Tag: toddler development

Pedagogy| The Montessori Method

My time in lockdown had me exploring for new ideas on how I can educate Mole and Frankie at home. As a former teacher with background research in pedagogy, i’m…

My time in lockdown had me exploring for new ideas on how I can educate Mole and Frankie at home. As a former teacher with background research in pedagogy, i’m aware that different teaching practices work great for different personalities and activities. So there was no harm in stepping out of my comfort zone to try something new for my own children.

Pedagogy is theoretical part of education which helps teachers to know the objective, process, outcomes of the reaching process. Teaching is the practical part of education

One teaching method I found myself drawn to frequently: The Montessori Method.

Let’s explore it.

Where did Montessori come from?maria montessori

The Montessori Method was based on the observations and discoveries of Maria Montessori. An Italian doctor, who was the first woman to graduate from Rome University medical school. Montessori had a passion for treating children that needed extra care and assistance in the classroom. Later Montessori went on to establish schools for students with working parents. Montessori looked at the schools with a scientific approach, compared to your traditional education setting. She spent time observing the students behaviour then began to implement ways to help the students progress. To put it simply; the classroom was her laboratory.

What I like about her experiment was that she spent hours simply observing the children in a number of different activities. That line spoke to me that, for once, everything is paused, analysed and an approach is made. Compared to going with the norm of society when it might not be as effective.

What did Maria Montessori find?

The Italian educator and doctor, Maria Montessori, found that if children work carefully in a prepared environment, they are more focused and controlled.

Montessori’s work began to spread all over the world and influence many teachers. She wrote numerous articles and showed success in the children she taught.

This had me thinking about the numerous activities, I had previously planned for Mole that had gone wrong. From what I assumed was due to her lack of concentration. Not the environment she was in or me interfering. I was keen to learn more.

The Montessori Approach

The Montessori approach believes that children have the best capacity to learn from birth to 6 years of age. You will find that most of the Montessori tasks have this age range in mind.

Montessori offers a more holistic approach to learning. Where everything is real play (no pretend play with Ikea kitchens, fantasy – reading books with princesses and dragons in is a no go and as for plastic toys – that is a big no). But, the good thing about today’s  world, is that you can take what you want from Montessori without judgement.

Here are the principles of Montessori:

The Principles of Montessorimontessori activity

Principle 1: Respect

Respecting the child is the most important principle of Montessori. You wouldn’t actually think you wouldn’t have an issue with  not respecting children but, in many teaching cases you will find this can be common. Ways to respect children whilst learning are: do not interrupt a child’s concentration whilst on a task, give children the freedom to do something for themselves and learn for themselves. The teacher must have peaceful conflict resolution and to not be judgemental.

How I have applied principle 1: Respect the child, to my parenting

  •  Mole’s toys (educational & fun) are at her level. She can grab any she pleases.
  • I’m simply a guide. Before, if Mole was to make a mistake on a task, i’d immediately jump into help her. Now, I give her time to figure it out.
  • Clothes. I let Mole choose her own outfits to wear now (as long as they are weather appropriate). This was quite hard for me to do as I love styling her, but, she wanted to get involved one day and I couldn’t refuse.

Principle 2: Learning through livingmontessori

Montessori believe that children have an absorbent mind. They are constantly learning through just simply, living. Everything they see, touch, hear, taste, they are learning from.

How I have applied principle 2: Learning through living, to my parenting

  • I know make a conscious effort to involve Mole in everyday tasks. Tasks that you would not necessarily think a toddler would enjoy or a toddler can do.
  • Washing: Mole takes her dirty clothes to the washing basket, helps me colour sort items of clothing, fills the washing machine up and now that we are using natural soap, Mole adds the soap nuts.
  • Cooking: Mole will help wash fruit and vegetables, pour pasta or rice into a pan. Chop up fruits. Her favourite is whisking with a hand held electric whisk. I’m careful to observe her in the kitchen and guide her. It is amazing what they can do if you give them the independence.
  • Getting ready: Mole chooses her own outfit daytime and pyjamas. Again, if it is not weather appropriate or the outfit just looks absolutely crazy, I will guide her with different options.
  • Cleaning: Using natural products, we take it in turns to either spray or do the polishing. Sometimes, I do have to go back over and do it again but she has so much fun doing it, its worth while.

