Saturday, 22 December 2012

The antics of Mr. Jingle

 This is Mr. Jingle.  He has come to our house this year to make sure we are getting ready for Christmas and having a fun time doing it!  During the day he sits up on the mantle but at night he gets up to all kinds of mischief.....


This little guy has been a super fun addition to our Christmas preparation and excitement.  L has been searching for him first thing when she wakes up.  I think he will be making another visit next Christmas season!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Some of our Christmas/Advent crafts and activities

The last couple of years I documented every day of our advent activities but I've found this year I just simply don't have the time!  Instead I've decided to just record some of our favourite crafts and activities.
On the first day of December L started off her advent calendar with a bang.  I was super excited to finally be able to take her to the Nutcracker Ballet this year.  I've wanted to take her for ages but it was just way too expensive for us.  This year a local dance school put on the whole production with professional dancers in the lead rolls.  It was spectacular and also fit our budget.  L didn't move for the whole thing and her eyes were glued to the stage taking it all in!  A definite early highlight.
We've also been crafting up a storm.  I wanted to make special ornaments for L and Baby J this year and found this adorable one for Baby J on the website Atelier Pippilotta.  She makes the cutest things!  I just love how it turned out.  So soft and gentle yet still masculine.  Perfect for baby's first Christmas.
 We've also been making a ton of these cute felt Christmas trees.  I found the idea from on Julia Crossland Art.  She uses thick felt but we just used cheap felt from the Dollar store and double up each color.  Now that L has learnt to sew they make the perfect presents for teachers and family from her.  We have a little Christmas tree assembly line going!
 Our Christmas nature scene.  This year we decided to add some gnomes and some cute little wooden penguins that Santa brought me last year.  L's favourite part is skating the skater around the tin foil pond and making marks on the "ice".
 Another advent activity was to make some Christmas art for Baby J's room.  We recycled the black and white star canvases and painted them with red and green.  L did the red one and I did the green one.  We just glued colored strips of construction paper onto the canvass and then put some jewel sticker on for ornaments.  I love how simple yet effective they are.  I found the idea on Pintrest somewhere but I'm afraid the reference got lost in the Pintrest black hole!  If this was your original idea please let me know and I will credit you!!
L also received How The Grinch Stole Christmas one day for her advent calendar and she loves it.  She loves having different people read it to her and reading it herself!

Another advent activity was to decorate the gnome home for Christmas this year.  I will have pictures soon!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Treasure Baskets

When I first decided to do Montessori from the start with Baby J I was impressed but also a bit intimidated by the simplicity of it all and also the lack of stuff!  When I was pregnant and explaining to my friends that the only thing the baby would have to entertain himself was a series of mobiles and a string with a ring or bell on it they raised an eyebrow or two and even I was slightly concerned.  Would this be enough for the baby?  I decided to trust the Montessori method since it hasn't failed us yet and really it's just based on common sense. I also thought if it didn't work we could always make a trip to BabysRUs! 
I needn't have worried.  As I have documented in previous posts Baby J couldn't have been happier and more perfectly stimulated.  He LOVED his mobiles and also the ring and Takame ball for kicking.  These things were perfect for each stage of his early development.  He didn't need anything else!  No bouncy chair, no swing, no entertainment saucer, no jolly jumper or flashing buzzing get my point.
Now as Baby J has moved onto another stage of development and has been sitting up on his own I have enjoyed introducing Treasure Baskets or Baskets of Known Objects to him.  Once again soooo simple and inexpensive.  They are just made up of objects that you already have around your house.  This enables the infant from the very earliest stage to become familiar with his real environment.
Our first basket contained an egg timer, metal braclet, wooden spoon(the ultimate favourite and now has to be included in all baskets!) and a toy elephant which L wanted to contribute from her collection.  Baby J explored this basket for about two weeks and then I made him another one with a small shampoo bottle, loufa sponge, teething beads and something else I can't remember at the moment .  At first he was not impressed at all!  He emptied the basket and then started crying.  I quickly brought him the wooden spoon and he was happy once again.  He then explored the rest of the basket.

