Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snowed In!

We're anticipating a major snowstorm in our area tonight, continuing until Friday.  I am not a fan of driving in that kind of weather, so we'll be stuck in the house for several days.  I compiled a list of some of my favorite activities to do with my kids, in case you find yourself in the same predicament.  Most of the materials needed can be found in your own home.

Waxed Paper Designs
Materials Needed: Iron, grater, newspaper, waxed paper, crayons

Place a few sheets of newspaper on your table.  Place a sheet of waxed paper on top of the newspaper with the wax side up.  Grate the crayons onto the waxed paper.  Place a second sheet of waxed paper, wax side down, on top of the first sheet with the crayon pieces in-between.  Cover with a few layers of newspaper and iron with a hot iron until the crayons are melted.  Hang up to dry.

Crayon Shapes
Materials Needed: Oven, crayons pieces, mini-muffin pan

Another crayon activity...Peel and break apart shorter, unused crayons that are laying around the house.  Place them in a mini-muffin pan.  I found one like this at the dollar store:

After filling the shapes with broken crayons, place them in the oven on 200 degrees.  Keep your eye on them and remove them once they've melted.  Let them cool and have fun!

Materials Needed: Black construction paper, white paper, white colored pencil, tape, glue, flashlight, another set of hands

Ask your child to stand sideways in a dark room.  Give your second set of hands the flashlight and ask her to shine it on your child's profile.  Tape the black paper to the wall and use the colored pencil to trace your child's profile.  Ask your child to cut out the shape and glue it to the white paper.  The silhouette looks beautiful framed in your child's room.

Silly Faces
Materials Needed: Magazines, scissors, paper, glue

Sort through old magazines and cut out some eyes, noses, mouths, ears, and heads of hair.  Mix them up and show your child how to make some new funny faces.  As soon as your child is happy with her creation, show her how to glue it to the paper.  Lots of giggles guaranteed.

Family Puzzle
Materials Needed:  Cardboard, family photograph, scissors, glue

Glue the picture to a piece of cardboard the same size.  Allow the picture to dry completely and cut the picture into puzzle pieces.  Watch your child enjoy putting together the family puzzle.  Try making a puzzle of each family member.

It doesn't matter how these crafts turn out, children focus on the process rather than the product.  Enjoy the memories you're creating!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Personal Timeline

The children have been completing their personal timelines over the past few weeks.  I use a roll of coloring paper from Ikea and a large clipboard.  The children use the ruler to measure 12 inches, which represents one year.  They sequence their pictures and glue them on their timeline, one picture for each year.  Here are some of them hard at work:

Each child working on a timeline typically had quite a crowd gathered around, asking questions about their life experiences.  The proud child completing the timeline beamed as he described the events in his life.  Of course, we prefaced this activity with discussions on the calendar, measurement, and timelines. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Simple Solution

There are always one or two children each year who are very intimidated by writing, possibly due to some fine motor delays, but are very interested in getting their thoughts down on paper.  Certainly, these children can use the movable alphabet to record information, but there are times when the children want to write a note or a letter, or record findings in his/her tablet.  I believe I've found the solution for some of these kids.  I recently ordered the lowercase tracing stamps,

as well as the wooden number stamps, both available from Montessori-N-Such. 

The children gather their materials, along with an ink pad, and stamp out their message.  They can then go back and trace the letters for extra practice.  This product certainly won't be useful for the children with severe fine motor delays, but it will provide encouragement for those children who need an extra boost of confidence in the writing department.  They should arrive in a few days, I'll let you know how the children react!

Both of these activities were on the shelf for a matter of seconds today before they were swept away for another lesson.  The stamps seemed to give the children more confidence and more independence while completing their work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day for Kids

Many of us have started feeling jaded about Valentine's Day and the endless stream of other "Hallmark Holidays".  I know I start to feel frustrated by the end of January and there are pink, fluffy hearts and red boxes of chocolate everywhere.  After all, shouldn't we love our friends and family every day, not just once a year?  And how do we explain this holiday to our children, when we really don't even know how it originated for sure?  With a little bit of creativity, we can include our children in this mystery of a holiday.  Put aside the commercialism and help your children embrace the concept of expressing love to family and friends.  Here are some ways to get your kids involved:
  • Start by teaching your children how to cut out a basic heart.  Take several pieces of paper in different colors and sizes.  Fold them in half and draw half of a heart shape.  Show them how to cut on the line and voila- you've got the start to hundreds of Valenentine's ideas.  Make a large heart for a placemat, use the negative cut-out for a picture frame.  Glue the heart onto a folded piece of paper for a homemade valentine.  The possibilities are endless.
  • Make your own red playdough.  Put it in a sealed container on a tray, with a small rolling pin and a rubber heart-shaped cookie cutter.  I like to add red glitter and vanilla extract.  Here's a great recipe.
  • Take a trip to the post office.  Show your children how to address an envelope and how letters are mailed.  Introduce your children to the postal workers and maybe they'll even get mini-tour!
  • Remember all of those hearts you cut out?  Ask your children to add a brief sentiment or draw a picture and bring them over to a local nursing home.  Your children could truly brighten someone's day.
  • And don't forget about the classic warm fuzzy...

