At the beginning of every year I always wonder what the coming months will bring for our toddlers. Having my own children at home I know all too well the saying 'the days are long but the years are short.' Some of our toddlers are alumni from last year, and will be moving on to Primary as they become ready, while others are just starting their Montessori 'career'
The beauty of the mixed age classroom in Montessori is that each child is recognized for her individual capabilities - not her capabilities measured against a statewide curriculum. The younger children observe and learn from the older ones, and the older ones relish being able to take on the role of leader among their peers. The older children also develop a sense of what it means to care for and help others by helping their friends in class.
As we all know, toddlers have a strong desire to be independent, but at the same time they need our love, attention, and understanding. They are constantly watching us and as a parent, you are your child's first and most important teacher. When you make a mistake do you beat yourself up - 'I can't believe I did that/that was so stupid/I can't do anything right.' Or, do you pick yourself up and try again - 'That was so frustrating. Next time I'll make sure I have my wallet before I go to the grocery store.'
A friendly attitude towards mistakes allows your child the freedom to explore - not only the physical environment but also intellectually. If a child is afraid of making a mistake, often he will not even try. Dr. Montessori said 'teach by teaching, not by correcting.'
While we try to preempt mistakes in the classroom by showing children how to do things independently, inevitably water will spill, paint will get on the wall, someone will push instead of saying 'excuse me'....the list can go on and on....
We take these mistakes and look at them as opportunities for growth. How many times does a baby push up before he can crawl, fall before he can walk. babble before he can talk? The same theory applies for social, emotional, and intellectual development. During the first few day of school I took these pictures with the hope that in May we will all look back and see the enormous growth that has taken place in a few short months. Growth that occurs in so many ways - including through making mistakes.
So even though the days can be long and try even the most patient among us, remember these moments are fleeting and try to teach the lesson now, in young childhood, that it's ok to make a mistake. It's how we learn. Here's to a great year of learning and growing!
The toddlers start the day by coming in and changing from their outdoor shoes to indoor shoes. This gives them a way to settle in for the morning and also a great chance to practice self-care skills!
Once they have gotten settled, the children are able to work with the different materials on the shelves.
It is amazing how much concentration even our youngest children can display!
These two were having a very in-depth conversation about the painting.
We have several fish in our tank which the children enjoy watching and feeding.
Here D. is working on pouring rice, which helps develop concentration, fine motor skills, and hand strength.
Of course, we have lots of smiles too!
The children prepare a group snack, complete with place settings and napkins! Eating together provides many opportunities to practice manners, which we call 'Grace and Courtesy'. Once they are done eating, the children clean their own place and even wash their plate.
After snack time we have a short group gathering which includes music, movement, French, and story time. On this day we enjoyed listening to music and discovering different ways to create rhythms with the rhythm sticks.
Our morning concludes with some time in our beautiful outdoor environment. Our garden is a certified Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and the children enjoy spending time in nature and learning about the beautiful world around us!
The Toddler Community is in full swing and we are all so happy to be into the routine of coming to COL! We have been starting our day with our new benches to sit on so we can change our shoes before starting our work for the day. Thank you Mr. Anderson for making these great additions to our room (Miss Julie's Dad). This process has allowed the children to have time in the environment before they are asked to choose work, not to mention a wonderful chance to use their fine motor skills and independence.
The children have been busy returning to their favorite activities plus
exploring the ones they are now able to attempt.
Our Garden time abounds with fruits, vegetables, and fun with our new friends. The tomatoes and watermelons, not to mention the flowers, have been busy while we were away.
The children have taken on the responsibility of setting our table each day as well as cleaning up their dishes and spills. They have even begun to serve each other at snack time and lunch
as well as pouring our water for meals!
The Toddlers are an amazing group and we enjoy our time together learning to eat as a family, play, learn, and continue to care for each other as we all grow. This year has gotten off to an amazing start and we are so very excited about what new surprises the year holds for our community.
Today was our first day back to school! Toddlers came for an open house and about half of the Primary children phased-in.
It was exciting to finally see children working in this space. After our summer of renovation, I think we all felt at home.
