Tag Archives: First Plane of Development

Learning Letters: The Sound Game

27 Mar
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Turtle, banana, jingle bell, pencil, fish.

 

Freestyle is becoming more interested in letters and words. I try to point out letters wherever we see them (every time she sees the box of Cheerios she always points and says, “A, B, C” now!). I’ve also been calling her attention to words in books by running my finger under them as I read and sometimes she does it too as she pretends to read by making up a story based on the picture!

In Montessori, letter sounds are introduced first. This is better preparation for reading and writing. Letter names are introduced later (and from what I’ve read/heard, most children do not have any trouble or confusion with this). Freestyle knows the alphabet song from the children’s programs that we’ve attended and from me singing it to her, but recently I’ve been trying to sing the sounds to her instead. (I remember being so impressed that my Montessori trainer could do it so quickly! Now I can too! Go me!)

So, I decided to introduce the Sound Game to her (note: this wasn’t in Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years. I found this exercise on infomontessori.com.). The Sound Games are a precursor to the Sandpaper Letters.

 

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Freestyle asked, “Me eat b-b-nana?” 🙂

 

The Sound Game

(This is just what I did after some time of pointing out the first sounds of different things in our environment from time to time. A proper introduction and detailed description  of all six Sound Game presentations, including the purpose, age of child, and control of error, available here. )

 

Materials:

Mat

Tray

Few objects around the home that begin with a single letter sound (blends such as shoe and stick are more complicated and should be introduced later)

What We Did:

1. I told Freestyle that we were going to play a game.

2. She unrolled her “work mat” and got a tray.

3. We went around the house and I asked her to look for specific objects that I already planned to use and knew where to find. We used a turtle figurine, banana, fish toy, pencil crayon, and a jingle bell.

4. Returning to the mat, we set down the tray and I asked Free to set out the objects in a row.

5. I asked Free to name all the objects and I repeated it, putting an emphasis on the first sound. “Yes, that’s a f-fish. Do you hear the first sound of the word ‘fish’? It’s ‘f’.” I was careful to say only the proper sound of the word (just the “f,” sounding like a quick puff of air) and not drag it out so that it sounded like “fuh” (incorrect).

6. After she heard all the first sounds of the objects, we started our game. I would ask her to give me the object that started with a specific sound. We went through all the objects.

7. She seemed ready to finish the game after we did it once (I could tell because she started rolling around on the ground and then wanted to ride on the work mat like a magic carpet!), so we stopped. Later, however, we did play again with different objects.

 

We’ll repeat this again and I plan on using the infomontessori site as a guide to continue with the rest of the Sound Games. It’s a great site and I added it to my list of Montessori resources.

 

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Exactly what EVERYONE wants to read about!

28 Jan

 

And by “everyone” I mean “no one” except parents of toddlers (and maybe not even them!).

Freestyle has been out of diapers (during the daytime) since she was about 18 months. Yes, there have been accidents here and there, but on the whole she has been pretty successful in this area.* I also shared what worked for us here.

HOWEVER, one thing I didn’t really realize that she wasn’t truly using the toilet by herself. What I had been doing was going with her to the washroom and helping her up on her stool, pull down pants, and wipe. That is not really independence, is it?

I didn’t really notice this until…I was on my own for the first time with both girls (Biker had gone back to work after the three weeks) and I was breastfeeding Real Baby when suddenly I hear Freestyle saying, “Poo poo! Me poo poo!”

Oh…crap.

Literally.

 

Tangent #1

They say that children may regress in certain areas of development when a new baby arrives, and I found this to be true with Freestyle. Right before Real Baby was born, Freestyle was sleeping very well on her own (finally!). However, once Real Baby arrived on the scene, sleep went out the window for every member of the family, including Freestyle! (She is slowly getting better now.).

With her toileting (not sure if that’s a word, but I’m going with it!), Freestyle started having more accidents about a month before Real Baby’s birth and a month afterwards. I am just going to chalk it up to knowing that something was about to change (before) and then adjusting to having a new person in the house (after). It’s three months later and Freestyle is back to normal now. She doesn’t wear diapers for her naps now and is dry afterwards about 90% of the time. Woo hoo! Now let’s just see about her nighttime diaper… 

 

Anyhow, after that eye-opening incident, I have come to realize why the lessons in Casa albums have SO MANY STEPS! Sweeping with a broom has about 20 steps or something! I get it now. There really are a lot of steps to do a simple task, we just don’t realize it because we’ve done it thousands of times and we don’t have to think about it.

