Understanding Montessori: What do the children do all day?

There is often a veil of mystery over the goings on in a typical Montessori classroom. Children come home with reports of “doing work,” which sounds kinda serious. They talk about circle time and playground time, but they also throw around words and phrases that make no sense to the average parent. I mean, “what the heck is “pin punching” anyway and why is my child doing it?” When you’re trying to understand what Montessori is all about, you’re going to find yourself wondering, “What do the kids do all day?”

So, let’s lift the veil and take a peek into a typical day in a Montessori classroom. If you’re still trying to make sense of what sets Montessori apart from other programs, you’re going to want to start with this post from earlier this year: What’s the Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool?

The Importance of a Schedule

Montessori programs are ALL about consistency! A regular, consistent schedule sets the pace and is important for the emotional well-being of both the students and the teachers. When we all know what’s coming next, we can plan better, learn to use our time wisely, and look forward to different parts of each day. Learning to tell time begins with learning the rhythm of the days, weeks, and seasons, and consistency and routine are key!

The schedule of each day is more or less the same as the day before it, but there are always exceptions, opportunities for spontaneity, and necessary changes, such as days with special events, holiday celebrations, weather-related changes, or in-house program days. Because most days run like clockwork, changes to the schedule are fun and exciting for most children, rather than stress-inducing, which can be the case for programs that lack consistency and have a lot of built-in variability and change.

Although Montessori schools are similar in that they follow the same philosophical educational principles, they are all independently owned and operated, making each one unique and special in its own right. We’re going to break the day into four sections: morning, mid-day, afternoon, and late-afternoon and give you a snippet of what each time looks likes, here at Children’s House.  

Morning (8:00 to 11:00)

Also known as the Great Period, mornings in our Montessori classrooms are taken pretty seriously. It’s one of two work periods and offers an opportunity for children to concentrate on their selected activities. Concentration is the pathway to learning, so we work really hard to establish a calm, organized, and engaging environment that sets the stage for concentration. 

Children spend this time working on individual activities at a table or on a rug on the floor. Many activities require a lesson from the teacher before a child can use them independently. Others, such as puzzles, can be taken off the shelf without a lesson. Children who are not receiving a lesson from a teacher might be having a snack, working on something alone or with a friend, completing a work that was started the day before, or just walking around, observing. 

Some favorite morning activities include painting at the easel, learning sounds (sandpaper letters), writing words (moveable alphabet), counting (cards and counters), math (golden beads and more), and, of course, pin punching (Pin-punching: using a pointed tool to poke holes along a line on a piece of paper. The end result is a shape that is released from the paper. Pin punching improves fine motor skills and requires a lot of concentration, especially for the youngest members of our community!)

Pin punching is fun with a friend!

It’s a busy time of day, but, as we all know, time flies when you’re having fun, so it’s not too long before we’re wrapping up the morning, getting the tables cleared, cleaned, and set for lunch. The children join a teacher at the carpet for Circle Time, share the daily Virtue card, read a story, sing some songs, and then head outside to play.

Mid-Day (11:00 – 1:00)

At Children’s House we are so lucky to have a beautiful, natural play space for our children! We love our playground and the opportunities for exploration, observation, and imagination that it provides. The children climb on the traditional play equipment, dig in the sand, and enjoy a variety of seasonal activities related to maintaining our classroom gardens. If we’re especially lucky, we’ll spot deer in the woods, a hawk in the trees, and all sorts of creatures and critters who visit us inside our fenced space. 

After playtime, it’s lunch time! So, we head back inside, wash our hands, and enjoy our lunch together in each classroom. Lunch time is a chance to engage in polite conversation while eating lunch and listening to music on the CD player (yes, they still make CD players!). After lunch, several children are tasked with helping a teacher wipe down the tables and sweep the floor, which the rest of the class return to the playground for a second play period.

8… 9… 10! Ready or not, here I come!

Afternoon (1:00 – 3:00)

Depending on their age and the program in which they are enrolled, the children do one of the following afternoon activities in three, separate, classrooms spaces:

Nap– Our youngest children (3 turning 4) go to the bathroom and lie down on a mat with a soft toy brought from home. Then we turn off the lights and play soft music to help them fall asleep. 

