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The Montessori Approach to Introducing New Vocabulary


A trademark of Montessori education is the three-period lesson. It is a method all Montessori primary teachers use to introduce new vocabulary and concepts to a child that involves three key steps: naming, recognition, and recall (more on this below). It is often introduced in the toddler classroom as well, albeit less formally. Keep in mind that we organically introduce language with our toddlers at home or as we explore new places/things with them; this is just a more specific way to introduce new words and concepts as part of a language lesson, either at home or at school.

With toddlers, it can help to focus on concepts or topics your child is already interested in. Most recently, D (27 months) has been talking a lot about baby and mama animals. So I’ve been teaching her the names of all the baby animals, as well as the names of the female adult, if different than the male counterpart. Six months ago, I would have just introduced one of each animal in a generic form, e.g. cow and sheep, but her comprehension and language has grown so much since then.


Whichever the category or concept you choose, It’s best to start with the the concrete version (e.g. real fruits) rather than the abstract (e.g. pictures of fruits). For many objects, such as animals, toy figurines are the closest we can get to the real thing. Start with just a few objects (up to four for young toddlers and up to eight for older) in one category. You can place these objects in a basket or on a tray on your toddler’s shelf for them to explore and either give a lesson before or after they explore. With toddlers, giving a lesson has to include some flexibility as they don’t sit still for as long as a child in a primary classroom would. You may not get through a whole lesson, and that’s okay! Use some of the tips below to make it more fun, and you may be surprised by your toddler enjoying these language “games”. If your child isn’t interested at all, just move on, and try again later or another day. And keep in mind that some categories/concepts just might not be interesting to your child - I tried, but I could never get D to sit through a lesson on tools!

Introducing New Vocabulary - Montessori in Real Life

The Three Period Lesson (adapted for toddlers)

1. Naming

As you introduce a new object or concept, simply label what it is you are showing the child. Hold it and use one simple word to label it, e.g. “Lamb” if you’re introducing farm animals, or “Red” if you’re introducing colors. Set it back down and let the child explore and touch it too. *Note: While we of course want to use lots of descriptive language in our everyday interactions with our toddler, here we are isolating a single concept. The fewer words we use in the naming or labeling, the easier it will be for the toddler to make the connection between the word and the object or concept.

2. Recognition

Once you have provided a label for each object or concept, you can ask the child to find each one, one at a time. With toddlers, it can help to make this into a game. Examples of recognition questions include “Where is the calf?” “Can you put the cube in the basket?” “I spy…green.” “Can you hide the motorcycle behind your back?” There are endless ways to play recognition games, which help to get your child more familiar with each object or concept. There is no rush to the next step as you want the child to really grasp what each object is. If your child isn’t talking yet, this is the last step.

3. Recall

This step is only used for a verbal child and when you are confident the toddler knows each word already. The last thing we want to do is set a child up for failure if they don’t yet know the answer. In this final step of the three-period lesson, we ask “What is this?” as we point to each object. You can also make this more fun by asking the toddler a more creative questions such as “Which baby animal is yellow?” or hiding one under a cloth and asking “Which one is missing?”

In general, when teaching something new, we try to avoid pointing out when the child gets something wrong. If your child makes a mistake in the recognition or recall step, you could just acknowledge what they did show you "That's the ____" and remember to show them the correct label/object pairing again next time. We want our toddler to be confident in their abilities, and motivated to keep trying. Often if we are constantly correcting, we see children lose self esteem as well as interest in trying.

Introducing New Vocabulary - Montessori in Real Life

You can read more about early toddler language activities such as matching object to object and object to card in this blog post. You can also read about how I introduce other types of materials to D in this blog post.

Introducing New Vocabulary - Montessori in Real Life

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby


Last winter, I posted D’s daily routine in this blog post. Obviously our lives have changed quite a bit, and we have some new routines, while others remained the same. Montessori influences all aspects of our day: from self-serve breakfast to independent playtime to walks in the forest together. I try to set up a “rhythm” without any rigid schedules or agendas. Though D goes to school a few mornings a week, we don’t go to other formal classes (except swim class on the weekend). I like to leave space and time for the kids to just play, for D to not feel rushed, and for time with family and friends. No day looks exactly the same, and weekends are more spontaneous, but as I write this blog post, there are clear patterns to our “typical” day.

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby - Montessori in Real Life

Throughout our daily rhythm, you’ll see a lot of free play time. In Montessori, we often call this a work cycle. For D, this means a variety of things. Sometimes it’s independently working at her shelf with her materials. Other times it’s playing pretend with her dolls and stuffed animals. Free play time also includes art, sensory, and practical life. Not all of her time is spent playing independently; sometimes we’re at her shelf together doing lessons or she just wants me to sit with her. She and I also like to play games like hide & seek and do yoga together. And of course, she always loves to bring her little brother toys and “play” with him! We try to incorporate all types of play into the day, which honestly just happens naturally. During her work cycle, she gets to take the lead and choose what interests her. You can read more about how we encourage independent play in this blog post.

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby - Montessori in Real Life

A note about Baby S: Now that he is four months old, he’s fallen into a fairly consistent rhythm. Rather than exact times, I use wake windows (he’s usually awake for 90-120 minutes before he’s ready for sleep again), so take these times with a grain of salt. Some days he takes three naps; other days, four. He also typically nurses both before and after sleeps, which works out to about every 1.5 to 2 hours (As he’s had some reflux, he nurses at just one side at a time; otherwise, I’d probably lengthen that to 2-3 hours.) He has been putting himself to sleep since he found his thumb and fingers around 3 months. Over the next few months, his wake windows will lengthen, his sleep will consolidate more, and he will hopefully start sleeping through the night, but this is our rhythm for now. You can read more about how and where he sleeps in this blog post!

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Babe - Montessori in Real Life

D’s Schedule (27 Months)

7:00 to 7:30am - Rise and Shine - My husband typically gets D up and helps her get ready for the day before he leaves for work.

7:30 to 8:30am - Breakfast - I let D serve her own breakfast (e.g. oatmeal with toppings or avocado toast) and we read or play a little together. Then she goes potty and gets on her coat and shoes before we leave the house.

8:30 to 11:30am - School/Out and About - We are usually out of the house. A few days a week D has school (where she is given a 2-hr work cycle), and other days we go to the park, run errands, or have a playdate with friends.

11:30 to 1pm - Lunch - Back at home, we eat lunch together. Then she has a little independent play time while I get S down, or she “helps” me. We often read quite a few books together before her naptime, while she sits on the potty.

1 to 2:30pm - Rest - D goes down for a nap or has quiet time in her room if she doesn’t sleep. She plays with her dolls, books, animals, and a few quiet toys.

2:30 to 5pm - Work Cycle - This is typically a time when she works freely with her materials at her shelf, both with and without me. We also try to get out for a short toddler-led walk.

5 to 6pm - Dinner - She helps prep dinner in her kitchen helper. Then she eats her dinner at the family table (I sit with her and eat a little pre-dinner snack too.)

6 to 7pm - Wind Down - We read books or play together until bedtime begins. She also helps me clean up her toys around the house. We start bedtime around 6pm if she hasn’t napped.

7pm - Goodnight - If she’s napped, it’s bedtime with her Daddy when he gets home. Bedtime consists of using the toilet, bath, brushing teeth (we do it first, then give her a turn), changing, books, songs, and a kiss goodnight.

S’ Schedule (4 Months)

6:30 to 7am - Rise and Shine - S wakes up and nurses.

7 to 8:30am - Free Movement - We get ready for the day, he has movement and play time on his play mat, and we head out of the house most days.

8:30 to 10am - Nap 1 - He takes a nap in the carrier since we are usually out.

10 to 12pm - Together Time - We cuddle and have some playtime together or he’s alert and looking around if we’re outside. He usually also has some story/song time with me and his sister before his second nap..

12 to 2pm - Nap 2 - He takes a nap at home on his floor bed in his nursery.

2 to 4pm - Free Movement - S has movement time on his play mat. We also spend some time playing with his toys together, and his sister likes to sing to him or bring him toys as well.

4 - 5pm - Nap 3 - He takes his last nap of the day, usually on his floor bed.

5 to 7pm - Together Time - At this time, S often accompanies me and his sister through dinner prep and her dinner. He plays on his mat, but if he’s fussy, I wear him in the carrier for a bit. The three of us also read quite a few books together.

7pm - Goodnight - We start his bedtime routine and he goes to sleep in his bassinet in our room. His bedtime routine consists of: bath, change, nursing, books, sleep sack, songs, and a kiss goodnight.

9:30 to 10pm - Dreamfeed - I nurse him while he’s mostly asleep (to get a longer stretch when I’m sleeping) and he goes right back to sleep in his bassinet.

He typically nurses once around 3 or 4am, and then goes back to sleep in his bassinet until morning.


As for my routine, I try to wake up before the kids, around 6am so I can get myself ready first, and make breakfast before D comes downstairs. I am often able to catch up on emails and messages in the early morning too. Most of my work/blogging/material making/shelf rotation happens during nap or in the later evening though. Since D likes to help me with some of the house chores, and enjoys her independent play, I’m able to get things like dishes and laundry done while she’s awake. As my husband doesn’t usually get home in time for dinner with D, we typically enjoy our own relaxing dinner (I meal prep with D in afternoon) after we put the kids to bed. It’s a nice time for us to catch up on the day. On weekends we eat as a family. A couple evenings a week, I go to a workout class, which is hard to make myself do but I’m always glad I went!

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby

Well, that’s the rhythm of my typical day with two babes! And don’t worry, we have our hard days with no rhythm whatsoever too. Sometimes I just have to let it all go, and try for a better day tomorrow. :) What do your daily rhythms look like?


Our Montessori Mountain-Themed Nursery


Well, it took a few months, but Baby S’ nursery is finally complete! In the past few months, we’ve installed new carpet, painted the walls and trim, and painted the mountain mural. This past weekend, we cleared out what was our guest room and added all the baby furniture and decor. It reflects our family’s love for the mountains, forest, and adventure. It feels and looks so much fresher and lighter now! I think S is going to love his room as much as we do. And once he is a bit older, we hope to have both kids share this room.

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Setting up a Montessori baby bedroom is a bit different than setting up a traditional nursery.

  1. Floor bed instead of crib. This allows freedom of movement and independence from an early age. You can read more about the why’s of a floor bed in my previous blog post. Right now he is on a mini-crib mattress but he’s a big guy so we will probably switch D to a twin and switch over to a normal crib-size mattress and frame soon.

  2. Toys, books, and artwork are minimal and at the infant’s level. This allows him to enjoy and access their environment without our assistance. As he gets older, we will keep fewer toys in here as this is meant to be a place of rest first, play second.

  3. Baby-proofed. The trickiest part of setting up a Montessori nursery is making sure it’s safe once he is on the move. We use outlet covers, tuck cords behind shelves, and keep the floor clean. Once S is crawling and/or pulling up to stand, we will remove the rocking chair, table, and changing table.

A Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

At four months old, S is only sleeping in his room for nap times. At night he still sleeps in the bassinet in our bedroom, but we will probably transition him around 6 months. To get him more used to this room as his place of rest, we typically do our bedtime routine in this room, and then I carry him over to the bassinet in our room. Our bedtime routine consists of: bath, change, nurse, books, partial swaddle, songs, set him down with a kiss and an “I love you”. :)

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

In regards to sleep, I’ve found Taking Cara Babies newborn class and 3-4 month guide incredibly helpful. She helps lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits from birth. (Note: this is not sleep training, which isn’t recommended prior to 4 months.) The advice from Taking Cara babies has helped both of us. By creating routines (NOT rigid schedules), paying attention to wake windows, helping him gradually shift from falling asleep nursing to falling asleep with his thumb, and setting up a cozy place for sleep, he’s able to put himself to sleep and sleep longer stretches, both for naps and nighttime sleep. Though I still wear him and hold him plenty during the day, I know he sleeps more soundly in bed and I enjoy a few moments of “me-time” or something like that. ;)

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

If you are interested in any of the furniture or decor, keep scrolling! Below is a list of all the nursery products with links. A lot of good finds on Etsy! Note that my husband made the floor bed frame and the pull-up bar. However, Sprout Kids makes a beautiful floor bed and Heirloom Kids makes a pull-up bar!

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life
Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos


Last week, D started a part-time Montessori program, and loves it already! She is excited to go see her teachers and friends (and class fish!), and is happy when I pick her up later in the morning. As all transitions do though, this new start has stirred up some big emotions at home. She is clearly working through a lot, and it has resulted in less sleep and a few more tantrums at home. I know this will pass, but in the meantime I’ve been reading back over my favorite books and remind myself how to deal with some of these big feelings and reactions. I figured some of you might be going through similar transitions as school starts back up, or just have a toddler who acts like a toddler! ;)

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos - Montessori in Real Life

I don’t like to call the twos “terrible” because they really aren’t. Yes, toddlers can be very difficult but it’s only because they are figuring out how to be their own little people. I think our attitude about our children plays a huge role in how we react to their behaviors. I know that it helps me to remember just how much growth and development is happening in their brains and body, and how much they need our love, respect, and understanding right now. I can better deal the toddler ‘tude when I remember it isn’t coming from a malicious intent, but rather figuring out limits, exerting their autonomy, and figuring out their place. At the same time, none of us are perfect, and we will all occasionally react in ways we don’t feel proud of when we are tired and frustrated ourselves. Cut yourself some slack and remember there’s always next time.

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos - Montessori in Real Life

Below are ten ideas and strategies I try to implement in almost all cases of toddler behavior, from tantrums to refusing to cooperate to throwing or hitting. Maybe one or two will resonate with you too!

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos - Montessori in Real Life

Provide a “yes space” - The more freedom a toddler has to explore and play, the happier they are. If we constantly have to tell them “no”, they will say it right back to us. Child-proof your house as much as possible and choose your battles. Save the “no’s” for when they are about to touch the hot stove, rather than dumping tupperware out of the drawer. Sometimes we all just need to get outside, which is usually a giant “yes space”!

Embrace the big emotions - Toddlers experience emotions in extremes, and there isn’t much we can do to change that. Rather than try to fix it, give in, or tell them “it’s okay”, let them feel their feels. It can help to wait until they are calm to try to have a conversation. Simply offering a hug or a safe space is best when they are in the middle of a tantrum, while you let it ride out. Then when they are a bit calmer, you can address the issue if needed.

Acknowledge and empathize - Toddlers can get frustrated or scared about the strangest and most trivial of things. It is tempting to laugh or get annoyed, but I find it’s helpful to think about how it feels for them. The more we get down to their level and acknowledge how they’re feeling, the better they will feel. Acknowledging and labeling feelings also helps them work through their own emotions.

Redirect - Often toddlers need to get energy and frustration out and the only way they know how is to throw, hit, or bite. If they are throwing dishes or hitting a friend, we have to let them know that’s not okay while still giving them opportunities to release that energy and feeling. I might say something like “I am not going to let you throw that toy towards your brother. I need to keep both of you safe. If you’d like to throw, let’s throw these balls into the big basket instead.” It’s helpful to be matter of fact, while stopping the unsafe behavior.

Be a Confident Leader - This is one of the most important tools. Janet Lansbury talks about this a lot, - how toddlers are constantly testing us to make sure we are in control. They don’t actually want to be in charge; they want a calm and loving, but authoritative (NOT authoritarian) leader. When we feel out of control, they feel scared and more out of control. Being a gentle leader means setting clear limits ahead of time, such as how we behave at the dinner table. It also means setting consequences that we can actually follow-up on rather than empty threats. An example is, “when you throw your food, that tells me you’re all done with lunch” (and then end the meal). We can always offer another chance later.

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos - Montessori in Real Life

Give them Autonomy - Finding opportunities for a toddler to do things themselves, e.g. pick out clothes, serve their own snack, wash their own face, gives them that sense of independence that they so deeply crave. Offering limited choices is a great way to give toddlers some autonomy, e..g choosing between using the potty or brushing teeth first before bed. (Just be careful that your choices aren’t “yes/no” or you will almost always get a “no” in response.)

“Do” rather than “Don’t” - This is a trick I learned from working at a Montessori school. We would always ask the children to “use walking feet” rather than “don’t run”. Phrasing requests or questions in a positive rather than negative way makes children much more agreeable and sounds less nagging. Another example is “let’s use quiet voices” rather than “don’t yell”.

Make Time Tangible - Time is a very tricky concept for toddlers to grasp. Telling a toddler “5 more minutes” doesn’t really mean anything to them. Instead, try saying something like “two more runs down the slide until we get in the car” or “one more book until bedtime”. The important part is to follow through on whatever limit you set! It’s even more helpful to have consistent routines throughout the day so that your toddler knows what to expect (this comes before that) without you always having to remind them.

Be Real - Sometimes when we are really frustrated, the best thing to do is to say so to our toddler. It’s okay to say to a toddler, “Mommy is feeling very frustrated and needs to take a break." Walking away from an intense meltdown (when possible) and taking some deep breaths is great modeling for your toddler. We want to show them that we all have feelings and there are strategies, such as breathing and movement, to deal with them. Additionally, you will be able to come back and react in a more calm way if you’ve caught a breath first.

Be Playful - The book “How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen” is good at highlighting this. I don’t find it always works to actually get a toddler to do something, but it never hurts to lighten the mood and get us both out of a negative space. An example of this can be in offering two choices - “Do you want to walk or gallop like a horse to the car?” Another way to get a toddler out of a grump is to play music, sing and dance around, or do yoga together!

Navigating the Not-So-Terrible Twos - Montessori in Real Life

My favorite books on the topic are:

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen

No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Our Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books


One of the aspects of parenting I was most excited about was sharing the magic and power of books with my children. Not only do I enjoy getting lost in a really good book (when I find/make the time), but I especially love reading to my babes. There are countless benefits to reading to babies and young children, including strengthening language, attention span, memory, creativity, and emotional understanding. Not to mention it is wonderful bonding time! I’ve been reading to D since day 1 (if nothing else, there’s always bedtime!) and it makes my heart happy to see her love of books already.

Although I am not strict about it, there are a couple of qualities I look for in books for my children, following a few Montessori principles.

10 Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books for Toddlers - Montessori in Real Life

Realistic Nature:

Most of our books are based in reality, meaning you don’t find a lot of talking animals and princesses. The Montessori belief is that young children, especially toddlers, learn best through reality (concrete) rather than fantasy (abstract). This does NOT mean we discourage pretend play. It just means we let toddlers and young children take the lead in their own pretend play, which is typically acting out real-life scenarios such as playing house or doctor. When children begin to fully understand the difference between reality and fantasy, fairy tales and fantasy books become more appropriate. So for now, most of our books involve real-life content and ideally realistic or at least beautifully-illustrated pictures!

10 Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books for Toddlers - Montessori in Real Life


This includes both the durability, length, and content. When D was younger, we only had board books, but now she understands how to be careful with some of our larger hardcover books. I try to choose books that aren’t too text-heavy, and if they are, involve catchy rhymes or exciting illustrations that keep her attention. Sometimes her attention span for books just depends on the time of day! Lastly, I try to find books on topics that I think she will enjoy (such as babies), as well as new ideas (such as our solar system).

Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books for Toddlers - Montessori in Real LIfe

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

10 of D’s Favorite Books

The Big Book of First Words - This is D’s favorite book right now, and honestly, mine too! It’s a little like “Where’s Waldo” but more toddler-friendly and less dizzying. ;) Each page features a different scene such a kitchen or zoo, and on the right side of the page has images of objects or animals to find within the scene. It’s a bit trickier than her other favorite, Let’s Find Momo. I think she especially loves how it’s a giant board book!

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth - This book offers hope for all of us who love and want to help take care of our planet. It celebrates all of the beauty of Earth and the people on it. “You’re never alone on Earth.” :) There are so many fun pictures and topics within this book to talk about with a toddler.

All the World - This is such a beautifully illustrated book. It is a simple but poetic story about a family’s day from morning to night, and all the beautiful things we see and do. It also emphasizes the importance of togetherness. Everywhere Babies is done by the same illustrator and is another of our longtime favorites.

Press Here - This is D’s favorite interactive book. Although it is simply a book of dots, each page has instructions on how to make the dots create different patterns, e.g. tipping the book on its side to make them “fall down”. D loves feeling like she has had an effect on the dots’ pattern page after page.

Where Do I Sleep? - This has been a longtime bedtime favorite. For those not wanting a Pacific Northwest specific book, I Would Tuck You In is also similar and sweet. A simple but really beautifully illustrated story of where animals and their babies sleep. I love how realistic the illustrations are too!

The Wonderful Things You Will Be - I love the message this book sends; that a child can grow up to be anything they choose and there is value in it all. D loves the beautiful illustrations of children, and the pop-out page at the end! This is a wonderful gift for new parents/babies.

You Were the First - We gave this to D before S came along and it’s still one of her favorites. It tells the story of all baby’s firsts, and how the parents get to experience it all with them. It ends with “there may be a second or a third, to sleep in the basket with the yellow ribbon wound round…but you will always be our first”. It makes me tear up each time!

Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You - Speaking of tearing up, this book always gets me! It is such a beautiful story of how a parent’s love is with their child wherever they go and whatever they feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting story for bedtime. This one’s story is a bit abstract, but as I said, I’m not super strict about every book being completely based in reality.

Eating the Alphabet - This is a colorful and classic book for teaching letters. I enjoy that it emphasizes the sound letters make rather than just the letter itself. Plus, D loves her food, so this one is extra fun for her! ;) I especially like that it introduces unusual fruits and veggies.

Seek and Count - As D becomes more interested in numbers, she’s really enjoyed this lift-a-flap number book. Each page features a surprise under the flap and counts up from one to ten. It’s simple but great for toddlers who are counting to 10. She loves to recall what is hidden on each page - great for memory!

