Gift Ideas for One Year Old

Toys at 1 CollageI have been asked many times about what Joshua was doing at one and what are appropriate gifts for a one year old. This stage is very much much hands on and all about real life experiences. Many of Joshua’s experiences at this age were all about learning twisting, turning, stacking and learning to concentrate.

The items I have listed are those that Joshua was interested in at around this age and is not a prescriptive list. You should follow what your child is interested in and at this age some children may work more on other skills, such as gross motor but each of these are what I consider to be age appropriate and beautiful. At this stage, Joshua was extremely interested in stacking and happy to sit and work on tracking and shape sorting toys. We started introducing a chair and table to work at at this point in time to work at, as well as other experiences such as drawing with crayons and painting.

Small yellow wooden stacking boxes – These are so beautiful. was walking and starting to stack things and these are a good size for a small toddler to carry about.

Shape sorter
 – I really like this sorter. At a basic level I know that the shape sorter that we had was a little complicated for Joshua so if I had to choose another one this is the one I would pick. This one is nice and basic and allows for the toddler to get shapes out of the sorter independently. It also focuses the child on just a few very basic shapes.

Geometric sorting bricks with numbered pegs – Joshua couldn’t get enough of this. He spent lots of time at his grandparents place on a similar toy and we had one of these at home.

Large wooden stacking rainbow – These are great for stacking and not necessarily in the rainbow shape. These are beautiful and offer the opportunity to explore colours and how to fit different shapes together.

Block Crayons – This age is ideal for introducing crayons and paper. We started with very basic crayons but we very quickly moved onto good quality crayons after I realised how important first art experiences are. Joshua loves art now and is now starting to colour in and draw pictures and adores his crayons, we have the stick ones now, not the block ones.

Single Shape Puzzles – These puzzles are a good introduction to the world of puzzles. After mastering basic shapes you can move a child onto multiple piece puzzles. Joshua was doing 2 shape puzzles at 22 months which you can see here. He then moved quickly onto multiple shapes in puzzles which you can see here. I also really like this one.

Posting – We started Joshua in his Montessori toddler group around 14 months old and I remember his teacher introducing him to posting. He loved it! This is a particularly lovely posting toy but you can make your own at home, we made one out of a spice jar with the lid on and I got some matchsticks for Joshua to post through the little holes. This helped Joshua to focus on an activity. A variation on this box is this which helps the child understand the concept of object permanence.

Pound and roll tower – Lots of energy and working on coordination. We had a little pounding bench but this one has some height and has the balls which roll for a bit of variety.

Ball tracker – this is great for tracking objects and this is a wonderful large tracker for your toddler to work with. We had a smaller tracker that Joshua was using that had cars on it. In Australia you can get this here.

Table and chairs – I love this set. We didn’t have this set for when Joshua was small but this is ideal for a toddler.

Cube chair – this is so useful for independence. We started toilet learning in earnest around 14 months after a gradual introduction and this was a really good item to have. It is also a good as a little weaning table if you turn it on its side and pair up with another small chair.

Wooden trike – Joshua was given a wooden trike for his first birthday and he has enjoyed it. Something like this one is lovely, it is sturdy and beautiful. He mostly rode his inside.

We also started adding practical life items after this age too, the focus for the next year was on toilet learning and practical life so these are great gifts to include as well.

Advertisements

Implementing Montessori At Home

“From small beginnings come great things”

~ Proverb

As a new parent I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed. What did I know about raising a child and guiding one? It all seemed like a mystery to me.

I discovered Montessori when Joshua was quite small. As you may know, my husband is a Montessori graduate, he went through Cycle 1 before transferring to mainstream school. Still, that early experience has stayed with him, he remembers the materials, remembers feeling the sandpaper letters beneath his fingers. When I learned of these experiences I was intrigued and started looking into Montessori Method.

