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Filtering by Category: Montessori by Age

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby


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

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

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

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

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

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

D’s Schedule (27 Months)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S’ Schedule (4 Months)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Our Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby

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


Montessori-Inspired Materials at 24 Months


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Montessori Shelf at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

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

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

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

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

Our Montessori Shelf at 24 Months - Montessori in Real Life

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

Montessori from Birth


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

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

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

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

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

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

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

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

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


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

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

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

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

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

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

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


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

Our Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Montessori Shelf at 22 Months - Montessori in Real Life

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

Becoming a Big Sister


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

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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

Becoming a Big Sister - Montessori in Real Life

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!

Welcoming Spring!


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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real Life

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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real LIfe

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

Welcoming Spring - Montessori in Real LIfe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome Spring - Montessori in Real Life

Happy Spring!

Introducing New Materials to a Toddler


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

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Our Montessori Shelf at 19 Months


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!

Introducing Themes - Arctic/Antarctic Animals


One of my favorite parts of being a preschool teacher was coming up with activities for our monthly themes. In our Montessori school, we didn’t go overboard with themes, but we’d incorporate a few special activities to fit with the seasons or holidays. Now that Dakota is 18 months, and given that it’s the start of a new year, it’s something I’m going to try to incorporate. We are starting with identifying animals that live in the icy polar regions. Since Dakota is still so young, we aren’t yet going into specifics of Arctic vs. Antarctic. ;)

Arctic animal matching

Dakota’s favorite activity is her Arctic animal matching. Now that she’s mastered exact object to picture matching, here I introduced similar object to picture matching. As you can see the figurine isn’t a perfect match to the animal photo. You can read more on this type of language work in my previous blog post on language learning. The arctic animals are a Safari Ltd TOOB set and I purchased these arctic animal photo cards for $1 from Teachers Pay Teachers. (To print, I scaled each photo flash card down to 30%, printed on cardstock, and laminated.) Dakota not only matches the animals to these photo cards but also likes to bring them over to her winter animal books to find matches. TOOB animals have so many uses!

Another Antarctic-themed activity we’ve incorporated at home is our snow sensory play. I filled our sensory bin with white kinetic sand, snowflake confetti, and large penguin figurines. She loves to scoop the “snow” with her hands or small spoons, fill her wooden molds, and move the penguins around the bin. (Unfortunately I do not have link to wooden molds - they have been discontinued on Amazon.) If you haven’t tried kinetic sand before, it’s such a great sensory experience for toddlers, lasts a long time, and is easy to clean up. I would avoid using this around carpet though!

Snow sensory play

Lastly, we of course relied heavily on books for this theme, and winter season in general. She and I have started going to the local library every other week which has definitely helped us with our winter collection! Below you’ll see a list of our favorites. Dakota has been very excited to move onto some larger and lengthier books, though we save the library and hardback books for reading together, and board books for her baskets and shelves.

Winter reading

Winter Books:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - a classic, award-winning story about the simple joys of a first snowfall

Arctic Animals by Tad Carpenter - a fun guessing game of who’s hiding, and a few fun facts about each animal!

Over and Under by Kate Messner - this is my favorite new winter book, with a beautiful story of skiing over the snow and thinking about which animals are hiding beneath

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson - a sweet fictional story about little animals throwing a party in bear’s den while he hibernates

The Mitten by Jan Brett - another classic that probably doesn’t need explaining!

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk - a beautiful poem about the gifts this new baby will receive from each arctic animal

Brrr! Brr! by Sebastien Braun - another lift the flap board book, with animal noises!

Winter Babies by Kathryn Galbraith - simple but lovely, featuring diverse faces and actions to repeat

Under my Hood I Have a Hat by Karla Kuskin - perfect for discussing the many layers we wear when we step outside in wintertime!

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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 Language Work


D is 16 months, and soaking up language like a sponge. She points to everything, wants a name for it, and often tries to say it back to us. We’ve used baby sign since 9 months, and that is still her primary way to communicate her needs. (In video below, she is signing “help please”). But she also has so many more words in her head than she can say out loud (and that I know the sign for), so this month has been all about activities to help her expand her receptive and expressive language.

