"Our goal as we prepare the infant's environment for movement ... has to do with psychological rather than physical reasons and reflects our attitude toward the child. It should reflect the view that this infant is an individual who is going to grow and change and separate; this is not someone who will remain a baby forever." Montessori from the start. p73
Every so often I realise that Fox has raced off developmentally. He's suddenly reached the next stage and I wasn't ready for it. I'm dawdling behind him still trying to figure out the previous stage. I often feel like I'm letting him down.
I thought these things would be easier with the second child. Some things are easier. In a lot of ways Fox is an easier baby than Bear was. The trouble is that Fox is so different from Bear. His temperament is so different. His interests are so different. I'm having to work through everything anew. I am needing to reset all my expectations.
There are things we are doing well for Fox. He has a collection of interesting objects to explore and practice manipulating. He has low shelves for his things. He can look out low windows. He can see himself in a low mirror. But the environment isn't quiet working for him. We're missing something...
At the moment Fox needs a proper Montessori movement area. Bear skipped this stage altogether (he was crawling much earlier) so I didn't realise it's value.
"The infant's bed is large and on the floor. A double-bed-size is best and the mattress must be only a few inches high." Montessori from the start. p31.
The floor bed makes so much sense to me at the moment! It's soft. The floor is so hard and rough. It's big. In the cot he rolls into the sides. It's safe. One of Fox's favourite things at the moment is to roll around our queen size bed. But I cant give him freedom there because he needs our constant supervision. Otherwise he'll very quickly end up on the floor with a bump on his head!
I think a good solution would be to have a thin mattress in the playroom where we spend most of our time. It would be nice if this space met Fox's need for movement better. He is so much more mobile on a soft mattress. He would be able to get to his shelves and the mirror. He'd be able to move himself to join Bear in whatever he's doing.
It takes me such a long time to make these decisions! I don't want to buy something new and change everything around. I'm hoping Fox gets up and crawls any day now so I don't need to worry about it any more! It is such a challenge to keep adapting to little children who change so quickly.
Ranger put the tree up with Bear and taught him to sing "Happy Birthday Jesus". And it struck me how simple yet how deep is the nativity story. We celebrate the same story every year but it seems to twist itself somehow to show me something different.
This year Ranger wrote a beautiful devotion for Christmas. He shared it with me and I thought it was so powerful and eloquent I'd love to share it here.
This is why Christmas is significant for me:
"'Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends' John 15:13.
This reading corner has been a long time coming.
I had the idea of turning this unused doorway into a book shelf before Fox was born. Little by little I've been chipping away at this project. Now it is finally finished (well mostly finished...). At least it is ready to use!
I have experimented with various ways to store and display books that haven't worked out. I tried a basket on the floor. A basket on the coffee table. A basket on Bear's shelves. A regular book shelf with spines facing out. A regular bookshelf with books standing up. Books in a box. We were having problems with each of these. My biggest problem was mess - the books wouldn't stay where they were supposed to be!
So I brainstormed goals for book storage/display:
- beautiful to look at
- easy for Bear to choose a book
- easy for Bear to take out one book at a time without disturbing the other books
- easy for Bear to put books away by himself
- flexible in terms of the number of books it can accomodate
- separate from toys
- in an area that is peaceful and comfortable
- a special area that acknowledges how special and precious books are
I think this ticks all the boxes.
The 3 lower book shelves are only 10cm deep so books stand up easily on their own but they will be able to accomodate several layers of books in future. There's a 3cm lip that stops the books slipping off. The shelves are removable but very sturdy. They have a catch that will stop Fox pulling them off when he inevitably starts to pull up on them.
We don't have room for child sized furniture in this area. We're a bit tight on space as it is. Bear gets himself onto the couch easily and we can both read together comfortably. We used to have a footstool for Bear to climb up. We'll bring it back out when Fox is ready for it.
Rotating the books keeps bringing Bear back to the couch. He's asking to read books that were being ignored before. I love when he asks me to read with him. It such a great invitation for a cuddle and a chat!
Fox is appreciating the low shelf too - it might just be the thing that inspires him to crawl!
I have revisited toy rotation and I've been brutal.
Somehow toys have been walking out of cupboards of their own accord. I don't know how it happens. At the end of every week we seem to have toys everywhere. Most of them are being ignored. There is nothing interesting left to get out of the cupboard. I drive myself crazy constantly tidying up.
Actually I know exactly how it happens. I have too many toys on the shelves. I'm not rotating them often enough. Partly because there aren't enough toys left in the cupboard to rotate out! Bear knows where the toys are kept and helps himself to more. Or he asks me to get something for him. I give it to him but don't put an unused toy away. I put a toy on a shelf because the shelf looks bare. I am tempted to think more toys will keep him more engaged.
Solution? Less is more!
I have also simplified the way Bear's toys are presented.
An example is the way Bear's trains were presented. Bear's train set was all thrown in together in a big basket. Bear wasn't choosing his trains even though they were still clearly his favourite. I think it was to hard for him to find what he needed so he didn't bother. He still loved to play with them but only when I brought out the basket and helped him build a track.
I've put the tracks in one basket that's big enough to rummage through without spilling on the floor. I've put aside a few pieces that are frustrating or duplicates.
Trains are in another basket. Trees are in another. Cars are in another.
So simple. So obvious now that I've done it. It has turned one set of toys into 4 sets of toys.
Bear is choosing them everyday again. He plays with them without any help. Sometimes he plays with them all together. Sometimes one basket at a time.
