Last week we travelled to my sisters wedding. It was so beautiful. While travelling we used store bought baby food resulting in left over baby food jars. Naturally I wanted to reuse as many as possible. Here are some of the ways we are reusing baby food jars in our home.
1. Christmas decorations
I featured these in the previous post Handmade Christmas decorations. A little glue, a little glitter to make these extra sparkly candle holders, a great look for Christmas. They would also work well as vases.
2. Little storage jars
Perfect storage for the little things on my desk.
3. Paint and glue pots
These jars come in handy as paint and glue pots. Here we used them for our watercolours. They are just the right size and if you want to keep the paint for later, just pop the lid on tight.
4. Little cutlery holders
Our little cutlery is on high rotation and in frequent use. What a great way to keep them easy to find and easy to reach.
5. Rice shaker
Following the post Little Colour Bottles I was thinking of other uses for the bottles. For a shaker I thought these slightly larger jars would look, feel and sound better. I could have coloured the rice but after the bright colour bottles I preferred to keep the rice natural looking. This was by far his favourite reuse.
I have also used them to store home dried herbs. They have so, so many uses - what wonderful little jars!
Otis is six months old today!! I am happy to have made it through what I consider to be the toughest time and today I wanted to reflect and share some short cuts that I used (some I still use) to get through.
1. Slow cooker
I purchased this slow cooker when Otis was a couple of weeks old. When my first son was born it didn't matter if we had dinner late (or not at all). But now I have two children to look after. I call this a short cut becuase I don't use any recipes, it's simply the vegetables, meat and stock/hebs/sauce I have on hand. I usually prepare this in the morning when getting Caspar's lunch ready and it's all set for dinner time.
2. Pre-made salads
I still eat some pre-made salads from the gorcery store. It's so easy to grab for a snack and much healthier than other foods I would reach for.
We have just come out of winter and the washer-dryer has been a life saver for when I've needed to change sheets in the middle of the night (sick kids) or if I didn't get around to washing the nappies (we are now using 100% cloth). Put in a dirty load and it comes out clean and dry. Not something I do everyday, but it's helped when needed.
4. Bathroom wipes
This is the short cut I am least proud of. In the first months after Otis was born I wasn't really interested in cleaning and the wipes saved me from being totally embarassed at the site of an unclean bathroom.
5. Hand-held vac
If you have been to my house in the last six months, it's likely that five minutes before you arrived I was running around the house with our hand-held vac. Our dog sometimes like to visit us inside and for someone who doesn't like dog hair all over the floor this too has been a life saver.
I have totally come clean with my short cuts. I would love to hear about the short cuts that you sometimes or all-the-time take. I think it's fun to hear how other people manage, honestly!
This is the list I wish I had three years ago. With no Michael Olaf, no Montessori Services, where do we go for our Montessori materials? Today's five things are sources of Montessori materials that we have used and can recommend.
1. At Home with Montessori - Materials for children from birth to three years.
2. Montessori Child - I really like their practical life section.
3. A2Z Montessori Australia - They stock a large range of items, really comprehensive.
4. Bright Tomato Learning - A small but useful range.
5. Wood Puzzles - Puzzles, sandpaper letters, moveable alphabet. All handmade.
I also buy from Etsy. Most of these are from the U.S and Canada. I have found postage costs to Australia to be reasonable. I usually try to order a few items at time to make it cost effective.
Locally I find our indepedent toy store to have some Montessori friendly toys. Although it may require some searching, hardware and kitchen specialty stores usually stock items relevant to practical life.
If you are in New Zealand have a look at Montessori Shop. Although I haven't used them before Vicki is super friendly and may be able to ship to Australia too.
If there is a store that I have missed out or clearly don't know about please fill me in - I would love to hear about them!
I am a little late with my Five Things post. I actually had another topic in mind but I got distracted thinking about weaning, so I might post two Five Things this week.
Today's five things - reasons to read to your baby.
With Caspar (now three) I knew reading to him as a baby was important. I didn't know why. Now with Otis, my second child, I am much more aware and present as a parent and the reasons to read to him are abundant and oh so clear.
This happens while I am showering and getting ready for the day. While it doesn't look like much sharing is going on, Caspar is actually reading to Otis. Caspar is sharing his book and sharing the story.
