Cool Breezes and Autumn Learning

The wind has finally changed here in Georgia and the cool air of Autumn has finally made it’s way to the Peach State. Gone are the days of short sleeves and shorts it was good while it lasted. I am super happy to welcome the cooler temperatures, being a Northern I live for the cold.

This year is special because my little man can really get out and appreciate nature and the changing of seasons. We begin this month with a trip to the pumpkin patch, he enjoyed running through the pumpkin fields, hayrides and exploring all of the five tractors. He even tried his luck at the popcorn patch (toddler corn maze), it was a beautiful day. Can you believe it was 85 degrees before we left so much for my cold weather.
Picking his pumpkin!
 

Exploring the Patch!

 
Little J and I have been spending lots of time outside these last couple of weeks talking about leaves, colors, nature and listening to all the great sounds during the day and at night. I have also been encouraging him to play eye spy and looking for acorns, maple and oak leaves. He has gotten really good with this game that we have stepped it up to looking for animals and so far he has identified wild turkeys, squirrels, deers and chipmunks.
Our unit study for this month is all about leaves and Autumn colors. While on one of our nature walks we collected some Oak and Maple leaves, I laminated the leaves and made a matching game.
I made Lil J a sensory box with popcorn kernels I included Maple and foam leaves from Dollar Tree. I also included acorns, cinnamon sticks, acrylic leaves and owls as well as threw in some lowercase letters. He has been watching Leapfrog Lettery Factory DVD over the last few days and loves it so adding the letters just reinforces what he has previous learned with his sounds and letters. Lil J played for about 35-40 minutes having the greatest time. 
 
He used all his senses including taste while doing this activity. Words that he used to describe what he was doing pour/pouring, loud, scoop, crunchy, hard, cinnamon, leaf, maple leaf, smell rough, smooth, sharp, acorn, color recognition, popcorn, stir/stirring. I probably missed a few words but he talks in 3-4 word sentences these days. It’s hard to believe what took about 5 minutes to put together he had so much fun and using a huge amount of vocabulary.
 
With all the beautiful colors the leaves are turning I couldn’t resist having him make a leaf collage. One of his activites on his shelf is fall stampers that he can stamp on paper. Speaking of shelves I rotated his shelves also this last week adding some new activites. I am transitioning to a new system of rotating his shelves every 5-7 days. He currently has 3 shelves and I will be adding a smaller 4th and 5th shelf in the coming weeks for Math and Science.
 
Lil J is loving is his new learning tower so far he has made apple bread and cornbread. The learning tower has come in handy for keeping him busy while I am making meals or cleaning the kitchen, he is a great helper also with meal prep. One thing I have learned is make sure I have all things prepped and ready for our cooking activities there is nothing worse then trying to prep stuff with an excited 23 month old.

Cornbread Making

I mentioned earlier that I switched out Lil J shelves, he needed to switch because after careful observation for the last 2 months I have observed some differences in his interest and capabilities. You have to remember what we adults see as just play is really meaningful work to a child.  I noticed that he would quickly finish his shelfwork and then become bored and frustrated looking for something new to take on. So I decided to make these changes:
 
1. Rotating work every 5-7 days.
2. Start setting up invitations to play materials.
3. Making sure there is always a sensory box prepared for him weekly.
4. Gear more activities around his current interest…currently Hot Wheel Cars is a big hit in our house.
5. Preparing work that is more challenging.
Hopefully with the above changes I will observe a difference. Next month we will continue with this theme and start a little Thanksgiving and Winter works. I will also be touching on new learning materials and areas such as the Solar System, Days of the Week and more phonics learning!
Resources for printables on the shelf.
Sending blessings to your family until next time!
 
~Mama Montessori and J
 

Dinosaurs Everywhere!!

Another fun filled theme has taken over our home for the month of August. After and exciting Ocean theme, Dinosaurs have stomped their way into our learning classrooms. I kicked off this wonderful theme by reading little J “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” he loved the book and it has become a favorite for us to read.