Sadly when I started researching it was hard to find reliable information. Google Montessori for beginners or like phrases and you come across just about everything you can think of. But where was the “how to” guide to implementing Montessori at Home? Does it involve a lot of changes and a lot of money? I don’t believe it has to. In preparing to change our spaces we did a lot of reflecting and evaluating our (then) current situation before moving forward. As tempting as it is to make changes immediately in order for success I am a real believer in planning ahead. Here are the things we did in order to implement Montessori successfully into our household:

1. Read up on the Montessori Method
I highly recommend doing a bit of reading prior to commencing changes. These resources will give some great advice on the Montessori philosophy for beginners. It gives information on what the method is about and you can assess whether it is suitable for your family.Recommended reading:
How to Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way – Tim Seldin
The Joyful Child – Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Child of the World – Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Teach Me To Do It Myself – Maja Pitamic
Internet resources:
Aid to Life

2. Observe your child.
One of the first things that we did before making any changes was to observe Joshua. Impatient as I was to implement changes to our home and to our lives I made myself sit back. This is probably one of the hardest exercises – but also the most cost effective – that I have done to date. I am not a teacher. But something that stuck with me on my reading was about the importance of observation. What should I be looking for? At 6 months old I was looking for developmental milestones, gross motor skills achievements and requirements. Observation is hard. Initially all I could see was Joshua moving around and it seemed randomly doing stuff. Sometimes taking notes helped. As time went on I realised that by simply observing and not interfering I was able to learn a lot about him. He was very intent and interested in colours and stacking and shapes. He was pushing things around a room which indicated to me that he wanted to walk but was not yet able to do so. Observation is a deeper process than just watching. It is also much harder than you would think. After much practice I am able to now observe much more easily and respond to changes in Joshua’s needs and adjust appropriately.

3. Invest in shelves.
Shelves are so important. If possible I would advise to invest in the best quality shelves that you can afford however space and budget are also an important consideration. We use Ikea shelving – affordable and aesthetically pleasing – but if I had to redo this I would choose much more beautiful wooden shelving. At the time we were looking there was very little in the way of affordable Montessori shelving but we have many more options available now. I quite like the shelving from M.A.N. Made creations hereBasic shelves are a must. Anything that gets things into an orderly manner and allows exploration and contributes to the child’s sense of order is a positive change.

4. Invest in the best quality toys and materials you can afford.
There are some things you can get quite cheaply but I would question whether you should. I would rather have one good toy than have 20 cheap quality toys that won’t last or are not visually appealing. This may involve going through your existing stash of toys and evaluating if it should be there. We did this and I ended up selling off things that were not of use and I haven’t missed them at all. The same goes for art supplies – I invested in good quality crayons and paper and Joshua adores his art space. A few good crayons and good quality pencils make the introduction to the world of art a magical one. The first 3 years of a child’s life are his/her introduction to the world. Try and make it the best introduction that it can be.

5. If possible set aside a place in the home that is for the child.
We had a small space for Joshua when he was young but nowhere near to the size that it is now. During our assessment of our space and what we could realistically afford to put aside for Joshua we realised that we wanted him to do his work in an area that was nearby and close to us. Now that Joshua is older and we have had him working nearby to us since he was young it makes so much sense to me. When I read Tim Seldin’s “How to Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way” he says:

As your child becomes more independent and busy, try to accommodate his/her activities wherever the family gathers…. left to their own devices, young children may tend to create chaos, but they also have a tremendous need and love for an orderly environment. Try to arrange the rooms where your child spends most of his/her time to make it easy for him/her to maintain a neat, well organised atmosphere. It’s surprising what an impact this can have on his/her developing personality.

Joshua is certainly a reflection of his environment. I have seen this need to know where things belong. He is very good at putting things away as a result. I see how he adores coming to his work area and he knows that everything in it is for him to work with. He is happy to go and work while I am nearby working too.

6. Be prepared to be flexible and to change up the environment if it doesn’t work.
The same goes for all parenting. As Joshua gets older we have adjusted his work spaces significantly. With changes in the child the environment too needs to adjust to support their needs. Sometimes you might set something up and practically it still doesn’t work. We set up Joshua’s arts and crafts area and it has changed since we started. Firstly we had a small shelf to put supplies on but this was very untidy and we had too much stuff. So we moved a small cupboard down to store things in. We then realised that this was not positioned ideally so we moved it again and moved our shoe rack so that it is closer to his little chair so he can sit and put his shoes on and the art supplies cupboard is positioned closer within the art area. With so many changes within such a short space of time it can sometimes feel hard to keep up but if you are observing it should be easier as it does not take as much time to change an already orderly environment (once implemented).

7. Make small changes initially so that you are not overwhelmed.
Small changes here and there are better than none at all. A basket, a few trays, clearing away clutter all contributes to improving the prepared environment.

