Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bento Boxes

Bento boxes originated in Japan as a way to compartmentalize a single-serving meal.  I stumbled across a lunchbox here in the US with a very similar idea.  They're called Laptop Lunches and are a very convenient way to pack lunch for yourself or your child. 

At our school, we aim for "trash-free" lunches.  However, the children typically struggle with plastic containers found at the local supermarket.  These lunchboxes seem like a great alternative.

 Plus, they contain NO lead, BPA, phthalates, or PVC.  The containers are removable and water-tight.  They're also microwave and dishwasher safe (top rack only).  Unfortunately, they're also quite expensive so consider it an investment.  If nothing else, check out their Photo page for hundreds of healthy lunch ideas!!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Potty Training Basics

As odd as it sounds, my goal this summer was to potty train my youngest daughter.  You just never know, it can take a day or a month depending on the personality of the child.  I've been very fortunate, with my method it usually only takes 1-2 weeks.  I was spoiled by my first; however, when she decided to train herself in one day after I read Once Upon A Potty.  This is certainly not typical for a 2-year-old, but the book was a great help.

I always start my kids right around their second birthday, when I start to see these "signs":
  • ability to pull pants up/down
  • verbal or signing skills to indicate need for the bathroom
  • can stay dry for approximately 2 hours
  • shows an interest in the toilet
I always choose a period of time when we have a less demanding schedule, so I know I'll be able to be consistent.  Summer is best for our family, so we gave it a shot about three weeks ago.  I always start out with a potty chair in the kitchen (the center of activity).  Just like everything else you purchase for your home, you'll want to consider the object's beauty and function.  I've always had my eye on this one, but was never able to justify the cost.  I like that it has a lid and a place for TP.

 I explain to the child what it is used for, then off she goes sans pants/underpants.  I closely observe her during this time and when I see a sign that she needs to go ("potty dance", talking/moving very quickly), I ask her to sit.  We try and try again until she is finally successful.  When she is successful she gets a big smile from mama, and I tell her to pat herself on the back.  That's it.  No cupcakes, no balloons, no parade.  Because when you bribe with rewards, you'll have to keep outdoing yourself when the child gets tired of said bribe.  I know bribes/rewards are easy and instantly effective, but they only work for the short term and they're doing nothing to strengthen your child's self-esteem.  Each time the child uses the potty chair, I use similar objective praise ("You must be so proud." "I see you used the toilet!" "Thank you for remembering to use your seat!")  The child simply wants you to notice her accomplishments.

After about a week of this, we move the potty chair into the bathroom.  I explain to the child that it's the same chair, but we're going to keep it in the bathroom now.  We now use the same procedure for another week with the chair in the bathroom.  Typically, at some point during this week, the child wants to use the "big" toilet.  That's great, we go right to the toilet and if we're successful, away goes the potty chair.  We use this lid from Home Depot that attaches right to your toilet.  It usually takes another few days to get used to the toilet and then we introduce underwear.  Pulling down the underpants takes the child a few extra seconds, so there may be an accident or two during this transition.  These underpants from Target have a thick lining and are just fantastic.  They're durable and go right into the wash (over and over again).  It will take practice, but let your child pull them up and down herself.  If you need to travel during this time, use a pull-up.  Pull-ups should not be used excessively because they're very confusing for the child (Am I or am I not allowed to pee in my pants?).  Only if you absolutely have to take them out of the house during this time.

I ask her to sit as soon as she wakes up in the morning, after meals, before traveling, before bath, and before bed.  Depending on fluid intake, your child should sit approximately every 45 minutes in the beginning.  After a few weeks, you'll notice your child is tired of hearing you give reminders.  This is the time to stop bringing him to the toilet, and start letting the child rely on his own cues.  If you are consistent EACH AND EVERY DAY during this process, it should only take a couple of weeks.  It's exhausting and not all that much fun, but it works.  I typically wait until my child has woken up dry for three straight weeks before putting to bed in undies.

If you've waited too long (age 3 1/2) it's going to be much, much harder to break the child of the diaper habit.  The only reason you should wait this long is if the doctor says your child is physically not ready to start.

So, it's been three weeks and my youngest is completely #1 trained, but still working on #2.  I'm by no means a toileting expert, but I've been through it enough times that maybe I can offer a humble word of advice.  If you have toileting questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment.  Good luck!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who was a Montessori Child?

Many successful individuals credit their stardom to early Montessori years.  Read this article to find out who attended Montessori schools and what they went on to do...

Do You Want Your Children to be as Successful as the Creators of Google?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Rules" in the Primary Classroom

At this late point in the year, thoughts of barbecues, picnics, and pool parties are distracting the children from their cycles of concentration.  To make the best of this time, we focus more on botany and zoology lessons.  We spend time gardening, and watching insects metamorphosize.  We explore sensorial extension lessons.  We prepare for Mom's Day and Dad's Day celebrations. 

