Tag Archives: Montessori

Crawling towards Practical Life

By Carriecrawling towards practical life
A. is now 17 Months and is still mostly crawling and cruising around.  She can definitely be considered a late walker.  It was drilled into us during our Montessori training that when a child begins walking s/he will have “hands free to transform the environment”, meaning the child would be ready to take on practical life activities.  While A. may not be walking, she is certainly progressing psychologically and cognitively.  She’s not the same as an 11 month old who is not yet walking.  It was around 12 months that she started exhibiting a stronger will (tantrums!).  She has a stronger need to do things independently and become an active part of her home environment.  She is ready to take on practical life activities and has been doing so for the past few months.

If you’re new to Montessori you may be asking what I mean by “practical life.”  Practical life is everyday life:

  • Taking care of ourselves and our children
  • Taking care of things in our home environment (including yards, animals)
  • Treating each other, and our materials, with care and respect

As a parent I want to create a home that is rich with opportunities for A. to contribute and gain a deep sense of belonging.  I want to offer opportunities for her to develop the self-confidence of independently taking care of her personal needs.  This isn’t so easy when she is still using her hands for locomotion.  In our training we were asked the question “If the child is still crawling, can they participate in practical life?”  I feebly answered this question at the time.   I’ve had to completely re-think this now that I have child who has yet to reach the milestone of walking.

So many practical life situations require the balance and coordination utilized in walking, and the ability to carry items with two hands while walking.  I look forward to introducing those to A. in the future and in the meantime I wanted to share with you some ways in which A. is beginning to do practical life as she crawls and cruises.  I don’t think any of these ideas is revolutionary, nor does A. do all of them in one day.  I have just been conscious of slowing down and inviting her to participate in everyday life.  Having a few child-sized materials has definitely helped.  While these are the activities that are a part of our day, depending on where you live, your culture, and your personal circumstances, the practical life activities that you and your child will do will vary.

morningTo start her day she is able to crawl independently out of her floor bed.  After nursing we go to her dresser and she opens her small cupboard.  She is able to choose an outfit for the day.  The night before I place two outfits for her to choose from.  Then we go to the bathroom to get ready for the day.  It is a collaboration during undressing (I assist in taking out her arms and she pulls her pajama shirt over her head) and during dressing (she gets one leg in the pants and I assist with the second leg.  She pulls it up to her knees while sitting on the stool and I assist by pulling them up all the way once she is standing).  It is also a collaboration as she has a turn to brush her teeth, wash her face, and brush her hair, and then I have a turn.

preparing breakfast2We go to the kitchen and she assists in preparing breakfast.  She cracks the raw eggs for fried or scrambled eggs.  She peels the shell off the hard-boiled egg and uses the egg slicer to cut the egg.  She puts the fruit into the colander, I wash and cut, and then she puts the fruit onto the plate.  She pours water into her dry oatmeal before I cook it.

breakfastDuring meals she has been learning to use a spoon and fork.  She completely self-feeds herself, often choosing to use her hands before using utensils.  She likes to be given the opportunity to wipe her face at the end of the meal, and this is a collaboration as I need to wipe her face and hands before she is clean enough to play.  She then goes to unlock the dogs from their dog crates (they get locked up for meal times).  I love how she develops fine-motor control and unlocks various types of locks in a real, practical manner.  She also treats the dogs with respect by petting them gently, hugging them, and respecting that they have limits of how much they will tolerate being crawled over.

inside houseworkAfter breakfast she often likes to help unload the dishwasher.  She hands me the utensils and I put them away.  This is a great opportunity for language as I name each utensil she pulls out and she tries to say it after me.  For her own utensils, I give them to her to put away in her cupboard.  She is learning how to match up the forks to the forks and the spoons to the spoons.  A. loves to help do the laundry.  She puts the dirty clothes in the washer, puts the wet clothes in the dryer, and puts the dry clothes into the laundry basket.  This is a wonderful sensorial experience of dry, damp, and warm.  She is tall enough now to reach the buttons, so with guidance, she pushes the power and start buttons.

baking3We also like to bake together.  A. loves to put on her apron.  She pours, peels the bananas (for banana muffins), stirs, is learning to open containers, mixes things together by hand, and puts liners in the muffin tins.

