An Art Area
I've rearranged Bear's furniture in the playroom to include a more inspiring art area. I put out different art supplies each week for him to explore freely. This week connector pens and a white board - both have been very popular.
Just a side note about his table and chairs: this beautiful set was handmade on request by a man in Molong (a little town about an hour on the Sydney side of Dubbo). You can track him down through the Molong Yarn Market along with all sorts of other handmade treasures. They were given to Bear for his 1st birthday by his grandparents. The chairs are still a little high for him but they are very heavy so almost impossible for him to tip over when climbing on and off. We love them!
An art area would be incomplete without somewhere special to display his creations.
A Desk Lamp
A recent source of frustration for me was Bear constantly asking me to turn the lights on and off. He can't reach the switches but they fascinate him. That gave me an idea! I moved the desk lamp to his table where he can get to it whenever he likes. The switch is easy for him to operate. He can turn it on and off to his heart's content without plunging the room into darkness and driving the rest of us crazy.
A Tissue Box and Rubbish Bin
To remedy Bear's frequently runny nose I put a tissue box where Bear can reach it. He helps himself to tissues and attempts to wipe his own nose. He also enthusiastically looks out for other rubbish he can put in his bin.
He went through the first box of tissues very quickly. New tissue. Wipe nose. Scrunch. Toss. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It took a lot of restraint and positive self talk ("They're only tissues", "They cost 75c a box", "They're compostable", "It's good practice for him") to stop me snatching the box from him and putting it out of his reach. Thankfully his enthusiasm has since settled down. Now he gets a tissue for himself when needs one and just a few other times per day for fun!
I made a shapes puzzle for Bear a while back with help from my Dad. I loved the Montessori single shapes puzzle but thought I'd have a crack at making one with materials I had lying around. It turned out functional and I really love the way it looks.
I cut four squares from a piece of pallet wood and sanded the rough edges. I used 4 different blocks as the puzzle pieces and traced around them to mark out the holes I needed to cut. I used an electric drill to put a hole in each corner big enough to pass the blade of the band saw through. Then Dad joined the dots with the band saw. He did a much neater job than I would have! Then some sandpaper to smooth the edges and ensure an easy fit.
The blocks sit up above the pallet wood making them easy to grasp and manipulate. They're a good size for little ones using a palmar grasp - they fit snuggly into little hands.
I introduced the cylinder on its own from around 10 months. Then the square on its own from around 12 months. The triangle and rectangle were more challenging and Bear is still working with the whole set at 22 months.
Tom was away with work all last week. He left at 7am on Monday morning and finally (thankfully) came home on Friday afternoon. Life is so much nicer with him at home!
Bear, Fox and I were left to fend for ourselves and try to keep things running smoothly. To add to the challenge we were all sick with colds and the boys were just that little bit more difficult to keep happy. I was forced to try some new things and step out of my comfort zone. I was also able to lean on the help of lots of friends. Thank you!
I spent a lot of the week carrying Fox in the Babybjorn. He was unsettled during the day and didn't sleep very well at night. Could he have noticed that Daddy was away? Maybe he was responding to the extra tension in his mother? I suppose it could have been the snuffly nose.
I appreciated spending the extra time with Bear. I think I got to know him better. He is changing so quickly and becoming more capable and independent every time I look.
He can be so gentle and careful with his little brother. So diligent and enthusiastic when helping me. These little moments - Bear washing Fox in the bath or Bear helping wash the dishes - they gave me a boost of energy at times when I was exhausted. Tiny little people sure are capable of wonderful things.
Bear missed his Daddy. He found Tom's towel, showed it to me and said "Dad" - a word he knows well but uses very rarely. He wanted me to play the games Daddy plays with him over and over again - but I just can't wrestle like Daddy does. We were all relieved when Tom came home!
"Praise is one example of extrinsic motivation, where one takes pleasure in working for the sake of a reward (in our case, the compliment), as opposed to intrinsic motivation, when one works for the joy of the work itself. It seems a benign practice on the surface until you realize that the more “good jobs” we provide, the more we are inadvertently trivializing the child’s work, leading to lower intrinsic motivation."
Aubrey at Montessori Mischief just posted a fantastic and challenging article on the problems of praising children. Helpfully she followed this the very next day with a fantastic list of alternatives to offering trivial praise.
Since reading the articles I have paid more attention to the things I say to Bear and Yikes!! I praise Bear constantly! He doesn't even ask for it and it's the first thing out of my mouth. A thousand times a day!! Now that I'm paying attention they seem like such empty words. I really want to be more purposeful in these interactions.
I am going to break this habit! I have printed out Aubrey's list of What to Say Instead of Good Job and put it in a visible spot in the playroom with the Praise Jar. I have filled my pocket with buttons so that every time I throw out a meaningless praise I throw a button in the Jar.
For every button in the jar by Bear's birthday I'm going to spend a dollar on art supplies for him.
Either way Bear wins.
Another basic Montessori concept that I've finally got around to doing for Bear - Hooks at child height! As usual I can't believe I didn't do it sooner.
Bear loves screws and screwdrivers so he was very keen to help me install 3 shiny new hooks on our side table.
I hung up his hat, backpack and nappy bag and immediately he was intrigued. He was fascinated as I demonstrated lifting the hoops over the hook very carefully with 2 hands. He watched me take them off then put them back. Then it was his turn and I have to say I was mesmerised for half an hour watching him work it out.
He loves being able to get his hat for himself. He runs off to get it when we're going outside. He has even started putting his hat on himself. I had no idea he was able to do that. I had always just done it for him. I am constantly underestimating him!
Since hooks seemed to be so much fun I also moved our key hooks down to his height. Same concept but practices different coordination. However definitely not as much fun as being able to do useful things for yourself like get your own hat!
Lately our mornings have been starting like this:
I don't know what the problem was exactly.
The tantrums triggered me to give some thought to how we do breakfast. I've made some changes that require Bear to be more independent. We haven't had any tantrums since. This is how we do breakfast now:
Why didn't I do this sooner?!
I can't believe the difference this has made to our mornings. We have acknowledged Bear's ability to do simple things for himself and provided just the right level of challenge. We have gone from an hour of chaos followed by an hour of grumpy hungry toddler to peace.
This isn't going to be the solution forever. What next? Making toast? Spreading butter? Making smoothies? I'll keep you posted.
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.