Thursday, 28 February 2013

Baby J 81/2 to 9 months interests and activities

Baby J 81/2 to 9 months
As I was preparing to write this post I realised that I hardly have any pics of Baby J "in action".  I'm so busy taking pics of Sweetpea for her parents I haven't taken hardly any of Baby J.  I will try to be more conscious of recording more of Baby J's efforts in the future.
I would have to say that my main observation of Baby J is that he is a details kind of guy.  He loves to explore all kinds of small details of any object he picks up.  He will usually spend several minutes or more exploring each item.  He is not crawling yet but does move around on his knees to reach things and rolls over to get to things.  I'm not sure if his attention to detail and focus on individual items will change once he can move around with ease.  I'm wondering if this is just part personality and part the fact that he has been given materials to develop his focus and concentration since birth.
Baby J loves the cylinder imbacure box and has spent so much time trying to figure it out.  He will spend sometimes 15 or more minutes with the material.  He has now mastered it and I've introduced him to the rectangular prism.  He has managed to get it through the hole once or twice but not consistently. 
He also enjoys the egg and cup and the peg and cup and can do both easily. 
 Baby J loves the stacking cups and can put several of them into each other.  He likes when I build a tower and knocks it down.
In general he is trying very hard to move but just can't seem to get past moving all the way forward onto all fours from a sitting position and then sliding onto his belly.  He gets soooo frustrated and it is painful to watch him do this over and over.  I seriously can't wait until he figures out how to crawl!
I have been so focused on Sweetpea this month that I can't really think of anything else specific that Baby J is doing although I know he has been doing lots of things!  Next month will be more evenly recorded for sure!

Sweetpea 12 months interests and activities

I was hoping to post about what we've been doing sooner however better late than never!
Sweetpea 12 months
Sweetpea is now 13 1/2 months but the post will be about when she was 12 months.
One of Sweetpea's favourite things is to take objects out of containers and put them back in.  She loves to do this with all of the baskets.  I have set up a basket of small Schleich type animals for her to play with while she is on the potty.  She loves to take them all out and then put them back in or transfer them into another container.  Although it does seem that she likes to stop the process when everything is out : ) 
One activity I set up for her is this tissue box with some wooden coasters. 
After she'd had lots of practise with in and out I thought I would she how see would react to not being able to see what she was taking out.  I introduced this bag with a few different shells in it.  This is somewhat like the mystery bag that older children use where they try to guess the objects they feel.  In our case it is purely for discovery. 
I introduced the bag by calling her over and asking her if she would like to see what was inside.  I opened it enough to put my hand in, searched around for a second and pulled out a shell.  I looked surprised and examined the shell for a few seconds.  She kept reaching for it and after I'd finished examining it I gave it to her to examine.  I then opened the bag quite wide and offered it to her.  She put her hand in just a little bit and then took it out.  I repeated the activity myself again and then offered it to her.  This time I opened the bag quite wide so she could get a peek at the contents.  She put her hand all the way to the bottom and got a shell.  Sweetpea and I repeated this several times and it held her interest for several minutes.
I now change the objects in the bag every week but I think it is still a little early for her.  Occasionally she will bring the bag to me but she wants me to pull out the objects or if I encourage her she will take objects out if I hold the bag wide open.  She also enjoys putting them back in.