 

Tangent #2

(Whenever you’re driving, do you ever suddenly look around and realize, “Oh, how did I get here?!” because all the minute tasks of driving a car has become so instinctual? If yes, that’s totally what I’m talking about. If not…excuse the living Chinese lady driver stereotype here!)

So, after some thought (and many just-didn’t-make-it-in-time accidents) and practice, here are the steps that are involved in going to the washroom all “by ma-sef” in our household, at least (at the moment, Freestyle is about 2.5 years old).

 

Going to the Washroom Independently

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This is an older photo. We don’t use the kid’s toilet seat pictured above anymore. My fears that she will fall into the toilet have all but disappeared! Progress!

 

Prepared Environment: Stool(s) (not that kind!) for the toilet and sink, toilet lid is up and seat is down (there have been times when she just didn’t make it because there wasn’t enough time to lift the lid!), soap and towel at reach.

 

1. Turn the light on by climbing onto the stool to reach.

2. Get up onto the stool in front of the toilet.

3. Turn around and pull down pants, then underwear.

4. Sit onto the toilet and do your business.

5. Stand and wipe self, front to back (working on this!). I will usually help with this after she’s had a turn just to make sure it’s all clean!

6. Pull up underwear, then pants. (We’ll have to work on pants with buttons and zippers later.) Get off the stool (sometimes she reverses this step).

7. Flush (though we are trying the whole “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” thing if it’s just us in the house).

8. Climb up the sink stool and roll up sleeves.

9. Wash hands: Rub soap on hands for at least 30 seconds (singing “Happy Birthday” or the alphabet is what I suggested to some kids in my class), making sure to scrub the front and back of hands and in between fingers and thumb. Fully rinse off all soap. Dry hands.

10. Turn light off.

 

Things we had to constantly practiced before she could do all those steps on her own:

  • Getting up and down a stool. 
  • Pulling pants and underwear down and putting them back on.
  • Lowering self onto the toilet seat. –> In public washrooms, I will usually hold onto her so she doesn’t have to hold onto the toilet seat or walls…shudder.
  • Tearing off only a couple squares of toilet paper. –> Took many tries and many unrolled toilet paper rolls!
  • Wiping(!) properly–> Still practicing this one! 
  • Turning on and off the tap (so only a small amount of water is running and it’s warm/cool…we have the kind of tap that rotates, so it was a bit tricky for Freestyle to learn to move it to the right temperature and water pressure!)
  • Using the soap pump and pumping out a small amount of soap.
  • Washing and drying hands thoroughly.

 

Any sage toileting advice for toddlers?

 

Learning to Glue (Mess-free!)

24 Jan

Freestyle has recently been very interested in learning to use scissors and glue after using them at the drop-in school program that we attend. Since they were set out and ready to go, I didn’t do a sit-down formal lesson on scissor use (definitely not necessary to do this for everything a toddler needs to learn, I feel!). I just showed her quickly how to hold them: thumb in the smaller handle hole and her pointer and middle in the wider one (though she is using three fingers right now…is that normal because their fingers are so small? I wonder if I should correct it or let it be for now).

I also made sure she knew how to carry them if she needed to: close the scissors and cover the outside of the blades with your hand, keeping your arm stiff while pointing the handles of the scissors towards the ground. She still needs reminders with this one! It is unsettling to see her walking towards me with them open in her hands!

For gluing, I liked how the Casa students in one of my old schools were taught to use white glue and taught Freestyle that method. I liked how they did it because it was neat and efficient– the child doesn’t end up using gobs of glue and turning their work into a wet and wrinkly mess. I remember when I was a kid, I didn’t like using white glue because it would make the paper wrinkly. When I was in elementary we used  glue sticks more often and I liked how much neater it was, but I do think that white glue is easier (thought messier) for younger kids to use.

So, without much further ado…

 

How to Neatly Use White Glue for Preschoolers 

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I don’t have any post-its at home right now, so I just used yellow construction paper and tape for show.

 

Purpose: To learn to glue neatly and efficiently. A skill that will be used over and over for crafts and school projects! Fine motor skills and precision in movement will be used.

 

Materials:

White glue

Glue mat (an old placemat works well)

Post-it notes

Flat, rounded toothpicks (I couldn’t find any so picked up these bamboo cocktail forks to use for now. They’re large and easy for Freestyle to hold.)

Paper

Cloth (to wipe up glue mat)

 

What to do:

1. Have all materials ready on a tray . Ask your child bring it to the table.

2. Either have pre-cut paper (or other easy to glue items) ready, or have your child cut up some paper to glue (if she already knows how to use scissors).

