Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

Montessori Materials for Snack Preparation

Our snack preparation area is one of the children’s favorites in our Montessori Toddler and Montessori Baby classes! These materials can be used as early as 14 months up to 3 years old! Find 12 Montessori snack materials for toddlers below, including their presentation descriptions and links where to find all the tools!

Montessori Kitchen Setup

To encourage independence and responsibility, set your little one up for success by preparing a couple of these snack materials every day so your little one can make themselves a snack whenever they feel hungry. Your child can also prepare extras to share with you or a sibling. We also always have our little water dispenser available so the little ones can take a cup of water whenever they feel thirsty. There is just a little bit of water inside. In case it spills everywhere,

only offer as much water as you are willing to clean up afterwards.

Toddler Snack Table

A little snack table is a wonderful addition to the eating area, as little ones can take their work to the table, sit down and prepare their snack, and enjoy it in peace. Of course, when having family meals the child still joins the family table, but this space is for all the times they eat snacks alone. We love our adjustable table and chair set, handmade from beechwood.

Washing Dishes

Of course after enjoying their snack, your little one can help to clean up by putting their trash in the bin and placing their dirty dishes in a box to be cleaned. If you have a learning tower up to your sink, or a little wash station like this one, they can wash up their dishes themselves!

In our classroom the toddlers get water using this pitcher from the sink, fill the basins, wash and dry their dishes, and empty the dirty water into this bucket. They can then carry the bucket to the sink and empty it out again. It seems like a lot of steps, but the toddlers LOVE all this purposeful water work and they also enjoy seeing the result of a dirty to clean dish. This activity builds so much self esteem and is about much more than just washing up their dishes. 🙂 This is a custom wash station built with love by my husband, Chad at Montessori Mother Materials. 🙂

Montessori Snack Materials 1-6

Find the corresponding material presentation descriptions and links below! I tried to find the exact links I used wherever possible, but some materials I purchased a long time ago so I have listed the closet alternative I could find.

FoodDescriptionSetup
EggCrack egg on both sides with pestle, peel, add the bits of shell to mortar, slice egg in egg slicer, spoon onto plate, crush eggshells with pestle, enjoy!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Mini mortar and pestle
Egg slicer
Mini plate 
Mini spoon
Hard-boiled egg
Crackers and Cream CheeseSpread cream cheese onto rice crackers with tiny knife, enjoy!Tray
Blue cutting board
Small glass bowl – filled with 1 cream cheese box
Mini plate 
Spreading knife
2 unflavored rice crackers
Orange JuiceSqueeze halves of mandarins or clementines, pour into fancy cup, enjoyTray
Anti-slip cover
Yellow plastic goblet
Small bowl
1 mandarine (cut in half)
Mini juicer
Mini sponge (moistened)
StrawberriesPluck off leaves, slice in strawberry slicer, spoon into bowl, enjoy!Tray
Red cutting board
Trash cup
Small bowl
Strawberry slicer
Mini spoon
2 strawberries with the leaves on
PeanutsCrack with nutcracker, separate from peels, enjoy!Tray 
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Trash cup
Wooden nut cracker
A few peanuts in the shell
BlueberriesEnjoy eating blueberries with chopsticksTray
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Children’s chopsticks
Toddler-sized handful of blueberries

Montessori Snack Materials 7-12

FoodDescriptionSetup
BananaPeel banana, place peels in the trash cup, cut with knife, add to bowl, enjoy with fork, enjoy!Tray
Green cutting board
Green toddler knife
Small bowl
Trash cup
Half banana, cut 3 peel-deep lines along side
Mandarins/ClementinesPeel clementine, place bits of peel in the trash cup, divide into slices, enjoy with a fork!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Small bowl
Trash cup
1 mandarin (with corner pre-cut out)
CucumberPeel cucumber, place peels in the trash bucket, Cut into slices with toddler knife, transfer to bowl, enjoy!Tray
Mini cutting board
Toddler knife
Mini plate 
Trash bucket
Mini peeler
Snack cucumber
CarrotPeel carrot, transfer peels to trash bucket, enjoyTray
Red cutting board
Mini plate 
Red trash bucket
Mini peeler
1 sweet carrot
Tea BrewingCut mint and/or lavender from the gardenWash in the sinkPluck or cut leaves and place into flowered teapotAdd warm waterCount to 10 or 20 with the child to let the tea brewPour into glasses Invite friends to teaTray
Anti-slip cover
Pitcher for tea
Saucer
3 glasses
small scissors
Tall pitcher of warm water (1/2 hot, 1/2 cold)
Mini sponge
WaterChoose a cup, pour water into small pitcher from dispenser, transfer water into cup, enjoyWater dispenser
Mini pitcher
Mini sponge
Washrag on hook
Mini cups on shelf

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful.
Happy snacking!

-Katelynn

The Montessori Method

Montessori Sleep: FAQ

A Montessori Sleep Environment for 6+ months

In this blogpost I will be answering these frequently asked questions anonymously and I will give advice based on Montessori theory. This doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect solution for you, every family and every child is unique, but I will do my best to give helpful suggestions and if those suggestions feel right for you, then try them out.

Sleep is such a personal topic . It is a skill that all children have to learn. The relationship your child has with sleep affects the whole family’s mental and physical health so making changes regarding their sleep situation should involve the whole family. Communicate with each other so that everyone is on the same page and whatever you decide to do is the right solution for everyone, parents and children.

Question 1

My baby is 5 months old. She only falls asleep when I am cuddling with her, not my partner, just me. If I am not there she will cry 95% of the time. What should we do to help her find sleep by herself or with my partner?

  • Children can easily get used to one thing that they need to go to sleep. This can be cuddling with a specific parent, like in the example above, it can also be a pacifier, a lovey, milk… It doesn’t mean that they can’t find rest another way, they just have to re-learn how to sleep without that attachment. Believe in your child that they can do it. 
  • Their whole life they have slept one way, so changing that understanding will take some time. On top of that, they have to process this new information when they are tired and probably when the parent is tired also which makes it even more challenging. Communication, patience, and complete calm are so important in this process. 
  • Make a change that your family has decided on, go to bed early so they haven’t passed exhaustion, and stick to your plan so it doesn’t send mixed/negative messages. You can do this!
  • You can make a plan to take it slow. For example, start with day sleeping, then move to night sleeping. Instead of getting in the bed, sit next to it and offer comfort and closeness this way. Let the child feel all of their feelings about this process without judgement. If there are tears, let them be expressed and show compassion. This is your child’s way of saying “I am tired and I am having a hard time.”

Question 2

How should I set up a Montessori sleeping area?

  • In Montessori we use a low bed or a floor bed which is a mattress on the floor, on a carpet, or on a base which is only slightly higher than the floor. Eventually baby moves to this bed as they transition to independent sleeping. 
  • The sleep area is should be in the darkest, quietest part of the room. 
  • Make the space functional and inviting. 
  • You can keep some books nearby in a basket or on a shelf for reading before bed. There shouldn’t be any noisy or highly stimulating toys in the sleeping area – this is a place of quiet where the child knows they can go if they need to find rest.
A Montessori Cestina (sleeping basket) for babies from birth to rolling

Question 3

How and when should we transition from crib sleeping to toddler bed sleeping?

  • Make this transition when you feel your child is ready and when you are ready to commit to the transition which can take some time.
  • When the child is walking they should be able to get in and out of bed independently. 
  • Step-by-step: Remove the crib and introduce the bed in the same day. You can invite your child to help you or they can observe what you are doing passively. 
  • Talk about how “Your ‘new bed’ is in this box. We are going to open it and put it in your room so you can sleep there.”
  • Say “Goodbye!” to the crib with your child so they have the memory of it being gone.
  • Put the new bed exactly where the crib was before if you can. 
  • On the first few nights, go to bed a little bit earlier and prepare yourself (what you are going to say + your positive attitude) for coming into the room several times before they fall asleep. You will have to remind them that it’s time to rest, go back to bed, and tuck in every time in the exact same way. 🙂
  • Keep a neutral attitude of calm and acceptance. It’s just a new bed, not an overly exciting or a bad thing. This will also help your little one accept it.

Question 4

How and when should we transition from co-sleeping to independent sleeping alone?

