Friday, February 26, 2021

Montessori at Home: Work in the Kitchen Can Be Math, Sensorial, Practical Life and Science All at Once

Your Kitchen Can Be Your Learning Hub

This lovely "Fruits and Seeds" printable matches together some of our favorite fruits with their seeds. I created this printable to be a conversation starter with the child. The fruit and the seeds are the beginning and ending of the plant life-cycle. -
(For a free download go to website.)

From Smells and Taste to Botany, Chemistry, and Physics

Outgrown Beginning Practical Life Works?  Level Up!

During this past year, many of us are spending more time at home than in years previous.  You or your spouse may be working from home; your children may be schooling from home; or your normal circuit of volunteering, errands and socializing may be severely curtailed.

Dinner burnt.  Again.  My friend lost her sense of smell recently due to Covid-19 and has burned dinner every night for the past week!  Montessori Sensorial works include the smelling bottles (easy to DIY), and stopping to smell spices, ingredients, and dinner while it cooks can "count" as school, too!

For all of these reasons, plus the fact that your favorite restaurants may be closed, you may be spending more time in the kitchen than ever before.  I know I have!  I am grateful that, unlike some of my friends with Covid-19, I still have a sense of smell (see photo above of my sick friend's burnt casserole) and to still have decent hearing so that I can still hear the oven timer going off, the pot of water boiling and the sizzle of fresh veggies in hot oil.  I'm actually pretty new to cooking on a regular basis so I need to use all of my sense to navigate novel recipes.

If your children are learning to cook alongside you, they'll have lots of opportunities to learn more than the culinary arts in the kitchen.  As mentioned in this previous post, there's lots of math involved in cooking.  Let's consider also the obvious sensorial components to cooking (the sense of smell, taste, and hearing) and higher level concepts, such as botany, chemistry and physics.


All Montessori classrooms include Sensorial materials, which help a child from age 3 and up to classify his sense impressions by noticing similarities and differences.  Exercises such as the Smelling Bottles help fine tune a child's sense of smell; the Color Boxes help the child distinguish between different colors; the Taste Bottles help a child discriminate between different tastes; and so on.  (Sometimes you hear about our eight senses, which include the proprioception, interoception, and vestibular senses.) These works are sometimes called the Keys to the Universe because they help a child make sense of the world he's been absorbing since even before birth!

Next time you are in the kitchen with your child, stop to smell your ingredients together.  Sniff the yogurt to see if it's gone bad.  Or smell the difference between a vine ripe tomato that's room temperature and a grape tomato that's been in the fridge.  Get a whiff of each spice as you measure them out.  Or just enjoy the smell of a cake as it bakes.

It's not hard to imagine using taste as you go.  One example:  if you aren't sure if a white crystals are salt or sugar, taste it. Another:  taste a soup as it cooks to determine if it needs more salt.

What about hearing?  The sizzle in the pan, the buzz of the timer, the rolling boil of the water all can be indicators.  There was even recently a contestant on The Great British Baking Show who claimed he could tell when his cakes were done baking by listening carefully to a slight bubbling!

The sense of touch can indicate if a fruit is ripe, unripe or overripe.  And it can guesstimate whether your water is "warm" for proofing yeast.  Or tell you if your eggs and butter have come to room temperature.  You can even determine whether your pasta is ready by doing the "al dente" test.

Finally, you can use an eagle eye to spot mold on the tortillas, pick out a banana that's just right for baking banana bread, or determining whether the tomatoes you're roasting are just brown enough to begin adding to your soup pot.

You get the idea.  All of these can be part of further training the senses.  It's interesting to note that practicing can really improve your ability to make distinctions.  For instance, I learned that Covid-19 sufferers who have lost their sense of smell can actually regain that sense through Olfactory training.  (There is a second video as well.)  For a demo of how to use the Montessori Smelling Bottles and how to DIY your own, check out At home.  


