Creating a Montessori Entryway for your Toddler

Lately I’ve been obsessed with making my home a little more Montessori-friendly for my babe. He recently turned 15 months and I have realized how much his desire for independence has grown. He also recently began the toddler program at the Montessori school I teach at, and I want to provide him the opportunity to practice skills that he is working on at school.

He has shown quite a bit of interest in sitting on small stools and attempting to independently put on his socks and shoes. I didn’t already have a stool at home, so I did some research and found this amazing little bamboo stool on Amazon!

Many of the stools I found have a 12 inch seat height. But Noah is only 2 1/2 feet tall! This stool has a seat height of about 7 inches, so it’s perfect for his little legs. It cost $28.90, but was worth every penny because it is truly a quality stool. Durable and beautiful!

We live in a 1000ish square foot apartment, so space is limited. We’ve had to be very strategic about essential furniture pieces and arrangement. Right as you enter the apartment there is a coat closet, and next to that we had an empty stretch of wall that was perfect for creating a toddler-sized entry area.

When creating an entryway for your toddler, I think there are 3 essential aspects you will want to strive to include:

  1. Child sized stool for sitting to put on/take off socks and shoes. 7-8 inch seat height is optimal for toddler’s little legs! 10-12 inches works better for preschool age.
  2. Basket or tote for storing shoes. Your child will always know where to find his/her shoes. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Plus, helps to minimize tracking dirt into the house!
  3. Hooks at your child’s level for school bags, lunch boxes, jackets, hats, etc. Nothing promotes the development of independence like being responsible for one’s own belongings. This allows your little one to get his own things on the way out the door, and put them back upon entry into the house.

You could also place a little rug under the stool for added warmth, or a little mirror on the wall. Personally, I did not have space for these items so I just went with the simplest set up possible. I am very happy with how it turned out 🙂

The basket was $8 from Big Lots (I’m all about the bargains, if you couldn’t tell). Target has great options too, maybe a tad bit pricier. I purchased the wall hooks from Walmart. It was an unfinished wood that I stained to match the rest of our living room furniture.

And YES I KNOW. All three pieces are different shades of brown. Unintentional. But I like to think it adds character. The items in this area serve their intended purpose, and that’s all that matters. My little guy has his own place to get ready to leave the house.

Consistency, routine, and the development of independence are crucial – especially during the toddler years – and having these little accessible areas around your house allow your toddler to develop his skills and be a contributing member of the family.

There are so many ways to create a beautiful and functional, Montessori-inspired toddler entryway, but I wanted to share with you how we implemented this in our home. Hope you enjoyed, and I wish you a beautiful day!

xo Miss Claire

Toddler-Safe, Edible Finger Paint!

Painting is one of those awesome sensorial activities that I always want to incorporate into my one-year-old’s playtime. But being one year old, my guy is teething like crazy and still has a habit of putting his hands in his mouth quite a bit. Therein lies my hesitation with letting him use traditional finger paints. Even the “non-toxic” ones.

But did you know there’s a way you can let your little one paint, without having to worry about whether or not he eats the paint?! The solution is so simple, it’s ridiculous. And it only requires 2 ingredients:

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Liquid food colors

That’s it.

Whip up the cream in a big bowl using a hand mixer. I usually add a few pinches of sugar to my whipped cream, but this time I didn’t. Divide the cream into smaller containers, depending on how many colors you want to make.

Squirt in a good amount of food coloring into each container – like 10 drops or more. I don’t even know, I didn’t count. The more drops of color, the more vivid the “paint” will be.

Mix the colors into the cream, making sure to thoroughly rinse the spoon after each color.

And there you have your beautifully bright, good enough to eat, finger paints!

Noah was SUPER cautious at first, but then he went all in. And then the inevitable happened 47 seconds later…

THE TASTE TEST.

Many bites followed the first. Safe to say this activity is toddler-approved.

Extra finger “paint” can be stored in airtight containers and kept in the fridge for up to two days, just like regular whipped cream.

HAPPY PAINTING (AND EATING). Xo

Toddler Fine Motor Skills: Tape Escape!

I have seen this activity on Pinterest and on many other blogs, so I can in no way, shape, or form take credit for this. But I had always imagined it as an activity for older toddlers, at least 18 months or so.

My son will be 13 months in just a few days. I wouldn’t have even introduced this activity, but I already happened to be using masking tape for another activity in his room and he just seemed SO fascinated by it. I figured, why not?

The best part is that this took about 45 seconds to throw together. Yes, it was that fast! His hands were on it before I had even set the tray all the way down.

He didn’t really peel the tape off in a careful Montessori fashion, so much as pull it off with each little animal. But he did somewhat peel the tape off of the animals after removing them from the tray.