  • If this is what your family has decided is best for you, you can make this transition when you are ready to commit to it. It can take some time and no matter when you decide to do this, it will be a learning process for your little one. If your family is happy with co-sleeping and it works for you, then you should continue it! There is no 1 right way to sleep.
  • Explanation: Co-sleeping is family sleeping, so often it’s difficult for the child to learn how to fall asleep when the family is not right by them and that they have their own bed now where they sleep alone. 
  • The first step is to get them their own bed, talk about it, show where they can put their head… “This is your own bed. When you are tired, you can come here and rest.”
  • Don’t get into the bed yourself, because it is a place where only your child sleeps.
  • Start with day sleeping, sitting near the bed if they want closeness. Gradually give more and more space until they are sleeping there fairly comfortably. Use a specific routine before they get into bed to sleep. (For example, lunch, brush teeth, change clothes, read books, sing a special song, give a kiss, then it’s quiet time.)
  • Begin changing the night sleeping by giving information and going to bed early. “Tonight you will sleep in your bed and we will sleep in our bed.” Use the exact same routine as you do before a nap.
  • If they are upset, be their calm and give them the words to explain how they are feeling. “You feel tired right now and it’s hard to get to sleep. I am here for you.”

Question 5

My baby is 13 months old and he wakes up every 2-3 hours. We are a co-sleeping family. How can we help him to have a more normal sleeping pattern? It feels like everything is on pause until we can sleep through the night.

  • The sleep cycles of a child this age should be longer than this so it’s a sign that they are waking up for a reason. 
  • There are many reasons why toddlers could wake up in the night:
  • digestion – their tummy is upset or they have food in their stomach so their rest is not quality
  • they are waking for a bottle (they don’t need to eat at night any more at this point, so slowly give less watered down milk until they no longer feel hungry at night.)
  • they sleep with a pacifier or lovey and it’s fallen out triggering their wake-up response
  • they are feeling discomfort – teething, sickness, overheated, uncomfortable
  • they have had a bad dream
  • they have woken themselves up with their own movements or by the sleep noises and movements of the other people in the bed (If this is the case, perhaps they need their own sleeping space away from the noise and movements of others – which is OK if that’s what they need. There are no rules on where or how to sleep.)
  • I recommend saying ‘goodbye’ to sleep props/associations
  • Communication: Encourage independence by teaching her how to find rest without waking you up. Teach her what you do when you wake up in the night.
    – keep a waterbottle nearby the bed
    – teach her how to flip her pillow over
    – take off socks
    – roll over…

About using a pacifier or other sleeping props:

  • Say ‘goodbye’ in a respectful way. It’s a real and strong attachment your child has, so treat it with love. 
  • After 3 difficult nights, it’s usually over with.
  • If they use the pacifier other than at night, start by using it not using it during the day, then for night sleep, and finally for day sleep. 
  • You can also say goodbye to the pacifier all together at once!

Question 6

My baby is 17 months old. She sleeps alone in her bedroom but the bedroom door is closed so she has to cry to call one of us when she wakes up.  How can we give freedom without creating a bad habit of leaving the room during rest time? At night, would it help if we open his door before we go to bed, so he can go out and find us when we wakes up? How about at nap time?

  • This is a good idea to open the door when it’s time to wake up and let them come out when they are ready.
  • You can also try leaving the door cracked after you say ‘goodnight’ and if they get up, remind them to it’s time for sleep and going back to bed.  See question #3
  • Perhaps you can add a long extension to the door knob so they can open it alone.

Question 7

My son sometimes sleeps either naked or topless when he refuses to put his pyjamas on. I don’t force him to put on his pyjamas if he resists. Should I insist on this as part of the routine? Are there unintended consequences of me agreeing to let him sleep without pyjamas on?

  • This depends on you. If it’s okay for you, then yes. If it’s a limit for you, then no.  Always sleep with some protection like a diaper or training pants. In the summer it’s hot and lots of people don’t wear pyjamas.
  • Personally, I think it’s fine – It’s the child’s choice. Offer them to put on pyjamas and let them decide if they want or not. 

Question 8

My toddler wakes up at 5:30am. Why is he waking up crying?  Why so early? How to help him understand that morning starts at 7.30 and 5.30 is still night? How can we help him to wake up happy saying hello?

  • 6am is a pretty normal time to wake up in the morning for toddlers. Their best sleep usually takes place between 8pm and 6am. 
  • See question #5 for reasons why your toddler might be waking up. 
  • Waking up early could also be part of your child’s bodily rhythm. If possible, prepare the environment so when he wakes up he can prepare himself a snack when he wakes up or play independently. If the environment is safe, it’s okay to say, “I still need to rest. You can relax here with me or you can go prepare some fruit.” 
  • If possible, change your routine to go to sleep earlier and his routine to go to sleep later so you can wake up at the same time. 
A reversible Montessori floor bed (by Montessori Mother Materials)

Question 9

Why does my baby wake up every hour screaming? It’s as if he is afraid of being alone even though he is in a familiar and safe environment and has never had any traumatic experiences around sleep.

  • When a toddler passes out from exhaustion, this sleep will be more restless and involve more wake-ups at night. 
  • Waking up suddenly and crying is a natural response which comes from an instinct to react to threats of danger or being alone. The fear of being alone is a natural fear in all children . It isn’t only a sign of trauma. 
  • Communication before bed “I will be in my bed and come say good morning to you. “ “You woke up and felt worried. I am here for you. Spend time in the bedroom for a while before and after sleep so the room is not only a place of aloneness. 
  • Always be calm and understanding, translate her emotions, meet her where she’s at, let the fear pass for her and keep going with the day. 
  • The child’s emotions are very powerful in the moment, and when the moment has passed the emotion will have passed. Take a step back to observe how they are feeling, help them work through their emotions, and be their calm.

Question 10

We have a night routine and my toddler knows it very well. However, every night is a fight. He’s exhausted because he only sleeps 30 minutes to 1 hour during the day. He wakes every 2-3 hours crying or calls me for cuddles. How can I help him find rest? He is too stressed and so I am. 

  • It sounds like in this situation it becomes very had to manage because both child and parent are exhausted. 
  • Try to go to bed before reaching the point of exhaustion. Try to help them not get overstimulated during the day, which will help him relax at the end of the day. 
  • Crying is a natural form of expression and we can respond to it with 
  • Make sure that all of his sleeping situations are consistent so he can make the associations with where and how to find rest. 
  • If the tantrum every gets to much for you to handle, leave the room for a few minutes. Calm down, listen to a song or drink a cup of tea. Come back and explain “I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed to have a calm moment. I feel better and I am here for you now.”
  • Crying is a normal and healthy form of emotional expression. Be there for your toddler as they release all their emotions. If they push you away, give them space and let them know that you are nearby if they need you. 
  • Every time he wakes up you don’t need to run in straight away. Try to understand the cries and see if he needs something or is afraid. If he’s just woken up and is not really upset, give him a couple of minutes to see if he can get back to sleep by himself. If not, observe how he is feeling + if he needs anything, help him work through his emotions, and be his calm. 

Question 11

How will my child manage to sleep with a caretaker (kita, tagesmutter, babysitter)? What can I do to help?

  • Make sure that both you and your child trust the other carer completely before they start putting them to sleep. If you feel comfortable with the way they are going to put them to sleep, it will help your child to feel secure. You can help them to have success by giving information about your child’s sleep routine. Hopefully in day care they will not insist that the child has to fall asleep at first, but offer quiet rest time. 
  • Sleeping in this new way will become part of their normal daily group routine. Believe in your little one and trust that they can do it. 

Conclusion

At this age babies and toddlers are still not usually sleeping the same way that adults do. We would love for them to, but physically many are still developing the ability to sleep through the night. Sometimes they need help to learn how to get to sleep and how to get back to sleep when they wake up. The key is communicating with your partner, making a plan, and being consistent with your plan. Change, especially around sleep is difficult because the child is having to learn and process information while they are already tired. At first it will be hard but it will get better and you will be able to sleep through the night, at least hopefully, 80 percent of the time. 🙂

All of your had work will pay off and your child will learn how to relax and sleep when they are tired, a skill which will help them their entire life.

Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this interesting and helpful. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. 

-Katelynn

Our podcast episode on sleep >>>

You can now listen to the Montessori Mother Podcast on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify!

Montessori Materials

Montessori Mother | 10 Favorite Things

In this post I am sharing some of the favorite things in our classroom at Montessori Mother ELC, including 5 practical supplies and 5 Montessori materials. I may have been inspired by Oprah’s favorite things, but decided on just ten. 🙂 Some of these links are affiliated with Amazon, but they won’t cost you any extra. They are all links to products I have purchased myself for the school.

– practical items –

Silverware

This tiny 12pc set of very REAL silverware is what we use when we introduce solid foods to Baby and also what we use with the toddlers until 3. They are the perfect size proportionally for their little hands. The forks and knives are not sharp at all. The sorting tray is a great addition, but you need to paint it with some lacquer or oil to make it washable.

Potty

This is the little potty we have at the school which is very low and easy to use for the little ones. It’s also very easy to clean and has a lid that the child enjoys opening and closing. My favorite part is that is doesn’t do anything. It’s simple and functional and looks like an adult toilet.

Paint cups + matching brushes

At the easel I only give one or two colors of paint at a time. The matching cup and brush help the child to know where to put the brush after painting, how to keep the colors separate, and keep the space clean.