Rest and then classroom work – Our middle group of children (4 turning 5) will rest quietly for 30 minutes while they listen to a story, and then join their peers to continue work begun in the morning.

Kindergarten work – The kindergarten children (5 turning 6) from both classes come together in the afternoons for kindergarten-specific lessons. These include lessons in art related to specific artists, in-depth lessons on a science or geography topic of study, sewing lessons on a variety of stitches and sewing techniques, and advanced math lessons. They also have writing and penmanship lessons as well as lots of opportunities throughout the year for creative and nonfiction writing. It’s a busy time, for sure!

For the last half hour of the afternoon period, the children come back together again for another Circle Time before the afternoon dismissal. 

Late Afternoon (3:00 – 5:30)

Children enrolled in our Aftercare Program enjoy additional time outside on the playground, an afternoon snack, and a variety of activities, like creative art projects and games. 

Aftercare is a Montessori-friendly extension of our school-day program. Our program is run by our Montessori teachers and assistants, which allows for continuity and consistency for the children in our care.

At 5:30, our busy day is over. It’s up to you to fill in the details for the rest of the day! Home, dinner, bath time, and stories? What does family time look like for you?

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Is Your Child Ready for More? Three Key Signs of Preschool Readiness

It can be a tough call. For many families with young children, knowing when a child is “ready for more” can come with a lot of doubt and uncertainty.

  • Maybe your child has been in an at-home daycare since they were a baby, and the idea of putting them into a larger group setting is making you nervous. Are they ready for that? Will they get lost in the shuffle?
  • Or perhaps it’s that you love the teachers at their daycare, but you just don’t think your child is being challenged enough and she seems bored or disinterested.
  • Let’s be honest here — maybe it’s just too much to think about right now and you know that a change for her means a change for you — you’ll need to tour new places, fill out applications, and then there’s the forms, fees, and the new schedule and routine. It’s a lot.

Whatever your hesitations or looming question marks, knowing some signs of preschool readiness can make the decision a little easier. We’ve put together a quick list of what to look for in your child that will help you make the transition from home or daycare to a more formal school setting.

children working together with a globe / signs of readiness for preschool
Learning about the continents

Signs of Preschool Readiness #1: Independence

If the words, “I do it!” are frequently heard around your house and it seems like you don’t make it through the day without at least one power struggle or tantrum, it’s time to consider preschool. The toddler / preschool age is a tough one for many parents. Their sweet baby has blossomed into a fiercely independent child who has opinions and knows how to voice them.

Send them to school! We’ll take that budding independence and give it some boundaries. We’ll encourage it in a way that makes your child feel in control, but we’ll also show them how to participate in group activities, follow directions, and complete the work cycle. Yes, we’ll show them how to take work from the shelves, do it properly, and then clean it up!

You’ll start to see the changes at home. They’ll start showing you what they’ve learned, start singing songs you didn’t teach them, and you’ll see their independent spirit grow and flourish.

Signs of Preschool Readiness #2: Purposefulness

Most children love to help! They want to be part of the action, and being told they’re “such a good helper” is a badge of honor they are proud of. Young children love purpose; they love big jobs. Helping a parent carry the grocery bags or push the vacuum cleaner makes them feel strong and grown up.

Send them to Montessori school! We’ll take that purposefulness and put it to work! The Montessori classroom is filled with opportunity to do “big work” — like scrubbing chairs and tables, watering the plants, or setting the tables for lunch. Children work together with teachers to maintain the classroom environment and a child’s efforts are seen and acknowledged.

In a Montessori classroom, all activity has purpose. Children learn that this is a place of great accomplishment and they take pride in hard work and new challenges.

Signs of Preschool Readiness #3: Flexibility

So we’ve got this fiercely independent 3 year-old who wants to do big, important tasks their way, right? And now we’re saying that flexibility is the final component to preschool readiness? Yes, we are. You see, flexibility is the potential that lies behind the stereotypically stubborn toddler. You want to see growth and maturity? You guessed it: send them to school!

Children learn by example. They learn by watching others, imitating behavior and language, and through trial and error. When it comes to flexibility — the ability to go with the flow, cooperate when asked, and follow rules and directions without a whole lot of pushback — we don’t necessarily think preschoolers have much, because we may not see it very often.

