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The role of the Montessori teacher

Most of us have a fixed mindset of a teacher’s role in a classroom. She stands in front of the room and dictates material while the children listen intently. The students, regardless of their pace and interest, are required to follow the lessons according to the teacher’s academic plan.

Although this method of learning has been practiced effectively for centuries, Dr. Maria Montessori had a different theory. She believed that the teacher, student, and the environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher with activities and materials according to the child’s learning abilities and interest. The students make use of the environment and develop various skills while taking guidance and support from the teachers when needed.

Her belief is that the focus should remain on the children’s learning and not on the teachers’ teaching. This is why Montessori teachers are not the center of attention in the classroom. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to spot the teacher in a Montessori classroom as she often steps back,allowing the children to learn from their own discoveries and draw conclusions. Rather than giving children answers to the many questions they ask in one day, the Montessori teacher asks them how they would solve the problem while actively engaging children in the learning process and enhancing critical thinking skills.

A prepared environment

Montessori teachers provide activities based on six areas of learning: practical life activities, sensorial activities, numeracy, literacy, understanding of the world, and creative abilities. The children are given the freedom within limits to choose the activity according to their interests and abilities.They are allowed to spend as much time as they need on one activity, and while the Montessori teacher will not interfere in their working, she will be readily available to guide them as needed.  By following this approach, children of Montessori become more confident about their ability to understand what they are learning. This also limits the necessity of coercion, which often increases feelings of stress and inferiority in children.

A Model, Mentor, and a Guide

In a traditional classroom, the teachers present the lesson to a large group of students who are expected to listen and take in all the information provided. However, in a Montessori environment, the teachers work with only one or two students at a time while the learning material is provided on the basis of children’s interest.

If a child is not interested or making an incorrect association, the Montessori teacher does not force the child to learn. Instead, she gives the child time to clear the air and continues the topic another day. The Montessori system believes that pushing a child to learn will only make them frustrated while allowing them to learn at their own pace with patience will empower them to learn more.

Observe students

The most important role of a Montessori teacher is of an observer. The Montessori teacher makes careful observations of each student while they work. The teacher does not interfere or disrupt the students while they work, nor do they give out punishment or rewards.This allows the teacher to understand when a child has mastered a specific skill or concept, thus moving them on to an advanced curriculum. Progress notes are shared frequently with parents and caregivers.

We at Montessori Kids Sugarland believe that children are full of curiosity. By giving them an environment to learn with freedom, they can grow up to be intelligent, independent, responsible, and contributing members of society.

As Maria Montessori would say,

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say: The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 3rd, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Practical life skills at home

Today, let’s take a look behind the scenes in the classroom to give you some ideas for Montessori-style activities you can recreate at home. Montessori teachers refer to them as “practical life activities”

Practical life activities in the classroom

As the name suggests, practical life activities focus on skills children use on a daily basis. Children observe these activities in their own environment and gain knowledge through the practice of daily duties.

Some typical activities that are implemented in most Montessori classrooms include:

  •    Peeling and cutting bananas
  •    Squeezing orange juice
  •    Washing dishes
  •    Pouring water
  •    Watering flowers
  •    Caring for self by washing hands, brushing hair, etc.
  •    Cleaning up after playtime

Ideas for the home environment

It’s quite easy to incorporate any of the above activities at home for your child. Simply remember to keep child-sized objects ready for handling various tasks. For example, if your child is helping you butter toast, have a small amount of butter ready on a separate plate.

Other ways you can incorporate life skills at home are:

  •    Helping with laundry – taking clothes out of the washing machine, adding soap, sorting, and folding
  •     Getting dressed and undressing with little help
  •     Helping set up meals such as pouring milk and cereal, washing vegetables and fruits, setting the table, and cleaning up
  •    Getting ready for visitors – preparing beds, setting a flower arrangement, hanging towels, cleaning up toys
  •    Taking trips to the supermarket and helping in loading and unloading of grocery items
  •    Helping with baking and cooking

When applying practical life skills at home, always remember:

  •    To provide child-sized tools easily managed by small hands. For example, a child-sized mop for cleaning up, travel-sized bottles of dishwashing liquid, and even small gardening tools.
  •    Focus on the process and never on the results. Children take time to master the practical life skills and their end result may not look perfect. But they are learning and after they master the skills, you will have a lifelong helper at home.

Don’t allow your children to sit in front of the TV or play iPads while you perform various tasks around the house. Instead, encourage them to join you and help out. Children love to stay involved with their parents and with some simple activities, they can gain life skills at the same time.

Remember that the main reason we at Montessori Kids Universe teach practical life skills is that we value children and the contribution they can make to the family, and later, the world. We believe they are capable of doing so much more than what the media tells us. They can handle breakables if they’re taught how. They can take responsibility for themselves if we teach them how. In other words, they can learn, if we give them the room to grow.