I know that Valentine's Day is celebrated differently all over the globe.  We've got readers from just about everywhere on the planet and we'd love to hear about how you celebrate this holiday.  Feel free to comment so we can learn more about your culture!

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy being with those you love.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

South America

We're now studying the continent of South America.  Montessori used a color-coded system to help children learn subjects in a faster, more effective way.  The geography materials, like the maps and globes, are coded according to these colors:

North America- orange
South America- pink
Africa- green
Europe- red
Asia- yellow
Australia- brown
Antarctica- white

Therefore, the work that I've put out this past week, is color-coded pink and typically on a pink tray.  This system truly helps the child to organize his thoughts. 
I like to introduce a new continent with a continent folder and the song "Tell Me the Continents".  The continent folders are filled with photographs of the dress, food, housing, instruments and housing from that region.  Each pictures is mounted to a color-coded piece of contruction paper and laminated for durability.  I use clear plastic string-tie envelopes to hold the pictures, and glue the appropriate continent on the outside of the folder.  This work is available all year long on the culture shelves.
Here is a little boy singing "Tell Me the Continents":

Here are some great Montessori cultural materials to order.
Here are some free, downloadable Montessori cultural materials you can make at home.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Winter!?

Thanks a lot, Phil.  I, personally, was hoping for an early spring!  For those of you who are not from the US or Canada, today is Groundhog Day.  Supposedly, this holiday began in the 18th or 19th century by the Pennsylvania Dutch, as a form or weather prediction.  According to tradition, once the groundhog is removed from his burrow, observers determine whether or not Phil saw his shadow.  If the groundhog sees his shadow, he will go back to his burrow and we will continue to have six more weeks of winter.

Here are some fun facts you may not have known about Groundhog Day:
1. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, has not seen it 15 times, and nine years are unaccounted for.

2. The National Climatic Data Center reportedly stated that Phil's predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time. This number is in conflict with Phil's club, which states he's been right 100 percent of the time.

3. In the years following the release of Groundhog Day, a 1993 film starring Bill Murray, crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney where the ceremony takes place.

4. Though groundhogs typically live only six to eight years, Groundhog Day lore suggests that Phil drinks a magic elixir every summer, which gives him seven more years of life.

Here's a cute little craft that children can make out of pom poms, pipe cleaners and googly eyes.  To extend this Groundhog Day activity, make a burrow out of brown clay!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Parent Lending Library

Half of my job is to educate children, the other half is to educate families on the Montessori Method.  Each year, I send out a list of resources available to parents from our lending library.  These books and DVDs are from my own personal collection of Montessori and parenting-related items.  Many parents do make good use of this program, and I hope they continue to feel comfortable borrowing these informative books.  As soon as we are operating in our new location, I will set up the small lending library in the foyer so families are able to view available books more readily.  The DVDs are especially valuable because they give a quick snapshot of the Montessori classroom in action.  Parents are welcome to borrow books for up to two months at a time, unless requested by another family.  DVDs should come back within a few weeks.  Here are some of our school's available resources:

Publications about the Montessori Philosophy
The Montessori Controversy by: John Chattin-McNichols
The Montessori Method by: Maria Montessori
Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years by: Elizabeth G. Hainstock and Lee Davis
Montessori Today by: Paula Polk Lillard
Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook by: Maria Montessori and Nancy McCormick
Montessori: A Modern Approach by: Paula Polk Lillard
Montessori in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Account of How Children Really Learn by: Paula Polk Lillard
Secret of Childhood by: Maria Montessori
The Discovery of the Child by: Maria Montessori
Theories of Childhood by: Carol Garhart Mooney
At Home with Montessori by: Patricia Oriti
To Educate the Human Potential by: Maria Montessori
Look at the Child: An Expression of Maria Montessori’s Insights by: Aline D. Wolf
A Parents’ Guide to the Montessori Classroom by: Aline D. Wolf

Books on Parenting
The Hurried Child by: David Elkind
Parent Talk by: Chick Moorman
Andy and his Daddy by: Aline D. Wolf
Redirecting Children's Behavior by: Kathryn Kvols

Nurture the Love of Learning: Montessori for the Preschool Years by: American Montessori Society
Montessori for the Kindergarten Year? by: The Montessori Foundation
Following Your Child: A Montessori Philosophy of Parenting by: American
Montessori Society

Any parents who would like to contribute related resources to our lending library are encouraged to contact me.