You can find more of our other favorites listed in my interview with Kelsey Paff of Where The Board Books Are!

10 Favorite Montessori-Friendly Books for Toddlers - Montessori in Real Life

Montessori for Grandparents and Caregivers


One of the most frequent questions I get is how to help grandparents/nannies/caregivers better understand or follow Montessori with their children. It is tough to answer, because it really depends on the person, and the situation. I have also been lucky to have both parents and in-laws who have read my blog since day 1 and take what I write and say to heart. I know many of you reading this haven’t had the same experience, so this is for you!

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

In defense of grandparents and experienced nannies, it can be tough for them to parent differently. They probably did a wonderful job raising their own kids (including you) and don’t see the need to grandparent differently. They also love your babies almost as much as you. That being said, grandparents need to also respect your own parenting style and wishes for your own children. How you raise your children, and with what values, is ultimately you and your spouse’s decision only.

Montessori for Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

It’s also worth deciding what Montessori principles really matter to you, and how much time grandparents or caregivers spend with your child. As we only have occasional sitters, I don’t really worry about whether or not those babysitters know anything about Montessori. A few hours of “good jobs” and doing everything for my children isn’t going to hurt anyone. The important thing is that they are responsible, fun, and loving. Even a weekend with grandparents who don’t “do Montessori” won’t mess up what you have going on at home. However, if someone else were watching my child a few days a week, their caregiving style would matter a lot more to me, and I’d want them to understand a bit more about Montessori philosophy.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

I created these “cheat sheets” as one place to introduce Montessori to grandparents, nannies, or caregivers who aren’t quite on the same page as you yet. While these cheat sheets are far from a complete guide, I hope they can open up a conversation about how you are trying to parent differently. If they are open to it, I recommend having them read some blog articles or even The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies. I also highly recommend this short video about infant/toddler Montessori programs and this other video about the Montessori philosophy in general.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

There are likely certain principles or issues you care more about, so focus on those with your parents or nannies. Maybe that’s screen time, maybe it’s letting your infant learn to walk on their own, or maybe it’s the kind of words they use. Whatever it is, let some of the other things go, because we all need a little time and patience to learn, and teach, something new.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

Lastly, the other common question I get is in regard to gifts from family and friends. I recommend making lists ahead of holidays. They don’t need to be super specific, but you could give some examples of the types of toys you are looking for. Other options are books and clothes. Another way to dodge noisy, light-up toys is to ask for money towards their college fund or a membership to your local children’s museum or zoo. If you do receive a gift that you don’t love, you can always pass it on, or do what I do, and keep it in the car or for “emergencies”. ;)

Montessori in Real Life

Transitioning from One to Two with the Help of Monti Kids


When people ask me, “How is it going with two now?” or “Do you like the 2-year age gap?”, I find it hard to know what to say. How do I explain that I’m completely drained but simultaneously happier than ever before? And that while I feel like my head might explode at times, my heart is exploding more. So I just smile and nod and let them wait and hopefully see for themselves. :)

Activity Gym and Grasping Toys from  Monti Kids  Level 1

Activity Gym and Grasping Toys from Monti Kids Level 1

One of the most rewarding things about having two is watching them together. It’s incredible to see their bond develop already. How lucky for each of them to have a sibling aka built-in-best friend for life? D has been so sweet in helping with diaper changes, giving him a bottle, singing when he’s fussy, and giving him toys. On the flip side, he seems to think she is just about the best entertainment in existence.

Bead Stringing from  Monti Kids  Level 6 and Activity Gym from Monti Kids Level 1

Bead Stringing from Monti Kids Level 6 and Activity Gym from Monti Kids Level 1

There have been some challenges, of course. The mom guilt sets in and I feel like I’m not able to give them each my full attention. There are times they each have to wait, while I’m helping the other, and my toddler especially isn’t happy about it. On the flip side, D is learning a bit more about patience! Additionally, getting both out of the house is no small feat. I’ve just accepted that I will always be late unless I seriously plan ahead. Even when we spend the entire day at home, I’ve had to let go of my expectations that I’ll get all my “to-dos” checked off. Lastly, finding time to shop for or create new materials for the kids has been much more challenging than with one.

That’s where Monti Kids has been a game changer.

From One to Two with Monti Kids - Montessori in Real Life

Time and Energy Saver

For me, this is the best part of Monti Kids. While I enjoy browsing, shopping for, and putting together Montessori materials, these days I often just don’t have the time. With Monti Kids, a beautiful set of Montessori toys are delivered in one big box, with each beautiful material ready to place on our shelf. I get as excited as D when a new box arrives. Even the trays are included when needed! For the newborn, I love that there’s no need to put hooks in our ceiling or DIY the mobiles - the activity gym is tall enough for visual mobiles and all the mobiles arrive completely ready to hang. SO convenient.

Gobbi Mobile and Grasping Toy from  Monti Kids  Level 1

Gobbi Mobile and Grasping Toy from Monti Kids Level 1

No Guesswork

In addition to its convenience, Monti Kids takes away the guesswork of finding the “right” toys. While studying developmental psychology in graduate school, I learned just how critical the first three years of life are. The brain goes through more change and growth in these years than any other time. Providing babies and toddlers with toys and materials that challenge and excite them leads to more confident, curious, and capable people and instills a love of learning. It gives me such peace of mind knowing that Monti Kids makes sure each material is of the highest quality and caters to my children’s developmental needs and abilities.

Cutting Board, Hat, and Apron from  Monti Kids  Level 7

Cutting Board, Hat, and Apron from Monti Kids Level 7

Individual Play Spaces

While I hope that one day my children will be best friends and play together, neither of them fully grasps the concept of sharing yet. So while they do enjoy being together (or at least D loves showering S with kisses), it’s also beneficial for them each to have their own spaces. We have a small play area for each of them in our living room. On one side of the room, we have D’s shelf with her Montessori materials, books, and work mat/table. On the other side, We have S’ toys, activity gym, and movement mat.. At different developmental stages, Monti Kids has helped us to create a prepared environment that meets each of their needs.

Grasping Toys from  Monti Kids  Level 1

Grasping Toys from Monti Kids Level 1

Allows me some “me time”

With a toddler and a newborn, there’s not a lot of time for self-care. Even my showers feel rushed these days. And though I love my time with both of my littles, sometimes I want a break from someone physically on me. ;) In large part thanks to the Monti Kids activity gym and toys, there are moments in the day where both of the babes are busy (or one is asleep!) and I can have a seat and drink my cup of coffee while I observe them play. It’s a beautiful thing! Additionally, they are both benefiting by building their concentration though independent play.

Ring Slider from  Monti Kids  Level 7

Ring Slider from Monti Kids Level 7

From today through August 31st, you can get $45 off your first Monti Kids box with the code reallife45. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Monti Kids and materials have been provided by Monti Kids. All opinions and thoughts on the materials are my own.

Octahedron Mobile from  Monti Kids  Level 1

Octahedron Mobile from Monti Kids Level 1

Encouraging Independent Play


Promoting independence is a key component of Montessori, in large part, because it allows the child to feel respected, capable, and content. One of the best ways to encourage independence is through play. If toddlers can feel comfortable and confident playing on their own, they will also feel capable of other tasks on their own. Play is such valuable time for children to learn, imagine, take chances, and make mistakes and then do-overs. For my husband and I, it’s important to raise kids who are able to play by themselves and create fun with what is available, rather than need entertainment to find joy. It’s about finding the right balance for your family. While I love engaging in activities with my children, I also really appreciate being able to complete a task myself without a clinging child. Even better is the feeling that we don’t need to rush into my toddler’s bedroom in the morning, because she is happy to play with her dolls or flip through books in her room, just as she is before she falls asleep.

It’s never too early or too late to encourage meaningful, independent play. Here are some tips for promoting independent play in babies, toddlers, and beyond.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

A “Yes Space”

This is probably the most important one. It’s nearly impossible to expect a child to play independently if we have to keep hovering and telling them “no”. Whether it’s your living room or a play room, babies and toddlers need to play in a space where they can safely explore. When D has gone through phases of not being interested in her toys, this sometimes mean she explores the drawers in the kitchen accessible to her, uses our child-size swiffer to dry mop the floor, or “reorganizes” our pantry. Anything that is unsafe to her is kept locked or up high. As long as she isn’t causing harm or a major mess, she is okay playing in our main living area, with her toys, or not.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

Appropriate Toys

Children (including babies) are more likely to engage with a toy if it is just the right level of challenge for them. Too easy, and they are bored. Too difficult, and they get frustrated. Different children have different thresholds for challenges as well. If we want our children to engage in play on their own, we have to set up an inviting and challenging environment for them. If you aren’t sure where to start, The Montessori Guide offers month by month activities, up to 21 months (soon to be 24 months!). Additionally, rotating the shelves (a few toys at a time, as needed) helps to keep their environment interesting. If your child is really struggling to play on their own, consider starting with open-ended toys (such as magnets or blocks) or toys with movement (such as a car tracker), that engage almost all ages and types of children.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

“Together Time”

I find D is much more open to playing on her own when she’s already had some quality time with me. This was especially true during her more clingy phases. Each day I try to set up some time for her and I to engage in play together (when I’m showing her a new work or we are prepping food together) and some time for her to play alone when I’m trying to get something done (or just nursing s!). Even with S, I apply this kind of balance: I spend a lot of time holding and snuggling him, but other times I let him lie down and gaze at his mobile or look around on his tummy. Even diaper changes and potty breaks can count as quality one-on-one time if we are focusing our attention on our child.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

Make Play a Habit

This may seem obvious, but sometimes we forget or get too busy to make play a part of the daily routine. Play doesn’t have to be with Montessori toys in a Montessori environment; it can also be exploring nature or playing with cardboard boxes. The important thing is that we allow children to have time to just be themselves and explore their own environment each day. Toddlers, especially, thrive on figuring things out for themselves, so we don’t need to “play for them”. Even if you’re sitting with your child playing, avoid fixing or correcting their play. We want them to feel like their play or work matters, which will in turn make them more excited to play on their own. If your child is only in the habit of playing with you, start small by just moving a few feet, or only leave for a minute, and gradually increase as they get more comfortable playing on their own.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

Limit Over-Stimulation

It may seem counter-intuitive, but often the more a child interacts with a screen or electronic toys, the more “bored” they are. When children, even toddlers, get used to the sensory overload that TV shows and loud, blinking toys provide, they can develop a shorter attention span in general. This then translates to less interest and ability to concentrate on more active and independent types of play. This isn’t always the case, but it can be. In our family, we do not make screen time a part of our day. But you have to do what works for your family, and sometimes that includes screens. :)

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

With all this being said, it’s helpful to remember that babies, toddlers, and children of all ages go through periods of wanting to be more or less independent. When D was around 18 months old, she went through a major separation anxiety phase, and was not interested in playing alone. I continued to encourage her to play on her own but didn’t force it. I still let her know when I needed to separate myself to finish a chore and I let her choose to follow and watch me or play by herself. For a while, she just followed me. Over the course of a month or so, she gradually began to enjoy her independent play time again. Like all aspects of raising children, phases come and go.

