A TODDLER SIZED TABLE & NEW ACTIVITIES

If you have been following along in my journal, I mentioned a few posts back that my mom has a wonderful basement full of treasures, especially for entertaining. Well, we were talking earlier this fall about me purchasing a table for my 2 year old to "work" at and "have snack" at near the kitchen -where I am always working myself. And I was all ready to hit Lakeshore Learning or similar for the preschool sized table, when she had an idea. Buried under some other small tables, was an enamel top table that was perfect in size, shape and look with the exception of the legs being too tall for my 2 year old. "Take my saw!" she exclaimed. See how resourceful your mother can be?

Once I took a look at the table, with it's white enamel top and antique drawer knob- I was sold! So much more my style (and price) and would fit in nicely with our other home decor. I feel this is especially important in an older home (built in the 19 century), with fewer rooms on the first floor. We don't have a family room on the first floor or any play room near the kitchen, but we have a large dining room and living room. Here you will find the vintage table, with my 2 year old's favorites. I like to keep the items out for him minimal, and more in line with the Montessori aesthetic, like we do for our Montessori learning space. Actually Montessori activities and materials are meant to be seamless within the home space, just sized for the child.

Every once in awhile I will flip through the Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids or Ikea catalog and think "Oh that all goes together so perfectly for a play room or activity space..." feeling slightly defeated. And then I stop and look around, realizing that my style is more natural, eclectic, and maybe slightly imperfect. We like the "less is more"  and "having objects with history" type of philosophy, just like this vintage table.

On the newly re-purposed table you will find my busy toddler with:

a mix of architectural blocks from two sets one by Haba &  another by Noblesse in a thrifted wooden tray |  new wooden camera sized so perfectly for his hands | cute book about a toddler boy getting big | a version of the Montessori metal insets in a thrifted wooden bowl

 

 

 

 

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE

 

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE  Gluten Free, Vegan, Soy free

I really was craving chocolate. To be honest, my "chocolate dessert" over the last 2 years of being on this allergy free diet has consisted of either a brownie or a handful of dairy free chocolate chips. I have been missing the other types of chocolate dessert. Enter my husband- he loves chocolate mousse.  He suggested we find something in the pudding or mousse category to whip up. So I scoured the internet looking for a recipe that was vegan, gluten free AND soy free. It is pretty difficult. But then I found this simple and OH SO Delicious recipe by Marly from Namely Marly. Coconut milk saves the day! And without an overly coconut taste. AMAZING.  I used the same pie crust recipe that I use for my apple pie. My pie crust recipe can be found here. The only thing I changed, was to add an extra 1 TBsp of Earth Balance, soy-free butter to the dough. The recipe for the chocolate pie filling can be found here. I would top this off with some coconut whipped cream, recipe here. Our entire family ate the same chocolate dessert. And that is also rare.

A LITTLE AUTUMN IN FELT

Last week I started to set up the Montessori shelves for my toddler. I decided to purposely keep a few of his wooden toys on the shelves first, and then to slowly add some of the new Montessori works in the coming days and weeks. I want him to notice the new environment and explore with familiar items. He has totally fell in love with this special place already! It has become a little routine for us to drop off the older boys to school, come home and get our slippers on, mama her 2nd cuppa coffee and head to the third floor family room.

I made one small addition from the leftover felt after last weekend's birthday party. With scraps from the birthday banner and a handmade lizard came little tree tops and leaves for his wooden block set. He is fascinated with the leaves outside, which are only beginning to change and fall here in southern Ohio. He loves to gather them up with his brother's help and then, crumble them and shred them to bits. We are still at that stage, ha, so felt works great for indoors.

This is so simple, and opens up ideas for other nature scenes as the seasons change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SMALL WOODEN VESSEL

My little one was completely smitten with this small wooden vessel that I thrifted for $2. Right away he placed it on the table in front of him, out of the wrapped paper, and pulled off the lid. He looked inside, and actually pretended to pick something up out of it, then looked at me. I laughed inside because I knew what he was thinking, "uh mama shouldn't there be something inside? or no just imagine?" I asked him if he wanted to place something inside. He answered "uh huh, yes!" with a smile. So I cut a few stickers and handed them to him. He placed them inside and then proceeded to open and close and carry the vessel around, looking carefully inside at the stickers each time. He would sometimes remove all of them and place them on the table, then again one by one return them to their storage. This will be a fun item to add to the Montessori space I am putting together for him at home. It is a great way to exercise fine motor skills in grasping the small lid and placing it carefully onto the bowl. Inside it might house something to count.

