning resources toys (including a microscope, and a first telescope!), magnetic building blocks and more.

There are of course plenty of deal in any other categories (electronics, sports, fashion and even foods, obviously in books as well). The Prime membership is a free trial for the first 30 days so no risk to try it on and enjoying the big deals tomorrow! (obviously make sure you cancel your membership on time if you don’t want to pay afterwards).

Don’t worry the next article will be all about Montessori ūüėČ

 

 

 

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Montessori frog unit

Montessori printableHow to make themAnd a freebie (1)

Currently, in the playgroup, we have an ongoing unit about garden’s animals, bugs and all about Spring and this week, it was all about frogs.

While researching for the subject, I checked if it was illegal to collect frogspawns. While¬†you can still take home some tadpoles and observe them in your own pond/bucket/tank, it’s much better to encourage your children to observe in situ.

The frog life website is a gold mine of information with learning resources and a shop. It also told me that frogs number have decrease by 68% over the last 30 years!

This website is also full of info and clearly says “Whilst it can be great fun to collect frog spawn in the spring, we wouldn’t recommend it, as moving them from one place to another can spread diseases such as chytrids. ¬†Amphibians will generally find their way over time to suitable ponds, so the most important thing is to create pond habitats that they will be attracted to”

Note that I introduce an unit in the playgroup to bring in some variety and to give new ideas to the parents. The unit is presented along other Montessori activities that the children can enjoy every week. At home, I used to have an unit if my children were showing an interest for something in particular.

The units in the playgroup follow the seasons + some popular topics such as transports and dinosaurs as for sure, some children will engage totally with those subjects.

We have a part of the frog jigsaw. This one is from Absorbent minds. I bought a set of 6 with a storage unit.

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I added the part of the frogs printable from the Montessori shop. Note that for the toddlers, I only use it as a matching game at first. If I have some older children, they might start to be interested by the words too.

This memo game came from the Montessori print shop too.

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A variation of cards and counters: I printed those frogs counters from here and used them with the numbers from a Melissa and Doug jigsaw. I’m all for repurposing toys and using them in various ways.

 

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I also made paper puppets from here too to sing 5 Little Speckled frogs.

And we worked with those replicas of frogs life stage to explore life cycles. The worksheet comes from here.

I also made a printable, a 3 part cards with real pictures of the frog life cycle. Grab my printable on the link below.

frog life cycle

 

How to make your own Montessori printable documents

Montessori printableHow to make themAnd a freebie

When you start to be interested by the Montessori education, you will come across many Montessori printables of all kind on the Internet.

During my training (aimed at the education of children 3 to 6 years old), I had to make my own material. Mainly it was the language series and some cultural material, such as the continent folders or classification cards (also called 3 parts cards).

At the time, we were told to collect old National Geographic and other interesting magazines. However with google image, it is now so much easier to search for the perfect pictures to print.

Many parents and teachers are resourceful and talented and have made their own material and they made it available for free or for a small cost. Some websites are entirely dedicated to Montessori printables.

I’m not that talented but here a few tricks I have¬†learned along the way:

  • google search for images: depending of how you will use the pictures, you can¬†select by usage rights. ¬†To do so, go under images then tools, then you can filter by usage rights. Peace of mind if you share your printables.
  • right format for your¬† 3 part cards: A free Template¬†on Teacher pay by teachers.
  • if you have lots of¬†schleich animals, just google the schleich pictures to print. If you have some safari toobs collection, take pictures of each objects and print for a quick matching game.
  • print on cardstock for a better quality and laminate your cards. Cut the corners with a round corner punch.

Now what to print?

For the toddlers in my playgroup, I mainly have matching cards for various set of objects to refine language: fruits, animals, musical instruments… Any every day objects can be matched with a picture. At first, I only present the picture with the word written underneath. When the children start to show an interest for letters and sounds, you can add the cards with the word slip.

Now for the bonus. Here one of my FREE printable document. I did this one to go with this memory game that contains very cute garden creatures. I’ve added a worm in the printable as I had an extra space.

Click on the link below for your Free printable, feel free to use it in your home or classroom. If you share it on your blog or social media, I would be grateful if you can link to this blog post.

Clink on the link below to download your FREE printable document.

 

garden animals

 

Spring Montessori activities

Spring Montessoriactivities (1)

I like to vary the activities I provide in the Montessori playgroup. This half-term, I will present many Spring inspired activities.

So here our new trays:

Рsorting flowers by colour: the flowers counters come from a game and I added some home-made laminated flowers (cost £0 as I had already everything)

  • inset for design: I only have this one available for the session to invite them to draw flowers.
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  • Flower stamp (from my huge scrapbooking collection!)
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  • I found this free (and many more)¬†printable here
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  • Cards and counters with flowers (and mushrooms!). Again the counters come from one of our board game.
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  • Melissa and Doug pattern block (find it here), I like the Melissa and Doug brand but in general, I simplify the activity by presenting one board at a time, the child has all the blocks he need to make the pictures on both side (one side at a time). I think the game presented in its entirety is more suitable for children over 3 when they can focus for a longer time.
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  • And always one open ended activity: here I use the Grimm stacking cubes, some cute animals from a board game, artificial flower bouquet from Wilko (I cut the flowers) and some stone number counters (find similar one on Imagido!)
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And in your home or classroom, what is new on your shelves?

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!

 

 

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:

download

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!