This is our latest basket with a kind of Christmasy theme.  It contains a Christmas hand towel, wooden nail scrub brush, a red wooden piece from a stacker and a bean bag.  Of course he also has the spoon which isn't shown here.  When I am considering items to add to a basket I really have to think if there is anything that may be dangerous for Baby J as of course he instantly puts everything in his mouth.  
These baskets are awesome.  He doesn't need toys and can entertain himself for sometimes half an hour exploring all of the items.
Since he has such a love affair with the wooden spoon, I brought out one of our large pots for him.  I demonstrated how to hit the pot with the spoon to make a noise and then gave him the spoon.  He caught on right away and now this is his all time favourite activity.  He can also turn the pot over and we will put some of his objects inside it for him to take out.  With the new basket L also loves to show Baby J how to scrub the bottom of the pot with the brush and then wipe it with the towel.  Baby J follows suit!  Too funny!

Ahh the beauty and simplicity of Montessori!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

More baby art and butterfly mobile

L and I made these leaf prints back in October for the space above Baby J's change table.  This picture is not the best but they are made up of a rainbow of beautiful fall colors.
I decided I wanted to make a butterfly mobile for above Baby J's bed like the one in the Micheal Olaf catalogue.  When I started doing some research on the computer I came across this SUPER COOL idea.  These butterflies are all made out of a recycled milk jug!! All you do is cut out pieces from a washed milk jug and tape them on top of the butterfly templates found on this blog.  L colored in the colors with permanent markers and then I traced the outlines with a black marker.  We cut them out and wound a thin pipe cleaner around the body using a couple beads for the abdomen and head.

 The super tricky part was trying to balance them to hang.  I ended up cutting four small pieces of invisible thread and glue gunning them to the top side of each of the wings.  I tied the four pieces together and then tied a longer line on to hang them.  Super complicated but they balance perfectly and are really stable.
The milk jug butterfly mobile was a hit with both L and Baby J!  

Monday, 12 November 2012

Montessori weaning table and chair

At five and a half months Baby J was more than ready to eat solid food.  For a few weeks before he started we had him sitting up at the table at dinner time to be part of the family.  He watched intently at all of us bringing the food to our mouths and made chewing movements with his mouth.
One thing I've been really excited about trying out with Baby J is his Montessori weaning table and chair.  My husband cut the legs down on a side table we had from Ikea and he made the chair out of some wood from an old shelf.  It always helps to have a handy husband!
We use the table usually for breakfast and lunch when it's just the two of us and he eats at the big table with the rest of the family for dinner.
Here he is having his breakfast.  We use real china for all of his dishes as well as little metal spoons.  He has his own little glass and pitcher as well.  Sometimes he likes to have his own spoon and other times he just enjoys helping me move the spoon to his mouth to get the food and then lets go so I can get another spoonful.
Looking at this picture the only plastic on this table is the cup holding my morning smoothie! Eventually Baby J will be able to get to his table himself and we will have his dishes and place mat on a nearby shelf for him to set his own place. Check out The Full Montessori to see the weaning table and chair in action.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Baby J's Activity Area

Things have been absolutely manic here lately with L's birthday, Halloween and Baby J's not sleeping.  I've been collecting pictures and have tons of posts I need do find time to do!
Here is Baby J's work area as well as L's work space in our living room.  These pictures are a bit old.  This environment was ideal for when he was 3 to 5 months.  Now he has just turned six months and is sitting up so I'm modifying things a bit. 
 It's a bit hard to see but the first mat is his movement mat.  Above it hangs the dancers mobile.  This is where he lies and watches the mobile, has tummy time and plays with his toys. 
The second mat is used under his tripod.  This holds his hanging ring on an elastic which he used for practising batting and catching as well as hand to hand transfer.  There is also an elastic holding the Takane ball which you can see sitting on top of the tripod.  He uses this for kicking and now he can bat at it while lying on his belly as well.
 As I mentioned L and Baby J share this space so it also includes her easel, table and gnome home as well as the dresser which we use for her craft drawer, games and the top as our nature table.  Obviously once Baby J is totally mobile we will be seriously modifying to suite his needs and safety.

