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!

 

 

 

 

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

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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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