Encouraging Independent Play - Montessori in Real Life

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori)


Though I usually cover Montessori topics only, I also get lots of questions about favorite baby products. Here is a roundup of my favorite products for the early days with a baby (excluding Montessori materials, which I have already discussed in previous posts, and will talk about more soon). By no means would I call these “essentials”, but they have been very useful with each of our babies.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

K’tan carrier - This was my most used item with D, and now with S too. I find this carrier really easy to use and wear, and love the various wearing options it provides for your baby’s different stages. I put S in this carrier when we are out and about, and at home when I need two hands and he doesn’t want to rest in his bassinet or on the floor. He is content being close to me, and I love the snuggles!

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Ergo carrier - Though I primarily use the K’tan, this is our favorite carrier for hiking or longer walks. It fits both my husband and I well. It’s extremely comfortable and distributes the weight evenly across your body. You can use it from birth with the newborn insert too.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Cosleeper - Though we have the Halo bassinet handed down from a friend, I found with both babies that when I am nursing through the night, it’s easiest in the earliest stages to use a cosleeper. With this cosleeper, S can sleep right next to me, but without fear of rolling on him or him rolling into a pillow, etc. I also like that it is slightly inclined, helping with any reflux. I will keep him in either this or the Halo until I move him to the floor bed, sometime between 4-6 months.

Ollie swaddle - We tried so many swaddles with D, but used this one from the start with S and it’s by far my favorite. It’s worth the cost because unlike others, one size fits all. It is super easy to put on, and it doesn’t ride up over their mouth. Once they are rolling, you can secure it under their armpits so they can have free arms and hands too, while still feeling snug and swaddled. S sleeps so much better at night when he’s swaddled in his Ollie.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Topponcino - This is another item we use multiple times a day, for S to rest on and gaze at his mobiles from. When he lies on his back here, he is completely unrestricted in his movements. He is free to stretch his arms and legs, suck on his fingers, and turn his head side to side. The topponcino also provides a safe way for D to hold him in her lap.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Boppy - This definitely makes nursing more comfortable, and my posture is better when using it. Though I’ll be honest, I use it much less this time around because I’m often nursing S on the go now that I have a toddler to keep up with! Though I don’t like to prop up S, when supervised, I will occasionally use the Boppy for an extra cushion when he’s alert but fussy on his back, or for assisted tummy time.


Hatch sound machine/nightlight - We have one of these in D’s room, and now one for S too. It functions as both a noise machine and a nightlight, as well as a time-to-rise toddler clock. You can adjust brightness, sound type, volume, and color from your phone, which is useful for nights like the 4th of July when I wanted to turn the white noise up remotely to drown out the loud fireworks!

UppaBaby stroller - This is a splurge, and was a gift to us, but I am so happy with this double stroller. There are so many customizations to this stroller, but our favorite is the toddler (rumble) seat with bassinet below. We can also easily pop in our UppaBaby carseat. It is perfect for outings and walks to the park and in the city, when the diaper bag is full and I need a break from wearing baby. It even does well on our bumpy neighborhood roads.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Travel sound machine - I think the Hatch may have just come out with a portable version, but we use this one when we are on the go and can’t plug in a sound machine. It really helps with sleep when your baby (like ours) sleeps best with white noise. It also plays lullaby music.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Como Tomo bottles - Though I breastfeed S, sometimes it’s nice to have the freedom to pump and give a bottle (and for my husband to be able to feed him). These are by far my favorite bottle for new babies, as they mimic a breast in shape and feel. Both my babies have preferred these bottles to others.

Magnetic Me Footies - In terms of clothing, these are hands down the best for quick changes. My friend passed a few down to me for S, and I love them, especially for nighttime diaper changes. No snaps, no zippers, just magnets. Such a great invention.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Kickee Footies - These are my favorite comfy PJs - made from bamboo. D still wears Kickee pajamas to bed. They are nice and thin for summertime too, and come in really fun patterns and colors! They are available with footies or without, and with zippers or snaps.

Newborn Gowns - These are my other favorite for nighttime. The gowns make diaper changes a breeze! The brand Monica and Andy also make super-soft gowns, like the scooter one S is wearing below.

Favorite Baby Products (beyond Montessori) - Montessori in Real Life

Aden & Anais burpy bibs - You can never have too many burp cloths, and these are my absolute favorite. Not only are they super soft and come in fun patterns, but they can later be used as a wrap-around bib when baby starts solids! I also love Aden & Anais swaddle blankets.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Montessori-Inspired Materials at 24 Months


How are we 2 days away from D turning 2 years old?! It seems like just yesterday she was the same size as baby S. Though it makes me sad to see her grow up, I am also so in awe of the little person she is becoming. She is stubborn but sweet, confident but cautious, and focused but oh-so-silly. She has really shone this past month in her new role as big sister. Though she has her moments of feeling jealous or impatient, she clearly adores her baby brother and helping care for him.


Now that we are starting to settle back into a (new) routine with two children, D has been showing a renewed interest in her shelf work. While some of these works are traditional Montessori materials, others I would classify more as Montessori-inspired. :) As per usual, these materials are catering to the types of things D has shown an interest in lately, such as counting, sorting, and (always) open/close. I also try to balance materaisl that I know she can master (color sorting) with challenging ones (geoboard). Here are links and a short description for each material on her shelf right now:

Montessori-inspired Materials at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Peg Number Boards - D has taken an interest in counting, mostly “one two three” but has also started differentiating between one and two objects. She can more easily work through the abstract concept of numbers with these concrete pegs and boards. As Maria Montessori said, “What the hand does the mind remembers”. Though this set comes with 10 boards, we are starting with just the first three.

Animal Pattern Blocks - Melissa and Doug always has fun wooden Montessori-ish toys, and this is no exception. I love that these boards come in a pack of ten to keep busy toddlers entertained. As these are fairly simple, I have been putting two boards out at a time, with the matching shapes in a basket for D to match and create patterns with.

Our Montessori-Inspired Shelf at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Shell Sorting - I love this little sorting tray and have found lots of uses to help D sort by color, shape, and category. As we have been spending a lot of time at the beach, she’s enjoying matching and sorting the types of shells this week.

Bird Color Sorting - Another sorting work, because D, like many toddlers, loves the transferring aspect. As she sorts the birds by color and moves them to their corresponding bowls, she tells me they are “taking naps”. ;) There are so many uses for these little birds, and the set comes with both small and large birds in five different colors. We started with two colors and now sort three or four at a time.

Brown Bear Felt Animals and Felt Board - This felt board has been a big hit at our house, and even more so now with felt animals that go with one of her favorite books, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She likes to have me read the book aloud as she finds the animals and puts them on the board one at at time, to match the story.

Our Montessori Shelf at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Magna-Tiles - These are a great open-ended activity, and what toddler doesn’t like magnets? This one is still pretty tricky for D to actually construct with, but it’s a fun one for us to work on together to build towers or just stack magnet shapes together. This has been a good activity for teaching cause and effect as well.

Wooden Geoboard - Geoboards are one of those great materials that grows with children and can be fun for years. For D, just stretching the rubber bands to fit on the board is a challenge, but she is very persistent in wanting to do this work. She does ask for my help, and I try to start each one and let her finish. For older toddlers, there are pattern cards to create pictures on the geoboard!

Hide and Seek Activity Board - This has been one of D’s favorites for many months, and though she’s a pro at matching the object to the corresponding door, she still enjoys doing this one on repeat. That opening/closing action just never gets old. :) It has also been fun to see how she engages more with it as her language grows.

Knitted Ball in Drawer - This is from a former Monti Kids subscription box, but she’s rediscovered this one and shown an interest in it again. Getting the knit ball in the hole is still a challenge for her, but once I get it started for her, she loves to push the ball through, open the drawer, close the drawer, and repeat. It fulfills a toddler’s need for repetition and maximum effort, while helping them work through sequences. PS. Use code REALLIFE for $30 off your first box!

Our Montessori Shelf at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Montessori from Birth


A frequent question I hear is “When can I start Montessori at home?” The answer is that Montessori can be implemented anytime, as early as birth! It is never too early or too late to incorporate Montessori principles at home. Though the environment and materials are an important component of Montessori, there is much more to the philosophy than beautiful toys. Now that we are lucky enough to be back in the newborn phase with our 2-week-old baby boy, I thought I’d write a bit about what “Montessori from Birth” looks like for us.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

A beautiful book I read during my Montessori training was called Understanding the Human Being, and it describes the first 6-8 weeks as the “Symbiotic Life”, or “life together”. It is a time when the newborn and mother are co-dependent, each requiring something the other gives. The newborn requires the mother’s nourishment and by breastfeeding, helps the mother’s uterus contract and body heal. Additionally, the bond formed between mother (or primary caregiver) and baby in the time spent together in the first weeks ensures a securely attached child and mutual love for each other. From this secure attachment, the baby learns to fully trust their environment and mother/primary caregiver, knowing they will be taken care of, loved, and are safe to explore independently when ready. It helps me to think about this Symbiotic Life period as it gives meaning to the wonderful, but exhausting, time with our newborn. The attachment we form sets him on the right path forward towards becoming his own capable little being, and for now I can just soak up the sweet and valuable time we have together.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Equally important to the love we show our baby is the respect we hold for them. A key component to Montessori philosophy is respect for the child, and this includes the way in which we interact and talk to children, as early as birth. Rather than try to quiet or distract a baby, we acknowledge their needs and feelings.. For me, respect means slowing down and taking the time (when possible with two littles) to nurse in a quiet spot, and giving Baby S affection and attention while he gets his nourishment. It also means talking to him about what I’m going to do before/as I do it. For example I might say “It looks like you have a wet diaper. Let’s go get a fresh one on.” and then when he gets upset during a diaper change, “I know it feels cold when I take this diaper off. I’m just wiping your bottom and now we are putting a clean diaper and clothes back on. Now you are dry and warm - that feels better, doesn’t it?” I don’t narrate every part of our day, but I try to talk to him when we are doing something together, like starting to nurse, change, or when he’s alert and looking at me. Janet Lansbury’s book Elevating Childcare elaborates on ways to speak respectfully to babies, and is a great book about respecting babies and toddlers in general.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

While in these first few months Baby S spends a lot of his time on or with me nursing and sleeping, I also make sure he has plenty of time for natural movement throughout the day. I set up his primary “movement area” in our living room, where he can rest or wiggle around on his topponcino and gaze around the room. From there he can see his family, our movements, and the environment that he will call home. When he lies on his back here, he is completely unrestricted in his movements. He is free to stretch his arms and legs, suck on his fingers, and turn his head side to side. Other times I will carry him on his topponcino outside or into another room where we are spending time, so he can join us while still having that freedom of movement and ability to see what’s going on around him if he’s awake.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Though he is unswaddled and free to move in the day, we do swaddle him at night to help him sleep for slightly longer stretches. The swaddle is so useful for the first few months when babies’ startle reflexes are strong, often waking them up unintentionally. My favorite swaddle with Baby S is the Ollie swaddle, which is easy to put on/take off and keeps him safely tucked inside. He also spends time in the day in the K’tan baby carrier, when we take walks or I need two hands and he wants to be held close. For us, it’s just about finding that balance of cozy mama time, restful time, and uninhibited movement time.


