Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Cathedrals, strawberries and foxes (and more!)

I'm afraid this post is going to be a bit of a muddle. Just a snapshot of a few things we have been doing.
A few weeks ago, we tried Paint Dough, from the book First Art by Mary-Ann Kohl that I have mentioned previously.
It's basically liquid salt dough with paint added. It's perfect! Squeeze directly out of the bottle onto a sturdy surface. The colours don't mix and you can layer the paint. A nice experience!

We went on holiday recently and since we came back, Finn has been building with his blocks as if he had never seen them before! The picture below shows his model of Europe, decorated with artefacts from our Europe continent box.

A few days ago, freshly out of bed, he told me he would like to build a church with his blocks. We looked at pictures of churches and cathedrals in some books, and Notre Dame cathedral caught his eye. He recognised it from the book The man who walked between the towers. I showed him an interactive visit to Notre Dame on our tablet so that he would get a sense of its shape and size.

Below is what he built. It has no depth at all, the blocks are arranged on a line. But if you look closely, you will see what he worked on: Symmetry. That's what he got from looking at the pictures in the books. I feel that this is just the start of a bigger exploration of architecture. He seems really interested in visiting a real church as well, which we will do very soon. I'm thinking about taking drawing materials with us on our visit so we can truly observe the symmetry that interests him so much.

Strawberries are ready! So much fun on our first Pick your own visit of the season. There was lots of talk about how strawberries grow and why the plants at the farm look nothing like the ones in our garden (sigh...)

A couple of evenings ago, as I was lying in bed with Finn to help him settle down, I remembered how I would count to 10 before leaving when he was younger, and how that simple routine had taught him to count. I thought he could count to 11 or 12 now, so I asked him if he would like to do some counting with me. He agreed and I said I would count to 13, and then it would be his turn. He listened to me carefully. When it was his turn, he counted all the way up to... 19! Without hesitation, without a mistake! We both laughed so much as neither of us knew he could do that! It was a really sweet moment. Over the next days it was apparent to me that he was more confident with numbers as he couldn't stop counting things.  
He has also shown an interest in clocks, so to help him learn to read a clock (we have ordered this one for him), I thought I could see if he was interested in learning the symbols for higher numbers, starting with teens.
I have been thinking that he may enjoy our DIY version of the Montessori coloured stair (I would like him to become familiar with it so I can introduce Seguin Board A, to learn about teen symbols). I got it out with no expectations - it seems to be the only way anything may work nowadays - and he really got into it!
I showed the bead bars to him in the triangle shape before mixing them all up for him to build the triangle by himself again. He has never, ever, been interested in the number rods, so I wasn't sure at all this would be appealing to him, but it was! He sweetly commented on how nice the pink bar looks :)
After he had finished the triangle, we did a bit of a memory game to associate the number of beads to the colours as it will help him with the Seguin Board later on. He could remember the colours of the first four bars but lost interest afterwards. I was quite pleased with how this presentation went nonetheless!

And lastly, Finn and I have been reading Fantastic Mr Fox for the second time in a few weeks. He is understanding the story and role of each character differently this time. This morning he recreated a scene from the book in his sandpit. There you can see the three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, who have stick guns in their hands, and an excavator digging away at the hill where Mr Fox and his family are hiding. Finn really surprised me when he made his own version of the story where the farmers get the fox! (In case the story is unfamiliar to you, the foxes are supposed to get away!)

A lot more has been going on here for us, with plenty of learning and new experiences, but that will have to wait for another post.

Friday, 12 June 2015

A quick cooperative number game

Finn and I played a fun game today following one of those increasingly rare strikes of inspiration!
This is a game that includes movement, memory, number recognition, speed and cooperation.
You will need:
- a timer (I used my phone)
- two sets of numeral cards
One set of cards remains at one end of the house (downstairs for example), mixed up and face down. The other set is placed at the other end of the house (upstairs for us), face up, in a row. 

You and your child play together to beat the timer. Set the timer to 5 minutes. Both of you sit by the scattered pile of face down number cards. Pick one each, trace it, and race to the other end of the house as fast as you can to get the matching one! You are not allowed to bring the card you turned over with you, you have to remember it. When you get back downstairs, place the two matching cards together and turn over a new number. Continue in this way until all the cards have been matched and you have beaten the timer!