 The treasure basket has now turned into a language basket as well.  I put one type of item in the basket each week.  When introducing them to Sweetpea I find it works best if I let her take out the item and hand it to me first and then I name it.  This basket contains items of clothing.  Although she is not showing a lot of interest in language at the moment I know she is absorbing everything.
 Sweetpea has mastered the cylinder imbucare box so I put out the rectangular prism as well.  At first she was interested and could do it most of the time but she has now lost interest and if she can't get it the first time she will move on to something else.  I have just taken them off the shelves and will bring them back in a couple of weeks.
I started Sweetpea off with this small stacker.  At first she enjoyed taking all of the rings off but after a slow demonstration of how to put the rings back on she easily mastered it and we moved on to a larger stacker.
Although I don't have a picture by far Sweetpea's favourite material is the stacking cups.  They are usually the first thing she goes for and always takes them off of the shelf.  She can take them all out one by one and can also put them back together.  I stack them up for her and she takes them off one by one instead of just knocking the whole tower down. 
A favourite game is to hand items back and forth.  This has been great for her learning to give things up and she like to hand things to Baby J as well but she gets annoyed and frustrated if you don't always take the item from her.  We have been working on her putting the item on the ground instead of handing it to me or if she isn't doing a work then I will name whatever she is trying to give to me instead of taking it.  With perseverance it is starting to work.
Sometimes I have activities that I'm so excited to put out for the babies and then once they are on the shelves they aren't nearly as interested as I am excited.  Some things are just epic fails.  Others I take away after a few days and will bring them out again in a few weeks.
Here is an example of one said activity.  It is just a Pringles container with the bottom cut off taped to the side of the shelves.  I used rolled up baby socks for her to drop down it.  She was not as excited about it as I was : )  She would however drop a couple down every so often as she was coming back or going into the kitchen.  Baby J was very interested in this and would try his hardest to try to get the socks in but I had hung it a bit too high.  Eventually he tried to pull up on it to get the socks in which worked for him but he ended up pulling it off the shelf.  I will bring it back in a month or so I think.
The number one thing that Sweetpea has been working on this month has been trying to walk.  She is confidently cruising around all of the furniture but the best ever thing has been this walker waggon that Baby J got for Christmas.  It is perfect for her.  You can put as much weight into the waggon as needed and it is incredibly stable.  The best part is you can take it outside and take your best bud for a walk!
I have really enjoyed watching Sweetpea develop and learn this month. Despite being very focused on learning to walk she has also been developing her concentration and focus with the materials as well as her fine motor skills.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Elephant art for Baby J's room

Baby J's room was long overdue for some new artwork.  L and I had some time this weekend so we tried out this cool project from Art Projects for Kids.  This is a fantastic site which we've done several projects from in the past.
A step by step tutorial is given on how to draw the elephant.  The tutorial is for watercolours but we used canvass and acrylic paint.
They turned out even better than I'd hoped.
This is L's.  She did everything herself except for the black outline.  She said she wanted there to be grass and sky.  I just love how it turned out.  It could be an illustration in a children's book.
This is mine.  I'm not sure why he turned out so serious looking!
This was a very easy yet effective art project that didn't take too long to do.  Thank you Art Projects for Kids!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Meal time with the Montessori weaning table

