Parent Resource Page
There are many simple ways to incorporate Montessori principles in your home. Preparing your home environment to facilitate and support your child’s natural urge to be independent, is a great way to support what your child is learning at school. Typically, the process begins by taking stock of your home, how your child uses and accesses things for daily living and then making simple modifications to increase age appropriate independence. When thinking of organizing a space consider following the simple mantra that “everything has a place, and everything is kept in its place.” By committing to picking a consistent place for everything, it will be easier for your child to help you return something to its predictable spot.
Here are a few tips by room, to help you in creating an organized and stimulating space for your child to participate in daily.
Your Child’s Bedroom
- Organize seasonally appropriate clothing by type, on shelves or in drawers, that are at a low enough level to be accessible to your child.
- Less is more! Keep options (clothing, toys, hats, pillows etc.) to a minimum. By having only a few options available, your child will feel successful when making choices throughout the day.
- Create a chart that outlines the steps your child can do to get ready in the morning. This will establish a clear routine for your child and help them to feel prepared.
- Suggested bedroom toys and activities:
o 5 different types of items out on a low shelf, a collection of books, a map on the wall.
o A calendar to keep track of days and activities – cross them off as they are completed!
o A reading corner that is inviting; your child will want to read and relax in this space.
o An area to listen to music, with a device your child can access and operate on his own.
- Hang low hooks for your child’s jacket and bag.
- Check the weather with your child the night before. Collaborate on any needed snow or rain gear that needs to be prepared for the next day.
- When buying clothing, make sure that your child will be able to open and close shoes and jackets independently. The simpler, the better!
- Remember, one warm coat is easier for your child to manipulate than many layers.
- Mittens are easier for your child to put on than gloves.
- Have a step stool available for your child that allows her to reach the kitchen sink, see on top of the counters etc.
- Hang hooks for kitchen clean up tools such as washcloth, a broom and a dustpan.
- Provide child sized kitchen tools and show your child how to use them safely.
- Use child sized plates, glasses and utensils. Plates should be breakable so that children learn how to handle them with care.
- Family board games.
- Provide manipulative toys and art materials on a low shelf or bookcase.
- A child size workplace or a chair.
- Your family’s main collection of books can be stored in the living room, and the rest dispersed around the house in thematic baskets.
- Keep a collection of books in a basket.
- Provide a small reading nook for your child with a pillow or blanket. This gives them a small space, in your space, to feel comfortable and invited.
As the cold weather begins to settle in, many people hesitate to go outside with their children to play. We value children having opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, even during the Winter months. Having the appropriate clothing makes all types of weather great for play. Check out this AccuWeather Article, by Rachelle Gayor, on the reasons why children need to play outside – even in the Winter months! We hope that you will bundle up and enjoy playing outdoors with your child.
For some creative and educational activities to do with your child in the snow, check out this article 20+ Fun Activities To Do in the Snow. We think # 6: Snow Graffiti is especially fun!
Sleep is such an important part of your child’s routine. Consider sleep the “food for your brain”. When children lack adequate sleep their ability to concentrate, learn, and problem solving are reduced. Getting a full night of sleep will help your child focus on their work and achieve their full potential in the classroom. Here are some tips to help set up a productive and positive bedtime routine.
- Set a bed time for school night and stick to it
- Try to avoid any TV/ Computer/ Tablet time at least one hour before bedtime, or consider going screen-free during the school week.
- Create a bedtime environment in your child’s room: keep it dark, cool, quiet, and free from electronics.
- Encourage a daily movement activity or exercise. Dancing with your child is always fun!
You can learn more at the following websites: http://sleepfoundation.org, sleepforkids.org, and http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
The most recent Parent Education night focused on the topic of Separation. Whether this school year is your first experience separating from your child, or you're looking for tips to improve your current routine, these tips are sure to foster a positive experience.
Separation is a natural process, and a necessary part of your child’s continued growth and opportunities for learning and building new relationships. Which is what life is about! Life is a series of attachments and separations and we want our children to experience them as growth opportunities that they welcome with open arms.
