All of the materials on Ot's shelves at eight months. Some are new, some are old. Some are Montessori and others are simple traditional toys. He has materials on both shelving units in his room. His clothes and nappies are now stored in his wardrobe. He can reach his low shelves but his other shelving unit is out of reach, and will be until he starts pulling himself up.
1. Object Permanence Box.
2. Progressive Ring Stacker from Beginning Montessori.
3. Egg in Cup and Palmer Grasp Cylinder from At Home with Montessori.
4. Nesting Owls. These are much loved owls that belonged to Caspar. When I gave them to Otis I wasn't sure how he would react. Otis was immediately attracted to them. He loves opening them up to find another owl inside.
5. Basket of rattles and shakers.
6. I think this is called a Skwish.
7. Music box
8. Jack(Clown)-in-the-box. I had been looking for one of these for ages. Unfortunately most of those in our toy stores had commercial characters or branding. Luckily my Mum found this one just in time for Christmas.
9. Plan Toys drum.
He also has a basket of books, his walker with his Handmade Soft Blocks and this toy (below). I'm not sure what this is called, it belonged to Caspar also. Funny, Caspar never liked it but Otis uses it all the time.
This is the clown inside the Jack-in-the-box. I wasn't sure about this one either, if the surprise would be too much, the clown too creepy. It turns out the surprise is kind-of fun.
He also has other toys scattered throughout the house, his ball cylinder is permanently on the floor and there are a couple of other materials I want to show you in separate posts. In his room we rotate the toys gently. We keep his favourites out and those that are used less we rotate every couple of weeks. Otis appears to be a sitter and has taken to almost every material I have presented to him.
As an important note from birth we have shown Otis to put his toys away, back in the same place they came from when he has finished with them. If he is in his room by himself and gets out a few toys when we enter the room we will pack up those he is obviously finished with. It will be a while until he is able to put away his toys himself but I am sure he already knows where they go.
Also, does this seem like a lot of toys to you? On two shelving units this would be the maximum amount of toys I would have out. Soft toys? Yes, he has a few but currently only one out which he keeps on his bed.
Babies need to use their concentration to make it stronger. Your baby might surprise you with their concentration span. Focus too.
Don't underestimate them. Or their ability to become totally absorbed in something so simple.
It's just what we needed. Quiet and calm.
I try for some one-on-one time with each of my children each day. It doesn't always happen. With Caspar we usually read a book or cook. Today with Otis it was some fresh air and sunshine.
Wishing you fresh air and sunshine wherever you may be.
The year is coming to an end and I am starting to get philosophical. It has been a wonderful year and I have met so many amazing people.
To every single person who has ever left a comment or emailed, thank you. You continue to give me support and inspiration when it is needed.
Neptune. Thank you for being right along side me for so many of the standout moments of the year. Thank you for your inspiring blog, your encouraging words. Thank you for knowing and understanding.
Kate. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me in person. At the time it felt like such a risk. Thank you for putting up with me in person and my somewhat kookiness. I love the way you think and your ideas are always the best. You are without doubt the strongest person I have ever met.
Meghan. You make me a better person and a better parent. Your calmness and guiding words have had such an impact on me. Your Montessori knowledge is second to none.
Sara. Thank you for being you. You are possibly the most driven and passionate Montessorian I know. You inspire me to do more and to be more.
Charlotte. Thank you for your warm and caring nature and for sharing your parenting expertise. I have loved getting to know you.
Christine. I haven't told you before but your simple messages and words of support are powerful. You give me faith in myself.
Carrie. Thank you for your wisdom. Anyone involved in preparing a Montessori environment knows the details count. Thank you for helping me get the details right.
April. Thank you for your simple, perfect words. Thank you for at times translating Montessori. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for bringing beauty into my home and life.
Thank you to the families who shared their homes and lives. Charlene, I hope you are well. Rachel, I have loved connecting with you and send my best wishes for the rest of your pregnancy and for birth of your Rosebud. Cathy you have helped me so many ways. Thank you. I wish you all the best for your new endeavor. Thank you to Milena, who initially was unknown to me but crossed the difficult language barrier to share her story.
Thank you to the people and companies who supported the Christmas 2011 Giveaways; Angela from Classic Baby, Amy and Steve from Montessori Child, Meg from At Home with Montessori and Carrie and Shane from Beginning Montessori.
Thank you Steph for inviting me over to MPMK.
To those expecting little ones in the new year, including Charissa, I wish you the very best.
To my little sister Shannon, thank you for listening.
To the many mothers I have connected with, in so many ways, over so many topics, thank you. To each and every reader, thank you for your company. I hope we can continue to share and come together again in 2012.