I have been using this Montessori weaning table and chairs with the babies since the first day Sweetpea came here.  It is working amazingly well.  Both babies are well supported in the little chairs and they are able to concentrate on the task at hand which is of course eating and learning to feed themselves.
The table is left bare when we are not using it and once I have prepared breakfast or lunch I put the place mats on the table.  We have been doing this for five weeks now and I can say to Sweet pea "It's lunch(breakfast)time and she sees me putting on the place mats.  She will shuffle her way over to the table, pull up on it and make her way into the chair that I have pulled out for her.  Baby J who is still not on the move is still lifted into the chair.
As I mentioned in a previous post I decided to put the table in the Infant area instead of the kitchen because we just don't have enough room for it in there.  I put down four foam play mats underneath it to protect the carpet and they work really well.  I can easily wipe and sweep up any spills.
Before I call the babies to the table I make sure that I have everything I need so I don't have to leave them while they are at the table.  I put everything in a little basket shown here.  At this meal they each have their own little ceramic bowl of red lentils, a spoon, small plate for pita bread and cucumber and a small glass for drinking.  I also include a pitcher for refilling their glasses and a small bowl with two wet cloths.
Sweetpea and Baby J are almost 3 and a half months apart so are at very different stages in their journey of independent eating and drinking. 
If I was a gold star giving kind of gal Sweetpea would definitely get one for eating.  She is a fantastic eater both in the fact that she will eat almost anything and also that she can feed herself.  She loves to eat and is very focused at every meal.  Her mama began offering her a spoon around 11 months I think and she would take it and feed herself and then give it back so her mama could get another spoonful of food for her.  She has now developed so that she can completely feed herself with the spoon.  She does an amazing job of picking up the food in her bowl with the spoon and getting it into her mouth.  For Sweetpea I just leave her the bowl on the table and also give her a side plate with a finger food on it.  She alternates between feeding herself the finger food and the spooned food.  The one thing I do have to watch out for is that she will just keep putting the finger food into her mouth until it is gone no matter how full her mouth gets.  What I do is for example just put one small triangle of pita bread on her plate and don't give her another until her mouth is empty.  If we have smaller pieces of food I will bring another plate that I keep and just keep giving her about three pieces at a time until she has finished the ones in her mouth.
She drinks out of a glass but is still getting used to the feeling of it.   As I mentioned before Sweetpea is very focused on eating and will almost never mess about with the plate or utensils.
Baby J is another personality altogether.  He is quiet a little joker and loves to try and do things to "impress" Sweetpea.  She takes absolutely no notice whatsoever but he still tries.  He will blow raspberries in his drink or make funny sounds which he thinks is hilarious.  He is quite rambunctious while eating and still loves to explore his place mat and side plate.  I will give him a side plate with his finger food on it but if he starts messing about with it I take it away.  Once he has calmed down I will put it on the table again with a piece of food.  I keep his bowl on the table closer to Sweetpea and spoon out a helping for him.  I give him the spoon and he feeds himself and then gives me the spoon to get another helping.  He does this for about half the meal and then usually looses interest and I will feed him another few spoonfuls before he is done.  I keep his glass with me and will offer it to him several times throughout the meal.  He will pick it up and drink out of it and then give it back to me.  He is so confident (or cheeky) now that he just holds it and drinks with one hand just like the big people.  He usually doesn't last at the table as long as Sweetpea before he starts playing with his place mat.  That is when I know he is done and I give him his cloth.  He also tries to take off his bib.
The whole meal usually lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.  Once I have wiped them off I pull out their chairs and help them down from the table.  I then take all of the items back to the kitchen and wipe down the table and mats. 

They are both so used to sitting at the table that they never try to get off their chairs or move around until they are finished.  Sometimes I just die of cute watching them eat their meals and have their little conversations.
That mats that are in the picture have now disintegrated so I have to get some new ones.  Once I have them I will start to give one to Sweetpea to help me to bring to and place on the table.  Once she is walking confidently she will have her own little basket which will have a few things she can use to set the table and I will have her help to clear a few things as well.  I am also going to attempt to make bibs that they can start to put on and take off on their own.
So what happens after the meal?  Well the potty of course......

Check out Living Montessori Now's Montessori Monday for more Montessori inspiration.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Infant Music Time