Tips for a healthy separation:
- Be consistent! Stick with the routine you create.
- Have a special goodbye ritual, such as two kisses, one hug before leaving. Make it predictable, clear, and reassuring.
- Keep it brief.
- If you have never separated before, test it out with a friend in the weeks leading up to the first days of school.
- Tell your child the facts, no fairytales! Say that there will be other children, they will have a special cubby and a special nap mat. Do not speculate about what they will or will not do at school. Let them tell you about it when they come home! Allow your child to experience school.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
- Have a morning routine which includes a good breakfast.
- Pack lunches and lay out clothing the night before for both you and your child.
- Take care of yourself during this time. As a parent it is always going to be exciting and nerve racking to see your child entering a new stage of development. Just keep in mind that this is natural, healthy and good.
- Encourage your child to walk into their classroom on their own. This empowers your child to make the choice to be in school, which continues a positive separation process.
We are here to help:
- During the day, we are happy to hear from you via phone or email to check in. When you contact us, we will go to the classroom and check on your child and provide a quick update.
- If a child is distressed, your child’s teacher will comfort him and find a favorite activity with which to engage him.
The first day of school is just the beginning of your child’s journey toward becoming an independent, confident, and capable person. When parent and teacher partner together to help the child separate, it often only takes a few days for him/her to begin walking in comfortably. Just think, one day you’ll be taking them to college!
Our most recent Parent Education Night centered on a popular topic – toilet training!
Below we outline 4 steps to help make the toilet training process as stress-free as possible:
- Prepare yourself
- Prepare your child
- Prepare your home
- Go for it! No more diapers, no exceptions.
Your attitude of loving support, acceptance, and encouragement is essential for your child. Think about your readiness as a family before beginning this process. You'll want to be sure that you can approach toileting with a positive attitude and can commit to it with consistency. Do as much reading and reflecting as you need before you start. Forget about quick fixes: prepare, observe your child, and provide support as needed. A 2 year-old that walks well and is healthy should be ready to start the process. Try to slow down your own social calendar when beginning so that you can devote time to supporting your child.
Prepare Your Child
Buy a few books on toilet training for yourself and your child (see Shopping List for suggestions). Start talking about using the toilet and singing songs about toileting with your child (see Talking Points). Bringing your child into the bathroom with you, particularly if you are the same gender, is helpful modeling. The idea is to create understanding and familiarity with the concept before starting. Take as much time as needed for your child to understand that we all used diapers and don’t need them anymore.
Giving your child opportunities for independence and participation are key. Get rid of your changing table and transition to diaper changes in the bathroom so that it becomes a comfortable and normalized place. In the bathroom, change your child’s diaper standing so that she can participate in the process: helping to remove her pants, flushing the toilet, etc. After removing the diaper, see if your child is interested in sitting on the toilet for a short time. Dress your child in clothing that is easy to remove independently – elastic pants are great. Purchase shoes that are machine washable or easy to clean. These are all things you can do in preparation so that small frustrations – such as ruining a pair of nice shoes – do not escalate and disrupt the process. Remember, no treats or rewards are necessary. Your child will be independently motivated to master this process in their own time.
Prepare Your Home
Roll up your sleeves and your carpets! Prepare your bathroom with a small basket of undies so that your child can choose new ones after an accident. Add another small basket of a few of your child’s favorite books to read while on the potty. Start with a small potty for a young child, or a toilet seat insert for an older child. Add a small stool to the bathroom for stepping up to the toilet, resting feet while seated on the toilet, and sitting while changing. Reorganize your diaper bag to contain a few changes of clothes, paper towels, and spray to clean up spills. Purchase a piddle paddle for your stroller or car seat and an underpad for your child’s bed so that cleaning is easier.
Go For It!
Once your preparation is complete, go for it (and don’t turn back)! Finish your last pack of diapers so that you don’t lose your resolve. Adopt the mantra “Underwear or bust!” In an effort to make this step comfortable, you or a trusted caregiver should aim to stay at home for a few days to support your child and give him opportunities to be in a comfortable, familiar space.
