Starting School

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First Day of School

The start of the school year is an exciting time; full of anticipation and new experiences! It can also be a stressful time of year.  Parents and children will be learning new routines and procedures and learning to welcome new members into their community (teachers and other families).

If your child is starting school for the first time this fall, here are a few tips to get him/her ready:
1. Talk about it, but not too much. It is important that you let your child know that she is starting school, but talking about it too much can create unneeded anxiety.  This can be difficult because you are excited about the start of school, but because your child does not yet know what that means, she may get stressed if you focus on it.
2. Drive to the school. It is nice to have an outing that is just a drive to the school.  Children come to know their trip to school very well, and this can help relieve worries for them on the first day of school.  About a week before school starts say, “we are going to drive to your school today.” Drive the route you plan to take on the first day of school.
3. Have her help pack her things. The school will provide a list of things she will need.  Make sure all her clothing items are labeled and invite her to help you count and put the items she needs in a bag.
4. Visit the school if they have an opportunity. Many schools offer an open house style visit before school starts.  Take the time to go with your child. Do not stay too long, it’s best if she leaves wanting more and interested to return.
5. Relax and enjoy this moment.  This is a milestone in your lives!  Take a moment to acknowledge it.  Trust in your decision to send her to school, and enjoy your reconnection when she comes home.
Have a great school year!

Demo Classes are good for all!

bakingToday and tomorrow we are hosting free sample classes at Studio June.  It is such a wonderful time for me to meet new families and introduce them to the wonderful possibilities of Montessori.  I learn so much about local families and the support they need to strengthen our community.
Here are just a few of the topics I got to discuss with families today:
1. The series of Montessori Mobiles and how they support the development of concentration and the strengthening of eye muscles.
2. The need for sensorial exploration with the mouth and the benefits of offering toys made of natural materials.
3. The importance of a full length mirror and when a baby recognizes his reflection.
4. Purposeful grasp and intentional release.
5. Independence in art explorations.
6. Plant care with young children and the benefits for a young child in caring for plants and animals.
7. The importance of building community with parents and their young children.
A wonderful, wonderful day!   Thank you Houston families and I look forward to sharing more with you tomorrow.

These Labels are Helping Me Think Clearly

tableIt seems that many adults are drawn to Montessori education as parents or as a teaching career because the organization of it all.  When you pass by a Montessori environment, the shelves are neat and tidy, the activities are color-coded, and everything is in its proper place.
This brings a sense of peace to many people.
This is true for the young child, and this is why Montessori puts such and emphasis on the order of the environment. Young children are building themselves and their understanding of their world from what surrounds them.  This is why we take such great care in offering external order to help the child build internal order and ordered thoughts.  There is nothing more frustrating that trying to complete a task, but finding your tools are not where you thought they should be.  Yet nothing more satisfying than finding your tools in just their perfectly ordered space.
One way you can support your child’s need for order is to create an ordered system for storing clothing.  Although there are many beautiful dressers and wardrobes for sale, a young child is easily overwhelmed by this large furniture and does better with a simple set of drawers.
drawersStores like Target, the Container Store, and Amazon sell sets of three plastic drawers.  They work fine as is, or you can add decorative knobs just by drilling holes.
Next, label each drawer with a picture by printing or drawing what is in the drawer.  Categories that generally work are:
     tops
     bottoms
     underwear
     socks
     pajamas
     swimsuitsScreen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.35.14 PM
Place each label on the outside of the drawer and add three of each item to its corresponding drawer.
Now introduce the drawers to your child the next time he needs to change.
     Show him the pictures and name each one
     Show him how to open and close a drawer
     Ask him to find the picture of the clothing item he needs
     Allow him to choose from the drawer.
Allowing you child access to his clothing and empowering him to choose items for himself lays the foundation for selfcare, encourages personal responsibility, and builds his self confidence as he learns to satisfy his own needs.

Fun in the Kitchen

baking with GrandmaI have fond memories of cooking with my mom when I was young.  I also have  memories of cooking with my grandmothers.  What a gift these memories are.  I have tried to continue the legacy by inviting my children to cook with me from very early on.  All three joined me in the kitchen once they could stand.  We started with washing fruits and veggies.  They could stand at the sink and wash fruits and veggies while I chopped and prepared dinner.  It wasn’t long before they wore choosing and preparing their own recipes.  We had a few key tools that helped the process:

An apron Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.02.05 PMA strainer for the sink
Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.01.21 PMA bowl for veggies

