Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Christmas crafts

This year I am going to try to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time!

I'm going to attempt to make all of my Christmas presents by hand!  Yes, I'm aware that I am a little crazy attempting this with a 2 month old and a 2 year old but with our plans for a bigger family this might be the best chance I have.

You may or may not know that I have become 'hooked' on crocheting since making a blanket for Henry so I think I'm going to do my best to pretty much crochet my way through Christmas (does anyone have a pattern for a drum kit?).

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Snack time!

Every day I try to think of how I can give Freddy (23 months) more choice.  I look out for little sparks of interest in things and try to put a work or project together ready for him to discover the next day.  At the moment Freddy is all about choice with a capital ME!

I have already tried to add more choice to the getting dressed routine so I thought it was about time to give some more alternatives about what he eats.

We just went through a phase of Freddy not eating very much at all (apart from milk) but we seem to be getting back into solid food again now (thank goodness), and what better way to celebrate his new found sense of hunger than with a snack table:

On the snack table there is a bowl containing rice cakes and knäckebröd (Swedish crisp bread), a fruit bowl with oranges and bananas, two jars of different nuts (cashews and hazelnuts) and on the tray is a small jug of water and a glass.

I then add a different 'activity' to the table such as slicing bananas, peeling carrots or scooping seeds depending on what Freddy wants to do.  For example, today he brought out the slicer from his cupboard and asked to slice a banana.

The water pouring is always fun for him and he will often pour from the jug to the glass then tip the water back into the jug and start again.

Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives and that is especially true for toddlers. 

When they feel like they have some power and control over what they do it can really calm them down (as we are discovering at the moment). It’s a step in growing up. Everything isn’t planned for them and making good choices is a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives.

The key to giving children choices is to first decide what choices you will allow them to make,  that way any choice that they make is suitable.

Do you have any tips for how to add more choice to your toddler's life?

This post is linked to the wonderful Living Montessori Now site.

Walking in the forest

Every day,  rain or shine,  Freddy (23 months) goes for a walk in the woods with Papa.

I think that Freddy was just weeks old when he first ventured into the countryside and since then it has become clear that he could  spend all day outside if it were possible.

By the time he was 10 months old he could already follow his Papa walking across a field. 

The other wonderful thing about this walk is that almost every day Papa has taken a photograph of Freddy whilst they have been out.  These pictures now tell a beautiful story of a little boy growing up.

He has seen the seasons change....

and he has walked through streams.

He has seen the tops of the trees....

and felt the soil with his hands.

I had no idea that I would feel so privileged to be a parent.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What shall I wear today?

Freddy (23 months) really wants to be able to dress (and undress) himself and I want to do all I can to help him.  One project that I have on the go at the moment is to make him some DIY dressing frames but another idea that I had was to give him more independence in choosing what he wears each day.

In his room there is a tall chest of drawers with his and his brother's clothes in.  I used to just take out whatever I wanted him to wear but I decided to give him the bottom two drawers to select his own clothes each day and to get his pyjamas for bedtime.

I wanted to make some labels for the drawers so that Freddy knew where to look and hence reduce any possible frustration of not being able to find his socks for example (these things matter to toddlers).  So using some coloured pens I drew examples of clothing items to use as labels.

By the way, this was the first time I had ever used Sharpie pens and boy do they smell strong! 

I then cut out the shapes and used short lengths of ribbon from my ribbon stash to hang them from the drawer knobs.


 And here are the finished labels in place.


I have tried to keep the drawers uncluttered with a a few of each clothing type to choose from.  The drawer above these two contain the 'overspill' of items that I can use to replenish his drawers depending on the weather or clean washing turnaround time (which isn't fast).

The clothes that I put in the drawers are chosen such that anything he chooses to wear will be appropriate.

This little offering of Independence goes down really well with toddlers just beginning to learn that they can (and want to) make choices and yet it's so easy to do.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Boys will be boys

This weekend we have had my brother and my husband's brother staying with us and when the three bros get together a little magic happens every time.  I was inside the house with Henry and I thought that they were all outside doing some tyre kicking but when I looked out of the window I saw them hatching a plan together and these were the pictures I took from the bedroom window.....