The beginning: At this stage you are assisting your child with the idea of underwear and sitting on the toilet. Make sure your child is always wearing cotton training underpants so that they feel the uncomfortable sensation of wetness. You should be the one initiating potty times, perhaps on the hour.
Your language is very important at this stage. Remember that your children are listening and absorbing your attitude and feelings at all times. Be matter-of-fact about accidents and avoid ridicule. Instead say “You are wet. Let’s go get some dry clothes. Do you remember where the dry underpants are?” When your child succeeds, there is no need to praise or offer rewards. This sets up false expectations which are a distraction from the natural process. Instead remain matter-of-fact and say “Your pee went in the potty.”
The collaboration phase: At this point your child is gaining more independence. Allow for this, and help only as much as needed. You may still give prompts and reminders, but your child may also initiate trips to the bathroom.
Toilet trained: Though he still gets wet on occasion, your child is in charge and uses the toilet independently.
The goal is for your child to be toilet trained day and night. It is okay to begin with underpants 100% during the day and a diaper or pull-up at night. Children have small bladders so it is often difficult for them to go an entire night without using the bathroom when they are young. We recommend keeping night time diapers/pull ups in a different location, out of sight out, of mind!
In sum, with the right preparation, attitude, and matter-of-fact language, the toileting process can be one of progress as opposed to stress. As obstacles arise, we encourage you to maintain your resolve. Do not return to diapers! Maintain consistency and warmth in your approach, even as frustrations arise. We wish you all the best as you reflect on and begin this important step towards independence for your child.
The time change when Daylight Savings begins or ends can impact sleep, especially for young children. We recommend moving your child’s bedtime routine up 15 minutes a night prior to the change.
Struggling with your child’s sleep habits? For tips on building a sleep schedule, India Schaenen’s book The Seven O’Clock Bedtime is a helpful guide. Check out a short article about the book here.
A few key points about early bedtime routines from the article:
- Research suggests that sleep deprivation is associated with learning problems and causes children to be easily frustrated and cranky. Sleep deprivation also affects short term memory, the ability to organize, and speech development.
- To set your child’s circadian clock most effectively, bedtime should be two hours after dinner.
- Set a routine that is followed every evening. Each family’s routine will be slightly different. An example: dinner, 15 minutes of playtime, 30 minutes for bath and cleanup time, and 30 minutes for reading, tuck-in, and I-love-yous.
- Particularly at first, your child may not fall asleep as early as 7pm. Try giving your child a comfort toy to sleep with, or even Mom or Dad’s shirt or sweater! This will help your child learn to fall asleep alone.
- Tears will happen on occasion. This is a perfectly natural part of setting a routine.
- Most sleep researchers agree on the following sleep estimates based on age:
- 2 year-old: 11-12 hours a night and a 1-2 hour after lunch nap.
- 3 year-old: 12 to 12.5 hours a night; some children will have stopped napping
- 4 year-old: 11.5-12 hours a night; more children will have stopped napping.
- 5 year-old: 11 hours; most children will have stopped naps by this age.
Routine and structure are central to Montessori philosophy, both in the classroom and out. Such structure allows children to take ownership over their own activities and schedules, as they know what to expect when. Sleep routines will not only help children come to school ready to learn, but will help them develop a sense of ownership over their own daily and nightly schedules.
Parents, we are here to support you as you develop bedtime routines for your children. Please feel free to reach out to us with questions along the way!
This week families joined us to learn ways to incorporate Montessori principles into the home environment. A main point of the discussion was the idea of preparing the home environment to facilitate and support the child’s natural urge to be independent. When time allows, give your child how-to lessons on things like working the Velcro on his shoes, zipping her coat, or washing a dish. Aside from these lessons, there are ways you can arrange your home to encourage this sense of independence.
Two key ideas are simplification of materials and the idea that “everything has a place, and everything in its place.” The latter is particularly important for your child to learn how to maintain order in the home. The following are suggested ways to organize each room of your home to be a welcoming and stimulating environment for your young child.