Please stay safe and have happy holidays.
It's widely known and appreciated that the Montessori philosophy doesn't support the use of baby walkers.
Walker wagons are a little different. They offer support and safety. Good walkers will allow the child to creep and pull themselves up to standing, then over time push and pull (backwards and forwards) until they are ready to take a step.
From Michael Olaf The First Year - Crawling, Pulling Up, Standing.
A walker wagon (wooden, not plastic) will provide a opportunity for the child to pull up and practice walking at will, but it will usually require the adult to turn the wagon around when the child reaches the end of the path, and push and pull toys are great fun for the new walker.
None of these things rush the child, but they all help give the opportunity for practice at the perfect time.
The Walker Wagon at Michael Olaf is probably considered the best. But there are other good options if you know what you are looking for.
Stability is key and wheels that won't run away from the baby.
Here is what I look for in a baby walker:
This walker is from Montessori Child. I was happy to purchase this online as I trust Amy, she has high standards. However if you see one online you are not sure about, ask around or look for an opportunity to see and feel it yourself.
Keeping it simple.
No expensive equipment. No elaborate trays. No instruction. No rush.
Simply the freedom to choose, some real tools and real work.
Children of this age are urged by the laws of their nature to find active experiences in the world about them. For this they use their hands, and not only for practical purposes, but also for acquiring knowledge. If we leave children free in this new kind of environment that we have provided, they give us quite an unexpected impression of their nature and abilities. - Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind.
Otis isn't ready for the walker yet but we decided to order it for him for Christmas anyway. It will be waiting for him when he is ready. It makes for perfect storage for his soft blocks.
I am sure many of you have guessed how I made these. I am no sewing expert and chose what I thought were the easiest options. Because I used one colour per block I made each block using only one piece of fabric sewn into a cube. The pictures may make more sense than the words. Here is my basic how to.
I used an actual block as the template as it helped me to visualise the size my blocks would turn out. I chose drill fabric in primary and secondary colours.
Iron interfacing to the fabric. Interfacing adds strength and will help the block keep it's shape. This isn't essential but it looks nicer and I had plenty of interfacing available.
For each block I simply traced, using a fabric pencil, around the block six times in this layout.
Using the fabric pencil I made a seam allowance of around 5mm.
Cut out around the seam allowance, removing the seam corners.
To get a neat looking cube, iron all of the seams and creases. With the drill fabric and interfacing they came out nice and crisp with defined edges. Ironing the seams also makes it easier to fold for the next step.
Fold on the creases so the cube is inside-out and sew the seams. I used a machine on a short (1.5) stitch but you could handsew if you didn't have a machine. Sew all but one or two seams.
This is what the cube looks like once all but one seam has been sewn.
Using the one open side turn the cube right-side out. It may be easier to turn right-side out if you have left two seams open.
I filled the blocks with polyester stuffing from my local sewing shop. It would be ideal to fill with foam blocks cut to size if this was an option for you.
The last and final seam was sewn by hand using a blind stitch. I used this video to show me how. Each block got easier and by the time I was finished I had a neat and consistent blind stitch.
The final product. Lovely, bright and colourful handmade soft blocks.
I thought of a few extension activities. Initially Otis may just throw them, hopefully stack and knock them down. Because of their colour they could be used in colour matching activities, with language cards or even gross motor - throwing them from a distance onto a target or into a hoop.
Information is power. Yes it is. We live in a fortunate country, in fortunate times. Imagine though if your access to information was limited.
Earlier in the year I gave away a few of my Montessori books, those I no longer used. After this I was approached by a lovely Directress. Due to the location of her school and lack of resources they don't have the kind of access to information, to Montessori books, that we take for granted. From that moment on I committed to saving my books with the intention of donating them to this school.
So I was thinking, perhaps you would like to join me?
If you have any Montessori or Montessori related books that you no longer use, would you consider donating them? Good condition but gently used is ok. Believe me it's a good cause. I won't be publishing any further details here. Please email me or leave a comment with your email address if you are interested.
This is the card we are giving this year. It's from a school fundraising activity. I love the concept. The child makes the picture A4 size, depending on their skill level. Here Caspar has used some cutting and pasting, painting and drawing. The school arranges for the picture to be made into a card. You have the choice to purchase. We usually buy a couple of packs. I don't know how much profit the school makes but as a parent this is one of my favourite fundraisers.
I love that Caspar's image is of a Christmas tree, at night and snow is falling. He still believes it will snow here for Christmas.