Unit Language Development
Stomp
Climb
Walk
Dig
Big
Small
Pratical Life Skills
Sweeping
Wet and Dry Pouring
Cleaning the table and windows

Scooping and Dry Pouring

 

Wet Pouring

Fine motor 
Threading Pasta
Opening and Closing objects
Sensorial
Dinosaur Digging
Other skills
Size Comparison and Phonics
Phonics
 

Size Comparison
We learned a lot from this study unit. Lil J showed an high interest in counting and quantity during this unit. He wanted to count everything and sort them. His language development skyrocketed also,  everyday new sentences and phrases are being formed. Towards the end of the month he can hold a full conversation with you.
He enjoyed all the books and the numerous art projects we did.

 

Shape Dinosaur


 

We did many activites the month of August that were fun and offered learning opportunities. I will come back and list them in a few days so check back.
 
As part of our families staycation we took a trip to the Georgia Aquarium and saw the exhibit about prehistoric fish he had a wonderful time with his cousins. This was a great way to end the unit. I plan to revisit this study unit again next year. I am looking forward to September and Octobers themes. So please stop buy and subscribe so you can see what we are doing. 
Thanks for reading!!
Mama Montessori 
 

 
Resources
 
Next month: Apples and Autumn 

Ocean Unit Study

During the month of July our theme was “The Ocean”.  I set up one part of little man’s classrooms to reflect this study unit. The prep was pretty easy since I had a lot of materials already on hand. He was so surprised when he woke up from nap to see the area, he spent 30 minutes exploring and bringing items to me.

I introduced the theme by reading Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle. He also completed an art project using bubble wrap, a paint brush and his hands.

We had lots of fun doing this project together.

After Mr. Seahorse dried I laminated and added a wiggle eye on it.
Over the last 2 weeks we have worked through more activities…I crafted a fish number game and made hanging fish with the lowercase letters a-f. Then I hung them from the ceiling along with Mr Seahorse.
Mr Seashorse and friends!
The fish were made from construction paper and then laminated.  I hung them to create an interactive ocean.
We also worked on sea life classification cards using his Safari Ltd Ocean Toob. He did really well examining each card and corresponding them to the correct card.

Examining animals and naming them. 
Lil  J loves playing in the water, so I decided to do a sensory water activity using his Safari Toob Ocean animals. I also added glass stones and food coloring to the water.
We’ve been reading lots of books about sea life . Although I own a few of them, most were borrowed from the library.
My son still loves discovery bottles so I unpacked one that I made when he was a lot younger and made a new one.  The taller bottle has a jellyfish craft I made for him that he really enjoyed helping me complete.

From top left to right, foam puzzle sea life counting book, sea star textured painting with blue sugar, ocean life magnets game, number counting frame using sea animal, dolphin tissue paper craft.

 

Sea animal matching cards activity.

We did other activities that are not picture these activities:
Wet Pouring
Sea Shell Washing
Overall this was a great introduction to the ocean for him. The concentration for this unit study was language development, sensorial and practical life skills. I plan to bring this back next summer but have more learning opportunities. The most important thing was we had fun and he learned a lot.
Next months theme is Dinosaurs and Phonics!!!
 
Thanks for reading and please subscribe! 
 
Blessings,
Mama Montessori 🙂

19 months and the reality check!

It’s hard to believe my little guy is turning 20 months old in a couple of days. Time flies when you are having fun. I foresee many more fun days ahead of us.

 
Many experts argue that teaching children under the age of 2.5 is a waste of time because they don’t retain or understand the concepts behind the material. I have a difference of opinion. This may be true for some, but in my observations over the last 13 months I have found that by using repetition and making the activities fun, my son has retained a lot of what I have exposed him to early on.  I do understand that all children learn differently and at their own pace. Lil J never ceases to amaze me.


Over the last 2 weeks here is a list of our activities:
  • Color Sorting 
  • Animal Naming 
  • Building Towers from Tallest to Smallest
  • Threading
  • Counting
  • Puzzles
  • Color and Shape Touch and Feel Flash Cards
We did other activities as well that are covered in my previous blog post “Planning and Early Learning”.
 
