Monday, February 25, 2013

Exciting News and February Festivities

So... I will begin with the news, so that everyone doesn't have to wait until the end of the post to find out:

After living in our tiny apartment for 5 years and house-hunting for the past 2 years, we have finally found somewhere to call home that we absolutely love. We actually started building our new house back in October, and I have been taking pictures of every step of the process (which I will share with you in an upcoming post). It has been quite a journey, and it has required a lot of patience, but we are finally going to settlement this week and have the actual move-in date scheduled for next week. Yay! Ryan will finally get his own bedroom (he currently sleeps in the living/dining/play room with Lucky), and we are all looking forward to having some more space.

We have stayed busy throughout this month, preparing for our move and spending some time with our wonderful friends here in MoCo. I feel like February has flown by way too quickly. In the beginning of the month, my friend T hosted a sweet Valentine's Day party where we set up a miniature "photo booth" and took pictures of all of us mommies with our littles.

Afterwards, I took Ryan to play at the park (yes, he was the only child on the playground with a tie, but I thought that it was adorable) and then we went out to dinner at a restaurant with daddy.

I recently posted this on my facebook page (sorry for the repeat) but I just have to say that I truly love Ryan’s personality. It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to get to know him as a unique and individual person. He is constantly changing and growing and, every day, we fall in love with him all over again. Babyhood was wonderful, but this stage is by far my favorite because it is the most exciting and rewarding. Mommy and daddy love you so much, sweet boy! 

When I was digging through some boxes the other day, I came across some of my old baby clothes that my mom had saved. Most of them were frilly dresses, but this one sweater caught my eye because it looked like it could pass for "boy" colors. It was clearly handmade, and the tag inside said that it was made by my grandma D. Since she is turning 80 years old next month, I decided to take some pictures of her great-grandson in the sweater and to surprise her with them.  

My friend K arranged for our playgroup to have a tour of the local fire department. It was a huge hit, since it was basically a large-scale version of their regular play. The kids got to climb all over the fire trucks and ambulances. They even got to sit inside and pretend to drive them. It was all free, but they warned us that at any time, they may have to stop the tour short if they got a call that an emergency happened. (Well, uhh yeah.. I guess so!) Nothing happened, so we ended up spending about an hour there exploring and talking to some of the fire fighters about their job.

When Ryan was born in 2010, I was the only one out of my close friends to have a baby. They were all so very supportive and sweet to Ryan, but most of them worked and/or lived far away. During months 4 through 9 of Ryan's life, I was getting chemo and was in and out of the hospital for my mom and for myself. After I got better, I thought that it would be fun to meet some other new mommies, and to do baby-related activities with them. (Especially for stay-at-home moms, I would highly recommend getting involved with other people who are like you and creating a support system.) I have been very blessed to find two groups of mommies who I have grown very close to. We meet regularly for playgroups, and we also host parties, attend community events, and enjoy mom's night out. I am going to miss these amazing ladies sooo much after we move!

Friday Playgroup

Wednesday Playgroup

Although I know that we won't be able to attend as many of their social events as we did while we lived here, I am comforted to know that we will only be living about an hour away. (Thankfully, we are not moving across the country or anything like that.) I hope that our friends will drive over to visit us, and I know that we will be stopping in for visits every once in a while too.

There is so much to look forward to in the next couple of months, not only for us, but for some of my best friends: J is getting married in April, K will be visiting from CA in April/May, and E is due to have her first baby in May! It is all too exciting and I can't wait!

Friday, February 1, 2013

50 Montessori Activities for 2 Year Olds

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) noticed that young children are naturally drawn to the types of things that allow them to put their sense of order to use. They also have an inner developmental need to gain independence. This certainly seems to be true for most toddlers that I know.

A primary goal of Montessori philosophy is: "Help me to do it myself". We want to encourage children to learn by doing and to incorporate a sense of learning and accomplishment into their everyday tasks and activities. These little guys and gals are so much more capable than we realize!

Many Montessori-inspired activities promote self-sufficiency, have a built-in control of error, appeal to the senses, and/or prepare the finger muscles for holding a pencil for writing. Most importantly, they are geared towards a young child's developmental interests.

In order for us to successfully prepare the environment for learning, it is important that we regularly observe each child for changes in their particular interests and their developmental readiness.  

Here are some of my previous posts on Montessori activities for younger children: 

Montessori for 21 to 22 Month Olds

Montessori for 19 to 20 Month Olds

Montessori for 17 to 18 Month Olds

Montessori for 15 to 16 Month Olds

Montessori-Style Education

The Importance of Nature for Young Children

Throughout the past months, I have continued to introduce R to new Montessori-inspired works and he absolutely loves them. When I set up these activities, they are displayed in an organized and uncluttered way on low shelves that R can easily reach. Everything has a place in which it belongs and R is expected to return his work to the appropriate space. He chooses what he wants to do, and for how long.

Here are some of the activities that R has been working on throughout the past few months. (He is 2 years 4 months old). They are divided into the categories of: creating a sense of order, fine motor development, pre-literacy, math, sensorial, and practical life activities.

