Monday, May 28, 2012

How to Make an Ellipse on the Floor

It's easy to create shapes on the floor with tape.  Duct tape leaves a lot of gummy residue, so I prefer vinyl tape.  Shapes such as the ellipse are ideal for gross motor activities (e.g. marching to music) or for group time "on the line" at the beginning, middle, and/or end of the school day.

Many classrooms--in school settings or at home--have large shapes on the floor.  The ellipse is a traditional Montessori shape.  One day you might see children walking along the ellipse heel-to-toe, with or without music.  Another day you might see a child walking along the line with a glass full of water, practicing balance and control.  On another day you might see a child walking on the ellipse while holding a bell, trying not to let it make a sound.  These kinds of activities are great for children 2 1/2 and up, when the child is perfecting his balance and control of movement.

An ellipse is easy to create on a floor, first with chalk and then with tape.  Here's all my son, "Tesla," needed to make one tonight:

Duct tape, chalk, vinyl tape, and string are all you need.
Start by taping two ends of string down to the floor -- each of these two spots is called a "focus" of the ellipse.  Make sure that the length of the string is a good deal longer than the distance between the two foci.  Then use a piece of chalk to stretch the string taut, and, keeping the string stretched, use the chalk to trace out a shape - this will give you your ellipse! This is easier to see than to describe in words:  here is Tesla in action.

Tesla substituted standard chalk with sidewalk chalk because it marked the carpet better.

Both Alleluia and the dog were trying to help....
Figuring out where to put the two foci at the beginning requires a bit of trial and error.  We started by determining how big we wanted the finished shape to be, and then played around with the string to figure out where the two foci of the ellipse should be.  Here, Tesla has guessed where the first foci should be by taping one end of the string down.

Once he was done marking out the ellipse in chalk, Tesla uses the vinyl tape to go around the chalk.  We  tried to put the tape directly over the chalk, but it just wasn't adhering well enough.

Ta da!  Ready for movement, learning and play!

Montessori Monday

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Raising Saints

Just read this and loved it!  Had to share....

An Average Day in the Pew -- with Toddlers and Babies!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Making Connections: Noticing What's Similar

Earlier today Alleluia found an interesting seed pod in our driveway and asked what is was.  Since I didn't know, I led her to the part of the yard adjacent, where the Crepe Myrtle grows, and we figured out it was from that bush.

Afterwards she seemed primed to find similarities around her, so when we went inside to put the seed pod in our "Nature Center" (really just a collection of junk we've found outside!) she grabbed this strange rock and a bouncy ball (which didn't belong there, but I think I stuck it there during a cleaning frenzy).

Isn't this rock cool?!?

Turns out this is a desert rose and the "petals" are flattened crystals.  This is a great example of material in the classroom that could be interesting to children of various ages (and interesting to us adults as well!).

More info for the interested:  Desert Rose (Crystal)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zig-Zags and Eggshells

I've written before about the importance of observation in my Observation in Montessori post.   But we not only want to be good detectives, we want to be receptive to the beauty and humor around us.

This morning Alleluia and I were heading up these steps to my Legion of Mary meeting, and we stopped when we noticed the zig-zag pattern of the hand rail's shadow on these steps.

Later, we saw this beautiful blue robin's egg in the grass.  

Sometimes being with children helps you to notice things that you would otherwise miss.  Be receptive to the unexpected, the surprising, the funny and the tiny all around us!

Basil + Toddler's Pincer Grasp = Caprese Salad!

How does your garden grow?  Are you ready to pick anything yet?  We noticed the basil was hot to trot, so we got out the little colander-bowls I bought years ago, gave one each to Daddy and to Alleluia, and sent them out foraging.

Toddlers don't need anything but a good pincer grasp to pick the leaves (hat optional).


...and Daddy's!


Caprese salad--otherwise known as tomato, mozzarella and basil with a vinaigrette--has been popular with our kids in the summer months.

For an example of the many Caprese salad recipes out there, check out Rachel Ray's Caprese Salad.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

This is my first try at the "Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real" Thursday.  I'm short on time but have loads of photos!  Here goes:

Managed to set up the table for our weekly meeting before we started the rosary. I love hydrangeas!


What is it about children in hats that can make you happy?


We were eating lunch at my daughter's toddler table, which is right next to some of Atrium works.  This is the Nativity, with Mary, Baby Jesus and Joseph.  My 2-year-old spontaneously gave Baby Jesus some of her lunch (a strip of salami!).  "Good sharing!"  :)


Something about seeing Darth Vader with a ponytail .... We use masks to deceive or conceal (or just pretend!), but that doesn't change what's real.