Toddler easel

Our easel is a small DIY project where I cut about 20cm off the length of an easel from IKEA, added paper clips to the top, and a stick-on hook for an apron, and pre-cut wide paper.

Cleaning supplies

The matching mops are made by Obi and can be shortened to child-size. The broom set is available in blue, green, or pink. It’s best to have a child-sized version of the cleaning utensils you already use at home so that you and the child can clean up together. All these are hung with metal hooks secured in the wall.

– Montessori materials –

Metal Coinbox

If you save coins when you travel you might already have some large coins to give to your little one to work with. This box is a treasured material in the toddler classroom. I keep large coins (old Deutsche marks) in a basket to the side and have attached the key to the handle with a ribbon so it won’t be lost.

Rubber band board

This is by far one of the most frequented materials in the classroom. The toddlers use it every day. In class I also keep the pegs and rubber bands separated in plastic containers (found at Rossmann) so no younger babies put the little pieces in their mouths.

Counting beads

This is one of the first materials we introduce for counting. You can present it with the beads to the side in a tray or basket. Through experience with this material, the child understands quantity. They learn the numbers through experience with you in the environment.

Introduction to numbers

Here is a discounted version of the Montessori spindle material I found. This should be introduced when your little one can already recognise number symbols. Introduce zero first, and gradually, the following numbers up to nine.

Introduction to writing

If your child is showing an early interest in writing, this material might be something you can use at home. It includes lowercase letters with a grooved inset for tracing with the finger or wooden stylus and an additional fine sand tray for writing the letters. *This is not an official Montessori material and wouldn’t necessarily be used in the classroom.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful!

-Katelynn

The Montessori Method

Gender equality in Montessori

According to numerous studies, children develop a socio-cognitive understanding of gender groups in the first 3 years of life and categorise themselves into one of those groups. (1) In this formative period, what should parents and educators do to support the child’s sense of equality? What role does gender equality play in the Montessori approach to education?

background

Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a person who challenged gender boundaries in medicine, politics, and of course, education. She was one of the first specialised female doctors in Italy, lectured internationally for women’s rights, and advocated for social reform through the Montessori approach to education.

The Montessori method is an education for life, preparing the whole individual to coexist with others in a peaceful world. For this reason Dr. Montessori knew that it was important for girls and boys to be educated together as equals. It was just as important that the boys learn the “practical life” skills of food preparation and cleaning the floors as it was that the girls study mathematics and science. (4) 

For all of the work Dr. Montessori did for education, women, children, disabled people, and science, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times!

gender-neutral elements of Montessori 

  • Montessori materials are available to all children at any time for them to follow their own interests and learn. 
  • The clothing children wear is chosen based on function, comfort, and protection rather than appearance or gender recognition.
  • Interactions between teacher and student are the same regardless of the child’s gender. It is the work of the Montessori teacher to make their own personal transformation into a being of love and knowledge so that they can create a secure place for children to learn, absorb, experience, and explore.
  • The responsibilities given to each child to be safe and courteous to others apply to all children, regardless of their gender.
  • Colours of the furniture, materials, clothing, and environment are not directed or intended for any specific gender.
  • Books found in a Montessori classroom would not reinforce any gender norms. If possible, they will actually challenge them.
  • We respect and accept each child, including their gender identity.

social gender

As soon as the gender of a child has been assigned, their social gender is often immediately assigned too: what colour their clothes will be, what kind of toys they will have at home, and what their future hobbies, careers, and relationships may look like.  (2) How is the child’s life then based in equality if so many parts of it have already been decided, sometimes before they were even born?

“Until the adults consciously face their errors and correct them, they will find themselves in a forest of insoluble problems.  And children becoming in their turn adult, will be victims of the same error, which they will transmit from generation to generation.”

— DR. MARIA MONTESSORI, THE CHILD IN THE FAMILY

*Social gender is the way one expresses their gender identity. It also includes the way a society perceives gender. Finally social gender includes the way society encourages conformity to gender norms through gender roles and expectations.  

There is NO need for gendered baby clothing. 

The only general requirements for children’s clothing are that it

  • is suitable for the climate 
  • facilitates freedom of movement
  • encourages collaboration + independence

Dressing babies in feminine or masculine clothing based on their gender assignment enforces conformity to current gender norms and subjects the child to stereotyping. In a perfect world this would not happen. Clothing and accessories for children are not supposed to be a way of preventing them from being misgendered. Babies and toddlers have no masculine or feminine traits; they are all equal. 

*note Gendered clothing for babies and toddlers, at least in the United States, was not popularised until the 1950’s when pink for girls and blue for boys became a gendered colour convention. Increasingly since the 1980’s babies and toddlers have been wearing outfits similar to adult clothing. 

There is NO need for gendered baby toys.

Studies show that babies and toddlers do not distinguish between stereotypically feminine or masculine objects according to their own gender, but rather are interested in the toys which are familiar to them. (3)

Over the years I have had many male and female toddler students who are interested in woodworking, dressing up, cooking, caring for younger babies, running and jumping. All the assertions by parents you’ve ever heard such as, “she won’t like that because she’s a girl” or “he needs to do this because he’s a boy” or “boys/girls are so…” are unfounded and based on gender biases, stereotypes, and myths. Babies and toddlers have no masculine or feminine traits; they are all equal. 

other blogposts about Montessori materials and activities for 0-3

Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this blogpost interesting and useful.
– Katelynn

references

  1. “Children and gender identity: Supporting your child”: a medical article by Mayo Clinic
     https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/children-and-gender-identity/art-20266811#:~:text=Most%20children%20typically%20develop%20the,gender%20by%20age%203%20years.
  2. “Understanding Gender”: a medical article by gender spectrum
     https://genderspectrum.org/articles/understanding-gender
  3. “Early androgens, activity levels and toy choices of children in the second year of life”: a psychology article by Texas A&M University
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230810604_Early_androgens_activity_levels_and_toy_choices_of_children_in_the_second_year_of_life
  4. “Dr. Maria Montessori, Feminist”: a blogpost from The New Inquiry
    https://thenewinquiry.com/blog/dr-maria-montessori-feminist/
Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

Practical life in the Montessori Toddler Community

montessori toddler classroom, wooden staircase, art area, montessori table and chairs, toddler environment, infant community, shelfie, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova

WHAT IS PRACTICAL LIFE?

Practical life work is the cornerstone of Montessori from 0 to 3. Caring for the environment and self-care is the greatest goal of the walking toddler. Now that they can carry themselves upright like adults, they want to achieve total functional independence. Their school can offer rich opportunities to reach functional independence because the entire classroom should be prepared to suit their needs. At school the teacher is observing them constantly and can change the environment for them. This means offering concrete practical experiences by which children can do purposeful work and have success in doing so. This is the work which will open the door to responsibility and self-awareness, and link the child to the world.

The activities are called ‘Exercises in Practical life’ because real everyday life is carried on in which all housework is entrusted to the little ones who execute, with devotion and accuracy, their domestic duties becoming singularly calm and dignified.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori. The Discovery of the Child. Ch. 3.

Das Kind Magazine

For the full version of this article (translated in German!) and other Montessori inspiration by the Deutsche Montessori Gesellschaft, you can sign up for biannual issues of “Das Kind” magazine for €20 a year.

PRACTICAL LIFE FOR NORMALISATION

In Montessori we refer to “normalisation” as the integration of intellect and movement. Especially for children who struggle to find peace and balance, through practical life they find opportunities to create order, repeat movements, explore the senses through manipulation, move freely, and imitate adults.

Movement is the secret for holding the attention of the child.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child I

Activities in practical life have a cycle of preparing the work, concentrating on the process, and satisfied rest once the work is complete.

GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICAL LIFE

  • Organise activities in the appropriate areas.
    Water materials should be near the water source; tooth brushing should be in the bathroom; and so on…
  • Each activity has its own place in the environment.
  • Every activity is complete.
    The presentation of the material should be logical so that the child can follow the use of the material easily. Have extra materials available in case something needs to be replaced.
  • The characteristics of the materials should be appropriate for the child.
    Weight, size, fragility, and other factors must be considered.
  • Make the materials beautiful.
  • Colour code the materials.
    Most of the materials should be matching. This is for the sake of beautiful presentation and to remind the child which materials go together. If an activity is not colour coded it does not need to be excluded from the environment.
  • Use points of interest.
  • Points of interest encourage the use and repetition of materials. This may include sensorial experiences such as making bubbles, fogging a mirror, or anything that is exciting and interesting for the child.
  • Only keep a limited number of materials.
    There are few materials of which we have many. For example, you may have several cutting knives so multiple children can cut together in the kitchen area. However, in principle there should be only one of each exercise. This teaches the child to wait for his turn and respect the work of others.
  • Check the activities often.
    Prepare the environment before the children arrive and constantly over the course of the day. Check every exercise to make sure that everything is clean and ready to use. If you find an abandoned mess, invite a child to help you. If no children clean up with you, clean it yourself with precision, in case a child might be observing you. If you don’t have time to clean at that moment, take the material out of the environment and finish cleaning it later.
  • Practice your presentation until it is done normally and beautifully before you present it to the children.
  • Observe the child and make changes you observe help them to have success.

