A few years ago while scouring for a Montessori for my son, I had the chance to visit several primary classrooms. Apart from the well-organized and attractive classroom environment, I was impressed with the different sets of materials that were being used effortlessly by the children. Another feature that appealed to me was the use of work mats. Although there were quite a few child-sized tables and chairs in the classroom, many children were utilizing the small mats for their individual activities.
At that time, I thought they were given to the children to minimize mess and make cleanup easy. However, I was wrong and cleaning had nothing to do with it. In fact, the lightweight work mats hold significant importance in the Montessori prepared environment.
The Montessori work mat is used to reinforce the primary principle of the Montessori prepared environment – freedom within limits. The mat defines a child’s personal space while other students are taught to respect the classmate’s work and privacy. The mat is considered a child’s sacred space and no one can interrupt the child unless they are willing to interact. Other children make sure to walk around the mat carefully and only join a classmate when given permission.
Another advantage of a Montessori mat is that the children can come back to their activity if they have to leave their work for any reason. For example, a child takes a bathroom break or has snack time. They can leave their belongings on the mat and return to find their work in the same place, undisturbed.
Each activity in a Montessori classroom starts with the mat. Children are trained to first unroll a mat on their desired space after which they can select an activity. Once they have completed their activity, each child rolls back his or her mat, being careful about keeping the edges even, and puts it along with the others in a basket. This not only teaches children order but also improves their practical life skills to help children become more independent and adaptable to society.
At Montessori Kids Sugarland, the work mats are the foundation of everything the children will learn. Visit us and see how the mats are integrated in every activity to create the perfect work space for each child.
manager November 16th, 2017
A Montessori classroom is a child’s second home. In fact, it serves as the child’s first step into the new world. As the child slowly makes this transition, it is essential that he is provided with an environment that not only makes the shift easy but also facilitates learning to the maximum.
According to the Montessori Method, a Montessori classroom should be planned and equipped in such a way that children adapt easily to the environment without compromising their learning process.We are all familiar with the setting of the traditional classroom where young students are provided adult-sized furniture while the shelves and cupboards are placed so high that the child is always in need of an adult’s assistance. Additionally, in a traditional classroom, children are usually confined to their desks while the teacher dictates the same lesson to the whole class.
However, Maria Montessori was contrary to the traditional learning environment and believed that, “The child, making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future.” Her desire was to provide the children with a learning space where they had the freedom to explore, learn, and experience at their own pace and desire. This led her to create the Montessori Method which focuses on shaping the child as a whole being while making the learning process pleasant by equipping the classrooms with a variety of different materials.
The focus of the Montessori prepared environment remains on the six basic principles – Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social Environment, and Intellectual Environment. Here is a brief description about each of the principles and why they hold importance in the child’s learning and developmental process.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
The prime principle of the Montessori prepared environment is freedom. Just imagine how you would feel if you had to take assistance for the smallest task or were limited to the same task daily without any challenges. Our children are the same way. They have the potential that we, as parents, oftentimes ignore.
The Montessori Method is based on the belief that children who are given freedom can learn with their own natural instinct. The prepared environment of the classroom allows children to choose the activity according to their own preference and pace while enhancing social interaction amongst peers.
Structure and Order
Parents of preschoolers will agree that a temper tantrum can be expected whenever their child’s routine is disrupted. This is because children between the ages of one and five pass through a sensitive stage. Montessori believed that during this phase, children should experience order, consistency, and familiarity in their environment. Since children of this age have limited verbal skills, any disorientation can create chaos which can be avoided by having a consistent schedule and ground rules.
The Montessori method meets the child’s need for order by providing a space that is organized and structured according to their needs. Materials are in the same place every day while lessons and activities are conducted at the same time. The school day ends with children placing all the materials and their completed work in the given space. This sense of order enhances children’s understanding of the world and allows them to organize their time and space efficiently.
Visit the MKU classroom and at first glance you will notice how well-organized the environment is. Everything is beautifully displayed while the classrooms are neat, uncluttered, and orderly. Maria Montessori emphasized the aesthetic appeal of the Montessori classroom and always encouraged teachers to decorate classrooms in such a way that learners come eagerly to learn and work. The environment should reflect peace and tranquility while the arrangement should always be well-maintained.
Nature and Reality
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 60 minutes of unstructured free play daily is essential for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, studies show that children are spending less time outdoors than they were 20 years ago. However, Dr. Montessori agreed with the benefits of outside play and always emphasized that educators should take children outside as much as possible. Children don’t like to sit inside, and keeping them confined in one room can make them cranky and sluggish. Giving them outside time daily enhances their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
In Montessori classrooms, children are grouped with different ages. This structure allows children to share and work cooperatively while enhancing empathy and respect towards each other. Multi-aged classrooms allow older children to develop leadership qualities and younger ones to learn to return the favor in the coming years by being in the same spot as the elders.