But, it’s there. Young children want so badly to learn, to grow, to be a big kid. They want to be like you — all grown up and smart!

Send them to school.

  • A good teacher will see their stubbornness and recognize the strong will that lies beneath. She’ll take that need for independence and work with it, rather than against it.
  • A good teacher will expect cooperation and will have 32 tricks up her sleeve when it doesn’t come out the first time around. She’ll make working together fun and engaging.
  • A good teacher will trust that flexibility will come. She practices patience and kindness, models calmness and reliability.
  • A good school will welcome you and learn about your child before they enter the classroom. They’ll ask questions and make you feel comfortable. We understand that, for most families, change is scary / exciting. We’re here to help you navigate that transition.
  • A good school will make you feel at home.

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We are Thankful!

It’s that time of the year! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s only natural that we spend some time reflecting on all the wonderful things we have in our lives. Here, at Children’s House, we have been sharing our gratitude daily at circle time.

We take our lead from The Virtues Project™️ card for Thankfulness and remind the children (and ourselves) that “Thankfulness is being grateful for what we have. It is an attitude of gratitude for learning, loving, and being.”

As a school, we are wrapping up our annual food drive to benefit Cornerstones, a local non-profit. This is one of our favorite ways to share what we have with those less fortunate in our community. The children love bringing in their donations and it has sparked some great conversations about generosity, helpfulness, and compassion.

We have so much to be thankful for! From families and love to pumpkins and volcanoes, there are little (and big) things around us every day to make us smile. Take a minute to enjoy these smiling faces and big hearts that we are thankful for!

Wherever you are this Thanksgiving, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday with your loved ones. And, if you still need a little help getting into the spirit of things, try repeating the Thankfulness affirmation with us! Read this out loud:

I am thankful for the many gifts within me and around me today. I appreciate my life. I look for the lessons. I expect the best.

The Virtues Project™️

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Foster Internal Motivation with these 4 Phrases

If you’ve ever had a hobby or pastime that you did just because it made you feel good, and there was no prize or other compensation at the end, then you can recall how internal motivation feels. It feels pretty good, right?

Well, you’ve probably also had an experience where you stopped doing something you used to enjoy, because something about the activity changed for you. Maybe you used to love a certain sport, but after too many competitions and tournaments, you felt burnt out and you haven’t played in years. Or maybe you got in trouble for doing something you enjoyed and decided it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Internal motivation, or intrinsic motivation, is the idea that we do things we enjoy simply because we enjoy them, not because we’re seeking rewards or trying to avoid punishment (external motivators) and it is a deeply connected to learning. What we enjoy, we seek more of, and what we love, we learn. So, how do we foster internal motivation in our children? How do we help them identify those positive feelings without connecting the behavior to an external motivator (like praise or punishment)?

To start with, stop saying “good job.” If you can put a red light on that one, you’ll be well on your way. “Good job,” and other simple phrases that praise children for — let’s be honest, pretty much everything — are external motivators. It may sound a little backwards, but too much praise is actually a bad thing! Here are some examples of what to say instead of “good job, great work,” or “I love it!”

Phrase #1 to Foster Internal Motivation: I can see how hard you worked.

Acknowledge your child’s effort and then expand on it. Draw attention to the details you see and elaborate on them.

“I can see how hard you worked on this building. Wow… look at the windows and the corners you added… You used up every block!”

“I can see how hard you worked to tie your shoes! That must feel good to do it all by yourself with no help!

two boys smile with pride at their work. Foster internal motivation.

Phrase #2 to Foster Internal Motivation: What do you love about this?

Encourage your child to reflect on what he or she enjoys and let them have their own opinions about what they like or don’t.

“Look at all these colors and shapes! So fancy! What do you love about this picture you drew for me?”

“You ate your whole dinner! What was your favorite part?”

Phrase #3 to Foster Internal Motivation: I can tell you’re really proud of yourself.

Drawing your child’s attention to internal feelings of pride, accomplishment, or success, helps them identify it the next time it shows up. It feels good, so name it and describe it.

“I can tell you’re really proud of yourself for getting all the way across the monkey bars! Your smile is so big!!”

Phrase #4 to Foster Internal Motivation: That was tough, but you kept going!