God bless you and have a great week!

round button chicken

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rotating Toys/Works: Same Stuff, New Approach

One of the nice things about having younger kids over to our house regularly is that  Alleluia can be the "big girl," but it also means that she can play with toys we haven't had out in a while.

When we recently got this big gumball toy out of storage I was surprised to see her so engaged.  As a baby she liked to watch the balls spiral down the globe, usually with my help.  But as a toddler now, using this toy by herself, she approached it as a problem-to-be-solved.

The balls didn't come out easily.  Instead of getting frustrated, she shifted into problem-solver mode.  (They didn't come out easily because most of the time about three balls were crowding the little port at the bottom, making it hard to remove one).

She fiddled with some of the levers but learned that the best way to get all of the balls out was just to dump them out, holding the machine upside down.

Once she solved that problem (and filled the machine up and dumped the balls out again and again), she wanted to sort the balls into groups (those that rattled and those that didn't) and hold them up to the sunlight to see which ones were "see through."

Try getting some older toys and works out of storage and see what your children do.  It's fun to observe their novel approaches to a familiar toy.  Compare this to how they were working with the toy just 6 months ago--or even longer.  Their growth and development becomes apparent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Geometric Solids: Making New Connections

Don't you just love it when a work can engage an older child and a younger child at the same time?  Many Montessori materials lend themselves to work at different levels, and the Geometric Solids are a good example of that.

The other day I asked my 8-year-old daughter to keep Alleluia busy while I made dinner.  I got the two started with the Geometric Solids (the blue 3-D shapes you see in the photo above) and some laminated cards with the name of each shape.   But then we noticed that a different work, one that uses wooden shapes that are flat, could be used, too.

Imagine the "footprint" or cross section each solid makes and you can match 3-D solids to 2-D shapes.  This was interesting and even a little tricky--enough so to be engaging for the older sister.

But wait--there's more!

THEN we noticed that our play food set of wooden bread, carrots, apples, etc. roughly corresponded to the shapes we were working with!

The apple is (roughly speaking) a sphere.  Don't be afraid to use the word "sphere" -- they can handle it!

The solids can have different "footprints" depending upon which face they are "standing on."  We only had a limited number of wooden shapes, but we could have easily cut some new shapes out of paper.
We thought the avocado and pear were, roughly speaking, ovoids.
By the time dinner was ready the angle of the sun was getting low and we had one last element to think about:  shadows!

By dinnertime the shadows were REALLY long!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Using Mats: Defining Your Workspace

For work done on the floor, use a mat.  Teach your child to roll up the mat and put it away when done.  Start at one end, say, "Roll. Tap, tap," as you roll a little and stop to align the edges.
We do most of our work on the floor.  Long before Alleluia could choose her work by herself I showed her how to get a mat, carry it to a good spot, unroll it and put our stuff on top.  Though this ritual is most helpful in busy classrooms with limited floor space, it's also helpful at home.  It formalizes the act of choosing, beginning and ending a work.  It also makes her think about whether it's more of a "table work" or a work to be done on the floor.

So far our only challenge with floor work has been our dog.  Apparently he didn't get the memo explaining the rules:  we NEVER step on the mat!

You can find inexpensive mats all over the place, even the dollar bins at Target.  Just think about how flat you want them to be (it's depressing to try to build a big tower out of blocks if the foundation isn't level!) and whether you want to be able to wash them.

Store the mats rolled up somewhere accessible to your child.  I use an old wicker trash can (it's clean....).  The REALLY BIG mat (the mat that's actually a table runner) is also stored here.

Some classrooms ask the children to place their nameplate on their mat to establish it as their space, their work.  What rules do you have in your classroom?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Her Own Little Sink: Self-Care and Washing Up

Alleluia is old enough to wash her hands (including her nails), clean her face, and brush her hair with just a little help.   I set up her own little "sink" in part of my laundry room and gave her the tools she needs to be independent.  It's nice because--even if she's mostly playing in the water--I can fold loads and loads of laundry right next to her!  (This is sold as a Cloth Washing Stand by Lord Equipment.)

Especially after eating peanut butter and honey toast, the mirror comes in handy for checking if she's cleaned off all of the goo.
You can never have too many funnels or buckets, right?

The deep dish pans don't have drains and there's no running water, so I just give her as much as she needs in the large white pitcher.  When she learns to wash clothes and dishes we'll probably fill both pans with water.