8. Above all – Follow the child.
If you follow your child’s interests and observe their abilities and needs, I truly believe you can’t go wrong. Truly follow  – just because an adult think it would be great for a child to do a pouring activity or tonging, he/she might not be ready for it and need preparation before attempting this. If the child is truly disinterested then put the activity away for a later date. I have put out activities and then put them away for a few weeks and once rotated there has been a lot more interest simply because Joshua was not quite ready. Pay attention to sensitive periods. I have loved this chart from Voila Montessori, it is a beautiful visual representation of the development from birth to 3 years old. There is one here for ages 2.5-6 as well. I pay attention to the charts as a guide, not as rule, and they have been really great to refer to so that I have some idea of what to expect.

Here is our work space today for a little inspiration.

20141023_Shelves

What changes can you make today? I would love to hear from you if you can make even just one change from this post.

Activity of the Day – Nature Tray and Cutting

There are so many opportunities that we have to show something beautiful to a child – and just in your very own back yard. Today we used the lovely warm weather to discover herbs and plants and start to practice how to use scissors. Joshua has been interested in watching me cutting things up and today he was the day he decided to give cutting a go on his own.

20141021_155328

This is the first pair of scissors we tried out. It is a small light weight pair of first scissors that I found for him and it is just the right size.

20141021_155332

Joshua still finds it hard to use scissors. He used them in a rather large chopping motion at first, as if they are a pair of large gardening cutters. We are cutting some thyme which he is very drawn to.

20141021_155414 20141021_160019

Joshua switches to using a different pair of scissors. These are Crayola scissors for small hands.

20141021_155816 20141021_160049

We collect our herbs and place them in our tray for inspection inside.

20141021_160217 20141021_161453

I encourage Joshua to touch each one, to hold it, observe its shape and smell it. He can name a few different herbs, today he correctly identifies rosemary, mint, parsley and thyme independently.

20141021_161532 20141021_161619Is there a sensitive period for identifying objects by smell? I know there are Montessori sensorial smelling jar activities that are presented to children as part of exercising olfactory senses to distinguish smells from one another and applying these to other smells or taste in the environment. In any case Joshua loves our herbs and is constantly picking over them at the moment. I might cook something and send him out to get some of our herbs for it – independently – and see if he gets it right. Spring time this year has been wonderful, I am going to take Joshua on a nature walk to see if we can identify some other plants this week.

 

Montessori Life As We Model It – Modelling behaviour

Today I have been thinking about the behaviour we model for Joshua. We work to a “do as I do” rather than “do as I say, not as I do” approach. We teach him how to do things and how to help himself. What are we teaching him by demonstrating all these practical life skills? Why do I spend so much time preparing the environment that he enjoys at home?

“The child does not just observe his surroundings; he becomes them by age three…. If you want your child to say “thank you” and pleast” you must be using this language constantly in his presence from birth on. Children who are spanked learn to use physical punishment to express themselves, and those who are handled with understanding and patience will become understanding and patient.”
Susan Mayclin Stephenson – The Joyful Child

At 2.5 years old we spend a lot of time on practical life. Cooking is a major part of our practical life lessons. There is something about cooking that I enjoy, even if it is a bit of a chore sometimes. I cook with effort and I enjoy seeing the results of my efforts come together (or not!). For us the journey is not about the destination – it is about the effort and the process. We show Joshua how to cook because I want him to know how to do things for himself. To gain this skill I model this behaviour for him. Sometimes I wish I could short cut meals. Sometimes I wish I could have a meal appear effortlessly but I am not a natural cook. I do what I can with what I have and I don’t have a machine that does it all for me, just my 2 hands and my stove. That’s enough for me. Joshua watches me make dinner, eyes wide. Sometimes he is close to me, standing on his step stool, reaching over and wanting to chop, pour or stir. Sometimes he watches standing next to me on the floor. He watches as I stir the hot pots, or take things out of the hot oven. “Hot, Mama, dangerous, be careful” he says to me. This is what I tell him. Don’t touch the hot stove.

We use a dishwasher. We show Joshua how to stack the dishwasher. Joshua stacks the dishwasher everyday to at the moment. He takes our dirty (and sometimes clean) cutlery and plates and puts them into the dishwasher.

We hand wash our pots and pans. Joshua stands on his stool and helps put the soap into the sink. He uses his brush and washes his little pot or plate or bowl. He does the same.

We put sort our clothes and put them into the washing machine and we hand wash our clothes when needed. Joshua puts his clothes in his laundry basket for washing and puts clothes into the washing machine too, he does the same.