So here are some highlights of things he has been working on.
These are laminated construction paper sheets cut down to 5 x 7 cards. You can also use paint sample cards from your local home improvement or retail store.
Two forms of sorting and color recognition activities.
 

 

Lil J working.
 
My son has been working on color recognition for months. He knows his colors. For parents starting color recognition, start with one color at a time and gradually move up to more colors. Always make sure you include the previous color with the new one. When introducing sorting, start with one object to be sorted and then increase the number of objects to be sorted once the concept is grasped. Use things around the house like egg cartons, cookie and cracker containers, baby food jars etc… You don’t have to spend money.  Use what you have.

Ideas for sorting objects, pouch tops (I had people with children collect them because we don’t do pouches), water bottle and milk tops.

I just started introducing continents to my son over the last two weeks. He seems to really like doing this activity. I have books on hold at the library to help supplement with this activity. The continent matching activity can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers .
I also have transformed one area of his classroom into his geography and cultural area.
I will be adding a World map and United States map very soon to this area. I am currently working on preparing an Africa Unit study for my son. I downloaded these continent cards from Imagine Our Life and Safari Toob Key sheets from Living Montessori Now. To accompany my Safari Toobs.   I will post a blog about the Africa Unit study soon as it’s completely finished.
I recently swapped out Lil J shelves I observed he was getting bored and not playing with his old shelf work. You will noticed that a new music area has been added to his second classroom area. We have 3 classrooms in our home.
The Rainforest cards can also be found on Imagine Our Life



Working on shelfwork

 
He has been a busy Lil Man over these last couple of days. We are still potty learning but almost have it completed.
The Reality Check
 
Okay now I know every mom doesn’t have the time to do a lot of things that I do. I think it’s really important that as a parent you don’t feel inferior or feel like your behind. As moms we tend carry guilt that we could be doing more for our children but in fact we are doing more for them so take exhale your doing a great job already!! It’s hard not to compare your yourself to the mom next door who appears to have it all together.  Let me just tell you they don’t have it all together trust me they don’t something is lacking.
People would be surprise to know I work 4 days a week and the only real time I have with my son is on Fridays and weekends. I am not perfect by far he  does watch Daniel the Tiger, Super Why and occasionally Swamp People, nope I don’t have it together at all I wish could be as discipline as some of my fellow mothers who have a TV free home. Perfection is not something I am striving for, because perfect is boring and unrealistic parenting.
Why am I telling you this because I want you to know I am your normal hardworking mom who loves her son and enjoys doing fun activities with him.  I decided to create this blog to encourage moms and let them know your not alone.
So here is the thing my son loves musical instruments and he watches Baby Einstein Meet the Orchestra a million times but guess what I don’t care what the experts say he likes it so we let him watch it and because we did he can name and mimic the sounds of all the musical instruments in an orchestra.

I followed his lead and I made him an musical instrument book. These pictures can be found on The Helpful Garden .

Many experts can tell you that children who are expose music and musical instruments early they do better in science and math, we are happy he has decided to take an interest in music. so
Resources
 
Start slow go to the dollar store stroll down the school aisle and look for things you feel like might peak their interest. Another great resource I can offer you is to download the Knoala App and also get on the Productive Parenting emailing list they send out emails everyday of great activities for you to do with your little one according to their age. 
 
I am a huge Pinterest Pinner I get a lot of ideas from Pinterest. I have joined many FB Early Learners and Montessori groups, we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other on a daily basis. 
 
Here’s an idea!!
If you don’t know where to start pick a theme for your little one it’s easier to build off a theme. For example Duck Theme, you can create a sensory box with rice or beans and put feathers in the box. You can do a color yellow basket for the week find things around the house that are yellow. Doing this you have created a language, fine motor and sensory activity all in one basket. Fruit that is yellow Bananas – Sensory and Language.  Visit the library find books about Ducks better yet get on your local library website pick your books put them on hold and pick them up. Print out duck pictures for coloring. Letters of the week can be “D” or “Y”. If you have access to YouTube let little one see what ducks look like and find the 5 little duck song (there goes your number for the week “5”). 
 
