Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Teaching Grace and Courtesy to a Toddler: Our Homemade Manners Book

     In lieu of a totally Christmas focused unit during this season, I opted to embark on a big grace and courtesy push prior to visiting family.  In line with the Dr. Montessori's idea that young children have a strong need for order in their environment (most often notable by a clean and neat space), social graces and acceptable behavior provide young children with clear standards by which to interact with others. These social courtesies also enhance the respectful atmosphere found in Montessori classrooms.  In our house, we have used three methods to teach grace and courtesy: modeling, role playing, and finding examples in books.
Knock on a closed door. (Important for visiting family!)

    Up to this point, we have primarily modeled social graces for Q-ball.  According to Dr. Montessori, this is the most influential way to teach grace and courtesy.  We say please, thank you, and excuse me.  And, we model behaviors like gently opening and closing doors, greeting others, waiting in line, placing our napkins in our laps, expressing concern when someone is upset or hurt, and expressing admiration for other people's work.  Even without any previous prompts or instruction these phrases and behaviors have occasionally slipped into Q-ball's habits (the latter more than the former.)

   Recent holidays provided opportunities for grace and courtesy role-playing. Given that Q-ball's current favorite method of play is pretending, these activities have been a huge hit. Before starting the role- playing activity, I modeled the exact phrases and actions for Q-ball. For Halloween, we practiced how to greet and thank people while trick-or-treating.  Q-ball loved this so much that she actually still asks to play!  And, for Thanksgiving, we held several tea parties to learn basic table manners as well as practical life skills like napkin folding, table setting, and flower arranging.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

   I've done several posts on books as they are always a favorite in our house.  When I plan a new unit or when Q-ball expresses interest in a new topic, my first stop is always our library's online catalog. Our manners unit was no different, and I checked out every age appropriate book I could find.  Sadly, I wasn't overly impressed with the selection.  Q-ball did enjoy the books, but I was a little more critical. I found many were a little too broad (I don't expect her to master manners from all aspects of life at this point) or too silly (many books were a bit tongue and cheek, making light of bad manners, but this may be a little abstract for a toddler just learning the appropriate social expectations.)
Q-ball enjoying her very own Big Book of Manners

    However, some good did come out of not being able to find a great manners, book, as we decided to make our own! Q-ball was very excited to be in her own "Big Manner's Book" after reading so many others.
Here's what we did:
  1.  Introduced basic social graces through Model, Role-play, Read (see above!): again and again and again and again and again
  2. Make a list of our most important manners: I guided Q-ball through this activity.  I asked her to recall our role-playing activities and what phrases or actions we use in certain situations.  We also went page by page through her manners books, and she identified selected manners using the pictures as cues.  We came up with a list of 12 manners.
  3. Take pictures! I tried to take pictures of Q-ball preforming the action or stating the phrase as it was actually happening.  This was pretty easy to do for table manners and cleaning up, but some pictures (like covering your mouth when you sneeze) had to be posed.  But, posing made Q-ball more excited to see the final book, so it worked out well.
  4. Make a photo book.  I used an online program for our local drugstore, so we'd be able to pick the book up together for more immediate toddler gratification.  This process was a little arduous for Q-ball, so I did this and let Q-ball see the product preview.
  5. Pick-up your photo book and read!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Our Montessori Non-Nursery

I love, love, love looking at pictures of Montessori nurseries on blogs.  While pregnant with TRex, I dreamed of having such a beautiful nursery. There was one significant setback, however: our apartment is one room shy of a nursery for a baby.  So, I've tried to recreate some of the best aspects of Montessori nurseries with a mobile, temporary twist.  Here's what we do...

1) Mirror in Q-ball's room- This is key for any Montessori baby, so we had to ensure TRex had a mirror. Our toddler's bedroom is an ideal location. Q-ball was excited about its installation as she, of course, sees the mirror as primarily hers and is able to use it for dressing, fixing her hair, and watching herself jump on the bed.  And, while I'm working with Q-ball in her room, TRex is able to hang out in the corner and enjoy the mirror.

 2) A Mobile Mobile- With the lack of a nursery and the lack of any additional space in our apartment (see more posts on adapting Montessori for a small space here and here), we knew that we needed to create a mobile that was not permanent.  My crafty husband and helpful toddler worked together to build a mobile mobile. They used suggestions from here and here.  Our mobiles are from Bella's Casa- TRex loves them!  As you can see in the pictures, we move the mobile wherever there's space at the time.
In one corner of the living room.

In the dining room.

In the other corner of the living room.

