Archive | January, 2012

Toddler Knife Skills (no, really!)

31 Jan



Learning to Cut Food*

Age: 18 months + (or when you feel that your child is ready for this activity)

Purpose: This Practical Life lesson shows the child how to use a knife to prepare her own snack. It also helps develop fine motor skills. Using a knife is a life skill and is another step towards the child’s independence. Since she is using a real knife and cutting up real food, she is happy to be doing what she has seen adults do (of course!) and this is preparing her for real life (the whole purpose of Montessori’s Practical Life activities!).


  • 1 Banana with a slit made on the top, near the stem (to make peeling easier)
  • Cutting board
  • Child-friendly knife. The one in the photo is a small butterknife designed for kids.
  • Small bowl
  • Small plate

What to do:

Before any food preparation activity, make sure everyone has washed their hands!

1. Sit down at the table with your child on your right (or on your left, if she’s a leftie). Have the materials ready on the table.

2. Give her the banana and show her how to peel the skin off, placing each peel into the bowl on the left. When she is done, ask her to put the banana onto the cutting board.




3. Next, talk to her about what you are going to show her. For example: “Today I am will teach you to cut with a knife. This is a knife. It is sharp and we use it to cut food. We need to be careful with the knife.” Of course, your child may not completely understand everything that you’ve said, but certain words (“knife,” “sharp,” “careful”) and the tone of your voice can convey your meaning.

4. Show her how you hold the banana gently (to avoid squishing it) on the cutting board with your left hand and the knife firmly and safely (hands around the handle and the tip pointed away) in your right hand (again, reverse hands if needed). I made two slits into the banana to divide it into thirds to make it easier for her to know where to cut. Cut into the first slit and put that third of the banana on the plate.




5. Guiding her, help her place the knife over the second slit and press down to make the cut. Show her how to put the knife safely down (flat on the surface, tip pointing away) and ask her to put the pieces of banana on the plate.

6. When she’s finished using the knife, have her put it onto the cutting board and put them aside.

7. Enjoy the snack!




We’re going to continue practicing cutting up a banana each morning for breakfast! And trust me, she needs the practice in changing the current stabby stabby motion to something less…scary!


Go further:

  • I chose to start with a banana because it’s soft and easy to cut and no juices inside. For younger  infants, there are wooden fruit toys that can be “cut” through the adjoining velcro or start with a non-food item, like cutting play dough with a plastic knife.
  • Later, try other soft foods such as pears, cucumbers, sandwiches…
  • Children can also use an apple corer or other fun fruit cutting tools.

* In a Montessori classroom (or home!), real tools are used.

For example, in the class (or Montessori home) children use  real glassware (cups and pitchers) in the home. There are a few reasons for this.

As you know, children want to do what everyone else (read: adults) are doing and using. And yes, they can start this young! When Freestyle began eating solid food at the table (6 months), we started allowing her to drink water from a small glass (you can also use glass baby food jars if you don’t have a small glass). Sure, she dropped a couple, but soon enough she mastered the skill of drinking from a glass and today she is able to pick up a glass off her little table, take a sip, and put it back. If the child is eating at a child-sized table, then the distance between the table and floor is less and there is less chance of it breaking.

By using the same glass cups that the rest of the family uses, the child feels respected and a sense of belonging. They also learn more quickly to be responsible because there are real consequences when using glass (oops!). Not only that, they will also learn that this consequence (glass breaking) has a further result on the family (one less glass). What they do, for better or worse, matters.

Finally, children at this age want to be challenged. Ever notice a child trying to pick up something heavier than you thought possible for them to lift? And the resulting smile of pride when they do? Montessori noted the child’s satisfaction in accomplishment: “I did it myself!” This is just another benefit of using actual tools (in this case, the knife) in Practical Life exercises.



Sensory Game (Ages 1+)

30 Jan

What I used: stuffed animal, cotton ball, washcloth, silk purse, wooden bear claw (salad server), crayon, spoon, bank.