All Montessori classrooms have a Botany Cabinet (sometimes called a Leaf Cabinet) as part of their Sensorial area.  While the leaf shapes are the main focus, you could easily "branch out" (pun intended!) in other directions.  Just this week I used fresh basil leaves, oregano, thyme and a dry bay leaf while cooking.  A child could identify what sort of leaf shapes spices have, as well as looking up what continent they come from.  Here's some background:  Botany Cabinet.  And here's a resource:  Leaf Shape Chart.

Some veggies, such as parsnips and scallions, are easy to propagate from cuttings.  


"Please pass the NaCl," said no one, ever, at the dinner table.  But you could teach your child the chemical symbol for salt as well as "H2O."  Another chemistry-related topic came up just this week in our fifth-grader's science homework:  when you cook an egg, is the change a chemical one or a physical one?  (Answer:  although there are physical changes, it's considered a chemical change because, once cooked, you cannot change the egg back into its original state.). Carmelization and burning are also chemical changes.  Also, the Maillard reaction (or browning) is easily shown.  

If you save, rinse and dry eggshells for pounding with a mortar and pestle or crushing up by hand, the children can add the calcium carbonate to plants.  If you save scraps and eggshells for composting, look up a little about the chemistry of that.

If the kids really seem to be interested, check out this page!  Or for a lesson plan for a simple experiment of how the taste of a cracker changes in your mouth over time, see this page.


My husband the physicist is constantly nerding out about simple machines in the kitchen.  It turns out there are some good videos about this, relating knives, graters and can openers to these simple machines.  Simple machines in the kitchen in one and here is another. If you really want to delve into this topic, the creator of the first video goes into more detail here.

You might wonder out loud why the baking times for a cake are different if the pan is glass rather than metal (they conduct heat differently) or point out that the boiling water on the stove is evaporating (two states of matter).  Another simple heat demonstration is to show that a wooden trivet under a hot pot protects the dining table or countertop better than, say, a thin sheet of aluminum foil (don't ruin the table or countertop, though!).  

Books for YOU

If you are really getting interested in this topic, there are several good books for adult food geeks out there.  Here are just two:

EDITED TO ADD:  Just for fun, try this---maybe it could even work with a plastic knife that's safe?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Montessori Book Review: One Mom's Journey to Her Son's Autism Diagnosis and Treatment

As a Doctor, She Saw the Signs but Nobody Would Listen

At First Her Baby Boy Was Developing Normally

From Feeling Helpless to Recognizing a Special Connection and Later a Miracle

Children with special needs can benefit from therapeutic horseback riding.

Years before opening her first school in San Lorenzo, Dr. Maria Montessori studied and worked with children with special needs.  She spent two years training teachers in her unique way of observing and educating, always experimenting with what methods were the best at helping the children develop.

Today careful observation and a thorough knowledge of child development are foundational to the Montessori method.  That's one reason why trained teachers will often spot atypical development very early on--long before others will pick up on it.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a great example of a condition that a keen observer may suspect at an early age.  A person with ASD has challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, all of which may be observed while a child is a baby or toddler.  That's what mother and author Suzanne S. Cleland-Zamudio, M.D., described in her book, Evolution of a Miracle:  A Medical Family's Journey Through Autism.  

In it, Cleland-Zamudio described her son Antonio, who went from hitting all of his neurological milestones at 1 year old to regressing by 18 months.  Her concerns grew and grew as he developed, but the specialists she took him to reassured her that he was fine.  The fact that he was non-verbal, had big tantrums, and rocked back and forth worried her, so she persisted in getting a diagnosis.  He was extremely sensitive to any change in his routine, he screamed when she washed his hair, he insisted on wearing the same clothes.....the list went on and on.  As a doctor, she knew this wasn't normal development.

Luckily, Antonio was finally diagnosed, getting the therapy and interventions he needed to improve his chances of progress.  Eventually the horseback riding his mother did as a hobby became a wonderful outlet for him, too, and Cleland-Zamudio and her husband founded a therapeutic riding center for people of all sorts of abilities.

