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5 Ways the Montessori environment may be ideal for children on the Autism Spectrum

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the links and purchase products.  Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

 

Could a Montessori environment be a good fit for a child on the autism spectrum?

 

The Montessori Method and environment is very unique.  The philosophy is based on individual learning, child led instruction and the development of the child.  The environment is carefully and thoughtfully set up & maintained based on the needs of the children, their various developmental levels and is inviting to the children.  The Montessori environment is aesthetically appealing to the eye, is strategically designed and provides a sense of calm and order.  For children who are on the autism spectrum, the Montessori environment has characteristics that may be ideal for their success and overall learning.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The following information is for informational purposes only.  The following information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of seeking the advice of a trained and qualified healthcare or medical professional.

 

As stated by Dr. Lori Ernsperger, an autism specialist with over twenty years of experience; “the best way to make sure your students learn well is to ensure that the physical layout of your classroom is maximized and workstations are clearly delineated.”  Following what Dr. Ernsperger has presented, a Montessori environment fits the description on what she has determined is an ideal environment for children on the autism spectrum.  A Montessori environment is very distinct and individualized.  The materials are mostly made of natural wood, and along with neutral colors are meant to soothe the senses, attract the children to the materials, and not distract from their learning. Environments that contain bold, bright colors can often be overstimulating to the children and the adults in the room.   Montessori classrooms are open, light & airy; and are peaceful and uncluttered.

 

All learning environments can be an integral part of a child’s learning.  An enriching, inviting and  stimulating environment can provide an increased chance of children being successful in their learning.  Not only will they learn more, they will enjoy it and be more willing to learn!  If an environment is boring, drab, dark and not visually appealing, it could be harder for the children to want ti engage and learn; AND make it hard for the teacher to find ways to motivate themselves to teach.  I must say, personally, if my classroom was drab and boring, it would be a STRUGGLE for me to want to teach.  I prefer an environment that is fun and lively, but not overstimulating and distracting.

 

5 ways a Montessori environment may be a good fit for a child on the autism spectrum

 

 

These tips on selecting an appropriate environment for a child on the autism spectrum are recommended by a autism specialist.  Please note that each child is different, and not every Montessori environment is the right fit for each child.  There are many things to consider when choosing a learning environment for your child.

 

  • Pay special attention to the physical  design and layout of the classroom

Always consider the flow of the classroom.  Think about how children and adults are able to manuever and move throughout the classroom; making sure to keep it as easy as possible.  Provide areas that are intended for smaller and larger group activities, and arrange the furniture and shelving to assist in that.  Montessori environments are well known for their design and layout characteristics; since they allow for children to roam freely through the classroom during the work period.

 

  • Be mindful of sensory stimulation

It is probably best to try to avoid overly stimulating the senses.  As stated before, overstimulating can be a distraction and disrupt concentration.  Consider things like lighting, windows, floor & window coverings and ceilings.  Equipping the classroom with carpet or investing in large area rugs to reduce the noise level, have dimmer settings on lights and use window coverings that allow natural light in; but not too much.  That is one of the things that makes a Montessori environment different; we try not to overstimulate the children with bold, bright colors on the walls, shelves and materials.

 

  • Try to eliminate or reduce clutter as much as possible

Excess or unused furniture, classroom teaching aids and even teacher collectibles can be a distraction.  Try to keep the classroom free of unused or rarely used items so that the children will not be distracted by them.  If possible, store these items away and bring them out as necessary or when needed.  If you walk into any Montessori classroom, you will notice how organized and orderly the materials and shelves are.

 

  • Use visual aids to define spaces and increase independence

Using visual aids throughout the classroom can help children in a variety of ways.  It helps them to understand the flow of the day, anticipate what activity comes next and can keep the day running smoothly.  Using visual aids on shelving can remind children how and where to put their work away.  It increases their independence and boosts their confidence as well.  Montessori classrooms use subtle visual aids as well to help children learn how to put their work away and where the group area is as well.

 

  • Have an area of the classroom where children can calm down and regroup

Preparing a calm down area for children to use if needed is important part of the environment.  Make sure the area is free of distractions and can be used for as long as the child needs.  This calm down area should never be used as a form of punishment, but an area for a child to relax, calm down and refocus.  In a Montessori classroom, this area is referred to as a Peace Area or Corner.  Sometimes it has a table, small floor pillows or a chair placed in an area of the classroom that is not near the hustle and bustle of the classroom.  It has items that are good for reducing stress and provide calming effects.  These are special items that are specific to the peace area, and are not found in other areas of the classroom.

 

 

As you can see, there are many benefits and positives when considering if a child on the autism spectrum will thrive in a Montessori classroom environment.  The Montessori environment provides many of the characteristics of an ideal learning environment that are recommended by professionals.  With Montessori being an individualized, child-led learning philosophy, the non-traditional, open flow of the classroom may be worth looking in to for your child.

 

Looking for more resources or information for children on the autism spectrum? Check out these books!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that this information is helpful and insightful to parents and teaching professionals!

 

Anitra

Montessori Extras Parenting Teaching

5 Key Tips on Implementing Montessori at Home

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the links and purchase products.  Please see the Disclosure Policy for more information.

 

Do you homeschool? Looking in to the Montessori Method for your homeschooling needs? Are you a daycare provider that would like to develop a specialized home space for your child? Are you a parent that would like to introduce key elements, thoughts, and practices of the Montessori Method into your home on a regular basis?

 

Are you interested in developing a better understanding of the Montessori Method?

 

Are you unfamiliar with the Method and its’ principles?

 

Don’t know where to begin?

 

Well, you are in luck! Whether you are familiar with the Montessori Method or not, there are some basic ideas and principles that you should know before you decide on fully implementing the practices of Montessori. There are many types of publications, websites, and information available that explains the Montessori Method. The information can come from various organizations and/or people, that provide information on the method. The main problem that I have noticed is, that the information is not always verified or come from a reputable source.

