In an earlier article we discussed the basics of using the Three-Period Lesson to introduce vocabulary. Did you try it with your child? How did it go?
Veteran Montessori guides will tell you that when you give a child a lesson, things don’t always go the way you expect them to. You might have noticed this when you tried doing the Three-Period Lesson with your child. If things didn’t go exactly as you planned, don’t fret! Click here to read a helpful article and watch the video to learn great tips that will guide you and your child towards success!
Thirty thousand. 30,000! That’s the number of words scientists say you should be speaking to your child daily to increase his chances of academic success. Most parents reach and exceed this magic number, but how do you know if your child is really benefiting from your efforts? Do you feel you might be choosing the wrong words or confusing your child by rambling?
I’m about to share with you a simple but powerful Montessori technique that will put your worries to rest. To find out what it is, and to watch a short instructional video about it, click here!
One of the activities I felt was lacking in my child’s previous Montessori experience was the use of extensions. No, I’m not talking about artificial hair pieces! Extensions are activities that are introduced after the initial presentation with a material, in order to encourage the child to re-visit the material and solidify the skills and/or concepts it’s designed to provide.
Yesterday, my son came out of his new school with a huge smile, holding this painting:
This is a perfect example of an extension. In his classroom, there’s a tree puzzle (aff link), used to give three-year olds the names of the parts of a tree. Once the child has mastered the puzzle (which Zach probably did at his old school), there’s not much he’ll spontaneously do with it. And most children won’t voluntarily re-visit a material once they’ve figured it out.
Zachary’s new teacher invited Zachary to build the puzzle on top of a white sheet of paper, and trace the outline. Then, she showed him how to use finger paints to create all the different parts of the tree. This forced Zachary to slow down and really analyze the shapes of the tree parts and the relationship between them.
When I asked him to tell me about his painting, he pointed out the roots, trunk, branches and leaves. Through this enjoyable activity (which probably kept him focused for a while), he learned new words and became aware of the relationship between the parts, while enjoying some fun finger painting!
When my son was around 14 months old, he started throwing things: toys, silverware, food, you name it (although he wisely never threw a glass!). My first instinct should’ve been to stop and observe him to find out why he was throwing. But instead, my ego got the best of me and I began thinking: “You shouldn’t be throwing; you’re a Montessori child!” As if a floor bed, cloth diapers, and a weaning table were a vaccine against normal infant developmental phases.
It took many throws before I stopped wallowing in the disappointment of having raised an imperfect child despite all my education, and then I finally started to pay attention – because of my education (ah, the irony). I discovered that Zachary would throw when he was frustrated with a challenge but didn’t know how to ask for help; when he was tired but didn’t know how to tell me; and when he was done but didn’t know what to do about it. After much observation, it became clear that throwing was a way of communicating.
With this newfound awareness, I got to work. If he threw something, I immediately pointed out the reason I perceived was behind his action. “You don’t want any more food, you’re all done. You can say ‘all done‘.” Or, “That train isn’t staying on the track! You seem frustrated. You can say ‘help‘.” Or, “You seem to be feeling tired. You can come sit on my lap for a bit.” And always, I would add, “Let’s not throw the train/fork/grape. I’m going to put it away now.”
Later, as I got better at predicting when he’d throw, I’d sometimes be able to catch him before he pitched an object across the room. In these cases, I would hold his hand and start with, “I’m not going to let you throw the grape/train/fork. You seem to be full/frustrated/tired… You can say ‘all done’/ask for help/sit on my lap.”
It sounds so straightforward and easy. It was anything but. His behavior tested my ego (because he was throwing at school, too!!!); it tested my patience; it tested my reflexes; but mostly it tested my ability to respond consistently and without negativity, no matter what. Yelling or punishing him would have been so easy, such a cathartic and instinctual way to react. It was a lot harder to stay cool and stop what I was doing to help him develop a new skill.
It took more than a year for Zachary to stop constantly throwing things. When did he stop? When his language flourished, right around 2 1/2. He still throws occasionally, when he’s very tired. But then he looks up as if to say, “Oh crap. I shouldn’t have done that. But I really need help and don’t know how to deal with this feeling.”
About a year into our throwing experience, I overheard someone telling another parent, “You know, a lot of children throw.” At that moment, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It wasn’t anything I had done or had failed to do. Children throw. Following a Montessori parenting approach isn’t an insurance policy against “negative” childhood behaviors; it is a window into the child’s psyche that allows us to better understand and respond to these behaviors as part of normal human development.
The Basket of Known Objects is one of the most simple and effective Montessori activities for babies. It promotes exploration, language, sensory development and movement… Best of all, it’s 100% FREE!!
As its name implies, this activity requires placing 4-6 safe objects that you find around the house into a child-sized basket. It can be introduced around the age of three months, or when you see that your child is beginning to grasp objects. If your baby can sit up against pillows, you can introduce the basket in a sitting position. Otherwise, you can place it on the floor next to your child and let him turn towards it.
The main purpose of this activity is to help your child explore the objects in his environment before he’s crawling; it’s like bringing the world to him! While not a formal language activity, you can eventually introduce the names of the objects by conversing casually with your child as he explores. However, first give him ample uninterrupted time to explore the basket and its contents. Now is when you can grab that elusive shower or make dinner!
When I first introduced the activity to Zach, he was more interested in the basket than in the objects. This was a little frustrating until I realized that this is the norm with infants; unlike pre-schoolers (with whom I am accustomed to working), babies will spend a long time just exploring the material and its container before engaging in what we would consider the actual purpose of the activity (of course, this exploration is also purposeful and incredibly important because for them, EVERYTHING is new!).
Our Basket of Known Objects has evolved with Zach’s interests (and, I must admit, my creativity). At first, I chose four random objects (a measuring cup, a teaspoon, a baby food jar and a hand cream jar). Note that these are real objects from our environment, not plastic toys. As I moved around the house, I would encounter other items that could be introduced (a bracelet, a small box, a seashell, a coin purse, etc.). Every few days, I would replace one familiar object in the basket with a new item and then offer the basket again. We quickly realized that Zach would zero in on the new object. Every. Single. Time. Try it and see what your baby does!
When Zach began showing interest in crawling at around 6 months of age, I modified the contents of the basket so that they all rolled. This provided lots of opportunity for chasing round objects around the living room!
Now that Zach is eight months old and on the verge of understanding language, I’m preparing a new basket, this time with objects that belong to the same category. I’ve chosen to start with types of brushes – toothbrush, nail brush, hair brush, and basting brush – since that’s what I have around the house. This activity will provide re-enforcement of the word “brush”, and will help him understand that within the category “brush” there are many types of brushes.
If you choose to offer this activity to your baby, use common sense to make sure all the objects in the basket are safe. Tightly screw the caps on small bottles and check them often (some people even glue them on); avoid objects that can poke (especially before the child develops good coordination); if you are offering an object made out of glass, don’t leave baby unattended and make sure he’s exploring on a soft surface away from walls. If you choose the objects with care, you can leave your baby exploring on his own for as long as he’s interested (sometimes Zach would work with his basket for over 20 minutes).
Have you made a Basket of Known Objects for your baby? Do you have any suggestions for parents who want to try this activity with their child? Please share your ideas or experiences in the comments!