Principle 3: Sensitive Periods

The Montessori pedagogy believes that children are ready to learn certain skills at different times. They call this sensitive periods.

Each sensitive period is a specific kind of inner compulsion. They motivate children to seek objects and relationships in the environment. Children use these to develop themselves. A young child, however, is neither consciously aware of, nor capable of directly communicating, his or her potentials.

The sensitive periods only last for as long as the child is ready to learn the certain skill. The skill could be reading or writing. It is important for the teacher to observe when the student is in their sensitive period for a skill to then prepare resources for the child to help them learn.

What happens in a Sensitive Period?

Montessori believes that during a sensitive period the child will behave differently towards a certain task. Here are the different behaviours.

  • Behaving more sensible towards a task
  • An overpowering force and interest in wanting to learn the skill.
  • A commitment to learning the skill
  • Instead of showing signs of boredom, the child shows persistent energy
  • Never regained
  • Wanting to do more creative activities
  • When noticed by the child, the sensitive period ends.

What are the “Sensitive Periods?”

Montessori claim there are eleven sensitive periods in total. They occur from birth to to the age of six. They are:

  • Order (Ages 2-4, developing a passionate love for routines)
  • Movement (Ages 0-1, controlling random movements e.g. grasping or crawling)
  • Small Objects (Ages 1-4, Interest in small objects and tiny details)
  • Courtesy (Ages 2-6, Imitating polite behaviours to then make the polite behaviour part of their personality)
  • Writing  (Ages 3-4, children become passionate about letters and numbers and want to put pen to paper)
  • Reading (Ages 3-4, children begin an interest in the symbolic representation of a sound)
  • Senses (Ages 2-6, children become fascinated with their senses: touch, taste, smell, sound and weigh. They are eager to do sensory activities)
  • Expressive languages (Ages 0-6, begin to use babble sounds to communicate then develop their sounds to meaningful words to communicate)
  • Spatial Relationships (Ages 4-6, An understanding of common places and expanding this from their home to their wider surroundings)
  • Mathematics (Ages 0-6, formation of the concept of quantity and operations)
  • Music (Ages 2-6, an increased interest in rhythm, pitch and melody)

How I have applied principle 3: Sensitive Periods, to my parenting

  • Honestly, this one I struggle to agree with. My personal opinion is that, if you make a task fun and engaging, then children will love to learn.
  • But, I have noticed when Mole suddenly has an increased interest in things and I do follow her lead with thing. e.g. wanting to read more books.

Principle 4: The Prepared Environmentmontessori playroom

The environment has to be child focused. Children should be able to move freely and explore. Children must be able to reach for activities they want to do and teachers should prepare the environment in the best way for the child.

How I have applied principle 4: The Prepared Environment, to my parenting

  • Mole’s toys are all within her reach. Nothing on high shelving.
  • Puzzles are deconstructed with all the parts together on a wooden tray.
  • Snacks are kept at her level for her to help herself (I choose what snacks are available and guide her on timings for eating them e.g. if she gets one too close to lunch then I guide her to choose differently)
  • A footstep for her to reach onto high countertops.
  • Aiming for as many real life items for her to use as possible. Real kitchen appliances, real tableware.

Principle 5: Self Education

Montessori believe children should be educating themselves. The role of the teacher is to provide the environment and encouragement to help the child self educate and develop.

How I have applied principle 5: Self Education, to my parenting

  • Stepping back. Giving Mole the freedom to choose what she wants to do and letting her go about it in her own way.
  • Mistakes. I’ve noticed how often I use to step in before a mistake would have been made or how quick I would help to make something right for her. I now let Mole make plenty of mistakes where she can learn from until I guide her.
  • Trying something new. Your toddler will surprise you.They are so clever and independent. I let her do tasks that I never thought she could do, such as, using a blunt knife to chop vegetables or helping put clothes away.