3. Set out the glue mat and place the page that she will be gluing things onto on the mat. Stick a post-it onto the top right-hand corner of the mat (or left-hand if she is left-handed!).

4. Show her how to squeeze a small amount of glue onto the post-it. (That’s the beauty of using the post-it…your child will have to learn to only use up the small amount that can fit onto it!)

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5. Show your child how to use the toothpick to take a small amount of glue and dab it onto the corners of the piece of paper that she wants to glue onto the page.

6. Turn the paper around and press the corners onto the page!

7. Repeat!

8. Dispose of toothpick and post-it after the activity. Wipe and dry glue mat before putting it away.

 

Go further:

Here’s a great post about using glue with preschoolers on the Teach Preschool blog.

 

Threading Activity: Pasta Necklace

20 Dec

A classic kid’s craft, I say! It’s super simple and you can use whatever you have lying around your house– a great I-just-need-you-to-be-doing-something-right-now activity in a pinch! 😉

 

Making a pasta necklace:

Materials: String, dry pasta, tape, scissors.

To start, string one pasta (piece of pasta?) and tie a knot.

Use the tape to make a “needle” for easier threading. I found that it works best if the taped part is longer than the pasta.

 

 

Threading’s an easy skill to practice in many fun ways! I’ve also written about Threading exercises here and here.

  • Try different types of pasta. You can dye pasta with food colouring or just buy the tri-coloured veggie pasta (yellow, orange, and green).
  • We are going to try small beads next! Maybe I’ll have Freestyle make bead necklaces for her cousins’ Christmas presents or keep that as a ready activity for when kids come over.
  • There are so many toys that let children practice the skill of threading.

 

Learning by Moving: Shapes

13 Dec

Other than naming them for her or pointing them out once in awhile, I hadn’t really sat down and presented Freestyle with a lesson about shapes. Freestyle knows circles, square, stars, and hearts just through everyday osmosis.

Taking advantage of the gorgeous day outside and the generosity of my neighbours’ for allowing us to deface their side of the driveway, I took Freestyle out for a “shape game” that would reinforce her knowledge of these shapes as well as give her an opportunity to kinaesthetically “experience” the shapes.

With sidewalk chalk, I drew a large circle and square, using a rake to help me make the looking shapes. It makes for a decent driveway ruler too.

 

To draw the circle I marked the centre with a dot and then kept the end of the rake on it while I moved the rake around in a circle, making marks as I went. Then I connected the marks. You could also use some string and have someone hold it in the centre while you move the other end around.

 

Shape Game 1: Running Laps (Circle)

We ran around (well, I walked quickly as I had Real Baby strapped to me in the carrier) and around and around…and around and around…and around! I chased Freestyle around the circle and then she chased me. Once in awhile I would emphasize the word “circle”: “Let’s run around the circle. This is a circle.”

 

Shape Game 2: Circling the Square (Square)

We walked and ran along the sides of the square. As with the circle, I’d say and emphasize the word “square.” I have to say, however, Freestyle much preferred the circle to the square! It’s more fun and easier to run around a circle than a square, I suppose!

To draw the square, I marked the centre again with chalk and then placed one of the rake there while I moved the other end to mark the four sides. Then I used the rake again to draw the sides, using the marks as a guides.

 

Shape Game 3: Circle or Square? (Both)

I would call out one of the shapes and Freestyle would run and jump into the middle of the shape. This one she liked too, especially when I would repeat the same shape to try to fake her out!

 

 

I wish there was room to add a triangle, but maybe next time! If you do not have a driveway, you could try a school playground– they may have a four square square and/or a basketball court with a circle on the pavement.

 

 

 

Water Pouring Exercise

22 Nov

Water Pouring Exercise for Toddlers 

Age: Approx. 15 months + . As always, all children are different, so you can observe your child’s readiness. Initially, I introduced pouring to Freestyle using dry items when she was 20 months.

Purpose: This is a Practical Life exercise. The child is developing hand-eye coordination, concentration, practicing aiming for a target, and fine motor skills. If there are spills, she learns to clean up after herself. Once she is able to control her movements and pour accurately, she can pour her own water during meal and snack time, another step towards independence! She can also offer to pour a drink for others (Grace  & Courtesy).

 

Materials:

2 small pitchers, ideally they will be identical

(I used two creamers that I found these two creamers at a thrift store…$0.99 each! They had shelves and shelves of old tea sets and other items that could be used for Practical Life activities)

Water

Small cloth or sponge to wipe up spills

Tray

 

What to do:

1. Have your child carry the tray with all the materials to a table. She will sit in front of the tray and you should sit to her right if you are right-handed, to her left if you are left-handed.