Perseverance and determination are two qualities that will get any child over some major hurdles in life. A child who learns, at a young age, that she is capable of doing hard things, will be able to build on that experience.

“That was tough, but you kept going! It’s okay to be tired, you’ve been working so hard.”

Look at how much you’ve done / how far you’ve come! What was the most challenging part?”

Instead of falling back on external motivators like praise or rewards (sticker charts, prizes, etc), talk to your child about what’s happening to them inside when they’re engaged in a behavior they enjoy. Help them identify the emotions they’re experiencing so that they can learn from it for the next time.

Additional Resources:

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What is Montessori? And Other Common Questions

Despite the fact that Montessori education has been around since 1907, there are still some common misconceptions about what it is and what it isn’t. “What is Montessori?” is a huge question, really, because the answer is a lot bigger and more philosophical than the average person is expecting when they pose the question. Here are our (brief) answers, to some of the more common questions people ask.

“What is Montessori?”

Montessori (or the Montessori Method or Montessori Philosophy) is a child-centered educational approach. It is more typically associated with Early Childhood programs (ages 3 – 6), but is also popular in Infant / Toddler programs. While there are elementary, middle, and high school programs available, they are less common.

“Who was Maria Montessori?”

The short answer? A woman ahead of her time! Dr. Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy who applied her scientific observation skills to develop the Montessori Method. She spent her whole adult life working with young children and used her years of study to develop materials and practices that served to enhance the learning process and respect a child’s natural development.

“Do the kids just get to do whatever they want?”

Dr. Montessori observed that, when given the opportunity and right environment, children were naturally inclined to select activities that fostered concentration and independent learning. When a child makes a selection based on independent choice, he or she is more likely to fully engage with that material and therefore, more likely to learn whatever it is they are there to learn.

You know that feeling you get when you’re completely in your “zone”? Time flies by, you’re deep in concentration, and when you’re done with whatever it was you were doing, you feel good! That’s how work should feel. And that’s how children in a Montessori classroom feel after a solid morning work period: refreshed, accomplished, and proud.

Happy and proud after a good morning's work! What is Montessori?

“Where are the toys?”

Montessori classrooms don’t look like traditional preschool classrooms, it’s true. There is no dress-up corner or block corner and there are not trucks and dolls for the children to play with. The Montessori Philosophy extends to the materials in the classroom as well: real and functional take priority over pretend.

When you tour a Montessori school, make sure you do so during the morning work period (the Great Period) and look closely at what you see. You may not see children playing dress up or cars, but you’ll probably see them scrubbing a chair or table, watering the plants in the classroom, sewing with real needles, and painting at an easel (and then cleaning up their paint supplies). The classroom will be busy, but engaged. There will be children sitting at tables and on the floor, walking around, taking out work and putting it away. You might even catch a child doing yoga or sitting quietly in the peace corner or reading a book.

“Why are Montessori schools more expensive?”

Montessori schools tend to have higher tuition rates than traditional preschool programs, because the vast majority of Montessori schools are independently owned and operated. Each school is responsible for all of its own costs and there is no larger Montessori corporation working behind the scenes to cut expenses and offer the lowest rate in town.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing a school for your child and one of them is certainly cost. Call around and compare pricing and programs to make sure you know what your tuition covers and what it doesn’t. Most importantly, take a tour! Your tuition directly impacts the staff, facilities, and program expenses, so make sure you feel good about supporting the school you choose! Visit the schools you’re considering and ask yourself:

  • Are the children happy, engaged, and relaxed?
  • Are the teachers helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable?
  • Is the classroom warm and inviting?
  • Does this feel like a good fit for my family?

Still got questions? Check out these previous posts:

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Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 5 (Excellence and Creativity)

This is the fifth post in a monthly series that will be devoted to practical tips for using the Virtues language when teaching character development in early childhood. We’ll explain how we use this program in our classrooms, what it sounds like in conversation, and how you can use it at home in a variety of examples. We’ll be highlighting two Virtues each month, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for monthly Virtues tips that you can use at home!

If you missed the first posts in the series, you can catch up here:

And, if you haven’t already downloaded our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS, you’re going to want to do that now.

The Virtues Project™: Excellence

Excellence is doing your best, giving careful attention to every task and every relationship. Excellence is effort guided by a noble purpose. It is a desire for perfection. The perfection of a seed comes in the fruit. When you practice excellence, you bring your gifts to fruition. Excellence is the key to success.