 3) High-Contrast Pictures- Given infants still developing eyesight, they are drawn to high-contrast colors, namely black and white. According to Montessorian theory, looking at black and white pictures develops visual discrimination.  Many of the nurseries I envy have beautiful framed black and white pictures hanging a the infant's eye level.  Key features of our non-nursery are cardstock black and white pictures (also from Bella's Casa).  I can set these up wherever I happen to set TRex down.
In the bathroom while I shower.

In the laundry room/kitchen during diaper washing.

Do you have a mobile Montessori practice?  How have you adapted Montessori ideas to fit your home?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our Montessori Pumpkin Unit

Before I seemed to realize it, Q-ball now over the 2.5 year hump, and quickly approaching 3 years old!  Toddlers who attend a traditional Montessori Children's House start as early as 18 months!  Thus, it is time for me to start to ensure their is direction in our learning. When following other blogs and even when reading books on the Montessori principle, it can be easy to get caught up fun activities to do, especially for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  So, I decided to reach back into the basics of my education education and start from the standards.

Here's our Montessori unit overview, based upon the Montessori standards from Montessori Compass and our state's pre-school standards.  For those familiar with various curriculum planning methods, I'm using the Understanding by Design method here. From this unit plan, I developed specific lesson plans that follow the same format. If any are a smashing success or maybe a dismal failure, I'll share as well!

Our first sensory box!

Established Goals:

From Montessori Compass

  • Holds crayon as demonstrated
  • Holds paintbrush as demonstrated
  • Demonstrates understanding of item’s position: top, bottom, high, low, etc.
  • Is able to understand basic ideas of day and night
  • Conversation pictures: answers specific questions about pictures
  • Works to complete a picture with pattern blocks with assistance
  • Independently works sorts items by size puzzle by size
  • One-to-one association activities

From State Pre-Kindergarten Curriculum Standards

  • Child takes care of and manages classroom materials. 
  • Child uses category labels to understand how the words/objects relate to each other. 
  • Child engages in prereading and reading related activities. 
  • Child retells or re enacts a story after it is read aloud. 
  • Child uses  information  learned from  books by  describing,  relating,  categorizing, or  comparing and  contrasting
  • Child counts 110 items, with one count per item.
  • Child identifies and describes the characteristics of organisms.
  • Child describes life cycles of organisms. 
  • Child demonstrates an  understanding that  others have  perspectives and  feelings that are  different from her  own


  • All living organisms have a life cycle.
  • Books can describe both real-life experiences and make-believe stories.
  • We can re-enact events in books.
  • We can re-create images.
  • A single number is associated with a single quantity.
  • Every object has characteristics that distinguish it from another object.
  • Some objects share similarities.
  • Individuals are responsible for maintaining their own tools and space.
  • There is a proper way to use writing utensils.
  • Objects or symbols can represent holidays or a time of year.
  • Day and night have different purposes and characteristics.

Essential Questions:

  • How does a pumpkin develop?
  • How can pumpkins be the same?  How can they be different?
  • How can you determine quantity?
  • How can you tell it’s Halloween time?
  • How can you tell it’s nighttime?
  • How can you tell it’s daytime?
  • How can you determine if a story in a book can happen in real-life or if it is make-believe?
  • How can you take care of your own materials and space?

Learning Objectives:


  • Define the parts of a pumpkin.
  • Identify the elements of a pumpkin’s lifecycle. 
  • Identify colors, sizes, shapes. 
  • Define location words. 
  • Count from one to five.
  • Identify features of Halloween.
  • Identify features of night time. 
  • Identify features of day time. 


  • Uses a crayon or pencil to trace a line and color a picture.
  • Uses a paintbrush to decorate a pumpkin.
  • Completes a pattern puzzle with assistance.
  • Describe various pumpkins.
  • Describes a pumpkin’s lifecycle.
  • Sort items by size.
  • Retell a story.
  • Re-enact events in a story.
  • Compare and contrast items.
  • Use one-to-one association when counting from one to five.
  • Describe the events that take place on Halloween.
  • Cleans up materials when project is complete.
  • Demonstrates care when reading books.
  • Demonstrate concepts of print.
  • Student uses visual cues to identify feelings.

Performance Tasks:

Summative Assessment:

Part 1:
We will visit a pumpkin patch to select our Halloween pumpkins.  While there, you will do the following:

  • When possible, identify elements of the pumpkin life cycle.
  • Describe the pumpkins you see, to include location.
  • Compare and contrast pumpkins.
  • Place pumpkins in order according to size.
  • Describe why you selected the pumpkin you did.

