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Transitioning from One to Two with the Help of Monti Kids

Theresa

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

Theresa

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)

Theresa

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.

Favorite+Baby+Products+%28beyond+Montessori%29+-+Montessori+in+Real+Life

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

Theresa

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.

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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

Theresa

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.

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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

Theresa

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.

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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. 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!

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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!

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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)

Theresa

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

Theresa

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

Breakfast

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

Lunch

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.

Dinner

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

Theresa

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

Theresa

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

Consistency

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

Choice

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

Theresa

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

Theresa

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

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!

What Are Sensitive Periods?

Theresa

“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!

Theresa

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 www.montessorinmotion.com) 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!


A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area

Theresa

Who else did some re-organizing and purging after watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix this year? I’m pretty sure most moms I know have “Marie Kondo’d” some part of their home in the past couple of months. She is so inspiring! My latest project has been D’s closet, which was more challenging than organizing my own, but also a lot more fun. It has also been the perfect chance to create a space for her clothes that is accessible to her.

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - Montessori in Real Life

I’ve been wanting to give D more opportunities to pick out clothes and dress herself, and creating this space in her closet is one of the best ways to do so. Because her room doesn’t have a lot of extra space, I designed this dressing area to fit all in her small closet. It’s nice for a young toddler too because although she can access her clothes when it’s time to dress or put clothes away, I can close the closet doors when she’s sleeping or playing in her room. (If I stored her clothing rack in her room outside her closet, I would have minimized her options even more, and stored the rest in the closet.)

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - Montessori in Real Life

Here is our current set-up:

Clothing Rack - I have yet to find the perfect option for this, but for now, this will do. She can’t quite reach the hangers but is getting close, and can still point to what shirt or dress she wants. I like that it is quite affordable, compact, and has adjustable shelves.

Step stool - I set this up for her to sit on and practice dressing. She can access her socks and shoes on the bottom shelf to practice putting on/taking off. (We also keep a pair of socks and outdoor shoes by the front door.)

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - Montessori in Real Life

Mirror - This is D’s favorite part of her dressing area. I positioned it right next to the step stool so she can watch herself practice dressing or helping me get her dressed. The mirror also helps her develop body awareness and recognition.

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - Montessori in Real Life

Small storage bins - This pack of three fabric bins are perfect for storing her pants and pajamas. I try not to keep too many options in these bins at once, because it is that much more to clean up if she wants to pull them out! I encourage her to choose one at a time, but toddlers love to explore their options. ;)

Laundry Bin - Placing this next to her clothing racks gives her a place to put away her own dirty clothes. It also helps her understand the full sequence of getting dressed, and of how laundry works!

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - Montessori in Real Life

Overall, giving her this opportunity to play a bigger role in dressing boosts her confidence and sense of accomplishment. For many toddlers, transitions (e.g. getting ready for the day, starting naptime routines…) can be tough, and letting them help get dressed or put clothes away makes it much calmer and more satisfying for them. This is definitely true for D! My hope is that having this dressing area gives her the sense of autonomy, order, and satisfaction she needs, and helps her develop the fine motor and coordination skills to dress herself independently in the coming months!

PS. You can see the rest of her room in this blog post about our floor bed. :)

A Montessori Toddler Dressing Area - 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!



Introducing New Materials to a Toddler

Theresa

Just as important as the materials in the Montessori environment is the way in which we present those materials to the child. In an early childhood classroom (age 3-6), Montessori guides use a more formal method for teaching, called the Three Period Lesson. Simone Davies has a great explanation of that in her blog post here. As she explains, we often modify the three period lesson to a two period lesson for toddlers. In introducing new objects and vocabulary to D, I first label each object clearly and slowly. I then ask her (in various ways) to find each object (e.g. Can you put the eagle in the basket?” or “Where is the eagle’s beak?”) Unless I’m sure she knows the word, I do not ask her “What is this?” because it is often difficult and intimidating for newly verbal toddlers to answer, and makes the activity less enjoyable for her. I discuss other language activities in my previous blog post as well.

