I have put a 'cutting tray' on Otis's shelf in the Art Centre. Today I demonstrated sitting next to him. I used Caspar's scissors which are the same as his. The red strips are heavy weight paper that I had left over from teaching Caspar to cut. Although Caspar was introduced to scissors at an older age and got it straight away. The idea of using the slightly heavier paper is that a child can hold it and it will stay straight making it easier to cut. The lines are probably unnecessary at this stage.
After demonstrating and allowing Otis to explore the scissors I helped him to put his fingers in the scissors and helped him to cut by putting my hands over his. He loved every moment of cutting. I could take my hands off and he was able to keep cutting, moving the scissors himself for a few seconds. We also tried some fringe cutting which I remember Caspar loving.
I really enjoy moments like this. Teaching my little one a new skill. We put the tray back on the shelf and will leave it for another day or so. It was also fun to observe Otis. He had the strength but needs to work on the coordination to put it all together. Using tongs has been a good precursor to cutting as I'm sure it uses the same muscles in the hand.
Before Otis was born I had his floor bed in this exact location - in Caspar's room. I have always wanted my two children to sleep in the same room, to share a bedroom. Except as Otis's birth got closer I struggled to see how it could work. I couldn't completely baby proof Caspar's room. Was it safe for a baby to sleep in the same room as a pre-schooler? The baby could get stuck under Caspar's bed. So before Otis was born I put his bed in a separate room and set it up as much as I could as a Montessori nursery.
Once Otis became mobile bedtime became stressful. Otis would get out of bed and go into Caspar's room. Reading bedtime stories often resulted in me carrying one child back to their room asleep. There was a lot of running in between rooms.
A few months ago I asked Caspar if he would like to share a room with Otis. He liked the idea so much that we move the furniture straight away. Now they share a room and bedtime is much easier and simpler. Although it involves reading A LOT of bedtime stories.
What is your greatest toddler frustration? For me it's not toilet learning, bedtime or dinner. It's walking with Otis.
Like Maria Montessori wrote a child of this age will walk from one item of interest to the next. Otis has no interest in getting from point A to point B. I have come to the realisation that I don't need to and shouldn't be carrying Otis at all anymore. But my frustration gets the better of me. As much as possible I leave time to allow for Otis's wanderings but it's getting ridiculous. I have realised that I have given him freedom without any limits. Allowing Otis to walk doesn't mean that he can walk in any direction or take any path he likes. I need to set some limits and give him some level of responsibility.
I really hit me when I read this section in Montessori from the Start (Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen) recently.
When we are getting out of cars, crossing public parking lots and streets, or walking on busy sidewalks, it is tempting to pick young children up and carry them to our destination. We recommend a different solution. Take your child firmly by one hand so that she must walk by your side, holding your hand. A fourteen-month-old child, having just found freedom to move on her own, typically resists this constraint at first. However, she is much less likely still to be resisting at age two or three years than the child who has not been asked to walk quietly by your side earlier and to hold you hand from the beginning.
Yes, absolutely Oits needs limits and discipline now or I am going to have a two year old running amok every time we are out in public. I have used safety as an excuse to carry Otis. Like so many things Montessori, time and patience now is an investment for later. If Otis can learn to walk with limits such as staying by my side and holding my hand when necessary it's going to be better for all of us.
I have started giving Otis a choice. When we are out (typically from the car park to school/shops etc) I help him down from his car seat and hold out my hand. Usually he will take it and it's only moments later that he will let go and run off. I give him the choice he can hold my hand and walk by my side or I can carry him. Mostly he opts to hold my hand but there have been times where he will sit on the path thinking about it. I have on occasion picked him up and he has kicked his legs demanding to be put down. So I again give him a choice, hold my hand or I can carry you. Honestly I have difficultly following through with many types of discipline but in this case I'm slowly seeing results which is encouraging me to continue.
It's also a nice reminder to allow Otis to observe his surroundings. In all of our usual surroundings (school/local shops) I ensure Otis has plenty of time to sit, play where possible and watch the goings on. For example after we have crossed the road together we might pause and watch the tuck go by or watch the garbage truck empy the bins. It's reinforcing safety and that freedom comes with limits.
I'm not sure if it's related to Caspar being back at school or to his stage in development but Otis is going through his materials at a great pace. He is using a lot of materials everyday although he might only do the activity once or twice which might last only one or two minutes. In some way this is really frustrating as he appears to be concentrating less and acting like he is in a hurry.
Above Otis is matching some small model animals. Most of his matching activities to date have been matching identical items such as model animals or fruits and vegetables.