Touch & Texture Game

(adapted from Maja Pitamic’s Child’s Play: Montessori games and acivities for your baby and toddler)

Ages: 1+ years

Purpose: Children at this age are Sensorial Explorers, using their five senses to learn about their environment. This activity allows them to use their senses, the sense of touch especially, as well as learn new vocabulary. It’s an easy Montessori-inspired activity to start with because it’s simple and you just need a few things that you can find around the home!


  • A tray or a basket large enough to hold the items
  • 4 – 5 small soft objects (whatever you have around the house)
  • 4 – 5 small hard objects (as above)
What to do:
1. Sit with your child to the left of you (or the right, if she is left-handed), placing the tray in front of you. Take a hard object off the tray and put it to her left. Take a soft object and put it to her right.
2. Press your fingertips into the hard object and say, “hard.” Next, press on the soft object and say, “soft.”
3.  Invite your child to do the same.
4. Repeat the word “hard” when she is pressing on the hard object and the word “soft” when she is pressing on the soft object. Let her pick up the objects and manipulate them as well. It’s okay- it’s all about exploring! Freestyle liked to rub the cotton ball on her hand, my hand, her face…
5. Go through all the objects, showing her how to sort them into two groups: hard and soft.

Sorting the objects.


Go further:

  • If you child is older and has begun expanding her vocabulary, ask her to try to repeat the words (“hard” and “soft”). Don’t worry if she can’t just yet, remember all children develop differently.
  • Next time, keep all the objects in the tray and ask her to point to a “soft” object. When she does, take it out and put it in the soft pile. Continue until all the soft objects are selected and then begin on the hard objects.
  • Try this activity again with different opposing textures like rough and smooth.
  • Find objects that hold varying degrees of warmth (cork, wood, marble/jade, stone, fabric) and sort by warm and cold objects.
  • Look outside for natural objects: pinecones, leaves, rocks, etc.
  • Point out examples of these textures in everyday life. If you’re outside and it’s snowing, let her hold a small clump of snow (just for a few seconds!) and say, “This is snow. It feels cold.”

“Montessori Mornings”

28 Jan

Ooh, I’m excited.

Starting next week, a friend who has a toddler (close to Freestyle’s age) will come over once a week so that I can show them Montessori-inspired activities and games. I’m calling it “Montessori Mornings”! I think this new routine (in combination with this blog) will really help me get going!

So, this means that I’ll be making more Montessori-related updates (and less about my trips to the liquor store). I’ll write about making materials, how the activities work, how it all went down, and photos! Yay, everyone likes photos.

(Honestly, this may make me seem unsophisticated, but I find that I am more willing to read blog posts if there is at least one picture included. Don’t judge!)

* * *

I was rereading the first few posts that I’ve written and have realized that I have yet to find a proper blogging “voice.” Does that make sense? I guess I mean that while I know how to tailor my writing for essays, fiction, letters, etc., I haven’t figured out how I should write for a blog. Like, that one post I wrote about the First Plane of Development is just…ugh. Montessori philosophy is such an interesting topic and I sort of quickly threw in some old essay excerpts (and whatever else I could come up with during Freestyle’s nap that day) and it became a very long and not very interesting read, just so I would have something to post!

I’ll try harder to do better. Don’t leave me! I mean, it’s not like my entire self-worth is tied to the success of this blog and if it fails I will want to curl up in a ball and cry, stifling my wails with the back of my fist so that Freestyle and Biker don’t freak out and occasionally crying out, “Why me, Lord?!”

Wow, I think I just found my blogging voice: chirpy yet slightly neurotic.

Well, have a great (and snowy!) weekend, everyone*! 🙂 🙂 🙂


* And by “everyone,” I mean Miss E, because I’m not sure anyone else will be reading this on a regular basis other than you. Thanks, hon.

Where Does Time Go?

26 Jan

A lampshade on the head? I thought this behaviour wouldn't start until she was in high school at least!