The last but the most important principle is the Intellectual environment. The Montessori Method claims that children develop a love of lifelong learning when they take responsibility for themselves and their education. The intellectual environment moves students from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. Each Montessori material can be used in multiple ways to enhance learning, whether it be through language, sensorial, life skills, math, culture, or art.
When all the principles of the Montessori prepared environment are combined, the child develops independence, focus, adaptability, self-confidence, self-discipline, and patience. The freedom to fully learn not only helps the child succeed in academic endeavors but also in practical, everyday life.
manager October 24th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
Tags: academic, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, school, school age kids, sugar land, toddlers
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.
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.”
manager October 3rd, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
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:
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:
When applying practical life skills at home, always remember:
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.
manager September 20th, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Tags: 2 year olds, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, Small Children, sugar land, toddlers
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.
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.
Remember, children learn through trial and error. So as long as your child is playing in a safe environment, let them explore by themselves.
manager August 2nd, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Tags: academic, art, benefits of art, child development, children, education, learning, Montessori, Montessori classroom, Montessori Education, Montessori Method, parenting, parenting tips, pre-school, sugar land
Gross motor skills involve using the large muscles of the body to perform everyday activities such as walking, running, and jumping. They are also important for sporting and playground skills such as climbing, catching and throwing a ball.
How do you know if your children are reaching important gross motor milestones? Children who have problems with gross motor skills are likely to:
Weak gross motor skills can get in the way of having fun. Children who lack gross motor skills also often lack fine motor skills that are necessary for formal school work and day-to-day tasks, so ignoring this problem can lead to other problems that affect every area of your children’s lives.
You can help children build strong gross motor skills by practicing these fun activities at home.
A game of hopscotch helps strengthen muscles along with balance and coordination. The one and two-boxed pattern will allow children to gain a sense of balance as they hop on two legs then one and vice versa. The game can also be played indoors by using colored tapes.
The traditional game of tag requires a lot of running and dodging. It can be played indoors as well as outdoors and accommodates any amount of players present. You can vary the game rules and have kids run in pairs or have them hold hands.
Indoor obstacle course:
An obstacle course is a fun way to give children lots of physical exercise while also giving them goals to accomplish. Use furniture, pillows, blankets, and even cardboard boxes to create areas for children to crawl on and through. This is also a good way to teach children new vocabulary such as through, under, inside, and over.
Whether it is throwing a ball, catching, kicking, or hitting with a bat, playing with balls is a fun way to improve concentration, aim, and coordination. Use a variety of shapes, sizes and textures from plastic to basketballs and even footballs to keep the games interesting.
Most children love to kick, splash, and run around in water. While water play is a fun activity, it is beneficial for developing gross motor skills as well. And this is not limited to swimming only. Just running around the garden trying to dodge sprinklers or pouring water from one bucket to another can develop muscular and core strength.
Encourage children to take part in the above activities and with time and a little effort, you will be amazed at how quickly their initial clumsiness turns into coordination.
manager July 9th, 2017
Posted In: Tips
Fine motor skills involve using the smaller muscle of hands, finger, and thumb. Developing fine motor skills is essential for common activities such as writing, buttoning, using scissors, and zippering. These abilities gradually develop through experience and exposure to a variety of toys, materials, and even foods.
What skills do fine motor skills include?
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skills are important for performing everyday tasks. Without the ability to complete these daily activities, children’s self-esteem can suffer along with their academic performance. They are also unable to develop appropriate independence in their life skills, such as dressing and feeding themselves.
How to encourage fine motor skill development
Children don’t need much prodding to seek new adventures but it takes time to master a new skill. With some encouragement, patience, and support from your side, children will be more confident about the tasks and eventually surprise you one day with their abilities.
So the next time you hear “Let me do it!” try to step back and let children try their hand at simple tasks like getting dressed or spreading jam on a toast. It will require some patience on your part, but it will be well worth the wait.
Squeeze the sponge:
Set up two separate bowls – one empty and the other filled with water. Let the child soak up the sponge with water and squeeze it out in the other bowl. The simple activity will strengthen the hands and forearms.
Make macaroni necklaces:
Stringing necklaces is a great way to improve children’s creativity and improve hand-eye coordination. To start, use a thick piece of string and large pieces of pasta. Over time, you can add different shaped dried pasta along with big, colorful beads to enhance children’s creative skills.
The idea of finger painting might sound a bit messy to you, but for children, it’s an important aspect of development. Finger painting allows children to improve fine motor skills by strengthening finger and hand muscles while encouraging precision and varied levels of pressure. Additionally, children learn more about colors, shapes, and patterns while showcasing their creativity.
If you are concerned about children marring furniture or walls during the art activity, set up an easel or a thick piece of paper in the yard, garage, or any other area that can be washed easily.
Don’t underestimate the power of the old-fashioned playdough. Manipulating playdough helps strengthen the muscles of children’s hands, improves creative skills, and develops hand-eye coordination. So let them squish, roll, and flatten it as much as you want to. But make sure you use a non-toxic form of playdough or better yet, extend the activity by making your own playdough. Recipes abound on the Internet and allow children to create their own colors, to boot!