2. Fill the pitcher on the right with a small amount of water. Demonstrate how to carefully pour the water from the right pitcher to the left, and then back again (more details in step 3).

3. Show her how to wrap the fingers of her right hand around the handle (her pointer and middle finger will be wrapped around the handle while her thumb rests on top of it). Have her support the other side of the pitcher with the pointer and middle fingers of her left hand.

4. Allow her to carefully pour the water from one pitcher to the next, and then back again.

5. If there is a spill, that’s okay! It’s just an opportunity for your child to learn that she will need to take more care next time and also to take responsibility in cleaning up after herself.

6. Let her repeat as many times as she’d like– which will probably be a lot!

 

Control of Error: No water will be spilled.

Vocabulary: pour/pouring, pitcher, handle, spout. Freestyle loved the spout and kept saying, “Spou…water come from!” 🙂

 

Freestyle really enjoyed this activity but during our second try she wasn’t able to control her excitement and was lifting up the pitcher in the air with one hand and cheering after she finished pouring. After I tried to gently remind her that we needed to be careful, showed her again how to hold the pitcher, and giving her a fair warning about what the natural consequence of this behaviour would be, I ended up having to stop the activity and take it away. While I’m glad she likes doing it, she will have to learn that there is an acceptable way to handle the pitcher and that wasn’t it! Of course she was very upset but…them’s the breaks, kid.

 

Go further:

  • When your child is ready, she can start pouring her own water from a small pitcher into a glass for snack time and meals! Later, she can do this for the rest of the family– imagine how proud your child will be to be able to do such an important job!

 

Decisions, Decisions…

30 Aug

 

Freestyle is 2 years old now.

At this point, a lot of people start talking about “The Terrible Twos” : the point where your once sweet, easy-going baby has become a walking, talking, tantruming toddler who has very strong opinions and wants everyone to know exactly what they are– usually very loudly and when you’re in public!

Freestyle is no stranger to the tantrum. A couple of months ago, I ended up having to carry her from our neighbourhood park (about 2 blocks away), kicking and screaming, in the heat, while 6 months pregnant.

Parenthood is just so special. 😉

 

When I was reading Paula Polk Lillard’s Montessori from the Start, I paid especial attention to the chapter entitled “The Developing Will.” I am used to shutting down potential sulk-fests from older kids in the classroom and have become (mostly) imperious to tearful pleads from students, but what the heck do I do with my own baby?!

One thing that I remembered from Lillard’s book was that young babies (under 1 year), are so interested in exploring their senses and can be distracted, if they want an object that they shouldn’t have, you can quickly take it away and replace it and they would still be happy.

However, between twelve and eighteen months, children’s brains begin developing and they can now hold onto thoughts and remember the objects. They are developing their will, which is a good thing, apparently. 🙂 It’s more difficult now to distract them by substituting said object with another because they now remember it.

 

So, what do you do? The two strategies that are suggested are: Redirection and Choice.

 

Redirection

At this age, children’s language development is flourishing and using descriptive language will help redirect their thoughts to a new one. You can refocus your child’s attention to something else in the room using description. In the book, they used the class pet as an example because live animals are very interesting to children. Alas, we do not have any pets, so I’ve usually tried calling Freestyle’s attention to something she doesn’t normally look at in the room (e.g. a print that hangs in the corner of the room).

 

Choice

The second strategy is giving them choices. Specifically, two choices which have outcomes that are acceptable to the adult (you!). So, at dinner time you wouldn’t ask your child, “Do you want to eat dinner now?” because she could say “no” and that wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome. You could, however, say, “It is time for dinner. Do you want to wash your hands at the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink?”

For example, we’ve started to let Freestyle make choices on what she wants to wear in the mornings. Usually in the mornings, she likes to run around upstairs and will giggle and run away sometimes if you tell her to get dressed, so I do find it easier to get her to focus on the task at hand (getting dressed and ready for the day), by presenting her with two outfits to choose from. I’ve set them out the night before, based on the weather and what we’ll be doing that day, so both outfits are acceptable choices.

She loves being able to have this little bit of control. She is involved and is proud that she made a decision that directly (and immediately) affects her.

So far, I’m trying to keep to these two strategies, and on the whole, it does work. However, there are always going to be those times when you just have to ride out a tantrum and console yourself with a nice cold Greek yogurt popsicle (my current favourite snack!) in the kitchen while your little angel is screaming her head off and rolling around on the floor in the next room.

 

Any other advice for the so-called “Terrible Twos?”

 

And, as a bonus, here is something to watch if your child is biting. Enjoy!