Montessori or not, some of the best ways to expand babies and toddlers’ vocabulary are books, songs, and simply talking through your day with them. While I try not to use too many words while Dakota is playing/concentrating on her own, I talk to her a lot throughout the day, whether it’s about what we are having for dinner, dressing after using the potty, or what we see while we’re out on a walk. She soaks it all in. There are board books for her throughout the house, and she loves to sit in her little chair and read to herself or have me read to her. Books are a favorite part of both our days. Her favorite language activity lately is her book of fingerplay songs. She opens the book and points to a song/rhyme and I do the fingerplay for it. It’s super sweet to see her start to mimic the movements on her own. Her other favorites are action songs that of course involve spinning and dancing.

fingerplays for toddlers

While books and stories are a very important component of language learning, Montessori also believed in starting with the concrete: “What the hand does the mind remembers”. Toddlers learn best through all their senses, especially their hands. When toddlers are first learning language, they get so much more out of holding an object than they do from a photo or picture of an object. Since D was just a baby, and still today, I’ve given her lots of real objects to touch and explore, such as fruit and vegetables, kitchen utensils, household items and containers, and animal replicas. The more realistic, the better.

object labeling


D’s favorite items to explore now are any small replica objects (made by Toob), such as vehicles, animals, community helpers, and tools. I usually have at least one basket of objects (that fits in one category) on her shelf. To introduce this material, I start by taking one object out at a time and labeling it, for example, “delivery truck”. I repeat this with all the objects. Then I invite her to find each object to put back in the basket. If she doesn’t want to, that is fine! I also just let her explore the objects on her own, and provide labels if she asks for it. Below is an example of her exploring, and me labeling, real fruit.

Matching Object to Object

The next level up in Montessori language materials is object to object matching. Again, this involves tangible items for her to explore, but this time, pair together. When starting out, it’s easiest for toddlers to do this with identical sets of objects, rather than similar items. So I found a some inexpensive sets of animals at the local toy store to set up a “wild animal” matching activity. You can also use two sets of these Toob wild animals. When I first introduce the material, I take out one animal and label it, e.g. “elephant”. Then I find the other elephant in the basket, label it, and set it down right next to the first elephant. I repeat with the rest of the animal pairs in the basket (5-6 pairs max). Then I let her explore. Though she doesn’t line the animals up as I do yet, she has started to pick out two of the same animal from the basket, noticing the sameness. No matter how she plays with this material, she’s learning!

Object to Object Matching

Matching Object to Picture

Just this week I introduced object to picture matching, which is still quite a challenge for D, but a favorite of hers to explore and have me help with. Instead of matching the animal/fruit/vehicle to an identical object, she has to match it to a picture of that object. For toddlers, the more identical the picture is to the object the better, so I created my own laminated cards using photos I took of the objects at home. You can find pre-made language cards or photos online but they it’s harder to match the objects in size and details. In the examples below, I used the Schleich farm animals (large replicas), and Toob vehicles (small replicas). I’m sure I will be making many more sets of these in the near future!

object to picture matching

As with all labeling, when I present this, I do so slowly and with few words, so she focuses on what my hands are doing and the names of the objects. I lay out all the cards first, naming each one as I set it down. Then I pick up an object from the basket, e.g. fire engine, label it, and put the object over the matching card, covering the picture, then repeat the word. I repeat this sequence with each object. I find 4 matches to be the maximum for young toddlers. D enjoys covering up the pictures with the objects, even if she doesn’t always match perfectly! Again, it’s about the learning process rather than the product!

object to picture matching

Our Montessori Shelf at 15 Months


Dakota is such a busy bee lately, it’s hard to keep up! She zooms around the house, exploring and working on one thing after another, with such purpose and determination. It is a joy to watch her discover new materials and master old ones. She now does the “I did it” clap and smile when she completes something, showing me how proud she is of herself. That is all I can ask for! :)

Montessori Shelf at 15 Months

With so much energy to work on both gross and fine motor, I’ve been having to rotate her shelves more often than I used to. This month I’ve been switching out toys about once a week. I always rotate only a few toys at a time, so as not to overwhelm her. Sometimes just moving a material from one shelf to another makes it new and interesting again! In total, I only have about 8 materials out at a time for her, not including books, her wagon, and practical life activities.

