Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paint roller, sidewalk paint and marbles mesh bags

Our sensorial play with goop was a hit. It was fun, messy and a great learning experience; just as art activities can be. With this in mind, I've been trying to get myself organised with at least one art/sensorial activity per week.

Here are three activities we've done recently:

Painting outside with a paint roller provided Ian an olfactory and tactile experience while he was preparing the paint with water, shampo and temperas (blue and yellow) and, all the movements to dip the sleeve into the paint and then, apply it, were a great large motor work. And do not forget the excitement of watching the wall getting color as it is painted.

Sidewalk paint made with cornstarch, water and coloring food was a fun way to spend an afternoon outdoors. Ian enjoyed swirling the drops of paint with the paintbrush and looking how colors blend to get a marbleized aspect.

Painting outside is our favorite choise at this moment, but it is raining a lot these days ... Never mind, a rainy day is an excellent excuse to get messy and noisy, painting with a marbles mesh bag.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Learning to honor Ian’s emotions

I think our move has affected Ian more than usual. Usually changes impact Ian’s sleep (or better said, worsen it, because he is a bad sleeper). This time our moving has made him quite bad tempered. Ian is an active child but now he seems hyperactively. His attention span has decreased, he’s been disobedient, reacting very badly when I call him to order: throwing things, kicking and hitting. I don’t know if it’s just the “terrible two’s” or if our relocation has exacerbated it.

At times I forget that he does not have an appropriate vehicle of self-expression and I was punishing him with time-outs, getting caught up in power struggles. Even when those punishments made Ian calmer, they made me feel sad. So, I’ve been trying to identify and acknowledge the feeling behind Ian’s behavior and I came to the conclusion that he is very upset because with the move he has not received much attention from all us and of course we are imposing too many changes in a short time.

Now I am trying to be more empathetic to Ian’s feelings. It is taking lots of self-control from myself and I know I will need much more along with experimentation and practice. I also decided to slow down arranging our stuff in the house to spend more and better time with him. That made Ian peaceful and more willing to do some learning activities. Here is a review of them:

Cookie cutter silhouette matching. I traced the silhouette of some cookie cutters in a paper to let Ian match them with the cutters. This activity was an easy one for him and he enjoyed more sticking adhesive tape along the border of the paper. He is very much into cutting the tape by himself and sometimes he gets it.

Sorting the cutlery. As a first exercise I gave Ian spoons and forks to sort and he had no problem. Later, I let him try the spoons, forks and knives (no sharp ones of course). He sorted them pretty well. For both exercises we used two sizes of forks and spoons, but I didn’t show Ian how to separate the sizes and he didn’t discriminate between them. Next time, I will ask him to attempt to sort them by size.

Sorting flowers by color in spice bottles. The first time I set up this activity was six weeks ago and Ian was unable to do it, he was not interested in trying more. Now, the sorting is the easier part and he needs more concentration to insert the stems into the holes of the spice bottles. Once more, everything in its time.
Puzzles. Ian has been working with these four-pieces puzzles for long time and each time he needs less help from me to complete them. When he finishes, he likes to put them in a row, admires his work and calls out the names of the figures.

Floats and sink. Ian has been playing a lot with water lately and one of the things that catches his attention is putting different objects into water, pushing them down and observing what happens. He did this by himself. So I decided to prepare some extensions.

For the first experiment we used leaves and very small pebbles. Ian floated a leaf and tried to put as many pebbles on as possible until the leaf sinks under the weight.

He worked patiently putting the pebbles on the leaves for a while. Then he decided to rush the experiment and dropped all the pebbles from the container.
And here is a photo showing how our science session finished (lol)
For our second experiment I prepared two “boats”, one with cork and the other with a piece of Styrofoam; for both I made the sail with a leaf on a pin. I put the “boats” on the water with the idea of just letting it float for a while and then show Ian how to blow it with his mouth. But Ian wanted to continue the previous experiment and in one second flat he disarmed my boats. So I gave him different objects for a free experience.

By the way, the first time I attempted this activity was when we just started Montessori at home and I still thought Ian would follow the lesson. I took my time to prepare everything including the cards with labels “sink” and “float” following strictly the instructions of an album. I invited my little piggy for an “exciting activity” :-) and as soon as he saw the materials, he put all the objects in the bowl with water including the cards :-) ; he didn’t even observe his “work” and left the room immediately. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry … but, I laughed heartily.
Peeling beans. Ian loves to peel shells and I love to observe him while he does this. He is very focused and ordered. Well, last week, he peeled beans. I broke a bit of the outer pod and he split it open and extracted the individual beans. When he finished, he was not done yet! He also peeled the skin off the beans. If you like beans, I recommend let your children try this activity. It is an excellent exercise to improve fine motor skills, concentration and order.