This is the little unit I found to store Baby J's toys for the time being until I find an appropriate shelf.  On the top is his basket of known objects, Art ABC book which he looks at when on his belly.  Starting from the top left are his interlocking discs, Squish and teething beads.  On the bottom row is one of my favourite bits.  A cubicle with a door which we can later use for the idea of object permanence.  Then there is his teether and another Takane ball.  I have placed these toys in the cubicles because they are developmentally appropriate for Baby J right now.   Eventually he will be able to move over to the shelves and pick his own toys.
I love this space because of the order and simplicity.  There are not too many objects to clutter the space and there is a sense of order(usually until L has gotten in there!!).  I also love the natural light.  I as mentioned above Baby J has pretty much outgrown this set up now so I will be posting about our modified activity area in a future post.  If you would like to read more about how to set up a Montessori infant activity area check out this great post over at The Full Montessori.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Habitat Game

We recently borrowed a video on habitats from the library.  It was really well made, upbeat and engaging and there were even little quizzes after each segment which L enjoyed.  It gave me the idea to make this habitat game.
Such a simple concept but really effective in learning about and discussing different habitats.  I used five different coloured pieces of card stock to make the habitats and then put labels on them.  I printed out different animals from Google images for each habitat onto card stock.

I made up a bunch of different cards which say things like:
Place an animal in the tundra habitat
Place an animal in its habitat
Which is the only continent that doesn't have a grassland habitat?
What are two types of water habitat?
It's a fun way to learn and talk about different characteristics of habitats and their inhabitants.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


I've been looking for a second hand shelf to store Baby J's toys on in his work space.  Finally I found a cute little cubicle shelf at a charity shop for $3!  It will work perfectly for the time being.  I brought it home and put it in his workspace but........
before i could even wipe it down a family of gnomes had moved in!!!!

I opened the door and they were all trying to hide in there!
I thought it was so cute I told them (and L ) they could stay for a couple of days.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Patterns in Nature

We recently borrowed the wonderful book Patterns In Nature by Jennifer Rozines Roy from the library.  It explains all about different types of patterns and how they are all around us.  It also shows how we can make our own patterns from things outdoors and in our backyard. 
After reading the book together L was all set to go.  She grabbed her journal and a pencil and we headed out to the back yard.
Here she is copying down her big, little apple pattern into her journal.
 While L was busy with her journal I made this pattern on the clothesline then asked her if she could continue it which she did no problem.  She had a bit of a harder time copying it into her journal as she needed help with the spaces between the clothes pegs.

 We then moved out of the backyard and went on a nature walk around the neighbourhood finding patterns in ferns and other things as well as making our own.

Reading this book and talking about patterns opened up a whole new world to L and she is loving discovering patterns wherever we go now!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dancers Mobile

The next mobile in the Montessori Infant mobile series is the Dancers mobile.  I was originally going to just eyeball all of the dancers and draw them myself but then I found a pattern and instructions here.  It made life a whole lot easier!
You are meant to use holographic paper for the dancers.  I used different coloured gift bags from the Dollar Store.  The whole thing cost $2!  I have to say it was a pain in the neck trying to hang and tie all of the pieces with the invisible thread but totally worth it in the end.
I introduced this mobile around three months and once again the little guy totally loved it!
At four months he's still enchanted by it.  Although there is another mobile in the series called the Flowing Rhythm mobile I think I'm going to call it a day!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Fighting a loosing battle

