Feb 272013

While it isn’t a main focus of this blog, Montessori certainly plays a central role in the way we parent and live our lives.

Babe does not go to a Montessori daycare, and may never get the chance to attend a Montessori school when she gets older. If we can find a way to afford to send both of our kids to private (and decide not to homeschool) then, Montessori would certainly be the choice we’d make. At home, we live the philosophy of “Help me do it by myself.” We do not force or pressure Babe, but guide her and help her do activities that would be too difficult to learn without help. Then she masters them herself!

Montessori threading activity

Montessori threading activity

We have never bought an official Montessori activity because they tend to be pricey. I don’t live near a place where I can buy them and for some reason, don’t think to order them online.

What I do tend to do is DIY. DIM…? Montessori activities that focus on life skills and eye-hand coordination can be made out of everyday household items. We have some pretty great activities that cost me little or nothing to make.

For example, threading activities. I was inspired by this tutorial. I used a (obviously Costco) coffee can, punctured holes in the top with a nail, then shoved a thicker dowel through them, and voila. For a while Babe was pushing pencil crayons into the holes, but today I found thinner straws in my craft bin, that she seems to like better.

I had also made her a bead threading activity by dismantling one of those Ikea wooden bead roller coasters that I picked up at a yard sale for $1. I tied a bead to the end of a shoelace and she was good to go.

Threading small wooden beads

Threading small beads

It didn’t take her long to be able to pretty much do it with her eyes closed, so then I found smaller wooden beads that I’ve had since my teenage hemp-necklace-making years, and secured a dull darning needle to the middle of a length of yarn, tied a bead on the end and let her have at it. Unlike most of her activities or games this isn’t one I would leave her alone with just yet. The beads are quite small. I sat there and watched her rock it on her first try. I think I will have to go get some small plastic beads and gimp (remember gimp?), always using smaller beads to make it even more of a challenge. No challenge = bored!

One of the big points of Montessori materials is that they are beautiful and of high quality. I can only call my materials Montessori-inspired, because to be honest, a lot of the activities I make, while functional, are not high quality nor are they usually pretty.

Transferring pumpkin seeds with a spoon

Transferring pumpkin seeds with a spoon

One of the biggest ways we do Montessori-inspired activities at home is through real life! Today, for example, I needed for pumpkin seeds to be transferred from a container to a Mason jar. I started doing it myself and then realized it was the perfect opportunity to Babe to practice transferring from one container to another with a spoon. She gladly agreed to do it and didn’t spill a single seed.

She has a “dressing frame” with a zipper, but she’s happier just practicing zipping up her own sweaters and jackets!

I didn’t really start thinking about Montessori until Babe was a few months old, but the more I know about it, the more I can’t wait to share this with Baby Boy once he’s born. When I have spare, quiet time, I have been making him Montessori Mobiles. Here are the tutorials I have been following:

Baby's bathtime

Baby’s bathtime

While pregnant with Babe, I made time to knit her a hat, mittens and a blanket. This little guy is getting four labour intensive mobiles that he will never remember looking at. But I’ll know…

Babe has always been baby crazy, so the activities of washing and dressing babies are one of her favourites. For her birthday she was given a fat rubber baby that she takes everywhere. She will spend long periods of time in her room with this and other babies, “changing” their diapers, dressing them, and swaddling them in blankets. If she’s ever gone long and very quiet, this is usually what she’s up to. For her baby’s bathtime, I set her up with the wash basin we use for camping, a baby facecloth and a small towel. I showed her how to support the baby’s head. She washes the baby then dries her off. Then we get the baby dressed together. We also use this basin to practice using a funnel and transferring water from glass to glass or with a sponge. Must remember the let her give it a try with the turkey baster!

transfering pompoms

Transferring pompoms

My favourite new Montessori Makeshift activity was born today. Another transferring activity, this time, learning to use tongs. Or something like it. I gave her the little thing we use to get toast out of the toaster, some pompoms, and a Jello mold that has been in my cupboard before I had kids. The game is to use the “tongs” to transfer the colourful, different-sized pompoms from one container to the next. I have seen this done with two equally-sized bowls, but thought it would be fun for her to fill the individual compartments. She absolutely loved it! Just like the bead and thread activity involved eventually moving to smaller beads, eventually she will be able to use tweezers to move objects (beads, maybe) from one container to the next.

I’m hoping, to the mamas who read this who do not know much about Montessori, or who maybe has misconceptions about what it is or who it’s for, that you have found a little inspiration here!

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