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The Importance of Free Play – It’s OK to Just Play

Is your child getting enough unstructured play time each day? With the very scheduled lives that most children have these days, it’s important to fit in some free time for your preschooler. Not only does it give your child time to unwind, but her intelligence and creativity are further developed during free play as she figures out how things work on her own.

kids playing

Benefits of Free Play
Why is unstructured play so important? Free play is vital to both the physical and emotional well-being of children. Some of the benefits include:

  • Enhances self-confidence
  • Develops creativity
  • Fosters independence
  • Helps children overcome fears
  • Teaches children to share and settle disagreements with others
  • Encourages children to exercise decision-making skills
  • Helps children discover areas of interest on their own
  • Keeps children active, helping ward off obesity
  • Develops social skills
  • Encourages children to interact with their peers
  • Encourages discovery and learning without self-consciousness that is sometimes present with structured learning
  • Alleviates the effects of pressure and stress
  • And of course, it’s fun!

Examples of Free Play
Free play is any unstructured activity that inspires your child to use her imagination without constant adult direction. Examples include:

  • Neighborhood children playing together in the backyard…perhaps a game of hopscotch or kickball. This is a great way for children to meet their daily physical activity requirements.
  • Going to the playground to swing, slide, or just run around
  • Creating artwork such as drawing, coloring, or painting. What a great way for your child to freely express herself!
  • Reading storybooks of their choosing
  • Playing dress-up

Children need opportunities to play and explore freely. Daily free play prepares them to work well with others as they approach learning with a sense of enthusiasm.

February 8th, 2018

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How Behavior Can be Influenced by Sensory Processing Disorder

Behavior problems in school interfere with the educational process for all students in the classroom. If your child’s behavior is getting him in trouble at school, it may be due to issues with sensory processing disorder.

child-school

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder is a condition where the brain has difficulty receiving and responding to information received via the senses.

What are Sensory Processing Issues?
Some children with sensory processing disorder are oversensitive to things, such as sounds, bright lights, or the touch of a shirt on their skin. Oversensitive kids respond easily to sensory stimulation and may find it to be too much to deal with. Examples of these behaviors are:

  • Inability to endure bright lights and loud noises, like police or ambulance sirens
  • Easily distracted by common background noises
  • Fearful of being touched or hugged…especially when caught by surprise
  • Exceedingly fearful of swings and other playground apparatus
  • Often bump into people, furniture, etc. Their concept of personal space may be skewed.
  • Difficulty recognizing the amount of force they’re using; for example, they may unknowingly slam down objects.
  • Experience meltdowns when overwhelmed

On the other end of the spectrum, under sensitive children seek out sensory stimulation. They may:

  • Constantly desire touching people or objects, regardless of whether it is socially acceptable
  • Have problems recognizing personal space
  • Have a very high tolerance for pain
  • Can’t realize their own strength
  • Fidgety, can’t sit still
  • Enjoy activities that include jumping, bumping, or crashing
  • Desire fast, intense movement

Unfortunately, behaviors influenced by sensory processing disorder may be at the root of those phone calls from the school reporting your child’s disruptive behavior. These behaviors can also be mistaken for ADHD, as the symptoms overlap, making diagnosis and treatment difficult.

Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues

Parenting a child with sensory processing issues can be quite stressful. Currently, there is no medication available to treat sensory processing issues. However, therapy coupled with everyday changes can make life easier for both of you. Here are some ideas to try.

  • Learn as much as you can about the symptoms of sensory processing issues, as well as available treatments.
  • Identify patterns in your child’s behavior to further anticipate situations that may be difficult for her.
  • Help your child learn what things are appropriate to touch.

January 9th, 2018

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The Benefits of Independent Learning

If you have a child, chances are the word “independent” causes some concern. With all the trouble children can get into, leaving them alone can be a daunting idea. However, in the right circumstances and with a watchful eye and guiding hand, independence can be a blessing for your child.