He strokes each page with his hand. He feels the page, he touches the pictures, he touches the words. I can only imagine how amazing a book must look to him.
He is learning the weight of a book, how to support it so you can view the words and pictures. He helps to turn a page.
When I read to him like this, he barely takes his eyes off me. He is watching every word leave my lips.
Reading time can be special. Touching, being together, taking time, expressing to him that he is important.
Thank you to Cathy from A Montessori Home, the amazing photograph of Finlay reading with his dad here, really inspired me to capture some of our reading moments on camera.
Also thank you to Caspar for the great photography.
Do I need to say anymore? Oh the patience that must be required to work with so many little children. To deal with their parents too! I am not a patient person but I am working on it.
2. Ability to observe
Caspar had only been at his school for two weeks when his teacher made a comment to me about him. It made me think, I was surprised. She knew him. The ability to observe is fundamental to the Montessori Method and I think we could all benefit from doing more of this in the home. Observing in the home as a teacher would in the classroom can help us design or adjust our home environment to better suit the child.
3. Grace, gentleness and kindness
Of course these are admirable attributes. Montessori writes a lot about why these are important. Remember young children have an absorbent mind and will over time absorb our qualities too.
4. Ability to see the innate potential for goodness in every child
Wow, this is admirable. I wish to see the innate potential for goodness in everyone - not just children.
5. Not having preconceived ideas
This is also fundamental to the Montessori Method. Teachers do not have preconceived ideas about the children, what level they should be at or what work they should be doing. As parents it's really easy to get caught up in comparing children and thinking our children should be more advanced. It's time to drop that thinking and really follow the child.
I also love how Montessori writes about teachers being interesting, warm and charming. Yes the teachers in our life are indeed interesting, warm and charming!
Please, feel free to join in. What is it that you most admire about teachers?
Five Montessori quotes about love and the child. They are powerful and inspiring. Surprisingly Montessori wrote and spoke about love a lot. You will need to read each quote slowly to appreciate it.
Love is more than the electricity which lightens our darkness, more than the etheric waves that transmit our voices across space, more than any of the energies that man has discovered and learned to use. Of all things love is the most potent. All that men can do with their discoveries depends on the conscience of him who uses them. But this energy of love is given us so that each shall have it in himself.1
Whenever we touch the child, we touch love. It is a difficult love to define; we all feel it, but no one can describe it's roots, or evaluate the immense consequences which flow from it, or gather up its potency for union between men. Despite our differences of race, religion, and of social position, we have felt, during our discussions of the child, a fraternal union growing up between us... Love, like that which we feel for the child, must exist potentially between man and man, because human unity does exist and there is no unity without love.1
It is indeed a form of love that gives them the faculty of observing in such an intense and meticulous manner the things in their environment that we, grown cold, pass by unseeing. Is it not a characteristic of love, that sensibility that enables a child to see what others do not see? That collects details that others do not perceive, and appreciates special qualities, which are, as it were, hidden, and which only love can discover? It is because the child's intelligence assimilates by loving, and not just indifferently, that he can see the invisible. This active, ardent, meticulous, constant absorption in love is characteristic of children.2
Nature has not only provided the mother with milk, the child's physical sustenance, but has in addition made her capable of that absolutely altruistic form of love which transforms her soul, and liberates moral powers which the mother herself never knew of or suspected - just as the sweet, nutritious particles of milk were formally unknown to the red blood corpuscles.3
Let us learn to recognize the man, sublime in his true reality, let us learn to recognize him in the most delicate child. We have shown by our experiments that he develops through work, freedom and love. Hitherto we have stifled the marvellous potentialities of his nature with silly toys and slavish discipline, and we have ignored his manifestations of spontaneity. From his earliest childhood he lives in order to learn, love and to be productive.3
Still on the topic of love, Aline D. Wolf writes in her book Montessori Insights for parents of young children, that parents can show love to their children in three ways; frequent eye contact, physical contact (hugs, play, sitting in lap etc) and focused attention (one on one engaging type of activity).
Although a little antiquated I find Montessori's language and her use of words so wonderful.