Creating a Sense of Order








   Shades of Color


   Shape Blocks


  Solid Figures (spheres, cylinders, and cubes)


   Knobbed Cylinders (we bought the mini ones for now; they are more affordable)

   Events from Books

   Basic Skills Puzzle Cards

Fine Motor Development


   Shoe (this big shoe is easier for him to lace than his little shoes)

   Animal Frames

   Jumbo Beads (also used for learning simple patterns)

   Paper Weaving


   Water (and wiping up the spills)


Spooning and Transferring


   Erasers (could use for Valentine's Day)

   Coins (could use for St. Patrick's Day)

   Chicks (could use for Spring/Easter)




   Real Food (also spreading butter)

   Wooden Food

   Using Scissors


   Letter Matching

   Alphabet Bean Bags (toss and act out something that begins with the phonetic sound)

   Writing (if using the pen is too challenging, fill in the letter with play-doh)


   Spindle Box

   Sandpaper Numbers

   Numbers and Counting Dots


   Feely Bag

   Sound Cylinders

   Mixing Colors (to create new colors)

   Bath Tub Jello (to dig for the hidden animals)

   Sensory Tub

Practical Life

Self Care

   Dressing Basket

   Brushing Hair

   Brushing Teeth

   Putting on Shoes

   Zipping, Snapping, and Buttoning

   Washing Hands

Household Chores

   Cleaning Windows

   Washing Dishes

   Sorting Laundry

   Setting the Table

   Arranging Flowers

   Laying Out his Mat (and rolling it back up)

Choosing a Montessori Pre-School

R has done an amazing job with his Montessori works at home. Yet, in the past, I was never completely sure about sending him to a Montessori pre-school. I knew that I wanted to send him somewhere that was good match for his personality and learning style. I wanted the teachers to be child-centered and nurturing. I wanted him to gain self-confidence and self-direction. The most important thing is that he is happy and loves being there.

So when we started searching for pre-schools, we considered a wide range of traditional, play-based, and Montessori programs. We found two schools that we like; as in, we could imagine R going there and doing well. We found one school that we seriously love; as in, I want to go to that school myself, befriend the teachers, and delve right in to all of the interesting materials. R's face lights up anytime we talk about that school and he begs me to take him back there. It is a Montessori school. Needless to say, we will be completely crushed if he doesn't get in. We are currently on the waitlist and will find out about our status in March.

Here are some positive things that stood out to me about this school:

1.  Teachers:  Passionate about their students and about Montessori principles. I could already see R bonding with several of them when we were there at the open house.

2.  Core Values:  Each child is taught to develop their own unique personality instead of conforming to the social norms. A child does something because of an inner desire to do it, not because the teacher said so. The program highly values freedom, responsibility, curiosity, thinking outside the box, motivation, concentration, persistence, respect for all living things, manners, discipline, structure without limitations, and actively contributing to society.

3.  Inherent Flexibility:  The children go at their own paces and are never made to feel that they are "behind." The teacher adapts individualized lessons for each child, depending on their learning style, interests, and level of ability.

4.  Classroom Community:  The primary classroom consists of 3 to 6 year olds, which means that the older students act as teachers and mentors for the younger ones. They truly care about, admire, and support each another.

5.  Everything is Child-Sized:  bathrooms, sinks, the materials for children to prepare their own simple snacks, the clean-up supplies, the gardening tools. Each classroom as their own garden and they grow and eat their own vegetables. All of this really fosters a sense of independence and self-confidence.

6.  Nature-based:  Along with a playground, the children are also provided with an abundance of natural materials to explore during recess, such as sticks and logs to build their own forts. They go outside several times throughout the day to work directly with nature.

Here are some drawbacks to consider about a Montessori school:

1.  The children do not play with toys or dress-up for imaginative play.  I believe that this type of play is actually very important for a pre-schooler's development. Since R will only be going to school for a few hours each morning (8:30 to noon) I am not too concerned though, because I know that he will have plenty of time to play during the rest of the afternoon and evening.

2.  The name Montessori was never copyrighted, so any school can use the name Montessori and just do a few simple Montessori-inspired activities as a way of justifying their high tuition. However, you can be sure that it is a true Montessori school if they are affiliated and certified by the AMI or AMS. We made sure to check out the two Montessori schools that we were interested in before we visited them and they were both AMI certified.

You can check out all of the AMI certified schools on the Association Montessori International website.  There are a lot of wonderful options for Montessori in the DC metro area!

Edit: It has been pointed out to me that there are other certification programs, such as CCMA and MACTE, that accredit schools. I am not familiar with these, so I can not personally vouch for whether or not they are reputable, but I would encourage parents to do further research if this is something that they are interested in.

From an educational standpoint... 

Child development research has shown that the most crucial years for brain development occurs during the first 6 years of a child's life. So, pre-school and kindergarten really set the stage. During this time, a person builds the foundation for how they will process and use knowledge that they acquire then and later on in life.

Of course, very few classrooms these days are completely traditional in this sense. Many effective teachers combine some aspects from traditional methods with ideas from various other schools of thought. That is what I did as a 2nd grade teacher, as do most other teachers. This chart solely serves the purpose of contrasting a Montessori classroom with a completely traditional one.

Here is a recent article about the benefits of Montessori education with a focus on famous entrepreneurs who learned how to "think outside the box" at an early age. (This link only lets you read the first few paragraphs, but if you can find the entire article, it is a very interesting read!)

And if you really want to learn more about Montessori philosophy and practice, check out I really feel like the more that I learn about Montessori, the more I appreciate it and realize that it just makes more sense!

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