They also double as ready made baby baskets for Fox.
Bear doesn't spend much time using the things on his shelves. He really doesn't need much on them. Most of our time at home is spent working together - cooking, cleaning or gardening. Then there are books to read, food to eat, baths to have...
Having fewer things around makes the few things seem more special and make it easier for him to choose something interesting and focus on it. It definitely makes packing up less of a chore and something Bear can participate in.
It's been about a month since we took Bear's nappy off.
He is 100% reliable at using the potty at home when he doesn't have any pants on.
As soon as we put anything on him he has accidents. He wets undies, shorts, trackies, nappy, whatever it is we've put him in. He doesn't even tell me he's wet. He just carries on playing. Wet pants don't bother him. He is not motivated by independence in this area at the moment.
He is motivated by blue berries, raspberries and stickers.
Since bringing back the offer of payment for wees on the potty Bear is making progress again. He has decided he is capable of taking his shorts off and putting them on independently (something he has flatly refused to attempt until now - "Naaaaaoooooo!! Mummy do it!!"). Now, of course, he won't let me help him at all. **exasperated sigh**.
But progress is progress! Seeing his shorts on backwards instead of his bare bottom is an improvement!
At the moment I am offering him a reward for a wee every hour or so. He's doing ok.
I have found the practical advice in Montessori from the Start helpful and thorough. However Bear wasn't prepared to cooperate in the process until much later than was suggested. They emphasise that starting in the sensitive period sometime between 12 and 18 months is crucial. At that age we didn't seem to be making any progress at all. Maybe I missed his sensitive period. Maybe Bear's sensitive period came later. Maybe the sensitive period is not as brief or as important as they suggest.
I also found Robin Barker's Potty training section in The Mighty Toddler invaluable. It is written by an Australian child health nurse with many years of practical experience. She describes the historical changes in potty training methods and expectations similarly to Montessori from the Start but from an Australian perspective. She goes on to discus the different approaches to toilet training and their advantages and disadvantages. I love her common sense approach and open mindedness. She combines current research with her clearly expansive experience with children and families. It is definitely worth a read if you've been confused by all the conflicting advice that's out there.
Once Bear's confident getting his pants on and off I suppose the next step will be leaving the house without a nappy on. *gulp*. No set of potty training instructions I've found seems to be fitting him exactly. And all the parents I've talked to seem to have used very different methods with their children. I am definitely finding that we're stumbling around in the dark in this process. I guess we just continue walking with him one step at a time and try to enjoy his uniqueness along the way.
"The child has a type of mind that goes beyond concrete limits. It has the power of imagining things. This power of visualising things that are not present to the eye, reveals a higher type of mind. An object I can see is an easy thing to know, but when I have to make an image for myself (to imagine) it is more difficult. If the mind of man were restricted only to the things he could see, it would be very limited indeed. Man sees without seeing."
Now that Bear can talk he can tell stories. By listening to him I can find out what he loves and the things that are filling his head. It is also an exercise for my imagination to see what he sees...
"b'u'lding ''ains" (building trains)
"''ain on ''i'ge" (train on bridge)
"'ed ''ain on ''i'ge" (red train on bridge)
"''ian ''ASH int' ditch!!" (train CRASHED into the ditch!!)
"c'ane pic' ''ain up. Puts ''ain on ''acks" (Crane picks the train up. Puts the train on the tracks)
"''een ''ain on b'i'ge" (green train on the bridge)
"making 'ong ''ain. Lots pass''ger 'a''''ges" (making a long train with lots of passenger carriages)
"''ain '''ough 'ignal. Woo woo!! ''ain 'coming!!" (train through signal. Woo woo!! A train's coming")
"Playing with toys and imagination through fairy tales represent two needs of that special period of life: the first, to place oneself in direct relation with the environment, to master the environment, and by this a great mental development is acquired by the child. The other reveals the strength of the imagination, so much so that he turns it on his toys. If we then give him real things to imagine about, this is a help to him and places him in more accurate relation with his environment too"
Bear loves trains and soaks up anything about trains that he's exposed to. He doesn't mind if it is real or fiction - he loves it equally. All of it becomes the substance of his stories and imaginative play.
"Everyone realises that the child likes to imagine, but he is given tales and toys as the only help. If the child can realise a fairy and visualise fairyland, it is not difficult for him to visualise America etc. ... imagination is endeavouring to find the truth of things, a fact which is often forgotten. If in the child's environment the word "America" or "World" had never been mentioned by anyone, then it might be difficult for him to show interest in it, but since he hears the word it enters his mind and he clothes it with imagination."
Since I've noticed Bear's particular passion for trains I have tried to replace the good with better...
Thomas the tank engine is ubiquitous. The original Rev Awdry stories are very much focused on the real work of the trains and they are beautifully illustrated. However Bear doesn't need the trains to talk and have faces to find them fascinating. He still likes to look at these and that's fine - I love watching the old DVDs as well. But I have tried to supplement his library with things that are real.
Two favourite books base on reality: Freight train has great vocabulary (albeit American vocabulary) and nice realistic pictures. The Rain Train has a lovely poem and beautiful pictures. It's my favourite bedtime book at the moment too.
Our most watched videos on youtube:
I don't know who you are Mike Armstrong but thank you!
"The mind is not the passive entity one imagines, the mind of man is a flame, an all-devouring flame, it is never still, but always active"
It inspires me to keep hunting for more and more fuel to feed his little flame.
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.