Excitement guaranteed! (not recommended right before bedtime)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Investigating seeds

I am finally writing a new post! Blogging is easy when you get into a routine but as soon as I get off the wagon I find it hard to get back onto it again.
I thought I would show you what we have been up to recently. I try to follow Finn's interests closely. He has some deep, long term interests (dinosaurs and trains) and others that are more seasonal, more fleeting.
Interestingly, he has been asking to do activities about dinosaurs and trains but what I offer never seems to quite satisfy his desires. Mostly, he just wants to talk about his and ours favourite trains and dinosaurs, and I think he revels in hearing names and facts he already knows rather than learning new information. I assume hearing the same dino or train related vocabulary reassures him in some way and helps him feel secure and confident in his knowledge.
Things are different when it comes to his more short term interests. Recently he became really interested in insects. We made an insect table with models, books, caterpillar habitat, insect cards... and watched videos to answer his questions about insects. It was intense but short lived. He did learn a lot, and maybe because he had learnt so much, needed to take a break. We cleared the table for a couple of weeks.
Then I caught him curiously dissecting his peas and beans at the dinner table. Not just once. He also investigated any seed pod he found outside and was really interested in flowers. Our next area of investigation had been found, and we set up our seed table.
I like to keep things simple, so we have three books, some blossom, beans on a tray, a magnifying glass, microscope, and a lovely poem about seeds.
Here is the poem:
The Little Plant
In the heart of a seed,
Buried deep so deep,
A tiny plant
Lay fast asleep.

"Wake," said the sunshine,
"And creep to the light."
"Wake," said the voice
Of the raindrops bright.

The little plant heard
And it rose to see,
What the wonderful,
Outside world might be.

I didn't write it, and haven't found an author for it.

We talked about what a seed may look like, and what it needs to grow. We cut up fruit to find the seeds inside, planted the pips found in an apple, soaked seeds in water to see what would happen, looked at them closely with our microscope...

and dissected them! This chart is a printable from Playful Learning. I recommend the lesson "Seeds: an inside edition" which we used.

More ideas for Finn to explore seeds further are:
- Going on a seed hunt
- Planting seeds in different environments to find out which is most suitable for healthy growth
- Digging deeper into the many ways that seeds travel
- Finding out the connection between seeds and insects
 We'll just see where he wants to take his interest to and I will follow the best I can.
What have your children been interested in at the moment? Have you also noticed interests at different levels that require different approaches?

Friday, 6 February 2015

Coconut and cranberry snack balls - recipe

The website This Rawsome Vegan Life has changed the way I cook and bake. Its author, Emily, has shown me that you can make all sorts of foods that are healthy for your body without destroying the planet or causing unnecessary suffering. I bought her "Rawsome Vegan Baking" cookbook and have been amazed at the possibilities. I urge anyone to go and have a look at her website.
I have tried many of the recipes both from the blog and from the book. They are all so easy and almost impossible to fail! They are perfect for Finn to work on alongside me. I find myself so much more relaxed in the kitchen preparing raw food than when baking with the oven or hob, having to check the temperature, making sure Finn is always at a safe distance, making sure the food isn't either undercooked or overcooked, letting it cool, etc.
With raw recipes, all of this anxiety needn't be. We can really take our time and bake together peacefully.
The wonderful thing about Emily's recipes is that they have taught me to bake delicious raw, vegan treats. They have taught me to trust myself and have a go at mixing ingredients following my instinct. Raw food is so easily fixable if you make a mistake. Too wet? Add a bit more oats. Too dry? Try some dates. I used to dislike cooking because of all the possible mistakes I could make along the way. Now I find it a lot more fun!
I made these coconut and cranberry snack balls the other day. From scratch! I'm amazed that I can do that. They are so delicious!


I'm really proud to share my first recipe on this blog. I hope you try it!

Coconut and cranberry snack balls

(You need a blender for this)


1 cup of porridge oats
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1/2 cup of cashews
2tbsps of melted coconut oil
1/4 cup of cranberries
1/4 cup of ground almonds
1/4 cup dessicated coconut + a bit more for sprinkling on top

Blend the oats, cashews and almonds together into a powder. Add the cranberries and dessicated coconut. Blend. Add in the melted coconut oil and the maple syrup. Blend again.

Spoon out onto a clean surface and roll into walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle with a bit of dessicated coconut.

So easy!

Finn did most of the work by himself. To my surprise, he managed to roll a few balls evenly. It must be all the playdough practice!

The snack balls are so delicious, and a healthy snack too!