Part 2:
We will decorate our pumpkins.  During this process, you will complete the following tasks:

  • Re-create actions from the book How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
  • Count pumpkin seeds using the one-to-one association method.
  • Use a paintbrush to decorate your pumpkin.

Part 3:
We will go trick-or-treating.  During and after this event, you will do the following:

  • Identify Halloween items.
  • Describe our activities.


Describe our pumpkin activities.  Explain what you liked and what you did not like. Describe what you would like to do again in the future, and if you would do anything differently.

Key Criteria:

  • Accuracy of information.
  • Participation.

Other Evidence:

  • Completion of pattern puzzle
  • Completion of Connect the dot activities
  • Read-aloud involvement
  • Ability to follow directions
  • Ability to maintain workspace

Learning Plan-

1.      Day 1- Read Pick a Perfect Pumpkin  and How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? Introduce final assessment, which mirrors activities in both books.

2.      Day 1- Trip to grocery store to see and feel pumpkins.

3.      Day 2- Complete connect the dots activities.  

4.      Day 3- Complete pattern puzzle.

5.      Day 4- Re-read books for more involved student input based upon current experiences. Elaborate on plans/wish for final assessment activity.
6.      Day 5- Complete one-to-one association activity.

7.      Day 6- Read Halloween books. Go on a walk to identify Halloween related terms at decorated houses. E

8.      Day 7- Introduce pumpkin lifecycle cards.

9.      Day 8- Free play with all materials presented.  Extra materials like coloring sheets and gourds are available for exploration.

10.  Day 9-10 Final assessment.

11.  Day 11- Verbal retelling of assessment events.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Prepared Environment in a Small Space

    This is the second post I'm doing that focuses on establishing a Montessori environment in a small space.  You can find the first post with ideas for how to store materials here.

    About nine months ago, we moved into an apartment that was about 30% smaller than our previous space.  Q-ball's previous exploration space (You can find some older pictures here.) was quite large and included lots of floor space and lots of shelves, our current living arrangement just does not allow for this sort of space. However, we work hard to ensure that Q-ball still has lots of options for exploration.  Here's what we've done.

1.  Find unique spaces for small shelving units.  As the high temperatures here have been over 100 for the past few weeks, we really didn't see the need for a fireplace.  So, Q-ball's primary prepared environment is a converted fireplace.

2.  Use nooks and crannies. Q-ball's writing/art table is in a small corner near natural lighting and her reading/music shelf fits perfectly next to our family media shelf.  

3. Use Large Baskets.  Baskets are a key feature of any Montessori design.  However, in our small space, I've found that larger baskets are critical as they can easily be placed on the floor for use and then shifted to another place depending on the activity and how many people are in the room at any given time.  We have a basket for stuffed animals, blocks, balls, and a train set.

 3. Squeeze items into their "true" location.  Q-ball's kitchen materials (with the exception of her knife) are always assecible in the bottom of our pantry, and Q-ball's set to bathe and care for her stuffed animals along with her personal makeup bag are under the bathroom sink.

Montessori Monday

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to Store Toys in a Small Space

         I don't think I've ever been to a Montessori blog or site that shares posts about what is currently on the shelves in their home.  Every month or so, there are tons of new, awesome materials for the child to explore.  This certainly is one of the few things that causes the "keeping up with the Joneses" plague to strike me. I want to get everything I see! But, as I've started to collect materials, I've often wondered, where are all of the items that are out of rotation?  With the neatness and organization stressed within Dr. Montessori's philosophy, I have to assume all of the materials are neatly tucked away.

         But, I must confess, my out-of-rotation materials were a giant mess! We live in a smallish apartment with extra storage, so I ended up throwing things here and there.  In addition to looking terrible and taking up tons of space, it made material rotation time a huge headache.  So, I decided to re-organize. 

This is what everything looked like when I pulled things out of the closets:  AHHHH!

Here are the steps I took to clean up: 

Things were too out of hand to do a true "before" shot, but this is in the beginning stages.
  1. Throw away "Happy Meal Toys."  True, we've only gotten one happy meal for Q-ball (who subsequently lost the accompanying toy about 1 hour later somewhere in the car...), but we've gathered tons of small favorite-toys from birthday grab bags to awesome finds at the park. I got rid of pretty much all of these toys as they really aren't in line with any of the goals for our shelves.
  2. Group items by type.  My previous problem was when I was looking for a certain object, I didn't know where to start looking.  I'd tried labeling boxes, but as I was consistently rotating materials, the labels didn't do much good.  By grouping items by generic type (sensory, puzzles, blocks, music, bead activities, etc.), I can still label my boxes. 
  3. Package items individually, when possible.  Here, I grouped blocks in paper bags and reused boxes.  I have also seen people use the plastic, zipper bags that come with new sheet sets and mattress pads for this task- that way you can see inside!
  4. Label boxes.
  5. Find a place to stash. This step has been the toughest for me given our current storage limitations.  For larger items, I used large storage tubs.  For smaller items, I used a hanging shoe organizer and a larger hanging closet organizer.  