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Because we don’t have a designated playroom, I have placed her materials in various areas of the house, so she can get her gross motor practice in, moving from one station to another. She has two shelves on our main floor (one mostly books), across the room from each other. And in the dining/kitchen area, she has her sensory table and mini kitchen. This way she can be working wherever I’m working, though sometimes not!

Fall Sensory Play at 15 Months

The kitchen is one of her favorite places to be, and you can find her latest practical life activities in my last blog post. But today, I’ll focus on her shelves in our living room. I tried to find a theme to link these toys together, but her interests are pretty varied right now! Which is probably for the best. :) From car trackers to animal noises to hammering, here are her favorite materials at 15 months. You can find previous posts like this on the home page.

Montessori Shelf at 15 Months

Hammer and Roll Tower - she can hammer with her hands or the hammer and watch (and hear) the balls roll down the tower. This is good gross motor for her too, because she has to go chase the balls to put them back on the tower!

Rings on Dowel - this is a simple toy, but so great for fine motor and hand-eye coordination. Dakota has also been experimenting with putting other blocks on the dowel and realizing it only works with the rings! She gets a lot of satisfaction from doing and undoing this one.

Imbucare Box with Slot - this is great multi-step activity because she has to put the chip in the slot, flip the lid, repeat, and then flip the lid the other way. It comes with just one big chip but I added a few other chips from the color sort bowls below.

Drum Set - we brought this back out after many months because she has been so into her music class! She is much more coordinated now, and dances” along with her drum.

Grimms Stacking Cups - nesting/stacking cups never get old. Dakota loves to nest the small cups in the bigger ones, and lately has been pretending she’s pouring water from one to the other. A simple and beautiful material!

Color Sort Bowls - thought Dakota isn’t yet sorting by color, she loves to use these color chips in various ways. Lately her favorite thing to do on repeat is to pour the chips from one bowl to another. This entertains her for so long!

Schleich Farm Animals - we have various sets of these animals, and they are so wonderfully realistic and sturdy. She loves making farm animal noises with these ones. Soon I am going to get another set of the same animals for her to match.

Car Tracker - this is always a huge hit with toddlers of all ages. It takes some practice for them to get the wheels facing the right way, but then they get to watch the cars zoom down the track. It definitely fulfills their need for repetition!

Shape Puzzle - we were actually supposed to get a circle sorter puzzle, but this one arrived in the mail instead! I decided to keep it because it’s a nice variation to the shape sorter, and nice sturdy knobbed pieces. She is still figuring this one out so it’ll be a good one to rotate in and out as she gets a bit older!

Vehicle Puzzle - Dakota has shown a strong interest in vehicles and things that go this past month. She enjoys making the vehicle noises when she plays with this simple 3 knob puzzle.

Dakota also has several toys in rotation (shape sorter, pull toy, stacking, and hammering) that came from Elfbox. This is an awesome toy subscription box where you can RENT the toys for a month and then send them back for new ones! If you really love one of the toys you can keep it for a discounted price. They also don’t charge at all for missing or broken pieces! If you’re interested check them out HERE and use code ELFFRIEND20 for $20 off your first box!

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Next up: our intro to art and sensory exploration!

In & Out / Open & Close


D's first month of her second year has been all about in and out, up and down, open and close. So of course most of her toys are in line with this theme (see below). While last month she was constantly on the go, she is now back to work at her shelf. She has a few materials that she really loves to play with over and over, which has slowed down toy rotation, making my life a little easier. She also really enjoys combining her materials in different ways, especially when there are peg people to be moved from one box to another!


In addition to new materials, I have also introduced trays for a few of her materials. Trays are a staple of a Montessori classroom, and now that we are nearing the toddler years, they are useful for home too. Toddlers LOVE order, and trays provide a sense of order for their materials. They can take the tray off the shelf, use the materials, then put it all back in one piece. It also allows for you to set up the activity "incomplete" for your toddler to complete it themselves. As a teacher, we noticed that if puzzles were set out completed, the toddlers didn't engage, whereas if the pieces were in a basket beside the wooden puzzle base on a tray, they would use it more often.