1. The Absorbent Mind. Maria Montessori.
2. The Secret of Childhood. Maria Montessori.
3. Basic Ideas of Montessori's Educational Theory. Extracts from Maria Montessori's Writings and Teachings. Maria Montessori.
I purchased these tokens just after Caspar was born. At the time I didn't know exactly what we would do with them but I knew they would be useful. Over the last three years we have used them in so many ways. Here are a few of our favourite activities using coloured tokens.
1. Money box
An oldie but a goodie. Caspar used this from 12 months. It's made from an old yoghurt container with an opening cut in the lid. The lid is really easy to get off and on and with a little practice the child can do this too. This was an all time favourite, it was on his shelves for almost a year.
2. Colour matching
This is an activity he used from 2 years. But look at him today, he still thinks it's fun.
This is a current activity. We count a lot but he is only just starting to recognise the numbers.
I featured these new scales last week and as they are still a novelty we are using them with everything, including tokens.
This is a current activity also. The great thing about this is you can make it as easy or hard as you like, just change the difficulty of the pattern. I start the pattern by sticking the tokens to the card with blu-tack and then let Caspar finish it.
Open ended materials like this provide so many activity options for such little cost. It makes me wonder what we will use them for next.
Because some days we just need a little quiet and calm. Five things for this week are five quiet and clean indoor activities for Caspar.
Puzzles are great for children of any age. One thing I now know is not to ask the shop assistant for help when choosing puzzles. Puzzles vary so much in skill level required, the only person who can choose the right puzzle for your child is you. I always try to have a couple of puzzles in storage that are just above his current skill level. This one is an airport puzzle and as Caspar is really interested in transport it is a perfect fit. And yes, we do puzzles in the kitchen, why not. Sometimes he wants to work near me and often I sit here at this bench and write or read.
These scales are new so Caspar is just working them out. So far we have worked together to achieve equal weight or balance.
3. Memory game
This game is great for building concentration. Caspar says it's 'tricky', which means he finds it challenging.
4. Dressing game
Although quite commercial Melissa and Doug games and puzzles are (in my view) reasonably good. This one was a gift, it has a magnetic body and the child dresses it with magnet clothes. Once again a perfect fit as the clothes are for a police officer, builder, firefighter etc all things that interest him.
Drawing with crayons is a current favourite. Long time readers of this blog will know how proud I am of his grip. He is getting there!! These crayons are from Lyra and are really soft with vibrant colours.
Next week school is back.
Is anyone else watching Le Tour de France? I am so sleep deprived I am having difficulty keeping my eyes open. France is looking so beautiful and those mountains take my breath away. I really hope the Aussie, Cadel Evans can take it away this year.
This week my five things are reasons why we chose Montessori as a parenting method. Yes I am now calling Montessori a parenting method. Really Montessori just isn't about educating but about living and yes parenting.
1. Montessori inspires me
Do I need to write anymore? After all I have read I want to read more. After all I have done I want to do more. She inspires me to be a better person and a better parent. I am enthusiastic about bringing Montessori in our home now more than ever.
2. I believe in it - all of it
There is very little that Montessori wrote or spoke about that I don't agree with or believe in. It simply makes sense to me and seems logical. There are some other parenting methods or philosophies that I take bits and pieces from but with Montessori I am in all the way. I have also found that Montessori just suits us and in many ways is an extension of the lives we were already living.
OK, we don't do everything 100% Montessori but to live in a Montessori way is completely doable it's not aspirational. When I read Montessori I think 'yes' I can do that, perhaps not all at once but with a little time and research it can be achieved.
4. It's comprehensive
Pick a topic and it's covered. Discipline, toileting, dressing, Montessori has it covered. Sometimes I am left wanting more information on a topic but with a little discussion and research I can usually find my answers.
When we chose to send our first child (or get onto the waiting list) to a Montessori school it was a big decision. Believe it or not at the time we were still considering a Steiner (Waldorf) school. This was a turning point for us. We knew that whatever school we chose we needed to support their principles at home.
Please join in, I would love to know why you chose Montessori or what is it about Montessori that appeals to you.
This week my five things are sources of Montessori information.
I love blogs and read so many of them. They are great places for ideas, inspiration and motivation. However if you are new to Montessori keep in mind that blogs are just web logs and not ever the best source of accurate Montessori information. What DID we do all day? has a comprehensive list of Montessori blogs. Also Flickr and Pinterest are great for visual inspiration!