    Montessori Monday

Monday, July 15, 2013

Practical Life at 27 Months

I can't believe how quickly Q-ball is growing and how much she is now capable of doing on her own!  Although, it can still take a bit of patience on my part to give her the chances to do them  as it much faster when I do things.  And, it can take a bit of patience on her part as it's certainly easier for her if I do things.  

  • Q-ball picks out all of her clothes when directed.
  • Q-ball can easily take off her sandals and put them away in the closet.  We are working on learning to put them on. We can do it on occasion, but need some more practice.
  • She can put on and take off underwear and pants on her own, although Mama might need to straighten them at times. 
  • She needs a little help with shirts- she's typically able to remove shirts on her own, but needs a little help getting them on.
  • If we prepare her toothbrush, Q-ball can brush her teeth by herself, but Mama or Daddy helps at least once a day to make sure all bases are covered.
  • She is working on washing her hands on her own, but we need to get a better step stool- right now she can't completely reach the facets, which is a bit of a setback.
  • After over a year of struggles and tears, she has learned to tip her head back when we are rinsing shampoo out of her hair.  This is a relief!
  • Q-ball will occasionally clean-up materials on her own, but typically needs one or two reminders.  Some days, of course, we need lots of reminders and help, but by and large, things are returned to their shelves. 
  • Q-ball helps me load and unload the washing machine and dryer.
  • She places dirty clothes and dirty towels in the correct baskets.
  • She cleans up her spills with available towels.
  • She can carry her own plate, cup, and utensils to the table.  But, this is a something that has been really difficult for Mama to get into our routine- not because I don't trust her, but because we are juggling Daddy playtime, cleaning up materials, and hand-washing before dinner. I just need to do a better job of working it into the schedule.
Eating/Food Prep
  • Q-ball lost interest in using her fork and spoon for awhile, but in about the past two weeks has taken to using her fork again- typically with little issue.
  • She can cut veggies (carrots, celery, and a few others) on her own using a special knife.   
  • We just tried pouring water for the first time in a long while. Overall it went well, but after a few minutes of practice and some excitement about the event, we did need to use a bath towel instead of a dish towel. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Trip Activities for a Media-Free Toddler

       We recently returned from a road trip during which we logged over 1400 miles in the car.  We worked to spend as little time in the car as possible, but the first and last days of the trip required about 5-6 hours in the car (much of this was through some very, very boring country- no buildings, no trees, few hills...blah).  This can be tough for anyone, but especially for a toddler.  I searched online for ideas to entertain my toddler during the trip, but many of them involved watching DVDs or playing with other computerized games.  We are a media-free family, so I knew that I would need to be a little more creative with my activities. 
    While Q-ball was obviously ready to get out of the car when the time came and did, of course, experience some boredom and frustration, my husband and I were incredibly impressed with the patience she showed and with her ability to largely entertain herself.  Here are the activities that were most successful: As always, I'm a little blog, so I'm not getting any sort of compensation for the links below!