I am hoping that my husband can build a new shelf soon that doesn't have cubes so that we can fit trays more easily! Here is a great resource for Montessori Trays if you are looking to purchase some for your Montessori environment.

Without further ado, here are D's favorite materials on the theme of in/out & open/close:

Pop-up Men - This is by far D's favorite toy. Even when she's not pushing the men to pop out, or carefully putting them back in, she's toting these little guys around the house with her. I find them everywhere! 

Box with Bins - D's aunt gave her this one and she loves to open the drawers and discover little surprises inside! My sister filled them with these button shapes. Often the pop-up men end up in here too. ;)

Imbucare Box - We have a couple versions of this one, and they are great for learning sequences (drop, open, close, repeat).

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Object Permanence Baby Box - This little box comes with a large wooden ball but you can also get little peg people from this shop, both of which D loves to put in and take out of this cute little box. Perfect size for her small hands.

Hide & Seek Wooden Board - Another fun peek-a-boo game. I wish there were fewer doors than this, but it's still a fun one, and definitely one to grow with her in the toddler years as she begins matching.

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MontiKids Peg Board, Rings on Post, and Basic Shape Puzzles - These three (of six total) toys came from the Level 4 MontiKids subscription box. If you haven't heard of it yet, MontiKids is a Montessori quarterly subscription box that sends high quality Montessori toys perfectly suited to your child's development and age. In addition, each box comes with detailed video tutorials, lesson plans, and developmental info. This is a great opportunity for parents who want to provide a Montessori education for their baby or toddler at home! Use the code REALLIFE to receive $30 off your first order!

In addition to her many wooden toys, D loves any simple box or container that she can open, fill, and empty! Look for ones in your bathroom or kitchen that you can clean and repurpose. Patterned duct tape can really come in handy. :)

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Cruising through a year, with some bumps


How is my baby 1 year old?! The phrase "the days are long but the years are short" has never rung more true. What an amazing journey it's been! Our bond gets stronger each day. The way she says "mama", rests her head on my shoulder as I sing to her, blows me kisses, brings me books to read, and cautiously checks with me as she starts to climb the stairs just make my heart melt. I also love watching her interact with the rest of the world - not only is she a social butterfly who can charm the grumpiest of TSA agents - but she is observant, focused, and open to adventure. 


While D continues to get sweeter, mom life never stops challenging me. Over the past few days, with cross-country travel, D getting sick, sleep loss, and house renovations underway, life with baby has been exhausting. It's reminded me of why I started this blog "Montessori in real life", because real life isn't always Instagram perfect, and Montessori-at-home can become Montessori-ish. And that's okay. Sometimes it's pack-n-play or carrier over floor bed, stuffed animals over object permanence box, and squeeze pack over spoon. Sometimes it's crawling all over tired mama lying on a floor without furniture in the house. ;) It always helps to remind myself that phases are called phases because they don't last forever! And in the meantime, I enjoyed the extra snuggles that the past few weeks brought me.


Besides her beloved books, the one consistent interest that D has shown through all these "routine disruptions" is gross motor. (Available anywhere!) In the past few weeks, she is busier than ever. She's pulling up on just about any surface, climbing stairs, and trying to wedge herself in any small space she finds. While sometimes I wished she would focus more on the beautiful new ball tracker, it has been a good reminder to follow her interests and stop pushing mine. Setting up spaces for her involved simple things like moving cushions to the ground for her to climb over, filling a couple of drawers in the kitchen with things for her to unpack, and exploring the outdoors. I also purchased this tunnel she loves to crawl through and a pool to splash around in. D's grandma also gifted her this beautiful wagon which just began to "walk" through the house!

This week when we returned back from our vacation, and despite still being sick, she surprised me by returning to her shelf to play with her wooden toys. What's more, even with weeks of not using these materials, she all of a sudden knew how to use them, just from my demonstrations a few weeks ago. For example, she put the pop-up men back in the holes, and opened the drawer to find her hidden ball in her imbucare box. It just amazes me how much babies' brains are processing and working through all the time, even when we can't see it happening. Sometimes I miss it, but when I do follow her cues and give her time and space to work through a new skill or phase, we are both happier for it.  