The children enjoyed getting to use our new courtyard garden space. There was a bird bath to scrub, plants to water, a bird feeder to fill and discoveries to be made. One of the children discovered a camouflaged praying mantis hiding in the lily plant.
This year marks the 20th year for our school of growing in the spirit and intellect. We can't wait to see the year unfold!
Today at camp we learned all about Ladybugs! We started off with reading a very interesting book called Are You a Ladybug? The kids loved it! It explains the life cycle of the ladybug (much like the ant and caterpillar, it also goes through metamorphosis) and what ladybugs like to eat the most (aphids). The primary children were fascinated to know that a female ladybug could eat 70 aphids a day while a male ladybug may only eat 40. They were also glad to know that ladybugs are especially helpful for the garden plants. The toddlers read 'Five Little Ladybugs' and laughed at the silly rhymes.
Examining a ladybug we found in the garden.
After reading it was time for art projects. The little ones made a lady bug out of stickers and paper plates.
In the garden we had fun experimenting with bubbles. We tried a new mixture today. The recipe was: 6 cups of water, 2 cups of dishwashing detergent and 1 cup of corn syrup. The bubbles were very 'sturdy' and the children were delighted they could catch the bubbles in their hands.
We also did something I have been wanting to try for a while. We made a giant waterbed out of a tarp and duct tape! This idea came from the awesome blog 'Play at Home Mom' I highly recommend checking it out for fun ideas to do at home this summer.
More outdoor fun...
A great time was had by all, and we are looking forward to learning about insect camouflage tomorrow!
Toddler Community (ages 15 months - 3 years)
Primary Casa (ages 3-6)
Our parent education night on February 19th will give you the opportunity to use and handle many of the classroom materials. RSVP here.
The child's first encounter with music is usually the mother singing, which he can even hear before birth. Even in the womb the child absorbs all the music he hears around him. In virtually all cultures, the mothers and caregivers sing lullabies to the baby. This is the beginning of the child absorbing his musical heritage.
Rhythm is vitally connected with the child's earliest life. The beat gives the music structure. The child's first exposure to rhythm is the mother's heartbeat while in the womb. He will also experience other rhythms, including breathing, walking, speech, and singing. This is why babies are calmed by soothing rhythms of walking, patting or rocking. The children pictured above on the left are experiencing rhythm by using the 'shakers'.
As children get older they absorb the joy of music in daily life. In both our Primary Casa and Toddler Community, children enjoy singing and making music daily. As the child develops musically, he goes through the same stages as language development, with the first stage being a listening stage. Just as the child's first verbal attempts are nurtured, we must nurture the child's first musical attempts.
Refining motor skills is an important part of the Toddler Curriculum. Part of what we do during music includes teaching children to move consciously - one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children. Being in control of one’s physical self is the key to success in all future social and educational settings. Simple games, where we name and explore a specific body part and how it moves, are the first step for our children as they work to gain control of their bodies.
The chants or songs that are often associated with these activities are appealing to the children because they usually contain multiple repetitions, such as “arm, arm, arm, arm” or “head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes”. Children enjoy the repetition of the speech as well as the movement as they strive to gain control and finally mastery of their body movements.
Body Awareness activities that focus on the child’s hands are commonly known as Finger Plays. Children delight in the rhythmic speech that usually accompanies touching and manipulating each individual finger, making the finger play beneficial to your children in terms of both their movement and listening development, and they have the added benefit of increasing your child’s vocabulary.
Here is an easy one to use anytime and anywhere:
· Touch each finger on one hand starting with the pinky
· As you touch it, say the child’s name
· When you get to the pointer finger, slide down to the thumb (as if your tracing) with your finger while you say a very exaggerated ”Whoops”. As you land on the thumb say their name again – then just wait for their smile and go in reverse!
"Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…Whoooops, Johnny
Whoops, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!"
Music in the Primary Casa
Above, the girls are working with Language Cards to learn the names of the instruments in the orchestra. This is an exercise in vocabulary for the younger child; for the older child it is also a reading exercise. The photo on the right illustrates a Cultural Folder. This material is part of the Primary curriculum and serves as a jumping off point for stories and information about people from all over the world. The folder pictured shows examples of music from all over North America.
