I Carried a Watermelon

IMG_0851.JPGHave you ever noticed once a young child can walk he picks up the largest and heaviest things he can and tries to carry them across the room? Why is that? This is what we call Maximum Effort. This is the fascinating phase that children go through to challenge themselves around a specific emerging skill. This phase lasts throughout childhood and presents differently as children grow.

Examples of Maximum Effort:


It is important to recognize these efforts in your child and allow him to explore his own capabilities. There will be moments of success. There will be moments of failure. And there will be moments when he will challenge himself to try again. Making mistakes is an important way to accelerate learning. Research shows self-control and perseverance are predictors of success later in life.  

If we as parents can foster these moments, while giving clear guidelines, we support our children’s natural curiosity. “Yes, you may jump outside” (not on the furniture;-) ); “yes, you may practice balancing the beanbag (not that antique vase); “I hear what you are saying and I have a different perspective on this.” Encouraging our children in this way Helps them keep lit a passion to explore the world. This is what leads to true education.

What moments of maximum effort have you seen in your own children?

Bread; a time to connect

My son Edison and I have been baking together ever since he could stand at the counter.  We used a Learning Tower in our small galley kitchen, and it was just what he needed to comfortably and safely help me in the kitchen.  One of our favorite recipes was the bread recipe I learned to make in my Montessori Training. He has it memorized now and often wakes up on Saturday mornings wanting to start the day by making bread.

Image from aidtolife.org

7 reasons to let your child bake bread:

1. He appreciates the hard work of kneading warm dough

2. He has developed the patience to wait through a second rise cycle

3. He has internalized the chemistry of the yeast, water, and sugar

4. He enjoys the taste of freshly baked bread

5. He fails sometimes and takes note of what might have happened, so that he can fix it for next time.

6. It is a process that takes at least three hours.

7. It makes the house smell great.

Check out this website for more ideas for you and your child in the kitchen!

Here is our recipe for bread (pizza dough, rolls, calzones, breadsticks…)

1 cup warm water

3/4 cup sugar

3 tsp active dry yeast

3 cups flour

1 Tbs olive oil

Mix water yeast and sugar.  Set aside for 15 minutes.  Add flour and olive oil.  Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel. Place in a warm location and let rise for 1 hour.

Knead the dough on a floured surface.  Place it back in oiled bowl, cover and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.  Knead the dough one last time, place it in a greased loaf pan and bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Enjoy together!

A Book for the Holiday

Explaining any Holiday to young children can be difficult. Books are often helpful as they offer words and pictures to connect the experiences a child is having. Although there are many books about Thanksgiving, rarely have I found one that is appropriate for a young child. Most Thanksgiving books describe the origins of the Thanksgiving meal. Although this is important information to pass on, it may be too soon for children under three. I find it is much more appropriate to discuss what it means to be thankful and then discuss for what we might be thankful.

The book Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland http://amzn.to/1xULht0 is the perfect book for children under three. It is clear, diverse in its illustration of family and friends, and the perfect length.

Christmas Elves

I have seen the many mischievous scenarios of the Elf on the Shelf on Facebook over the last couple of years. I have watched as my friends and family have been so creative in creating new scenes of chaos.

This year my 8 year old asked if we had an Elf on the Shelf. I told him no, we have never had one. He hears from his friends at school that the elf is watching and he has been curious why we don’t have an elf watching.

It just isn’t a tradition I want to incorporate into our holiday season. I haven’t put much thought into it, just that it didn’t seem right for our family.

As many of you know, in Montessori we put emphasis in helping a child adapt to his time and place in this world; cultural adaptation. As I think if this, I think about how the Elf on the Shelf has won a prominent place in our winter holiday culture.

I came across this blog post the other day and was delighted to see a new option.

I’m wondering if the Elf on the Shelf is here to stay…

Being a mom makes me a better person

I would like to rename this article to “10 ways having kids makes you a better person.”


There are so many many more.

6 Tips for a Happy Halloween

Halloween may be my favorite Holiday. I don’t like to dress up, and I don’t celebrate in my classroom. But as a family, we really enjoy decorating and making costumes. I think it is a time to really let your imagination go.

This can be tricky as the parent of young children. Although we may enjoy this holiday as adults, it can be difficult for young children to understand, as children before the age of 6 are grounded in reality and have yet to experience the incredible expansion of the imagination that happens between ages 6 and 12.

Here are a few tips that might make halloween go a little smoother.
1. Include your child in the decorating. Invite them to help you string the spider webs across the front walk or place the pumpkins on the steps. This can demystify some of the spookiness. This year we have added a grave yard and two spooky ghosts. In the next week we hope to also add a giant spider web, a black widow spider and spider egg sacks all around out front door. See tutorial here. http://www.marthastewart.com/853603/spider-egg-sac
2. Give your child 2-3 costume options before making or buying one. I have my children explain their costume and I ask colors, textures, lengths…all before my trip to the fabric store. For those of you still trying to find the right costume for your toddler, you’ll enjoy this flowchart

3. Do not choose a costume with a hood or hat if your child doesn’t usually like to wear hats. Some kids like to wear hats, some don’t. If your child does not like hats, nothing will change for Halloween.
4. Walk the neighborhood in the daylight once the decorations are up. Taking a walk to examine the neighborhood decorations before venturing out to trick-or-treat can help sooth any potential fears.
5. Tell your child what to expect when trick-or-treating. Even if this is not his first time, explain that he will carry his bag, knock on the door, say trick-or-treat to whomever answers the door and say thank you when he receives a treat. In Montessori we call this a lesson in Grace and Courtesy.
6. Have fun. Don’t feel like you have to go to every house or even eat the candy.

Happy Halloween!

The Center

boston_creme_donutMaria Montessori wrote that the the center of the child can not be touched and that we, as the adults in his life can only affect the periphery.  In my first Montessori training course my trainer drew a picture as she explained this.

She wrote the word child, drew a circle around it, then she drew a larger circle around that and wrote periphery along the edge of the circle.

I think of this image often when I have conversations with my children. Especially during frustrating conversations.   Continue reading “The Center”