My big brother Bear can water the strawberries.
He gets a watering can from the shelf.
He fills it with water at the tap.
He caries it carefully with two hands...
... to water the strawberries.
I'm going to have a go Mum - there's a watering can for me!
I can do it too!
When I posted here I was feeling quite defeated. Quite overwhelmed. I was wondering if this Montessori stuff was really able to work with siblings. Did these peaceful children's communities really exist?! (I have still never seen one in real life). It didn't seem to be working for my children. I was full of doubt.
My faith has been restored. Now I believe that children can peacefully coexist in a shared space. The change has been dramatic! Since I got the environment right I haven't even needed the baby gate to separate them.
What were the key changes?
- A seperate shelf for each child
Having the shelves separate is more for my sake than for theirs. It helps me to notice what I am choosing for each child. It helps me to remember that they need/enjoy different things. It helps me to make sure I am putting out enough for each of them. It also helps them know where to look for something that will be fun to play with.
- A seperate area for each child to play
A comfortable and attractive area next to their shelf makes it easy for them to choose a toy and settle to play with it. Having enough space helps them stay out of each others way so they don't disturb each other accidentally.
- Thoughtfully chosen materials for each child
Bear and Fox are at different developmental stages. They have different temperaments and interests. They have different skills. I try to give them several choices and pay attention to the things that they choose to spend time with. This helps to select which materials to pack away for a while and which to leave out.
I have found that they don't actually need to be physically separated from each other to concentrate on work if they are really interested in it.
The boys have lots of things to concentrate on. Most of the time they are too busy and too focused to bother one another.
I have been particularly impressed how often they choose to play side-by-side. Even little Fox will choose a toy off his shelf and carefully carry it over to sit next to Bear. They actually do like each other and can enjoy each other's company. They just need an environment that helps them do it.
The boys have been fighting a lot. The most frequent scenario plays out as follows:
Bear settles to play peacefully with trains.
Fox marches over and takes a train.
Bear shouts "'Oxy!! Oxy!! Oxy!!" and snatches the train back.
Mum carries Fox to the other end of the house.
Repeat from the top.
Fox settles to peacefully to read a book.
Bear marches over the takes the book.
Fox squeals and tries to snatch it back.
Mum disciplines Bear.
Repeat from the top.
Peace hasn't been lasting very long lately! I don't believe the fighting is the core of the problem. But it is the fighting that has finally moved me to action!
1. Baby gate
At times the boys need their own space and their own things. The gate helps me keep them apart. It is a removable gate. It's not up all the time.
There was a vague separation of their things between two areas already. Fox was spending more time close to me near the kitchen/study. Bear was usually further away.
Both areas have plenty of shelves, an appropriately sized table and chair, plenty of space on the floor and a comfortable place for me to sit and join in. I have deliberately separated their things now. All the work that is specifically for Fox is together. All the work that is specifically for Bear is in his area.
On Bear's side of the gate he has access to the bathroom, his bedroom and he can let himself outside to play as he wishes. Fox's area is smaller and much more limited which is perfect for him.
2. Proper baby proofing for Fox
Fox is at a stage where he is very curious and very capable of exploring. He can open doors, drawers and cupboards. He can climb. He can unpack anything. He loves to do these things. He is able to get into all sorts of trouble and he relishes it!
For him to be safe and have freedom in his environment it really needs to be properly baby-proofed. It wasn't before. It is now! All the doors, drawers and cupboards he is not allowed to have access to are baby proofed. He can't access potties, toilets, rolls of toilet paper, kitty litter or cat food.
This means complete freedom for him to explore and play without being interrupted. It also means peace of mind for me.
3. Child specific materials
As I rearranged the shelves separating out their toys I realised how few materials were specific for one or the other. There were especially few that were for Bear. I think I had been trying to choose toys that would appeal to both of them but they were actually appealing to neither.
With his own area Bear can have the work he is ready for that is not baby friendly - e.g. messy things, small things, sharp things, fragile things... and Fox can have the things that engage him but bore Bear.
Fox can learn to concentrate on his own work without being distracted or interrupted. His concentration and attention are so fragile. They are so easily broken.
Fox is fascinated and challenged by posting. I use yogurt containers with an assortment of holes for different levels of challenge. He posts things like dominos, balls, baby-food container lids, blocks, cotton wool. Anything really. At the moment he's posting paddle-pop sticks through a big hole - it's tricky but not frustrating.
Placing the ring on the posts of this toy requires Fox's full concentration. I made this toy for Bear when he was at the same stage with wood left-overs and serviette rings from an op-shop. It has been well loved.
Bear is so easy to engage at the moment. Some specific favourites are his train books and magazines, wooden train-set, matchbox vehicles, toy food and tongs and any activity outside.
They still play with each other a lot of the time and usually enjoy each others company. A little time apart helps them relax and concentrate. It helps us all feel peaceful and tolerant so we can make the most of our time together.
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.