HOW TO PRESENT PRACTICAL LIFE MATERIALS

  1. Invite the child.
    Approach the child and model how to get someone’s attention respectfully. Give an enthusiastic invitation which is not a question, nor a command.
  2. Go together with the child.
    Keep the child’s pace. You may offer your hand to the child and the child may accept it or not.
  3. Involve the child.
    During the first presentation, do only the first half of the work and let the child finish it.
  4. Analysis of movement
    Observe your own movements: how fast they are, how you stand, if you are blocking the child’s vision…
  5. Language
    Give the child the names for things before presenting. This is done by isolating the noun or verb and avoiding moving while speaking. “sponge”
  6. Be aware of your body posture.
    When you bend over, bend the knees and lean forward slightly. Remain standing. Don’t squat or kneel less the child could also squat or kneel.
  7. Wear aprons
    The adult and the child both put on an apron when the activity calls for it.
  8. Let the child take over the work.
    When the child shows they want to take over some work, let them take it over. As soon as a child loses their concentration on a new task, you should be nearby and ready to get involved. Sometimes letting child hold something or fetch something for you is enough to let them feel involved.
  9. Clean up.
    As soon as you see a working child has lost concentration, you should get involved and give the clean-up presentation. Always encourage the child to clean up independently. If need be, you can go back over spills or fix small things in the material later. Children often forget or don’t clean up and need to be reminded to do it. This doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy cleaning.

a photo tour of the practical life in our classroom

– WELCOME TO MONTESSORI CLASS! –

montessori dressing area, frames, ikea hack, shoe shelf, shoe brushing, spice rack, book display, frame display, toddler shoes, cube chair, selfcare, nienhuis, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Get ready!
    The first thing toddlers do when they come into class is sit down, take off their shoes, put them in a “special place on the shelf”, hang up their jackets, and put on their indoor slippers. They feel so proud as they put their things away and get to work.
  • Cleaning shoes
    If they are very interested in shoes, there are also two shoe brushes fastened to the side of the shoe shelf where they can clean all their friends’ shoes and even the parents’ if they like.
montessori toddler sink ikea hack, watter source, child sink, montessori bathroom, practical life, hand washing work
photo by Chad Chittenden
  • Washing hands

Having a low source of running water is by far the greatest resource I feel that the environment offers toddlers. As soon as they are standing, they can stand in fascination for minutes letting the tiny stream of water fall over their fingertips and turning the spout on and off. The sink satisfies the sensitive period for water and gives the child access to all the water-based practical life activities. It allows them to explore and “play” with water, while having the responsibility and focus of purposeful work.

montessori potty, toilet awareness, potty awareness, elimination communication, prepared environment, montessori toilet
  • Toilet Awareness

    In the bathroom there is this beautifully and simply prepared area for potty learning where little ones can practically explore their interest in the potty and learn how to use it Montessori-style.

– WORKING IN THE KITCHEN –

orange juice toddler making orange juice montessori practical life, food zone ikea cups, bed bath and beyond mini orange juicer, montessori snack, functional independence, montessori kita school in berlin
toddler cutting a bamama using a joie crinckle cutter toddler knife in the prepared kitchen area of montessori mother learning center in berlin, germany. This encourages funtional independence and the child can prepare food for himself whenever he feels hungry
photos by Kerly Ilves

  • Get a drink

When toddlers feel thirsty, they can go to the kitchen area and take a cup and pour themselves some water from a pitcher which comes out of a dispenser or prepare themselves fresh orange juice made from toddler-sized mandarins.

  • Prepare a snack

When the feel hungry they can go to the kitchen and prepare a snack for themselves. I always put out 2 food preparation activities at the child’s level, one group snack preparation activity (at my level to bring down and do with the children), orange juice squeezing work, and the water dispenser with just a minimal amount of water inside. As my trainer Patricia Wallner would say, “Never put out more water than you are willing to mop up.”  🙂 Food preparation activities include cutting bananas, cucumbers, or strawberries, peeling pears, peeling mandarins or hard-boiled eggs, plucking grapes, cracking peanuts, and spreading cream cheese on crackers.

This dishwashing station is one of the montessori practical life tables which we diy made from an ikea bathroom shelf hack, muender email enamel, and montessori design by nuccia polka dot toddler apron. Toddlers wash their own dishes when they want to in the montessori infant community or playgroup and have fun playing with water in a purposeful work way.
  • Washing the dishes

Sometimes after eating or drinking a toddler may want to wash their dish or those of their classmates. I also put out 2 “dirty” metal plates each class with just a little bit of coffee grounds on top to give the opportunity to make a distinct dirty-then-clean connection.

beautiful montessori dish washing presentation with child-sized materials and muener email white enamel basins a dish brush and mini bottle of soapy water
photo by Karen Ong

PRESENTATION:
The child fills the basins with water, squeezes/shakes in some liquid soap (90% water, 10% baby-safe dish soap). They carefully choose which single dish they would like to wash. Often, they enjoy using it to transfer water between basins – a beautiful discovery. After they have finished washing the dish, they set it to dry on the rack and pour out the basins into the bucket. They bring the bucket to their low sink and dump it out. After replacing the materials, they mop up any spills with a mop for the floor or a towel for anywhere else.


– CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT –

Taking care of their environment is a toddler’s favourite activity because it is their way of connecting and having an impact on the world around them.

our montessori cleaning area is beautifulluy color coded in blue to support the montessori sensitive period for order in children and toddlers from twelve months to six years. this area includes mopping child mop and adult mop from obi in berlin, a table washing cart handmade by montessorimmaterials in berlin with muender email enamel so toddlers can care of the environment in berlin's first montessori playgroup, sweeping toddler proom and dustpan, and wall photo duster for toddlers and babies to clean all hanging from string loops off wall hooks to support order at the child's level
photo by Chad Chittenden
  •  Washing the table

Presentation: When you or the child notice that a table is dirty, invite them to wash it. The child fills the pitcher of water and pours it into the basin. Replace the pitcher in the basket. Wheel the cart to the table which they would like to wash. Wet the brush and soap and rub the bar of soap into the brush. Show the child how to scrub the table and let them try. After the table is scrubbed replace the brush and take the sponge. Slowly wet the sponge and squeeze it out – invite the child to try. The child wipes the table. Show the child where to put the sponge. Use the mitt to dry the table. Invite the child to clean another table. When they are finished, dump the water from the basin to the bucket. Carry the bucket to dump it out. Replace the bucket. Push the cart back to its place.

*This cart was made by hand with love by Montessori Mother Materials*

  • Mopping
    The toddler’s fascination with mopping is truly beautiful. Once the floor was wet, and now it’s dry! One of the first signs I see when a baby is becoming a toddler, is that they start mopping! In the toddler class, the mop is almost constantly in use because toddlers often spill drops of water when they do practical life and are eager to mop up every drop.  
  • Sweeping

It’s quite difficult for toddlers to sweep something up and dump it into the trash. They love concentrating on this work and doing their best. I also have a small vacuum they can use to clean up messes if they spill sand or soil.

  • Dusting

Recently I added the duster to our cleaning area for dusting the walls and picture frames. Because brooms and mops can only be used on the floors, I found that the toddlers also needed something to clean the walls with and this was important to many of them. As Montessori guides we must observe the child’s needs and adapt the environment to meet them where they are at.

using an aquarium in the toddler classroom or montessori kita toddlers love to feed the fish in this quiet cozy reading zen corner of the environment which is very meditative, small, sunny, and beautiful. It also supports a love and respect for life nature while encouraging gentleness and calm around smaller living things.
photo by Kerly Ilves
  • Feeding the fish
    Feeding the fish teaches respect for other life. It is also so relaxing to watch the fish swim around and can help the toddlers find calm.
Montessori cloth washing station with a polkadot apron by montessori design by nuccia and drying rack red enamel in the prepared montessori toddler community environment
photo by Karen Ong
  • Washing cloths
    Cloth washing is one of the most advanced practical life activities for toddlers who really need to exercise their concentration and do work involving lots of movement and multiple steps of varying difficulty.
montessori toddler sink filling up red polka dot pitcher made from enamel for the practical life cloth washing table station the sink is in the prepared montessori bathroom with mini sink from ikea
  • AGE: from 2 years
    PRESENTATION:
  • Invite the child to put on an apron with you. Ask them to choose which cloth from the bucket they would like to wash. Put the cloth in the left basin. Invite the child to fill the pitcher and carry it to the basin. Fill the first basin and go back for more water to fill the second. After soaking the cloth with water, demonstrate how to lather the cloth with the soap bar and scrub it. Wring out the cloth and hang it on the clothesline. Both of you take a clothespin and secure the cloth. Invite the child to wash another cloth by themselves. When they are finished washing or lose concentration, begin the cleanup process. Put the bucket on the floor. Each of you pour a basin of water into the bucket. Let the child carry the bucket of water to the sink and empty it. Replace the bucket and use the mitt to dry the basins and table. Mop up any spills. Hang up the apron.
montessori window washing small mini spray bottle from nienhuis special toddler sized water work practical life in the montessori parent child community playgroup in berlin germany
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Washing windows
    This is material is a very popular material on the shelf. Toddlers love to go all around the school and spray the windows, glass doors, mirrors, and aquarium with this tiny spray bottle and watch the water slowly run down. They use a squeegee and a small towel mitt to wipe up the water. Older toddlers like to bring a step stool so they can clean even higher. It is one of the best materials for very active toddlers because it offers movement, water, and clear before + after results.