This reminded me of how little ones tend to love the box that the toy comes in or the pots and pans that are in your kitchen versus the toy ones.  My boys have always been fascinated with a small jewelry box that sits on my nightstand. It is often the unexpected item or the item that you use as an adult that becomes of interest to the child. Obviously not everything in our home is play worthy or safe for a toddler, but it might be a surprise what you could find. Something as simple as a wooden vessel could spark curiosity. I figure if his interest is fleeting, it only cost me $2 and can serve other purposes. We all know toys and educational supplies can top that in cost, even a box of washable crayons is double the price.

And look how perfectly the small vessel fits into those baby hands!

 

 

CREATING A MONTESSORI SPACE AT HOME

My Montessori Experience

What I love about Montessori is based mostly on my own personal experience. I went to Montessori for the pre-primary years (ages 2.5-5) and then back again for 2nd grade. My two older boys attended for three years each as well. Some of my favorite parts of the Montessori method include: working with simple, natural materials in a prepared, child-sized environment, and having the freedom for a small child to move about the space and learn at their own pace.  This setting fosters independence, and promotes the care and beauty of a learning space.  The lack of sensory overload encourages the importance of concentration, as the child develops an awareness of community and learning practical life skills. I see bits of Montessori style learning everywhere, not just in the school classrooms. I see people pinning on Pinterest ideas to teach their children practical life skills, like tying their own shoelaces and buttoning their own coats (reminding me of how I practiced this skill as a preschooler on the dressing frames). There is an obvious trend towards more natural toys made of wood, instead of plastic as well. I see many pins and blog posts about creating play spaces with a more clean, uncluttered aesthetic.  I like that some mainstream schools are even adopting more student-driven learning through projects, exercising the curiosity and creativity in every student. There are so many ideas and examples out there and I find it all very exciting.

My first memory of my Montessori experience was gardening. I was in a beautiful Montessori space (a school in Yellow Springs, OH) that had a small vegetable garden. As a young 3 year old,  I began planting and harvesting the vegetables with my peers. We would serve fresh garden peas, radishes and other vegetables that we picked for a snack. I remember setting the snack table with real, heavy dishes like at home. I remember these same familiar materials that my children used when in their pre-primary years. One of my favorite lessons in elementary class was learning all the different flags from around the world. The flags were arranged on wooden stands, along with dolls from each country. I remember being able to work on a special project about a specific country I was interested in, doing my own research and self-directed learning. It was a beautiful way to learn.

My baby will be two this winter, and I am starting to see that switch from playing with toys at random, to more purposeful play, like working on puzzles, flipping through books and pretend play with animals. I've also been wanting to tidy up our 3rd floor family room to be a little more functional for everyone. Right now he has toys in baskets and boxes, and there is no organization. I spent some time last week sorting through the toys and packing away the baby toys, the ones I know he doesn't play with anymore. I was honestly sad to see his soft infant toys packed up. (tears)

Preparing the Montessori Environment

I have decided to switch some furniture around and continue our Montessori learning in that space. When my parents were downsizing, I snatched up the two custom bookshelves with matching toy chest that my Mom had made for my sisters and I when we were young. They were Montessori inspired and have been holding books only thus far. These two shelves will be the foundation of the space for my toddler plus a tiny drop-leaf table (I know?!!) that I picked up before I had any children. (Yes I shopped before having kids for my future kids!) It needs a little sprucing up, should I paint it ivory? Or should I sand it and stain back to a wood finish?

I went to an antique thrift store last week looking for some natural, reusable materials for the space (see all that beauty above?). I was mostly looking for small containers, trays or baskets to hold materials for him. I really lucked out and after a thorough search found a few more pieces in addition to what I was looking for: a small wooden easel for his artwork, 2 small framed pieces of art to hang at his eye level, an adorable nesting doll, a set of wooden fruit and a carved wooden maraca. This was all for.... $36!

I will also add a few things we already have, along with 1-2 specific Montessori items. My goal is to create a beautiful learning space, scaled to his size, with interesting materials that will engage him and encourage exploration and spark his curiosity. My older two boys are excited to participate and help with this Montessori space. We have some really exciting projects for creating materials with their help! I will be posting about this little space over the next few weeks.

A little more inspiration?

Here is my Montessori Pinterest board and also this website is great if you want more general information on the Montessori philosophy. Read this  and watch this to take a peek at the many well-known, creative and inventive people who were former Montessori students! And one of my favorite online friends (now local friends-yay!) is a Montessori teacher (among many other fabulous titles) and she shares bits about it all here.