THE VIRTUES PROJECT™

Think for a minute about a child who is just learning to tie their shoes. Consider how much focus and concentration is required to steady the hands, grasp the laces, follow the steps, mess up, get frustrated, and try again. Excellence calls the child back to an activity, gives them opportunity to practice and perfect new skills, and allows for further growth and progress in different areas. Excellence draws their attention to the feel of the laces, the shape of the loops, the gap between the loops, and exactly how much tension is needed to pull the two loops just enough to complete the bow and not end up with a knot. It’s a lot to learn!

Children practice excellence when they focus, concentrate, and pay attention to details. The Montessori classroom is set up to allow this concentration to occur and the Montessori teacher is trained to recognize the opportunities when they present themselves. It’s so much more than “Wow! Good job!” When we take note of excellence, we acknowledge that children are constantly fine tuning themselves; getting stronger and more capable each and every day!

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Excellence at school:

Acknowledgement: “I’m so proud of you for finishing the 45-layout! You worked hard with excellence to complete the whole thing by circle time.”

Guidance: “This part of the map is tricky. We’ll need to use excellence to make sure we trace each and every state so we can see them clearly.”

Correction: “I know it’s frustrating when your sewing work gets all tangled up. Try to pay close attention to your needle next time… up, down, up, down. Slowly, slowly, with excellence.”

The Virtues Project™: Creativity

Creativity is the power of imagination. It is discovering your own special talents. Dare to see things in new ways and find different ways to solve problems. With your creativity, you can bring something new into the world.

THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
Creativity lead this young man to practice writing his numbers in a different way. We love it!

Creativity is paint, brushes, scissors, glue, tape… and so much more! At our school it’s also dirt, sticks, leaves, and rocks! Creativity is fun and sometimes messy, but it’s so important. Using tools and resources in a new way allows children to think creatively by exploring alternate options, experiencing trial and error, and taking risks. By allowing children to try different ways of approaching a task or project, we allow them to develop strengths they may just be discovering.

As adults, it can be challenging to stand back and observe a child who is doing something new for the first time. Let them try first, before intervening! You never know what creativity can unlock!

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Creativity at school:

Acknowledgement: “You found a new way to use that work. I hadn’t thought of doing it that way before. You used creativity to try something different.”

Guidance: “I’m not sure what will happen if we try it that way. Let’s use creativity and find out!”

Correction: “I wonder what would happen if we do it another way? Next time, let’s use creativity to think of new ways we can make it work.”

Using Excellence and Creativity at Home

Above all, naming the Virtues when you see them in action is one of the best ways to draw your child’s attention to what he or she is experiencing. Name the Virtue! Describe it and give it context. Here are some examples of what we mean:

Excellence is present in the following examples:

  • Completing a multi-step task, like putting on shoes, jacket, and hat before leaving the house, or setting the table
  • Sweeping the kitchen floor or raking the leaves
  • Cleaning up the Legos and getting every. single. last. one. into the Lego bin! Every. single. last. one!

Creativity can look like this:

  • Solving a conflict with a sibling in a new way
  • Repurposing cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, etc for play
  • Cooking / baking / helping in the kitchen

Have FUN with creativity and HONE in on excellence! You’ll be amazed at what you see!

boy with drawing / character development in early childhood
Days we do our metal inset work the “right” way and other days we turn it into a baseball picture for our favorite team. (Go, Nats!)

For more information on the Virtues and for lots of examples you can use at home: Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Thankfulness and Understanding, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

Additional Resources:

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Three Reasons Why Montessori Makes Sense

We’ve explained the difference between Montessori and traditional preschools and we’ve told you what to look for in an authentic Montessori program. We haven’t filled you in though, on why Montessori makes sense in the first place.

What is it about this teaching method that has resonated with so many parents and educators across the world for over a hundred years? Trends come and go, but Montessori is not a trend. Montessori education has staying power, because at the heart of it all, it just makes so much sense!

Reason #1 Why Montessori Makes Sense: Engaged Learning

“The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.”

Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

If you’ve ever suffered through a class you didn’t want to take in the first place, then you know that learning because you have to learn is a different experience, entirely, to learning because you want to learn. Montessori classrooms allow opportunities for children to make their own choices regarding their learning, which results in happier children who actually want to learn.

When we are active participants in our learning, we are more engaged learners. It just makes sense: give a child choices and follow their lead. They’ll show you what they need and you’ll be able to guide them to materials that help them learn.

Reason #2 Why Montessori Makes Sense: A Sensory Experience

“The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.” 

Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

The Montessori classroom is one that has been thoughtfully designed to meet the child’s sensory needs. Everything in the room serves a purpose (and, if it doesn’t have one yet, one will be assigned to it by an astute teacher looking for a teachable moment. Ha ha!)

In our classrooms we see and learn to discern shapes, colors, and sizes. We touch and learn to identify texture, weight, and shape. We smell (well, we don’t smell, but our noses do), we taste, and we hear and we make observation and connections with the world around us.

It’s fall — we can talk about apples or we can touch, smell, and taste them. We can talk about pumpkins or we can get our hands on one! If you read last week’s post, you know that there’ll be lots to experience when we carve our classroom pumpkins next week. You’d better believe that it will be a hands-on, sensory experience!

Adding a blindfold to a work is a surefire way to isolate one sense (touch) by removing another (sight).

Reason #3 Why Montessori Makes Sense: Mixed-Age Classrooms

“Children acquire knowledge through experience in the environment.”

Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

If you want to understand something — really understand it — teach it to someone else. It is in the teaching that we truly learn. The Montessori classroom is designed to be a place where the youngest children learn from the older children. It is therefore also a place where the oldest children learn by showing the youngest children.

Older children in a mixed-aged classroom take on a combination role of student and teacher. This is why it is so important that a child remain in the classroom for their third year, the kindergarten year. They love being the leaders in their classroom and, in so many ways, solidify their own learning by demonstrating to their younger peers.

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Build Your Child’s Vocabulary: 3 Activities for Fall

When you’re out and about doing fun family activities this fall, take the opportunity to add a little language boost to your outings! We’re going to give you three tips to help build your child’s vocabulary this fall while you’re enjoying the season and just having a good time!

Children are little sponges. They soak up everything and are capable of so much more than we sometimes give them credit for. One of the best ways to take advantage of this natural inclination to absorb information is to use proper names and descriptive language in your everyday conversations.

Build Your Child’s Vocabulary Tip #1: Name that tree!

Whether you’re out in your yard raking leaves, walking around your neighborhood, or enjoying a family hike, take a few minutes to identify some of the different species of trees that you see. Autumn is the perfect time of year to note the differences in common trees in your area. Different trees will turn different colors, making them easier to identify and fun to collect and admire.

Draw your child’s attention to differences in shape, size, color, and texture. You can compare a reddish-orange leaf from a white oak tree to the bright yellow leaves from the tulip poplar tree. They are distinctly different; something that is not necessarily easy to spot in the spring or summer to the untrained eye. Instead of just saying “look at the pretty leaves,” you can say “which do you prefer? The tulip poplar or the white oak?”

Need a little help? There are an endless number of resources online! We searched for “tree identification Virginia” and found this handy guide from the Virginia Department of Forestry. Look for resources related to your neck of the woods and take a few minutes to ID some trees!

Build Your Child’s Vocabulary Tip #2: Carve a Pumpkin!

Like many families, you’ll probably be carving a pumpkin some time soon. You might even be heading to a pumpkin patch to pick it yourselves! Take the time to identify and name the different part of the pumpkin. Use descriptive words to draw attention to the shape, size, texture, and colors that you see. And encourage your child to explore the many fun aspects of this autumnal fruit (yes, a pumpkin is a fruit).

  • Stem – thick, prickly, green, brown, short, long, curved, straight
  • Vine – twisty, rope-like, prickly
  • Leaves – green, brown, large, dried, soft, crispy
  • Skin – smooth, bumpy, rough, clean, muddy, dirty, rotten, ripe, lumpy, creased, orange, yellow, white, green
  • Pulp – stringy, slimy, wet, squishy
  • Seeds – smooth, slippery, large, small, numerous, flat, edible
  • Meat – thick, orange, smooth, cold, wet

There are so many wonderful words to describe our favorite fall gourd! Dig in, scrape around, and get creative!