Those are what Barbie's measurements would be if she was a real woman!!  Why am I posting this you ask?
Well the other day my not even five year old daughter was over at a friends house playing.  They have two little girls 4.5 and 6.  When she came home she was literally quivering with excitement.  "Look what I got Mommy!"  She was holding two Barbies in her hands.  " They GAVE them to me.  I told them I didn't have any Barbies and they said I could have these!!!!!!"
My heart skipped a beat.... I took a deep breath and my mind was racing.. how to respond, how to respond.......
I ended up saying wow isn't that nice of them.  Well you can play with them for a bit and then give them back.  Of course her response was.  "No Mommy they GAVE them to me to keep.  Their mommy said it was okay."  I repeated my first statement and then let it go.  All the time the wheels turning trying to figure out how to get them out of the house.

Now at this point you may be asking yourself what's the big deal?  They're only toys and she doesn't know about the fact that if Barbie were a real woman she wouldn't have enough body fat to menstruate or that her neck would be twice as long a any real woman or the fact that her feet are permanently on tip toe for high heels.  She's just a little girl who likes to play with dolls.
Well consider this.  My daughter is still not yet five and therefor she still has what Maria Montessori calls an absorbent mind.  This means she absorbs everything in her environment without even trying.  Montessori knew this and this is why she made her materials with exceptional attention to detail.  The pink tower may just appear to be a collection of pink cubes which the child stacks but the top cube just happens to measure 1cm3.  The rest of the cubes increase progressively in the algebraic series of the third power. Coincidence? No way!  Each material is so much more than it seems.  The child doesn't know this but is absorbing it all for later use.

Now think for a moment.  My daughter is touching, viewing and manipulating these plastic Barbies all while absorbing a female image which is completely unhealthy and unattainable.
When I told my sister this story she said.  We played with Barbies all the time and we're fine.  Hmm really?  You have no body issues at all now as an adult??

Anyhow the real question is how did I deal with it.  Well in the end I was talking to another friend who home schools her children and she suggested doing a trade.  The other day when L was over playing with her children all four children (including a boy) were playing with the oldest girls porcelain doll collection.  They played for hours pretending the dolls were sick in hospital,going to school, having tea parties and dressing them.
I just so happens that I had two porcelain dolls that I'd been saving for L from my grandmother.  I talked to L and said I had something much better than the Barbies and if she would like to return them I could bring out the other dolls.  We had a short talk about how the Barbies look nothing like real women but really at this age I don't feel it's right to have her start concerning herself with body image.  Well she was beside herself when I presented her with the two beautiful dolls.  She couldn't wait to return the Barbies which next to the dolls looked like cheap pieces of plastic.  My friend told me that you can find the porcelain dolls in almost any thrift shop for around $5.

So one battle successfully fought and won by Mommy but as my husband said you can't keep the rest of the world away from her forever. For now at 4 and a half I can certainly do my damdest to try!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Baby J's Montessori Room

So this is Baby J's Montessori room.  I only came to the Montessori method when L was around 12 months so she had your typical adult oriented nursery (crib, change table, pretty decorations which appeal to adults!).  I was super excited this time around to be able to fully apply the Montessori approach right from the beginning.  So here is the tour...
View from the door.  The room is not very big but seems a lot bigger because it has only the necessary items in it.  I love this room so much!  It just radiates a sense of calm and order as soon as you enter it.  It is my little sanctuary from the chaos of the rest of the house and sometimes if I need a break or to de-stress I'll come into this room. 
This is how the room is now for Baby J at 3 months but it will constantly evolve and change with his ongoing development.  For instance once he starts moving I will remove the rocking chair and we will do something about the baseboard heater (any suggestions on baby proofing this?)
We use the rocking chair for just settling Baby J or spending quite time singing. I nurse him in the living room or on his floor bed at night.   I love how he is able to look out the window at the trees and sky.  On the window shelf are toys he will be able to use when he is older.