Lesson of this month: Practice patience and enjoy the present, because even the hard days are so sweet, and so short.

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8 Months Old, and Making (Some) Things Happen


Somehow another 2 months have gone by and D is getting closer to 9 months old! The past couple of months have been the best, and D the sweetest, and honestly I haven't thought a lot about blogging. Though in all honesty, another factor in my blog hiatus has been self doubt. Is this blog providing anything original or interesting? Do I come across as a mom snob? Nothing can prepare you for the insecurity you feel as a mom, and the constant worry that you are doing things worse or lesser than other moms! The last thing I want this blog to do is make other moms feel bad about choosing a different path for their child. Because as much as I believe in the Montessori method, I also believe every child needs something different, and every mom does too. I started this blog as a way to journal my motherhood adventure with D in our Montessori-ish way, and I realized this week that worrying about what other moms think shouldn't be what keeps me from continuing that! I hope other moms agree. :) As I always say, you do you. So I'm doing me.


Back to the topic of the hour...Miss D. While no baby is happy all the time, D comes pretty close lately. And I do know now how phases come and go, so I'm just enjoying this one while it lasts! I can't get enough of her many facial expressions, her hugs, "words", giggles, and how she "waves" at every person who smiles at her. D just seems delighted with her world, meeting new people (and seeing the familiar ones!), exploring her surroundings, but also really concentrating on her "work" at home. You can really see her start to see her understanding, and more impressively, her desire to understand, her little world. 


Because D isn't crawling yet (lucky me, I know), she spends a lot of her day sitting or stretching out on her tummy playing with her toys. She is perfectly content doing this for up to an hour at a time, with or without me by her side. I try to make sure she has time each day to play uninterrupted, while I do my own work, to get her used to playing independently. This will be harder when she starts to crawl, but just this afternoon I finished the dishes and came back to find D with her book open in her lap, "reading". My heart! While she still very much enjoys her toys from previous blog posts (especially teethers with her top tooth about to poke through!), I wanted to focus this blog post on her new favorites.

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Besides books and knob puzzles (both of which she LOVES), most of her favorite toys involve some kind of cause and effect. In the past month, she has really been figuring out that she can make things happen with her own two hands. When she shakes the eggs, she makes music; when she hits the bell, it rings; when she turns one gear, the other turns. Even if the toy doesn't make a sound, she bangs two toys together to create one. See below for some ideas! 

Montessori Object Permanence Box with Tray and Ball - we started this with me showing her, and now she takes the ball and attempts (occasionally successfully!) to put it back in the hole. She delights in seeing that ball rolling into the tray each time!

Melissa & Doug Farm Animals Jumbo Knob Wooden Puzzle - this puzzle, along with others that have pictures under the pieces, are super fun and easy for her to pick up, and good pincer grasp practice!

Egg Shaker Set - these entertain D to no end. She loves shaking one in each hand and "entertaining" our dog!

Single Shape Puzzles - the more traditional Montessori route to first puzzles, and likely the first that D will get the pieces back into the inset, but for now just exploring.

Sensory Board - D's favorite toy! The noises and sensory experience of this board is amazing. Would be a fun one to make if you are handy like that.

Play Cube Activity Center - My sister had this one, and it's the perfect size for babies to reach on their tummies or sitting. I love how she reaches over and around to get to the different parts of the cube.

HABA Magica Clutching Toy - I kind of want this one as a stress ball for myself! A great one for babies to use two hands in coordination and teeth on too.

Hape Wooden Musical Instrument Set - D is still trying to figure out how to really make noise with these, but she is enjoying trying!

Multi-Color Rhythm Scarves - So many uses! D loves pulling these out of a box, playing peek-a-boo with them, and just runnings her hands through them!

Green Toys Stacker - a new favorite made from recycled milk jugs and oh-so-smooth and fun!

