Art trays

20141116_Art Trays Collage High quality1. Crayons on paper (US supplier here)
2. Pencils on paper (US supplier here)
3. Dot markers on paper
4. Rainbow pencil
5. Pasting cupcake patties and natural materials on paper
6. Hole punching natural shapes
7. White marker on poster card
8. Metallic marker on poster card
9. Cutting poster card with scissors
10. Animal stamps
11. Charcoal on paper
12. Water colours on water colour paper
13. Oil pastels on paper
14. Spring play dough with cutters and rollers
15. Markers on paper
16. Transferring coloured water with a pipette (and using pipette to drop onto water colour paper)
17. Air dry clay with tools
18. Stencil shapes with pencil
19. Small spray bottle with water colour paints (or water with dye) on water colour paper
20. Bug rubbing plates and crayons

I was recently asked to do a post on what art trays we put out for Joshua. There are so many activities available to him now that we have a full supply of art materials on hand. We have made sure that all the materials available are good quality and beautiful to use.

We are experimenting with a few activities at the moment, the different mediums is always interesting. I put watercolours away for a little bit as Joshua seemed more interested in drawing but an increased interest painting has meant that I have put this back into rotation. I do leave pencils and crayons out generally so that Joshua can practice drawing and “writing” when he feels like it and has the opportunity to work on his own things during our quiet afternoons. A few of these trays are more recent as Joshua is now colouring in things so I felt that things like the bug rubbing plates would encourage and develop this skill further.

The transferring of coloured water from one glass to another is not strictly an art activity however I have listed it as we are mixing colours which I think it is important to introduce given we have been working with quite a few mediums. We have also done an activity where we have taken different colours and used the pipette to drop these onto paper in droplets, we liked the effect so much I hung it up above Joshua’s snack table to look at.

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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.

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