In addition to these spring-based activities, we also review our classroom's three basic rules.  This review helps me to emphasize that even though the year is winding down, we still treat each other with the utmost respect.

When it comes to rules (for children of all ages): THE SIMPLER, THE BETTER.

Therefore, our classroom has only three rules:
  1. Respect Yourself
  2. Respect Others
  3. Respect the Environment (indoor & outdoor)
When we discuss the three rules at the beginning of the year, the children say:

"But what about touching someone else's work?  Shouldn't that be a rule?" 
I say, "Yes, that is a rule: we respect others." 
The children say, "Well shouldn't there be a rule about crumbing the table after snack?".
I respond, "Yes, that is a rule: we respect the indoor environment."  You get the idea.

A brief review of these three rules helps us to enjoy the last few weeks of school in our peaceful classroom.

Try implementing these three rules at home!  Have a family meeting (no matter how old your children are) and explain the three rules.  Give them examples, or for more fun, role play!  Help your children create a poster to serve as a visual, daily reminder.
Consider adding a comment below to let us know how it goes.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Flat Pin Maps

I am nearing the end of my Elementary Montessori training, with hopes of starting an Elementary classroom soon.  I'm currently working on the Cultural Geography album.  It has been fascinating watching the progression of materials from Primary into Elementary.  I spend a great deal of time working on the Puzzle Maps in my Primary classroom.  By age four, most of the students have mastered the World Puzzle Map and can locate and name all of the continents.  By mid-kindergarten, many of the students have created their own maps and are now choosing to memorize the countries.  The progression of materials into Elementary is absolutely seamless.  Not only do these 6, 7, and 8-year-olds memorize the countries, they also memorize all of the capital cities and flags.  The primary piece of material used to teach these concepts is known as the Flat Pin Maps.  This might be a nice material for homeschooling parents to consider when facing the task of teaching the world's countries and capitals.  Obviously, this material is an investment (when purchasing all of the continents), and I look forward to the day when my school has access to this tremendous resource.  Here is a link to the Pin Maps of North America only.
These Pin Maps come four maps to a set: 3 control maps and 1 working map.  The working map has borders that are shown, but the map is not labeled. There are three holes in each country.  The other maps are used as a control.  One is labeled with the names of the countries, one with the capital cities, and the third shows the flag for each country.  The maps come with small plastic flags on pins.  The red set includes the names of the countries, the green set has the names of the capitals, the third set contains miniature colored flags.  The elementary child locates, labels, and names the countries, capitals, and flags.  Primary teachers could also use this material in their classroom, but I would put out only the country map with pins at first.  They could eventually work up to the flags, but I haven't met a kindergartner who was ready to memorize the capital cities.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


For several years, I've felt a nagging feeling in my gut every time I served my children hot meals on melamine plates.  The FDA says it's "suitable for public safety", but I don't buy it.  I did a bit of research on the topic and found some research studies on melamine use in the US.  Here's a snapshot of what I found:
Melamine resin, a hard thermosetting polymer made from melamine and formaldehyde, is widely used in the US in the form of kitchenware, including plates, bowls, mugs and utensils. Reports in the literature indicate that some kitchenware based on melamine resin leach considerable amounts of melamine monomer. A migration of up to 2.5 mg melamine/ 100 cm2 was observed under conditions that simulate an exposure to hot acidic foods…
My husband and I take such care in providing our kids with the most wholesome foods we can afford, so I'm just not comfortable with melamine resin or formaldehyde leaching into their foods.  So...I cleaned out the cupboards and did some online searching.  I found a gorgeous children's enamelware set at Nova Natural.  You'll probably remember enamel bowls and plates if you went camping as a child.  Enamelware is very durable, but can chip if dropped. Santa was kind enough to get a set (plate, bowl, mug) for each of the kids this year!  Believe it or not, I think the children were most excited about their mugs than any other gift.  We enjoyed some hot cocoa in the mugs that very day.  I'd say they're the perfect size for children ages 3-10. 

Santa did not forget about our youngest (who is 18 months already!)...He brought her a few enamel mini-mugs from Montessori Services.  Keep in mind, they are very small.  Probably useful for children ages 12 months-3 years.  She's been using her mugs for her milk, cheerios, yogurt, anything you can think of.  Being a Montessori teacher, I've also set them up on a tray for her to use as a transferring work.  Thank you, Santa!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Graceful Parenting

I happened to stumble across a beautiful little book called Graceful Parenting by Eve Dreyfus. The author's 7-year-old son illustrated the book with simple, thoughtful works of art.  This little book makes a great gift for new parents, teachers, grandparents, or anyone who touches the life of your child.  The book shares 25 inspirational ideas meant to guide caregivers in a non-threatening way.