Sitting Pretty, with Confidence


Time just keeps flying by, and our D is almost 7 months old! Six months has been my favorite age so far. Although not yet crawling, she is observing and exploring everything and everyone around her, and clearly fascinated by it all. Up until 6 months, I had just been giving D time on her tummy and back on the floor to roll and play in whichever way she was interested. She has been quite content playing with her feet, gnawing on a teether, or batting at a mobile. In the past month,  she's also become a pro at rolling onto her tummy to grab a toy and rotating like a clock on her tummy. But since the 6-month mark, she's also been showing signs of wanting to explore, see, and do just a bit more. 

Which leads me to supported sitting. Traditional Montessorians usually advocate against supported sitting. They encourage parents to wait until their baby learns how to push up from their tummy into a sitting position on their own, which can happen as early as 7 months, but often later. In theory, I like this idea, but just as I placed D on her tummy before she could roll on her own, I also helped D sit up before she could get into that position by herself. I did this because she really enjoyed the different perspective, and getting to explore her toys and materials with both her hands in a sitting position. Sitting gives her a way to be closer to my level, and that in and of itself she loves.


There are various forms and ways to start "supported sitting". I chose to wait until she showed signs of readiness to sit independently (holding her head back up fairly straight) to help her sit up, which for her was 6 months. Rather than Bumbo chairs or bouncers/walkers, I simply helped her figure out how to balance upright by sitting her between my legs on the floor, or with the Boppy around her. It really only took a week or so until she could sit up on her own without support - balancing her weight, albeit a bit wobbly. She toppled sometimes, and still does, but she's always on a soft surface and always on the floor to begin with, so never falls far. And this is how she learns her own body's abilities and limits!

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Though I can definitely see the appeal of the bumbo chair, walkers, bouncers, etc, the reason we haven't used these goes back to my Montessori training too. My issues with them (besides the noise!) is that they don't typically allow for free movement once the babies are placed inside. Babies don't get to learn how to balance if they are fully supported, and they can't reach in whatever direction they please. Instead, babies are essentially "stuck" which can lessen their motivation to sit and move on their own. I've also heard child PT's say that things like the bumbo chair put babies in an unnatural sitting position much earlier than they are ready. Lastly, some of these "supports" can lead to falls, more dangerous than from a sitting position on the floor. But to each his own, and if motherhood has taught me anything, it's "you do you" and what works for one family isn't what works for another.

So now that D is sitting on her own on the floor, I typically place a small basket of toys in front of her, allowing her to explore freely. I try to keep just 3 or 4 toys in the basket at a time, to not overwhelm, and then rotate them every week or so. While playing in a sitting position, she gets practice using both of her hands, and transferring toys from one to another. She is also learning how to throw toys to her side, and then reach around to grab them. Sometimes she goes from sitting to lying down on her side, and unless she fusses about it, I just let her explore from there. With this independent sitting, she will eventually learn how to get into a crawling position from sitting, or down to her tummy and back up again! It is really fun to watch how she explores both her body and environment from this new perspective. It makes her so proud and happy! 


Here are some of D's favorite toys right now:

Learning by Hands, and Mouth


"He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." - Maria Montessori

D is now 14 weeks old! She has grown and changed so much, but one of the biggest developments recently has been her fascination and use of her hands. These past few weeks, D is all about grabbing objects, fabric, or often just her other hand, and bringing everything to her mouth. As a former developmental psych student, it has been so fun for me to geek out and watch her gradually develop this grasping and holding on skill.

Although babies are born with the palmar reflex (when you touch their palm, they close their fingers around your finger), they don't voluntarily grasp until closer to 3 months. In fact, newborns keep their hands clenched in fists for the first couple of months. But around 11 weeks, D began to open her hand in response to seeing an object (or more often my hair) to grab. Once she could hold on to an object, everything just started going to her mouth (that need to suck is so real). There doesn't seem to be a reason for D to touch an object if she can't also get it to her mouth. Let the germs begin...