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Standard classrooms involve a teacher in front of a group of children going over the curriculum assigned to them. Whether they like it or not, your child must understand the information in the way it is provided. Montessori classrooms, on the other hand, allow your child tons of ways they can approach the lessons. Instead of a single lesson taught to the class, children can safely roam through the learning materials provided in their classroom under the watchful eye of their teacher. This way they can benefit from having a say in their learning, and reap the benefits of their independence.

Independent learning:

Boosts Confidence – When children are encouraged to learn independently, they take greater pride in their work. Because it is their choice to learn and they are progressing, they will be more confident in their abilities to learn as well. Don’t be surprised if your child comes running to you to tell you what they learned today!

Enables Exploration & Elicits Interest in Learning – Children have vastly different interests from each other, and the only way for them to find a topic that resonates with them is through exploration. Montessori classrooms contain many different learning materials, which will allow your child to find something they like. Once they do, they will be motivated to continue learning and grasp the concepts better because they are interested in the subject.

Allows for Collaborative Learning – A huge part of Montessori classrooms is their emphasis on social learning. By encouraging children to communicate rather than sit quietly and listen, children can share their knowledge and learn from other students. This allows them to form greater connections with the information because they are hearing, seeing, and speaking it.

Children can be hard to control, but you’d be surprised how far a little independence goes when it comes to their education. Boosted confidence, an interest in learning, and developing social skills are all great benefits that will stick with your child as they progress through school. Independent learning is a great way to ensure your child receives the best opportunities to learn and helps keep their development as well-rounded as possible.

December 19th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Montessori and Children with Learning Disabilities

Is Montessori effective for children with learning disabilities?

Today’s classrooms are comprised of children who benefit from differentiated learning. Some children have learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, or dysphasia. Montessori schools can be quite beneficial for special needs students because they encourage them to work at their own pace.

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The Montessori Method promotes the belief that children learn best by doing. Montessori does not implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, which aids students of different learning styles. The creator of the Montessori Method, Dr. Maria Montessori, worked with children with learning disabilities. In fact, the Montessori Method was initially inspired by students with special needs. It embraces the unique qualities within each child. Each student determines their own learning pace while staying motivated throughout the process.

With the Montessori Method, learning occurs through active pursuit of experiences. Students are encouraged to progress at their own speed. They begin a new activity once they are comfortable with what they have learned from the previous activity. They can work alone, with a partner, or within a group, remaining with a specific learning activity as long as they want and progressing onto the next one when ready.

Additionally, children receive an abundance of personal attention from instructors…an effective technique for individuals with learning disabilities. Instead of sitting at the front of the classroom, Montessori teachers move around the room observing and assessing each student while providing needed support.

Another positive outcome is that children with learning disabilities often discover that the multi-sensory, interactive setting created within the Montessori environment can be stimulating, resulting in the ideal venue for learning. In addition, many special needs children benefit from witnessing other children acting in what is perceived as normal and appropriate behavior.

Because the pace of learning is typically established by the children, they tend to stay motivated and feel better about school. Most special needs students also benefit from the increased personal attention, a trademark of Montessori schools.

So, is Montessori effective for children with special needs? We say…absolutely! Montessori is intended to help all children reach their potential at their own unique pace. The Montessori classroom is a community where children learn from each other and everyone contributes without feeling ahead or behind in relation to classmates.

December 6th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Implementing Montessori Practices at Home

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Parents of young children are jumping on the Montessori craze and it’s easy to see why. Incorporating Montessori practices at home to further establish the education they receive at their respective Montessori schools is quite easy.

What is Montessori?
Simply stated, a Montessori education encourages children to learn using their senses. The goal is to nurture a life-long love of learning. Children work self-sufficiently, focusing on one task at a time. In turn, they become motivated and tend to explore further into a topic that interests them.
So, how do you implement the Montessori Method at home? Try these tips to get your home Montessori practices started.

Stress Courtesy
One of the most important steps in Montessori is teaching your child how to conduct themselves politely and properly. This ideal is stressed heavily within their Montessori curriculum, so it’s a good idea to implement it at home, as well.