Would you just look at that you have created a ton of activities by just doing a Duck Theme 😉!! 
 
What ever you do have fun and breath you got this and if you need help I am just a comment away on the blog or on Rising Joyfulness Facebook page!!
 
 
 

Planning and Learning!!

As a working mommy I try to fit in as much quality time with my son as possible. I don’t work on Fridays and weekends so I make those days count for us. Even though I do work I leave prepared activites for my little man to do with his caretaker. How do I find time to prep activites for him while working? I am blessed to have the kind of job where I have some downtime at least 2 hours a day and I also prep things when my son is napping on my days off.

I first started doing things by the month…umm way too overwhelming and not realistic for a toddler. I stopped doing things by the month because I felt like it was placing expectations on him that he may not be interested in or ready to do. So instead of monthly planning I went to weekly planning and every month I set attentive goals for him.
Planning System
 
I had my sons planner customized on Etsy I have a hard copy as well as a copy on my tablet. The hard copy I laminated and had it binded and use a dry erase fine tip pen to write in my lessons. I have a binder for myself that is seperated into each shelf work catorgories on his shelf. I keep things I need to laminate or cut out in the side pocket. There is also my notebook for writing out goals and some ideas as well as my big check list that is also laminated.
So after finding a system that worked for both of us I went to work with Pinterest and researching things that would good ideas for us to do.
Week 1 Activites
Trip to the Children’s Museum 
 

 

Week 2 Activities

(Letter b book I did one for a in week 1 as well)
 

During week 2 we went to the library and picked up some books about musical instruments. My son loves anything that has to do with musical instruments. I also picked up the DVD “Zin Zin the Violin” he loves it. I am not huge on TV watching for my son but gave in on this one because it’s viewed like a story book and music playing according to each instrument introduced.

We also did a sensory activity with cloud dough I made for him.
The last two weeks have been a lot of fun  and I enjoyed creating these activites for him. We are still working on some of week 2 activities this week which would be week 3 but that’s okay because we aren’t in a rush to get things done. I am following his lead and he is still enjoying them.
Resources

Throwback Thursday: Weaning Table

When my son was about 3 months we introduced the sippy cup…I know what you’re thinking, seriously 3 months? To our surprise, he loved it. Never underestimate a child’s abilities.

3 months and 19 days 




4 months fully mastered sippy cup drinker! 

After this milestone I started to think about whether it was time to introduce a cup/glass and his weaning table. Ok in all honesty, I wanted that weaning table soooo bad because I absolutely had no love for his high chair at all.  So, at 6 months he was given his first cup and the deal was sealed, we were getting him a weaning table…hooray!!!
7.5 months old drinking from a cup.
Once I saw him drinking from his cup without any problems, I started to wonder about eating utensils and plates because up to this point I’d only let him hold /play with them when he was eating. I decided before I leapt into the world of weaning tables, he needed to be able to use utensils somewhat proficient.  I lowered his high chair so he could learn to get in and out the seat independently.

6/7 months old self feeding.

Why a weaning table some people may ask why not just let him stay in the high chair? A weaning table is ideal for a child because it gives them the control and ownership of their meals. How would you feel to be strapped in a chair and have someone constantly force food into your mouth after you’re satisfied because you’re expectated to continue eating until “the feeder” decides you’re done?
We bought my son’s first weaning table from ikea for $20. I wasn’t ready to give him all glassware at the time but he did have a nice selection of BPA Free flatware and silverware. 