Ian also loves to separate and wash the florets of broccoli. I did some superficial cuts to make it easier for Ian who has to use a bit of strengh to get the florets.

The last things that we moved to our new home were the flowerpots and Ian was so happy to have them again because he really enjoys taking care of the plants.

And challenging his balance

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prepared environment in the kitchen

Children's independence is a continuous process and a Prepared Environment together with Practical Life activities, are essential to this.

Now that we have more certainty that we wont move to another country in the short term and have a green light to make physical changes to this house, we have again taken up our impulse to create an environment that supports Ian to “do for himself”.

We are planning ways to involve Ian in daily life activities while discovering what is suitable for our family. To that end, we have incorporated child-size furniture in the kitchen, the living-dining room and Ian’s bedroom. He is still getting used to all the changes and at the moment he’s only confortable with the prepared environment in the kitchen.

This is what we have done in the kitchen so far:
  • Made room in our kitchen for a child-sized table for eating snacks and cooking.
  • Allocate the bottom shelf in our refrigerator for Ian. Here we store his milk, yogurt and cheese.  

  • Mount a low shelf for all the items necessary for Ian to set his table and prepare his own snacks: fruits, cereal, crackers, glasses, pitcher, plates, napkins, forks, spoons, knife, a cutting board and a sponge to clean the spills.

Here are some pictures of Ian in the business of making his snacks.

Serving his yogurt and cereal

Cutting cheese

Serving his milk. Oop! :-)

Getting water

Setting his table. This is something we are working on. I have to remind Ian what things to put on his table and mostly I have to help him to complete this task. Actually, he is not very interested in it yet.

Preparing a cup of coffee :-) just for fun and a good practice of spooning, measuring milk powder, sugar and decaffeinated coffee, stirring, tasting every ingredient and observing how color and flavor changes. A bit of practical life, sensorial, science and math ;-)

A BIG thank you

My blog was recently given a special award and I just wanted to say a belated  but BIG thank you.

Here are the rules of the award:

Rule number 1: Thank the blogger who awarded it to you.

A huge thank you goes out to Olives and Pickles. It makes me feel so good to know that you are appreciating what I do.

Rule number 2: Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using five words.


Rule number 3: Pass it on to 10 other blogs which you feel have real substance.

It is the hard part. Olives and Pickles have passed the award to six of my favorites blogs. So, I just will give it to four:

The Work Plan
My Montessori Journey

Monday, July 19, 2010

Discovering our new house

Last week we moved to another house - at least we didn't move to another country :-). This is our third move this year. Although moving is part of our lives, I always get stressed and so does Ian of course.
As you can imagine, I could not prepare any material for Ian. I trusted him (or begged him, to tell the true) to find something interesting to do just exploring the house.

We have a big outdoor area, there are trees of mangos, avocados, coconuts and lychees. He found the lychees interesting and that gave us a great opportunity to have fun and learn.

We picked up lychees and put them in a glass basket. Ian carried it gracefully - even when he was descending stairs - to the border of a tree that he chose as his “work bench”. There, he peeled all the lychees. I broke a bit of the shell of them first. He put the shells in a fun car-basket and the fruit core in a bowl. Then he enjoyed discovering the new flavor of the lychees - and so did I.

After our delicious snack, we used the lychee shells to learn how to transfer water using a ladle and how to pass the shells using a small sieve and a big sieve.

First,  we filled a bowl with water and Ian carried it very slowly watching not to spill the water.

Then Ian poured the shells into the bowl and we were ready for the lesson. I have to say that I was very happy because I’d been looking for something that floats to set up this activity for a long time.

Although the ladle was not child-size, Ian grasped it correctly and twisted his wrist to pour the water on the sieve. Well, he did so until he discovered it was easier if he used both hands to twist the ladle. I tried to correct him but he just said “chau” (bye in Spanish) that means “let me do it by myself”. I got the message and left him to have fun. After he got the sieve full he poured the shells and the water back to other bowl and started again.

When he got bored I gave him a bigger sieve and he had to pour the water from the bowl. As it was big and a bit heavy he had to control his movements so as not to spill the water.