They had managed to put together a rope slide from an old IKEA high chair, a pulley and a length of rope.

Freddy didn't want to get out of the chair (it was never like that at dinner time) and he thoroughly enjoyed his outdoor fun with his uncles.

This is the kind of daredevil play that fathers naturally give their children, they teach them to take risks, be independent and create with their hands.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Octahedron mobile tutorial

--> The Octahedron mobile is the second mobile in the Visual Mobile Series and it is probably the easiest to make yourself (the first is the Munari Mobile).  Most of my crafting goodness takes place after lights out so I'm sorry that the pictures are a little dark :)

But first a reminder of why these mobiles are offered to babies in order and what the benefits are:

"For the first few months, a mobile over the child-bed helps to develop the baby's abilities to explore the world visually. The baby gradually develops focus on a moving object, tracking of an object, and perception of colour and depth. The mobile is changed every two weeks or so to accommodate the infant's habituation to that particular mobile and to match her progressive visual development.  Hence, the first mobile portrays flat, black and white geometric shapes and reflected light from a glass sphere. Subsequent ones are introduced in ordered sequence: three octahedrons of coloured metallic paper, ideally each in a primary colour; five Styrofoam balls covered with embroidery thread in gradations of the same colour and hung in ascending order from darkest to lightest; stylized paper figurines of light metallic coloured paper that move with the slightest current of air; and finally, stylized wooden figures painted in pastel colours" (Montessori From the Start)

An octahedron (plural: octahedra) is a polyhedron with eight faces. A regular octahedron is a Platonic solid composed of eight equilateral triangles, four of which meet at each vertex.

To make the Octahedron mobile all you need is 3 sheets of metallic or holographic card (red, gold and blue), some invisible thread and a wooden dowel with a 6mm diameter (this dimension is not essential).

Draw an unfolded octahedron onto the back of each piece of card with a pencil.  Thissite has a template that you can print onto paper, cut out and draw around onto the card.

The next step is to cut out the octahedron shape and score along the fold lines.   It is important to score these sides well to get a crisp finish to the shape so I used a scoring adaptor on my paper cutter.  An alternative is to use a ruler and the back of a craft knife.

Place double sided tape onto the tabs and cut to size.  This tape goes on the metallic side of the card (I did it wrong first time).

Then just take the backing off the double sided tape and fold up the shapes as shown above.  Take care to line up all the edges well to avoid gaps.

Just before you close the last side of the octahedron insert the end of a length of nylon thread with a knot tied in the end.  This knot then sits inside to stop the thread pulling out.

Assemble the mobile and add a length of thread to hang it.  Do this in whatever way works best for you.  If you don't have a wooden dowel how about hanging the octahedron from a wire coat hanger?

If you want to know which mobiles to offer at what age take a look at this post and if you want ideas for how to hang them look here.

And last but not least here is Henry (6 weeks) enjoying his mobile.  I hung his quite low down close to him (but not in reach) and he studied it very intensely and giggled with delight if it moved slightly with a breeze.

Next up is the Gobbi Mobile!.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Introduction to bead stringing

Here is one of the activities on our shelves in a little more detail.

I recently tried to introduce Freddy (23 months) to stringing beads using a Melissa and Doug First Bead Kit.  I liked the set because the beds are big and chunky but Freddy found the poking of the lace through the hole too difficult (which was manifested as throwing the beads everywhere).

With eczema on his hands making them sore and sometimes swollen Freddy has always been more of a 'gross motor' rather than 'fine motor skills kinda boy' but I thought I would try again but this time with an activity to string small wooden beads onto a pipe cleaner.

Using a pipe cleaner to string the beads is much easier for little toddler hands so it makes a great introduction to the concept of bead stringing.