How do bloggers with kids do it? I know people without kids have other responsibilities too, but I feel like there’s never time with Freestyle on the loose!

Luckily, when I was planning on starting this blog, I tried to write about 2 months worth of posts (I was planning to post once a week). I can only really write when Free’s sleeping. Today, nap time was a bit wonky, so no time there. Also, I usually want to do other things when she’s napping (and yes, sometimes I want to nap too!).

When it’s bedtime, there are still more things I need to do, times when I just want to veg out, and, I suppose spend time with Biker.

Well, I’ll give it a try on the weekend. I have my camera back too, so I can take some photos. I have a few activities that we’re going to try out over the next few days.

* * *

On another note, it’s the Year of the Dragon! You can click on the link to figure out which sign you or your child is by going using their calculator.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Hope this year is filled with good health, good fortune, and GOOD TIMES for us all!

Ode to the LCBO Cashier

19 Jan

I am turning thirty this year, but that’s okay

Because I got carded at the LCBO the other day!

And let me say, to those who care,

That the wine was for cooking. Seriously, I swear!

(Though I won’t deny that I enjoyed a glass or two

Of leftover wine- well, what else was I to do?)

So, God bless that cashier and the Asian tendency

To look young… well, at least ’til we hit sixty.

~ MM

Labour is…well, LABOUR!

18 Jan

Every month I get together with a group of moms for a coffee and a much needed night out. It’s GREAT.

Last night the subject of labour and epidurals came up.

Here’s my take on epidurals.

When I was pregnant, I wanted to try to give birth naturally (i.e. without the drugs). However, I wasn’t going to say absolutely no to an epidural, so I resolved to try my best to go without, but if the need arises, then…”Why of course, I’ll take that needle to the spine right now, nice anesthesiologist lady!”

Now, I’ll preface this by saying that I rarely curse. If I’m telling a story and have to repeat a curse word that someone else said, I’ll either spell it out or whisper it (um, seriously, I do that, just ask Biker). Then I started teaching and got used to the “S-word” being “stupid,” while other “swear words” include: die, hell, and hate.

It’s one of the few good habits that I have. But habits. Were. Meant. To. Be. Broken! (cue haunting suspense music)


Fast forward to July 2010…

When my contractions began in earnest (I say this because they technically began three days ago, albeit sporadically!), it soon became clear that the epidural would be requested. Like, STAT.

Everyone be cool. Just. Give. Me. The. Drugs. NOW!

Photo Credit


It was like I had Tourette’s. The kind where you swear. Every five minutes.

To expand…

It was as if I had a verbal machine gun and instead of bullets, it was loaded with swear words. At times, however, it was just one prolonged curse word that lasted the span of two minutes or the length of the contraction, whichever was longer.

Don’t even get me started on the meditation exercises that told you to “visualize a flower in bloom.”

It was a bit shocking to Biker to hear me like that, I think. He was very sympathetic throughout, however, I think that after a few hours of this, he became a bit fatigued of it all. Believe me, it took the strength of lions to hold back what I really wanted to say when he said, “I know you’re in pain, honey, but do you think you could be a little quieter? It’s 4am and you might wake the neighbours.”

Mmm hmm... Say that again. I dare ya.

Photo Credit


Needless to say, we were at the hospital shortly after and an epidural was requested immediately after we had registered.

Despite all of that, if I am ever pregnant again, I will try to avoid having the epidural again. Am I crazy? Yes, maybe, but this is mostly because I felt that the recovery took so long (TMI Alert: though it may have also been compounded by the episiotomy, the one thing that I was dreading and praying I wouldn’t need!). I know it can be done, and that most women I’ve talked to who went au naturale said that the recovery really was faster. Also, without the epidural, I can try those other labour pain strategies (maybe not the flower in bloom visualization!) like sitting on the exercise ball, walking around, hot tubbin’….

We’ll see what happens…


P.S. Speaking of natural and safe births…to send an “Ontario Needs Birth Centres” to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, click here. Right now the Liberal government is drafting the next provincial budget (most likely tabled in March 2012). More info at the Ontario Midwives website.