As Baby S’ awake time increases, we have and will introduce a few traditional Montessori materials to encourage his concentration and capture his interest. For the first couple of months this includes mobiles, high contrast (black and white) images, mirrors, familiar faces, and the sights and sound in nature. Already he has begun to spend a few minutes each day gazing at his Munari mobile as it slowly spins with the air circulating. As babies can only see up to 12 inches in front of them, and only in black and white, this is the first mobile to encourage eye tracking, concentration, and visual development. It is beautiful to watch him watch the mobile. :)

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

* If you are interested in Montessori materials for babies, my friend Bridget of Montessori in Motion and I launched The Montessori Guide this year, which includes month-by-month activities and links to materials to help you set up a Montessori environment for your child. You can read more about that here!

** If you are looking for a full Montessori subscription box for your baby, with materials delivered straight to your door, you can also check out Monti Kids! Use code REALLIFE for $30 off your first box.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Sleep, Self-Soothing, and the Montessori Floor Bed


Although I get a lot of questions about sleep and the floor bed, I’m always a bit hesitant to talk about it because sleep can be a controversial topic. I’ll start by saying that I respect whatever choice you make for your child, and your family. From co-sleeping to cribs, there are a lot of options for sleeping, and ultimately, the decision is up to you! For us, co-sleeping wasn’t an option for a variety of reasons, but I did want to keep D in our bedroom for the first 6 months. When she transitioned out of the bassinet in our room, she transitioned into the floor bed in her room. This post is about our sleep and floor bed journey:

Sleep, Self-Soothing, and the Montessori Floor Bed - Montessori in Real Life

The importance of Sleep

I want to start by saying that although we all sacrifice sleep in the first few months and learn to function without it, that shouldn’t become our norm. Sleep is just as important for parents as it is for our children, because without it, our physical health, mental well-being, and parenting ability really takes a beating. Similarly, our children, especially babies and toddlers, need adequate sleep for their development and health. As a toddler teacher, I could see huge differences in attention, happiness, and behavior in general between the children who slept well at night and those who didn’t. Here is a useful website with recommended hours of sleep for each age in childhood. Every child is different, but typically more is better. Although D can and will function on an 11-hour night and no nap, she is at her best when she gets her usual 11-hour night plus a 2-hour nap.

Our Montessori Floor Bed Journey - Montessori in Real Life

From the Beginning

Our sleep the first 4 months with D was pretty challenging. For the first three months, D would fall asleep easily when nursed/rocked to sleep but never slept longer than 2-3 hours at a time, and only napped on my body. At 4 months, she wouldn’t even fall asleep in our arms at bedtime, and was still waking up frequently, nursing around the clock. I was completely exhausted all the time and at a loss of how to help her consolidate her sleep. At her 4-month check-up our pediatrician gently suggested that many babies need to cry a little to fall asleep, and that babies can begin to self-soothe at this point, so my husband and I began to do some research on sleep learning methods. Side note: rather than call it “training”, I prefer “sleep learning”. With sleep learning, we are gently helping our children learn how to self-soothe, not training them or abandoning them completely to cry it out. So began our journey of sleep learning.


When D was close to 5 months old, we started sleep learning using The Sleepeasy Solution book as our main guide. My husband and I both read it front to back so we could be on the same page, and created our own personalized plan.. (Note: another option is the Taking Cara Babies online course, which is expensive, but my friends have said her videos and consultations are especially comforting in an otherwise stressful endeavor. I am planning to take her newborn sleep course for baby #2.)

The SleepEasy Solution book's philosophy is based on "the least-cry approach", which definitely appealed to me. While it does involve some crying, it allows for check-ins, and caters to various family situations, ages, and sleeping arrangements, including room-sharing (which we were still doing at the time). The "no-cry sleep solutions" hadn't worked for us despite my best efforts, and this book helped explain why. "All children protest change, and the way they let us know they don't like the change is to cry." For many babies, constantly intervening when they are trying to sleep only frustrates them more and prohibits their ability to figure out how to self-soothe. This was definitely the case with D, our headstrong little girl. We had to let her work off her own steam at the end of the day, and accept her struggle instead of trying to fix it.

D exploring her room at 9 months

D exploring her room at 9 months

Using the Sleepeasy Solution methods, D was putting herself to sleep without fussing after just a few nights, and we never felt like we were abandoning her. I was still able to nurse her during the night, but on a more predictable schedule, and could let her put herself back to sleep after each feed. She still took some naps on me, but others in her own bed, and I appreciated having that flexibility. Everyone in my family was almost immediately more well-rested and happier. I gradually night weaned her over the course of several months. By 10 months, she was sleeping 12 hours at night straight.

D’s Bedroom at 9 Months

D’s Bedroom at 9 Months

Transitioning to the Floor Bed

We started sleep learning before the transition to the floor bed in her room (around 6 months), but continued to use the methods after. We started with naps on the floor bed and then moved nighttime sleep to the floor bed too, and didn’t have a lot of issues because she already had the skills to self-soothe. I have written more about the floor bed in this blog post, but we chose this route because it allows her freedom to move and not feel “stuck” in a crib. It allows her independence while providing a safe and cozy place for winding down and to sleep. It has worked really well for us: she mostly stays in her bed, but can go get books and her “lovies” before and after sleep on her own, and fall asleep when she’s ready. Even though it’s a crib-sized mattress, being on the floor also allows me to snuggle with her on it before bed, and to read with her on it after she wakes. And I can sleep well knowing her room is safe and she is content and well-rested. (She is also just next door to us, and we use a video monitor.)

The Montessori Floor Bed and Self-Soothing - Montessori in Real Life

There have, of course, been sleep regressions since transitioning to the floor bed. When she began to crawl, she would crawl toward the door after bedtime and get upset. We tried a few techniques but in the end, just letting her wander a bit and occasionally fall asleep on the floor was the best solution. After several nights of falling asleep on the floor (and me sometimes moving her back after she fell asleep), she mostly stopped wandering off her bed. The real struggle hit when she learned how to open her door. Because she wouldn’t fall asleep if she could leave her room and wander, and I worried about her safety at night, we put a child lock on the door handle so only we can open it (we just did this for a couple of bedtimes - we no longer have a lock as she just stays in her room and is a bit older but I’ve heard of others using a gate outside the door). Again, we had a couple of rough nights where she was upset she couldn’t get out, but we checked in and were consistent about her needing to stay in her room, and she figured it out. Times when she’s been sick or just upset, we offer extra snuggles and occasionally, I’ve laid down on the floor next to her to help her sleep. There always has to be room for flexibility!

Self-Soothing and the Montessori Floor Bed - Montessori in Real Life

Our Bedtime Routine

As the sleep books and courses will tell you, a huge part of sleep learning success is a consistent routine. When babies and toddlers are given plenty of time to wind down, and have that one-on-one time with you, self-soothing is much easier. You can read more about our daily routine here, but I’ll go over our bedtime routine here too. We stick to a pretty strict bedtime - usually starting no later than 7pm. It looks like this, and my husband and I take turns:

  • Potty, bath, then brush teeth (we do it first, then let her have a turn).

  • Change her into her pajamas and a diaper

  • Read a few books in her tent, and then cuddle and sing a couple of songs (she now sings along)

  • She collects her favorite books and baby dolls and sets them up “just so” in her bed. I also give her a water bottle and a light blanket for the night.

  • We kiss her goodnight (sometimes she requests a lot of extra kisses), turn on her white noise machine, and walk out the door

Sometimes she falls asleep right away and other evenings she reads or snuggles her babies for a while before dozing off. But she’s happy, and sleeps like a log through the night. When she wakes up (usually between 6:30 and 7am), she just reads to herself or plays with her toys (as pictured below) until I go in and greet her for the day!


That is our floor bed and sleep journey, and while not perfect, I’d definitely do it again. Sometimes she misses naps, and sometimes we travel and everything is thrown off, but for the most part, she is a great sleeper now. I’m sure we’ll hit more obstacles as we welcome this baby boy any day now, but it’s all a process. We still aren’t sure whether we will have the kids room-share when he transitions out of our bedroom, so updates to come!


Favorite Sleep Products

Self-Soothing and the Montessori Floor Bed - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months (and why your toddler may not be interested in toys)


It’s been a few months since I did a “shelfie” post, in part because D has been so absorbed in other activities lately! She spends a good amount of time at home in our kitchen, where she has her own little kitchen and sensory table where she likes to work. She loves to help me cook, and even clean, but also just to pour and transfer back and forth. You’ve probably seen lots of examples of this on our Instagram account! She is also in a big gross motor phase, so we make sure to get out of the house every day to meet her exercise needs. The Pikler and ramp my husband built has also been great, as has the Wheely Bug she still enjoys scooting around the house on. Lastly, but most importantly, is her love of books. She would choose reading books over any other activity, anytime. Needless to say we spend a lot of time snuggled on the couch reading together.

Our Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

It is pretty normal for toddlers to go through phases of indifference about their toys or their shelf in general. There are many reasons why this can be the case, such as an increased interest in other activities mentioned above, but here are a few more:

  • They are hungry/tired - certain times of the day may be better for your toddler than others

  • The work is too challenging (gets frustrated easily) or too easy (bored)

  • It’s been a while since you’ve rotated toys on the shelf

  • There are a lot of distractions around - noises, voices, other things to get into that are “off-limit”

  • Needing gross motor outlets - throwing, kicking, running outside

  • Level of your engagement - some children work better with you sitting right there, others need a little space and quiet to concentrate

That being said, after a few adjustments on my end, and a good sleep, D always comes back to her shelf and her toys, and your toddler is likely to too. Some days she plays more independently, and others we engage with the toys together. I try not to have expectations and while I may make suggestions or show her a new material, I let her take the lead with her play.

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Here is what we have out on D’s shelf right now. We have started to incorporate more open-ended work, as D shows more interest in it. Because I get lots of questions about this topic, I’ll just add that while she is beginning to pretend play e.g. act our real-life scenes from home (e.g. giving her baby doll a bottle) and our experiences together, she does not yet really grasp imaginative play. More abstract imaginative play comes with understanding symbols, and turning one object into another (e.g. a block becomes a car) which typically develops between two and three years old.

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life
  • Large wooden building blocks - We got our wooden blocks from Wooden Story but these look great too! She has been enjoying building towers with her blocks for the past few months, mostly just to see how tall she can make it, and then “crash”. :)

  • Play scarves - We go to a dance/movement class once a week, and she loves to dance with the scarves there. At home, we put on music and we’ll do the same! We also like to hide her little animals in the scarves, which she finds and then re-wraps in the scarves as a hide-and-seek kind of game.