Giving Lessons - Montessori in Real Life

The three (or two) part lesson works well for some types of materials, such as labeling these forest animal figurines, but not others. With a toddler, lessons often aren’t formal, because they aren’t sitting still for long, and are usually eager to jump into trying it themselves. That being said, there are some general steps I take in introducing a new material, that seem to be fairly consistent across type of activity…

Giving Lessons - Montessori in Real Life
  1. Set up the new material on a tray or in a basket so that it’s inviting and “incomplete”, e.g. puzzle pieces are out of puzzle or nesting cups are unstacked. (Or, if practical life, set up at her small kitchen or weaning table).

  2. Bring D’s attention to the material. If she’s interested, I slowly model how it works/how it is to be used. (If she’s not interested, I wait for another time.) I use minimal words, so that the focus is on my hands, not my voice. It is difficult for toddlers to process both at the same time. For example, with the shape/color sorter above, I might point to the cylinder in my hand, label it “cylinder”, point to the cylinder inset, trace my hand around the circle of the cylinder and inset, and then slowly place the cylinder in the inset. I might say “The cylinder fits!” I would repeat with the remaining shapes and colors. Now that she can match the shapes, I might point out the size/color difference as well, but there’s no rush on this!

  3. I “undo” my work, again slowly, placing each piece back on the tray or in the bakset. I might label with minimal words again, such as noting the color, shape, or a simple action “I put the triangular prism back in the basket!”

  4. Once the material is set-up on the tray or in the basket, I give it to D to use and explore. At this point, I don’t interrupt. Sometimes she imitates my actions and is engrossed in the activity, and other times she uses the material in her own way, which is just fine. I let her play with it as she wishes to.

  5. If she attempts to imitate the actions she saw me do, but struggles, I wait, and often she self-corrects (see note below regarding control of error). Or, if she signals that she wants help, I do show her again, or help guide her. I only intervene if she asks for me to though. I try to encourage her to figure things out for herself, so that she doesn’t come to rely on me doing things for her. Sometimes this means keeping a little distance while she works. This provides her the opportunity to feel confident and capable in her own abilities.

  6. If she completes the work, but mixes pieces up or does it in the wrong order, I don’t fix it for her (unless she asks, as noted above). I let her “complete” the work as she sees fit. When she’s done playing with it, I might model it again correctly another time.

Giving Lessons - Montessori in Real Life

Note: many traditional Montessori materials include a built-in control of error. This means that the materials allow the child to self-correct because they provide instant feedback about whether it is completed correctly or not. A classic example is the knobbed cylinders. If a child places one cylinder in the incorrect place, he will not be able to fit all the cylinders into the block. This will allow him to re-arrange the cylinders in the block to ensure they all fit. This opportunity for self-correction provides toddlers (and older children) independence, curiosity, satisfaction, and confidence in their work.

Giving Lessons - 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!

The Ups and Downs of Potty Learning

Theresa

Spoiler alert: If you are hoping for how to potty train in 2 days, this is not the post for you! ;) We began “potty learning” when D was about 14 months old. You can read about how we began in this previous blog post, which helps explain the why’s and how’s of our method. Since then, I’ve been getting questions about how it’s going now, especially given that she is wearing underwear in many of our photos! Here is our potty learning update, at 19 months.

Potty Learning - Montessori in Real Life

Though we have a potty set up for her in two bathrooms (one upstairs and one downstairs), she primarily uses the one downstairs, because that’s where she plays and we spend most of our time. It is a small half bath, but we’ve made it work! It’s worth it to squeeze the potty in this bathroom rather than just place it in the hallway, because it helps to familiarize her with the bathroom as the appropriate place to go. The potty we use is this one by Joovy Loo but many love the Baby Bjorn one, which is a little lower to the ground and is narrower.

Toilet Learning - Montessori in Real Life

Since we began 5 months ago, we’ve had many ups and downs, especially during sickness, travel, or developmental leaps. Luckily, having spent countless hours in the bathroom with toddlers as a teacher, this didn’t come as a surprise to me. Especially when starting at a young age, getting familiar with using the potty takes time, practice, and backwards steps (hopefully along with a few more forward steps). Despite what potty training books say, it doesn’t usually happen over the course of a weekend. The good news is it also doesn’t have to require bribes, punishments, or being stuck in the house for three days.