Having been a professional musician music has always been a huge part of my life.  One thing I am trying to do as a mother is to instill that love of music in my children.  With both L and Baby J I started basically from birth.  We listen to all types of music in our house and the children were given instruments from the moment they were able to hold them.
As part of our routine  Baby J, Sweetpea and I have our daily music time.  Every morning before lunch I  go over to the instrument basket and say time for music.  The babies bob up and down with excitement and Sweetpea scoots over to the basket.  They both look at the CD player in anticipation.  I play a variety of different music from classical to African marimba.
This is our music basket.  It contains a set of symbols, a rainmaker, xylophone, egg shakers and castanets.  I have also recently added a tambourine, jingle bells and a clapper.  This basket is on the other side of the room from their shelves but is still available to them at all times.  Baby J has been using these instruments for a few months now but they were relatively new to Sweetpea.  At first she had no idea how they worked and just went from one to the next.  It didn't take her long however to catch on and now she will pick up the mallet for the xylophone to play it and hold the symbols by the handles to play them.  It is very rare for them now to misuse the instruments. 
Sweetpea also does the cutest thing.  She can't quite consistently make the sound on the castanets but she knows what they sound like so she holds them up and makes the clicking sound with her tongue instead! What a smart little cookie!
We have a wonderful time jamming out to different styles of music and going from one instrument to another, passing each other instruments back and forth to try. 
The other day L had a day off and was excited to participate in music time with us.  She got out her marimba and we all jammed together.   Our favourite CD is one of a local Marimba band who play African marimba music.
L left out her marimba and Sweetpea made a b-line for it.  She knew exactly what to do and even got the mallets facing the right way. 
We also sing and dance.  This is so easy to do and children love it.  You don't need to even buy any instruments.  You can make a rainmaker out of a paper towel roll and some rice, shakers out of bottles and drums from pots and wooden spoons!  I haven't met a child yet that doesn't love to get down and jam to some groovin' music!

Friday, 8 February 2013

The prepared environment-It works!

Most people who've worked in a Montessori environment will read the title of this post and say "Well duh!" and I also obviously know how important it is.  Over the past month the importance of having that prepared environment has really been emphasised.
Before Sweetpea came to us she was looked after by her Dad(while her Mama was courageously teaching L and her classmates).  I believe they had basically quiet days with a strong routine.
When Sweetpea first came it was obviously a huge adjustment for her.  Everything in her little world was new.  The people, environment and routine.  Sweetpea is a very happy, sweet natured little thing and adjusted really quickly.
I did observe that in the first couple days she would just go from one thing to the next not spending more than a second or two with each item.  She would mostly go through all of the materials pulling them off the shelves and hucking them out of the baskets.  Now this is completely normal behaviour for a 12 month old however I knew she was capable of really using the materials for their purpose.  I would introduce a material to her but she would quickly loose interest and move on to something else before I'd finished the short presentation.  It was tempting to figure she was bored and just wanted new things to explore, however all of my reading and some advice from the wonderful Pilar (The Full Montessori) made me stick to my guns and just let her continue to explore and get used to the materials that were on the shelves.  By the end of the second week I was already noticing a change in her interaction with the materials.  Instead of just moving quickly from one item to another she was beginning to experiment with things.  Oh this goes in here, if I do this this happens.
It was super exciting the first time she realised the could fit the cylinder into the imbucare box.  Last week while I was in hospital she completely mastered it and can now also do the rectangular prism.

Sweetpea is taking more care with the items and figuring out how they work and what they will do.  For example instead of just pulling the stacking cups off the shelf she will carefully pull out one by one and then work out how they fit back into each other.  There are obviously some items which hold her interest more than others.
Sweetpea now feels completely at home and comfortable in this environment and her growth and exploration is amazing.  I usually switch out one material a week or add an extension material if she's mastered something.  I will do an upcoming post on what each baby is working on.
Baby J loves having Sweetpea here and is totally spurred on to try and do what she is able to do.  He is desperate to move like she does.  It is wonderful to see them interacting together and a favourite game is to hand things back and forth to each other.
Here are a few pics of Baby J at work.

Another note on the environment.  Obviously it can get pretty messy at times but I try to put things back as they have moved on to something else so that the babies are used to seeing the environment always in order.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Infant materials 9 and 12 months

Here are the materials we started off with on the shelves at the beginning of January.  The shelves are from Ikea and are bolted to the wall.  I really like them because there is a separate compartment for each  material which makes them easy to keep organised.  They are also great for pulling up on and cruising along.  Both Baby J and Sweetpea have been shown all of these materials.  Sweetpea is cruising so is able to get anything on her own but Baby J still has to be given something unless I put him beside the shelves.  

