Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 5, day 1: Putting it all on the table (or shelves, as the case may be)

I feel like a lot has changed since the last pictures of our Montessori environment, so I took some overview shots today.

This is our little corner of the master bedroom. (Yes, I know the last picture like this had the cat in it, too. He's the into-everything type.)

The Practical Life shelf is to the left on the picture. It has a funnel-pouring activity and yoga cards on the top shelf, dressing items and containers on the bottom shelf.

The funnel pouring has some orange sugar. I wanted to use dry barley, which would be a lot easier to clean up. But my funnel kept clogging on it (a great reminder to always test activities before setting them out). The orange sugar looks neat and pours well, but is definitely harder to clean up.

The yoga cards are from Montessori by Hand, as mentioned previously. I only have the 6 easiest of the 25 total cards out right now.

This is the Sensorial area, against the back in the overview picture. I have a small Ikea shelf to hold all the Cylinder Blocks and the Pink Tower extension sheets next to it. The first plastic shelf holds the Pink Tower, Knobless Cylinders, and Brown Stair. The top of the second plastic shelf has color matching; the bottom has rough and smooth, a blindfold, Smelling Bottles, and Sound Cylinders.

This is a close-up of the color shade matching. I'm happier with how it's presented now, although it's still not perfect.

Here's 3 of my homemade rough and smooth boards. This is the smooth, roughest, and middle grade. I have two other in-between grades tucked away.

This is the Language shelf. It's pretty empty today because I wanted to review some letters before putting out the next animal activity; that will go on the bottom. The top has 4 Sandpaper Letters and a treasure chest filled with coordinating noun cards. You can kinda-sorta see our rugs, rolled up in the corner space between the Sensorial and Language shelves.

These are the Math and Science shelves. Right now, the top has a shape puzzle and the bottom has our animal and botany puzzles.

I bought the shape puzzle set on sale at some discount store recently.

And finally, just a shot of our little table that Nugget does most of her work at. You can see my notebook on it; I take notes during each session about what she chooses and anything that strikes me (if something seems too easy or too hard, if the environment isn't working for her).

So, how did Nugget do with all this new stuff to go through? Much better than I expected, actually! I thought we'd have one of those days when she bounces from one thing to the next without spending any time on them. She checked out everything new, of course, but actually worked through everything.

I think the colorful box lids of the Knobless Cylinders grabbed her attention. That was what she pulled out first; the yellow box. I showed her how to line them up biggest to smallest and how to build a tower. Like the other size-based Sensorial items (Pink Tower, Brown Stair), she did them well but without much interest.

She did the funnel pouring once. That vase is way too tall, but I don't really have another option.

Then she spent 20 minutes working through each puzzle in order. She sat at her table, I sat on the bed and worked on the week's grocery list. She'd ask for help ("Mommy, can you help me with this? I need some help...."), but if I gave her an extra 5 seconds, she'd get it herself. That's just the phase she's in -- in Montessori and in daily life. The tree puzzle was by far the most difficult, but she finally got it. I was a little worried a few times -- she's got awkward and over-enthusiastic toddler hands, and those puzzles are made of pretty thin wood. But no damage so far....

Nugget spent some time wandering after the puzzles. She poked at the Sound Cylinders and the Sandpaper Letters before trying the shape puzzle. She tried the bird shape first, but got frustrated pretty quickly. I encouraged her to flip the sheet over and try the train, and I sat with her while she worked through it. Then we went back to the bird and completed that with some encouragement.

She went back to the Sandpaper Letters; I'd set out c, f, p, and s. She recognized each one and had no problem matching the noun cards. She did them all perfectly the first time.

Then she poured a few times -- cleanly for a while, then things got a bit messy. Next, we did the yoga cards together. That was pretty fun, and I was really happy with her body awareness. She's pretty slow on gross motor in general, but she enjoys things like gymnastics and yoga.

The wandering started again... poking at the Knobless Cylinders... wandering... looking at the color shade matching... wandering....

She settled in with the Sound Cylinders briefly. I reduced the number from 6 to 3, but two of them still sound too much alike. I might make our own, more distinct version and move to these laster. We at least talked a bit about loud and quiet.

Nugget started to wander again, and I pulled out Cylinder Block #4. She worked on some containers while I did that -- and it is tough! In Cylinder Block #4, all of the cylinders are the same diameter, but different heights. If you put a too-short cylinder in a too-deep hole, you have to turn the whole thing over and dump all of them out.

When I finished with Cylinder Block #4, I put all four out in a square and worked with them all at the same time. Nugget wasn't happy with me when I started out, but she finally settled in to watch... and then started to help... and then took over. And she did it just fine. She had to tell a story during it, of course. :) Something about an animal digging a hole? Her "reward" for finishing all four was to be able to climb in the middle of them and pretend it was a muddy hole.

And that pretty much ended our day. All together, about an hour and fifteen minutes. As I said, I was happy with her level of concentration given all of the new material.

Tomorrow, most of what's out will stay constant. I'll put out some new letters and, hopefully, another animal beginning sound activity (this depends on my energy level tonight which, so far, is pretty low). I think I'll set out another shape pattern card, as well.

We'll see how she reacts to a day in a nearly-identical set-up. I think it'll take at least a week or two for her to get used to this idea, so I'm going to go into it not expecting too much.


  1. I love the color shade matching. Are you willing to share how you did it? Did you have to buy all of those paint colors to paint on the end of the clothes pin? Feel free to post onto my blog with the answer:

    wonderful... I am completely inspired.

  2. Thanks! I actually just got two of each paint chip and cut out a piece of the second to glue onto the end of each clothespin.


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