PL lunctimeLunch time is eaten at her small table and chair.  It’s hard to set the table when she is still crawling so currently I’m starting by having her bring over the placemats (while I try to ignore the dog hair that gets picked up as they are dragged across the floor).  She then goes to sit down at her table independently when I ask her to do so.  She peels the banana peels off her banana slices, peels her mandarin oranges, picks the edamame beans out of the shell and puts the organic waste into her small bucket.  She is learning to sign ‘please’ when she would like more of something (she signs ‘more’ quite well).  Again, she self-feeds herself and I found it was easier for her to learn self-feeding with utensils at her small table.  She is able to pour water into her glass, albeit not from the spout yet.  She continues to make little spills and often still attempts to drink out of the pitcher afterwards.  She likes to wipe her table at the end of the meal to clean-up.  She will bring over the dustpan and brush for me to use to clean the floor.  She likes to dump her little bucket of organic waste into the compost bin.

outdoor workIn the afternoon we might do some work outdoors.  A. loves to be out in the garden!  While she isn’t truly helping in the garden quite yet, she loves to transfer dirt with her own tools while I do the weeding.  She enjoys picking the leaves and I take deep breaths as I guide her towards the appropriate leaves to pick (lettuce, spinach, and beet leaves).  The vegetable boxes are the perfect cruising height for her.  She is having fun harvesting the carrots and beets as she pulls them out of the soil (I loosen them first).  She also likes to help clean her toys and chair by scrubbing with a brush or a sponge.  I’ll hose down the toys while she continues to enjoy playing with the bubbles or transferring water between two buckets.  I really like the sensorial experiences she is gaining by handling soil, vegetable leaves, and soapy water.

preparing dinner2Helping to prepare dinner is fun as she then collaborates with both Mommy and Daddy.  She transfers the vegetables to the steamer basket.  She puts the cut up vegetables into the salad.  She puts the organic waste into the compost bin.  She pours the dry rice or quinoa into the pot and pours the water into the pot before I cook it.  She adds the spices to foods.  When we make our own pizza’s she scoops the sauce and spreads it, then adds the meat and cheese, chooses to not add the vegetables, and has a pre-dinner snack (still working on self-control).  She puts the ice in Mommy’s glass.  She climbs into her Tripp Trapp high chair to eat dinner as a family (we’ve since removed the baby insert seat).  Preparing food together offers infinite opportunities for language enrichment.

bedtimeAfter dinner it is time to get ready for bed.  Throughout the day she has been given multiple opportunities to use the potty and multiple opportunities to pull up underwear and pants.  She hasn’t gotten into pulling down underwear and pants yet.  Before her bath she crawls over to her laundry basket with her dirty clothes in hand to place them in the basket.  During her bath it is collaboration again as she uses the cloth to wash herself and then I wash her.  I dry her off and she opens the diaper cream and her face cream containers so I can apply them.  She loves to dip her finger into the face cream and put some on her cheeks.  She collaborates in putting on her pajamas.  Then she’s off to sleep in her floor bed.

My own efficiency has been slowed down to include A. in many of these activities yet the activities become more joyful for me as I watch her developing greater motor control, independent skills, have rich sensorial experiences, a greater vocabulary, and self-esteem that she has contributed and done important work.  I find myself pausing and just smiling as she takes on many of these tasks.  She is also a happier, more content child, which makes the day more enjoyable for both of us.

Observation of the child shows that normally he has the desire to act independently; he wants to carry things, to dress and undress alone, to feed himself, and it is not by adult suggestion that he tries to do these things.  On the contrary, his urge is so strong that our efforts are usually spent in trying to restrain him; but when we do this, we are fighting nature, not the will of the child. ~Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

While we do practical life activities our entire lives, allowing the child to follow their natural instincts to do these activities has a much deeper impact on a child who is under 6 years of age.  At this age the child is going through a huge developmental stage of constructing their personality.  While you and I prepare a meal and do the laundry to complete a task, the young child does these activities to feed their soul. Children have a deep need for their movement to be connected to an intelligent and purposeful activity.  Children have a deep desire to belong to the environment that they are in by participating in the activity that surrounds them.