  1. Car Tray. This item was necessary for all others to be successful! We introduced it to Q-ball a few hours into the trip, and she wanted to use it pretty much the entire time after that!
  2. Books, books, books.  Before the trip, I spent a substantial amount of time exploring our public library's catalog for books that related to our trip.  I ended up with over 20 books!  I looked for books that included lots of pictures of the areas and specific sites we were visiting as well as descriptions of activities that we were doing.  Of course, not all the books were successful (mainly the ones with a bit too much of an academic focus), but these were Q-ball's favorite: Fred and Ted's Road Trip and Maisy Goes Camping.
  3. Toy Cars. Q-ball played with these more than any other item!  She parked them, drove them, lined them up.  They never bored her! 
  4. I Spy. I'd never played with game with Q-ball before, but she enjoyed using these print-outs from the Montessori Print Shop. (They are free!)  While she wasn't able to identify object by shape or color, she liked picking out the objects by name or, at times, by subject (something to eat, an animal, etc.)
  5. Animal Matching Cards. This is another resource from the Montessori Print Shop.  I hadn't introduced this activity to her previously, but she enjoyed naming all of the animals and matching them to their "shadow."  We certainly weren't able to achieve any sort of Montessori neatness in our matching piles, but we got the big idea!
Other tips from our travel (most are obvious, but just to confirm!)
  • Schedule naps for car rides when possible.  Q-ball hated the carseat for about the first 9 months of her life, and our road trip when she was 4-months was much prolonged as we had to stop every 15 minutes or so at times to calm her screams, but I'm happy to report, she is now a relatively happy car napper!  (Although she does still like for Mama to sing her to sleep...)
  • Have snacks and water on hand.
  • Make lots of times for active play when you are not in the car.  We used hotel swimming pools at the end of the trips and ran around some green spaces before getting in the car.  When possible, take lunch breaks at parks or restaurants with playplaces. (Q-ball had her first Happy Meal on this trip- we very, very rarely do fast food, but she loved being about to run around the playplace for an hour!)
  • Include lots of cuddles when you are not in the car!  According to Dr. Laura in Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, although you may feel very close to your toddler when you are all stuck in a car together, a car ride can be a separation for a child. Your child needs you to make up all of this time apart with extra attention later!
  • Introduce toys steadily throughout the trip.  I waited to introduce some activities until we were two weeks into our trip, so we'd have something novel on the way home. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Shapes: Our Three Part Montessori Lesson

This is our second three-part lesson.  To read about our first, check out this post.   

Currently, Q-ball's shelves are stocked with a variety of materials the emphasis shapes.  She had started to show an initial interest in different shapes, so I wanted to give her a chance to explore the topic a bit further.  In addition, to clearing digging our any materials that fostered shape exploration, I picked up books from the library that also focused on the topic.  I had never planned to do a formal lesson (she is 26 months old, after all, and I try to avoid too much formality).  However, last week, Q-ball suddenly seemed extremely engaged in the book Museum Shapes, so I decided to work in a quick lesson on shapes.

  • Pictures of shapes.  We used the books Museum Shapes and Shape Capers. We both much prefer the former.
  • Sensory that include lots of different shapes- blocks, sorting toys, puzzles, etc.
Blocks, Stacking and sorting materials, and egg shakers for the "oval" (turns out Q-ball really likes ovals!)

The Lesson:
  • Step 1: I simply read the books to Q-ball, repeating the name of the shape several times as I pointed to different examples throughout the book.
  • Step 2: After reading each book once, I read it again, and asked Q-ball to say the name of the shapes.  She was able to do this with the vast majority of shapes (arch and semi-circle were a little out of reach, but I presented seven shapes, focusing on the five most basic.  Most sources recommend presenting 3-5 objects in a 3 part lesson.) If you child is not able to do this with 100% accuracy, go back to step 1.  The goal is for your child to succeed, so you do not want to move forward until you have 100% success. Doing this over several days is more than acceptable!
  • Step 3:  Then, I asked Q-ball if she wanted to find shapes in her toys.  She quickly jumped off of the couch with her book to find the matches.  Without much guidance from me, she was able to search her shelves and find "circle like my circle" when I opened the book to the circle page.
Extension Activities:  Q-ball came up with these extension games on her own!
  • Group sensory materials by type.  (All circles in this corner; all squares in this corner.)
  • Cut and glue.  Q-ball named the shape she wanted, and I cut it out.  Using glue stick, Q-ball glued it to paper.  (If your child has been introduced to scissors, you can, of course, switch roles.) 

Montessori Mom. (2009). The three period lesson. Retrieved from
Montessori Print Shop Blog. (2012). How to give a Montessori 3 period lesson. Retrieved from

Monday, April 15, 2013

Early Potty Learning the Montessori Way- Our Journey

Disclaimer: This is a long post!  But, do not fear, you don't have to read it all-  I really want it to be helpful for those interested, so I've presented lots of information and lots of the same information in different ways, so you can choose which version works best for you!  If you have questions or tips for other parents, please comment!

Here's what you'll find below:
  • Overview
  • Our Basic Action Plan
  • Summary of Early Potty Learning by Month
  •  What I'd Do Differently
  • Our Favorite Potty Books
 As I've described in several posts, we began potty learning quite early by current Western standards.  Dr. Montessori considered the "sensitive period" for potty learning from 12-18 months.  We started at 14 months. When I started our journey, I looked for sources and stories from other families for inspiration, but, frankly, I did not find very much. Two of my favorite Montessori blogs had some information (How We Montessori (it was especially interesting to follow this mom's journey as her son and my son are the same age, so we were struggling together!) and Vibrant Wanderings).  Additionally, I used some elimination communication resources (specifically this book and this book) for tips, although we were certainly beyond the timeline for EC.
   It was a very slow road- with many pit stops along the way, but ultimately one that I'm very happy we took.  So, I wanted to share our journey- month by month- with the goal of helping or possibly inspiring other early potty learning families.