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Potty Learning Season

Over lunch this week, a friend asked, “How is work going?”  I responded, “It’s busy. It’s Potty Learning season.”  We both laughed at the term, and she asked why would there be a season for such a thing.  SJ-toiletThe truth is, summer is such a perfect time to start the potty learning process.  First, it is a time of year you can let your child go bare-bottomed.  This often makes the process move more quickly, as a child without pants and underwear (or diaper) can more easily feel a trickle down his leg, and is less hindered when he actually makes it to the potty.  Secondly, many parents are trying to get a jump start before school is in session in the fall.  Many schools now have the requirement that children be potty trained, or well on their way.  So, I formally am declaring summer: Potty Learning Season 😉   (although I strongly believe potty learning should start any time of year that your find yourself ready)

If you need support figuring out when and how to start your Potty Learning routine, contact us at Studio June.  We offer Potty Learning Camp, Private Potty Learning Support in your home, and Potty Learning Phone Consultations.  You can also get started by ordering our Potty Learning Guide; Toilet Awareness.

Montessori Camp? What’s That?

puzzleThis week we started a summer of week-long camps.  This is a new concept for Studio June and pushes us outside our box a little.  Why is that? In order to create summer camps, we needed to make sure we are still fulfilling our mission to bring Montessori to more families in an authentic way. There are a few key Montessori concepts we considered as we were designing our camps:

  1. Does it build community?
  2. Does it offer opportunities for concentration?
  3. Does it support language development?
  4. Are there meaningful opportunities for purposeful work?
  5. Does it support the child’s independence?

Here is how we answered those questions:

  1. Build Community: By creating a small group of 6 families that come together daily we are able to support the building of new relationships.  Children share in a community snack and sit together at a large table, sharing a family-style meal. The parents and children come to know each other, work together, and make connections to set up playdates outside of Studio June.
  2. Concentration: We designed a 1.5 hour class that allows the children to explore at their own pace.  During the work period children, explore, choose independently, and work with
    sorting-carsan activity as long as they wish.  Our eye-hand coordination, practical life, and language materials encourage engagement and repetition.
  3. Language Enrichment: All of our language materials and framed art on the walls are themed to the weekly topic.  We took the concept of using a season or Holiday to focus sets of activities and developed language opportunities for a specific theme.  For example; Trucks and Trains week has objects and cards for different train cars, objects for different types of trucks (including a replica of a taco truck – very appropriate for Houston), and road and railroad signs. 
  4. Purposeful Work: Because the activities have real purpose, the children are drawn to them, and challenge their skills to complete the tasks over and over again.  We see this in window washing, hand washing, flower arranging…all staples of a bustling Montessori community for young children.
  5. Independence: In order to maximize independence we have provided each child with their own cubby, labeled with their name, and a truck unique to their cubby.  Here they can keep anyindependent-eating belongings they bring to Studio June and paper cuttings or paintings they make during their time here.  Children are encouraged to carry items on their own, set their own place for snack and serve themselves during snack.  We see the independence growing everyday.

If you have not had a chance to sign up, our June camps are full however, we have a few openings in our July camps; Feathered Friends, Fun in the Kitchen, Furry Friends, and Garden Plants and Critters.

For those of you not in the Studio June area, we have created a weekly mini camp you can do right at home.  Check out our weekly newsletter to follow our camp schedule and bring it home.

To the Beach!

carseatThe beach can be such a great place for a young child to explore.  They love all the new objects to find, birds to see, and the occasional jelly fish (depending on where you are beaching it!)  I encourage everyone to find a moment to visit a beach this summer, whether it is on the shore of a lake or the edge of the ocean, it is worth the trip for your young one.  Of course, there are must haves like sunscreen, sun hats, and snacks, but here are a few tips to ensure that the trip will be more fun than work: 

  1. Inflatable pool: My older sister recommended this to me before our first trip to Florida years ago.  Thanks Amy!  Purchase a small inflatable pool and have it on the beach next to your blanket.  Fill it with warm water from the lake or ocean.  This can be a way for young children to experience the water if they are intimidated by the waves.  They will eventually make their way to the shore, and this can ease them in.
  2. Tent: We really enjoyed our sunshade tent.  It provided a perfect spot for our young child to nap on the beach, sheltered from the intense sun.  It allowed me and the older kids to continue our adventures on the beach while the youngest napped. 
  3. Toys: Don’t forget the toys.  Buckets, shovels, and sieves are great for the beach, but you can also use large spoons, colanders, and bowls from he kitchen.  Children will have great fun exploring the possibilities of water and sand.

What essential are you bringing to the beach with you this summer?

Do Infants Need Toys?

baby-roomThis question comes up time and again in our classes and online.  It really does bring up the question, what do infants need?