I am not a doctor, but as a mom and a 
part-time teacher I can count several families I know of whose child has been diagnosed with ASD and other families on the journey to diagnosis.  That doesn't include acquaintances who have been diagnosed as adults (which is more common in women), families whose child has a developmental disorder which share some overlapping traits with autism, or those families who, I suspect, have at least one child on the spectrum but who are not seeking diagnosis.  That's a lot. 

It's important to add that some individuals with ASD are diagnosed later, either because their symptoms are less obvious and/or intrusive, or because they are very good at mimicking their typically developing peers in order to blend in (this is called masking).  If they make eye contact, have acquired typical language skills and don't have any outwards behaviors like hand flapping or spinning, their neurological differences may not be as apparent.  They also may not regress.  But they can still struggle to fit in at school, work, and with peers, and are at risk of much higher rates of anxiety and depression than their typically developing peers.  Sometimes their sensory sensitivities make everyday background noise distractingly loud or irritating, or the gentle breeze on an uncovered arm excruciatingly painful.  You can imagine how activities we take for granted--relaxed chitchat in a restaurant, playful wrestling on the playground--may be draining and overwhelming.

I think this topic is important for Montessorians three reasons:

  1. Montessori preschools begin at age 2.5, a good age for observing a child's development and assessing critical areas, such as language, social skills, and self-regulation.
  2. There is a growing interest in Montessori homeschooling.  Parents need to recognize red flags when their child's development is atypical so that diagnosis and early intervention can help the child early on.  Resources such as this one are important to share.
  3. Parents oftentimes cannot see their own child's development objectively and may need to hear concerns from an outside source.  Among teachers, Montessorians are particularly well-trained in observation and in child development, making us important people in a child's life.
In some ways a Montessori classroom can be a very supportive environment for those on the spectrum (for instance, there are lessons in Grace and Courtesy similar to social stories and scripting they may otherwise be practicing in therapy); in other ways the Montessori approach may not provide some of the supports some children thrive with, such as behavior charts and rewards or a highly-structured schedule.  How to best accommodate special needs students is definitely a hot topic on professional discussion groups and public forums right now.

Thanks to the internet and social media:
  • there are TONS of Youtube channels now produced by families with children on the Autism Spectrum, many of which share early videos of their child's behaviors--the very ones that lead to diagnosis.  
  • even though the pandemic has kept some concerned families home instead of seeking an evaluation in person, there are Telehealth sessions in many places.  Both evaluations and therapies may be available right from your own living room.
If you are concerned your child may be on the spectrum, this guide gives suggestions about what you can do about it.  Careful observation and sticking to the facts of typical development will be your best guides.

Montessori at Home: Practical Skills in the Kitchen--Opening Cans, Measuring Spices, Equivalencies

Pantry Full of Canned Goods, But Can You Open Them?

And How Do You Shove a Tablespoon into the Chili Powder Jar?

Problem Solving, Occupational Therapy and Executive Function Skills in the Kitchen

Does your child know how to open the can of kidney beans?

It was September 1977, an autumn day on Princeton University's campus.  My husband, a new freshman early to his dorm before most students arrived, was thirsty, so he bought a grape soda (that's what they call fizzy drinks in the Midwest).  But he was used to pull tabs and didn't recognize the new stay-tab opening at the top!  ARGH!  Eventually this physics major at an Ivy League college did figure out how to open the drink.  (Here's how.)

Fast-forward to the current pandemic.  My "Armageddon Closet" is full of canned goods, from garbanzo beans and tuna to V8 and coconut milk.  But do my children know how to open any of them?  Should the power go out (ahem--Texas Snowmageddon 2021), could they still whip up some chili and heat it over a fire in the backyard?