 

September 20th, 2017

Posted In: Tips

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The value of art for preschoolers

art

Your preschooler is busy spreading different colored paint on paper. Trying to be encouraging, you ask her, “What are you making?” and she shrugs. Until you mentioned it, she hadn’t given any thought to what she was making or how it will end up.

Little kids are masters of the moment. They love the way different colors turn up on paper and unlike you and me, they are least bothered about the finished product.

Art – whether it’s in the form of drawing, painting, theatres, or music is a natural activity that allows free play in children. The unstructured play and the freedom to manipulate different materials give children lots of opportunity for exploration and experimentation.

These artistic activities are not only fun but educational for children as well. Apart from increasing their chances of becoming the next Picasso, children can benefit from art in a number of ways, including:-

Fine motor skills –

Grasping pencils, making dots, mixing colors, cutting with scissors, rolling playdough, tearing paper, and controlling a glue stick – all these tasks require a lot of dexterity and coordination. Yet these activities are fun and children usually wish to do them again and again and that too without your encouragement – hence improving their motor skills over time.

Writing skills –

Scribbling is the precursor to writing. The random scribbling your child does on paper will able them to control the crayon better and with time, the doodles will turn into shapes and eventually alphabets.

Math skills –

Art helps the children learn and understand different mathematical concepts like sizes, shapes, counting, and making comparison.

Vocabulary –

When children create something, they like to show it to everyone. As they describe their artwork, their vocabulary also increases. You can also encourage their language skill by asking open-ended questions in return.

Problem solving skills –

Which color should I use? How to make the color darker, should I press harder on the crayon? How to stick the legs on the clay figure?

When children are given different materials to work with, they learn to solve their own problems and make a choice – which thus enhances their problem solving abilities and enables them to gain more confidence.

Outlet for emotions –

Art allows children to express their emotions in a safe way. They learn to control their emotions and recognize that they can express both – sad and happy feelings through a positive medium.

How to motivate creativity?

These were just some of the benefits your child can gain from art. Here are some tips on how you can inspire creativity in children.

  • Prepare for a mess
  • Don’t give direction
  • Don’t draw with your child
  • Ask them lots of questions about their artwork
  • Appreciate the final piece and avoid giving suggestions or changes.

Remember, children learn through trial and error. So as long as your child is playing in a safe environment, let them explore by themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2nd, 2017

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Encouraging Independence – 9 Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Preschool shoes

“I’ll do it myself!” If you’re a parent of a preschooler, you’ve likely heard this a thousand times.

Of course, it’s usually when you are running late that 4-year-old Cathy decides to put on her own socks and shoes. So you help her – but this time only!

Preschool experts say that children should be encouraged whenever they wish to exert their independence. Even though they may need plenty of parental help, preschoolers are typically able to do more than we expect from them.

So how can we as parents encourage their independence?

According to Diane Kinder, PhD and a professor at the University of Washington, “It takes more time in the beginning to teach independence, but in the long run, it benefits both parent and child.”

Here are some tips to encourage independence in young children:

  1. Expect more. At Montessori Kids Universe, children are expected to clean up after themselves, hang up their jackets, and pour their own water at snack time. However, when they leave the classroom…they change! The thumb goes in the mouth and the lunch bag is handed over to the parents. Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the expectation bar a bit more and allow children to stretch and meet it.
  2. Resist doing it for them. It might be quicker and easier for you to help them put on their shoes, but in the long run it won’t help children become more self-sufficient. Instead, ask them if they can do it themselves or if they need help. The words will work like magic and most children will take pride in doing it on their own.
  3. Assign chores. Assigning children age-appropriate chores not only builds their confidence but also helps them feel more capable as contributing members of the family.
  4. Don’t redo. Resist the urge to help children between tasks or “fix” their work. Praise them for what they have done well. If you redo their work, you might discourage them from trying in the future. If you find your child getting frustrated with a task or having difficulty, don’t just take over. Instead, say, “Wow, you did a great job and we’ll do it again tomorrow.” Don’t let them give up. You want them to learn perseverance and dedication to a task.
  5. No ifs. Most of us have a habit of saying, “If you clean up your books, we will go to the park.” How about saying, “When you are done cleaning up, we’ll go to the park.” Give it a try and see how a minor change in the sentence transforms children’s attitude.
  6. Let them work it out. Kids often get into mini squabbles about petty issues, and you won’t always be there to referee. Stand back and let kids work out their own problems (unless the mini tiff has turned into a beating competition).
  7. Involve them. If your daughter has colored on the walls, have her help wash it off. If she knocks over her friend’s block tower, tell her to reconstruct it. Include her in righting her wrongdoings.
  8. Lighten up. We parents also get frustrated easily. It’s okay if your children are not perfectly setting the table or buttoning their shirts. They are young and still learning. Let them learn at their own pace and make mistakes along the way.