Build Your Child’s Vocabulary Tip #3: Apples Galore!

Have you ever had an apple taste test? Fall is the perfect time of year to try out different apple varieties, so get your taste buds ready and have some fun with apples! If apple-picking at a local farm or orchard is an option, head out to pick your own or select your apples from local markets. If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, Stribling Orchard in Markham is reasonable drive and offers a beautiful country setting, fresh food market, and apples galore (through early November).

Select five or six different apples, cut them up, and have a family taste test! Which do you prefer? Everyone knows about Red Delicious and Granny Smith, but have you tried Cortland, Empire, or Pink Lady apples? What about Ginger Gold, Stayman, or Tyedman Red?

For extra vocabulary bonus points that also taste delicious, get baking! From pies, to crisps, to breads, and sauces, apples are such a versatile fruit. They are tart, sweet, juicy, firm, soft, ripe, rotten, and a million words in between!

Final Thoughts

  • Use your senses— Pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around you this fall. There are so many ways to experience this season and share those observations with your child!
  • Let your child explore without judgement — yes, pumpkin pulp is wet, slimy, and stringy, but that doesn’t mean it’s gross, yucky, or disgusting! As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to introduce new experiences without bias.
  • Beware of activity overload — It’s tempting to load up the calendar as we head into cooler months, but choose quality over quantity when it comes to outings, adventures, and experiences. Nothing ruins a fun day out like a tantrum or a meltdown! Know your child’s limits and quit while you’re ahead.

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Encourage Independence in Young Children: Our Top 3 Household Picks

Most parents are well-versed when it comes to baby-proofing their home. They know that there are cabinet and drawer locks to be purchased, safety gates to be installed, and electrical outlets to be blocked. But what about after the crawling baby and curious toddler phase have passed? How can you encourage independence in young children while still maintaining a safe space?

Young children want to help! They want to participate in the daily chores and activities around the house, but all too often, their efforts are hampered by their size. Help them out! There are three simple items that can make a huge difference in your home. Each can be used in multiple rooms and in multiple ways. We have selected the ones we feel are the most helpful, versatile, and easiest to purchase.

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #1: A Small, Lightweight Step Stool

We call the step stool “the great equalizer.” It makes more of the adult-sized environment available and allows the child to do more things for himself. A simple step stool makes brushing teeth, washing hands, helping prepare meals, and so many more activities easier and more accessible to little ones. They want to help! Let them!

Consider multiple step stools for different areas of the home: one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom, or have one on each level of your house. For a larger space, consider purchasing a learning tower. Learning towers are adjustable in height, provide a greater surface area for standing, and have the added security of side walls and a front and back bars.

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #2: Tension Rods or Closet organizers

Easily modify closet spaces without drilling holes in the wall. As your child grows, rods can be moved and adjusted for height. Put one in their bedroom closet and another in the hall closet for coats and jackets. For a larger closet, look for closet organizers that provide a low hanging rod.

By placing clothing lower down, you’ll allow your child access to more choices. For that reason, be sure to swap out clothes seasonally and as he or she outgrows each size. Otherwise, don’t be surprised, if you find yourself trying to convince your child that shorts and t-shirts are not appropriate in the middle of January!

encourage independence in young children: low closet organizer
A low bar on this closet organizer allows the child to select her clothing independently and makes it easier for her to help put clean laundry away!

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #3: Removable Hooks

Hooks that can be peeled off the wall without damaging the paint are the best! Use them in the bathroom for low towels and washcloths, the entryway for coats, jackets, and backpacks, or the kitchen for small brooms and dustpans.

As your child grows, hooks can be moved or replaced. Removable hooks allow for flexibility as you adapt your home to the changing needs of your family. Buy lots and use them often!

Key Concepts to Keep in Mind:

  • Safety first — Safety first, then independence! Be sure to consider the pros and cons before modifying your home space and respond accordingly. Make sure that medications, household chemicals, and sharp or dangerous objects are still safely out of reach.
  • Get down low — check out your house from your child’s eye level. What challenges can you easily help them overcome by adding a step stool, low bar, or hook?
  • Use common sense — adult supervision and guidance is the most important factor in making your home child-friendly and accessible.