There is more and more research on what an infant needs.  Recently, the book by Paul Tough, Helping Children Succeed, highlighted that an infant needs a loving environment in which to grow. He goes on to explain that it falls to the adults in an infant’s life to prepare and maintain that environment.  The book explains that the infant’s initial environment lays the foundation for all future learning and can be the basis for developing “grit” (a recent buzz word in education).

So what should an infant’s environment include?  Here are a few principles to follow:

a) Safety and comfort: a place to sleep…place to eat …a place to be changed

b) Stimulation and challenge: a place to play and a place to move.  This gets us to the question, do infants need toys?  What they need is interesting and challenging things to do.  So this could mean toys.  Baby’s like rattles, mobiles, and music boxes…ring stackers, pegs, and object permanence boxes.  They also like pets, other children, and nature.  So wether you have a small basket with rattles to play with or a blanket on the grass and trees to watch, your infant needs activity and engagement. 

Talking with your child is another form of engagement and helps him start to understand his world, build a strong base for vocabulary, and be included in social interaction.  For those of you looking for some great early toys to acquire, or the perfect gift for a new baby, here is a list of a few of my favorites:

bell rattle   pegs    ring stacker

Does your little one love playing with water?

water-transeferIt is no secret that young children love water.  They love touching it, scooping it, pouring it, splashing it…you name it!  In order to address this interest, encourage repetition, and support developing concentration in purposeful work at Studio June, we have designed a water transfer activity.  For those of you who attended my presentation at MTIPs last summer, you saw this activity in action.  And for those of who participate in our classes at Studio June, you know the joy your children experience with this activity.  You can set up this activity in your kitchen, or outside.

Purpose: to fill the water jug with fresh water

Skills: carrying a pitcher with two hands, filling a water pitcher, pouring through a funnel, wiping up a spill

Points of interest: watching the water fill the jug, the sound of the water filling the pitcher and the jug, using the water source, finding puddles of water to clean up

Materials: 2 glass water jugs (1 sealed and unopened and the other empty), 1 ceramic water dispenser, 1 large tray, 1 funnel, 1 2oz. pitcher, 1 low table, 1 basin fitted with a grate on top.

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Set-up: the empty water jug is placed on the tray.  The funnel is placed in the water jug, the small pitcher is placed on the tray.  You may want to add a rug under the tray to help with spills.

Across the room, the ceramic dispenser goes on the low table and the basin and grate go under the spigot.  The sealed water jug goes on the water dispenser.

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Notes:

  1. The purpose is to fill the water jug and the idea is the children clearly see the purpose of the activity to keep the water source filled. I DO NOT use the water the children add to the jug as drinking water.  I use this water to water plants after the children leave for the day.  Many other things fall in to the water and the children sometimes drink it on their way to fill the jug, so in order to keep the water source clean, I only use freshly filtered water in the water source.
  2. I always keep a filled and sealed water jug on top of the ceramic water dispenser (the water source).  To fill the dispenser, I take the sealed jug off, pour filtered water into the ceramic dispenser, and then place the sealed water jug back on top.  The sealed water jug helps to weight the water dispenser, keeping it stable and controlling the amount of water used during class.
  3. Ideally, the children would fill the empty water jug from a low sink.  The water dispenser is used because we do not have access to a low sink.  

Shh! We Have a Plan

shh we have a plan

In the children’s section of our local bookstore, I found a fun little book; Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton (Candlewick Press).  This is such a little gem and I laughed out loud as I read it for the first time.  There are 5 elements that drew me to this book:

  1. Simple and cleaver illustrations.  These illustration are clear yet creative.  At first glance, it is easy to see the story they tell, but with a second look there are little details that hold a child’s interest; like the tiny little tulips, a details in the stocking caps and shadows of the trees.
  2. Based on reality.  This story is about a small group of people working together toward a common goal (except for one ;))
  3. Repetition in words.  Children like rhythmic language and are drawn to the cadence as we read.  Keep your little one connected to this story through the beat of the repeated words.
  4. Onomatopoeia.  This is a word that makes the sound it represents.  Children enjoy all the different sounds that are a part of their language and this is no exception.
  5. Relatable story.  Children feel a natural connection to nature and other creatures.  This story tells the story of the smallest person in the group having the closest connection to another living creature.
  6. A fun twist at the end.  So fun!

Who knew you could get all this from a simple board book with a total of 31 different words!

In this delightful little book, we experience the fun of repetition, the thrill of the chase, and the relief of a generous heart.  Check out My other early reading recommendations.