So, why not learn the ins and out of the Montessori Method from a trained Montessori teacher? Montessori trained teachers learn, study, and analyze Maria Montessori, her teachings and publications; as well as her philosophy, writings, and materials regarding the development of children and their education. Based on some of her writings, the tips below will give you a bit of insight on the basis of the Montessori Method, as well as tips on implementing the ideology.

 

The beginnings of the Montessori Method:

The Montessori Method is an educational and teaching system that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator whose philosophy is based on creating a self-directed, hands on learning environment where children are encouraged to be the natural learners that they are. Independence, character development, and the development of their natural abilities are key components of the Montessori philosophy. Children thrive in an environment where they are active participants in their learning, are encouraged to explore their surroundings and have free choices in selecting activities. The method promotes child centered, developmentally appropriate activities, and fosters the development of the “whole child”. To learn more about the Montessori Method, be sure to check out the American Montessori Society website.

 

5 Key Tips for Implementing the Montessori Method at home
 
  1. Montessori activities should be child centered:

“The free choices made by the children enabled us to observe their psychic needs and tendencies”.-Maria Montessori, The Secret of the Child

One of the key concepts in introducing Montessori practices and principles is to ensure the environment and activities are child centered. Provide activities and items in the environment that are developmentally appropriate. Furniture should be child sized and items for the child’s use should be easily accessible for the child.

 

  1. Montessori activities should follow the child and their interests:

“The first thing to be done, therefore, is to discover the true nature of a child and then assist him in his normal development”. –Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

When preparing the environment and activities, be sure to take into consideration what your child enjoys doing and learning. Provide activities that are focused on the child’s interests and allow them to decide on their activity choices, as well as taking note of things that may be of little to no interest to them.

 

  1. Montessori environments foster independence:

“The child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his “natural development”.-Maria Montessori, Absorbent Mind

Create opportunities for your child to be independent. Providing opportunities for children to be independent builds confidence and fosters a sense of accomplishment. Encourage your child to do things independently; start with simple activities; then following the child’s development, increase to more complex activities.

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  1. Montessori fosters the development of the whole child:

“There is in the child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life”.-Maria Montessori, Absorbent Mind

Create and provide a wide variety of activities that encompass many different topics, subjects, and skills. Support the development of their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs by introducing your child to activities that will stimulate and foster their overall growth.

 

  1. The Montessori Method and environment contributes to the thought that children are natural learners:

“Before elaborating any system of education, we must therefore create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts”.-Maria Montessori, The Secret of the Childhood

 

Prepare an environment that allows your child to learn from it. Have various activities that teach many different concepts, so that your child can intuitively learn from the activities. Introduce activities that allow your child to explore, create, and motivate their ability to learn naturally.

Are you intrigued to learn more about implementing the Montessori Method at home? Need ideas on activities to implement into your home? Please feel free to email me so we can discuss the details of my Montessori in the Home Activity & Ideas Plan!

 

Want to learn more about the Montessori Method and implementing it in your home?  Check out these books to give you more insight and understanding into the principles.

 

How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way

by Tim Seldin

 

 

Montessori at Home Guide

by A. M. Sterling

 

 

Teaching Montessori in the Home: Preschool Years

by Elizabeth G. Hainstock

 

 

Montessori at Home: A Complete Guide to Teaching Your Preschooler at Home Using the Montessori Method

by Heidi Spietz

 

 

Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook: A Short Guide to Her Ides and Materials

by Maria Montessori

 

Hoping that you have greater knowledge on the Montessori Method!

Keeping these tips in mind when implementing the Montessori Method will put you on the right path to creating a child centered and independent learning environment for you child.

 

Anitra

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Classroom Content Practical Life

10 amazing Valentine’s Practical Life Activities

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on and purchase products.  Please see the Disclosure Policy for more information.

 

Valentine’s Day is 13 days away, and I have begun decorating and planning for the Valentine’s theme. With it being the beginning of a new month, I am busy creating and putting together many new works and activities for all areas of my classroom.  The Practical Life area is no exception.  I try to change out my Practical Life activities and exercises at least a few times a month.  That way, the activities keep the children intrigued and happy to explore the Practical Life area of the classroom.

The Practical Life area in a Montessori classroom or home school is the area of the classroom where children develop the necessary skills related to the care of self.  Many of the works foster fine motor skills, grasping, cutting, transferring, and hand eye coordination.  These skills are a necessary precursor to writing, reading, and mathematical functions.  There are many activities that can be included in the Practical Life area; there are no limits as to what you can add!  It is important however to consider the different developmental stages of the children in your classroom.

For more information on the importance of the Practical Life area and a description of the other areas of a Montessori classroom, you can read What is all the hype about? A detailed look inside a traditional Montessori classroom.

Whenever possible, I like to tie in the Practical Life area of the classroom with the weekly theme.  There are so many amazing activities to do for Valentine’s Day, so this is a theme that we do for two weeks!  The pictures are of actual works in my classroom, and will be introduced one at a time over the next two weeks.  Take a look, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did putting them together!

 

 

10 Amazing Valentine's Themed Fine Motor Activities

 

1. Pink playdough with heart shaped cookie cutters in different sizes

Make heart shaped cutouts using playdough and cookie cutters

Materials:

  • a tray
  • playdough
  • heart shaped cookie cutters
  • rolling pin (optional)
  • a pair of scissors (optional)

Objectives:

  • grasping
  • fine motor skills
  • hand eye coordination

 

 

2. Hanging heart doilies with clothespins

Hang the heart doiles around the top edge of the basket using clothespins

Materials:

  • rectangular basket
  • heart shaped doilies
  • clothespins

Objectives:

  • fine motor skills
  • pincher grasp
  • pencil grasp

 

 

3. Heart bouquet

Make a heart bouquet using heart cake toppers

Materials:

  • plastic heart cake toppers
  • glass vase
  • a tray

Objectives:

  • fine motor
  • eye hand coordination

 

 

4. Heart shape cutting

Follow along the line and cut out the heart shape

Materials:

  • scissors
  • paper with heart shaped traced on it
  • hot dog tray

Objectives:

  • scissor practice
  • fine motor skills
  • hand eye coordination

 

 

5. Transferring plastic hearts with a small, flat spoon

Transfer the hearts from one bowl to many using a small, flat spoon

Materials:

  • a tray
  • 1 large glass bowl
  • plastic hearts
  • a spoon

Objectives:

  • pencil grasp
  • fine motor
  • hand eye coordination

 

 

6. Valentine’s Pony Bead Sorting

Using their fingers, pick out and sort all of the pony beads by color

Materials:

  • a tray
  • 1 large glass bowl
  • 3 to 5 small bowls
  • pony beads in different colors

Objectives:

  • fine motor skills
  • sorting
  • hand eye coordination
  • pincher grasp

 

 

7. Transferring heart shaped jewels using a tea infuser

Transfer all of the heart shpaed jewels from one bowl to the other using the tea infuser

Materials:

  • 2 glass bowls
  • tea infuser
  • heart shaped jewels
  • a tray

Objectives:

  • hand grasp
  • hand eye coordination

 

 

8. Transfer heart shaped beads with tweezers

Transfer heart shaped beads from one bowl to many using tweezers

Materials:

  • a tray
  • heart shaped beads
  • 1 large bowl
  • 2 small bowls
  • tweezers

Objectives:

  • fine motor skills
  • hand eye coordination
  • pincher grasp
  • pencil grasp

 

 

9. Transfer heart confetti using a meduim sized spoon

Transfer the heart shaped confettin from one bowl to the other using a meduim sized spoon

Materials:

  • a tray
  • -a medium sized spoon
  • heart shaped confetti
  • -2 small bowls

Objectives:

  • hand eye coordination
  • grasp

 

 

10. Pin poking heart shapes

Using a large push pin, poke around the heart shape close enough to be able to punch out the shape.

Materials:

  • a tray
  • a small bowl
  • a large push pin
  • a poke mat
  • heart shapes to poke

Objectives:

  • fine motor skills
  • hand eye coordination
  • pincher grasp
  • pencil grasp

 

 

Many of the materials in each of these activities can be found at the Dollar Tree, believe it or not! They havegreat Valentine’s themed itmes, perfect for any classroom or homeschool environment.   I get all of my trays, glass bowls, and many other items from there as well.  You’d be amazed at the wonderful finds and great quality classroom itmes they have!  Check out the Dollar Tree; you can even order in bulk online!  You can’t beat that!

 

I will be posting pictures of the children in my classroom doing all of these activities, so be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

 

 

Anitra

 

Classroom Content Montessori Extras Parenting

6 tips on finding a Montessori preschool for your child

By Anitra

 

Are you interested in finding a quality Montessori preschool for your child?  There are many things to consider when searching for a Montessori school for your child.  It is not an easy feat to entrust your child and their safety & well being to others.  It is important for you as a parent to feel comfortable, confident, and trust in the place where you will leave your child.  It is also equally important for your child to feel safe, be happy, and feel welcomed to a place where they will spend a good amount of their time.

 

 

With that being said, please know that not all preschools, schools or child care centers are created equal.  Things to consider are school philosophy, program type, extracurricular activities offered, location and price.  There are also other things to look into as well; considering each Montessori school is privately owned and operated.  The Montessori name, method, philosophy, teachings and materials are not trademarked.  Each Montessori school owner has the right to interpret the Montessori method and philosophy as they see fit.  Which means that two Montessori schools right down the street from one another can have many similarities, and just as many differences.  For more information on what makes Montessori unique, please check out my post What’s so special about Montessori…? EVERYTHING!.  If you would like more information in the work and materials in a Montessori classroom, please check out my post What is all the hype about? A detailed look inside a traditional Montessori classroom.

 

When you are ready to begin looking at schools to choose, first start with an internet search of local Montessori schools in your area.  Narrow it down to no more than 5 schools.  Look through their websites, check out any online reviews they may have, and call the school for additional information on their enrollment process.  Once these things are complete, you are ready to incorporate the tips below in selecting a school for your child.  I have included a free checklist at the bottom of the post as well!

 

These 6 tips will help you select the right Montessori school for your child

 

Tip #1

Visit and tour the school(s) you are interested in

It is important for you to go to the school and tour the facility.  During the tour, the school administrators should walk you around the entire school and the playground as well.  Take special note of the cleanliness of the school overall and the condition of the playground & equipment.  The school should look appealing to the eye, and the playground should have safe, child appropriate equipment & toys.  If anything catches your attention or stands out, be sure to ask the administrator about it.

 

 

 

Tip #2

Ask about the schools philosophy

Of course the main philosophy of the school will be the Montessori method.  But each school has a separate school philosophy on how they view early childhood education.  It is important to ask about how they deal with behavior problems, if they are religiously based, and most importantly, their take on how children learn and develop.  See if they follow authentic Montessori practices such as the 3 year age span, allowing children to be independent, and providing a child based environment.  Make sure that their school views are similar to your own personal views on what you expect for your child.

 

 

 

Tip #3

Ask to observe a classroom in action

While on the tour of the schools, most administrators will show you a classroom in action.  Seeing a classroom in full swing will give you a small idea of how the children move throughout the environment, if they seem comfortable in the classroom, and how the teacher(s) interact with the children.  Look for any clues of children being excluded,take notice of the teacher’s tone of voice, and watch to see how they children interact with each other.  In a true Montessori classroom, the children move about freely & confidently and seem engaged in their work with a buzz of conversation happening around them.  The teacher(s) are engaging and interacting with the children in a positive, respectful manner.

 

 

 

Tip #4

Ask administration about teacher turnover rates

In the child care industry, Teacher turnover rate can be common and can be higher than in other professions.  This occurs for a number of reasons, but when a school can retain their teachers for more than two years, that is a positive sign.  If teachers stay for extended time at a particular school, it may be due to the school being supportive of their staff and their needs.  When schools value their teachers, and the teachers feel needed & important, they tend to stay at a school for a longer period of time.  Ask the school administrator how long their teachers have been at the school.