  • Wooden Dress-up Doll - She is pretty interested in clothes right now, as well as her dolls. So this is a nice way for her to both learn about community helpers, talk about items of clothing, and just have fun putting the clothes on and taking them off the wooden magnetic doll. This set came with a ton of outfits/uniforms, but I find it better to put out just a few options at a time.

Our Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life
  • Felt board and felt animals - We have read a lot of books and sung a lot of songs about farm animals, so it’s no surprise that she enjoys these felt farm animals and board. She likes to make animal sounds with them, and arrange them in different ways on the board. This will be even more fun for her as her imagination grows.

  • Geometric Sorting Board - This is one that still challenges D, but she does pretty well with it when I get it started for her. As pictured, I leave one shape on to start with, and let her fill in the rest. Whether or not she gets every correct hole on the posts, she is learning about shapes, colors, numbers, and building her concentration through this work.

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life
  • Fruit and Vegetable Matching Cards - We recently started selling these as part of The Montessori Guide! We hope to make plenty more matching cards in the future. The fruits and vegetables are D’s favorite, as this girl loves to eat. :) We started with matching objects to cards and now she enjoys matching card to card. You can read more about how we introduced language work in this blog post.

  • Straws in a Bottle - DIY toys can be the best. I found these fun straws at Target a while back, and found a new use for them with this recycled vanilla extract bottle. She really enjoys the fine motor practice of putting the straws in, pouring them out, as well as opening and closing the cap of the bottle.

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life
  • Shape Sorter - This is such a beautiful, handcrafted shape sorter made by Heirloom Kids. I love how there are only 4 shapes so as not to be too overwhelming for a toddler. The sliding door makes it extra fun too. We started this one with only the sphere and cube, and now use all 4 shapes. She finds her own ways to use this material too. ;)

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life
  • Farm Animal Puzzle - D isn’t huge into puzzles, but again, she loves farm animals. I love how realistic the images are on these puzzles. It is definitely a bit more of a challenge because there aren’t photos of the animals under the pieces, so it’s one to work up to if your toddler has mastered simpler wooden ones.

  • Mystery Bag - For this activity, I placed several familiar objects (appropriately baby-themed) in a small drawstring bag for her to discover, ideally by touch before sight. She really enjoys reaching in and labeling the objects, and of course using them with her baby doll. This kind of discovery bag is easy to create with whatever objects you have at home!

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Plant-Based Toddler Meal Ideas


Fun fact about me: I used to have a food blog! I guess once a blogger, always a blogger. ;) Though I no longer spend my time creating recipes, I still love to cook, especially plant-based food. Though we aren’t strictly vegan (we eat some eggs and fish), we eat very little dairy or meat. We just feel better eating this way, for various reasons. That being said, I want D to be able to make her own choices when she’s older and be able to eat cake at birthday parties, so I do let her have the occasional bowl of mac & cheese or whatever else her friends are having on a playdate. There are many opinions about this, but I respect whatever food choices parents make for their own children, and hope others do the same! :)

Plant-Based Toddler Meal Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Feeding toddlers can be tricky in general, and many of you have asked for ideas. These days D often eats whatever my husband and I are already having (90% of our dinners come from MInimalist Baker!), but here are some of her favorites for each meal that I make on the regular. I also make a note when it’s a meal that D enjoys helping me make, and my hope is that she can help me make every recipe given enough time and practice!

Side note: though you can find links to D’s dishes in our Functional Kitchen blog post, I’ve recently updated her plates, silverware, and cups to accommodate her growing hands and tummy. Even though D is out of the dish throwing phase, I still like to use Duralex because cups just seem to fall and spill more than other dishes. I also really like her new larger utensils because the forks’ tongs are sharp enough for her to easily pierce her food (though she still uses her hands an equal amount). Links below:

Plates | Cups | Utensils


I try to make this self-serve or in parts, e.g. so she can pour or scoop berries or nuts into her oatmeal before eating. All of these are quick, and easy to prepare the night before or morning of (with a hangry toddler in tow)!

Plant-Based Toddler Recipes - Montessori in Real Life
  • Yogurt & Granola or Chopped Walnuts & Fruit - Our favorite non-dairy yogurts are Forager Cashew and CocoYo Coconut (unsweetened)

  • Chia pudding ( I leave out the maple syrup - dates are sweet enough!) - We mix it up with different seed and nut butters such as sunflower seed butter

  • Buckwheat pancakes (I use Bob’s Red Mill mix with a flax egg or normal egg). D can help me stir the batter, but her favorite part is to pour on a little syrup from her small pitcher. :)

  • Overnight Oats or Old-Fashioned Oats + Hemp or Pumpkin Seeds + Fruit


This is usually a small meal because D has eaten a big breakfast and snack already, and is getting ready for nap. Sometimes we combine a couple of the ideas to make a larger meal though.

Plant-Based Toddler Meals - Montessori in Real Life
  • Hummus Plate - This is a go-to for lunch or snack. I slice up some of her favorite veggies: cucumber, bell pepper, carrot, and/or snap peas, and serve with some hummus or yogurt dip and sometimes a little bread, or whole wheat crackers too. D enjoys chopping up the cucumber, and carrot if I’ve steamed it a little beforehand.

  • Avocado Toast and Tomato Salad - D loves spreading her own mashed avocado on toast. She also enjoys mashing. I usually mix the mashed avocado with nutritional yeast and/or hemp hearts. This is especially good on fresh sourdough bread and served with chopped heirloom/cherry tomatoes. (I mix tomatoes with a little olive oil and basil too).

  • Broccoli Fritters & Dip - I use a bit less spice, added one chopped scallion, and reduced salt a lot. We experiment a lot with different forms of veggie patties and falafels because they are great for both lunch and snack as finger food. D enjoys lentils so I like ones such as these, served with dipping sauce or not.

  • Smoothies - For the two of us, I typically blend 1.5 cups almond, coconut, or hemp milk, a ripe banana, a couple large handfuls of spinach, a tbsp nut butter, 1 tbsp chia seeds and a splash of sweetener, e.g. maple or date syrup. Sometimes I add frozen berries, avocado, or cucumber too. D loves to add all the ingredients to the blender for us, and help pour the smoothie for us.


As I mentioned, usually D just eats whatever my husband and I are having for dinner, or at least a version of it. This is the meal of the day I really enjoy cooking, and having D help me with too!

Plant-Based Toddler Meals - Montessori in Real Life
  • Vegan Lasagna - You know a recipe is loved when the page is covered in tomato sauce splatter. :) The one we use and love is from The Minimalist Baker cookbook (my favorite cookbook!) but this one by Oh She Glows is also good! I’ve also made a simpler version by just using store-bought marinara and Kite Hill almond milk ricotta. D loves to help spread on the layers for this one!

  • Buddha Bowls - This is another one of our family’s weekly staples, and it’s great because it can be adjusted to what’s in season or what you have in the fridge already. Our favorite is a bowl with jasmine or brown rice, pan-seared or baked tofu, spinach, steamed broccoli, shredded raw carrot, and avocado slices topped with peanut sauce and scallions. We use this peanut sauce from Minimalist Baker, minus the chili sauce for D.

  • Deconstructed Tacos - A quick and simple dinner we always enjoy is tacos. For D, I just serve them “deconstructed”. This is usually a combo of black beans, roasted sweet potato spiced with cumin and paprika, homemade guacamole, and corn tortilla slices. Sometimes we make a small quesadilla with dairy-free cheese for her too.

  • “Zoodles” or Noodles - Though pasta with veggies and legumes is always a go-to, this version is a fun way to sneak in even more veggies. Using a spiralizer, we make our own veggie noodles (mostly “zoodles” or zucchini noodles). We’ve also successfully used the spiralizer to make squash noodles! We top the zoodles (or just traditional noodles) with tomato sauce, chickpeas or lentils, and vegan parmesan, or homemade pesto. Lots of ways for D to help here, with combining ingredients in the food processor for sauce or helping turn the spiralizer and transfer noodles.

Plant-Based Toddler Recipes - Montessori in Real Life

These are just a few of our favorites! Would love to hear yours!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Praise vs. Acknowledgment in a Montessori Home


Praise (or lack thereof) is a topic that often comes up in Montessori discussions, and in my Instagram messages. I do not say much out loud in my videos of D working, which is typically intentional. When she is concentrating, I do not want to interrupt, and especially not with my own judgment of her work. Most of all I try* to avoid “Good job!” That is not to say I don’t think it or feel proud when she matches the flowers correctly, or climbs over the Pikler triangle like a champ. But I want her to be able to focus on her own efforts and feelings about it rather than focus on mine. When she’s finished with her work and looks up to me, I acknowledge it with something like “You matched all the flowers to the cards! You look really happy” or “You climbed over the Pikler for the first time!” and she feels the pride all on her own.

* we all say good job sometimes, and that’s okay :)

Praise vs. Acknowledgment - Montessori in Real Life

In a Montessori environment, it is the norm for adults to acknowledge accomplishments and encourage efforts rather than praise or offer rewards. As mentioned above, the idea is for children to learn how to take pride in their own accomplishments, rather than only put in effort for adult praise or external rewards. Rewards take away a child’s intrinsic motivation, or desire to work on something just because it feels good to do so. In contrast, Acknowledgment allows a child to assess their own work, and feel satisfied or proud for themselves. Additionally, acknowledgments or encouragements are specific to the activity or effort at hand, rather than vague like “I’m so proud of you!”. The specificity (e.g. “You are working really hard on putting on your shoes by yourself!”) makes our comments more meaningful to our children.

Praise vs. Acknowledgement - Montessori in Real Life

Acknowledging the effort our children put into something rather than the end result also encourages them to seek out challenges. Conversely, praising our children for a job well done often leads them to avoid challenges for fear of making a mistake and not being “good enough”. Carol Dweck, a developmental psychologist at Stanford coined the terms “growth mindset” vs. “fixed mindset” to describe these differences. A child with a growth mindset believes that they can work hard at something to get better at it; a child with a fixed mindset believes they are either good or bad at something, and they can’t change that. Unsurprisingly, children with growth mindsets are more motivated, confident, and high-achieving.

How do we help our young children develop a growth mindset? It comes back to how, or if, we praise. Instead of praising or rewarding the outcome, we can praise or acknowledge the effort or process. We want to convey to our children that we notice and value how hard they work at something, and the steps they took to get there. We want them to know that mistakes are not just okay, but necessary, in learning a new skill. This really helps me think about how I parent D and how we can all help toddlers become self-assured and challenge-seeking children.

Lastly I’ll just share with you some of the phrases we use at home to help cultivate a growth mindset and acknowledge or encourage efforts rather than praise or assert my judgment:

It looks like you really enjoyed that work!

I can see you worked really hard on that activity.

You did it (all by yourself)!

It’s so nice to see how proud and happy you are.

You put your work away, so now we can go make dinner!

That was really helpful how you set your own table.