Children are therefore at an age when they are greatly interested in movements and seem to be anxious to learn how they should move about.  They are passing through that epoch of their lives when they must become masters of their own actions.  Physiologically we may say that their muscles and nerves are passing through a period when they are learning how to work harmoniously together.  Successful passage through this period is of utmost importance for an individual’s ultimate perfection.  A good beginning here is most important for a child’s future. ~Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

Join the conversation!  How have you involved your crawling and cruising child in everyday, practical life?

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Filed under 12-18 Months, Carrie, Food/Feeding, Independence

The Celebration of Weaning (Introducing Solid Foods)

By Carrie

Montessori lingo calls the introduction of solid foods “weaning” so I’ll refer to it as weaning.  Confusing as when I mention this to others they think I’m cutting A. off of breast milk.  Definitely not the case.   We’re just starting with foods other than breast milk.  I don’t know when the completion of weaning will take place, but I’ll share with you the start of weaning.

How did you decide when and what to first feed your child?  Or is this decision still ahead of you?  I took a long time to decide what to do.  I love the Montessori approach to first introducing foods!  The pre-weaning was such a success that I wanted to continue following the Montessori philosophy.  I was also attracted to “Baby Led Weaning” (BLW) which seems to be quite popular in Montessori circles.  Kylie has done a comparison that is often referred to as it well written.  After thoroughly reading my albums, “Understanding the Human Being“,  “Baby Led Weaning“, and whatever else I could find on the internet, I decided to do both approaches.

I had prepared A. for both approaches by offering her the pre-weaning juices seated at her weaning chair and table after her morning nap and by offering her the pre-weaning juices and fish pâté seated in her high chair during our family dinner time.  The Montessori approach is to have the weaning chair and table in the child’s room (or wherever your usual location for nursing your baby is) but I skipped this as I figured I’d already helped her make this psychological step by first starting the pre-weaning juices in the nursing chair and changing that to her future eating locations.

I prepared myself for “weaning day” by first really researching it and knowing that it was the right time for A.  Montessori says to look for the Sensitive Period for weaning, usually present around 5-6 months.  Signs to look for include:

  • ability to sit with support
  • ability to grasp things with the hands and coordinate by putting things into the mouth
  • teeth beginning to emerge
  • excessive saliva (due to digestive enzymes now being present to digest starch)
  • a strong interest in the external world, specifically in food and watching other people eating

With the exception of teeth, A. showed all these signs.  Anybody eating around A. in the weeks prior could definitely attest to how interested in eating she was!  By observing her signs I knew when she was ready for it, which helped me fully embrace this new step.  It is an important psychological step away from Mom to embrace solid foods.

I also prepared in practical ways by obtaining small dishes, spoons, and forks.  The dishes are breakable and the flatware is stainless steel, just like what we use.  One of my Montessori trainers (instructors) gave me the tip to try to find clear dishes with sides so the child can stop the spoon at the edge and lift up the spoon instead of scraping the spoon up and off the side of a curved dish.  We went to World Market and this is what we came up with. 

The middle (bamboo pattern) flatware is my favourite as they are lightweight, the scoop of the spoon is shallow, and the tines of the fork pierce well

I already had a special place mat that I made for her during my training and we had many bibs given to us as gifts.  I went out and bought her beautiful flowers and placed them in a special vase.  We waited until Saturday when Daddy was home from work.  I prepared her rice cereal, fish pâté, and puréed apple.  The Montessori approach is to prepare cream of rice (or semolina) cooked in vegetable broth, or rice cereal with a bit of tomato and parmesan for flavour (Stephanie has done a great write-up of how to make the rice dish) but I was unable to find cream of rice or rice cereal so I opted to do the common approach of baby rice cereal mixed with breast milk.  The fish pâté and apple were foods she had already been introduced to so I knew she did not have any allergies.  I was excited that I was able to offer her a full meal for her first weaning meal, not simply bland rice cereal or one puréed food.