Our Basic Action Plan
  1. Introduce potty, when child is interested and comfortable, encourage her to sit on potty.
  2. A few hours of daytime diaperless time.  During elimination, introduce your sign and/or verbal cue.  Move child to potty during/after every elimination and explain that all elimination happens on the potty.  Encourage them to help clean up any messes, but otherwise use no reward or consequence.
  3. Increase diaperless time during the day as understanding progresses.  Move to diaperless time during naps.
  4. Go diaperless outside of the house (use trainers or just bring extra clothes).
  5. Go diaperless at night.
***If at any point, your child is clearly uncomfortable or upset by the potty, put it away for awhile.  You don't want your child to have negative feelings toward the potty!

Short Summary by Month

13 Months
For the first time, I noticed that Q-ball indicating to me that she was "feeling" when she was peeing.  As a baby who was never bothered by dirty diapers, I felt this was a significant change that signaled readiness for potty learning.  For the next few weeks, I researched potty learning (see sources listed above).

14 Months
I finally got around to buying a potty. We just set it in front of Q-ball on day, explained what it was for and waited for her to be comfortable to sit on it.  It really didn't take long- just about a day or two.  At this point, we started going diaperless at home for a few hours a day.  When Q-ball peed on the floor, we would make the sign for "pee" and a "pssss" sound.  We then moved her to her potty and encouraged her to clean up the mess.  We went through lots and lots of towels.  We were lucky that Q-ball did not mind sitting on the potty; if anything, she loves it- we get to read lots and lots of books.  But, no "catching" this month. 

15 Months
Q-ball started to make the sign for "pee" and within the next 10 minutes would normally pee.  Still, we didn't catch every pee.  Mainly, in retrospect, because I do not think I was fully committed.  I was a little too casual about potty learning at this point, I think as a result of reading some Montessori resources over resources completely devoted to potty learning.  When Q-ball signed, I would not completely drop everything and wait on the potty for the next however long.  As a result, I think I missed a real opprotunity at this point to help Q-ball connect a her physical sensations to moving to the potty. 

16 Months
Not much changed.  Diaperless time did increase to any time at home.  One major difficulty for us was that I was never able to figure out Q-ball's elimination schedule.  I kept lots of notes and observations, but, frankly could never really figure out a schedule that was consistent.  Perhaps she started holding her pee very early in the process?

17 Months
Q-ball was obsessed with watching others go potty.  Whenever we were out and someone went into another door, she would look at me and make the sign for "pee" with the "psss" sound.  Also, I was dragged into bathrooms during every outing.  Q-ball herself, however, was not overly interested in eliminating on the potty herself.

18 Months
For the first time, Q-ball moved to the potty herself and peed!  Biggest success yet!  She was very excited and kept looking in her potty to see if it's full of pee, but, alas, we still didn't have too much success.

19 Months
At times, Q-ball catches accidents half-way and runs to her potty, but, mostly, we still go through lots of towels.  I should stress that we sit on the potty A LOT.  Like, Q-ball will ask to sit on the potty for over an hour reading but will not think about peeing.  She definitely holds her pee.  As we still wear diapers when we go out and at night, and I know that she is holding her pee until these times.

20 Months
Stomach bug strikes household for several weeks.  After a traumatizing diaperless experience for Q-ball and Daddy, we decide to take several weeks off potty learning to prevent any major setbacks.  (Q-ball clearly was really disturbed by the incident was begged not to go diaperless during this time.)

21 Months
I really start to take potty learning more seriously this month.  I keep fairly strict schedules for when we sit on the potty, although if Q-ball is clearly upset, I don't force anything. Also, we don't always do diapers when we go out- we also wear cloth trainers. Potty successes daily- mainly when we first wake up and before bed.  But, we also traveled to see family, and Q-ball was not interested or comfortable practicing anywhere other than home.  We took about a week to get back into our schedule at home.  I know that we are still dealing with some pee holding. 