But what I like most is that the beads don't slide off and can be put on from either end successfully.   This essentially means that just the act of putting the pipe cleaner through the bead hole is isolated.  I further ensured isolation of this skill by ensuring that the beads were the same colour (natural wood).

Putting the beads back in the wooden pot and placing the lid on top were also enjoyable for him.

Here is Freddy working hard.  He often asks me to do things instead of him such as stacking a block but he wasn't letting me anywhere near these beads. 

I realised that I have not been using mats to define Freddy's workspace on the floor so I'll begin to introduce them right away :)

Monday, 14 November 2011

On our shelves

I thought I would show you what's on our shelves at the moment and explain a little bit about how we integrate Montessori inspired activities into our day.

Downstairs is our family living area and there Freddy (23 months) has what one might call 'normal' toys which he plays with however and whenever he wants.  Then we have a loft style room in the roof of our house that we have made into a sort of classroom.  I never really know what to call it but for now I call it a classroom.

I have already shown you some of the area that we use in this post but here I thought I would concentrate on the shelving.

I have a load of white IKEA furniture that I use to display a number of activities that I think will be interesting to Freddy depending on what he likes as well as some new concepts to challenge him.

The only 'rules' that I have up here are that only one thing can be played with at a time and that item must be cleared away before the next is taken off the shelf. Art materials (to the right of the picture) are always available (and used often).

I change the trays every week if they are not being used and keep the favourites on the shelves for longer.   The basket in the top right hand corner contains our much loved coloured eggs and the cotton-reel-in-pencil-pot activity is on the bottom.

Most of the items are related to shapes and colours which Freddy is really getting to grips with.  He has also started counting so I added one of the number games from my recent Montessori materials purchase.

New challenging additions are a jigsaw puzzle on the bottom shelf and an introduction to stringing beads/lacing on the right hand side in the middle.   These two are tricky for Freddy at the moment but he loves the jigsaw because it was a gift from Farmor and Farfar.

I have noticed quite a dramatic change in Freddy in the last few months with regards to these activities.  When he was 21 months old all he wanted to do was paint and use the other materials to kick around or throw downstairs (i.e. over the balcony rail).  Every now and then he would be interested in one of my activities but most of the time he was content with his cars and gross motor development outside.

Now though he understands that these things are little 'activities' for him to do and he is genuinely interested in finding out what each one can be used for.  Don't get me wrong though, if we come up here when he is tired he still wants to use everything as a football but he seems to have developed an incredible hunger to learn everything all of a sudden and I absolutely love being part of it.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sewing and Montessori: when two passions meet

Step aside Montessori colour tablets - you just can't compete with the prepared environment of my local sewing machine repair shop.

Whist picking up my newly serviced sewing machine (which I had broken whilst making a puzzle ball) Freddy (23 months) noticed the colourful display of cotton reels.  As he ran his fingers over the reels and named the colours I felt so proud of him.

The  experience got me thinking about how to set up an activity related to this wonderful experience and this is what I came up with:

The basket in the middle contains reels of coloured embroidery thread and the coloured 'pots' are actually coloured pencil holders which were part of my cheap Montessori materials order.   [I feel like I should point out that although many of the materials that I bought were of 'average' quality these pencil pots are beautiful and well made.]   The activity involves placing the correct colour cotton reel in the pencil pot.

I think that because we have been working on colours for a while now Freddy knew exactly what to do and got straight to work.  This was the first time that I have seen him fully engaged with a task from start to finish and it was brilliant to witness.  He got some of the colours wrong and then corrected himself and I realised how hard it is to stay quiet and not jump in to 'help'. 

Afterwards Freddy decided to make a tower with the pencil holders before putting everything away again.

Some hard core Montessori enthusiasts would have stopped him from using the materials for anything other than the original task but my rule is that if they are used for a real 'purpose' i.e. not being used to bang his brother's head then I see it as just another learning opportunity.

Can I just add that I don't usually force my child to wear pyjamas that are way to big for him (notice the feet) but it is a great way to get the floor dusted :)

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