Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Community Playthings

Community Playthings is by and far the best manufacturer of children's furniture.  They stand behind the quality with a 10 year warranty and free shipping.  I was putting together a large furniture order for the new building, when I came across a fantastic online booklet.  Take a few moments to read about why play is an essential part of every child's emotional and physical well-being:

The Wisdom of Play

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Food Preparation

Montessori food prep activities are the culmination of years of practical life exercises.  There are four areas of Practical Life that need to be introduced to the child before food prep: Movement, Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, and Grace & Courtesy.  As soon as the basic activities from these four elements have been mastered, the child is ready for food prep.  Let's use orange squeezing as an example, I've added links to an online Montessori album so you can read the specific details for each basic lesson.

Movement: The child must be able to use his gross motor skills to carry the heavy tray to the table.  Fine motor skills are used to pour the juice into small cups.  The hand muscles are used to twist the lid off of the juicer in order to wash it.
Care of the Person:  The child must learn to wash her hands before starting the activity, handwashing is one of the core practical life lessons.  The proper use of a napkin is also essential for this work. 
Care of the Environment:  After the orange squeezing work, the child must be able to wash all of the dishes used.  He also must have mastered the use of a broom and/or mop.  There is a chance that the child may even need to scrub the table afterwards.
Grace & Courtesy:  One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori curriculum, Grace & Courtesy teaches children how to work peacefully and politely in the classroom and larger community.  In the orange squeezing example, the child learns to serve others before himself, he learns not to speak with food or drink in his mouth, and the other children learn how to accept or decline the offer for juice.

Now that our chick friends have left, I'm able to put food prep work back out on the shelves.  Unfortunately, chicks are very dirty animals and I didn't want to take the chance that some of the younger students might forget to wash their hands.  I put out egg slicing on Friday and, as always, it was a huge success.  The children took great care with walking the egg from the refrigerator to the table.  I heard "yes please" and "no thank you" from the children who were offered an egg slice.  The only downfall...our classroom has a bit of an egg smell right now!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Friends, Claire and Brownie

We "rented" two young chicks from a local farm this month.  The children enjoyed watching them grow and they now understand the hard work that goes into caring for these young birds.  It took some time for the children to feel comfortable with the chicks, but after a week most of the children could hold them easily.  We put names in a hat and "Claire" and "Brownie" were chosen for our future egg-laying hens.  In the early fall, the students can visit the farm and purchase eggs from our new friends.  Thank you, Claire and Brownie, for providing us with two adventure-filled weeks!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Downy Day

We studied feathers today and even went on a feather hunt!  We walked through a nearby forest and down to a pond, but unfortunately no feathers were found.  My daughter found a turkey feather last year that I used to show the children the parts of the feather.  We pointed out the Quill, Down, Rachis, and Vane.  I made some related papers for the children to take home and want to share them with you.  I'm not sure how to embed a document into blogger, so here's the best I could do. 

The children were able to take home this "Parts of a Feather" page:
Parts of a Feather

and older children were able to label the feather on their own:
Parts of a Feather Worksheet

We also watched Part One of the "Dinosaur Feather Mystery".  The children were amazed by the fact that today's birds may be direct descendants from dinosaurs:

Do you believe at the end of the day, one of the moms came to pick up her son... and what did she find?  A feather by the edge of the sidewalk.  Go figure!

We didn't get a chance to read it today, but this is a great book about birds for children of all ages.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lucky Day

Now that spring has sprung, the stress to complete the playground has re-surfaced.  If you read my posts a few months back, you might remember my ideas for the nature-based playground.  I'm still fully on-board with the idea and as excited as ever to bring it to life.  I've been pricing out log furniture all over the country (and even our neighbor to the north), but I can't seem to find anything that is even somewhat reasonably priced.  I can't even find a free shipping incentive.

Well, wouldn't you know it, I was out looking for a table for our school's foyer, when I stumbled across A LOG FURNITURE THREE-PIECE SET AND MATCHING A-FRAME SWING.  I just about fell over.  It turns out log furniture is very "in" this spring and many retailers are hopping on the bandwagon.  You know you're following the right path when something you've envisioned for years becomes a new fad the exact month you need to purchase it.  This is what the swing looks like:

I'm considering a trip back to the store later this week to pick up this little bridge they had displayed.  I originally had a little bridge in my plans for the playground, but wasn't sure I'd be able to find one.  This one sells for under $100.  I was planning to place river stones in a little path down to the garden, and place this bridge over the stones.  Children would love to run over this little bridge, imagining that they are visiting far off places:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The language materials in a Montessori classroom speak for themselves.  The materials in the language curriculum cover the basics, starting with the letter sounds, and continue up to the function of words activities (an introduction to the parts of speech).  Parents can trust that their Montessori children are getting a well-rounded, comprehensive language education.  However, from time to time, children ask their parents (in one way or another) for additional exercises in language.  They almost seem to be on a quest to understand the process of reading. 

Aside from getting the Montessori training and ordering the materials, there are limited high quality language activities for parents to choose from at home.  One of my current parents told me about a website called Starfall that her son adores.  I checked it out and showed it to my daughter, G (my own personal guinea pig).  She enjoyed it, not quite as much as the hands on activities in the classroom, but fun for after-school playtime.  My favorite aspect of the free website is the art gallery under the "It's fun to read" tab, definitely check that out.

Before starting a language enrichment activity at home, it's best you consult your child's teacher.  There's a chance the child will get confused by the different teaching aspects of the online program, or you may introduce a concept that your child is just not ready for.  This type of enrichment should not be viewed as "homework" and should merely be used as a fun supplement to your child's phonics progression.