When I began to notice D's interest in grasping, I started with simple objects for her to grab at, such as ribbons dangling from her wooden play gym. She especially enjoyed this when one of the ribbons had a bell to make noise! As she started opening her hand more, I helped her grasp a wooden rattle and other thin, lightweight toys to hold onto. Over time, she began to grasp the toys on her own when I held them out to her, and bring them to her mouth. She'd often just grab onto her onesie or burp cloth and bring that to her mouth. Now she has "advanced" to occasionally picking up a toy that is next to her, and holding on to the toys for longer stretches of time (we're still talking a couple minutes max). She is also starting to test her balance by grabbing a rattle or cloth in front of her during tummy time. Who knows where those little hands will take her next! In the meantime, I will just enjoy being D’s favorite grasping toy. ;) 


Here are some of the toys we have enjoyed in this early grasping phase:


Baby-Led Tummy Time


All parents have heard the "back to sleep/tummy to play" advice on based on the AAP on repeat. Now that babies must be put to sleep on their back (D's swaddle even reminds me in case I missed the million memos), pediatricians recommend tummy time to strengthen the neck muscles and prevent the dreaded "flat head syndrome".

Unfortunately, now that we put babies on their backs from birth, they often don’t enjoy tummy time. In addition, some Montessorians and RIE proponents argue that we should skip tummy time until our babies can roll onto their own tummy from their back on their own. They argue that the back is the only natural (unaided) position for baby. I think they have valid arguments, however, I also appreciated my husband's point that young babies don't really put themselves in any positions on their own, even their back.

Baby-Led Tummy Time - Montessori in Real Life

I fall somewhere in the middle in my view of tummy time. While I do not think it is crucial in the first few months, I think it can be very helpful in gross motor development, and also provides an interesting new perspective for baby. I like the idea of following D's lead, and only placing her in tummy time when she is content to do so, and only as long as she indicates is enough. If D really disliked it after a few tries, we'd probably skip it until she could roll over, but for now she enjoys it and sometimes even cozily rests on her tummy.

I think it's important to note that tummy time doesn't have to be on the floor, or without comforts. While D probably spends a few minutes once or twice a day in tummy time on a rug or pillow, she also spends much more "tummy time" while resting on my chest after nursing, allowing her to look at my face. While sometimes this quickly turns into a boob snooze, more and more she is now lifting that big head of hers to take a look around.


Here are some of the other ways we've made tummy time more enjoyable for D these first 2 months:

  1. Place baby on a super soft surface (her favorite is the sheepskin rug)

  2. Use a boppy or small pillow to elevate her head and hands

  3. Lie down next to her on the ground so she can see us

  4. Place a mirror or pictures in front of her or to the side

  5. Try different areas of house, to vary light and scenery

  6. Let her rest or suck on her fingers on her tummy

  7. Talk to her and encourage her (our dog likes to help with this!)

And that is how we are doing baby-led tummy time. For now at least. ;)

A Baby's Focus


The set-up of a child's environment is a key component of Montessori's philosophy. For an infant, a main feature of this environment is the movement area, where they can move freely in their natural position while absorbing their surroundings. Pictures and objects are placed nearby at the baby's eye level and be specifically designed to tap into their visual and cognitive abilities at each developmental stage. For the first couple months of a baby's life, this includes high contrast black and white mobiles, images, and a mirror for self discovery. The idea is that given time and space here, babies will work on concentration, visual tracking, gross motor skills, and develop an appreciation of quiet, alert time.

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Following this, I've set up various movement areas for D around the house. My husband likes to tease me by calling them "cognitive development stations". ;) In these areas, I usually lie her down on a soft blanket, rug, or the Montessori topponcino with plenty of wiggle room, and then provide some kind of visual stimuli appropriate to a newborn's sight and reach. This has been a big success for both me and D. Several times a day, she lies on her own on the floor (up to 30 minutes at a time!), content and focused on the black and white animals, herself in the floor mirror, or the munari mobile. I recently added in a bell on a ribbon that she enjoys kicking and swatting as she wiggles. Each set up is simple, but just interesting enough to capture her attention.


It has been really fun to see her interest, concentration, and movement develop over the last month or so, as she "plays" on her own. It gives me a chance to really appreciate all those new baby sounds, expressions, and jerky movements. Seeing her happy in these movement areas gives me hope is that the time she spends in these movement areas now will give her an appreciation of independent play as she gets a bit older. It's nice to have that balance of social and independent time. Because it is equally fun to lie down next to her or cuddle with her, and these days, occasionally be rewarded with a smile! In these short spurts of D's alert time, we are finding that balance of quiet time and mama time, both equally sweet.