22 Months
Q-ball's "I-got-it!" day finally has struck.  I think that my increased focus on potty learning had a major impact.  Where we once sat on the potty for 15-20 minutes before Q-ball eliminated, now there is success pretty much as soon as we sit on the potty.  We now do not wear diapers outside of the house, although we still have accidents- we just bring lots of extras.  We ordered an extra potty for the car and encourage Q-ball to use the potty before we go into a store, to the park, etc.  Q-ball even took rather easily to pooing on the potty.  While we did have a few instances of holding her poo and some emotional potty experiences and explanations of how it all works, we did not have complete refusal. 

23 Months
I'd been looking for the time to introduce nighttime pottying with Q-ball, nervous that it would be quite dramatic as diapering is part of our very set bedtime routine.  But, one night, Q-ball announced she only wanted to wear pants to bed. So, that answered the question.  A few nights, Q-ball has asked to put on a diaper, and we have her help us lay out her nighttime diaper and tell her it will be close by "in case she needs it." This satisfies her.  We certainly have not been accident-free, but I feel as though we have as many successes as misses.  Her potty is set up in the corner of her room, and, if she calls me into her room at night, I help her sit on the potty (which, I admit, she's not always happy about.) or I quickly lay down a new towel and change pants if necessary.

24 Months
I certainly consider Q-ball toilet-trained by two years old.  She is still hesitant about using a "big potty," but we have been looking at pictures from EC sources of babies sitting on big potties, and she has had success.

What I'd Do Differently
  • I had a difficult time finding Q-ball's elimination schedule, I'd recommend starting to figure this out before going diaperless or immediately upon going diaperless.
  • I was very, very relaxed at first, waiting for Q-ball to always show interest, or ask if she wanted to sit on the potty.  I'd use a bit more of a schedule next time- on the potty every 60 or 90 minutes for a few hours each day.
  • In the early days, Q-ball was uncomfortable pooping on the potty, so I did not force it.  However, it is much easier for a caretaker to anticipate when a child will poop than pee.  I'd recommend continuing to try to master pooping first or along with peeing.  (Some books recommend that poop-learning come first as when a child poops, they as tend to pee.)
Our Favorite Potty Books
Many potty-learning books are for older toddlers.  These were the ones that we found were most helpful in the early days and weeks.  Q-ball really, really studied these books and clearly used them for tips and encouragement.
  • A Potty For Me!  A lift-the-flap book, this was fun for Q-ball.  Also, stressed that the child was proud of her accomplishments rather than external rewards.
  • Potty The most simple potty book we found.  Q-ball (and I) still say "Uh-Hmm-Ha-He! when we really have to use the potty!
  • Even Firefighters Go to the Potty All kids love firefighters!  This was just a fun one to read that encouraged her to sit on the potty for a long period, when necessary.
  • I Want My Potty We found this older book at the library.  While I do not think the author intended it, this became our "poo poo book."  The pictures in the book seem to show the little girl really pushing on the potty- we used these pictures to discussed different methods that can help with pooping (this was especially helpful during Q-ball's poop-holding time.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Benefits of Following Your Child's Lead

   A key aspect of creating a Montessori-inspired environment is to ensure that the teacher or parent follows the child's lead.  As I explained in this post, teachers or parents should work not to direct a child's play or routines.  I have read that studies that look at the effectiveness of a Montessori education have found that children in Montessori classrooms preform on par or slightly better than their peers in non-Montessori environments on academic assessments.  However, studies have found that children in Montessori environments tend to foster greater "concentration, confidence, and independence" in addition to more respect for their classmates and even creativity, which is especially interesting as many of Dr. Montessori's critics focus on her views towards fantasy and creative play.  For this Science Friday, I want to focus on a study that explores the relationship between a mother's directing of her toddler's play and future cognitive and social functions. 
   While the study does not focus mention Montessori practices, it compares cognitive and social functions in 4.5 year old children based upon the extent to which their mother's directed their play beginning at age 2. The researchers decided that 2 years-old was an important age to start observations as it is a time when children have the ability to understand basic verbal communications but still require a caretaker's direct instructions to complete and understand most tasks.  By age 4.5 years, however, much less support from caretakers is necessary. 
Toddlers can certainly come up with some creative games when allowed to lead!
   For this study, researchers observed mothers and their children during two home visits that included daily activities and a play session that included standardized toys as well as an in-office visit that included a play session.  The study took place over a period of 2.5 years.  Standardized tests that have been approved for these age groups were used to determine cognitive abilities.  Social behaviors were measured based upon observations of two specific behaviors- responsiveness (i.e. a child's ability to respond to instructions) and initiating (i.e. the child's ability to direct his mother's attention to an activity.)
   I believe that the findings in this study very much support using Montessori methods at home or in a classroom.  The children whose mothers consistently practiced "maintaining" (asking questions or making comments concerning an activity on which a child was working or responding to a child's requests) versus "directing" (giving specific verbal or non-verbal instructions for the child to follow, providing few options) had higher cognitive and language skills between age 1 and 3.5 years.  Additionally, maintaining also proved to have significant positive effects on responsiveness for these same ages.  Researchers believe that practicing maintaining supports cognitive and communication skills in early children as it works within their limited attention spans and current abilities without forcing them to shift focus. 
   The study revealed the children whose mothers practiced maintaining would ultimately have more success in "joint learning situations."  This is based upon two findings: First, at 3.5 years old, maintaining increased a child's social responsiveness, which ultimately seemed to improve his ability to initiate activities. Secondly, by 4.5 years, maintaining was directly related to a child's increased ability to establish and then meet goals. 
   While many parents may believe that being directing will increase responsiveness, this study and others (one additional example- a study that analyzed conversations between toddlers and mothers showed a mother's requests were more often followed when she adjusted the request to acknowledge the child's current focus) indicate that respecting the toddler's thoughts and activities will ultimately lead to greater success for completing immediate tasks and for longer-term cognitive and social skills.