Potty Learning - Montessori in Real Life

Over the past few months, D has been wearing underwear more and more. She exclusively wears underwear at home, except when she sleeps. Now that she’s able to control her bladder more, she also wears underwear for short outings. We skipped pull-ups all together, because I find they are a confusing mix of diapers and underwear. The big benefit of underwear over diapers/pull-ups is that toddlers can feel that they are wet, and typically, they don’t want to be. Our favorite underwear are these ones made by Kickee Pants. They are pricey but hold up well, even being washed over and over again! We also have a set of these thicker undies, but they don’t fit as well and are possibly too absorbent. At home, she often wears these without pants because it makes it easier for her to help take them off and sit independently/quickly.

Potty Learning - Montessori in Real Life

While we started off by inviting D to use the potty, we’ve now moved on to posing it as a statement. “It’s time to sit on the potty now”. This works best once it becomes a routine. She knows that after mealtimes, before bed, and before outings, she sits on the potty. She doesn’t typically resist those times. However, if I ask her to sit on the potty before eating, or right after nap, she resists, because it’s not part of her routine (yet). She doesn’t have to sit for long, but she knows she has to try. Other times, she’ll tell me she has to go, or walk to the bathroom herself. I can’t count on that consistently yet though!

Potty Learning - Montessori in Real Life

Our best friend in all this is books. D gets to pick her book of choice before walking to the bathroom. We also keep a few books for her to choose from in a basket there. It’s a good excuse for me to stop what I’m doing and simply read with her. She always points out when she’s made a pee or poo on the potty and then we dump it into the toilet. She gets to pick out a pair of underwear (I keep 2 or 3 choices out at a time), and I help her get them back on. Then we wash our hands together. She is getting more independent in this process each week.

Potty Learning - Montessori in Real Life

When she does have an accident, we go to the bathroom, take off her wet underwear, and if just a little wet, she puts them in a small laundry bin. Then she sits and we start the process of sitting/re-dressing. I don’t make a big deal of it if she is wet, and I definitely don’t make her feel bad about it. I say “It looks like you are wet. Let’s go to the bathroom and get dry.” She usually points out that she’s peeing or she’s wet before I say anything, and wants to get dry underwear on.

Next up is tackling our longer adventures away from home. Though she currently still wears diapers for those outings, I am finding recently that she can stay dry longer. To transition away from diapers, I’m planning to buy a few of these underwear covers, so that she can still feel wet, while not soaking through her clothes. I also plan to keep a potty in the back of our car. Updates to come, hopefully before this next baby arrives, and we will most definitely hit another regression! ;)

* Update (April, 21 months): No longer in diapers for outings! Only for sleep. She does well with this travel potty and always keeping an extra pair of underwear in the bag and car. We definitely have more accidents out and about than at home (routine thrown off), but getting there!

Potty Learning - 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 19 Months

Theresa

How has D already crossed over the one and a half year mark? I had been doing a post each month with her favorite materials, but with such a focus on practical life these past few months, it’s been a little while. Though Dakota still spends a lot of time with practical life, art, and sensory activities, she has also been very engaged at her shelf, with her language and fine motor activities. Without further ado, here are her favorite materials on her shelf right now:

Baby and Body Part Matching - Another mom blogger, Angela of Momtessori Life, created these lovely diverse body part cards that you can download for free online. Dakota loves pointing to and naming both her matching body part, and her little baby’s parts too.

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Baby Care Basket - As D is big into her baby dolls right now, this is another activity along that theme. I was inspired by fellow blogger Nicole’s post here. It is perfect for preparing for baby brother on the way! It also helps with her new interest in getting dressed. With the baby doll, I’ve included a newborn baby hat, socks, a small cloth, a brush, and a swaddle blanket in the basket.

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Mama and Baby Animal Matching - Now that D has mastered matching identical objects, she is having fun matching similar objects. Here she can match adult and baby farm animals. For these, I used various Schleich animals (love their detail), but you can use any type of animal figurines. You can read more about how we began language like this in my previous blog post.

Our Shelf at 19 Months

Palette of Pegs - This is one of my favorite materials to grow with D. We started with just the pegs, and have now added on the rings. There is something so satisfying about putting the pegs in the holes, and the rings on the pegs. In a few months, she’ll likely start matching colors, and eventually, creating patterns with this palette!