Silly as it sounds, I've discovered over the years that this stuff matters.  There are ten different can openers out there (not counting the screw driver on your Swiss Army Knife) and your kids may be hard- pressed to use some of them unless they've been taught.  Add to that, if they are easily frustrated or weak in executive function skills, there are lots of little problems that can be hard to solve in the kitchen.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this mother to a son with cerebral palsy wrote about how many smaller steps go into even simple recipes.  If this is something interesting to you, check out occupational therapy articles on helping the elderly, who can have a lot of the same struggles with the skills of daily living.

In America, 1 T = 3 t

Yesterday I made a new chili recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, The Honeysuckle Cookbook, by Dzung Lewis.  I paid close attention to small "issues" that cropped up as I cooked--things I could imagine a young child would ask for help with:
  • how do you measure out a tablespoon of chili powder when the tablespoon won't fit into the jar? 
  • how do you unwrap the plastic off of this new jar of smoked paprika?
  • how can I scoop out this garlic powder when there's this plastic grill thing on the shaker?
  • how do you use a church key?
  • etc.
(For the record, my husband's answer to these questions is usually, "Easy!  Just dump out the spices and measure what you need."  But that's wasteful and messy, so .....). Not only are these good life skills to teach your kids before they leave for college, but you can easily incorporate math and tons of other subjects while cooking (chemistry, geography, etc).

So enjoy this video of how to make Smoky Slow-Cooker Chili!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Montessori at Home: Sourdough Hacks

Five Sourdough Tips

To Overcome Epic Fails

Don't Give Up!

omg this smells so amazing....

One of my most vivid memories from Montessori school as a child was of making whole wheat bread in tiny little loaves.  The smell was TANTALIZING and filled the whole classroom for hours.  I had never eaten homemade, warm, fresh bread before,  but it wasn't until fifty years later (during the pandemic!) that I've had it again on any kind of regular basis.  

Thanks to Youtube and Facebook I've learned a lot of trouble-shooting tips--things I normally wouldn't have the time or patience to learn.  So I'm passing these along to you!

  • During the winter, when the house may be very dry, oil some plastic wrap and place on top of dough before the bulk rise.  I also covered with damp towel (probably overkill) and then covered the bowl with a snug-fitting shower cap.

  • Put a cookie sheet on the lower rack under the rack you're baking on.
  • Preheat your dutch oven and lid.
  • Use a spray bottle of water to mist the top of dough right before baking.
  • This last tip is tricky.  Normally you are supposed to bake this bread for 20 minutes in the dutch oven with the lid on, 30 minutes with the lid off, and an additional 10 minutes without the dutch oven, where the loaf sits directly on the rack.  But this can sometimes lead to overbaking.  I recommend using a digital thermometer like this or this to check the bread's temperature right before the last step.  If it's at 208 degrees Fahrenheit, it's ready.  Especially if you'll be reheating or toasting slices of this bread later, this temp will keep if from being too dried out.  Of course it's fine to leave it in for the last 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it.  You want it crispy but not crazy crispy!

I used a recipe for Everyday Sourdough from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa.  And while you can use a sharp knife or razor to score the dough, my Mother's Day gift last year was this lame.  

Here's a video recapping some of these tips, starting with the morning after you've done an 8-10 hour bulk rise.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Montessori at Home: Practical Life, the Kitchen and Preparing Food

Kitchens invite and unite

Purposeful, repetitive activity with adult supervision

Child and adult have a different pace, cleaning up spills can be "bonus" lesson

By age 4, a child can already do a lot in the kitchen.  Having an apron can help signal the start of important work with Mom or Dad.  

The first Montessori schools were mixed-aged communities of small children in a home-like environment.  Students were given demonstrations in many Practical Life activities, from washing their hands and brushing their hair to washing dishes and polishing shoes.  These "works" had many steps with a logical order to them, and they assisted the students in many ways:  they helped them fit into a community while growing in independence, they helped them become more coordinated and more dexterous, and they formed the foundation for more complex works to come.