As a Montessori mom and teacher, I am all for simple, quickly-put-together activities that promote engagement, concentration, and fine motor skill development. He liked this activity so much we did it again a second time!

This activity was a 10/10. Simple, fun and educational – which if you ask me, is the trifecta. The wide masking tape was perfect for his little 13-month-old fingers. To make it more challenging for older toddlers, you could use thinner, stickier tape, and smaller toys or figurines. The farm animals I used are pretty chunky and were easy for him to just pull right off.

If you’re looking for some fun toddler playtime activities, I definitely recommend that you try this out!

4 DIY, Budget Friendly Montessori Activities for Your Toddler

With the onset of this COVID-19 crisis, I found myself devoting a majority of my time to a young toddler with an ever-increasing capacity for concentration. His play has become much more explorative and in depth in nature. He will now sit with the same activity for 5-10 (and sometimes even more!) minutes at a time, where as even just a few weeks ago he would go from toy to toy, shaking objects and putting them in his mouth.

I needed to create some purposeful, engaging activities for him to explore. And with all the store closures and elongated delivery times, I decided to get a little creative with objects I already had around the house. Some of these objects are repurposed from household items, and some of them are available at very reasonable price from an “everything” store like Walmart or Target.

Here are 4 budget-friendly Montessori activities that I put together for my one year old to work with:

ONE

Five Ducks in a Basket – The inspiration behind this was actually the song “Five Little Ducks Went Swimming”. This activity serves several purposes. First and foremost, it is an introduction to the quantities 1-5. I count them for him, and put two and two together to make four, etc. Second, I use them as props to go along with the song. And third, Noah is going through a phase in which he loves to put things back into containers. He knows the ducks belong in the basket and will put them back inside when prompted.

I found the mini ducks in the baby shower section at Walmart. It was about $4 for a pack of 4, and I got 2 packs. The little basket was about $3 at Walmart as well, in the Easter decor section.

TWO

Hand Transfer – Eventually these little rubber, spiky balls could be used for color sorting, or transfer with tongs. But for now, I am showing him how to use his hand to transfer them into a mini muffin pan. The balls fit perfectly inside. Now if only I could get him to transfer all 12 without picking the pan up and flipping all the balls out everywhere…

The balls came in a pack of 12, and can be found in the party favor section of Walmart or Target for less than $5. They have other color schemes as well. I have had this mini muffin pan forever, but probably got it at Target. I found this one on their website for $8.99.

THREE

DIY Infant Coin Box – This is an idea I’ve seen all over the internet, but it was SO EASY to make. I just had to wait until my husband finished his giant tub of coffee and use a sharp knife to cut a rectangular slot in the top. (The plastic was surprisingly soft). It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as one from a Montessori retailer, but this was definitely much cheaper and he enjoys it just the same.

The plastic poker chips (which, by the way, I recommend supervising 110% while using the chips!!!) were about $4.99 for a 100-pack from Walmart. I only took out 6 blue chips and put the rest away. I store the chips inside the coffee container when not in use, as he hasn’t quite figured out how to remove the lid on his own yet.

FOUR

Treasure Basket – This is another classic Montessori infant activity. I first introduced Noah to this as soon as he could sit up on his own at age 6 months. The treasure basket he has on the shelf now is Easter themed. The only reason I haven’t switched it out yet is because he adores the plastic Easter eggs. He loves to open them, stack them, put objects inside them, and he tries so hard to close them. He will easily concentrate on the eggs for 20+ minutes.

Treasure baskets are great for seasonal objects or themes. I’ve used kitchen objects – measuring cups, small tupperwares, spatulas, sponges, small whisks. You can use fruits and vegetables or objects from nature. You can use different types of fabrics (wool, felt, velvet, cotton, leather). The opportunities are endless.

When your baby is younger, the treasure basket is more of a sensory/exploratory experience. As he grows into toddlerhood, the treasure basket becomes a great way to introduce categories and vocabulary.

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I hope you are inspired to create your own Montessori activities for your young child. There are so many ways to educate and engage your toddler without breaking the bank. Many of the objects in these activities are things that you probably already have around your house, and if not, can acquire very easily.

If you have any amazing suggestions to add to this list, I would love to hear them and incorporate them into my son’s playtime!

Thanks for reading!

What my son got for his first birthday

A little over a week ago my son turned one year old. Given that we are under a stay at home order, we could not have a real birthday party for him. However, that did not stop the gifts from coming in the mail. For over a week he got at least three packages a day! Not all of his toys were Montessori-approved, but I was able to order some things for him myself and give my family a few ideas.

So without further ado, here is a list of 6 “Montessori-esque” toys that my one year old got for his birthday, and really seems to enjoy. Hopefully this list will be helpful to someone else out there who is trying to integrate Montessori into their one year old’s playtime, and doesn’t have an idea of where to start.