For my favorite parenting/Montessori philosophy books, check out the end of this blog post!

Praise vs. Acknowledgment in a Montessori Home - Montessori in Real Life

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler


After my Instagram post about routine cards, I got a lot of questions about how to make them and how I use them. I figured it was worth it to write a short blog post about it, and a few transition tips in genera!! By transitions, I mean shifts in the day such as getting ready for outings, getting ready for nap or bed, and cleaning up or setting up before a meal.

Daily transitions are difficult for toddlers, because it means switching from one activity to another (often sooner than they want). Transitions are also tricky because they typically involve multiple steps, which can be hard to remember, and even harder to execute. Toddlers do not yet have the self control or planning skills that we do, but they do have the determination. The more we try to hurry the process along, the more resistant they become. It can definitely be a vicious cycle! Though we are unlikely to make transitions a breeze, especially when we are dealing with an over-tired or over-hungry toddler, there are ways to make them slightly easier, and hopefully more pleasant.

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler - Montessori in Real Life


The best way to help toddlers tackle transitions is by creating and keeping a consistent routine. This isn’t always possible, especially as busy parents, but we can do our best. Toddlers thrive on routine as it gives them a sense of security in a big, overwhelming world. Keeping a routine doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing every day, but it means maintaining a certain rhythm to the day, so your child knows what to expect. You can read more about our routine in this blog post. There are of course days when routines are completely thrown off, and in that case, the best thing we can do is just let our toddler know, and talk to them about what we are doing as we do it, and give a little warning about what we’ll do next. With toddlers, it’s best to keep words simple and to the point.

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler - Montessori in Real Life


Toddlers love to feel that they have some control over their life, as they should. Though we can’t and shouldn’t let them make all the decisions, we can provide them with simple choices that give them a sense of autonomy. Transitions are perfect times for these. Instead of asking whether your toddler would like to use the potty (giving them the appealing option to say “no”), we can ask “Would you like to read ____ book or _____ book on the potty?”. Another example is getting dressed. “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or pink shirt today?” Toddlers do best with only two choices, and avoiding yes/no questions altogether. Sometimes the questions are just “Would you like to put on your coat or would you like my help?” Sometimes D doesn’t want to make a choice or do the task independently, and in that case, I make it for her (e.g. I help her with the coat or help her sit on the potty) and we move on. It’s never productive to get in a power struggle or debate with a toddler.

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler

Routine Cards

Though I’ve seen lots of printable routine cards online, I really wanted something more personalized for D. Each toddler has their own struggles with transitions, so it’s nice to customize them. Plus, it is much more fun for toddlers to see pictures of themselves and their house than drawings or cartoons! D has loved that part of it. Based on the transitions that we’ve struggled with at home, I made three sets: “getting ready to go outside/on an outing”, “getting ready for nap”, and “setting up for mealtime”. We go over the sets/routine together like a book first. Then when it’s time to actually go through the steps in a transition, we take the set of cards with us and go through the steps in real life, one by one. I like using the binder rings because I can take out or add steps as needed!

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler - Montessori in Real Life

If you’d like to create these cards for your toddler, here are the steps:

  1. Think about the transitions your toddler could use some help with and jot down a list of the steps (focus on important ones) that the transition(s) involves.

  2. Find or take photos of a) the space in your house where task occurs or b) your child doing said step/task.

  3. Download my template here!

  4. Using Word or Google Docs or similar, insert your own photos and text into the template.

  5. Print on cardstock, cut into cards, and laminate! (I use this thermal laminator and love it!)

  6. Use a hole puncher to make a small hole in the upper left hand corner of each card and then group photos/steps together in sets with these small binder rings.

Tackling Transitions with a Toddler - Montessori in Real Life

Songs and Rhymes

Lastly, transitions can be made more fun by songs and rituals. D loves books and songs more than anything so those have been helpful for us. Singing the same song at certain times of the day help our children know what’s about to happen. For example we probably all have certain bedtime songs we sing to our babies or toddlers to help let them know it’s time to sleep. While I often just make up little rhymes about going to the potty or cleaning up, This Reading Mama’s website has some great transition/routine songs to try out! Below is one of our favorites.

Transition Song from This Reading Mama

Transition Song from This Reading Mama

I hope one of these tips helps make your transitions just a little smoother too! :)

A Montessori Toddler Easter Basket


Easter is only a week and a half away, so I felt compelled to write a short blog post along the theme! I love holidays, especially now that we have a little one, so it’s easy for me to go overboard with things like Easter Baskets. One of my favorite holiday traditions as a child was searching the house with my sisters for our hidden baskets of goodies. Though D doesn’t have the patience to search for a basket (yet), she is definitely old enough to appreciate the basket of goodies part!

Infant and Toddler Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

I had hoped to get this post written last week, but I’ll admit I only just picked out her basket stuffers this week. If you are like me, and heavily rely on Amazon prime, then hopefully this post won’t be too late for you either! :) I’m sharing ideas for a toddler Easter basket, as well as a few books and toys for your littlest ones! Happy egg (and basket) hunting, and Happy Easter!

Toddler Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Toddler Easter Basket Ideas

Egg shakers - These are a little young for D, but I did have a thought to get two sets and make it a matching sound game! Might also save this one for the summer. Either way, egg shakers are typically a hit with babies and toddlers of all ages.

Layered Puzzle - Though this is still a bit too challenging for D, I saw the rabbit version of this layered wooden puzzle and had to grab it. Love how this teaches the concept of size, shade, and depth. I am interested to see how she uses it now!

Stickers - Stickers continue to be a favorite for D, and though I sometimes buy small sets at the local toy store, these larger sets from Amazon make so much more sense. As I’ve described before, I find it easiest to cut sticker sheets into strips and then fold back an edge to make peeling easier for a young toddler.

Toddler Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Egg slicing/matching - Melissa and Doug always has fun wooden toys (not super Montessori but great for gifts), and this is no exception. D is big into color matching right now, and of course chopping, so this seemed perfect for her Easter basket.

Nesting chickens - Love this fun twist on the classic Russian nesting dolls. We have been talking a lot about eggs and hatching, so this fits with that theme nicely. I know D will love opening and closing these on repeat. If your child is still mouthing everything, I would wait on these.

Egg crayons - I am probably most excited about these egg crayons. They are big and chunky for toddler hands, and they are a fun and creative way to get D more interested in art this Spring!

Sunflower Grow Kit - This was in the dollar section at Target, and it’s such a fun idea! No guarantees that a sunflower will actually grow. ;) I couldn’t find the exact one I got online, but you might find it (and other Easter goodies) at the front of your local Target store too!

Toddler Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Board Books

Whose Chick book - This is one of D’s favorite books right now. It’s a cute story about various birds who find an abandoned egg and try to figure out who it belongs to. It’s perfect for toddlers who love to make animal sounds with the bonus of learning about hatching eggs!

Touch & Feel Rabbit book - This was D’s favorite last year (10 months), and she still loves it, especially with that fuzzy tail! We got it to go with the stuffed Jellycat rabbit (mentioned below). Each page has a different texture, and the words are simple for the littlest of babes!

10 Little Chicks song book - One of my favorite Spring songs to sing as a toddler teacher was “10 Little Ducks”, and this is a very cute variation on this. Books that combine as songs are always a hit among babies and toddlers alike, and I’m excited for D to discover this one in her basket.

Little Chick puppet book - These finger puppet books are favorites for babies, and the pages are super thick and durable! D still reads her finger puppet books like this, but now she sticks her own finger in the puppet instead of waiting for me.

Baby Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Baby Easter Basket Ideas

Duck pull toy - Perfect for your baby who is crawling or just starting to walk. They will love pulling the mama duck around, and nestling baby duck in to go along for the ride.

Rabbit stuffed animal - D has many stuffed animals but this is always a favorite. It is so soft and just the right size for snuggling. I love the Jellycat stuffed animals in general, and the books to go with them!

Egg shakers - These are simple but beautiful egg shakers that make a really nice, soft sound. The small size is perfect for little hands to hold onto and shake.

Teethers - I wish I’d gotten this for D last Easter! This is such a sweet set of themed teethers, and it seems as though you can never have enough when your baby is teething or just mouthing everything.

Lamb teether - Just another cute teether option for babies!

Baby Easter Basket Ideas - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Becoming a Big Sister


The big day is fast approaching…8 more weeks until the due date! D was very punctual, arriving right on her due date, so we’ll see about this little guy. This pregnancy has had its own set of challenges, but it is going by so much more quickly than the first! Toddlers keep you busy! Though we’ve been mentally preparing for months, we are just now starting to prepare our home (and all those new-baby logistics) a bit more.

A big difference in our preparation for this baby is that we have another family member to consider. D has had the privilege of being the first and only for almost two years, and this is going to be a huge adjustment for her. Though I am confident she will love our new baby, I expect there to be lots of bumps along the way. While we can’t predict exactly how she will respond to such a big change, we can help prepare her for what’s to come, and help get her more comfortable with the idea of a tiny baby brother around.

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

Here are a few of the ways we are helping D prepare for her upcoming role as big sister:

Caring for Baby - Though I introduced baby dolls around 15 months, she really only became interested in her dolls around 18 months. This was when she began to insist on sleeping with one (now two), pretending to feed them, and changing their clothes. It was at this point we set up a little baby care basket, which you can read about in this blog post (along with a couple of other baby activities). More recently, D’s favorite thing to do is wear or push her baby doll around the house. She is especially in love with this Boba doll carrier, which allows her to multitask (just like mama will be doing very soon!) Giving her these opportunities is fun for her, and good practice too. I can definitely see us both wearing our babies around the park in a few months!

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

Baby Washing - Her other favorite baby care activity is baby washing. We just started this activity (21 months), as it requires quite a few steps. After I set up the supplies, we start by filling this water ladle. For now, I fill it partway at the sink, and she carries it and pours the water into the water basin. We usually do two or three rounds of this. Then she dampens one of the baby cloths, pours the liquid baby soap on the cloth (or in the water usually), and washes the baby doll’s face and body. She likes to name all the body parts as she goes. Then I hand her the other small cloth to wipe baby’s face dry. We then lay out a small towel and she puts baby on it. I help her wrap up baby and she likes to snuggle her baby doll in the towel.

Baby Photos - D’s favorite book in our house is her baby book. While I’m happy for her to look through this with me, it is not a book I want to leave her to play with. So I printed a few pictures of her in her first few months, and laminated them for her to look through. Seeing these photos of herself will hopefully help prepare her for what her little brother will look like when he is born! (Though red hair twice would be crazy!) It also helps to get the conversation going about newborns in general: what they are like and what they need.

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

Books - There are many books out there on this very topic, but here is our small selection. I didn’t want to purchase too many, as that gets repetitive, and I didn’t want to overwhelm D with the idea. You Were the First is hardcover, but a wonderful book to read together at bedtime. It is such a sweet story of experiencing all the firsts with your firstborn, and I think it will be extra sweet to read once D is a little older too. Two of these books (Waiting for Baby and My New Baby) are part of a new baby series. I like the questions the toddler asks about the baby or baby-to-be along the way. It’s great for starting conversation about pregnancy and the new baby. Lastly, I’m a Big Sister is a classic short story about the important and fun role big sisters have with a new baby, which is also helpful for us!