The building blocks for Montessori are something I wager everyone reading this already has:  a kitchen (or hotplate with water source, at least); an appetite (probably at least three times per day); and some ingredients, whether they be donations from the food bank, veggies from the garden, staples purchased with your eWIC card, or the groceries you ordered via Instacart.

Especially if you are "stuck at home" these days, find ways to include young children in some part of food prep at your house.  Maybe it's just humble Hamburger Helper, but start somewhere.  I've noticed that, as the kids get older, they are more and more motivated by complicated and especially delicious recipes, so I'll include one example video below.  In the meantime, you might find this article, written by a cookbook author, interesting.  It's about how making a complicated French dessert with her son, who has cerebral palsy, may have helped him develop executive function.

It makes sense to me that, by following a logical, ordered sequence of steps (a "recipe") a child is practicing many skills.  But think of all of the other benefits:  yummy food, the pride of helping make dinner, a family member who will be a little more likely to eat what's served tonight.  And there will be a lot of language exchanged between you and your child while cooking together.  ("Why can't we eat the peel of a banana?")  And problem solving.  ("That measuring spoon is dirty but maybe we can use another?"). 

If there's a spill, all the better!  Stop to clean it up together, or show your child where the supplies are to do so.  Consider it a bonus lesson.

Don't limit yourself to a kids' cookbook or dumbed down recipes.  Yesterday I made a Salmon Corn Chowder from The Honeysuckle Cookbook.  Making it entailed planning ahead (ordering the groceries we needed and checking to see that we had enough of the spices called for); doing the exhausting physical work of peeling, chopping, dicing in the morning while I was fresh; and putting it together late in the day, just in time for dinner.  That kind of "adulting" is an example of the kind of executive function we hope our children will develop one day.  But planning, multitasking, working through frustrations towards a goal and problem solving develop over time and through practice.

While I wouldn't want a small child around sharp knives, there are many alternatives.  Children can peel, and then they can use a crinkle cutter.  You can make some tasks (such as dicing) easier for them by flattening out some veggies (such as carrots) and showing them how crinkle cutting a semi-circle of carrot can be the same as dicing.

Also, if you have many children, none of whom have cooked before, don't try to do this all together.  Begin by taking one child at a time and get a feel for what sort of safety hazards may be a concern for his or her age and personality.  

Check out this video of the steps for this soup.  It's delicious and will last us at least two nights!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Montessori Practical Life at Home: Using Tools in the Kitchen to Make Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Look for Ways to Use Various Tools in the Kitchen

This Recipe Uses Your Brown Bananas AND Employs 3 Tools

Develops Hand Strength, Dexterity and Results in Yummy Snack

When I ran my small in-home Montessori school many years ago we made banana bread and pancakes a lot.  Although my daughter doesn't remember it, I'm sure it contributed to her skill and knowledge in the kitchen today, as a teen.  If you can find a complicated recipe that involves many steps and at least a couple of tools, you can a) involve more than one helper, and b) employ more than one tool.  The Moosewood Cookbook (see below) banana bread recipe was plenty complicated, and delicious!  But back to today's recipe:  Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Kids Love the First Step:  Mashing

I think this book is out of print, but let me know in the comments if you'd like the recipe.
The potato masher requires a sort of cave man grip.

For Whisking Teach Them to Hold the Bowl with One Hand

A whisk is held in a different way (sorry I couldn't hold it and take photos at the same time!).

Using a Manual Hand Mixer is Fun

And using this hand mixer uses both hands.

I ran out of hands to use the mixer AND photograph, so here's a video clip of my husband helping.  It's actually really hard to use this mixer once you add the flour!

Scooping and Arranging the Dough

This could become a lesson in math I guess?  Multiplication.

And once you start eating the cookies, it's a lesson in subtraction!

If you'd like to read more about activities that can develop hand strength and dexterity, here is just one example of an article with ideas.