Your Child’s Bedroom
- Organize only seasonally appropriate clothing by type on shelves or in drawers that are at a low enough level to be accessible to your child.
- Less is more! By having only a few options available in each bin, and only those items that are appropriate for the weather, your child will feel successful in making a good choice each day.
- Create a chart or laminated cards that outline your child’s steps to get ready in the morning. This will establish a clear routine for your child and help them to anticipate what comes next in their morning.
- Suggested bedroom toys and activities:
- 5 different types of items out on a low shelf, a collection of books, a map on the wall
- A calendar where you can cross off the days and add activities
- A reading corner with a soft seat, rug, books, and a light
- Something to paint, paper, and a supply caddy
- An area to listen to music with a device that your child can access and operate on his or her own
- Place hooks for your family’s jackets and bags
- Make it a habit to check the weather with your child the night before, and collaborate on any needed snow or rain gear.
- When buying clothing, make sure that your child will be able to open and close shoes and jackets independently.
- Remember, one warm coat is easier for your child to manipulate than many layers; have your child show you the coat flip
- Mittens are much easier to put on than gloves. We especially like the mittens on a string that go all the way through the coat.
- Help your child gain independence in dressing by breaking down all of the steps and giving them time to practice.
- Have a step stool available for your child that allows him to reach the kitchen sink
- Hang hooks for kitchen clean up tools including a washcloth, a broom, a dustpan and brush
- Provide child sized kitchen tools and show your child how to use them safely
- Use child sized plates, glasses, and metal utensils. Plates should be breakable so that children learn how to handle them appropriately. Ikea has great, affordable options.
- On your coffee table, place three items and general board games for the family
- On a low shelf or low shelf of a bookcase, provide manipulative toys and art materials
- Provide a child’s workspace with a table and chair
- Your family’s main collection of books can be stored in the living room, and the rest dispersed around the house in thematic baskets.
- Keep a collection of books in a basket
- Perhaps provide a reading nook with a soft seat, pillows, and blankets
Tips for Toys & Activities
- Provide purposeful and age appropriate toys that naturally stimulate learning. Minimize toys that will not sustain your child’s interest.
- Look for toys that are well constructed, beautiful, simple, multi-use, and promote exploration; look for toys that are open-ended (such as magnetic building tiles, Lincoln Logs), and toys that help your child acquire a new skill.
- Put a few activities out with no repeats of the type of activity. Follow your child’s interests! For example, one puzzle, clay, a few crayons and artist sketchbook, five books, a photo album of your child, a set of something with letters, something with numbers, replica objects for language, and items for reality based pretend play are sufficient.
- Each item should have a clear “home” in your space.
- To keep the excitement around these materials, rotate these activities as needed! This also helps cut down on clutter.
- Limit materials out at one time to only a few.
- Assist your child in becoming independent with cleaning up and returning items to their homes when they are finished using them.
- Pull back and allow your child to enjoy uninterrupted play alone; this is when the learning is happening! Unstructured, unscheduled time more often means your child will have time to create, explore, and process their experiences.
- Provide clear expectations and logical consequences. Children who feel the need to test boundaries are reassured by consistent expectations and consequences.
- Be positive, clear, calm, and loving. Tell your child what to do instead of what not to do. (“Feet stay on the floor,” instead of “Don’t stand on the chair.”)
We hope you find these tips helpful! Please always feel free to reach out to your child’s classroom teacher with specific questions.
Teachers recently held a Curriculum Night focused on Language in the Toddler and Primary environments. They spoke about all the ways language is taught and gave some tips for what can be done at home to foster the development of language.
Language in the Toddler Environment
Language is an important part of the toddler learning experience. Toddlers absorb everything they hear and language acquisition happens rapidly in two-year-old children. It is a goal in the toddler environment to take advantage of this time and create a language rich environment in three ways:
1. Presenting new vocabulary
Children are given new words through structured language lessons. Children are first introduced to new vocabulary through sets of concrete objects and replicas, and then work with more abstract representations using sets of cards with images. We bridge the gap between concrete and abstract by playing matching games with sets of objects or replicas and matching cards.