The floor bed.  This is an essential part of a true Montessori room.  The floor bed gives the child the freedom to move and explore at will.  Baby J has just started to move a bit when he sleeps so I've put a thick folded blanket at the side of his bed so there is less of a drop to the carpet.  I researched a lot of Montessori rooms on line before creating this one and was torn on whether to have the mirror and mobile by the bed or to just leave them for the work area.  In the end I decided I would like to have them beside the bed so that Baby J could entertain and engage himself when he wakes up or before he goes to sleep.  I have made a work area for him in the living room where I hang the more vibrant mobiles. 
I decided to use an acrylic mirror for safety reasons as Baby J will be in his room unsupervised at times.  This was much lighter than a real mirror and easy to put up.
The shelves.  I asked my husband to make this simple shelf for the room.  It is just the right size so that when Baby J starts pulling himself up he can hold on to the top shelf.  On the top shelf is a wooden rainbow stacker which Baby J will use much later but it is still beautiful to look at.  A canvass painting that L actually did when she was two and an ABC book of art work.  I like to prop up this book for Baby J to look at when he is on his tummy.
The bottom shelf holds items that he is using right now or will be using very soon.   Starting from the left are wooden teething beads, a crocheted rattle with bells in it, a basket with a wooden ring teether, a cloth rattle and a knitted fish rattle.  At the moment while Baby J is not moving I have put several of these items in a basket and keep them by his work area for him to use which is in the living room.  It's not practical to spend all the time in this room when L is around all the time.  Once school starts up again for her we will change things up a bit.  The items on these shelves will also change as Baby J gets older.
The changing area.  I debated on whether to get a change table or not but in the end decided that with the state my back is in it would be a good idea.  We got this change table second hand and just painted it white.  I like how it is so solid and heavy and also the storage shelves which work perfectly for all of the cloth diapers.  At the moment we are lucky enough to have six months of diaper service which is amazing.  Above the change table are two pieces of artwork.  I decided it would be nice if these could be L's contribution to Baby J's room.  We keep changing them as he develops but I always get L to participate in making them.

The closet.  At the moment we keep the doors open for convenience but once the Baby J is moving we'll keep them closed.  There are two shelves for his clothes.  I wanted them both to be low enough for L to be able to reach them to help pick out clothes and also the bottom one is low enough for Baby J to access when he starts walking and dressing himself.  The blue organiser holds socks, bibs, hats, blankets and towels.  I will also change this up once Baby J is able to get his own cloths.  I will be able to put things in the bottom two cubicles for him to access.
On the floor is the trash can for wipes, the charcoal filter nappy bin and the laundry basket.  There is also a top shelf where we store toys and clothes that he will use when he gets older.  At the moment the closet is set up for my convenience but I love how it will easily adapt to his needs when the time comes.
So there you have it.  It seems so sparse and simple, especially when I show it to other people but that is the beauty of it.  Nothing that doesn't have a purpose.  So far I absolutely love it and can't wait until Baby J is mobile and able to explore the room himself.  Then we'll see if I still love it! Ha ha. 
Please leave a comment if you have any ideas of how to baby proof the heater or if there are any other things you can see that may be a hazard once he is moving.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Can you see me now?

 I saw this super fun camouflage activity over at Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational and just couldn't wait to try it out with L.  First we had to order the book   Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed … and Revealed by David M.
Schwartz from the library.  This book has great pictures of different animals totally camouflaged in their environmet.  It has a game-like feel as it gives the reader clues in a poem to help to detect the animal.  On the inside flap of the page it shows the outline of the creatures plus
gives a ton of info about the actual animal.  L loved this book and some of them were so tricky it took her a while to find them.  She was so eager to turn the page and find out if she guessed correctly.

 After reading the book together I asked L to get all of her animals.  She was super excited when I told her to hide them "camouflage style" while I closed my eyes (and nursed the baby, oh ya multi tasking!) Once she had hidden a ton of animals it was my turn to try and find them. 

