Unit Blocks Round Up

Since I started blogging the question I am asked the most is “where did you get those unit blocks?” So here is my round up of unit blocks that I think that would be a wonderful addition to any unit block area in a home.

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  1. Carolina Pratt Home Starter Set
    These are absolutely gorgeous and my first choice. If you are willing to invest in Unit Blocks for your home I would thoroughly recommend these. They are strong, hand crafted and guaranteed to last a lifetime. This is a good place to start and Carolina Pratt offers upgrade unit block sets should you wish to boost the collection each year or specifically sells individual pieces so it is absolutely versatile and should nothing on their site suit you I am sure if you contacted Pepi he would be very happy to help make something to suit your needs. I wish I had seen these when I was looking to purchase. They are having a sale at the moment so if you hurry you can get in and request a great deal – they have asked what customers want, be sure to tell Pepi that I sent you.
  2. Unit Block Set – 56 Pieces
    Don’t be fooled by the 56 pieces. Two people can easily build and run out of usable blocks quite quickly in a 56 piece set. These are affordable and a worthy investment for the child that is interested in block building.
  3. Jumbo Blocks
  4. Plan Unit Blocks
    These are a booster to the first unit block set. Different shapes encourage road play.
  5. Community Play Things
    These are beautiful. Comes with a storage chest if you are able to splurge on this. I think it is very worth it.
  6. Preschool Equipment
    Australian made unit blocks. You can buy 195 or 390 pieces.
  7. Lakeshore Learning Best Buy Unit Blocks
  8. Barclay Blocks

Another question I am frequently asked is what is a good age to introduce unit blocks? We introduced unit blocks to Joshua when he was around 18 months old and as you can see he is a very enthusiastic builder at 2.5 years old. You can see my previous posts on Joshua’s block building here and here and here.

Do you have any recommendations for Unit Block suppliers? I found it really hard to find any when I was looking for Joshua’s. I think they are available in good quality toy shops but I hesitate to recommend those as I feel that quite a few local shops may not have the complete range and are quite overpriced given they don’t offer a good selection of unit blocks or are not as nice as I would like as I am reasonably picky about what materials I offer to Joshua.

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Summer Days

Our little family has been spending a lot of time together and making the most of the fantastic weather before my husband has to go back to work. For us, the festive period and the summer break are a time for being together and recharging our batteries for the year ahead. We are usually extremely busy in the lead up to Christmas time and need time to spend on little projects and to nourish our relationships as my husband goes away frequently in the lead up to this time. This is a quick post on some of our doings in the last few weeks.

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From top:

  1. Enjoying home made banana ice cream.
  2. Riding a trike.
  3. Building Lego Technik earth mover with Daddy.
  4. Playing with matching Lego Duplo earth mover kit – piling up blocks in the back of truck.
  5. Joshua and his Daddy.
  6. Practical Life – Practicing turning screws on a small home project.
  7. Practical Life – Crushing biscuits for lemon slice.
  8. Enjoying a strawberry and mango frozen yoghurt pop.
  9. Piling up blocks in trike trailer.
  10. First go at riding his balance bike, a present from grandparents.
  11. Practical Life – Squeezing orange juice exercise.
  12. Practical Life – Nurturing the veggie patch, and a little tomato has appeared.
  13. Helmet on and starting to push off and ride balance bike properly with some help.

We’ve even managed to fit in some updates to our work spaces which I hope to share shortly. I hope you have all been having a wonderful summer break. The weather here in Melbourne has been wonderful and we have spent lots of time catching up with family and friends during this time.

What activities have you been up to during the summer?

Weaning – The end of another stage

I am not sure that Maria Montessori would have approved of our extended breastfeeding relationship. Montessori advocates weaning to a cup around the 9-10 month mark as a part of helping cultivate independence. I remember Joshua at that age and he was growing so quickly but was in my opinion no where near ready or willing to wean completely from breastfeeding. Montessori also advocates for introducing tastes and solids around the 4 month mark. We did not do this, following Joshua I did not feel that he was ready to start so we stuck to WHO guidelines and introduced food and weaning process at 6 months old. We did not force or push for complete weaning. Joshua eventually dropped down to one feed a day and recently we have stopped breastfeeding altogether, so we went to almost 22 months.