Boarding the First Plane

18 Jan

“This absorbent mind is indeed a marvelous gift to humanity! By merely ‘living’ and without any conscious effort the individual absorbs from the environment even a complex cultural acheivement like language…. The mind of the young child shows this phenomenon which has remained hidden in the mysteries of the creative unconscious.” – Dr. Maria Montessori (The Formation of Man)


According to the Montessori philosophy, Freestyle is currently in the First Plane of Development.

As a result of her careful observations and study of children, Maria Montessori discovered that there are four planes of human development. Instead of growing “in a steady and linear ascent,” Montessori proposed the pioneering concept that children developed in formative planes which depended on actions related to their environment, based on individual interest.

Photo Credit


This is about the First Plane, as Freestyle is currently in this developmental stage. Much of it is adapted from essays I’ve written during my teacher training. Yay, laziness! 


Photo Credit


  • The child is developing as an individual being and this, necessarily,  is an “ego-centric” phase.
  • During this time the child will make great strides in personal development and consciousness.
  • The five senses are used to explore and interact with her environment. For this reason, this is often called the Sensorial Explorer during this phase. She is learning about the world by touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, and smelling.
  • The term Absorbent Mind also applies to this Plane, with Ages 0 – 3 years being the Unconscious Absorbent Mind (and Ages 3 – 6 the Conscious Absorbent Mind). According to Montessori, the child will absorb her environment without bias and she will equally take in the “good or bad, beautiful or ugly, peaceful or violent.”
  • The child’s naturally unprejudiced absorption of sensorial impressions encompasses both positive aspects (the good, beautiful, and peaceful) as well as those that are not as beneficial to her development (the bad, ugly, and violent).
  • Due to this incredible phenomenon of the child’s unprejudiced assimilation of the environment, I believe that the role of the parent/caregiver is to ensure that the environment in which the child is exposed remains a healthy, safe, and rich terrain for their sensorial exploration.
  • Maria Montessori believed that the child begins forming herself (mind, personality) at birth through her environment, so education begins at birth and the family are the child’s first teachers.

             So if you have a child- congrats, you’re a teacher! 

  • While it is impossible and not beneficial to surround your child with only good and beautiful things (which may result in a sheltered child who is unfamiliar to reality), nonetheless, there is a clear advantage of preparing and maintaining an environment that the child will experience joy, peace, beauty, and kindness. In doing so, the parent will encourage the child’s mind to take in and incorporate these things into her being.
  • Thus, the Prepared Environment. Child-sized furniture and readily-available materials are just a couple of things that will help. I’ll write a more detailed post about this later.
  • For each plane there is a goal and a path/direction that leads to that goal. There are also “Sensitive Periods” that occur during that time that help the child meet that goal.
  • Sensitive Periods are bursts of energy and concentration a child seems to focus on a specific skill. This is a short but intense period of time but once it passes, it’s gone forever.
  • The Montessori teacher is trained to identify the onset of such periods and to encourage and teach to this.  Again, more about this another time.
  • As the child grows and the incredible amount of information is collected and filed away into the brain, the child begins to develop a need and desire to order and classify the information (moving towards the Conscious Absorbent Mind around age 3), even before she realizes that that is what she is doing.
  •  This sense of order applies to both time and place. If you have a toddler, you may realize that little things that we wouldn’t notice make her very upset. For example, a child may begin to cry when she sees that an umbrella that has always been closed opened for the first time. Or, a child may seem put off when her routine is changed suddenly and bath time is before a meal instead of after. (Both examples from the Michael Olaf site…couldn’t think of my own as Freestyle has just woken from her nap!)

There is so much more to add, but this is getting way too long. I am enjoying going through my old course work and textbooks, though! I knew keeping old classwork would not be in vain! Though, I guess a case could be made against my “Why Humans Should Not Be Cloned” essay for OAC World Issues. Remember Dolly?!