Crain, W. (2011). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications. Prentice Hall:Boston. 
Landry, S.H., Smith, K.E., Swank P.R., &  Miller-Loncar, C.L. (2000). Early maternal and child influences on children's later independent cognitive and social functioning.  Child Development, 71(2 ) pp. 358-375

Monday, January 28, 2013

Practical Life Activities at 21 Months

As I explained in this post, I feel that Q-ball now possesses the maturity, mental capacity, and most importantly, interest to start more formal Montessori activities.  She has always been very interested in what is going on in the kitchen, so I wanted to start with some basic kitchen practical life exercises.

Here's what we've been up to!

Chopping- While the idea of chopping with a 21-month-old may seem frightening to some, with this knife, we've had no issues.  Q-ball feels very involved in making dinner!  We've had the most luck with celery- they don't roll, make a nice "snap" upon cutting, and do not require too much pressure.

Pouring- Using a small Pyrex measuring pitcher, Q-ball has been pouring water into bowls.

"Spicing" and stirring-  Q-ball loves adding extra flavor to the water that she stirs while Mama is cooking.  Because spices can be a bit pricy, we've taken the less healthy route and gone through an entire box of table salt.

Water transfer with sponges- Q-ball has really been focused on "squeezing" recently, so transferring water from one bowl to another using a sponge has been a perfect activity to practice this skill.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Three Period Montessori Christmas Lesson

  Given that Q-ball (nearly 21 months) is clearly starting to pick up new vocabulary words and has the ability to now focus on a task that interests her for several minutes, I seized this holiday season as a time to do our first more formal lesson. I used the Montessori three period lesson format to teach Q-ball new Christmas words.  And, we even finished with a craft!  She learned incredibly quickly, and we had a great time! I was shocked to see I was able to entertain a young toddler with this activity for almost 30 minutes!

  • Christmas book with clear pictures of the vocabulary words you want to present (I used 10 Trim-the-Tree'ers as it had very clear pictures throughout.)
  • Large piece of paper
  • Cookie cutters (some need to match the vocabulary words you've chosen)
  • Washable paint
The Lesson:
Of course, everything ends up in her mouth...
  • Step 1: Using the book, I pointed out new vocabulary words to Q-ball.  For example, I pointed to the snowman saying, "This is a snowman."  (We used stocking, snowman, Christmas tree, candy cane, bell, and star.) 
  • Step 2: After reviewing each word several times, I asked Q-ball to find the words in the book.  She was able to do this quickly.  (If you child is not able to do this with 100% accuracy, go back to step 1.  The goal is for your child to succeed, so you do not want to move forward until you have 100% success. Doing this over several days is more than acceptable!)
  • Step 3:  I then asked Q-ball to transfer her knowledge to other similar objects. We walked around our house, and I asked her to find the "Christmas tree," "stockings," and "star."  Finally, I placed all of the cookie cutters on the table.  I repeated each vocabulary word, and Q-ball picked out the appropriate cutter.
  • Step 4:  And now the fun part!  Using paint, we created stamps with the the cookie cutters.

Montessori Mom. (2009). The three period lesson. Retrieved from
Montessori Print Shop Blog. (2012). How to give a Montessori 3 period lesson. Retrieved from

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