Montessori at Home: Practical Life--Oiling Wood

Wooden Cutting Boards, Utensils Need TLC

An Easy Way a Small Child Can Maintain Wooden Tools at Home

I Saved a Cracked Cutting Board in Order to Show How Bad Drying Out Can Get

Among the gazillion little jobs around the house that you may be doing seasonally, oiling your wooden cutting boards and kitchen utensils ranks up there among some of the safer, easier ones to delegate to young'uns.  If your child has already been introduced to Wood Polishing (a Practical Life work in the Montessori classroom), this work will feel familiar.  But there's an added utility to presenting this work:  family members who've had this lesson may think twice before throwing your wooden spoons and bowls in the dishwasher.  If this becomes a popular work in your home, go out of your way to pick up more wooden items that you might use (confession:  I guess we don't actually use our crepe batter spreader that much, but everything else gets a workout).  When I went about looking for wooden utensils in my kitchen I was surprised how many I had, and actually keep finding more in the drawers! 

Wood bowls, utensils and cutting boards are beautiful to have in the home kitchen, and teaching children how to care for these materials is something that may not occur to you.  If there is a dramatic difference in the condition of the wood before and after oiling, all the better!  So if your wooden objects are already in great shape, keep your eyes peeled the next time you are at an estate sale or thrift shop.  The worse the condition, the more satisfying it will be for the child to restore it.

This can be fun to work on because you need to get into all of those grooves.  Also, many children won't know the name of this tool (it's a citrus reamer), so you can incorporate simple language work into this activity.  Look for reamers that aren't pointy or plan on sanding down the tip in advance.

This oil is food safe, odorless and tasteless.  

"Ouch!  See what can happen when the wood dries out!"

Montessori Practical Life at Home--Two Ways to Make Banana Pudding

Food Prep:  Bananas Two Ways

Both Begin with Banana Slicing, Which Toddlers Can Do!

Find Ways Children Can Be Independent at Snack Time or Help You Make Dessert

Both of these banana dishes came from cookbooks from the nineties, so they may be hard to find (but see below if you want to buy used copies).   The first is a simple and straightforward snack that would be great for mid-morning or the afternoon munchies.  I used a small applesauce that's in our "school lunch" stash, but you could easily have a child use some from a larger jar of store-bought applesauce or make your own (that's another video on another day!).  Be aware:  peeling open these containers may be tricky, so I would suggest starting the opening process when setting up your snack area in the early morning.

Here are the steps laid out as index cards.  You can create these easily for any snack.

Banana Yogurt Pudding Sequence

Applesauce lid already "started" a bit, two sizes of measuring spoons out, fork and grapefruit knife ready to go.  Any safe serrated knife will do, even a disposable one.  The knife is not pointy, so that's not a safety concern, but you should point out the teeth, explaining that the back-and-forth motion can really cut--even a finger!  (Oops I forgot the yogurt. Set that out, too, unless it's going to spoil in a heat.  You could try setting the yogurt in a bowl of ice.) 

Slice in half.  You could also just provide a banana half to begin with.

Mash with fork.

Measure and add applesauce.

Stir together with fork.

Measure and add yogurt.

Mix together and eat!  This was surprisingly sweet and yummy.

Banana Chocolate Chip Pudding

Oopsie--This Was Supposed to Be Banana Bread (See Video)

But it Was Delicious and Gluten-Free Without the Flour, as a Pudding!

Apparently learning how to film while baking was a bit too much for me, so I forgot a very important ingredient to the banana bread.  But no worries--it came out delicious as banana pudding!  We enjoyed eating it straight, as a dessert, and also put it on top of ice cream.  A good lesson in "happy accidents"!  Also, in order to mash the banana I used two different kitchen tools:  the potato masher and the pastry knife.  It's always nice to find an excuse to introduce new tools and for the child to have to use various grips.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

What Happened to Common Sense? What Happened to Boundaries?

It's Time to Say No

Who's in charge here?!