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

Environment - Since D already has her own room, and a floor bed, we haven’t had to make adjustments to her room for a new baby. Instead, we just make sure her room is a place she enjoys being and sleeping, so that she always has that space for herself (no sharing necessary). Hopefully it will help her feel “big” and special to continue to this room to play in, read in, pick out her clothes and dress (see that post here), and sleep with her favorite “lovies”. Though we only keep a few “toys” in her room at once, we keep lots of books, and her favorite place to read and snuggle is in her play tent. I am looking forward to continuing many bedtime snuggles with her here when our little baby is sleeping.

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

Though we have yet to set up the baby’s room (it’s currently our guest room and we would like to paint it and make some changes first…), we are working on setting up a small area of our bedroom for baby. That is where the little guy will sleep for the first 5-6 months. I’ve been involving D in filling the baby’s drawers with tiny clothes and hats, and showing her where baby will sleep, where I will nurse him, and where we change his diapers. My hope is that this will help her feel aware of and included in some of the changes about to take place. I’m sure she will enjoy picking out his outfits when the time comes!

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

One-on-One Time - I have been soaking up these last few months of all the special solo time D and I have. Though I know we will carve out time for just us two, it is bittersweet to know that it will be more than just us most of the day, and I worry how this will affect her the most. Because of this, we’ve been making sure she has special solo time with her Dada each week too. Each Saturday morning they spend a couple of hours just them, and I’ve found that after their little adventures, she’s all about Dada the rest of the day. It’s so important for them to have that time together, and my hope is that their bond will be even stronger when he’s on paternity leave and our newborn is at his neediest. Once the baby is here, solo time with each of us will be extra important!

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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What Are Sensitive Periods?


“When a particular sensitiveness is aroused in a child, it is like a light that shines on some objects but not others, making of them his whole world” - Maria Montessori

One of the most discussed phrases in Montessori is “sensitive periods“. In short, a sensitive period is a phase or window in a child’s development when they are most capable of and responsive to absorbing a certain skill.

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

There are a variety of sensitive periods in childhood, but here are some that apply to toddlers. These include but are not limited to:

  • Movement: birth to 2.5

  • Language: birth to 6

  • Toileting: 1 to 3

  • Small objects: 1 to 3

  • Order: 1.5 to 4

  • Refinement of Senses: 2 to 6

  • Grace and Courtesy: 2 to 6

  • Social Skills: 2.5 to 5

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Before going into some these in more depth, it can help to know how to spot a sensitive period. Though there are general time frames for each of these periods, every child is a bit different in their development. You’ll know when your child is in a sensitive period because they are engaged, passionate, and energized by working on this specific activity or skill, and often return to it again and again. It can help to keep these sensitive periods in mind to better understand your toddler’s “tricky” behaviors too.

When a child isn’t permitted to exercise their sensitive periods, they will likely throw tantrums to demonstrate their unmet needs to fulfill their interests and goals for that period. They may also lose the ease of doing and interest for the activities related to developing that skill. If they miss the sensitive period of window, they will likely still develop those skills, but will take longer and with more effort and less joy. (For example, adults know how much harder it is to learn one new language than it is for toddlers to learn two languages at the same time.)

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Sensitive Period for Movement: Birth to 2.5 years

From birth to two and a half years, children show a sensitive period for movement. It is easy to see this in the great effort infants put in as they quickly transition from lying to rolling to sitting to crawling to pulling up. They use their hands in different ways to explore their environment and materials with more precision every day. Through the second year, toddlers continue this self-motivated movement but with more refinement, coordination, and control. Toddlers’ need to move and exert energy often seems limitless, and it practically is.

D was a late crawler and walker, so her first year was all about fine motor. Now, as a toddler, she is going through a huge sensitive period for gross motor. Every day includes a combination of a toddler-led walk, sliding at the playground, carrying heavy objects around the house, and climbing up and down the stairs on repeat. Giving her these opportunities to exercise her large movements gives her the ability to focus on her smaller work as well as eat and sleep better.

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Sensitive Period for Small Objects: 1 to 3 years

Any parent of a toddler has probably noticed this one - they love tiny things. As soon as babies begin to move, they seem to notice every little speck on the floor, and need to pick it up. Toddlers find nothing more fascinating than collecting small rocks and picking every tiny flower. While parents often worry about choking hazards, reacting with panic or ripping small objects out of your toddlers’ hand will only lead to tantrums. We can give our toddlers supervised time to hold and inspect small objects to fulfill this need. Toddlers need this time to tune into the details of everything, and see those smallest features, changes, and qualities up close. They are not only learning about their fascinating environment, but also working on those much-needed fine motor skills and developing their concentration.

Most of D’s favorite works include small objects right now, and at first with reminders (now without), she knows to keep them in her hand. Our rock collection is quite impressive these days. ;) Just the other day she found a tiny lock and key in our drawer, and rather than take it away, I observed her and watched with interest as she used her tiny hands to fit the lock inside and then sigh with huge satisfaction as she went on to repeat this a dozen more times. These little opportunities to work with small objects are huge for her development.

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Sensitive Period for Toileting: 1 to 2.5 years

This does not mean that toilet learning can’t happen after 2.5 years, but rather that the toddlers are quicker and more interested in the toilet before 2.5 years (usually before 2 years even). Children develop an awareness of their bodily functions around a year and can usually control their bladder and bowels pretty well by 18 months. Toddlers between one and two years also want to imitate everything we do, and this often includes the toilet, so it’s a great time to take advantage of that. If we start toileting during this sensitive period, we can avoid using bribes and rewards.

Though it’s been a longer process, I am really glad we started toilet learning with D before 18 months, because now, at 21 months, she’s in underwear full-time (except for sleep). There are still some accidents and sure to be more regressions (especially once baby 2 arrives), but we’ve avoided any huge struggle over it. You can read more about this process in previous blog posts.

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Sensitive Period for Order: 1.5 to 4 years

Routine to their day is a big component of toddlers’ need for order. Montessori explains, “It is necessary for the child to have this order and stability in his environment because he is constructing himself out of the elements of the environment.” Toddlers crave routine and order in their environment because it provides a safe base from which they are explore everything else in the constantly changing (and big) world. External order helps toddlers and young children develop internal mental order. This is why Montessori environments have a more minimal look to them, and a specific place for everything.

D is deep in this sensitive period right now. She is very particular about the placement of her things. She actually corrected me when I tried to put one of her materials back in a different spot or when I put her shoes in the “wrong” basket. I also find the days that we stick to her routine are much happier than the days we are in and out of the car or when she isn’t sure what’s coming next. Keeping up with our regular schedule most days, giving her a heads up when we can’t, and always having a consistent bedtime routine helps her tremendously with this need for order.

What Are Sensitive Periods? - Montessori in Real Life

Welcoming Spring!


We got our first taste of Spring this week, and it was glorious! It’s amazing what a little vitamin D and hours of outdoor play can do you for the soul. I can’t help but smile at the pure joy this girl gets from the slide, even when it’s her 30th round. The sun also peeked out just in time for the Spring-themed activities I had planned for D!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

The best way to introduce many of the foundations of these activities (flowers, insects, vegetables) to toddlers is to first experience them in real life. So I’ve been pointing out all the things we see on our walks or at the grocery store, to get D familiar with the living things/objects we read about or see pictures/replicas of at home. It is much easier to grasp the abstract of a picture once they’ve felt, touched, and smelled the real thing. And It doesn’t hurt to have another excuse to play in the dirt and stop to smell the roses!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

Gardening - I do not have a green thumb but D has given me the motivation I need to try a little gardening this spring. I got her this gardening tool set (recommended by my friend at so we can work out in the yard together, and so far she loves toting it around anywhere. ;) We started by planting a few pea seeds to water and watch grow together over the next few weeks. Fingers crossed we are rewarded with at least a sprout! Because D couldn’t get enough of the watering part, I also showed her other flowers and plants she could water around the house and yard, and she has been very busy!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

Insect Grabbing - This is something we set up in the toddler classroom a couple of years ago, so I was excited to introduce it at home! Since D no longer needs this bottle dryer, we’ve repurposed it as grass. In the grass, I hid several of these Toob insects for her to find, grasp/pinch, and collect in a basket. She isn’t yet able to use the tongs so much prefers to use her fingers. She has definitely hit a language explosion and it’s fun to hear her say the names for the insects (“cede!”), and connect them to the ones we read about in her books!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

Fruit & Vegetable Matching - Toob is just the best for language and matching activities. Realistic, but small, and easy to find or make corresponding cards for. I found some printable matching cards here, but it’s easy enough to take photos of each fruit/vegetable and make your own. These Toob fruits and vegetables are perfect for Spring, and learning about the various types we see and taste. As I mentioned, it is best to first introduce objects in “real life”, so before introducing these replicas and cards, I made sure D had experienced feeling and (hopefully) tasting each of these foods to get her more familiar with them. While matching the real fruits and vegetables is ideal, it isn’t always realistic when the work is sitting out on the shelf for days on end!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real LIfe

Flower Arranging - This is such a simple, but lovely and meaningful, activity. Just as we enjoy having beautiful flowers on the table, so do toddlers. As the flowers begin to bloom here in the Northwest, I’ve noticed D spotting them and wanting to look at/touch/smell them too. Instead of saying ‘no’ every time she wanted to touch the beautiful arrangements, it made sense to give her her own flowers to explore and enjoy. Giving her the opportunity to pour a bit of water in a vase, place a few flowers in it, and bring to her own table gives her a piece of that beauty indoors, and makes her feel respected and important too. Older toddlers can expand on this by trimming the stems and creating more elaborate arrangements!

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real LIfe

Springtime Books - As always, D loves her books! Here are her favorites this season:

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert - This board book complements our vegetable & fruit matching activity well, and D enjoys mimicking all the different vegetables and fruits on each page. Maybe this spring at the Farmer’s Market, D will know more about the produce than me!

Spring Babies by Kathryn O. Galbraith - This is a very cute board book series, with a book for every season. With simple words and actions, D loves to “play” along and look at the friendly, diverse faces on each page.

The Little Gardener by Jen Gerardi - This is a sweet story about how to tend to a garden with nice, simple rhymes. Dakota loves opening the peek-a-boo flaps on each page too!

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert - As always, this board book by Lois Ehlert is both beautiful and educational. We learn the process of planting a seed and watching it grow, and are rewarded with a rainbow of flowers and pages at the end!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner - After getting her winter book, Over and Under the Snow, we had to check out the Spring one too. Though it’s not a board book, it’s D’s favorite, and she’s pretty careful with the pages. It features beautiful pictures and details about the various forms of insects, plants, and other creatures under and over the dirt.

Welcome Spring - Montessori in Real Life

Happy Spring!