Discover the Child

Discover the Child
"There is a tiny light in the unconscious of mankind which guides it toward better things." "We must follow the child, but we must follow the child as his leader." -Maria Montessori

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Survival Skills

The holiday's aren't just stressful for adults. Remember, novelty is stressful for young children, too. That's ok when we give children the tools to handle all of the business and stimulation of the holidays. If you have a toddler and you celebrate Christmas, remember these tips to keep the "NO!" out of Noel.


Sleep and Naps- The busiest time of year is not the time to skip naps or stay up late. If you find yourself breaking this cardinal rule, make sure you are still sticking to your regular bedtime routine.
Facetime- Spending time one-on-one when you are feeling present, relaxed and calm gives your child time to process his hectic day. You are his emotional anchor. Without face time, he'll be adrift.


Don't Deck Every Hall- Yes, a tree in the house is very fun, but it's also completely disrupting your toddler's sense of order. Order helps your child make sense of her world. Be careful about completely turning the house upside-down and avoid visual clutter, if possible. Try to keep space that is decoration free, especially your child's space. Avoid overstimulation by limiting background noise in the home and turning off the television whenever possible. Purposeful tasks, like watering the Christmas tree helps your child integrate all of these new experiences.

Routine- Routine is also part of this sense of order. When the routine or house become chaotic, children (and adults) can react by becoming very rigid. In a rigid state, toddlers refuse to incorporate novelty, can't easily transition to new situations and try very hard to control other people, which is why you might hear the defiant, "NO!" at every turn. Return to your regular structure at home, set clear limits, provide purposeful tasks, and connect through face time to find normalcy again.


What's Up?- The holidays are full of new situations. You can set your child know what is going to happen and what you expect. For example, if a babysitter is coming so you can head out to the office Christmas party or you are going to invite your Child to sit on Santa's lap he needs to know  ahead of time what is going on. If he is feeling emotional saying, "I see you are feeling sad. Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye. You are going to have dinner, story time and bedtime and then I'll be home. I'll see you in the morning." Calmy acknowledging his feelings, then offering a step-by-step explanation helps your child function during a challenging situation.


Holidays are often a time of excess. You often can't control the amount of gifts, but your child won't keep track of them all either. Put a few favorites out on the shelf and rotate the other gifts.
  • Toys without batteries, like wooden blocks, are a great choice.
  • Simplify some materials- An art set or even a box of crayons can be too much for your child to take care of independently. Try putting just two or three crayons in a small dish on a tray for drawing, a few pieces of chalk at the chalkboard or one or two pieces of clay on a tray. Have another tray with a few half-sheets of paper.
  • Don't forget to set up a tray with a sponge and cloth for wiping the table!

Hopefully these strategies will help you create some wonderful holiday memories. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Montessori Language Material?

Large Sea Animals and Exact Images
Rocks and Minerals with Photographs

Words and Objects

Over the past six years we have amassed a huge collection of language materials for our Toddler House classrooms. According to our AMI Assistants to Infancy training, we rotate a selection of Real Objects or Replicas, Objects and Exact Matching Images or Objects and Photographs. Daily, we present the materials in individual and group lessons. The children also work with these materials individually during the work cycle. Ofcourse, language is a part of the entire environment- the most important part during this Sensitive Period for language. The various language materials meet specific developmental needs.
  • Experience with real objects offers sensorial information, which is the foundation for language.
  • As seen in the image of the Large Sea Animals and Exact Image, this language materials offers a concrete representation, as the object perfectly eclipses the drawing, that the 2D image represents the 3D object.
  • Objects and Photographs, as seen with the rocks and minerals, allow the child to match an object or a replica of an object to a photograph.
  • In addition, we include numerous sets of Nomenclature Cards and other language cards depicting situations or a sequence of events.
Based on observations of the children and scientific research, I've added new materials in addition to these Montesesori materials. Reading Ellen Galinksy's Mind In The Making, I learned of research that supports Montessori's approach to teaching reading that is based on learning phonemes. We've added or modified various toddler materials like I Spy, Classified Fishing Bag, and Gluing Sound Cards that provide practice listening to and identifying phonemes.Visual recognition of words, Galinsky notes, is not proven to aid the child learning to read and may actually hinder this process.
She notes, howevers, that it is important for the child make the connection that words (nouns) are a representation of actual objects.

Just as the Objects and Exact Images material demonstrates to the child that the 2D image represents the 3D objects, Words and Matching Objects simply demonstrates for the child that the word represents the objects. In the presentation, we allow the child to pick a card and say, for example, "Frog! Can you put the frog next to the word, 'frog.'" The picture ensures that the child correctly orients the word and allows the child to find the matching object independently.

I carefully consider any changes or modifications to the standard Montessori curriculm. I take comfort in the knowledge that Montessori was a scientist and would certainly have created to materials based on her observations and new scientific understanding.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Argument For Positive Parenting

One of our goals as parents is to help our children develop empathy, self control, and good decision making skills. As the parent of a toddler, it may seem like an impossible task. Just remember, every mistake is a learning opportunity if we connect with our children and help them practice decision making, thoughtfulness, and self control. For a child, every opportunity to use this "upstairs" part of the brain means this part of the brain grows stronger and these skills become part of who your child will become.