– SHARING CULTURE WITH TODDLERS –

The child has the potential to incarnate any human characteristic, language, religious/spiritual connection, and culture. Here are two practical life activities for sharing culture with toddlers.

montessori wooden stair art hanging work choosing the photo art to hang on the wall in the montessori toddler community environment in my montessori parent child playgroup in berlin
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Hanging art

This material allows the child to choose which art they would like to hang on the wall. In the basket there are various famous paintings, photographs and drawings by famous artists like Van Gough and Renoir.

culture practical life activity decorating a holiday christmas tree with toddlers
  • Decorating a holiday tree

    Over the holidays the toddlers really enjoyed decorating this real tree with baby-safe ornaments and bead strings.

– CARING FOR PLANTS –

montessori sweeping watering can green garden work on wall hooks prepared in the montessori care of the outdoor environment in nature farm to table little ikea wall shelf
toddler watering the flowers barefoot in child garden in montessori school in berlin germany
  • Working in the garden

In the garden the toddlers really enjoy watering the flowerbeds, planting seeds, sweeping the deck, blowing bubbles, jumping on the trampoline, exploring the sandbox, and collecting the herbs and strawberries they grew.  

plants in the child's room classroom in montessori caring for nature, basket of balls, white monhtessori shelf, cube shelf, plant watering work purple mini ikea watering can, flower arranging, practical life, tulips
  • Flower arranging
    In this sunny corner toddlers can water their plants and arrange fresh flowers into tiny vases. These flower arrangements adorn our table during the group snack time. Usually one toddler arranges all three and carefully places them side by side on the table with lace doilies underneath.
  • Plant watering work for babies
    It’s such a special experience when children are discovering plants, how to care for them, and thus how to respect other living things.

    AGE: standing/12 months
    PRESENTATION:
    The first time I present this to a child I fill the watering can myself and invite them to watch me water the plant. I slowly pour half the water into the soil, using two hands. Then I set it down and invite the child to try. They will water the plant or possibly spill on the floor or try to drink the water. This is okay because they are learning! Use the sponge or towel to wipe up the spill. Invite the child to re-fill the pitcher of water. If the child is still not walking confidently, I fill the pitcher again for them with a very small amount of water from another pitcher which I keep at my level.

– LIFE SKILLS –

  • Self-Care

Toddlers love themselves deeply. In their self-care area children have access to several activities such as brushing + combing hair, wiping their nose with a tissue and tossing it in the waste basket, applying face cream (baby lotion), and trying on hats and sunglasses.

toddler beading sewing activity life skills practical life shelf work, montessori materials, wooden beads, sewing activity
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Sewing
    In our classroom an entire shelf is dedicated to threading and sewing activities arranged from the simplest to most challenging. Eventually the toddlers can embroider with a yarn needle – work which they tape off and get to take home with them.
montessori woodworking station by ikea with a light and small todler tools so children can use wood and tools, saw, drill, hammer, nails, screwing, srewdriver, bamboo broom and dustpan, ikea pegboard and stool, made by montessori mother materials, the only montessori playgroup toddler classroom in germany montessori kita school in berlin
montessori woodworking station toddler sawing using a saw with soft balsa wood, cutting wood safely with asaw, montessori moments
photo and materials by
Chad Chittenden
(Montessori Mother Materials)
  • Woodworking station
    Woodworking is a very special area of pride in our school. Humans have the natural tendency to use tools to do their work. Not surprisingly the presentations for these materials are very short, because toddlers as young as 12 months can use them intuitively.

    IN PRACTICE:
    Each tool has its own pre-prepared block which fits into the table insert. This keeps the block stable, isolates the difficulty of the tool, and supports the sensitive period for order. Toddlers love to sit at this station and go through all the tools which are arranged from least to most difficult, bottom to top, right to left. The presentations are hammering nails, wearing goggles, unscrewing screws, cutting soft balsa wood strips with a saw, sanding, and drilling holes. There is a small broom and dustpan available for sweeping up sawdust.

– GROUP WORK –

group practical life, community toddler snack time and washing the table wiping with sponges and small mini toddler-sized water spray bottle
adorable toddler with visor at montessori class in berlin's only montessori playgroup
toddler baking day making banana muffins with ikea aprons working together as a group mini muffin trays and banana mashing
tea brewing work for toddlers garden farm to table mint and lavender tea for toddlers to make for themself and their friends
  • Group snack
    After the toddler work cycle one or two toddlers volunteer to prepare the snack and dishes for everyone. They push the food and plates to in a cart over to the table and sit down together. I invite each child individually to join us at the table where they may serve themselves or each other food and water.
  • Wiping the table
    After snack the toddlers can help clean up by wiping the table with sponges and water, putting their dirty dishes back on the cart and bringing the cart to the kitchen. Usually the interested toddlers do this for the rest of the group.
  • Baking days
    In addition to preparing snack for each other, once per month we have a baking day when we make muffins or cookies and enjoy them together at the end of class.
  • Brewing tea
    AGE: from 2.5 years, or when the child uses scissors
    Brewing tea using the mint and lavender leaves from our garden is the closest experience available in my school to a farm-to-table experience. They carefully brew the tea for their friends and enjoy it together at the table.

– SAY “GOODBYE” –

After a long morning of hard work, we gather together and sing songs. Then we say ‘goodbye’ before toddlers and carers get ready to go home.

montessori dressing area toddler wardrobe montessori practical life shelf, work carpet, montessori mother and parent and child
photo by Natalia Smirnova

Thank you for joining me on this practical life tour through the Montessori Toddler Class! I hope you found it useful and interesting.


You can learn more about our school HERE > About Montessori Mother ELC

You can order Montessori furniture + materials HERE > Montessori Mother Materials

Photographers:
Natalia Smirnova
Kerly Ilves
Chad Chittenden
Karen Ong

Montessori at Home

Materials for Montessori-at-Home

The home offers so many opportunities for developmental activities. In this blog post I have recommended different DIY activity ideas and my Amazon material recommendations listed by age. These are all materials that the children use in class which inspire concentration and teach new skills.

0-6 months

How to make your own Montessori mobiles: (free downloadable instructions)

The purpose of Montessori Mobiles is to stimulate sight, hearing, touch, and eye-hand coordination, and to enable the child to discover how he is able to interact with his environment and produce change within it.

You can use this guide to make your own naturally-moving Montessori mobiles out of simple crafting materials. 

If you purchase the Montessori mobiles included in the MontiKids Level 1 Newborn Box, you can get 60,00 euros off with the code MONTESSORIMOTHER60.

Montessori Teething and Grasping Toy

This is a favourite baby toy because it is so easy to see and to grasp onto. It also doesn’t roll away as quickly as perfectly round balls so it serves as an inspiration for crawling short distances. (€5,99)

6-16 months

How to make your own Montessori boxes

“Montessori materials do not necessarily have to be purchased at a high price, not even for small children and especially not at home. Some things can also be made very quickly using very simple means, such as this box with a crocheted ball for squeezing into the box. So simple and yet a material that has a lot to offer.” ~ blogpost by Anna, Eltern Vom Mars

3 einfache DIY Montessori-Materialien für Kleinkinder – Eltern Vom Mars

Peg board with rings

Babies love to work with pegs. First they take them out of their holes and eventually they are able to put them back and release using the pincer grasp. I love this material because it offers so many levels of difficulty and can grow with your baby gradually over 12 months. (€24,99)

16 months – 4 years

How to make a DIY gluing box

The Montessori gluing box is a fun activity for toddlers which is about learn glue and a gluing brush. Older toddlers can also make detailed and colourful collages. Here is another DIY guide from Eltern vom Mars which includes a baby-safe recipe for glue.