2. Books, songs, poems, rhythmic language
Books in the toddler classroom are reality based, age appropriate, and contain realistic illustrations. These qualities help children connect stories to their own experiences. Songs and poems expose the children to rich vocabulary and allow them to practice new words as they recite the poems and sing the songs.
Conversation and storytelling are important parts of the toddler day. Communal mealtime is one of the best times to encourage conversation and self-expression.
When communicating with a child, teachers model giving their full attention. They face the child at eye level and model clear and courteous language. Teachers model conversation etiquette, using active listening and turn taking. You can do this at home too.
Language in the Primary Environment
In the Primary classroom, teachers encourage accuracy and confidence in language development. Children must know that their thoughts and ideas matter. Getting on the same eye level as a child and giving them your full attention shows respect to the child which gives them confidence to communicate with you. Things you can do at home to encourage accuracy and confidence in language use are engaging in conversations, taking turns to speak and listen, showing interest by asking questions, and summarizing what you heard your child say, writing down your child’s explanation of a picture they created, and modeling true storytelling with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Why do we start with writing before reading?
Sounding out a word that a child wants to write involves breaking down the desired word into sound parts and then finding the letters to represent those sounds. There are fewer cognitive processes at work for writing, and there is a natural progression going from writing to reading. It is easier for your child to write down words or thoughts already in their mind, rather than reading someone else’s words or thoughts out of context. After much practice with sounding out words and phrases, your child will have a moment of self- discovery when they realize they can read the word. Teachers in the Primary classrooms know children are ready to begin reading when they start reading back what they have written. Reading a written word requires a child to first recognize the letters for the sound they represent, repeat all the sounds and fuse them together to gain meaning.
Why are a lot of our materials in cursive?
Cursive writing lends itself to the most fluid initial writing. The curves often seen in drawings created by children are naturally curved. Forming a cursive lower case “e” is much more fluid than accurately printing a capital letter “E.” Because words are fully connected and there are only spaces between words (and not within), cursive writing can be easier to read and write for many children. We offer an opportunity to write in cursive, but if children come to school printing, we will not make them switch to cursive.
Spoken/ Oral Language
The Guides in the classroom model clear spoken language. They avoid using “baby talk,” for example “choo choo train.” Rather, they use specific language, like locomotive.
During grace and courtesy lessons, Guides model polite language and show how-to lessons for positive social interactions and encourage the children to solve problems independently.
Materials and activities in the classroom inspire advanced language abilities. The pink tower and brown stair are hands on materials that demonstrate a specific concept. After, the young child experiences language like small, smaller, smallest, and thin, thinner, thinnest. There are language cards available to follow your child’s interests and teach specific vocabulary. For example, there may be a set of pictures of horses. Your child will view the different breeds and then play a fun game to learn the names for Pinto, Clydesdale, and Thoroughbred. Your child also plays sound games to notice the beginning and end sounds of words. (I spy with my little eye something that ends with the /s/ sound.) Eventually your child will be able to break down all words into each individual sound. (Let’s say all the sounds in playground. /p/l/ay/g/r/ou/n/d. That word has a lot of sounds!) This is a game you can play with your child at any time, and will help your child when they begin to write. Stories and poems are also an important part of the Primary curriculum for language development.
Before beginning to write, children prepare their hand using many tools in their prepared class environment. The knobs on the geometry cabinet require the use of a three finger grip. Tracing the rough and smooth boards with the middle and index fingers prepares the hand for writing. This work leads to the sandpaper letters. Using the sandpaper letters, children learn phonetic sounds while tracing letters. Once a child knows 10-12 letters and their sounds, they are introduced to the moveable alphabet. Using this material, which is a box of wooden letters, children practice building their own words using the phonemic skills they have acquired from the sound game and sandpaper letters. Finally, there are many mediums available for children to write: a sand tray for tracing letters, chalkboards with chalk, and paper (strips, lined pages, books) and pencil. Tracing within the metal insets prepares the child to stay within a designated space.