Toddlers need boundaries and consistency, firmness and warmth, clarity and authority

Several years ago--when our town still had large, open bookstores big enough to have multiple floors, an elevator, and a cafe--I witnessed a parenting goof (not my own, this time!) that felt like a perfect illustration of how dangerous it can be when adults forget how to say no to very small children.  A lady with a newborn in a bulky stroller and a toddler in tow was making her way to the elevator on the basement level of the store, trying to walk with this small boy but not able to both hold his hand and simultaneously steer the stroller.  As she tried to walk past the large set of stairs going up to the main street level, the little boy began to balk, saying he wanted to climb the stairs and NOT ride the elevator.  She lukewarmly seemed to be negotiating or haggling with him.   I was too far away to offer to help and it happened so fast--I was paying attention largely because we had experienced a scary elevator separation thingy with our impulsive toddler once!--the mom got onto the elevator with the huge stroller and doors began to close while the toddler bolted up the stairs, stairs that led to the first floor and automatic doors that opened out to cars and traffic.  

So the lady was torn between grabbing the stroller, already tucked into an otherwise empty elevator, doors closing now, or dashing over and snatching the renegade, who was swiftly scrambling upwards.  It seemed like time slowed down, everyone in the vicinity held their breath, and watched in speechless horror.

I don't remember who saved the day, but some kind stranger closeby helped unite the three of them, much to the lady's relief (and mine).  Lesson taken:  toddlers don't recognize danger and can be VERY FAST when they want to be, so gird yourself with vigilance, firmness and authority next time you go out with one! 

Fast forward to today.  It has become even harder for parents to say no, thanks to the swing of the parenting pendulum from "dictatorial"/authoritative to "pushover"/permissive.  For the past several years it has been considered SO MEAN to say no to children, both for teachers and parents. We bend over backwards to find alternatives to no, much to the detriment of common sense.  Sometimes new teachers are even coached to never say no.

Back in 2016 I wrote this short piece about this phenomenon, but there is a brand new Youtube video called, "It's Time to Say No" that's well worth checking out.  This is a conversation with Claudia Alvarez, a Montessori guide of more than 25 years. The main take aways are to be ready to say no authoritatively whenever safety is at stake, and whenever a toddler is a new member of the classroom.  In a class, for the first four to six weeks be ready to dole out plenty of no's in order to establish clear, consistent boundaries so that the young child knows what's acceptable and NOT acceptable.  Keep words to a minimum and save long-winded explanations and discussions of emotions for older children.

Alvarez also gave an example of when she was a young mother attending a parenting class with her small daughter.  When her daughter cried and carried on about something insignificant, the teacher trainer said something that was hard to hear:  "This is an adult problem."  In other words, as the mother Alvarez had to learn to say no to her daughter, providing clear, consistent boundaries.  

The host of this program, Jesse McCarthy, echoed many of his guest's sentiments, adding that he has never been a big fan of Positive Discipline, an approach to disciplining young children often recently touted by many in the Montessori community.  In an upcoming blog post I'll review a book I admire that shares McCarthy's dim view of Positive Discipline.  

It's refreshing to see hear some common sense coming from this community!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Montessori at Home: Making Up Novel Works

Reframe Your Everyday Tasks

Put on Your "Montessori Practical Life" Glasses

Break Tasks into Discrete Steps

It's muddy here during the winter.  We have a ginormous indoor dog, Moses.  He goes out two or three times per day in the backyard and would track mud into the house if we let him.  Instead, we've taken this empty Clorox wipes container, filled it with water, and when he's done his business he sits so that we can dip and wipe his paws.  We've also used a small tub and poured water out of a pitcher to accomplish the same thing, but this is easier and faster.  It's also less prone to big spills (just little spills).

(Yes, he's wearing the Cone of Shame due to recent hot spots.)

What are some everyday tasks that you do almost automatically?  Can you break them into simple steps so that anyone in the house can do them?