I would love to know if you try this recipe.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Dig-a-dino DIY

Finn has been into dinosaurs for quite a while, and recently he has also found an interest in skeletons. Oh... and digging.
So I had been looking for a good dinosaur fossil excavating kit for him as I knew he would love it. I am very picky on quality though and won't spend money if it isn't worthwhile.
First, size. If it's tiny, it's not engaging. 90% of the kits I saw were too small and toy-like.
If the kit includes some "tools" such as a plastic chisel and a plastic hammer, I won't buy it. You can't dig into hard material with plastic tools. A child trying it would be beyond frustrated.
When I couldn't find a satisfactory kit ready to purchase, I decided to make it myself. I purchased this dinosaur skeleton. During one naptime, I mixed some plaster of Paris with sand and soil for realism and buried the separate bones inside the plaster bowl.
Let's dig into this hard thing!
What's that??

It was a complete surprise for Finn. I didn't tell him there was anything inside the plaster. I gave him no clue. He found out everything by himself.

He deducted the name of the dinosaur from the bony plates he could see on the bones. A stegosaurus!

Scrubing them was particularly hard work (which, needless to say, he enjoyed immensely).

And there we were 45 minutes later, a complete (quality) Stegosaurus skeleton!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Montessori puzzle maps in the home

I love geography and so far it seems that my enthusiasm is catching. Finn has been very interested in learning about Earth. Unsurprisingly, I am in love with the Montessori puzzle maps. We debated for a long time over whether we should buy a small set or go with the large set of puzzle maps.
Space is limited in our house, and the smaller set is cheaper. But what do we want from those maps?
I personally felt that although small maps had definite advantages in a home situation, they also had non negligeable downsides. Since the countries are smaller, the knobs would be closer together and it may have been fiddly to use, possibly even frustrating. Using the knobs to attach flags would have been downright impossible. I was also wondering if smaller maps would engage a child as much as larger ones.
So we went for the big set. Well... not the whole set actually. Just one map for now, to test the water and see how Finn likes it. Yes, it's big and we have a small house, but cultural knowledge is one of our priorities and we figured out that we would find storage space. Where there's a will, there's a way!

I believe a larger map makes more of an impression on the child

After comparing prices, we found that the cheapest was our favourite online Montessori shop: Tower High LearningThey have it for £29 including tax and postage (to the UK) while it would be £36 on Absorbent Minds. Quick choice! From the photos, they seem to be identical products.

We have been really pleased with the quality, although I should point out a couple of funny things. The Baltic sea is a darker shade of blue than the rest of the seas and oceans. This seems to be a manufacturing error and we are considering painting it over with a matching shade of blue.

Secondly, and this is a mistake with the control map, not the puzzle map itself, three of the country names (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia) are missing. Easily rectifiable with a sharpie though, but I thought I would mention it.

Now, has Finn been enjoying his new puzzle map?


It's a big work, but he loves it! Telling him little facts about each country as well as their names makes it interesting for him. For example, he remembers Portugal because I told him that his grandad (my dad) went there on holiday. Or that I went to Poland and it was very cold and snowy. He likes to use his atlas to find the countries while working with his puzzle map and figures out lots by himself.

Here he was amazed at the size of Russia! And that's only about half of it! How about that for a sensorial impression?
The best thing about this puzzle map is not that he is learning country locations, or names, or facts... but his enthusiam for visiting every country in Europe. He even plans his flight route and travel partners.
So, was this purchase worth it?
Totally! And something tells me this map is not the only one we will be purchasing!
How do you approach geography with your children? Have you considered puzzle maps?
(This post contains affiliate links to Tower High Learning)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Montessori: The silence game

It can be difficult for young children to find a moment of peace during a busy day. Especially so when they attend nursery or school. Even when it's so obvious that that's what they need, they are often so caught up in what's going on around them that they can't step back for a bit of peace.
I'm a part time teacher in a Montessori nursery and I have been giving the children this chance to have just a few quiet minutes. They love it so much that they have started asking for it well before the time comes.
We have our little ritual now. After lunch, they sit down opposite me, usually quite agitated as it is a transition time; some children are about to go home while others will arrive soon for the afternoon session.
I ask them what we CAN'T do when we play the Silence Game. This gives them an opportunity for a last burst of energy. They stomp to show me that you can't stomp, they tap their feet, clap their hands, shuffle on their chairs...
Then, I say those magic words: "ok everybody, feet on the floor, hands on your lap, relax your shoulders, deep breath... and here we go"

I slowly and quietly count to 10 while most children try hard not to make a sound (it's hard work for the children who are younger than 3).

After I have reached 10, I whisper each child's name in turn. They know it's time to go choose a book to read while we wait for their parents to collect them.

A moment's mindfulness that brings so much to little souls: regained focus, energy, better impulse control, respect for others, mind/body balance...

I believe all children need a bit of this everyday.

Do your children get daily down time?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...