When the child begins to read their own writing, it is an exciting moment of discovery. Guides lead the children along by breaking down all the skills needed to be strong readers into playful lessons. Using the phonetic object box, children match a label to an object. Soon they begin learning blends, when two letters come together to make a new sound (/ar/ in car and /ai/ in pail) with the phonogram object box. They practice sight words too. The language lessons continue into parts of speech and word families.
From the language materials to the graceful and courteous speech and conversation skills modeled by the Guides, to storytelling, singing, and poetry, the Toddler and Primary classrooms are rich with language learning opportunities.
Recently teachers held an informative Math Curriculum Night for families. They gave a brief overview of the rich math curriculum in the Toddler and Primary environments. They highlighted some materials used in both to illustrate the hands on learning opportunities that Montessori children enjoy. What stood out most of all is how clearly, concretely, and playfully children can learn math when they are given the tools to do so.
Math in the Toddler environment
In the toddler communities we introduce counting and number concepts as a part of daily life. That’s what makes math so fascinating, after all—it is truly all around us! Counting is an activity that happens throughout the day. We count to take attendance, we count when setting the table, and we sing songs and read books that involve counting. The children have the opportunity to explore one-to-one correspondence when setting placemats at the tables for snack matching the number of children present to the number of mats that are needed. When working with manipulative materials such as the peg box or shape sorter, children are exploring mathematical concepts.
Sequencing is internalized through practice of lessons including nesting dolls, which demonstrate sequencing from large to small and offer an introduction to comparatives and superlatives. Sequence is also an important aspect of many of the Practical Life lessons, which are carried out by following a logical sequence of steps. Weight and measurement are explored purposefully through activities including bead stringing, flower arranging, and sorting.
Many lessons incorporate math concepts. For instance, when following a logical sequence of steps to prepare a flower arrangement, a child must measure how much water will be needed and pour the correct amount from the pitcher, through the funnel into a vase, enough so that the stems of the flowers will reach the water. The more water that is added, the heavier the vase gets, but too much water will make the vase overflow! As a child selects flowers to place in the vase, he often counts them.
Exploration of numerical concepts, counting, and especially sequencing which occurs in the toddler communities builds a foundation for logical-mathematical reasoning that allows a child to delve more deeply into math when in Primary.
Math in the Primary Environment
In the Primary class community, math exploration begins with lessons involving concrete materials and moves towards the abstract use of only numbers. Concrete exploration of numbers 1-10 helps the children understand quantity and prepares them for the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is important to note that quantity is taught before symbol, so the idea of six is taught before linking it to the numerical symbol “6.”
When children learn the symbols for numbers, they first trace sandpaper numbers. Tracing these numbers offer a visual, tactile, and auditory experience, which additionally develops the muscular memory of each number.
Children explore the decimal system using the golden beads, a concrete material. One bead is one unit, there are beads linked together to make a 10 bar, a square of 100 beads, and a cube of 1000 beads. The cube of 1000 is heavy, providing a concrete feeling of mass and weight to emphasize the grand number 1000. When a child knows those quantities, they play games to match the symbols 1, 10, 100, and 1000. Children build large quantities and use them to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. All of the operations are experienced as collaborative activities. Children also count and create numbers with teens and tens. They work with subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. They are given the vocabulary for each number they make.
There are many lessons in the math area. All follow the process of first introducing a concept while using a concrete material to express the concept, and then build on it to reinforce the lesson and offer more opportunities to practice the concept.
Math is fun in the Primary classroom and the group games appeal to your child’s social nature. Children play games like the Addition Snake Game and use addition and subtraction booklets to internalize math facts.
Have you ever wondered why our classrooms are curated to contain mostly reality based books? Young children are tasked with understanding how the real world around them works, so books that are based in reality are innately more interesting and of use to them. Recently, NPR published an article based on studies that offer the idea that young children naturally prefer fact over fiction. Read the article here: Children Want Factual Stories, Versus Fantasy, More Often Than Adults.
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