Not her first meal as I was so excited to offer it to her that I forgot to take a photo but this is from later in the week. The ramekins are the serving dishes and the small square dishes (stacked up) are the eating dishes. Bib goes on, hands are washed with the cloth and food is offered. First course is rice cereal mixed with breast milk, second course is fish (salmon here but sole was her first meal), and third course is fruit or vegetable purée (here is it peach but apple was for her first meal). We wrap up the meal with some water.

First Rice Cereal

Weaning – a true celebration day!

Weaning Day had arrived!  She was a week shy of 6 months.  After she woke up from her morning nap I dressed her in a pretty dress and approached her first meal as a real celebration!  In honesty, I wasn’t expecting much other than a few tastes of each food.  Instead she completely surprised me and took an hour enjoying it all!  She enjoyed the experience of sitting at her special weaning table and chair and eating food from the spoon.  She enjoyed grabbing the spoon with each bite.  She enjoyed dipping her fingers into each dish of food.  She enjoyed being distracted with the second spoon, covering it in food too.  (For future meals I ditched the second spoon as she was only distracted by it and was self-feeding by grabbing the one spoon for each bite.)  She enjoyed each of the foods I prepared for her.  She enjoyed being introduced to the little glass and drinking water from it.  I couldn’t believe how much she had enjoyed it all and how long it took!  She was so focused on each new part of the whole experience.  I made sure to approach each spoonful as something I was offering and not feeding her.  I started the first few spoonfuls with the tiny pre-weaning spoon and then introduced her to the weaning spoon.  She didn’t eat a lot that day but a decent amount, definitely much more than I was expecting.  Afterwards I offered her breast milk as usual.

Feeding herself mashed banana (with assistance)

We have continued in this manner since then and she has only approached food with more gusto.  She will often feed herself mashed fish using her hands, making a real mess.  For cereals and mashed/puréed fruit or vegetable she will grab the spoon and bring it to her mouth demonstrating keen interest in almost all foods.  She is gaining a greater ability to use the glass independently everyday but really struggled with it at first as her wrists could not make the rotation necessary to tip the glass.  I tipped it for her for the first few weeks.  I often use small pyrex dishes instead of the ramekins as serving dishes as whatever she doesn’t eat one day can easily have a lid put on and saved until tomorrow.  As she is eating more, I will sometimes also use the ramekins as eating dishes.

Feeding herself mashed fishDuring weaning we should always remember to offer food that the child can take by himself, such as little pieces of bread, banana, or vegetable.  Of course, the child can also be given a fork and shown how to use it.  Do not intervene if he uses his hands to help.  The child watches carefully how we do things and, if we eat well, as soon as he is able to manage it, the child will be willing to copy us. ~Dr. Montanaro, “Understanding the Human Being”

So along with her “meal” after her morning nap (which has turned into lunch time) I decided to do some BLW at dinner.  We started with steamed bean and roasted carrot (again she had been introduced to these through pre-weaning juices) and introduced her to steamed broccoli.  These were all vegetables that we had grown in our garden.  The BLW book indicated that babies mostly play with the food for the first few months so I didn’t approach this with such excitement, more in a casual way.  Before we started with food, she was sitting at the table with us in her Tripp Trapp high chair playing with toys.  So instead we gave her food to play with.  Well, it didn’t take long for her to catch onto really eating the food.  She absolutely loved feeling the textures of each food and eating.  She especially loved the salmon and chicken.

   

It hasn’t been easy when she gags on the foods.  I’m poised on the edge of my seat ready to whip her out of her chair and whack her on the back, thankful for my first aid training.  I decided not to use the straps as I figured I wouldn’t want to be fussing with the straps in a state of emergency.  Of course I’ve never had to do that.  I try to be calm and encourage her to keep coughing.  So far she’s always been able to cough it up, no matter how big or small the piece is.  It seems to me the first time she has a food she tends to gag on it a little more.  She has also gagged less and less as she learns to eat.  I decided to use plates and dishes for her at dinner time, along with a fork as this seemed more Montessori to me: treating the baby the same as us.  There have been a couple of broken plates but no broken glasses so far, although I’m sure there will be in the future.  The wrist and hand development that occurs while taking a slice of peach out of a dish or figuring out how to hold the chicken drumstick is amazing!  She finishes each meal with some water, giving her the opportunity to develop this skill twice a day.  She is now able to pick up the glass and drink from it but is definitely still learning as she will miss her mouth sometimes and sometimes tip too much and cough on the water.  I continue to be amazed at her progress in such as short period of time.