Remember, the skills that children master today will help them gain a steady position once they advance towards formal learning in kindergarten and beyond. With some effort, children will gain one of the most important skills that will ultimately help them reach many more milestones in the future.
manager June 20th, 2017
Posted In: Tips
For many parents, choosing the right preschool for their child is as stressful as selecting the right college for a teen. There are so many schools out there with varying curriculum that it’s no surprise parents become overwhelmed.
Luckily, it’s a norm for most schools to hold open houses to give parents a glimpse of what to expect. Not just for new parents, these events are beneficial for parents whose children are already attending the particular school. By taking part in such events, you can see the children’s progress, meet up with teachers, and get a good look at the classrooms.
And of course, open houses are a great way to communicate with other parents. Regular school days are usually filled with the hustle and bustle of picking up and dropping off, but open houses provide a great opportunity to visit with fellow parents and share experiences.
To make the most of these events, follow these suggestions:
Go early: Try to reach the venue early so you have sufficient time to chat with other parents, teachers, and the leadership of the school. Sometimes, open houses follow a program and you don’t want to miss important introductions and information.
Talk to the teachers: Although these nights are not about individual children, they are perfect for getting to know the teachers, their expectations, and their personalities. This helps make future conversations more productive and pleasant.
Check out the curricula: The curriculum is a guide to what the children will be learning during the school year. Since different preschools follow different teaching philosophies, it may be a good idea to find out about them in advance.
Voice your concerns: Although an open house will not give you a chance to discuss specific issues your child is facing, you can still voice your concerns during the event. For example, if your child is complaining about not getting enough time to eat lunch, open house is the perfect place to get clarification on the duration of lunch time.
Volunteer: Most schools appreciate parent volunteers during trips, events, and with everyday classroom resources. As a parent, you might have your hands full, but remember, school is more than a pick-up, drop-off point. It’s a place where children spend most of their childhood. Seeing you there and helping out will go a long way in giving children a more meaningful school experience.
An open house is neither the place nor a setting to discuss your child’s unique needs. If your child is attending the specific school and you have a concern about his development or behavior – schedule a meeting in the future where you and the teacher can talk about the problems at hand.
manager May 31st, 2017
Many of us have heard the term infant stimulation but don’t know what it is or why it is important.
Infant stimulation is using specific activities to arouse babies’ senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. This helps in improving their attention span, curiosity, and memory which enables them to reach developmental milestones faster.
Recent research on children’s brain development has shown that infants’ environments have a dramatic effect on their growth. This impacts how well they think and learn as both children and adults.
There is no need for special training or products to stimulate the young mind. As parents and caregivers, we have several simple, free opportunities throughout the day to satisfy children’s natural desire to learn.
Make eye contact. Infants start recognizing faces much earlier than you think. You can make the most of the time when their eyes are open by maintaining eye contact with them. Talk to children while changing diapers and make funny faces. Remember, every time they stare at you they are building their recognition memory.
Interact with them. Instead of leaving children with their stuffed toys in the crib, make stuffed animals come to life. How? By giving them a voice and moving them around. This will enhance their imagination and encourage their creativity.
Play peek-a-boo. Lightly cover the baby’s face with a blanket and talk to her, so she can hear even when her eyes are closed. Pull the blanket away with a “peek-a-boo!” This will not only bring a few giggles but will also teach her that Mom may disappear for a while but she always comes back.
Grab a tissue. Most young babies love pulling out tissue from the box. It may be a few cents’ loss for you but tissues are one of the best sensory play items. Young children can crumple them, tear them, or smooth them out. The key is to allow them to explore their environment safely.
Read books. No one can disagree with the importance of reading. Young infants might not be able to follow the story but they will definitely enjoy seeing the colorful pictures and the sound of your voice. Plus, reading is a great way to connect with children and spend some one-on-one time with them.
Point out differences. Choose two pictures that are similar but have a minor difference and display them. Even the youngest infant will go back and forth between the pictures trying to distinguish the similarities and differences. Simple games like this one engage the mind and babies’ natural curiosity.
Let them smell YOU. Avoid exposing young children to artificially scented perfumes and deodorants. Instead, let them get used to your unique smell. Hold them, cuddle them, and give them lots of kisses in order to enhance their oxytocin, aka the ‘love’ hormone.
Include them. Whether you are going somewhere or trying a new food, engage children by telling them everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You may not realize it, but this gives children endless vocabulary-building opportunities.
Always remember, stimulation works best when babies are alert and giving you their complete attention. If you find your infant losing interest or acting tired, it’s time for less stimulation and a rest.
By applying these simple tips regularly, your baby will not only grow intellectually but will also grow more in love with you. Nothing can replace quality time together, so make the most of your time with your infants.
manager May 19th, 2017
Posted In: Montessori Education
“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:
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.
manager May 3rd, 2017
Posted In: Tips