Facilitate Real-Life Skills
The Montessori Method teaches students to take care of themselves and to help others, in hopes that they eventually view themselves as esteemed members of society.

At home, young children can care for pets, like giving the family dog his evening bowl of water or sitting with Mom as she folds laundry and matching up socks by color, thereby enhancing confidence and increasing self-worth.

Encourage Concentration
Effective learning requires focus and concentration skills. You can help develop these skills by noting what interests your child and then providing the materials for her to further explore it as she pleases. For example, if your child seems interested in fish, a new goldfish to help care for along with a picture book about fish may further pique her fascination.

Nurture Inner Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is key to student learning. Montessori teachers put emphasis on nurturing each student’s individual sense of accomplishment versus using traditional extrinsic rewards. By communicating encouragement and appreciation for your child’s behavior, you are cultivating an inner motivation that she will value throughout her life.

Learn to Let Your Child Self-Correct
As a parent, you may have certain guidelines you would like your child to abide by in your home. For example, you may want to instill in your child that he should pick up his toys and return them to the proper area when finished playing with them. But after suggesting this to your child several times, he still forgets to put his toys away.

Perhaps he’s not ready. Let it go, relax, and re-introduce the concept the next day. It may take repeated requests before your child positively responds.

Remember, the motivation to complete tasks correctly is derived from an internal drive to learn, not from external consequences and rewards. Try being an unseen spectator and allow the improvement to naturally occur.

November 15th, 2017

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How to Get Young Children Back on Track After a Natural Disaster

Students Natural Disaster

Hurricanes, like the recent life-threatening Harvey and Irma, can cause tremendous turmoil in people’s lives. It can take months or even a year or more for family members, especially children, to feel that life is back to normal.

The psychological bearing of a storm differs between people based on factors such as age, prior experiences with natural disasters, and the amount of stress that already exists prior to the storm. The effects of natural disasters on children can vary based on the extent of the disaster, maturity, age, and personality. They can also differ based on the way the parents handle the disaster and work toward restoring normal life for the family. It’s important for parents to talk with children and respond to their needs to facilitate coping and recovery mechanisms.

Read on for ways to restore order and calm to your children’s lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Talk it Out

Talk with your children about what they were feeling during the storm. It’s common for children to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety following a disaster. They may even have difficulty focusing in school. Talking through a crisis can help reconnect with your children and can give them a positive means of expressing their fears. Furthermore, it enables parents to identify children who may need additional help dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster so they can seek assistance from professionals or school administrators.

Restructure Routines

The most important thing you can do for your children is get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Routines instill a sense of safety in children and ensure that everything is okay. Everyone, even adults, draws strength and refuge from a structured daily routine, so it’s important to start practicing bed time, dinner time, going to church, etc., even if you are staying in a hotel or with extended family. Children respond to these rituals by feeling safe and secure, regardless of the stressful changes taking place around them

Help is Available

Keep in mind that as a parent, you can’t be expected to guess how your child is feeling. It’s best just to ask them. If children assert that they are fine and seem to be functioning well, take it at face value. However, if you or your children need additional help coping with the aftermath of a natural disaster, you may want to consider the following resources:

National Association of School Psychologists

Red Cross Disaster Relief

Coping with Disaster | FEMA.gov

October 25th, 2017

Posted In: About MKU, Montessori Education

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The Internet as a Learning Tool

internet_learning

The Internet is home to boundless amounts of information. With just a few seconds of your time and a Google search, you can have answers to nearly any question you can ask. For children, the number of questions is even more sizable, making the possibilities for learning even more plentiful.

While the Montessori hands-on approach has been proven to be effective for children’s development, it’s not always possible to replicate the same ideas at home. Materials can be expensive and setting up an environment like a Montessori classroom can be difficult. Fortunately, the Internet can act as a learning aid to children that, in combination with hands-on learning, can lead to endless exploration.