This narrow strip of the laundry room is no bigger than 2 x 8 feet.  The dish strainer mounted to the wall is from Ikea, as are the funnels.

She has a doggie nail brush and a ducky one (hand-me-downs from her older sibs).  The ladybug pot scrubber is new and came from TJMaxx.  They sit atop a cheapy clearance wooden shelf from Michael's that was just the right height for a toddler.  Right now there is a sample tile purchased from a home improvement store (back when I thought we'd put "real floors" in the laundry room) on top of the shelf.  The little plastic bowls help her to remember to put the soap and nail brush away.  They came from Target's kitchen department.

This bunny comb and brush set was too cute to pass up!

Spontaneous Transfer Work: Larger Scale!

It was HOT yesterday and we were just mucking around with water in the wading pool.  Alleluia spontaneously made up two "transfer works" with the junk under our carport:

  • She moved water from the pink wading pool to the wide aluminum bowl (it came with our portable fire pit).  You've heard of a two-fisted drinker?  Alleluia is a two-fisted transfer-er!  A watering can in each hand...........

  • Then she started to use the "Baby Watering Can" to fill up the "Mommy Watering Can."  Now that's kinda neat!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Transfer with Tongs

Now here's a GREAT example of a smart mom thinking on her feet:  My friend Meredith's son "Charger" was banging on her yard-sale-find of an ice bucket.  Instead of getting cross with him, she re-directed by bringing a dish of ice cubes and tongs over.   Knowing he's been interested in the tongs lately (thanks to those Preschool Power videos), he took to the job right away.

She even managed to squeeze in a little science, too!  "We talked about why the inside of the aluminum bucket became cold (transfer of energy) and why the outside stayed warm (insulation.)," she said.

Great idea!  Let's all steal it!  :)   One caveat:  be careful of toddlers putting ice cubes in their mouth--they can be a choking hazard!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Putting Groceries Away (Faster than a Speeding Toddler!)

My friend Liz has a busy busy toddler (it's high time for him to have a stage name--maybe "Bounty" because he likes carrying paper towels?  I'm open to suggestions....).  So when Liz comes home from the grocery store it feels like a race to empty the bags and put things away before Bounty excavates the cupboards and fridge.  What to do?

She just started a game with him that really works (he's 14 months old, BTW).  She gives him two bags, leaves an item in each one and asks him to put them away.  He dutifully follows instructions and wants to be Mr. Helpful.

He ESPECIALLY loves it when Liz buys paper towels, as this is the "age of maximum effort" (or something like that?), when toddlers really want to exert themselves doing a useful job.

Liz just reminds me that she doesn't give him anything fragile, anything that needs to go in the fridge or freezer right away, and she tries to remember to bring re-usable bags (so she won't have that added worry about Bounty and plastic bags).  

Remember that when toddlers most seem like a nuisance, try putting them to work--they really want to help!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Food Prep Work: Apples are Appealing

Alleluia has been taking a little cookbook on Cake Pops to bed with her for about a week.  She wants us to read the names of each of the yummies in the book, most of which are really sugary (not to my liking).  But the back has recipes more to my taste.  The Rustic Apple Tartlet sounded good and it looked like a good opportunity for hands-on fun in the kitchen with a toddler.  This is our story. (I'm going to ruin the ending by telling you that although it was fun to make and the filling was good, the store-bought pie crust was blah and overall I wouldn't recommend this recipe--anyone have some good ideas for a sweeter crust?)

Also the main "yippee" factor came from this apple peeling contraption I bought at a Pampered Chef party years ago (and have barely ever used).  You might find these at thrift shops or garage sales, but don't expect them to work well with mushy apples.

After washing, impale the Granny Smith on the prongs of the peeler.  Depending upon how you adjust it, the peeler will produce a long, thin peel that is fun to play with, wear, and eat!

You can make the peel thicker or thinner and this cutting edge isn't super sharp.

It also produces these fun rings!

Once everything is chopped, add cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice.

Cutting the crusts for the tartlets is easy and do-able for a toddler.  The advantage of the prepared crust is that it isn't messy or sticky.

She was losing interest by now, so I spooned the filling on.

Interested again, she was happy to stab the egg yolk and "wash" the tartlets.

Honestly, she was asleep by the time these were done, so I got to enjoy most of them!  Next time I might make the filling a day in advance and find a sweeter crust.  Feel free to send in some ideas for that!

I got lazy and stopped crimping the sides--is that why they were too crackery?