I put books into two categories. First books that are written by or transcripts of the work of Maria Montessori. Yep, I actually enjoy reading her and recommend that everyone have a try! Secondly are books written about her work, or further interpretation/extension of her work. I have not seen a full list but I refer to Montessori Books when I am looking for something new. I intend to review more books on this blog and if you have an absolute favourite I would love to hear about it.
This can be difficult if you are feeling isolated but I genuinely feel that people are the best source of information, because the conversation is two ways, you can ask further questions, for more ideas or details. When I was putting together Otis's room I asked so many questions of everyone I knew. I think I started to bug people but generally people want to help out! This doesn't have to be in person. If you find someone that resonates with you online, try emailing them. If you are having trouble connecting with others ask around, I have done this at playgroups and have found other parents by simply asking "is anyone else interested in Montessori?".
Not everyone will agree with me here because not everyone has such a wonderful experience with Montessori schools. But I believe they are such great sources of information. Try information sessions, open days, converse with leaders in your Montessori community. If you are interested in a Montessori schooling for your children I would recommend connecting with your preferred school early, some schools/preschools offer programs or information sessions for infants and toddlers. Many schools also have information sheets on activities you can do at home.
5. Foundations, Associations...
There are a number of foundations, associations and groups that offer support to parents. A great thing about membership to some of these groups is their publications. The Montessori Australia Foundation has Montessori Insights and I really like Tomorrow's Child. I have also really enjoyed Communications, the Journal of the Association Montessori Internationale but haven't seen a recent edition.
What about Montessori albums? I have never read an entire album and don't know if I have ever seen a genuine one. How do you know? Albums were originally developed by students studying Montessori to be used as a teaching reference. There are a few that you can access online for free and there are many around for purchase. I have considered purchasing one for the 0-3 age group, would you recommend it??
Another good source of information if you are looking for something specific is transcripts from Montessori conferences. Some conferences put transcripts online. This is also useful if you find a presenter/educator you really like but are not in a position to attend the conference or if the conference is overseas!
One more to add is providers of Montessori materials. If you purchase materials from someone don't be afraid to ask questions about how to use it. I have found most often they are happy to help!
I am interested to know your sources of Montessori information or what your opinion is on these?
These are our five favourite things for bathtime fun.
We have both sail boats and paddle boats. It would be great to have a race. With the paddle boats you wind the paddle which is held in place with a rubber band, and let go.
This requires a little strength and a little coordination. Just pump the handle and water comes out the spout.
3. Bird/water whistle
How much fun is a bird whistle. If you haven't seen one before, you put a little water in the bottom of the whistle and blow. It makes interesting bird noises.
4. Kitchen items
Measuring cups, funnel and colander are all fun in the bath. Also a great way to learn about measuring and volumes. Try a couple of containers/cups that are different in shape but same in volume and amaze your toddler.
5. Plastic sea animals
These make for a fun learning experience. We have Schleich animals, we started with a dolphin and a shark and now have a large collection including various rays, whales, marlin and octopus. This is an idea taken from the DVD Edison's Day.
We really like our water wheel which can also be used in the sand pit. We haven't tried it yet but I think a watering can would be fun in the bath too.
If you haven't seen our bathroom before have a look here.
Please join in. What are your favourite bath materials?
When we first started implementing Montessori principles in our home we really focused on the physical things, furniture, materials etc. It was only after time that I began to pick up on some of the other concepts of Montessori such as peace, respect and true love for the child. Here are my top five ways of introducing Montessori concepts into your home without spending a cent.
"The child builds his inmost self out of the deeply felt impressions he receives, and this is especially important in the first part of his life" - Maria Montessori - The Absorbent Mind.
1. A positive home environment
I feel that a positive home environment should come naturally. However in our home it is something I reassess frequently. I strive for a home that is not overly serious and is filled with joy and playfulness. Remember this needs to be genuine, we can provide this stable environment even in times of stress.
2. Surround the child in beauty
The beauty that Montessori was referring to was that of nature. We use natural materials and fibres when possible and try to look at our surroundings in a simplistic way. Beauty is not that of having a lot of things, it is having surroundings that inspire (you and the child) and promote a sense of well-being and calm.