Ein simples DIY Montessori Klebekästchen und ein Rezept für selbstgemachten, ungiftigen Leim – Eltern Vom Mars

Magnetic Drawing Board

This is one of the top favourite activities in the Montessori baby and toddler class. It gives the opportunity to practice grasping and drawing. They also train eye-hand coordination and concentration by pushing the metal beads down with their pointer finger. (€9,99)

I hope you found this post helpful and interesting!

The Montessori Method

Montessori Mixed Age Groups: in school & with siblings at home

toddlers doing practical life work in montessori class

at home

Tips on the Montessori home environment for siblings

  • arrange the environment or play space so that both children can use it at the same time (for example, a movement mat for baby and a table and chair for your older child can be near each other so that they can learn from each other through observation)
  • instead of buying multiple versions of the same thing, teach siblings that if a material is in use, it’s unavailable. It it is not in use, it is available to either sibling
  • if one sibling wants something the other is using, teach them to trade for a reasonable alternative instead of just taking it
  • organise the shelf so that the materials on the lower part are intended for younger siblings, and materials on the top of the shelf are intended for the older siblings
  • keep any small parts in containers which only the older child can open. This is a safety precaution that allows your 3+ child to satisfy their need to work with tiny items and keeps your under 2 child safe
siblings without rivalry montessori book recommendation

Book Recommendation: “Siblings without Rivalry” by Adele Faber

in school

For a school to be considered Montessori, each class must have mixed age groups. Maria Montessori stressed the importance at least a 3 year age difference in a class (3-6, 6-9, and 9-12 years). In 0-3 we separate the classes from 2-16 months and 16 months to 3 years because the big changes the child goes through in the first years of life require differently prepared the environments.

toddler doing coinbox material work at montessori table in class

why a mixed age group is the best way to support learning and growth

1. each child is in one area the teacher and in another, the learner

Mixed-age groups are the ideal platform for learning responsible behaviour and mutual respect. Everyone is at some point the smallest or the largest, sometimes the strong or the weak, the person seeking help, or the helper. In Montessori young children grow up caring for each other and nurturing their self-esteem, self-confidence, and respect and empathy for others.

In Montessori children can strengthen their knowledge by demonstrating or communicating it to others. Younger also seem to be most at ease when surrounded by older children and enjoy learning from them by observing them with silent fascination.

2. every child has room to grow at their own pace

Having all the materials within the age group available at the child’s level, allows them to advance onto the next challenge when they are ready. It also makes it possible for them to follow their interest and advance in their strongest areas, while still being able to enjoy learning in others which are more challenging. Because teachers do not have to set the instruction pace by a whole group, each child is given the ability to learn at his or her own pace in every aspect of their development. 

3. it allows for cooperation over comparison

When there is an age difference, older and younger children are able to work together to achieve a goal and solve problems. When every child is expected to be at the same stage in their development, it opens the door for competition. No longer do we see each child’s individual skills and abilities, we see which child can do the same thing better and faster.  Children will help each other when cleaning up after work, putting things away, caring for the environment, and caring for each other. 

toddler choosing wall art in montessori class

the big picture

This relationship of mutual care and respect, of self awareness, and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of others make Montessori mixed-age classrooms the ideal place for learning peaceful conflict resolution.

The Montessori approach is an Education for Peace and mixed age groups is its cornerstone.

– all photos by Natalia Smirnova

Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

Baking with Toddlers | Lemon Cookies

toddlers baking lemon cookies, montessori-style

For our baking days this month the toddlers will bake lemon thumbprint cookies in pairs. The cookies turned out deliciously – I even baked an extra batch for the parents to enjoy! 🙂 In this blogpost I will walk you through how I prepare this baking workshop and share with you the vegan, gluten-free recipe that I used with my students. Enjoy!

Step 1: Prepare the trays

I had to practice the workshop a few times to make sure that the trays were set up for the toddlers to have maximum success during the workshop! The proportions also had to be perfect. In the end I used the recipe below divided into 5 portions to be baked by 10 toddlers working in pairs. Here’s how >>>

download recipe card:

(for 15 thumbprint cookies)

Step 2: Set out the mixing bowls and first trays

Two toddlers are sharing one mixing bowl and one tray of work. On each tray there are at least two tasks to make sure that every child has something to do during the whole workshop.

The reason I don’t give each toddler their own bowl and tray is because
a – I like for them to work together on group cooking projects like these
b – If one child is not interested and leaves their work, the other can continue
c – Children of different ages can work together on tasks of varying difficulty

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Transferring the dried flowers (rose petals and lavender) using the pincer grasp
  • Transferring the sugar using a spoon
  • Pouring the lemon juice
  • Zesting the lemon using a cheese grater (grater from Joie)
  • Mixing it all together (wooden spoon from Ikea set)
  • Smelling the sweet, citrusy scent*

Step 3: Set out second trays

As the pairs finish mixing – in their own time- you can remove everything except the mixing bowl and wooden spoon. I set them up and bring them the next tray.

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Chopping the margarine using a toddler knife (from Tescoma or Joie)
  • Transferring the flour mixture using a spoon
  • Mashing the margarine (masher from Ikea set)

Step 4: Form cookies and arrange on baking trays

I bought a mini baking tray for each toddler so they could make their own cookie forms. This is done by rolling the dough into a ball, placing it on the baking sheet, and pressing the thumb down. After each child finished arranging their cookies, They placed them on a large tray and started washing up.

TIPS:

  • I pre-cut parchment paper for the mini baking sheets to save myself time with cleaning
  • If the cookies are too large or too thin they won’t all bake properly, so I had to re-shape a few of them before putting them into the oven
  • You MUST pre-heat the oven before putting the cookies in or the will spread
  • The cookies are finished baking when the tops are dry. If they start to brown on the edges they are burned.

Step 5: Cleanup

I prepared 2 basins with a small amount of warm water, 6 half sponges, 4 dry rags, and 2 broom and dustpan sets. The toddlers had just as much fun cleaning up as they did baking, maybe more. 🙂

Step 6: Decorating the cookies (optional)

For the Open Day Baking Workshop we decorated our cookies by spreading lemon frosting and sprinkling dried coconut. This was such a cute touch and the toddlers loved it. However since frosting is so sugary, this step is, of course, optional. The cookies are also delicious without frosting. 🙂 I have included the fluffly lemon frosting recipe below.

FROSTING RECIPE:

To decorate 30 thumbprint cookies – whip together the ingredients below and cool frosting in the refridgerator while baking.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons softened margarine
  • 10 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp applecider vinegar

Extra cookies were sent home in a paper cup and mini paper sack. 🙂

The Montessori Method

Montessori Food Q+A

Montessori weaning in the parent-infant class
Snack time in the Montessori Baby Class where babies enjoy food together and parents learn about Montessori-style weaning.

This blog post is common question and answer style discussion about Montessori Weaning, food-related difficulties with toddlers, play food, and links to a great Montessori mealtime set. I hope you find it very practical and helpful! 

1 | Montessori Weaning

“How does Montessori weaning work?”

Montessori weaning is a child-led approach to the transition from milk to solid foods. We use real, child-sized dishes, glasses, and cutlery to make their experience similar to they way they see us eat. A great place to introduce Baby’s first food is at the family table during a family meal. After you start introducing solid foods, your baby will decide how fast or slow you change to eating food all the time. Start a meal with the food you have chosen, and finish the meal with milk. Gradually baby will take more solid food and less milk until they are completely weaned.

“When should we introduce solid foods?”

In Montessori we follow the child’s interest and natural path of development. Baby’s interest in food sparks around 6 months old. They will start to reach for food at the table, to watch with fascination while you are eating. They have probably had their first tooth and they will be sitting comfortably with support. This is a great time to start introducing new flavours and drinking water from an open glass.

“What are some good 1st foods?”

What you give as your baby’s first food is up to you, your culture, and their interest. You can give juices, broths, soft solid vegetables, soft fruits, purees, or tastes of what you are eating during family meals.

babies eating bread and strawberries at Montessori weaning table
These babies have the choice between strawberries and soft bread.

2 | Refusing food

“My child just isn’t interested in food!”

There are multiple reasons why children refuse foods. Sometimes they don’t feel hungry; sometimes they are too tired/overstimulated/not feeling well and will prefer milk. Having scheduled mealtimes also makes a big difference because your child can feel when it’s time to eat based on your daily routine and prepare themselves.

Starting each meal/snack time with 2 solid food options allows the child to choose which food they want to eat and how much. You can finish each meal with milk to make sure that they get all the nutrition that they need. If they have refused a food, have patience, stay positive, and keep offering different options. If you are concerned about how much your child is eating, please speak with your paediatrician.

toddler eats at Montessori table
A toddler enjoying strawberries during snack time, which he cut for himself in Montessori Toddler Class.