Today we started a sorting activity with nuts. Otis cannot sit still and there is no way of making him, it's a matter of embracing it. He was still able to sort the nuts while jumping and moving around. I would love a sorting tray, some empty bowls could have worked well too.
I recently published a photograph of Otis lifting a heavy rock in the Photo of the Day. I couldn't remember exactly how Montessori referred to this stage. This stage when children find opportunities for maximum effort. It appears that Otis is right at the peak of this stage.
Maria Montessori's words (from The Absorbent Mind) are so relevant. It was only yesterday that I took this series of photographs.
Observation shows that at the age of one and a half a new factor appears of great importance to the development of both arms and feet. This is the development of strength. The child who has become active and skillful feels himself strong... Instead of merely walking, the child likes to take very long walks and to carry quite heavy things.
The hand which has learnt to grasp must train itself to lift weights and to move them. Here is a child of one and a half clutching in his arms a huge jar of water which he manages to support, but keeping his balance wtih difficulty and walking very slowly.
But Otis is doing more than carrying a container of water.
We may put it like this: the child's intelligence can develop to a certain level without the help of his hand. But if it develops with his hand, then the level it reaches is higher, and the child's character is stronger... those children who have been able to work with their hands make headway in their development, and reach a strength of character which is conspicuous.
Therefore, it is clear that we must not carry the child about, but let him walk, and if his hand wishes to work we must provide him with things on which he can exercise an intelligent activity. His own actions are what take the little one along the road to independence.
He is undertaking an intelligent activity on his road to independence.
By observing Otis at the tap I realised I only need to loosen the tap slightly for him to be able to operate it himself. The Montessori mantra here is to provide the least amount of help necessary. A slightly loose tap and Otis can fill his watering can and water the carrots. This is significant because Otis isn't just watering a plant, he is watering food that we will eat and he's doing it by himself - with his own hands.
I have no training in Montessori so I'm hesitant to write too much about how to observe a child. I've learnt from being a parent that sometimes it's easier to observe one part of the child at a time. While taking these photographs I was observing Otis's hands. I totally block out noise and almost lose consciousness of what is going on around me. I focus on his hands, what he is touching, how he is touching, what his hands are doing, what works and what doesn't. Observing his grip, his fingers, his wrists, his movements.
I guarantee your child will love these. They super easy to make. I made circles of the same size so the children could focus on the colours but it would be just as easy to cut out different shapes for the children to 'build' on the window. I find this more of art expression than learning about shapes or colours.
How did we get to this point? After making the Fun Colour Window Shapes (which I totally love because the black frames make a real statement) I laminated cellophane and then later tried contact and cellophane. Contact and cellophane didn't work so well as there were too many bubbles. At the stationary store I looked for coloured transparent contact which I thought would work well doubled over and cut out on the window. I couldn't find any contact that would work but I did find some colour plastic document pockets. I looked at colour plastic page dividers but the plastic pockets worked out to be more economical.
To make these shapes I cut the coloured plastic document pockets at the sides to flatten them out. I traced around the outside of a small bowl with a pen to make a circle and then cut out all circles with scissors. I put the circles in a container by the window and invited the kids to play.
To apply the circles to the window they need to be slightly moist. I lightly sprayed the window with water. They are easily applied and reapplied without any mess. Otis loves putting them on but also loves peeling them off.
They look great in the morning sun when you can get the coloured reflection inside on the floor.
After making the Fun Colour Window Shapes I was left wondering could they be laminated. I had serious doubts, I thought the cellophane might melt in the laminator. I put one shape through the laminator and it worked fine. The cellophane was a little wrinkly but the shape was super tough and would stand up to any toddler. I didn't like it though. After being laminated the cellophane didn't make that lovely crinkly sound and it felt nicer to hold when the frame was just cardboard. Keep in mind my cardboard/cellophane/unlaminated versions are crinkled and a little torn from Otis using them and laminated ones would probably last forever.
I also tried laminating plain cellophane which worked well. Again some crinkles and a few bubbles. My laminator did overheat and needed to cool down completely in between laminating each sheet. Otis likes to play and of course carry around these colour water bottles but was completely uninterested in colour matching. Because Otis is not interested in using them together I will keep the bottles and cellophane sheets separate. Perhaps use them them as a language activity in a basket on his shelves. Do you remember our Little Water Bottles, wow that was a long time ago, Otis was only seven months old.
These laminated cellophane sheets look good in the window, you can cut them to any shape and they are perfect for colour matching and colour blending activities. I'm even wondering if we can use them for Christmas decorations, perhaps window bunting?