As Dr. Dan Siegel explains in his book, The Whole Brain Child, a child that feels angry or fearful cannot use his "upstairs" brain where logical reasoning, empathy, control, awareness and openness emerge. Instead, he is stuck in a fight or flight stage where impulse, aggression, and reactivity are the mode of operation.

Have you ever thrown your arm to protect the person in the passenger seat as you slammed on the breaks? You did it without thinking, and it isn't a completely reasonable reaction. A part of the brain, the amygdala, allows us to react suddenly and quickly as soon as we feel unsafe, angry or fearful. It can save us when we are in real danger, but it completely blocks of any part of our upstairs brain that observes a situation openly from multiple perspectives or employs logic and rational thought.

If we threaten, humiliate, or strike our child, we have taken the opportunity for him to use the part of his brain that develops sound decision making skills and positive relationships.

Instead try to:

1. Empower your child to change her behavior

"You can join us when you are ready to use your gentle hands."
"I'll hold this toy for you until you are ready to use it safely."
"In this family we work together. You can wait here until you are ready to..."

2.  Give choices

"Would you like to eat three bites of broccoli or two bites?"
"Would you like to pick up the puzzle or the ball first?"
"Would you like to do it yourself, or would you like me to help you."

3. Model Empathy, Convey Understanding

"It can feel really hard to say goodbye. Do you want to give me two kisses or three?"
"Ok, I'll give you a hug and three kisses at the door, you can have a fun day at school, then I will see you at the gate after playground time."
"That looks really tricky. Hmmmm. What could you do?"
"I feel sad when Johnny is hit and I feel sad when you are hitting. We use gentle hands."
"That is a huge bummer, I wish we could go to the park. You look so mad. Can you stomp your anger out?"
"I bet you are mad enough to run around the yard eight times!"

4. Give Information, Say what you DO want
"Gentle hugs mean friends don't fall over. You can ask, 'Can I hug you?'"
"I'll be ready to listen when you use your talking voice." (for whining or demanding, not emotional meltdowns)
"We throw balls outside." "You can hit the drum."
"You'll be ready to go outside when you have on your shoes."
"You can say, 'Can I have a turn when you are done, please.'"

For more ways to help your child develop his upstairs brain and useful strategies for positive parenting try reading:

 Product DetailsProduct Details

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Massage

You can feel it when it happens. Your toddler is at the breaking point. Her actions are chaotic or emotions are out of control. Maybe your child is balking at anything new or feeling rigid and anxious. We've found one of the best way to calm your child and help him connect with you is a peanut butter and jelly massage.

  1. Your child lies on his stomach. A firm surface is best.  
  2. Ask, "Do you want strawberry or raspberry jelly?"
  3. Recite this poem while rubbing with slow, downward, and FIRM pressure
Crunchy Peanut Butter, spread it on
This is how a sandwich is done
Salty peanut butter, oh so yummy
Making a sandwich for Johnny's tummy
Strawberry Jelly, tasty and sticky
Making a sandwich that's finger licky
Strawberry Jelly red and sweet
Making a sandwich for Johnny to eat

Pumpernickel bread, press it on
This is how a sandwich is done.
Pumpernickel bread is so delicious
Eat our sandwich and clean our dishes!

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

The start of school can be an exciting and challenging time. When transitioning to school or back to school don't forget the 3 R's of toddlerhood:

Routine- Novelty is stress. However, school is exactly the kind of novelty that we want to provide, because it is full of experiences that will help your child grow and develop. While adjusting to new experiences, routine helps provide comfort and consistency.

Ritual- Create a goodbye ritual with your child that helps him express the emotions of saying goodbye. Even when a child is completely comfortable at school, the separation can be difficult. Stick to the same ritual every day. If possible, include your child in creating your morning ritual. Just remember to keep it short and sweet! Make sure to convey that you are confident and excited knowing your child will have a great day at school. Your own emotions give your child cues about how to feel in new situations.

Rest- Ofcourse, nutrition and sleep are of paramount importance for a toddler to be ready to explore and experience her world. Make sure she also has respite from too much stimulation. When your child watches television, it may look like downtime, but it is actually a very overstimulating experience that involves an almost constant shift in attention. Some face time at home with family and plentry of sleep is the perfect way to process all of the exciting events of the day.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Food Preparation Activities

Food preparation activities are wonderfully rich experiences for toddlers. To prepare an environment:
1. Put food preparation activities on a tray to contain mess and define a work space.
2. Demonstrate isolated, precise movements without speaking, then let your child explore without interrupting.
3. Label the foods and materials by name.

Juicing an Orange

We found it was easier to juice the orange after scoring the peel with a paring knife before putting on the tray. In a toddler community, the children juice only one orange, and save the other oranges for the next person. Glasses are used during snack time, but the green plastic cup is personalized with an image for each child. The discarded oranges are fed to the guinea pigs or placed in the compost.