Caspar and Otis have put their handprints inside the card. A nice way for our friends and family to be able to connect with them. We use paint stamp pads for best results but you could always just paint the child's hand. For our family we put inside one of Caspar's school photos. It's the first year he has had official school photographs and of course, we are biased, they are gorgeous.
Since my photography has improved I have thought about making my own cards. Still simple but something like this.
Perhaps next year. I cannot get enough of those night shots. I think I might take a few more shots of candles and christmas lights before the season is over.
I have noticed a trend towards creating Christmas cards online. Tiny Prints have given me a discount code for you to use if you are this way inclined. They look super stylish.
Create business cards and custom stationary at TinyPrints.com. Find creative ways to make anything from Christmas cards to graduation announcements. Become a part of the TinyPrints community by visiting the blog for news, trends, creative ideas, promotions and more. Use the discount code 10TPSPECIAL and receive 10% off a purchase. Excludes gifts & calendars, photo books, stamps, and the William Arthur and Eric Condren products.
I wonder how many people use this option. What do you prefer? Store bought, handmade, produced online or even the good old school fundraiser? Whichever way I am always delighted to receive a card in the mail. It's lovely when people take the time to write.
After my first son Caspar was born, I purchased all of his toys, I didn't make any of them. I didn't make anything for him because I knew it wouldn't be perfect.
Wow, how things have changed. My confidence has grown and I am happy to give it a go and make a few things for Otis. But what I've let go is the meaning of perfection. To me these blocks are perfect in a non-perfect kind of way. They are not exactly uniform, my blind stitch needs some improvement. But they are made by me with love. For Otis for Christmas.
They are soft, but stackable. Lots of colour. Perfect gift for a baby. Build them up then knock them down.
I think he'll like them too.
They were very easy to make. I took some photographs of the process. Let me know if you are interested and I can post some simple instructions.
I first came across Shane and Carrie's Etsy site and really liked the look of their products. They ticked all the boxes. Their items are handmade, non-toxic and developmentally appropriate. Most importantly Carrie is Montessori trained. Not only does she know the products she also knows the theory behind them. I liked them so much I placed an order and Otis has used almost every one of their items since. I have already ordered this Progressive Ring Stacker and it will soon be wrapped and waiting for Otis on Christmas morning.
Why do I like and recommend Beginning Montessori? This says it all...
Second generation wood toy maker + Montessori educator = Beginning Montessori
For us, it all began with the Bell Rattle which was his first toy at nine weeks. He still uses it today, same with the Interlocking Discs shown by Otis on video here. He is still using the Bell Cylinder and Ball Cylinder to reach (and hopefully soon) crawl towards. I personally think the Ball Cylinder is one of the best looking toys and I love having it on our shelves.
Seriously, how good do these toys look?
Also don't forget about the Primary Colours Mobile. All of Beginning Montessori products (as with most sold by Montessori trained sellers) come with an information card, giving you ideas on how and when to use the product with your child.
I have become so passionate about good toys and these come with the highest recommendation from me. For our family they have become heirlooms and once Otis has finished with them, they will be packed away carefully for my Grandchildren.
I asked Carrie to tell us a little about herself.
My Montessori story begins before I was born, as my parents became interested in the philosophy and education for my older brother and sister. My parents helped establish a Montessori preschool and elementary program and I was fortunate to attend Montessori schools until 12 years of age. This has been such a strong foundation for my life.
In university as I searched for my "cosmic task" I became drawn to working with young children. I had worked for many years with children and decided that I especially love how children from 3-5 discover and enjoy their world. After I completed my Bachelor's degree I did my Casa de Bambini training in 2005. In 2008 I purchased the preschool I was teaching at. Each day spent with the children brings so much joy as they discover their world and gain self-confidence in mastering a new task or come to a greater understanding. Watching children take delight in matching the colour tablets, pride in forming words with the moveable alphabet, or satisfaction in discovering a new way to clean a dish are all part of what makes my days so wonderful. I continue to be amazed that children self-direct themselves with these tasks and are able to complete them independently. I truly feel I have found my calling in life.
In the summer of 2009 I started the Assistants to Infancy training. The knowledge I gained became life changing for me in terms of how I view infants and their possibilities. Each time we speak to an infant, do something to or for an infant, and prepare an environment for an infant, we are making a direct impact on their personality development, cognitive development, and physical development. What an opportunity to touch someone so deeply when they are in such a beautiful and important time in their life. What a huge responsibility! I continued with the course in the summer of 2010 and due to the intensity of the course was spending very little time with my husband Shane. So Shane decided to keep himself busy and discovered a new hobby: woodwork. After a visit to my training centre he decided that he would be able to make many of the materials. I was very delighted as now I would be able to help others provide developmentally appropriate and beautiful materials for their children. Beginning Montessori Materials was soon launched!