In offering music to the Primary class, we use the principle of 'isolation of difficulty'. This means that we introduce different elements of music in isolation. Some of these elements include: pitch, rhythm, intensity, timbre (the quality of sounds from different instruments), melody, harmony, and music related to cultural subjects - nature study, geography, and art. The names of the instruments of the orchestra are another element, as well as exposure to names of classical music and composers.
The Bells are a Primary material which gives children the opportunity to train their auditory sense from an early age. The bells give the child the opportunity to focus on an isolated pitch. They also allow for manipulation of the material. The bells are set up as a diatonic C scale, which is the basic measure of music in western music. The work with bells gives the child a very valuable foundation. With this foundation, she will expand her knowledge of music with great ease as she learns to write, read, and compose music, sing, move to different rhythms, and listen to different genres of music. We want to make sure that we give every child the opportunity to have his or her life immensely enriched through a greater appreciation of music.
In addition to all the daily music work done in both the Toddler and Primary rooms, we are blessed to have Ms. Julie as part of our staff. As our Toddler Teacher, Julie recently completed her Montessori training. She holds her Bachelor and Master's degrees in Music Education from UGA School of Music. In addition, she has received the Musikgarten training for preschool age children and is a certified Suzuki cello teacher at NATE. The Suzuki philosophy has many similarities to Montessori. Once a week, Ms. Julie works with the Primary class using the Musikgarten curriculum. It is a lovely complement to the work the children are doing daily in class.
In today’s world, spoken language is not valued. Email, text messages and IMs have taken the place of phone calls and face-to-face communication. I-pods, apps, and MP3 players have taken the place of family sing-alongs on road trips. While this may lead to more effective communication and fewer tantrums in the car, there is a down-side to consider: the greatest source of energy for the brain is the sound of the live, spoken (or sung) voice.
We all want the best for our children, and often that means buying an expensive item – the fastest computer, the best quality musical instrument, the latest, most up-to-date software, etc. Isn’t it amazing to think that one of the most effective things we can do for our children is to feed their brain by engaging them in conversation and storytelling!
Written by Julie Cutcliff and Stefanie Graper
We are very proud of our garden at COLM, which acts as an important extension of our classrooms. It is also a certified Schoolyard Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Each fall we spend a morning working together in the garden and getting it ready for winter. Thanks to the help of our dedicated parent volunteers, we got a lot of work done today!
First up was weeding and cleaning up. We found some stray summer vegetables and A LOT of weeds!
We also pulled out some really long roots. Finally, we were ready to plant. We planted mums, pansies, herbs, cabbage, radish, carrots, and kale. The grownups helped prune and do even more weeding.
It was really amazing how hard the children worked. They loved spending time outside and spent almost the whole morning gardening.
We finished the day with a lovely 'pizza picnic' in the garden. What a blessing it is to be able to share this beautiful space with our children and families! A huge thank you to everyone who donated plants and helped this morning. We couldn't do it without you!
Today we visited South America! After some time to play in the garden, we jumped into Cultural Stories about real people, places, animals and products from South America. We talked about the waddle of penguins on an iceberg at the tip of Argentina, the macaw soaring through the Amazon Rain forest, the gaucho using his lasso, and many more!
This story was a favorite! We shared a real Peruvian Tapestry and also had a lovely story about a Bolivian one (pictured at the right). The children loved making observations about each and identifying characteristics that are similar and different.
For our snack today we made Strawberry Mango smoothies and had some popcorn (corn being a main product of South America). It was delicioso!
Our art project today was to decorate mariposas (butterflies) just like the ones you would see in the Amazon Rain forest.
The Primary aged children also made Chilean rainsticks. They had a parade in the room and enjoyed shaking their rainsticks. After, they heard the story of how real rainsticks are made from dried cactus, the cactus thorns and pebbles. They also heard how the Chilean people use the rainsticks in the desert because they believe it helps to bring the rain when they need it most. We also found Chile on the globe and talked about its shape.
Soon, it was time for water play in the garden!
In addition to the water, shaving cream and a cornstarch + water mixture made for some fun sensory play in the garden.
A 'wonderful' time was had by all! We hope to see you next Wednesday, July 17, as we travel to Africa!
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!