Cutting Carrot Tops with Scissors

Scissors in a basket and a bowl for the trimmings are placed on a tray. After trimming the tops, this child offers them to a guinea pig. These scissors are kept in the food preparation area and are only used for food or food packaging. Other scissors are on the shelf, "only for paper."

Plucking Grapes

After plucking the grapes the children place them in a colander and rinse with cold water. The stems are placed in the compost pail. The grapes are returned to the bowl and placed in the refrigerator and the tray is returned to the shelf.

Cutting Vegetables

After placing her knife in position, this child will press her palm on the top of the knife to cut. This safe cutting method is demonstrated during a presentation. The tongs are available to transfer the pieces to the bowl. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Supporting Sticktoitiveness

Do you remember watching your baby fall what seemed like thousands of times before he could learn to walk? We wanted to catch each fall, but we know it is that struggle that allows him to learn. That is true of every skill in life and it is important to examine our role as adults and how we encourage our children to struggle, because persevering through a difficult challenge is an important life skill in childhood and adulthood.

In fact, our children will fail if we don’t allow them to struggle.

1. Ponder our own feelings about watching our child struggle. Observe our own actions.
· Stop. Watch. Analyze – Don’t swoop in at the first sign of trouble. Watch your child working and analyze the situation. If you aren’t sure what to do, just watch. It’s only time to intervene if your child is ready to give up.
· Try to Relate- What helps you when you are struggling? It can feel enraging when someone says, “Oh, it’s easy, you can do it.” It feels a lot better to hear, “That is so tricky.”
2. Provide what your child needs to be successful.
· Tools- Does your child need a stool to reach or a smaller tool to do the job?
· Time- a child needs time to explore. If it takes 20 minutes for your child to put on his own shoes and coat before you go to the grocery, start getting ready 20 minutes ahead of time.
3. Support the Struggle
· Remember the goal is to help your child keep trying, not to help him get it right.
· Give Information- Make a suggestion just before you think your child is on the verge of quitting like saying, “What happens if you turn it this way?” or “Have you tried sitting on the stool to put on your shoes?”
· Take mental notes- Can you tell what is giving your child trouble? You can demonstrate that another time before your child attempts the task again. Don’t interrupt while your child is concentrating and don’t correct.
· Be anemotional anchor. You can say, “I’ll watch.” If your child is feeling upset, the goal is to help him help himself. You can say, “I can see you are so upset, tricky work can be really hard. Do you want to ask for help or would you like to take a deep breath before trying again.”
4. Emphasize Effort. Not Ability.
· Research shows- When we say, “You’re so smart,” children hear, “You can do it or you can’t. If you have to try it means you’re not smart.” If we must comment, try saying, “I see how hard you are working on that.”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Practical Life at work

Mastering the Button Frame

Practicing with clothes pins

While cloth washing, this boy says, "Should I rub the soap loudly or quietly?" These materials stimulate every sense, require sequencing and order while allowing the child an opportunity to contribute to the people that are important to him.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Useful Tools to Elicit Cooperation

1. The first approach: "I'll save this for you while you put your puzzle away," or "You'll be ready to go outside when you have your shoes on."
2. Give a choice: "Do you want the red one or the green one?" or "Do you want to do it yourself or do you want me to help you?"
3. The when-all-else-fails strategy response to "No" "OK, you can wait here until you're ready." and don't forget the "I'll help your body" to combat the floppy body response.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bread Baking in a Toddler Environment

  • Materials on a tray create a defined space for work and contain the mess.
  • The pitcher holds exactly the right amount of water for the 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • Indivual cups hold each of the ingredients, turbinado sugar, salt, and olive oil.
  • Once the ingredients are added to the bowl and stirred, we hold the bowl of bread while the child brushes his hands and tray with oil.
    • This process can take as long as the child likes.
    • The oil keeps the tray and hands from getting as gloppy wtih dough.
    • Brushing hands with oil is a wonderful sensorial experience and the child can choose the level of stimulation.
  • When all of the dishes are on the dish cart, the child is ready to knead the dough!
  • The amount of kneading doesn't matter, as long as the dough is allowed to rest overnight.

Seed Germination

  •  Every componant of the activity is self contained.
  • A card helps the child place just the right amount of seeds.
  • The small pitcher from Montessori services holds just the right amount of water.
  • A sponge for wiping the tray is included.
  • The white bowl holds the seeds.
  • Another tray holds tiny pots.
  • A spray bottle is placed next to the seedlings for watering, so the plants don't get too much water.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Creating a Positive Language Environment

Useful Tools for Eliciting Cooperation

1. The first approach: "I'll save this for you while you put your puzzle away," or "You'll be ready to go outside when you have your shoes on."
2. Give a choice: "Do you want the red one or the green one?" or "Do you want to do it yourself or do you want me to help you?"
3. The when-all-else-fails strategy response to "No" "OK, you can wait here until you're ready." and don't forget the "I'll help your body" to combat the floppy body response.