The Montessori Classroommontessori classroom

The way a classroom is set up is very important for the Montessori method. They believe that the classroom has to be a specific way to encourage learning.

  • Real plants (great activity for children to water them too)
  • Minimising over stimulating toys or art work (neutral wall colours)
  • Plenty of storage (everything should have a place where children can store items neatly e.g. coat peg at their level, toy storage is accessible)
  • Peaceful, quite classroom with no clutter
  • Plenty of open space for children to move freely
  • No fantasy for children under 6 years old
  • Sensory resources
  • Natural and real life materials (wooden toys over plastic, playing in a real kitchen not a pretend one)
  • Separated areas for different tasks.

I love the idea of increasing the amount of natural toys. This benefits the environment too. The toys Montessori recommends are like wooden blocks and puzzles. We have some wooden shapes where Mole loves to use her imagination and they can be anything from a person to a tree.

Personally, although Montessori recommends to use real experiences. Having Mole play in our real kitchen all day is not practical for us. Using her pretend kitchen, we have still been able to make it as real as possible for her and she has enjoyed it.

I want to explore the reason for no fantasy under the age of 6 too. To take on this method, it would have a huge impact on my parenting. We have so many books with fantasy characters, wooden fruit and princess dress up costumes.

Why no fantasy in Montessori?

Fantasy Vs Imagination

Montessori wants to encourage children to use their imagination over fantasy. Many people often get fantasy and imagination mistaken for one another.

Fantasy is the stories and ideas drawn from a world which does not exist (fairies, dragons, talking horses, etc.). Where as, imagination is the ability to conjure images or scenarios in one’s own mind, separate from present sensorial input.

An example of fantasy would be, giving a child a book to read with a talking cat. Rather than an informative book about cats.

Or

giving a child wooden food to make a sandwich, rather than giving a child the real ingredients to make an edible sandwich.

An example of a child using their imagination would be, a child crawling on the floor barking pretending to be a dog, after seeing a real life dog.

Or

A child pretending to be a mum, as they want to practice a role model they have seen in their family.

Montessori believes that imagination is where are creativity comes from. It is important to focus and develop children’s imagination to help with their creativity.

The reason for no fantasy is that Montessori believe children have a difficult time understanding what is real and what is fantasy whilst growing up. Thinking about it, Mole probably does think unicorns are real.

Not only is it confusing for children, Montessori conducted an experiment where she found children preferred to play with real life items and do real life experiences over pretend play. e.g. Children wanted to play with real food rather than toy food.

Having the science explained to me, it all makes sense.

Ways to to develop imagination in children

  • Water real plants
  • Make meals with real food
  • Clean up real dirt
  • Help to wash real clothes
  • Read more non-fiction books
  • Feed real animals (make bird food or feed your dog)

Whilst writing this blog post, I can say I have learned a lot. I’m still not complete with my understanding of Montessori as i’m sure there is still so much to explore. I may not agree with everything Montessori but, I will be taking aspects of the Montessori pedagogy into consideration with my parenting at home.

*images sourced

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Potty Training: Tips before your child starts

It is usually advised to start potty training your child when they are between 18 months to three years old. This is when they are more emotionally and physically ready…

It is usually advised to start potty training your child when they are between 18 months to three years old. This is when they are more emotionally and physically ready for it.

As a first time mum, I had no experience on potty training before and my first perception of it was a task that could be done within a week. While this is possible for some children, it certainly wasn’t the case for Mole. With researching potty training, there were actually a few things we needed to do before we officially started.

Firstly,

You need to make sure your child is actually ready themselves for potty training. The signs below will give you an idea if you’re child is ready. Please note, your child does not have to do all of these signs, but by showing they can do a good few will make potty training easier in the long run.