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Twist & Turn Blocks - This is a fun and colorful version of nuts and bolts. They can be used in various ways, but since Dakota is just getting the hang of it, I leave the blocks barely twisted on the bolt, so that she can master untwisting and separating. Once she masters that, I can make it more challenging by keeping the pieces separate for her to twist together.

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Valentine’s Activities - She is still really enjoying her Valentine’s day themed activities, which are pictured on the shelf. You can read more about those in my last blog post!

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Monti Kids - These next three materials are a few from our Monti Kids subscription box. Each of the six beautiful materials in this box provide D with the opportunity for intentional play and concentration. As a former teacher, I so appreciate the quality and authenticity of these Montessori materials. Each box comes with detailed video tutorials and step-by-step instructions, so you can be your own child's Montessori guide. For $30 off your first order, go to their website and use code REALLIFE at checkout.

Object to Card matching - This language set includes 6 wooden figurines of community helpers, with wooden cards to match. The figurines are not an exact match (e.g. one firefighter has a yellow suit and the other is black), so it makes it an extra challenge for toddlers! Monti Kids provides detailed instructions on how to first present the figurines, and then add in the cards.

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Motor Planning Box - This is both a gross and fine motor effort work! D has to squeeze the large knit ball with both hands to get it to fit into the hole. For now, she still needs my help squeezing it in. Then she opens up the drawer, finds the ball, shuts the drawer (needs my reminding), and repeats. It takes planning, understanding sequences, and quite a bit of effort! Love the challenge here.

Our Shelf at 19 Months - Montessori in Real Life

Shapes on Pegs - D really enjoys this one on repeat. For now, she mostly puts the shapes on in a random order, but eventually she will be sorting by shape! I appreciate how the color and number are constants, so she can isolate shape as the variable.

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!

A Montessori Toddler Valentine's Day

Theresa

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! It’s funny how Valentine’s Day changes through the decades. It starts as trading valentines with friends, then becomes date nights out with champagne, and now we’re at date nights in with a child and a bump. ;) I wouldn’t have it any other way though. I get to celebrate love x3 this year.

A new tradition I’m happy to start this year is Valentine’s themed activities for D. With a busy toddler, there is always a need for some DIY on my part to keep her entertained! This holiday just gives me an excuse to make these activity trays a little extra sweet. I hope one or two of these inspire you to spread the love too!

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real LIfe

PS. If you are looking for small trays such as the ones displayed here, my go-to site is Montessori Services. Check out the options here. I find most of my larger wooden Trays on Amazon, such as these.

Valentine “mailbox”

This is D’s favorite of her new trays. I found this Valentine’s gift box for $1 at Target last year, and I’m repurposing it as a mailbox. Using an exacto-knife, I cut a small slit in the top of the box. After searching around the house for something to put in the “maibox” I found the letter tiles from Bananagrams (Scrabble tiles would also work). They fit perfectly and D loves the feel of them. They are just the right level of challenge for her to fit into the small slot in her box. When she’s done inserting her “mail”, she can then open up the box and start again.

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real Life

Heart stickers

D, like many toddlers, is big into stickers right now. I was excited to find this giant roll of heart stickers on Amazon so she can stick to her heart’s content. To set this up, I place about 6-8 stickers on the tray at once, with a small piece of paper. If your toddler is just starting out with stickers, I find it easiest to fold back the paper backing a bit so that the sticker is easier to peel off. She loves filling the page, and beyond!

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real Life

Pom-pom transferring

I found these adorable ceramic heart bowls at the grocery store (you could probably find similar ones at Target!) and bought them before I knew how I’d use them. Then I found these assorted pom poms on Amazon and decided to make a little transferring tray. I introduced these little tongs for D, and she is starting to get the hang of how to pinch them to pick something up. Sometimes she just pours the pompoms back and forth or uses her pincer grasp - all good options!

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real Life

Play dough stamping

My go-to play dough recipe is this one, though you can definitely find hundreds of others on Pinterest. I can make it in less than 5 minutes and it makes a large amount that saves well in a ziplock bag. Though D enjoys play dough on its own, she is especially enjoying a couple of tools to use with it, such as these mini rolling pins and heart cookie cutters (well technically my favorite is a heart ravioli stamp!).