Next day we gathered some flowers, leaves, mangos, avocados and rocks (there were geologist living here before, so we have plenty of rocks everywhere). He had fun arranging his natural stuff on a table. Wow! That reminded me of some natural tables I saw in many blogs and didn't pay attention to them at the time. Again, my son is more advanced than me; I better follow him.

Next day Ian found a water dispenser in the house (of the former tenants), carried it to his play zone and asked me for water. He seems to be more creative than his mom :-) then, I followed him and ran for bowls, glasses, jars and food coloring for more pouring activities.

I poured a bit of food coloring in the dispenser and Ian filled the dispenser after various trips.

When the dispenser was full, Ian filled a pitcher from it and poured the water into various glasses and jars.

And finally, he decided to sink all the things in the dispenser. I saw the opportuniy to talk about things that float and things that sink, but who knows if he was paying attention to my lesson :-)

Next day Ian had some practice filling a glass to a line (I used a rubber band to mark the line). It was easier using the dispenser than the pitcher. Actually the pitcher is a little big and Ian could hardly control his movements.

I know this house has made a great difference for Ian. He is always ready to go outside to play and, for now, that is the way he is learing more. Certainly, I love to see other toddlers in a classroom doing the activities by themselves (see The Work Plan) and I would like to think that Ian is willing to take formal lessons and work independently, but for now I am very happy to see him growing and becoming more independent.

I am sharing this post in One Hook Wonder where you can see other toddlers learning according the Montessori Method.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Outstanding Blogger Award

Many thanks to Discovering Montessori over at The Work Plan for giving me the "Outstanding Blogger Award". I love your blog and you are so nice at leaving comments. Check out her blog if you haven't already done so. She is a childcare group home provider using the Montessori Method and you can learn a lot following her observations and the activities she has set up for her children.

The rules to accept the award are:

  1. Say thanks to the person who gave me this award.
  2. Share seven things about myself
  3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who I have recently discovered and think are fantastic!
Here are seven things about me:

  1. I am Peruvian, my husband is Australian and my son is Chilean
  2. I have a Masters Degree in Computer Science based in Artificial Intelligence and Databases
  3. I have a twin sister living in Chile and she looks a lot like me
  4. I just speak a little English, so my husband sometimes helps me with the translations
  5. I really enjoy being a housewife and not going to work - raising my child is the most demanding and rewarding experience of my life
  6. I enjoy trying to live "better" - refraining from eating meat, growing our own fruit and vegetables, and developing myself spiritually
  7. I like keeping fit through yoga, martial arts and weight training
I want to pass the award to the following blogs:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Cup

Ian is enjoying cooking. Even when it is really a messy activity for him, I like it because it’s not only fun, but it's also an activity that teaches practical skills, introduces new sensorial experiences, vocabulary and mathematical concepts.

I’ve been looking for easy to make recipes and yesterday I found this “Chocolate Cake in a Cup” recipe. Ian is fan of chocolate so we tried out it.

I gathered all the necessary ingredients: flour, sugar, chocolate powder, milk, egg and vegetable oil. I also gathered all the cooking utensils, including measuring spoons, spatulas and mixing bowls. But I didn’t put all the ingredients within Ian reach at the beginning because surely he would have poured everything without following my instructions.

I always give Ian the ingredients measured, ready to pour and stir. But yesterday, I wanted him to measure at least the dry ingredients. First I gave him the flour bag and the measuring spoon. I hadn’t started explaining the measuring before he began to pour the flour directly from the bag. When I tried to stop him he got very angry and poured flour from the bowl.

It took me a couple of minutes and some tickles to convince Ian that it would be fun to follow my instructions. Here is a photo of us in the middle of the negotiation :-)

Well, Ian spooned the dry ingredients into a bowl, while I counted, and stirred them up. Then he learnt to hit the egg softly to break the shell and how to pour the egg. I measured the milk and oil and let him mix it. We stirred the dry ingredients separately from the wet ones in order to show Ian the difference of stirring wet and dry ingredients.
Then he mixed both and poured it into two cups. (I sprayed the mugs with cooking spray first.) Then into the microwave to bake for 3 minutes and enjoy!

You can get the recipe here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Making activities out of things from around the house

It seems this journey is boosting my capacity to observe our environment (as well as Ian's interests and skill levels) and quicker catch opportunities to create fun/learning materials for Ian. Of course, it has been possible because I ‘ve been taking my time to read as much as I can about the Montessori Method and, in general, about teaching a toddler at home. I can remember that when I started doing homeschooling, everything looked very overwhelming for me. Now, after four months, I feel more comfortable and I have started to enjoy this journey.