Signs your child is ready to be potty trained

  • Pulling on their nappy
  • Say when they have a wet nappy or show signs of being uncomfortable
  • Taking an interest in you going to the toilet
  • Can say the words wee wee or poo poo or something similar.
  • They hide to do a poo or stop to do a wee
  • Can go a few hours with a dry nappy
  • Go to do a poo at regular times
  • Wants to be more independent
  • Enjoys praise and will do activities for praise
  • Understands your question of “do you need a wee?”

What to do before you start potty trainingtoddler potty training tips

Before you go ahead with the potty training, there are actually a few tips you can do first. This will help to ease you and your toddler into it.

  • Take you toddler to the toilet with you every time you go. Explain to them exactly everything you are doing, from pulling your pants down, flushing and washing your hands. This will help them to become familiar with the routine.
  • Let your toddler choose their big girl or boy pants. Make it fun for them. They don’t have to wear fashionable ones, just let them be in control.
  • Buy toddler friendly potty training books. I got Mole this one from Amazon: Princess Potty Book. It’s surprising how much they learn from a book and again making the process seem fun for them.
  • Invest in a sticker praise chart. Explaining how to get the sticker praise first will make them see a reason to start. Using stickers is a healthier alternative to sweet treat praise too.
  • Invest in a potty. We first got a potty and Mole was too small for it. So before you start try out different potty’s until you find the right one for your child.
  • Get a new toy or find new videos on your phone or tablet. This is a distraction technique to help them stay sat on the potty. Getting together new toys or videos will be more intriguing for them.
  • Have a word with yourself. Be prepared. The first few days will be messy so ask yourself is this the right time to do it before you start? It is best to stay in the house too, so ask yourself if you can handle that for a few days.

I hope you found this useful and remember, if you or your child is not ready there is no pressure. Start again when you both are.

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How To Encourage Your One Year Old To Talk

Your babies first word is a huge milestone. As soon as you hear the sound of their first word you will gasp, cheer and praise your little one. You will…

Your babies first word is a huge milestone. As soon as you hear the sound of their first word you will gasp, cheer and praise your little one. You will then be wondering how you can encourage your one year old to talk.

encouraging your one year old to talk

One of the biggest questions is: will your baby say “mama” or “dada” first?

In a few more months, around 15 months old, your baby will use simple consonant sounds such as “up” and “more”. When your baby reaches 18 months old, there will be no stopping them as they will begin to pick up several new words a day.

Gestures

One year olds understand a lot more words than you probably think. To encourage them, use gestures such as pointing or waving can really help them. When your one year old points at an object respond with “do you want your cup? Or “Yes, that is a light.” Especially if they are waving, it is easy to incorporate, “Hello”, or “Bye Bye”.

Real words

It is very easy to use words that your one year old can say such as “ba ba”. But, you need to focus on using real words to help their speech. As a parent you need to stay one step ahead of your toddler and not talk down at them. The end result will be helping your toddler expand his/her vocabulary.

 

Take your time

encouraging your one year old to talk

Admittedly I have been here myself, when I have been trying to read Mole a bedtime story, and I rush through the book as quick as possible before she becomes over tired. Change your reading time and take your time with reading to them. Let your one-year-old point as the different pictures in the book and respond to them with what they are pointing at. Pronounce a key word to them several times to let them practice pronouncing it.

Piggybacking

When your child can say one word and understand that word well, you can introduce the piggybacking technique. This is where you will expand their one word into two words like this: instead of “dolly” you can say “baby dolly” or instead of “brush” you can say “hair brush”. Doing this will again help them to expand their vocabulary, without overwhelming them with too many new words.

Pitch

encouraging your one year old to talkYou may already do this without realising. Changing your tone of voice when speaking to your toddler really helps to keep them interested. Mole was very curious of our pet turtle. So for a good 10 minutes whilst we were playing with him, the only word I used was “turtle” but in many different voices. In the end, Mole was able to say “turtle” and understand that was our pet.

If your little one shows interest in something, spend time with them talking about that object. You can show them what it does and repeat what it is called. That way, if they already have an interest in the object, you have already grasped their attention to start learning.

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