  1. B. Toys Wooden Shape Sorter Hammering Bench, $9.99 from Target

    This toy is great for fine motor skill development and shape discrimination. There are four shapes in this toy: three different cylinders, a rectangular prism, a triangular prism, and a hexagonal prism. Noah hasn’t quite grasped how to use the hammer on the shapes yet, but he loves matching them and inserting the shapes with his hands.

2. Melissa & Doug Vehicles Jumbo Knob Wooden Puzzle, $19.69 from Target

This puzzle has chunky knobs, perfect for little hands that are still developing fine motor
skills. These wooden puzzles are so cute and a great way to introduce vocabulary! Noah
can’t put the vehicles in their respective places yet, but he is at least trying. This is
another toy for him to grow into.

3. Land of B. Wooden Puzzle, $7.99 from Target

Not quite as simple as the Montessori three-shape puzzle, but Noah had already mastered
the single circle puzzle, and again, I was looking for something he could grow into. This
puzzle is brightly colored, and can be used to teach shapes and colors. He has already
mastered putting in the circle, star, and triangle pieces. Only the heart has been causing
him frustration.

First Book of Colors Padded -  BRDBK (First 100) by Roger Priddy (Hardcover) - image 1 of 1

4. Priddy Books First Book of Colors Padded, $5.99 from Target

I am a book worm. I love to read, and buy WAY too many books for Noah. We have been
reading together since before he was two months old. And being a Montessorian, I love
that the Priddy Books have real images.

5. Skip Hop Fox Print Explore and More Xylophone, $14.49 from Target

Yes, I know, this toy is made of plastic. But come on, how cute is the fox! I love Skip Hop
products and Noah has had so much fun with this Xylophone. He loves musical
instruments and this was a great addition to his collection. Plus, it has a string, so he loves
to walk around pulling it behind him.

6. Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon, $79.99 from Amazon

Noah is already walking, but these Radio Flyers are amazing for practicing those first
steps. Noah loves to push things around and put objects into containers so this wagon is
perfect for him. Many of the products I’ve put on this list focus on fine motor skill
development, but this one is geared towards gross motor skills.

___________________________________________

Disclaimer: I am not paid in any way to provide my opinions of these products. This list is simply for your information. As a first time mom, I have found myself researching “Montessori activities for ___” every time my son has gotten a month older. As a Montessori teacher and mom, these are the gifts my son received that I feel are most aligned with the Montessori philosophy.

They are educational, engaging, and promote the development of concentration. We have fun playing with them together, and so far they have provided many opportunities for learning.

I hope this list helps you in your search for toddler Montessori toys! I’m sure we will be exploring many more products in the near future, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Have a great day!

Why I Started This Site

I had only gone back to work in January, when the onset of this COVID-19 crisis threw the whole world off track. After three months, I had finally gotten adjusted to the routine of dropping baby off at daycare in the morning (sidenote – he won’t be old enough to attend my Montessori school until he is 18 months), going to work, and picking him up around 4:00. I liked our routine. I liked being with my primary students during the day, and disconnecting to be mommy in the afternoons and evenings.

But when all the schools began closing, I kind of found myself on both sides of the coin. I am still fulfilling that role as Montessori guide to my students (and their parents!) from a distance, while also finding myself responsible, again, for the full time care of my one-year-old. These dual responsibilities have become a delicate balancing act, as my husband is still working full time from home, occupied with phone/emails from about 8:30 am until 4:30 pm.

I have to fit my lesson planning, YouTube filming, email sending, around this schedule. In between I am navigating the world of integrating Montessori into my son’s life. He is just on the cusp of toddlerhood, still skirting the line between infancy and an ever-developing independence. I won’t lie, this is a fun and wholly adorable age. Just before his first birthday a week ago, I noticed he was bored with many of his toys, and began scrambling to create some Montessori-esque activities for him, on a budget and with limited resources available. (Post on this to come).

Anyways, I have had so much fun introducing him to Montessori activities, and I L-O-V-E to create materials for my primary students as well. This whole distance learning thing has forced me to get creative with lesson planning. I have had to get out of my comfort zone and onto the camera. I already have weeks worth of YouTube lessons that I have sent to my families. So I figured, why not merge these two Montessori lanes into one?

This site is my platform for sharing lessons, materials, and ideas for the 3 to 6 year old, as well as the Montessori activities that I am currently doing with my one-year-old.

So there you have it. The above statement is my reason for creating this site. Essentially I want to share my passions with the world, and possibly connect with others who share and appreciate those same passions. In this socially distant world in which we find ourselves living, the importance of connecting with others in the online realm has never been more important or relevant.

I hope you enjoy the content that I share here, and hope to inspire and be inspired by the others who visit this site.

All my Montessori Love,

Miss Claire xo