 Starting on the top right.  A simple empty wipes box with a long silk scarf inside.  I thought this would be a bigger hit than it was actually.  They both seemed to be more interesting in the lid than pulling the scarf out.
This is a Pringles container which I covered with material.  I poked a hole in the lid and the bottom and threaded a long ribbon through and then tied  beads to the ends.  Both babies enjoy pulling the beads from one side to the other.

Stacking or nesting cups from Ikea.  I figured a close up pic wasn't necessary.

This material is one that I ordered on line.  It is basically a bead on a serpentine wire.  I've put this on the shelf and once they have mastered this I will put out a more complicated one that we have.
Sensory bottles.  I bought these plastic travel bottles from the Dollar store.  They contain colored water, beans, oatmeal, feathers and dimes.  

On the bottom right are soft stacking blocks from Ikea.

A basket of tactile beanbags.  Each one is made from a different textured material and filled with rice.

The treasure basket.  Each week I change this up.  Sweetpea is in the sensitive period for language so I am now doing a theme for each basket and presenting it to her with the first period lesson.  This basket is for bathroom things but we've also done one with kitchen items.

I found this on a local used toy website.  It comes with a hammer but at the moment I've just introduced it without and the babies push the balls with their hands.  The balls roll out the bottom.  This is a favorite of both babies.  Baby J also loves to hit the balls together as they make a wonderful noise.

The ball or "rolling things" basket.  Baby J is desperate to move so I put together this basket of ball like objects for him.

Homemade Imbucare box with cylinder block.  To make these I bought three wooden tissue boxes from the craft store.  My husband cut a large circle in the side and covered the top with acrylic with a hole cut into it the size of the block.  We made three of these but I have just introduced the first one.

So those are the items I started off with.  It seems like a lot but I only change one item a week plus the treasure basket so both babies have a chance to become very familiar with the materials and come back again and again to work with them.  I will be posting about our experiences with this environment soon.  The homemade materials come from ideas from around the Internet.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Our Montessori Infant Environment

Okay here is the new environment I've set up in our home for the two infants 9 and 12 months.  This space is also shared with L.   It is simple and spacious and easy to keep "order".  

 Starting on the left I have set up a little cozy reading area with pillows and a quilt.  We sit here to read books or the babies can choose their own books from the little brown basket.  Baby J also does his works on the quilt at the moment as he is not quite mobile.  Next is the pull up bar.  My husband made this for us.  It is 45cm high.  We have tucked the left support under the couch for more stability.  I am hoping to also get a mirror to go behind it.  
In the middle is the eating area.  This was Baby J's table from the kitchen and my husband made another chair for Sweetpea.  I used four foam play mats to protect the carpet.  Beside that is a little stool I use when the babies eat their meals.  As I mentioned above this space is also shared with L.  She has her desk there that she uses for crafts, writing and other activities.  The lowest box on the shelves is also hers for her craft supplies.  
Moving on are the shelves which hold all of the works.  There are 9 spaces and I usually have one work in each space.  This is actually a lot of choice but as there are two infants of very different ages there are works for both their stages. I will be doing another post on all of the works on the shelves in detail.  On the top of the shelves are L's globe, marimba and pan pipes.
An up close view of the eating area.  The picture is at eye level and will be changed every month.  We also use place mats at every meal.  I will also be doing a post on how the meals go.

Of course the environment will be constantly tweaked and updated as the infants needs change.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

An unexpected hiatus

January started off full of excitement and promise but somehow life got in the way.  The last three weeks my family has been plagued with a horrid flu and it was bad enough to send me to hospital for the past week.  I just got out yesterday and am still on home IV's for another week and a bit so not quite back to normal yet. 
I have been so disappointed that I haven't been able to do all of the things I wanted to and also to post about all of the things we have been doing.  Thankfully now that I'm home I've been able to take some pics of our environment so will be doing some posts very soon.  I have soooo much I'd want to post about just need to find the time and energy to do it!
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