As parents, we struggle when our children struggle. But have patience, take a step back, and watch from the sidelines so your children can learn new skills – regardless of the time it takes.

May 3rd, 2017

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How to stop kids from hitting and biting

kids fighting

You are enjoying a sunny afternoon at the playground when suddenly you hear a loud wail. Imagining it is your toddler, you rush to the area where children are playing and are horrified to find your child’s playmate sporting a teeth-imprinted arm while the mother of the victim gives you (and your kid) cold stares.

As much as you want to sink into the ground with embarrassment, you remain (somewhat) calm, apologize, and remove your child from the scene.

Surprisingly, biting and hitting are normal parts of childhood development. By the time children are in preschool, most of them have bitten or hit at least once and have also been on the receiving end of an unfriendly blow.

Why Children Bite And Hit?

Children become aggressive for a number of reasons.

  • Expressing emotions: Since young children can’t talk, they use biting and hitting to express anger, fear, frustration, or even love.
  • To seek attention: When children feel ignored, they use biting, hitting, or other aggressive measures to get noticed – even if the attention they receive is negative instead of positive.
  • Coping with change: Has another sibling entered the family? Are you moving or have you started a new job? Children become frustrated when they are coping with change and ultimately resort to hitting and biting as a way to express their fear over the changes happening around them.
  • For defense: Young children hit and bite for defense. If another child is hitting or biting them continuously, you can’t expect your toddler to stay quiet, right?
  • Teething: If your baby is teething, then it’s likely that he or she is biting to get that irritable itch out from their gums.

How To Stop Biting and Hitting?

In all instances, don’t throw a tantrum or spank children when they behave negatively. Using the retaliation protocol can teach children that violence causes violence. But of course, don’t leave the issue as it is – children should know that their behavior is wrong and should not be repeated.

  • Remain calm: We know it may be difficult but don’t lose your temper. Take a deep breath, make sure the other child is okay, and take your children away from the scene. No blaming or punishing during the first phase!
  • Talk it out: When you feel that your child has simmered down, ask about the cause behind the biting. Explain that it hurts their friend and we don’t hit/bite when upset.
  • Teach them problem-solving methods: Use imaginary play to teach children how they can resolve issues. You may pretend to be a friend with your child’s favorite toy. Teach them to express their emotions with words like, “This is my toy” and “Please give it back.”
  • Give attention: If you feel that your children are acting out due to lack of time with you, give them plenty of love and attention throughout the day. If you are a working parent, set aside an hour or two each evening for uninterrupted one-on-one with them.
  • Talk to the teachers: Make sure that the behavior is not being repeated at your child’s preschool. Talk with the teacher and find out about the preschool’s environment and whether or not some other children are biting, hitting, or teasing your toddler.

Even with the best prevention methods, incidents will happen until children grow out of the phase, which most children do after a certain age.  So stay firm and keep teaching children empathy. Give your kids the tools to deal with conflict constructively.

 

 

 

 

April 17th, 2017

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What’s your child’s learning style?

Learning_Styles

 

Five toddlers are in a playgroup. Within the group, Emily learns to say the names of the shapes first. Jeff is the first to climb the monkey bars while his twin sister Kim watches cautiously from the sidelines before diving into any new adventure. The fourth child, Steve, can usually be found studying board books in the corner of the room while Jaclyn delights in hands-on play with mud, sand, and water.

Kids of all age groups pick up information in different ways. Educators have long proclaimed that children have their own distinct learning style and the “one-size-fits-all” theory can’t be applied to children in a typical classroom setting.

Researchers have agreed that there are three primary learning styles: auditory, tactile/kinesthetic, and visual. Most children (and adults) utilize a combination of these learning styles while a handful follow mostly one. Understanding your child’s learning style at an early age can help them become better learners and reduce frustrations as they progress to an advanced classroom.

Learning Styles Explained

Auditory: These types of learners prefer listening to explanations rather than reading. They are also more likely to:

  • Have difficulty with written material
  • Remember information by reading aloud
  • Enjoy group discussions
  • Require explanations orally

Tactile/Kinesthetic: The tactile and kinesthetic learners process information through touch and move method. They usually prefer to move around while learning and often “talk” with their hands. They also like to touch objects to learn more about them.

A note to remember: These types of learners are often referred to as “troublemakers” because they are unable to sit still and are often found fidgeting when asked to sit for long periods of time. In the right environment, however, these learners thrive and often become the innovators of the future.