3 | Family Meals

“My child doesn’t want to sit at the table.”

First you should set the general expectation that when we eat, we eat at the table. If they are hungry, I promise that they will sit with you and eat. When they are done and they want to leave the table, put the food away together. Do not to continue to feed them or give snacks while they walk around. This is distracting and it sends the mixed message that food comes to them and they can eat it wherever they like. Remember to have patience and stay positive. 🙂 You are the parent and you are setting a kind, but firm limit.

“My toddler wants me to play with him during meal times.”

Family meals give babies a lot of information and language. They should be able to participate as an equal member of the family by having a place for themselves at the table – to join you in eating or just observing. If they want to go play after they have finished eating, that’s fine, but you also need to finish your mealtime. You can let your little one know that after you have finished and cleaned up you will be happy to play with him, but at the moment it’s meal time so they are welcome to sit with you at the table or play in their space until you are able to join them.

Our adjustable weaning table by Community Playthings and handmade cube chairs by Montessori Mother Materials

4 | Throwing food

“What should I do when my child throws food?”

If you are trying to feed your child and they are throwing food, maybe they are not hungry enough to eat right now or they have finished their food. If they have finished eating, they we should set the example that throwing food isn’t appropriate by removing the food and cleaning up together. If they are not hungry, you can try again to sit down an eat in 30 minutes.  Make sure to give at least two options with meals so they can decide which food they want to eat.

Snack table in our Montessori Toddler Class

5 | Using real food + dishes

“Why don’t you use toy food in Montessori?”

In Montessori we always give real objects so that children can have their own experiences and learn about real life. Toddlers are fascinated by cooking and eating, something that they have observed adults doing for their whole lives and they are even more interested when they have the opportunity to do it themselves. So instead of a wooden banana with velcro, give them a real banana and a dull knife (link below) and they can cut it themselves and prepare their own snack!

How great is it that when they feel hungry they can know where to go and what to do to feed themselves. As long as you prepare a space for them in the kitchen where they can do this easily and safely, they won’t have to ask an adult each time they feel a bit peckish. They can meet their own need until the family mealtime. You can start doing this with simple snacks as soon as your little one is walking-around 16 months. Just empty out a low cabinet or shelf and put there a little try or box with one favourite snack in it that they are allowed to take and eat at any time. It helps if they have their own little table nearby where they can sit, prepare, and enjoy it as well.

“Why do you give real glasses and plates to babies?”

We always use real cups, dishes, and cutlery with our babies and toddlers in Montessori. Using plastic spoons and dishes and water bottles is not necessary. We should trust the child enough to  allow them the same pleasant experience we expect when eat. 

6 | A Montessori Mealtime Set

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How to set up a Montessori play area at home (from birth to 3 years)

What are the reasons for using Montessori education at home?

1.Our absolute main goal is to support the child’s mental and physical development. First we are aware of what the child’s needs are, and then we prepare the space for them, so that they can follow their natural path of development with everything in their environment is available to them to use to meet each developmental need. 

2. Understanding the child also makes parenting them more peaceful and more joyous because it takes away our struggles and frustration of every-day tasks like getting dressed, going off to sleep, etc 

3. At home, you are often able to allow your child to have more control over their learning than they have at school. When children have more control over their learning, they are able to face challenges, grow their creativity, and become more resilient. They have to be self-aware, resourceful, and confident in their capabilities in order to solve their own problems. 

4. Finally, Montessori is an education for life and gives children a love for learning so that they can succeed in every other area of their life. 

Parts of the Montessori 0-3 Environment

When we talk about the home environment from 0-3, we are looking at 4 general zones of the child’s space. They are the sleep, care, food, and movement areas. In this blogpost, we are going  to focus mostly on the movement area because that’s usually what people think about when we talk about Montessori and the other areas can be different for every family.

The toddler (5m-walking) play area includes…

· low, light-weight table and chairsprovides a comfortable place where the child can focus on their work
· cleaning suppliesteaches responsibility and allows child to do practical life work
· toddler shelf with 6-10 materials organises the toddler’s materials for most success
· easelprovides a comfortable place for artistic expression
· access to water sourceallows the toddler basic access to drinking water and water for practical life (just a small amount)
· plant with watering canteaches how to care for nature
· 3-8 books on a low Montessori bookshelf or basketchild can grow a love for reading
· wall art hung at eye levelbeautifies the space + gives visual information
· reading loungegives the child a comfortable place to enjoy their books

The baby (5m-walking) play area includes…

· larger movement mat or regular carpetallows Baby to move freely, easily, and safely
· mirror on the wall with pull-up barprovides motivations and opportunities to stand
· low shelf with 6-8 materials organises Baby’s materials for maximum success
· push wagonallows Baby to walk independently and practice balance
· tactile mobilestrains the grasp and supports concentration
· plant with small watering pitcherteaches how to care for nature
· 3 books on a low Montessori bookshelf or basketchild can grow a love for reading
· wall art hung near to floorbeautifies the space + gives visual information
· place to climbstairs, a Pikler triangle, or bridge offer a defined climbing area

The newborn (0-5m) play area includes…

· firm movement matallows Baby to move freely, easily, and safely
· low horizontal mirrorgives visual feedback on movements; allows Baby to see more of the environment
· low shelf with 3-6 materials or booksprovides motivation to crawl
· visual mobilesgives gentle stimulation and supports visual development
Montikids $60 off code: MONTESSORIMOTHER60
· plantshares an appreciation for life and nature
· wall art hung near to floorbeautifies the space + gives visual information

I hope you found this helpful and interesting! I will go more into detail about materials and other zones of the environment in separate blogposts.

Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials

15 Montessori gifts for 0-3

Here are 5 Montessori gifts for newborns, babies, and toddlers that are perfect for Christmas, Chanukah, birthdays, or just because!

I hope this list will make getting gifts for your little ones this year a bit easier – whether you’re looking for your own child or your relatives are wondering what to buy for them.

These Montessori materials, furniture, and non-toxic toys range in price from 6 to 240 € and are made by various brands in Germany, France, and Sweden. I have separated them into three age groups: newborn (0-6m), baby (6-14m), and toddler (14-36m)

Gifts for newborns 0-6 months

MUNARI MOBILE

The first Montessori material from birth is the Munari mobile. Its high contrast colour allows Baby to focus on it. The geometric elements are designed with specific proportions that ignite a child’s inherent mathematical sense. It moves naturally with the air in the room so that it’s slow enough for their eyes to follow, which gradually improves their ability to shift focus between distances. Hang 30 cm from the movement mat.

TOPPONCINO

A topponcino is a thin mattress used for holding and carrying newborns. It supports them when relatives or siblings are holding them. It keeps the familiar smell of the parents and eases transitions from person to person/place to place. Time-tested design by Maria Montessori.

BEST TEETHER EVER

This ball is great for grasping, teething, and playing. It can also be cooled in the refrigerator to soothe Baby’s gums.

MOVEMENT MAT

Movement is an essential factor for intellectual growth. Freedom of movement is Baby’s time to have their own experiences using all of their senses and make their own discoveries. The Montessori movement mat allows Baby to move freely in a place where view of the space is not obstructed by any walls or bars.

WOBBLE TOY

This toy wobbles slowly back and forth and is a motivation to Baby to reach out and start to crawl. It’s small enough for them to grab and it also makes a soft sound when the yellow ball moves from side to side.

Gifts for babies 6-16 months

ELECTRIC PIANO

This tiny piano has a beautiful and realistic sound. It also has an on/off switch. My little ones in the Montessori Baby class love playing the piano we have in the music area. This is a nice way to make creating and enjoying music a part of your child’s every day life.

PUSH TOY

This is such a fun material that babies can use successfully and toddlers also enjoy. The balls have to be pushed down so it trains their finger strength, grasp and release, and sense of object permanence.

BALL TRACKER

The tracker is an amazing Montessori material for integrating the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which supports movement and crawling. It also trains their grasp and release and balance. *photo by Eltern vom Mars*

RINGS ON DOWEL

A ring on dowel activity is a critical material for babies. It’s something that they can use for a long time with multiple levels of difficulty. First with a single large wooden ring, and gradually they work up to using a basket of these 4 small rings to the side.

PEG AND RING BOARD

This is a great toy which can be used in so many ways as Baby grows. The first presentation is as a simple pegging activity with 2-4 of the pegs in the board, on the shelf. The final presentation is a colour-matching activity with all the pegs and rings in two separate baskets on the side.

Gifts for toddlers 16 -36 months

TOOL BOX

Toddlers love learning about tools. Teaching them how to use a saw, hammer, clamp, manual drill, screwdriver… is a lifelong skill that they can do successfully and independently from two years old! It’s amazing how much children are capable of when they have the right tools. The Haba Terra tools are good quality, child-sized, and most importantly, real.