Tip #5

Ask neighbors, friends and co-workers about the school

The best way to get an accurate review or opinion on a school you’re interested in is to ask around.  Ask your neighbors where they send their children, ask friends and co-workers if they have had any positive or negative experiences with a school you may want to tour.  Let’s face it; if you’re interested in trying a new restaurant, you reach out to others to get their opinions about the restaurant.  So why not do the same for a school you may be interested in sending your child too?  You can never be too safe when it comes to your child.

 

Tip #6

Check to make sure the school is licensed with the state

Every child care center, preschool, or day care center providing care to children in a business capacity should be licensed in some form or another by the state they are conducting business in.  Here in California, EVERY child care center, preschool, day care center or home day care MUST be licensed by the state in order to operate.  Each child care facility goes through a rigorous checklist of standards BEFORE they are licensed.  They are also subject to frequent inspections from the state at any time.  California has an online database of all licensed care providers that are licensed in the state.  By simply going to the state website, you can enter in the name of the child care facility you are interested in, and get detailed information about that facility.  Such things as licensing date, licensee name, any violation of state standards they have received, and the amount of children they are allowed to have at the facility.  This information is public knowledge, and available at all times.

 

 

Following these tips can definitely help in finding the right Montessori school for you and your child!  I always say that I don’t just have the child in my classroom, but the entire family as well.  It is important for you as a parent to be able to interact, communicate, and mesh well with the school and the teacher.  You must feel welcomed and part of the overall school community in order for you and your child to have a great experience!

 

 

Interested in getting the FREE checklist for Selecting a Montessori Preschool for Your Child?

It’s yours, just click below for your FREE download!

 

Classroom Content Math Montessori Extras Practical Life Themed Activities

13 December Practical Life Activities for home or school

By Anitra

 

With November slowly coming to an end, it is time to shake up the shelves and add some December themed activities to them.  Changing out the activities frequently; but not too frequently, keep the children engaged, interested, and excited about working in the Practical Life area.  For those unfamiliar with the Practical Life area in a Montessori classroom or homeschool, it is the area that has many components to it that make it the most important area of a Montessori classroom.  They learn many practical, self help & care skills; hence where the name Practical Life stemmed from.  Since children learn basic working, concentration, and eye-hand coordination skills, it is the prerequisite to all of the other areas in a Montessori classroom.  Activities could include spooning, using a ladle, pouring, scooping, and cutting.  This is by far the busiest area of a Montessori classroom.

 

As Maria Montessori stated,“Activities here build on the child’s natural interest and help him develop good work habits, concentration, eye-hand coordination, a lengthened attention span and control of his body.”-Maria Montessori The Sense of Childhood, pg. 1.

 

Pictures of my classroom Practical Life shelves

 

 

If you would like more information about the Montessori Primary (preschool) classroom and all the areas of the environment, please click here to read my post where I describe in detail the Montessori environment.

 

I like to keep the work on the shelves fun and if possible, theme related.  For December, my themes are snow, Antarctica, Winter, Hanukkah, and Christmas.  The 15 December themed activities are actual activities that I use in my classroom.  I have tweeked, added to, and taken away various activities over the years, but this is my set up for this December.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

13 December Themed Practical Life Activities for home or school

 

 

1. Using tongs to transfer large jingle bells

Children love transferring objects.  This work is great for that!

 

 

2. Stringing large bells on pipe cleaners

This is a more complicated work.  It takes patience to string the bells on the pipe cleaners.  Some challenges are good for them!

 

 

3. Spooning “snow”

This spoon is wide and flat.  It is good to have a variety of different sized and shaped spoons for transferring works.

 

 

4. Using a ladle to scoop Christmas peppermint erasers

Using a ladle is another way to add variety to your activities.  The children LOVE the themed erasers as well!

 

 

5. Using a small spoon to transfer snowflake erasers

It may seem repetitious, but having the varying sized spoons adds a different element.

 

 

6. Using a medium spoon to transfer one to many with snowman erasers

Transferring one to many adds another element to a an activity.  It adds an option that wasn’t previously used in the other works.

 

 

7. Using tweezers to transfer small jingle bells

Tweezers are great for transferring objects.  They are a little more challenging than using tongs.

 

 

8. Using a tea infuser to transfer snowman erasers

A tea infuser is a very unique tool to use for transferring.  It allows the child to use their “squeezing” capabilities.  It is a favorite!

 

 

9. Building a snowman

Make and put out the pieces to build a snowman.  A top hat, a large circle, a medium circle, a small circle with eyes & a nose, and add a few buttons.  Children have everything they need to build a snowman!  This is another favorite in my classroom!

 

 

10. Art sponge-painted polar bears

White paint, a small sponge, a polar bear stencil, and blue construction paper make for a fun polar bear!  I have them “dab” the sponge up and down to give the textured look of fur or snow.  These are FUN to make!

 

 

11. Making a snowman

Make a snowman with a snowman and hat template.  On the tray there is a pencil and crayons, so after the children trace the snowman and the hat, they can decorate their snowman as they like!

 

 

12. Hanging felt snowflakes with clothespins

Using clothespins, children will pin the felt snowflakes around the outside of a rectangular basket.  This is another favorite, and has been proven to be difficult at first, but they end up getting the hang of it!

 

 

13. Pin-poking a snowman

Using giant sized push pins, (after receiving a lesson on the safety of the push pins), children can poke around the outside lining of the snowman.  If they take their time, follow along the black line, and place their poking close together, it is easy for the snowman design to be punched out.  They then can take it home!  Pin-poking is a favorite by EVERYONE in my class!

 

 

BONUS!!!!! A couple of Math December Themed activities!!

14. Snowman counting with buttons

Children can practice their counting skills with these snowman labeled zero to ten.  The children can count and place the corresponding number of buttons under each snowman.  This is another favorite!