3. Experience nature
Montessori believed children (and possibly adults too) need direct contact with their environment and suggested long nature walks regularly. We try to follow this and take slow walks near our home. She suggests to put your self at your child's disposal, see what captures his attention, be guided by the child.
4. Allow the child to concentrate
This is on the list because it is something I struggle with. Montessori once said that interrupting a child is one of the most harmful forms of repressive actions we can take. At school, at home, doing puzzles or just putting on shoes - allow the child to concentrate, don't interrupt. Once I stopped interrupting Caspar I realised that most of the interruptions were completely unnecessary, unhelpful and didn't contribute towards him completing the task.
5. Contribute to family life
If you have read this blog before you will know that I take every opportunity to allow my children to make a meaningful contribution to our family life. It is very empowering for a child to make meaningful contributions to their social groups including the family. There are so many ways that children of all ages can do this and most can be practical life exercises - watering plants, setting the table, contributing towards a meal.
There are also many other principles which we strive towards. Some come really easy and others we have to work at, it's a journey after all!
I know that cooking is a fun activity and there are so many ways your child can participate. But today my five things don't include cooking and are activities with food that are fun, quick, easy and not too messy.
1. Cutting shapes
Cutting big shapes with cheese is easy and little shapes with carrot is more difficult. These carrot shapes would look so cute through a small salad.
2. Making spiral foods
This tool is called a radish cutter, but we enjoy using it on cucumber. Carrot is a little more difficult and is best left for adults or much older children. This activity is challenging for Caspar and is most suitable for ages three and up. Even a five year old would enjoy this.
3. Crushing herbs
The mortar and pestle are a favourite because Caspar (and possibly most children) likes bashing things. If I am using herbs, fresh or dried, Caspar will give them a bit of a crush first, it actually helps to release the flavours.
Once again cheese is easy and carrot is more difficult. The softer the cheese the easier. This can get a little messy. There is still some cheese on my floor. Caspar had so much fun with this hand grater he grated much, much more than we needed, he didn't want to stop.
5. Apple slinkys
I have mentioned this before, but I had to include it on my list. It is our all time favourite activity in the kitchen. No explanation required. Don't think this is too hard for a younger child. I have seen much younger children enjoy this.
Besides the obvious aim of preparing food these activities also keep Caspar busy while I am cooking and allow him to make a meaningful contribution often to our family meal and therefore our family life.
Many people would suggest having all the items required for each activity out ready for the child. This would work well for a younger child however at three Caspar is old enough to collect the items himself. As your child gets older do encourage/ensure they participate in all levels of the activity from set up to clean up. Allow the child to take ownership of the activity.
A couple more of our favourite activities with food include juicing by hand and making melon balls.
Please join in. What are your favourite fun activities with food?
I have decided on a Friday Feature post, every Friday I will write a feature titled Five Things. This week is five essential items for the Montessori child. I am sometimes asked about what items we use most or what I would recommend to people starting out with Montessori. Here are my suggestions and our five essential items.
1. Small table and chair
Every child needs a table and chair at which they can comfortably sit, work and eat at. If you only purchase one thing make it a small table and chair.
2. Small things
Small glasses from which to drink. Small jugs from which to pour. Small trays to carry. Little people will have greater success and more confidence working with items which they have control over or which fit in their hands.
3. Step stool
Every home with children usually has at least a couple of these. We have one in each bathroom, one in the pantry, one in the garage and a couple floating around. They can help your child reach light switches, door knobs, taps, higher shelves and reach a new level of independence.
Aprons are so useful, not only do they assist in keeping clothes clean they also help a child know when work has commenced and concluded. A different apron for different activities would be ideal, think one for cooking, one for washing dishes, one for gardening. Hang them on low hooks near the activity. Purchase or make an apron the child can put on and take off themselves.
5. Dust pan and broom
There are so many ways your child can get involved in helping around the house. A child sized dust pan and broom is a good way to start. We also love our larger brooms, mop and carpet sweeper. Hang them on low hooks accessible to the child. Before you know it your child will be cleaning up after themselves and taking responsibility for their own mess.
Please join in. What are your five essential items and what items would you recommend to families just starting out?