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Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 4 (Cooperation and Respect)

This is the fourth post in a monthly series that will be devoted to practical tips for using the Virtues language when teaching character development in early childhood. We’ll explain how we use this program in our classrooms, what it sounds like in conversation, and how you can use it at home in a variety of examples. We’ll be highlighting two Virtues each month, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for monthly Virtues tips that you can use at home!

If you missed the first posts in the series, you can catch up here:

And, if you haven’t already downloaded our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS, you’re going to want to do that now.

The Virtues Project™: Cooperation

Cooperation is working together and sharing the load. When we cooperate, we join with others to do things that cannot be done alone. We are willing to follow the rules which keep everyone safe and happy. Together we can accomplish great things.

– THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
Two children work together. Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood
Two friends working together and using cooperation to complete a Bank Game operation.

Cooperation is a big one. It encompasses everything needed to maintain a safe, happy learning environment at school and it is something that we talk about often.

As with all of the Virtues, cooperation is a tool we use, it is not something we are. A child is not cooperative or uncooperative, they are simply a child learning to respond to different situations. By teaching them to use cooperation in specific circumstances, we teach them that they are in control of their actions and this allows them to see that their choices affect others, for better or worse.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Cooperation at school:

Acknowledgement: “I saw you using cooperation when I rang the playground bell! It makes it so much easier for us to all get inside for lunch quickly when we cooperate and line up as soon as we hear the bell!”

Guidance: “You boys have chosen to do this work together. Please remember to use cooperation and work together from beginning to end to make sure the work gets put away properly when you’re finished.”

Correction: “Please use cooperation and remember to walk inside the classroom. Using cooperation and following our classroom rules, like using walking feet when we’re inside, helps keep everyone safe.”

The Virtues Project™: Respect

We show respect by speaking and acting with courtesy. We treat others with dignity and honor the rules of our family, school, and nation. Respect yourself and others will respect you.

– THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
A child rolls a work rug. Teaching character development in early childhood.
We show respect for our classroom environment by rolling up our work rugs and keeping our classroom neat and clean!

Respect and Cooperation go hand in hand. When we cooperate by working together and following the rules, we demonstrate respect for ourselves, our peers, our teachers, and our school. BUT — here’s the part that most adults forget: Respect is a two-way street.

In order to gain a child’s respect, we have to first show respect for the child. The success of the Montessori method of teaching is due, in large part, to the respect that Montessori teachers have for the children in their care. We don’t just teach and expect cooperation and respect, we respect our students as people first and earn their respect and cooperation by leading by example.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Respect at school:

Acknowledgement: “Thank you for being so careful with this new work; it shows me that you respect our classroom and the materials we share.”

Guidance: “Please remember to raise your hand during circle time and wait to speak until the other person is finished talking. It is respectful to wait your turn.”

Correction: “The next time you get upset, please remember that use respectful language at our school. That means we use polite words with our friends and teachers and we don’t use words that will hurt someone else’s feelings.”

Using Cooperation and Respect at Home

What goes around, comes around! If you make a conscious choice to respect your child’s thoughts, needs, and feelings, he or she will feel valued and seen and will, in return, be much more likely to cooperate! Is it a magical formula? Of course not, but it’s a pretty good start.

We all want to feel validated, seen, and appreciated and that goes for kids as well! Respect them, and they will respect you. Cooperate with the rules you’ve set for your household and they will learn that we all follow the rules!

Some things to consider:

  • Do you follow your own rules at home? Do you do what you’re asking your children to do? They’re going to follow your lead, so make sure you’re leading them in the right direction. Take off your shoes, make your bed, and eat your veggies! Put down your phone, make eye contact, and engage in polite conversation around the dinner table. Be the example you wish to see reflected.
  • How respectful is your language? Modeling good manners is important, if you want your child to pick up on good habits and practices. This includes while driving, so watch yourself! Say “please” and “thank you” to your children, your spouse, the grocery store clerk, and anyone else you encounter. Monkey-see, monkey-do.
  • Remember that in this day and age, social media- and the anonymity it often allows – has changed how we interact online; don’t let it change how you interact in life! Be polite, show respect, model courtesy, and cooperate, if you want your child to do the same!

For more information on the Virtues and for lots of examples you can use at home: Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Excellence and Creativity, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

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