 

 

15. Mitten counting with felt snowflakes

Similar to the snowman counting, children practice their counting skills with the mittens labeled one to ten.  The children count and place the correct number of snowflakes under each mitten.

 

There are so many other amazing ideas that I incorporate into my classroom during the month of December.  So many that I am probably going to put together a “Part II” of the December Themed Activities for home or school, and include more of the math and language themed activities.  Be on the lookout for that in a week or so!

 

If you noticed, I use very simple, easy to find materials that I get from either the Dollar Tree or the 99 cent store to put together my activities.  There are two main reasons for that: One, they are cheap, and if something gets broken; no big deal, I’ll just replace it since it only cost a dollar!  The second reason is that you can put together a shelf full of activities for around $20.00!!  Is that not amazing?!

 

I hope that I was able to inspire you and encourage your creative juices to go out and get some materials and put together some of your own amazing activities for December!  Now get out to those dollar stores and get to finding some great stuff!! Happy Hunting!

 

Anitra

 

Parenting

Holiday gift ideas that are educational…and still fun!

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.   Please see disclosure policy for more information.

 

Oh boy, it’s that time of year again…Christmas gift shopping time!  I know that many of you have probably already started (or even finished) your gift shopping, but there are many of you that haven’t started because you have no idea what to get your children.  There are many desirable toys out there right now, and trying to get your hands on the latest toy may be close to impossible.

 

As a mom, I understand how much you dread adding to your child’s already large collection of toys.  Toys that make noise, toys they begged for and no longer play with, toys that they haven’t played with in months, but if you try to throw them away or donate them, that will probably start World War III!!!

 

Sound familiar?…I had this happen to me over and over again; year after year.  Now that my girls are older, I don’t have to worry about this.  But for those of you who have younger children, I am here to help in your search for great gifts for your children that are educational, and yet, still fun!!!  Why not get them something that they can actually learn some valuable skills from?  The items on the list can educate your child in a variety of subjects; the body, rocks & minerals, geography, art appreciation, shapes, sorting, math, time, language, and one of my personal favorites, yoga! They are also for many ages, as young as birth and up to age 8!

 

As a mom and an educator, I tried to pick the best options that I would pick if my girls were still little.  I hope you enjoy my choices!

**Brief descriptions under products are from Montessori Services®, used with permission**

 

 

True-to-Life Human X-rays

Ages 5+

“Children can feel their bones from the outside through their skin and muscle. This x-ray set shows children what their bones actually look like. Showing the body’s outline around the skeleton, young children are able to relate the x-ray bones to visible body parts (arms, legs, etc.). Young children might assemble a 5′ 6″ skeleton with these x-rays or guess which body parts belong to which bones.” -Montessori Services®

 

 

Rock Science Kit

Ages 5+

“Children will learn to look for luster (the way a mineral reflects light) and hardness (measured on the Mohs scale), for example. This starter kit includes 15 numbered specimens that represent the full range of types of rocks, a small magnifier, and activity guide offering more test ideas for further study.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Mineral Science Kit

Ages 5+

“Children will learn to look for luster, (the way a mineral reflects light), hardness (measured on the Mohs scale), and color (with a streak test) with this starter kit.  This kit includes 15 numbered specimens that represent the full range of types of minerals, a small magnifier, a nail and tile for testing, and activity guide offering more test ideas for further study.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Shape Sorting Box

Ages 2+

“Toddlers love matching these simple blocks to the cutout shapes in the lid of the box. In fact, they love it so much they do it over and over!”-Montessori Services®

 

 

 

Yoga Pretzels Card Deck

Ages 4+

“Pick a card from any of nine categories and find an imaginative way to start your children bending, breathing, and stretching with yoga.  This mind/body practice develops children’s strength and flexibility, helps improve their concentration, and builds self-esteem. Engaging step-by-step illustrations show a playful, imaginative pose or activity on one side, with activity instructions or simple visualizations on the other. Try partner poses or choose a fun group game, such as “Yoga Pretzels.” The companion booklet helps any adult design a safe and fun practice for children.”-Montessori Services®

 

Beginner’s World Atlas

Ages 5-8

“Large, easy-to-read maps introduce youngsters to the world and each of its seven continents. Stunning photographs, carefully selected for their appeal, supplement the maps.” –Montessori Services®

 

 

Famous Paintings Cards

Ages 3+

“You’ll learn where Dali’s inspiration came from, why Magritte painted improbable scenes, how many dots are in a Seurat painting, and so much more.  These cards beg to be lingered over—looking at the painting on one side, reading the interesting facts on the back. Young children will enjoy the pictures; older ones will love the stories of the paintings and the artists; adults will find them engaging, too.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Classic Judy Clock

Ages 4+

“The Judy Clock has movable hands and large, clear hour numbers on the face.  Grasp the knob on the minute hand to turn it and watch the visible, working gears simultaneously move the hour hand. Children clearly see that turning the minute hand one complete revolution causes the hour hand to move forward one hour.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Sum Swamp

Ages 5+

“Take a skill-building journey through a whimsical land where adding and subtracting dice numbers determines your fate.  Players will master basic operations and learn about number relationships such as even and odd or “less than” and “greater than.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Count Your Chickens

Ages 3-5

“All 40 baby chicks are out and the fox is loose. Young children will be eager to work together to collect the chicks. Picture-based play makes it easy for everyone to participate.  Spin the spinner, count the spaces together, and move the mother hen. Then return that many baby chicks to the safety of the coop.  A very appealing way to learn and reinforce counting skills.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Happy Hats Beginning Reading Game

Ages 4+

“Play and read with your favorite characters from the popular Bob Books® series.  Children explore initial consonant and short vowel sounds as they form simple words. For each word they create, they collect a “Happy Hat.”  Includes board, 44 hat token, 40 word ending cards, 4 characters & stands, spinner, a word list, and complete instructions.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

My First Dictionary

Ages 5-8

“A brilliant bridge between a picture dictionary and a text-only dictionary! Early readers will find a picture clue alongside the definitions for words selected with early readers in mind.  Alphabetical listings help children look up and decipher unfamiliar words. Includes tips for parents and nine dictionary games.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

A few other great gift ideas…

Do you have a child that LOVES books?  Well, Scholastic has a wide selection of books that any child will love!!  Simply search by age, author, or title!