Next are the activities I set up for Ian last week following him and taking advantage of the stuff we have at hand.

Screwing/unscrewing color sorter

This was Ian’s favorite activity last week and was set up completely following him. As soon as he saw the empty tempera tray, he wanted to unscrew each lid and then put them back in the container. That gave me an idea for a screwing/unscrewing and matching color activity. I put an object of the same color of the lid inside each bottle and let Ian to follow his interests. He unscrewed the lids, took off the objects, turned the lids with the top-side up, placed the objects into them matching the colors, returned the objects to the container and put the lids with the color corresponding to the objects. He just pushed down the lids. Actually, he is able to screw the lids of bigger jars, but when come down to small bottlenecks he just push down the lids.

Replacing marker caps

Lately, my material storage has been very messy. Last week, I decided to order a little and one of the things I found was markers. When Ian was about 18 months he loved scribbling with them (and also with color pens and crayons) but, since I read that markers do not contribute to building up the muscles in children hand (like using a pencil), I put away the markers.

Ian is always attentive when I order his toys and materials, he seems to be looking for something interesting to do and, this time the markers captured his attention. As it has been a long time since he showed interest on scribbling, I let him to use them just to observe how much control Ian has over his hands muscles and if he moves the marker with a goal in mind. Well, he was able to take out the caps by himself; he grasped the marker properly (with thumb and fingers) and did mostly circular scribbles, that looks still like random scribbling.

When he finished, there were markers and caps all over the table, so I took advantage of it to teach him how to replace the caps, I told him to press the cap against the marker until he hears a “click” sound. He really enjoyed each time he heard the sound; it was his error control and the clue to celebrate his achievement. It was a sensorial exercise (visual and auditory) as well as a fine motor to strengthen the muscles of his hands.

Matching stickers silhouette

If you have been following us lately, you would know Ian is having fun with stickers. I usually peel the excess sticker paper from around the stickers before giving them to Ian. I was doing it  when I realized I can reuse this paper to create a silhouette worksheet for Ian to match the stickers. I stuck this paper on black construction paper, scanned and cut/pasted (digitally) the black silhouette in a worksheet. Probably it does not look that simple but fortunatelly I have some skills at the computer and can make that kind of things quickly. Certainly, when I got the idea I did not know if it will work but, the result was pretty good and even Ian needed a little help with the matching part, he enjoyed this activity very much.

Playdoh numbers, spatula and matching numbers

I insist, play doh is a versatile learning tool. You can create a great variety of activities for your kids using play doh. One of the things Ian has been learning with play doh lately is number recognition. I had printed number cards in order to show Ian how to model play doh snakes along the numbers. As he' not been paying attention to it, we used the cards to mach them numbers prints made on play doh. That waswhat we did. First, I put four number card in a tray provide Ian with the corresponding four foam numbers. Then I gave Ian play doh balls, he flattened them and pressed and lift-off a foam number and used the spatula to transfer and put on its corresponding number card. When he transferred the four numbers I rotate the cards and foam numbers. He likes transferring things with the spatula and this activity was not an exception. As you can see, I like to take the most of each activity to reinforce multiples skills.

Buttons sorting board

I want to remark that I am learning a lot from other blogger moms whom share their learning experiences not just their kids's. One of the things I've learned from they is to get inspiration from commercial toys to create homemade versions. This post was the one that showed me this alternative.

Well, last week I felt inspired for this toy and made a easier version using Styrofoam, tooth sticks (I cut the ends) and three sets of buttons (bears, cars and trees). I had not finished preparing it when Ian wanted to attempt it. By the way, before this activity I had tried to get Ian to sort these buttons but it lacked of interest for him. Now, even Ian struggled to place the buttons he sorted the buttons very well.

Matching vegetables and fruit silhouette

For this activity I download the printables from here. I previously tried to make matching activities in a floor mat, but as soon as I lie down the cards in the mat Ian runs away :-). As Ian has having fun playing with his “contact paper window board” :-) we used it for this activity. I rotate different set of cards each day. I cannot say Ian made the matching correctly because he sometimes did it and another times he stick the cards next to the wrong card, but he enjoyed calling out the names of the pictures and of course sticking and lifting out the cards.

I am sharing this post in One Hook Wonderwhere you can see other toddlers learning according the Montessori Method.


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