The Internet and Montessori Classrooms
Although the Internet is a great aid for continuing learning at home, it does not have a place in many Montessori classrooms. Montessori classrooms focus on concrete interaction with objects and learning materials. Teachers encourage hands-on learning and deriving meaning from physical objects which is not possible with the Internet. This allows the content to appeal to the senses, forming more meaningful connections for the child and leading to a greater understanding.

Why the Internet is a Useful Learning Tool for Children

  • Unlimited Learning Possibilities – Given the depth of the Internet, there are unlimited topics, subjects, and content for children to read and gain an interest in while learning.
  • Teaches Problem Solving & Computer Skills – Computers become more and more important to education every day, and working with computers can lead to better computer and problem-solving abilities because the Internet encourages abstract thought, a staple in problem solving.
  • Boosts Confidence – When children browse the Internet, they are exploring on their own (with supervision, of course). This leads to confidence boosts because they are learning independently.
  • Refines Coordination – The act of moving a mouse with your hand and seeing it move on a screen helps develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

How to Facilitate Learning at Home with the Internet

  • Treat It as an Extension of Physical Materials – The Internet allows for access to educational material of all grade levels without the need to replace old learning materials. Use educational software to further lessons from the curriculum.
  • Encourage Exploration of Interests – Expose your child to a wide array of topics and if they show interest in some, allow them to research the topics further themselves.
  • Work with your Child to Develop Cooperative Skills – Browsing with your child helps to build social and problem-solving skills, as well as form more meaningful connections with the information.

While a hands-on focus to learning is important to a child’s development, it can be magnified when supplemented with the boundless information hosted online. The Internet allows for exposure to tons of topics and teaches valuable skills that your children will use for the rest of their lives. Taking advantage of the Internet will allow you to set the best foundation possible, one that will inspire an interest in learning for years to come.

October 5th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Easy Tips to Promote Language Development in Toddlers

Educators and parents alike know how crucial language and communication skills are to a child’s development. Because parents are a child’s first teacher, it’s important for them to comprehend language development in toddlers as it expands their ability to work with their child to enhance communication skills.

Montessori Kids Sugarland

Communication refers to both speech and language. Speech is the actual sound of spoken language. Language denotes words and symbols—written, spoken, and body language—used to communicate meaning. Mastering these skills empowers children to socialize and learn from their daily surroundings, as well as through classroom instruction.

Development of early language and communication skills is vital for student success both in school and later in life. This includes the ability to understand others and appropriately express oneself using words, gestures, and facial expressions. Children who master age-appropriate language and communication skills tend to have a greater desire to learn when they arrive at school and are more likely to have higher levels of achievement in both school and beyond.

Children’s brains are developing quickly during their first years, so it is important for them to have meaningful interactions with the adults in their lives. Parents, along with our teachers at Montessori Kids Universe, have ample opportunity to provide toddlers with exchanges that enhance growth and development, specifically language and communication skills.

While every child does not develop at the same pace, there are practices that parents can incorporate into their child’s daily schedule to develop speech and language skills.

• Elicit regular conversations with your child throughout the day.
• Use advanced grammar and vocabulary.
• Provide children with descriptions of objects, emotions, activities, and events.
• Read, read, read! Read with your child several times each day. Point to pictures and identify images.
• Use props. Introduce objects that spark interest during story time.
• Use dramatic gestures with words to emphasize meaning.
• Children love music. Be sure to engage in musical activities every day.

These daily interactions benefit children from numerous language and cultural backgrounds, including dual language learners. By implementing these activities, parents and early childhood educators can team up to provide children the extensive experience and opportunities needed to enhance their language and communication skills.

To help your children reach their full potential, Montessori Kids Universe embeds this philosophy within its curriculum through social interaction with other children, development of language and practical life skills, and music and movement activities.

Sources:
https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/language_development/#.WXDJ3IjyuUk

http://mtbt.fpg.unc.edu/more-baby-talk/10-ways-promote-language-and-communication-skills-infants-and-toddlers

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6219/42027fbae548dd516980766203a157fb1427.pdf

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/communication-disorders/difference-between-speech-impairment-and-language-disorder

August 23rd, 2017

Posted In: About MKU, Montessori Education, Tips

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Montessori Education for Children with Special Needs

There are many ways in which the Montessori classroom can benefit a child with special needs. Special needs children may have developmental, social, and academic needs that differ from the average child. The materials, setting, multi-age groups, and calm focus of a Montessori education are just a few examples. Montessori education is beautifully beneficial for any child, especially those who might need a little more support.