Scholastic Books 

Do you have a younger child or infant?  MontiKids provides quality, educational Montessori products for children birth to three years of age.  Check out their toy timeline, which gets more challenging as your child works their way through each level!  Materials sent directly to your home every three months!

MontiKids

 

 

These are some of my favorite products as an educator.  Many of these products I have even used before in my classroom, so I have first hand knowledge of how awesome they are!!  I hope that I helped you out with your shopping list for your littles, and I wish you a happy shopping season!!

 

Anitra

 

 

Product Reviews

BOB Books: Reading Kit 1 for Beginning Readers

By Anitra

One or more of the products mentioned in this post were provided to facilitate a review.  This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

It just doesn’t get any better than this!  My favorite books to teach young children to read have really outdone themselves with their newest products; BOB Books Reading Kits!! If you know me and you follow my blog, you know that BOB Books have been an important part of and a necessity to my classroom.  I have used BOB Books in my classroom for over 17 years, and I feel no curriculum is complete without them.   I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review and use the reading kit in my classroom!

 

The BOB Books Reading Kit is for beginning readers and is available for sale at Costco.  The main characters of the BOB Books; Mat, Sam, and Dot are also available to enhance the reading experience for the children!  Mat, Sam, and Dot are celebrities!  Haha!!!

 

 

 

 

The BOB Books Reading Kit 1 comes in a self contained, easy to carry box.  It’s contents of the box includes an 8 page Parent Guide, an 80 page child’s workbook with stickers, a beginning set of 12 Bob Books, 2 full length storybooks, 40 flashcards…this kit is full of everything you need to ensure your child is successful in reading!

The contents of Reading Kit 1:

-The Parent Guide: Comes with tips and lessons that you can do with your child at home or at school.  It comes with hints for teaching a child to read, additional resources and an achievement log.

-The Workbook: Comes with 6 workbook pages for each of the BOB Books, stickers, a checklist, and a certificate of completion.

-Beginning set of 12 BOB Books: Comes with 12 books; Mat, Sam, Dot, Mac, Dot and Mit, Dot and the Dog,Jig and Mag, Muff and Ruff, 10 Cut-Ups, Peg and Ted, Lad and the Fat Cat, and The Vet

-2 full length storybooks: Comes with 2, Level1 Readers that are geared towards sight words, words to sound out, and simple sentences.They are Grade 1 readers, appealing to Pre-k to 1st graders.

-40 flashcards: Comes with 40 double-sided flashcards with a picture from the books on one side, and the word on the other.

 

 

In order to be able to reuse the workbook pages for multiple children, I decided to make a photocopy of the pages of the workbook that correspond to the first BOB Book, Mat.  After a child in my class read the book, she then began on the workbook pages.  She really enjoyed being able to reference the book while completing her workbook pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The workbook and the characters were a HUGE hit!! I had multiple children in my class asking to do this work and excited to be able to explore the reading kit!  I love that each book has its own set of workbook pages, and that it is fun and inviting for the children.  This Reading Kit is ideal for any homeschool curriculum or classroom curriculum where you have beginning readers.  The kit is complete with everything you need to teach reading to your young child.

 

 

I can only hope that BOB Book keeps making these amazing Reading Kits, and the wonderful character dolls we have all grown to love and adore! Bravo, BOB Books, well done with the Reading Kits!

 

Interested in learning more about how I introduce reading into my classroom with BOB Books? Click here.

Interested in reading about the BOB Books Sight Words Boxed sets? Click here.

 

Anitra

 

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Classroom Content Montessori Extras

What is all the hype about? A detailed look inside a traditional Montessori classroom

By Anitra

You’ve probably heard about all the hype and craze surrounding Montessori and Montessori schools. Anything and everything from the teaching method,the classroom environment, child led activities, and Montessori materials.  But what does all that mean?  The Montessori method is a very unique, very distinct, very individualized learning environment with a proven way of teaching young children.

 

The materials, along with the carefully prepared environment, is what makes Montessori, Montessori.  There are various areas and activities of a traditional Montessori classroom.  This is what sets a Montessori primary (preschool) classroom apart from other preschool classrooms. Many people have heard of Montessori, but haven’t had the opportunity to actually see inside or visit a classroom.  Please be aware that there are many different Montessori run schools, each individually owned and operated; so unfortunately not every Montessori school classroom will be set up or run exactly the same.  With that being said; I try to keep a traditional Montessori classroom.

 

Curious to learn and find out more…?   The pictures are from my actual classroom that I currently teach in.  The shelves are child sized, with age appropriate, enticing materials.  The common item you will notice in most Montessori classrooms and materials is wood.  The use of natural wood for the shelves and materials, along with neutral wall colors, is meant to soothe the senses and and the attract the children to the beauty of the room.  Montessori classrooms differ from other preschool classrooms in that they are calming, peaceful, and uncluttered.

 

 

LANGUAGE AREA

 

“Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization.” -Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 98

The Language Area is composed of phonetic sound recognition, three letter phonetic word building, four letter and more phonetic word building, and blends & phonograms.  The three letter words make up the Pink Level, the four letters and more make up the Blue Level, the phonemes and hard & soft letters make up the Green Level.

 

The Pink Level also covers word families, picture to

word matching, and easy phonetic sentences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Level also covers beginning & ending

consonant blends, and complex phonetic words

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Level also covers silent “e”, double vowel consonants, phonemes, and hard & soft letters

 

I also have opposites, parts of speech, sentence building & writing, and even antonyms & synonyms.