We hang our clothes out to dry and tend not to use the dryer. He helps hang out wet washing on the clothes horse, Joshua does the same.

We sweep up things on the floor and put it in the bin. We vacuum the floor when we need to. We mop the floor because it is dirty. Joshua does the same.

We don’t use store bought chemicals to clean our table top and bench top, we use home made cleaning products so that Joshua is not exposed to harsh chemicals unnecessarily. We use as little conveniences as we can get away with. We recycle. We compost. We use power saver light bulbs to reduce power usage. We have a water tank which we use to collect water to water the garden and flush the toilets with. We try to shop regularly so that we waste as little as possible. We try to know our place in the world.

We talk. We tell Joshua why we are doing what we do. We handle his tantrums as best as we can. We let him feel what he needs to feel. We say sorry when we need to. Sorry for not listening. Sorry that he is angry or frustrated. Sorry for being cross with him or in front of him with other people. We model courtesy, please and thank you. Asking for things, not demanding. We treat each other as we would want to be treated. Joshua is still learning this. He is learning how to say sorry, to be sorry even if he is only sorry for hurting someone else. To know that no matter what happens that we are still here and he is still loved.

What we want Joshua to learn from the behaviour that we model how to do things for himself, whether it be preparing a meal, wiping the table or cleaning up the house. We should perform our tasks to the best of our ability. The best of Joshua’s ability and his personality will be what we have modelled for him, for the experiences we have provided in the environment that he lives in.

We hope that Joshua will do the same.

20140923_Joshua cooking

Today on the 1st anniversary of starting this blog I have taken this opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and how different Joshua is. What a long way we have come in just a year! I hope to share a little of what we have achieved in a year with you shortly.

Our Shelves – 32 months

20141014_Montessori Life As We Know It_Our Shelves at 32 Months

Here is a quick overview of our shelves at 32 months (clockwise from top left):

  1. Basket of vehicles
    Joshua uses these for his block play. They are from various sources, including Lego.
  2. Nature basket
    We add to this regularly as Joshua loves collecting rocks, sticks and leaves. He is using this basket for some of his art activities too.
  3. Threading small beads with a thin string
    Joshua has not done threading for a while so I put out a small challenge for him. These are actually probably for older children as they are so small but they are making him work hard. I cannot find the ones that we have online but I like these and these as alternatives.
  4. Photos of architecture around the world
    I put together this on a whim. It is near his block play area and is giving him ideas for things to build.
  5. Rock display
    Joshua loves rocks. This is a collection of rocks that all have names which I am teaching Joshua what they are all are. We have a little magnifying glass so that Joshua can look at these up close if he chooses to, especially the small ones. Joshua has these and these. The magnifying glass is a hand me down but there are many you can purchase quite easily, ranging from your local toy shop or Australian Geographic. I particularly like the look of this and this.
  6. Art tray – textas on paper
    These are fabulous. I am an advocate for water based textas as well as really good quality art materials. We use these. These can be used with water too, we have not yet experimented with this.
  7. Tap tap hammer activity
    Joshua has been hammering away for a while now. You can buy kits of these but we already had a few parts at home so I got out some cork heat mats we have and a hammer from another set and paired these with the pins and shapes. You can get these from many toys shops.
  8. Play dough and tools
    Joshua is loving play dough at the moment. I make our play dough as it is fun, easy and so easy for me to make this plain or make it more sensory. Lately we have had lavender play dough and this week we have spring time play dough. The tools are fantastic, he uses these to poke, prod, cut and roll away at the dough. You can get lots of different tools but I loved these because they are so natural looking. I also included in there some proper cookie dough cutters which I picked up for a few dollars on sale at our local Aldi. These are preferable to the ones that are sometimes provided for children that are plastic, these do not cut shapes well and break easily. Joshua loves cutting out shapes using the proper cookie cutters. You will see he also has a metal spoon and knife in there to use on the play dough as well.

I have made more of a conscious effort to have more art trays available for Joshua as I like for these to be available for him to get for himself rather than having to ask or digging through our art cupboard. The side effect of this is that he is able to find something for himself to do easily and also is doing a lot more art which I love seeing. We have a lot of Christmas presents and artwork to give to friends and family as presents this year. He is really showing a flair and interest in art and it reinforces my efforts to freshen up his shelves.

An Eye that Sees
A Hand that Obeys
A Soul that Feels

The truth is that when a free spirit exists, it has to materialise itself in some form of work, and for this the hands are needed. Everywhere we find traces of men’s handiwork, and through these we can catch a glimpse o his spirit and the thoughts of his time.