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real Life

Books

We also have a few favorite “Valentine’s Day” themed books right now. Each of these is simple and sweet enough for your toddler to sit through, and (most) are based in reality. My favorite right now is How do You Say I Love You, which is a story of how to say “I love you” in many different languages! Counting Kisses is D’s favorite because I get to kiss her toes up to her head. :)

Toddler Valentine's Day - Montessori in Real LIfe

You are My Heart by Marianne Richmond

Love by Emma Dodd

How Do You Say I Love You? by Hannah Eliot

Counting Kisses by Karen Katz

Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton

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!

A Functional Montessori Toddler Kitchen

Theresa

There are mixed opinions on whether or not a play kitchen belongs in a Montessori environment, though most lean towards no. In most traditional Montessori classrooms, play kitchens are replaced with purposeful work, e.g. preparing and cooking real food, and cleaning up real dishes. Children not only get more out of this experience, but they typically prefer it. I know that Dakota, at 18 months, prefers practical life work more than anything else. Her favorite activities are the ones she sees us doing every day: putting dishes away, washing hands (D could do this all day), pouring water, helping prepare food, and cleaning up (sometimes making a mess just to do so). I can clearly see D’s focus, satisfaction, and pride as she does these tasks.

A Functional Toddler Kitchen - www.montessoriinreallife.com

To best serve D’s toddler needs, I been making the IKEA play kitchen more and more functional for her. I started by removing the parts that weren’t serving any purpose: the microwave, the faucet that didn’t produce water, and the light-up stovetop. This past weekend, I replaced the faucet with this glass water dispenser that is easy to turn on and off, and can produce a very slow flow of water. She can fill the sink with water, pump a little soap from this soap dispenser, and wash her hands or dishes. It took a few tries to find a water dispenser that fit this kitchen and didn’t arrive broken(!), but we are so happy with the final result. Though she still needs some assistance turning the water on and pumping out soap, she’s not far from doing all this on her own.

A Functional Toddler Kitchen - www.montessoriinreallife.com

I also replaced the stovetop with a cutting board where she can practice chopping real fruit or vegetables. After snacks or meals, I lay out a towel over it for her to place her dishes. For now, this cutting board is most often used to set out snack for her to serve herself. I place a pre-portioned amount for her to scoop or transfer to her plate. Though she likes to fill her water glass from the water dispenser now, she also still pours water and milk from a small pitcher into her glass. She can then carry her plate and glass to her small table to eat. Dakota loves this simple act of independence!

A Functional Toddler Kitchen - www.montessoriinreallife.com

The other big difference between this functional kitchen and a play kitchen is the cupboard. Instead of pretend food and pots/pans, I filled the cupboards with utensils, dishes, and cleaning supplies she uses on a daily basis. On the left she has her spoons and forks, glasses, pitchers, plates, and bowls. I only put a couple of each item out, so that if she wants to “reorganize”, it’s not so overwhelming and doesn’t create a big mess. She likes to help unload the dishwasher each morning and put her dishes back in their place, or at least in the vicinity. ;)

A Functional Toddler Kitchen - www.montessoriinreallife.com

On the right she has larger utensils for helping to bake or prepare snack, towels for wiping up spills, and a small dustpan for cleaning up crumbs and small pieces of food. Each one of these items doesn’t get used every day, but they all serve a function and have been used with purpose. To the left of the kitchen she has a dustpan and brush, a laundry bin for dirty/wet towels, and a compost bin to put her scraps after eating. (The compost we only put out at mealtimes thanks to our always-hungry vizsla!) Lastly, above the kitchen I keep a little wall art for her to look at, and now practice labeling.

A Functional Toddler Kitchen - www.montessoriinreallife.com

About the water: Though not strictly “practical”, I do let D play at the kitchen sink, even when it’s not to wash or drink water. She is clearly getting a positive sensory experience by running her hands through water, and concentration from pouring water back and forth from her pitchers. Although I can’t let her stand at the sink with running water for too long due to wastefulness, I do give her time for this each day! One day very soon, it will lose it's magic, and she will simply use water for its intended purpose, so I’m embracing her love of water for now. :)

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!