I fought hard for our breastfeeding relationship to start and got in contact with an IBCLC qualified lactation consultant who was wonderful. She helped us establish our breastfeeding, getting the feeding position and latch done correctly, helped me manage my supply and make sure that Joshua had a nice full feed every feed time. I remember it all through a haze, that time of being a new parent, learning how to care for Joshua and I remember wondering to myself if breastfeeding was just all too hard. But persist we did. And what a sweet journey we have had together. We have fed together through illnesses, through hot weather and cold (stuck to me with sweat or huddled into me for warmth), through the night in the early days and for comfort when Joshua needed reassurance.

I will always be proud of how well we did and how far we went together. I am so grateful that we were able to feed for as long as we did and for being blessed with the support to do so and will always be in awe of my body’s ability to nourish my son the way that I have. As I write this I am still mourning the final weaning and have been searching the internet for solace and found this poem which I thought I would share.

WEAN ME GENTLY
I know I look so big to you,
Maybe I seem too big for the needs I have.
But no matter how big we get,
We still have needs that are important to us.
I know that our relationship is growing and changing,
But I still need you. I need your warmth and closeness,
Especially at the end of the day
When we snuggle up in bed.
Please don’t get too busy for us to nurse.
I know you think I can be patient,
Or find something to take the place of a nursing –
A book, a glass of something,
But nothing can take your place when I need you.
Sometimes just cuddling with you,
Having you near me is enough.
I guess I am growing and becoming independent,
But please be there.
This bond we have is so strong and so important to me,
Please don’t break it abruptly.
Wean me gently,
Because I am your mother,
And my heart is tender.
~ Cathy Cardall ~

Joshua. Thank you for being such a wonderful partner in our breastfeeding relationship.  I will remember all those times that I not only fed you but nourished our togetherness.

Perhaps I am wrong about Maria Montessori’s take on this. I am sure she would have wanted me to follow the child, and follow him I have. Our weaning has been gentle and Joshua is ready now to let go of this stage. It may be a little while longer for me to adjust to no longer having this as a part of our daily routine but I will gladly let you go Joshua to make your way in the world, wherever it will lead you. It may take Mama just a little longer to stop aching the loss of this part of us but I will catch up with you when I am ready.

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Why we Montessori

For my first post I felt torn. Should I dive into a “Montessori” activity straight up? Should I talk about Montessori philosophy in detail?  After much thought I felt that I should explain why we do what we do. The easiest place to start is at the beginning.

The essential philosophy and catch-cry you will hear from Montessorians worldwide is “help me to do it myself”.  This encapsulates the foremost thoughts in Montessori thinking of independence and what is referred to as “The Absorbent Mind”, something that Maria Montessori derived from observing that children under the age of 3 learned language and other things without needing lessons and simply learn through being a part of the environment and absorbing what they need to know or what they are exposed to. My beliefs prior to having a child was that parenting was something to be gotten through (especially the early years) and that it would be years of doing things for your kids before they could contribute themselves. How wrong I was!

My attention was drawn to Montessori pedagogy through my husband who is himself a Montessori early learner and attended a small, local kindergarten. I have questioned him closely on his memories of kindergarten so that I can compare them to mine. Sadly my memories of kindergarten (I attended a local public kindergarten) are fragmented and hazy.

On the other hand, my husband has very little recollection of life that early, however he has a very good memory of his early experiences at Montessori kindergarten. It is fascinating to question him and show him apparatus that trigger that “light bulb” moment for him. When questioned “what does it feel like to be a Montessori kid” his answer is “I don’t know, it just is” but the fact that he clearly remembers things from that early in his life says to me that it had such a positive effect and impact that it imprinted itself in his memory.

That’s the Absorbent Mind for you.

And that’s what we want for Joshua.