This little preying mantis was my favourite find sneakily hiding on the actual book!  Once we both had a few turns being the camouflager I have to say I petered out(she could have kept playing all day)and told her to hide some for when Daddy came home. 
She even packed a bunch of animals in her backpack this past week for a trip to her Aunty's in Vancouver to play the game with her!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Solar System Part 3

We finished the solar system unit quite a while ago now but I only just got around to taking pictures of our last two projects.
The first is an Our Solar System book which L made using her library books and three part cards.  She made this after we'd finished all the other activities so the information was fresh in her mind.  She drew a picture of each planet on one page and wrote a few facts on the other.
 The piece de resistance!! Our solar system mobile.  We used different sizes of Styrofoam balls and painted them with a mixture of acrylic paint and Modge Podge.  This project was so fun until it came to hanging the planets.  That's when I sat with invisible thread, a needle and bunch of planets cursing the day I decided we should do the mobile.  L had long moved on to something else!  Well finally I finished it and I think the result was worth it.  We hung it above our kitchen table for a few weeks so we could observe it while we ate!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mother and baby whales mobile

I'm not sure if this is part of the Montessori infant mobile series or not but it is for sale in the Michael Olaf catalogue.  I wanted to make it because I think it is so beautiful and calming.  I decided to hang it in Baby J's room after the Munari mobile.  I am hanging the more calming mobiles in the bedroom and the more vibrant ones in the living room in his work area.
I made the whales by printing off pictures of Orca and Humpback whale mommys and babies and then tracing them onto silver and black scrapbook paper.  I used flower stem wire to hang them.  This was one of the easiest mobiles to make so far.  I have to say though I'm glad I made the whales while I was still pregnant because I don't think I would have gotten around to it after!

Baby J seems to like them.
In the background you can see his shelf which I will talk about in an upcoming bedroom post.

Monday, 30 July 2012

New baby art and an extension

I decided it was time to change the artwork above Baby J's change table.  He previously had these black and white stars.
I bought some more small canvases from the Dollar store.  With the help of my mom I painted L and Baby J's hands and feet and we put them on the canvases.  It was lots of fun for L and Baby J didn't seem to mind either.  He's a pretty easy going little guy.
We hung them up today but he hasn't noticed them yet.

Recently I exchanged the bells for this puzzle ball on an elastic for Baby J to start kicking.  Usually when I'm not using one I wrap it around the top of the tripod.   On this occasion the puzzle ball had come unwrapped.  Baby J wasn't much into hitting the ring until he realised that hitting the ring made the puzzle ball move as well!  He was hooked!  He lay there for at least 20 minutes hitting the ring just to watch the puzzle ball move.  Already making up his own extensions : )

On a side note the first time I hung the puzzle ball I put Baby J down and quickly went to the bathroom.  I came back to find L bouncing the ball off his head!  Thank goodness it's soft!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Gobbi mobile = JOY

The Gobbi mobile is the third mobile in the Montessori infant mobile series.  While making this mobile I had ideas of how I was going to write this post.  Let me say this is the most annoying mobile to make!!  If you are going to splurge and buy a mobile this is the one to buy for sure! 
 It is made by wrapping five graded shades of the same colored embroidery thread around five Styrofoam balls.  You make a hole in the centre of the ball and then wrap it around.  I've seen different easier versions using felted wool or just coloring the balls but I decided to use the embroidery thread because I like the way the light reflects off of them.   
So here I am all ready to post about what a pain in the neck this mobile is.... However when I introduced it to Baby J .....

 the mobile was met with this reaction.   PURE JOY!  That is the only way I can describe Baby J's interaction with the mobile.  Every time I place him under it he laughs, smiles and squeals.  He will lie under it for up to 20 minutes at a time.
All the work was sooo worth it!!
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