 

 

MATH AREA

 

“The results we obtain with our little ones contrast oddly with the fact that mathematics is so often held to be a scourge rather than a pleasure in school programmes.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 170

The Math Area is composed of number recognition up to ten, mastering the teens & tens, and working on numbers up to one hundred.  This area also covers simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and even division.  More complex works include place value, the clock, and fractions.

 

Number recognition from one to twenty, with various materials & activities to master these skills

 

Simple addition, the tens work, & the hundred board all round out the Math Area

 

 

Telling Time, Place Value & Fractions are the

more advanced Math activities

 

 

 

SENSORIAL AREA

 

“And if we look at the sensorial apparatus which is able to evoke such deep concentration…helps also to the development of the mathematical mind.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 170

The Sensorial Area is composed of activities that engage the senses of the children.  There are activities for smell, taste, and hearing; and various materials that promote sight and touch.

 

Sensorial materials to manipulate sizes, color,

touch and hearing

 

Complex materials that introduce geometric shapes, as well as tasting & smelling materials

 

 

 

CULTURAL/GEOGRAPHY AREA

 

“…the child’s mind can acquire culture at a much earlier age than generally supposed, taking in knowledge is by certain kinds of activity which involve movement.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 157

The Cultural and Geography Areas is the area of a Montessori classroom that frequently changes.  It is an area where new activities can be added on a weekly or monthly basis.  These areas are composed of science, botany (plants), zoology (animals), geography, and art.  This is by far one of the busiest areas of a Montessori classroom.

 

 

Study of continents, seasons land, air & water                                  Botany, zoology, & insect puzzles and magnets

 

 

Geography Maps

 

 

PRACTICAL LIFE AREA

 

“Activities here build on the child’s natural interest and help him develop good work habits, concentration, eye-hand coordination, a lengthened attention span and control of his body.”-Maria Montessori The Sense of Childhood, pg. 1

The Practical Life Area is another area of a Montessori classroom that changes frequently.  The Practical Life Area has many components to it that make it the most important area of a Montessori classroom.  Since children learn basic working, concentration, and eye-hand coordination skills, it is the prerequisite to all of the other areas in a Montessori classroom.  Activities could include spooning, using a ladle, pouring, scooping, and cutting.  This is by far the busiest area of a Montessori classroom.

 

Other activities include food preparation work,

and using tongs & tweezers

There are also washing activities, bubble making,

table setting, and water activities

 

 

 

All of the areas in a Montessori classroom contribute to the development of the whole child.  As stated before, not every Montessori classroom will be furnished and set-up exactly the same.  In quality, true to Montessori schools and classrooms, you will see similar setups and materials.  One of my favorite areas is the Practical Life Area, I like to come up with fun water work activities, food preparation works, and washing activities.  I like to add variety, and add activities that promote the individual needs of the children currently in my classroom.

 

 

 

Now can you see what all the hype is about?!  Trust me, the pictures just give you a small glimpse of what a Montessori environment looks like.  Can you imagine how wonderful it is to see the children actively working in a Montessori classroom…it’s PRICELESS!!

 

Anitra

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Back 2 School Montessori Extras

10 back to school or homeschool activities to give your child a leg up on learning

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

 

Whether your child is going back to public school, preschool, or it is time to get back to your homeschooling routine, it means that it is time for your child to buckle down and get back to the academics.  In most cases, the time your child spends at school or preschool is not enough for them to them to master, learn, and even practice many skills necessary for their academic success. Phonetic letter sound recognition, number recognition, the ability to communicate effectively & use problem solving skills, and fine motor skills are all important aspects that are customary for children to know and master.

 

 

 

 

 

I have parents all the time asking me if there is something that they could be working with at home with their child.  I normally tell them to have their child read (if they are a reader), and advise them of a few resources for them to possibly purchase and/or add to their home.  As a teacher, I do not have just one academic area that I find is important over another one.  In my opinion, they are all equally important, and play an important part in the development of the whole child.  It is important to incorporate all aspects of a child’s development, as well as finding ways to promote fine motor, cognitive skills, and critical thinking skills.  Trust me, no teacher would be disappointed to have a class of well rounded students!!

 

The activities I chose for the list are ones that can be used in a variety of ways and incorporated for use at home as extra support, for your homeschool, or in a classroom to enhance your curriculum.  I have direct knowledge and have used many of these items from the list in various ways either in my classroom or as an addition to my curriculum.

 

 

10 Activities that can used as extra support for your child’s academic learning

 

Add & Subtract Abacus

The Add & Subtract Abacus is for three to six year olds.  It comes with a wooden base and the double-sided wooden boards.  The colorful beads make it easy to distinguish between each of the numbers.  This work is a way to explore numbers, colors, patterns, addition, and subtraction!  It is very multi-functional.

     Self-Correcting Alphabet Letter Puzzles

The Self-Correcting Alphabet Puzzles are for four to six year olds.  The wooden puzzle pieces have a colorful object for the corresponding letter sound on one side, and letters from A to Z on the other side.  The interlocking pieces make it easy for young children to self correct and promotes independence and success!

Alphabet Puzzle Cards

The Alphabet Puzzle Cards are for four to six year olds.  The interlocking alphabet cards come in a great wooden box for easy storage.  The self correcting interlocking pieces insures that the puzzles are solved and matched correctly!  These puzzle cards promote independence and

Wooden Letter Alphabet Magnets

The Wooden Letter Alphabet Magnets are for three to six year olds.  There are fifty two magnetic upper and lower case letters, that can be used for spelling, stenciling, matching upper and lower case, and for building words!  These letter magnets are great for all kinds of language ideas!

Self-Correcting Number Puzzles

The Self-Correcting Number Puzzles are for four to six year olds.  The wooden puzzle pieces have colorful, objects on one side, and numbers from one to twenty on the other side.  The interlocking pieces make it easy for young children to self correct and promotes independence and success!
World Map Floor Puzzle – 33 Pieces

The World Map Floor Puzzle is for six plus years old.  Although, we a little assistance, I don’t see why a four or a five year old couldn’t be successful with this puzzle.  The puzzle pieces are made with an easy, clean surface.  This puzzle map is perfect for introducing and learning about the continents of the world.