– Maria Montessori

 

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.

20141010_Joshua and Unit Blocks

  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.

Toddler toys and activities at 29 months – and a surprise giveaway!

We have been so busy lately. It is almost difficult to find the time to sit down and catch a breath. We try to make time to spend some time at home just being together and doing everyday things like, baking, cooking, gardening – practical life. Time just for us. But I have noticed that in everything that we do that Joshua has this overwhelming need and urge to move, to do things himself. Put his hands into things, to feel, taste, see, smell everything.

Since it is through movement that the will realises itself, we should assist a child in his attempts to put his will into act.
– Maria Montessori

20140614_091116

20140626_121746 20140626_124110 20140626_144839

Lately we have been doing so much gardening – “Digging and raking Mummy”. Joshua adores his wheelbarrow and garden tools. Spade, trowel, fork, watering can and rake are essentials. There are so many places you can get these from, I got these locally from our local Aldi but you can get some from your local hardware store or (if you are inclined to and would love to have the best tools for your child!) I actually love the suppliers of Montessori practical life tools. Kylie from How We Montessori Shop stocks the most gorgeous garden tools.

20140706_161919

Joshua simply loves his wagon. I noticed some time ago that he was trying to dump all of his unit blocks into a washing basket and drag them around. As you can imagine, the weight of these in a washing basket without wheels was impossible to drag about. This wagon is absolutely perfect for just this task. He uses it to cart around blocks, pine cones, Lego, whatever takes his fancy on any given day. He now uses them to drag his tools about in the backyard too, and shovels all the dirt he can get his hands on into the wheelbarrow. Thoroughly recommend both for your toddler.

20140630_110218

20140630_110227

I set up this tray to experiment with magnetism. What is magnetic and what is not? Joshua loves this. Often he sticks all the items to the magnetic stick and then picks them all off to resort them into the separate glasses. I put the necklace in the tray to demonstrate that magnetism does not apply to all objects.

Other items we are loving at the moment:

  1. Water pump: Joshua is loving this water pump. Water play was a bit stale recently but this pump is fabulous. He can see the water moving through it so he has an appreciation for what the hand pump does. Plus it is just so fun! Bathtub or for outdoor play – awesome tool. There is a lot of splashing about in the tub these days.
  2. Bucket Balance: For water, rocks, you name it. Introduces early concept of weight, gravity and numeracy in such a simple exercise. Joshua loves playing with his scales, it is teaching him the difference between heavy and light.
  3. Aprons: We love aprons. Every activity, cooking, cleaning, painting has different aprons. It is a great item to have and makes the activity important when the apron is put on. They are also super easy to get on and off independently.
  4. Kitchen utensils and bowls: Joshua LOVES baking – you can see him doing a lot of baking in my posts here and here. He particularly loves mixing things in his mixing bowl which you can get here. And of course any kitchen utensils that are child sized are ideal.

So you may notice that most of the things that Joshua is interested in at the moment are practical life and art. Children are naturally interested in activities they have witnessed. Montessori “Practical Life Exercises” to allow the child to do activities of daily life and therefore adapt and orientate himself in his society. I have really found that having special items accessible to Joshua has resulted in him being eager to clean up the muesli that he drops on the floor in the morning, eager to wipe a window to help clean it or mop the floor. Investing in these items has been well worth it for us. I have been reliably informed by Joshua’s teacher that he loves washing dishes – something I admit we rarely do at home (but we do provide opportunities for water play). I did a post on what I believe to be a list of essential practical life items for any Montessori child here. Most of these items are available from Kylie’s lovely shop.

So the special news I have is that I am pleased to be able to feature a giveaway for one lucky reader (This is available to local AND international readers). In conjunction with Kylie from How We Montessori Shop we are pleased to be able to give away one voucher to the value of $100 (AUD)!

To enter simply do the following:

  1. Leave an answer on this post telling me why you Montessori and;
  2. Head on over to my Facebook page, share my Facebook page and blog with others, leaving a note on my page saying that you have shared from my post on the page about giveaway and;
  3. Head on over to How We Montessori Shop Facebook page, like and say hi – and tell Kylie that I sent you!

I will choose an entry that I like and will publish the winner on my Facebook page.

Entries close 31 July 2014 at 11.59pm (AEST). Good luck!