BUY ON AMAZON:

MONTESSORI RADIO

Hoerbert plays screen-free music that the child can choose for themselves. You can also program white noise, audiobooks, and entire playlists into the buttons through their easy application. This is a fantastic way to include multiple languages in your child’s environment as well if each button has songs or stories in a different language.

WATERING CAN + PLANT

Toddlers love caring for the environment. Giving them their own plant to love and water and clean is a beautiful way to support their sense of responsibility, respect for life, and self esteem. Water is also a huge point of interest right now and they LOVE to pour, so make sure that you buy a plant which can take a lot of water. 🙂

CRINKLE CUTTER

It’s such a boost to a toddler’s self esteem when they can prepare a snack for themselves, therefor fulfilling one of their basic needs independently. Cutting a banana or other soft fruits+veggies is a safe and easy activity that you can keep available for your little one at all times in the kitchen for when they feel like having a snack. Invite your toddler to help you chop ingredients for meals. This teaches life skills and includes them as a contributing member for the family. 🙂

THREADING ACTIVITY

Threading is another activity which grows with your little one as their fine motor skills develop. This beautiful set comes with 18 wooden beads. When you first introduce this toy around 14 months, you can start with just the thread and 2 beads. Slowly add more and more. You can also use them for color sorting activities! Suggestion: when your toddler is able to have success using the wooden threading needle, change it out for a long thicker shoe lace for a new challenge.

More gift ideas…

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

montessori toddler parent playgroup mother nesting activities

What is temperament?

The child’s temperament is the social and emotional part of their personality, which they are born with. Understanding our children’s temperaments and the way it contrasts with our own can help make life easier so that we can:

>>> prevent and manage problems more easily
>>> modify the child’s environment to best suit their needs
>>> set reasonable limits & expectations

There are no bad or good temperaments, only constructive or non-constructive expectations towards them. 

We can be a positive model of temperament control by accepting the child’s natural tendencies and adjusting our reactions through self-observation.

Try to avoid giving the children labels like, “she is fearless; he is social…” because it can be difficult later to free them from this role. This temperament questionnaire is simply meant to help us to recognise their patters of behaviour so we can maintain a peaceful and positive connection with our little ones. 🙂

Use the questionnaire below to compare your temperament and your child’s. Do you have similar or differing personalities?

Montessori Temperament Questionnaire

1. Activity level

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – rarely bored
– enjoys playing independently moves
– constantly seeks out new things
– wiggles and needs to move around
– makes decisions impulsively (or perhaps recklessly)
– needs frequent breaks from sitting
– Try to anticipate what’s going to happen throughout the day and plan several steps ahead.
– Allow enough time to burn off energy
– Give activities one at a time, particularly when traveling.
– Find new skills and challenges or materials to keep them interested and engaged in the environment .
LOW – generally calm and easy-going
– content to sit quietly for long periods of time
– often found engrossed in a task
– sits through mealtimes
– Let them play and figure things out at their own pace (don’t interrupt or rush them).
– Allow enough time for the child to transition to a new task.
– Accept that they will take their time doing things. 

2. Adaptability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – can easily cope with unexpected situations or events
– easily influenced by the feedback from others
– Be a positive model of behaviour and language. They are absorbing everything. 🙂
– Give positive feedback instead of general praise: “You put the puzzle together! You look very pleased with yourself!”
– Give plenty of opportunities for new challenges.
LOW – takes time to warm up to new situations or places
– does not enjoy switching from one task to another
– changes in the daily routine may be upsetting
– Aim for a routine whenever possible. 
– Prepare your child in advance if there’s likely to be a change.
– Allow them to repeat as much as they need to whenever possible.
– Invite them to try something new, but respect their choice if they decline.

3. Approach to new situations & sociability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
BOLD – has a carefree, fearless approach to life
– enthusiastic about new situations and people
– doesn’t consider possible dangers
– Let them have their own experiences, but monitor closely for safety
– Give frequent reminders
– Set clear boundaries
HESITANT – less likely to put self at risk
– exhibits caution
– hesitates often and for long periods of time
– Prepare for new situations and experiences ahead of time
– Don’t force them to participate if they are not comfortable

4. Attention span

temperament qualities Montessori tips
SHORT – eager to move on to the next thing
– most work is not done to completion
– doesn’t follow long demonstrations
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– forgets to tidy up
– Keep language and instructions to the minimum
– Allow them to get involved quickly
– Use points of interest to help them notice what they are doing.
– Remind them what they were doing if they get distracted
– Have a place fore everything and a clear order to the space
– Encourage practical life activities
LONG – without distractions, can concentrate for a long time
– persists even when facing difficulty
– can return to an activity even if their attention has been briefly redirected
– does activities to completion
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– Allow the child to  continue or repeat a task as long as they need.
– If you need the child to do something or go somewhere, wait until their state of concentration has ended.
– When you see that the interest and intensity of their concentration is fading, invite them to tidy up or try something new.
– Respond to tantrums with gentleness and compassion.
– Introduce activities that require multiple steps .

5. Distractibility

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – notices every sound and movement
– doesn’t maintain a constant  state of concentration, but can come back to their current task (if attention span is long)
– finds it very difficult to become fully engaged in a task (if attention span is short)
– Provide a quiet and orderly workspace to limit distractions
– Remind them what their work was if they get sidetracked
– Never interrupt  if they have achieved focus
LOW – can remain focused, even amidst chaos
– becomes frustrated if something isn’t working perfectly
– Allow them to go through a process at their own pace.
– Show them slowly and clearly each new activity so they can have success
montessori toddler playdough clay work art materials mother

6. Intensity of Reaction

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – must have all needs met at all times
– very self-aware
– demands attention
– attracted to what other children have
– Have patience
– Model mindfulness and respect
– Remind them of other people and children in the environment
“Alfie’s working on that. It will be available soon.”
– Set kind a firm limits.
LOW – laid-back
– enjoys most things
– doesn’t react when their work is taken away
– Try to give them the language to express their wants or needs
“Do you want to say, ‘this is my work. It will be available soon?” 
– Look for signs of their desires which they may not be expressing
– Offer 2 choices so they can practice choosing for themselves and self-awareness

7. Mood

temperament qualities Montessori tips
CHEERY – smiley
– seems to have fun in most situations
– Observe closely because the child may have developmental needs or obstacles that may be overlooked. 
SOMBER – difficult to read
– complains often
– Accept the child for who they are.
– Make sure they know their feelings are being heard
– Invite to try something new or try a new way

8. Rhythmicity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – naturally falls into routines for eating, sleeping, and toiletting
needs and behaviour are predictable 
behaviour can become erratic with the daily routine is changed if the child has a high reactivity
– Try to anticipate changes and have an appropriate alternative available
“Your boots are unavailable right now. Would you like to wear your boots or your sneakers?”
– Make changes one at a time, for example reading one new story before bed or one new flavour at snack time. 
– Give 2 choices and for opportunities to try something new, but respect their choice if they say no.
“Would you like to go to the pond or the playground today?”
LOW – can ‘go with the flow’
– is not upset by changes in the routine
– it’s difficult to predict their needs without a clearly established routine
– Respect that the child’s patterns may vary from day to day. Some nights they need sleep more than other nights. Some days they need to be more active than other days. 
– Incorporate a regular routine, but allow the child to have some control. For example, make the same quantity of food available at mealtimes, but let the child control how much they eat. 

9. Threshold of sensitivity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – sensitive to the feelings of others
– may react negatively to sudden noises or movements
– may exhibit compassion and try to soothe others
– Allow them to feel and express their feelings in an appropriate way
– Give language to express that they are understood and language to understand the outside person or situation.
“Are you feeling concerned? You noticed that Yuna was crying. Let’s go see if she’s alright.”
“That was a loud noise! Did it startle you?”
LOW – seems not to notice the feelings of other people
– might notice others’ reactions but not realise that they can affect or cause them
– Be a positive model of awareness and sensitivity
– Try to give them the language to understand how others may be feeling.
“Let’s ask if Luka would like a cuddle before we give him one. Luca, would you like a cuddle?”
“Stomping is loud and disturbs others. Let’s go outside and stomp.”

10. Cuddliness & soothability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – feels relaxed when you hug them
– can be soothed by cuddles and words of reassurance
– Offer a cuddle when they are upset before picking them up. “Would you like me to hold you?” Allow them to express yes or no. 
LOW – feels more comfortable at arms length
– just needs time to relax after being upset rather than cuddles or caresses
– If they push you away, don’t take it personally. Stay nearby and let them know you are there for them without giving a hug. 
– Offer a cuddle and allow them to express yes or no. 

Photos by Chad Chittenden and  Kerly Ilves at Montessori Mother ELC