Turn & Tell Wooden Clock

The Turn & Tell Wooden Clock is for four to seven year olds.  The wooden base and large numbers make it easy for your child to be introduced to and practice telling time.  It has clickable hands to help mark off the minutes, it details hour, minute, half past, and quarter past.  There are also 13 double-sided time cards for practice as well!  This all-in-one clock is perfect for learning to tell time.

U.S.A. (United States) Map Floor Puzzle – 51 Pieces

The U.S.A. Map Floor Puzzle is also for six plus years old.  I believe that with a bit of assistance, a four or five year old would be able to do this puzzle in its entirety.  The extra thick puzzle pieces make this puzzle durable. This puzzle is great for introducing, learning, and studying all 50 States!

Magnetic Wooden Numbers

The Magnetic Wooden Numbers are for three to five year olds.  It comes with enough numbers to count from zero to twenty, and it includes five number signs as well!  These magnetic numbers can be used to introduce counting, number recognition, and simple addition & subtraction!

See & Spell Learning Toy

The See & Spell is for children four to six years old.  You can use the letters to spell the three and four letter puzzle words, spell other words, or use the letters as a stencil.  The cardboard puzzle boards and pieces are built for long lasting durability.  This is a spelling and fine motor activity wrapped into one!

 

 

Adding one or many of these activities to your child’s daily teachings will put your child on the right path to mastering many of the necessary skills needed for their future learning.  The activities are adaptable and allow for use in a classroom or homeschool environment, or just as a supplement at home for your child.

 

Anitra

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Back 2 School Montessori Extras

Back 2 School-The 4 Best Lunch Box Containers for Young Children

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

 

It is Back to School time! The early mornings, trying to get everyone out of the house on time, and making lunches.  Back to School means making and packing lunches. Whether you make and pack them at night or in the morning, it is still a chore to complete.  Making and packing lunches means endless amounts of zip loc baggies, tupperware containers, aluminum foil, ice packs and thermoses.  All the makings of a disaster for a teacher…let me explain.  In most, if not all, preschool (3 to 6 year old) classrooms in California, there can be a maximum of twenty four children and two teachers.  A ration of twelve to one.  If every child brings their lunch; all twenty four of them; that means that there are twenty four lunches that we have to help open.  Sounds crazy, right?  Well, that’s my point!  I work in a private preschool, and at least eighty percent of the children in my classroom bring a lunch from home.

 

It is very difficult to work and teach at a school who’s philosophy is based on the independence of the children, when parents do not promote independence for their child when considering the containers and baggies they put in their lunches.  For example, I understand that placing sandwiches in zip loc baggies are convenient and cheap, but most parents do not take into consideration how difficult it is for young children to open the baggies on their own.  It is actually pretty difficult for them.  On the other side, using tupperware containers are not any easier, as they tend to have very difficult lids that are not necessarily child friendly and easy to open for small hands.  Even though aluminum foil and thermoses help keep food warm in instances when there is not a way to re warm food, but they tend to be equally as difficult for young children to open themselves.

 

I have noticed throughout the years that the above listed ways to pack a child’s lunch are not practical for young children who need to learn to open things themselves.  It is customary in my classroom, and in many Montessori classrooms, that children be able to at least try to open their containers and such at lunch time.  In most cases, many of the children are very eager and willing to open their own things, and do not want the help of the teachers.  They are building on their ability to be naturally independent and self sufficient.  It is an important part of the Montessori philosophy to promote their inner ability to be natural learners.

With that in mind, I have come up with a list of lunch containers that are ideal in promoting the independence of your child at lunch time, which in turn leads to being independent at other feeding times as well!  The below list are of items that children have had in my classroom over the past one to two years, and are, in my opinion, the best “child centered” products for promoting independent little learners!

 

4 Best Child Centered Lunch Containers

(Items listed are listed in no particular order)

 

 

1. Bentgo Kids Childrens Lunch Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bentgo Kids container is a popular one.  It has two easy to open snap tabs, and the multiple compartments allows you to provide a variety of lunch choices for your child.  It also comes in more colors for your child to choose from.  They are durable & leak proof; and the inner tray is microwave and dishwasher safe.  The outside has rubber coated edges for maximum durability, and it even comes with a free downloadable eCookbook!

 

2. Lunchbots Stainless Steel Lunch Container

The Lunchbots lunch container is also a popular choice.  It has an easy to open lid, and similar to the Bentgo box, it has multiple compartments to allow for a variety of food choices for your child.  The durable stainless steel is built for long term usage.  It is dishwasher safe, and also comes in a trio; with two different varieties for the trio box!

 

3. OmieBox Bento Lunch Box

The OmieBox lunch box comes with a kid thermos that is insulated.  It opens easy, as does the lunch box itself with a snap lid.  It also has multiple compartments to provide a variety of food choices as well.  The leak proof, double walled, air insulated lunch box can be used for hot or cold foods, and the insulated thermos will keep food hot for up to four hours!

 

 

4. Zojirushi Mr. Bento Lunch Jar

The Zojirushi Mr. Bento lunch jar is by far the most convenient one for keeping foods hot.  It comes with four smaller insulated containers with lids, that are easily stored inside the jar.  It can keep food hot (or cold) for up to six hours!  It is vacuum insulated stainless steel, with microwavable food bowls.  The bowls come in different sizes, and the jar itself comes in a variety of colors. It even comes with a convenient carrying bag!

 

All of the lunch containers will provide opportunities for your child to practice their fine motor skills.  It also gives them an opportunity to be independent.  Any activities that aid in your child being self sufficient and independent will in the long run lead to them being confident and autonomous in the future, and on in to adulthood.  Come on, now who doesn’t want their young child to be more independent?!

 

Looking for more Back 2 School posts?  All through the month of August I will be bringing you posts giving you Back 2 School tips! Enjoy!

Anitra

 

 

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