Visual: Just like the name suggests, visual learners pick up information by watching. One of the most dominant learning styles, the visual learning method is the most used in traditional classrooms. Children who are visual learners are more likely to understand new learning material by:

  • Looking at pictures about what they are being taught
  • Drawing what they are learning
  • Writing down instructions

Children who are visual learners are less able to perform well when they are just given instructions and would rather be shown how to do something practically.

Is there a fourth type of learner?

Experts have also discovered a fourth learning style, the logical or analytical learner. These types of learners explore and understand the concept before indulging further. Similar to Kim in playgroup, logical learners ask a lot of questions and are more able to grasp information from a young age.

Discover your child’s learning style.

We sometimes assume that there is only one right way to teach children a particular skill. But if we adapt the learning methods to make them more appropriate to the style children prefer, there is no skill the child cannot learn.

 

March 10th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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How to spark creativity in children

pretend-play

Creativity is all about expressing oneself. It is all about being imaginative and trying new things. There is a misconception that creativity is limited to arts, crafts, music, dance, and writing. But creativity has no bounds and can be expressed in other areas of life as well.

It is sometimes assumed that children are more creative while others lack the talent. However, that is not the case and each one of us (including children) is capable of expressing ourselves in a unique way.

Of course, some children do get lost in the wonders of their imagination easily while others require more prompting. It is up to the parents, teachers, and other caregivers to encourage children and use real life experiences to spark their creativity which makes them more confident and competent learners in the future.

Here are some ideas to spark kids’ creativity:

Ask questions.

Children are born curious. They ask a lot of questions. Listen to them and inspire their imagination by asking them more questions. Make them wonder, “What if” and “What would have happened if we had a dinosaur for a pet?”

Don’t hover.

As much as we want to interfere, it is sometimes better to stand back and watch from afar. Let children play their own games without trying to manage them.

Limit TV and computer games.

TV programs and computer games are enjoyable for some time but children should not be allowed to zone in on the screen for long periods of time. Screen time should always be limited for young children.

Create art pieces with children.

Foremost, parents should keep an abundant supply of art materials in their home. From simple items such as papers and crayons to adornments like rhinestones, gems, and beads, children should have access to all and encouraged often to create pieces of art with them. It is also a good idea to sit down with children once in a while and make crafts together.

Encourage pretend play.

Young children love to play pretend with dolls, costumes, and accessories. Stock up on old dresses, Halloween costumes, hats, jewelry, and any other items that can help children jump into a new role. Keep them all accessible for children so they can enter the world of make believe whenever they like.

Read to children.

Books open a gateway for children to unlock their creative and imaginative potential. Read as often as you can. Make reading fun by changing your tone of voice or dressing up as the character in the book. Ask them to draw characters from their favorite book or allow them to act out the scenes from the story.

Most importantly, be a positive role model for children and enjoy the fun, creative, and imaginative life. If your children seeing you living life, they will do the same!

February 10th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Multi-Age Grouping in a Montessori Classroom

Multi-Age Grouping in a Montessori Classroom
In a traditional school setting, classrooms are divided by a single age group. Montessori educators believe that multi-age grouping is more beneficial for students, a concept that makes a lot of sense once fully understood. Montessori children are almost always placed in classes of a 3-year age group. This practice is tried and true, designed to bring the best educational experience possible to your child.

Multi-Age Groups and Small Children

Small children are often eager to learn from other children. It is common to see children play “school” during recess or pretend time. Younger kids tend to learn best when their education is disguised as play. Montessori Classrooms take this “game” and use structured activities to allow children to “teach themselves.”

Students are given direct lessons from their teachers but also benefit when learning from their peers. The younger students learn from the older, and the older students learn through teaching and example. Small children can watch the older kids take on more advanced lessons and learn through observation. This way, it is easy for Montessori educators to get a feel for where each child stands in their development.

Multi-Age Groups and Older Children

The same concept applies to older children, but in a more advanced way. Teaching someone else is an extremely effective way to reinforce your own knowledge. Children in Montessori classrooms teach each other real lessons that are often assigned by a teacher. A younger student enjoys being taught by an older student, and the older student can easily pinpoint what they do and do not know. This inspires them to go and seek the information that they are missing.

In a traditional classroom setting, opportunities for leadership are few and far between. What opportunities they may have are assigned by a teacher, giving little actual freedom to the student. In a Montessori classroom, these opportunities present themselves daily. Each child is free to express themselves, share knowledge, and sharpen each other’s skills.

Each child is unique in their gifts and development. Self-directed, peer-to-peer learning creates a student who is ready, willing, and excited to learn. The multi-age group concept breeds confidence in its older learners, inspires young students, and creates a unique and highly effective learning experience for everyone.

January 30th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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