Weaning Table set up


When deciding on a weaning table there is are things you need to take into account.
1. Proper hieght in ration to your child their feet should be flat on the floor and back against the back of the chair.
2. Food choices should be appriopate for their age development and in plain view so they can see what they are eating and self feed.
3. You the parents should demonstrate proper eating etiquette. 
4. The table should be in an area that is easily accessible for your child and it should be inviting.  Add some flowers to the table or a mirror to the wall or pictures. 
5. Age permitting teach your child how to carry his or plate to and from table and wipe the table. 
6. If your child is done eating respect this and don’t push. Let them feel in control. NEVER SCOLD OR FORCE THEM TO EAT!!! Doing this only sets you up for a battle and sends the wrong message.  Try something like this “____  mommy sees you only ate one piece of broccoli do you think you may like to eat one more piece” If they say no then the meal is over and move on pick your battles.
Now did my son go through the throwing stuff on the floor stage and trying to flip his plate over…he most certainly did. What I did observe is that he did this type of behavior more often in his high chair then he did when I moved him to his table. I am a 3 strikes and your out type of mommy you get 2 warnings and then your out and the meal is over.
Our weaning table has gone through many face lifts but my son enjoys his meals there and he eats really well. He has learned how to remove his plate after each meal and to clean his table when he  is finished. I think it was the best decision we made to get him one.
Current set up 
Next week’s blog will feature more early learning activites. Have a great weekend!!

Throwback Thursday

So we have decided to do Throwback Thursday posts for those moms who are just getting started with early learning with their little ones…so here is the first post of many to come.

When my son was born I was positive that we would support his development with Montessori learning. With this in mind, I set up a play area just for him. After evaluating the baby shower, gifts I recieved during my pregnancy as well as some things I purchased myself I started to notice we were getting off track.

Look at all those distractions!

I felt so proud of his little area, I posted pictures on Facebook. Luckily a friend saw one of my posts and politely told me it was nice, but unfortunately was way too over stimulating. She also told me if my over goal was to provide him with an Montessori learning environment and develop his concentration skills I was going to have give his room a complete 180.
Initially,  I was devastated. I’d really worked hard and was so sure I was on the right track. Hey who was I kidding? I was a sleep deprived first time working mom and was overjoyed at the fact that my son was attracted to his new area and I could get 5 mins just to sit down and breath.  After awhile, those 5 mins became 30 seconds and I knew my friend was right with her assessment.
I began to make small changes. I placed a basket of books out with 3-5 books for him. Then a treasure basket for him. I gradually started subtracting all the electronic toys and adding puzzles and wooden toys and blocks. I had a stack of the Baby Einstien cards and they had beautiful pictures of animals, objects and food, I put those cards on the wall at eye level.

First Learning Area

After about a month, I started to notice my son was getting bored and I needed to expand a little more so I made a reading nook.

Reading Nook

I started to research other philosophies and also observed how independent my son was becoming so I decided to make him a little snack area. This way he could be in charge of his own snack and not me controlling every aspect of his day. So everyday by mid morning when I thought he would want a snack I placed Cheerios, Kix, or some little healthy snack in his bowl. He would crawl/walk over to that area and sit down and have a snack at his leisure. One day I observed him being very maticulous about his snack. He didn’t like when his snack spilled out the bowl he would put it back in the bowl. He would hardly ever remove the bowl or cup from the area and if he did he always made sure to put them back in their correct places.
Snack Area
Once I started to see that he was enjoying his new prepared environment I took bigger steps to really improve it and thus my son’s first shelf was set up and his classroom was born.
My son selecting an activity off his shelf. (bowl and spoon) 
Another selected activity.
 
I set up my sons first real environment when he was 6/7 months old and his classroom when he was 7.5/8 months . He was an early walker and walked at 7.5 months so it was easy for him to walk to his shelf and get things off.
If you have a crawler you can set up a shelf and use the lower shelves and if not try a basket. You want to make sure the activites/objects/books are easily accessible to your child and visually appealing. Spend some time with your child in the new areas showing them how to use and explore, then sit back and observe your child in the new environment. Once you sit back and observe you will start to see them learn and absorb the material and you will also be able to see what you need to fine tune about the area. I get some of my best ideas for things to do with my son just by sitting back and just observing him.
Next weeks throwback I will post about activites and the use of a weaning table.
Have a great weekend!