Drinking from glass

I’m really happy with how things are going.  It’s been about a month and despite the huge amount of work it has been planning and preparing for all these new meals, A.’s enjoyment of it all makes it completely worthwhile.  There have also been huge changes to sleep (through the night) and poo (in the potty).  When and how to cut back on breast milk was my other dilemma.  A. has done this herself by increasing sleep through the night and taking longer naps.  Each of the meals usually takes at least half an hour, so more time is spent eating in general.  It has all unfolded pretty naturally.  Now, if only it could all be done with a little less mess!

BLW vs. Montessori Mess

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Filed under 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Food/Feeding

Bringing Home Babies

By Christie

The day that we brought the boys home from the hospital feels like a lifetime ago.  They were quite small and my concerns were the same as any new mom: “Are they getting enough milk?  Why are they crying?  Do they really only sleep for 2-3 hour intervals?!”  Not even my intensive Montessori trainings could have prepared me for what real lack of sleep feels like!

The first couple of weeks were spent figuring out life together as a new family.  My husband T had never held a baby before let alone change a diaper (times that by two) so getting him comfortable was top priority.  I was recovering from a C-Section so not very mobile and required a lot of help with the babies.  My mom C was also here staying with us and was a huge support in preparing meals, cleaning, and acting as my personal chauffer since I wasn’t allowed to drive.

In our training we talked about the importance of the “Symbiotic Period” which is the first 6-8 weeks of a child’s life.  During this time the mother and the child establish an important relationship with one another which is crucial to each other’s life.  Through holding, handling, and feeding the mother and child come to know each other in their new relationship and through this the child develops basic trust in the world.  The father plays a very important role as well.  He is the protective barrier and can form his own special relationship with the child through participating in the infant’s physical care (hence why it was so important for T to learn how to change a diaper!!).

Bringing home multiples altered this model a bit.  I had to be conscious of satisfying both boys’ needs equally and T definitely took more of a role in the everyday holding, handling, and feeding (we had to supplement for first 6 weeks).  I found it helpful to read passages of Silvana Montanaro’s book Understanding the Human Being to T in order for him to understand the importance of this period and his role as a father.  During this time he began the nightly ritual of bathing the boys which is a special time for all three of them.  I truly believe that this routine not only helped the boys go to bed without a fuss but also has made T’s bond with the twins so strong due to these nightly interactions.

When we could, we would make an effort to put the boys down on the movement mat (see my previous post on the area for movement).  Now I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t realize that with one of my little guys it would take so much work to get him comfortable spending time there!  I guess I thought I would just put them down and they would be happy and content for hours!  Well, like introducing anything new, it was a process.  P was very content to be placed on the mat under the Munari (the first black and white mobile introduced from 2 weeks on) however with R I would literally put him down and he would immediately start crying to be picked up!  Over the course of days and weeks it was my goal to ‘remediate’ this as I knew just how important it was for babies to experience the early stages of independence.  I started out sitting on the mat while holding him, then put him on my lap, then lay him down beside me….all for very short intervals of time.  This was done multiple times throughout each day and eventually I was able to put him down and leave him on the mat without me.  I am happy to report that R now loves being on the movement mat for long periods of time (which mommy also loves!).

P and R observing the Munari mobile while laying on their topponcinos on the movement mat

R and P observing the Munari mobile while laying on their topponcinos on the movement mat

The first two months of R and P’s lives seems like a distant blur.  We survived the Symbiotic Period and the thing that made it all worth it was when the boys finally looked at us after the two months and gave us real smiles!

SmilesSmiles

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Filed under 0-3 Months, Christie, Independence, Play Area/Toys, Relationships