Hands-on Materials

The Montessori classroom is jam-packed with beautiful hands-on learning materials. This gives special needs children the opportunity to work with their hands and explore their environment. Montessori learning activities are also focused on enhancing fine motor skills as well as developing independence. Students are encouraged to follow their own interests when it comes to all academic subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. It is this peaceful freedom that allows special needs children to thrive and flourish.

Working at Their Own Pace

Just like any other Montessori student, special needs children are encouraged to work at their own pace. No child is alike in their development. It is important that each child is given the freedom to learn at the pace that makes them most comfortable as well as providing a rich educational experience. This eliminates the worry and stress that many children face in a traditional education setting. Students are given the tools to build self-confidence and a positive self-image.

Multi-Age Groups

Children in a Montessori classroom are paired with students of a three-year age gap. This encourages a sense of community and hones social skills. Multi-age groups also eliminate the anxiety of needing to “keep up” with peers. Special needs children will worry less about keeping up and more about participating and enjoying classroom life. Older students can help a special needs child who is struggling and an older special needs child can build confidence by teaching younger kids.

Emphasis on Respect

Children are highly respected in a Montessori educational setting. There is no separation between “special needs” and “normal” children. Here, we work as a family and help each other learn and evolve as human beings. All Montessori children are given the tools to become helpful, respectful, confident, and loving people.
A Montessori learning environment is beneficial for ALL children, including those with special needs. Having a wide-ranging and developmentally diverse group of children working together is what Montessori education is all about.

May 29th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

The Hands-On Approach to Learning

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Hands-on learning is one of the attributes that distinguishes a Montessori classroom from a classical educational environment. Students are encouraged to learn by touching, feeling, and doing rather than typical mundane worksheets. Dr. Maria Montessori said; “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” Useful information can be better committed to permanent memory by learning hands-on than in any other way. Repetition and manipulation is key!

The Traditional Approach

In a traditional learning environment, children sit in rows of desks and listen to the direction of their teacher. They are given very little choice as the mindset is collective – what is best for the group as a whole. They are told what to complete and when, making learning a dull and forced experience. When it comes time to take a test, students dump what they have recently learned onto a piece of paper and forget much of it soon after. But education is not “one size fits all.” Each child learns differently and develops on a unique spectrum. A Montessori classroom provides the apparatus for this to take place.

The Montessori Approach

There are no desks in a Montessori classroom. In this learning environment, children are encouraged to move around the room and choose from the vast array of activities available to them. Once they choose an activity, they bring it to a floor mat or child size furniture and complete their work comfortably. They are free to explore their materials and make discoveries for themselves.

When children work with their hands, information becomes concrete and difficult to forget. Learning is designed to be an enjoyable experience instead of something children dread. Instead of relief when a lesson is completed, students find excitement in moving on to the next level.

Hands-on Materials

While any subject can be learned with a pencil and paper, the Montessori classroom presents educational subjects through colorful, engaging materials. Examples include:

  • Math. Rods, beads, and sandpaper numbers are used to learn basic counting and arithmetic. Students use their hands to manipulate materials and work out problems in a sensory way.
  • Reading. A moveable alphabet allows children to move letters around and learn their sounds. They can choose what words they would like to learn and gradually evolve their reading ability.
  • Writing. Montessori classrooms use painting and tracing exercises to fine tune the pincer grasp and integrate reading and writing.
  • Science. Challenging hands-on experiments allow children to learn about the world around them in a beautiful and sensory way.

When it comes to a rich education, a hands-on approach is the way to go. This is the most effective as well as enjoyable way for children to learn. When a student moves up in their education they will remember what they learned through their experiences and apply those lessons throughout their life.

April 20th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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