We both enjoyed the many hours developing the design of the materials with quality, safety, adherence to Montessori standards, and children's enjoyment in mind. We wanted the materials to be affordable so that more people will be able to offer their children these wonderful toys. We are a small, home-based business so while we may expand our product line in the future, we are both conscious that we have other full time jobs. Shane is a Chartered Accountant, specializing in tax and I run the Montessori preschool while completing the final work for my training. We are also working towards expanding the school to include a program for children under age 3 and their caregivers. When not working, we enjoy spending time with our two dogs in our beautiful home of Greater Vancouver, spending time with our 6 (and soon to be 7) nieces and nephews, and traveling whenever we have the opportunity to do so.
The product for our giveaway is the Progressive Ring Stacker. We designed this material to be affordable for parents to provide in the home as it actually incorporates 4 different Montessori materials. When your child is 10-11 months you can offer one ring from the first stage, which is a set of round rings with a wide centre hole. Once your child gets the concept you can introduce the second ring and we recommend that you provide a small basket for the rings. This will help your child gain a sense of order and an understanding of placing toys away in a particular spot. The second stage is a set of rings that is narrower and flat that will help your child develop their hand to grasp in various ways, wrist rotation, and hand-eye coordination. You can place the base and the basket of rings onto a tray. If your child is walking then he/she can carry the tray to their workplace of a small table or the floor. The third stage is a set of metal gradation rings that will aid your child in absorbing size gradation without having to create it as the rings will always fall into a gradation. The fourth stage is set of coloured, wooden discs. This can also be ordered in oiled discs to be more natural. This is similar to a traditional ring stacker but with three discs, the younger child can accomplish the goal using the smaller material and lesser amount of discs. This is a wonderful material that will build your child’s independence and self-esteem as they master each stage. This material will last well into the toddler years. We hope your child greatly enjoys using the ring stacker in each of the four stages and that you enjoy your child at each stage of their development.
Thank you Shane and Carrie from Beginning Montessori for this giveaway. To enter simply leave a comment. I will draw the giveaway using random number generator and will contact the recipient shortly after by email. Comments close Thursday 15th December at 9pm AEDT. The giveaway is open internationally but please only one entry per family.
Edited December 15. Congratulations to Heather H who will be receiving this lovely Progressive Ring Stacker. Thank you to everyone who participated. This was the last of the Christmas 2011 Giveaways.
I know crawling isn't far away. This stage of development is so fleeting, I really wanted to capture it.
This is the first time I have noticed him putting one knee down. He is just about to learn he can push himself forwards.
But mostly he just does this.
I love chubby little legs and the strength and determination it takes to get to here. Yes, this really is capturing the moment.
Also - I send my very best wishes to Camilla. Her baby was due to be born today. I hope you are keeping well Camilla and holding your sweetest new addition in your arms.
I love to see and hear what Montessori means to others. Milena is from Belgrade, Serbia and I would love to share her story with you.
Milena and her husband are both interested in Montessori and have attended basic courses on Montessori and Montessori in the home at the Montessori Association of Serbia www.montesori.org.rs. Milena has also attended workshops at her daughters kindergarten. I prompted Milena with a couple of questions, I have left the translation largely unedited, I am sure you can follow just fine.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?
My name is Milena. I am a mother of a girl Teona, who is 26 months. And the third member of family is dad and husband Uroš. We live in a family house in the city of Belgrade, the Serbian state, the beautiful Balkan Peninsula, on the European continent.
Before, I came into the marriage, became a wife and mother blessed, I am interested in how the family relationships, and on the child as being that from the very moment of conception. The book was recommended to us by my dear professor, was Absorbing mind ... that title is being of all.
Above all, parents should refer to the harmonic, then the space is filled with love, which the child absorbs, feels, that it breathes and living in an everyday life. Of course our creativity supplements.
There are all valuable books, which primarily, Dr. Maria Montessori left. We are grateful that there is such a being, who lived her entire life for children and surrendered to them. Also, all sites are available AMI society throughout the world.
Inspiration, we find in the truth that a child is in itself good. Whether the your child become a good man, depends on us and the environment. If the parents with their lives, especially the works, an example of good, the child will absorb it. We try to find joy in everything, do not mourn or anything, pray for the health of all children and all peoples of the world. Sure, there is nature, in which children and we need the more we stay, because this is where the soul acquires peace. And if the child acquires the peace, be at peace with everyone ..... and will be achieved through community with others.. Unconditional love, the child will be strengthened and obedience. And freedom, leading to independence.