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The beauty of Montessori materials

 

Maria Montessori had a view that education should prepare children for all aspects of life. She believed that each child is unique and must be free to learn at his or her own pace. To support her theory further, Dr. Montessori designed several materials and techniques that are an integral part of the Montessori prepared environment. Each set of materials focuses on concepts that compliment the curriculum.

Visit the prepared classrooms of Montessori Kids Universe Sugarland and you will see several different sets of materials on low shelves. This is because Maria Montessori emphasized giving children ‘freedom within limits.” The materials are easily accessible and children are free to choose one according to their interest. Once the students are finished with their material, they are encouraged to put everything back on shelves before moving on to the next activity.

The greatest advantage of the Montessori materials is that they are “self-correcting,” which means that students will notice their errors and don’t need adult supervision to rectify their mistakes. This improves their problem solving skills and makes them more confident and content with their accomplishments.

Parents who are new to Montessori often find it hard to understand the importance of these materials. To help you out, here is a list of some of the most popular Montessori materials and how they are used in the prepared environment.

  1. Moveable Alphabet

Montessori doesn’t teach the alphabet in the traditional way. Instead of A, B, C, the children are taught the phonetic sounds of these letters. Once they are familiar with the sounds, they are transitioned to the moveable alphabet that allows them to recognize the letters they are used to hearing. The main purpose of the moveable alphabet is not to teach children how to read, but to prepare them for writing.

  1. The Golden Beads

The Golden Bead material is included in the mathematical curriculum and introduces the children to the decimal system. Initially, children around the age of four use the golden beads as an introduction to counting. As the child progresses, the same set of material allows them to perform sums of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

  1. The Pink Tower

The Pink Tower may look like an ordinary set of blocks to any person who is not familiar with the Montessori curriculum. However, it is one of the most recognized Montessori materials and teaches children a variety of skills including coordination and dimension. Most importantly, the tower is self-correcting since the child is immediately able to grasp his or her mistakes when the tower is completely built.

  1. Brown stairs

Similar to the Pink Tower, the Brown Stairs is another sensorial material that teaches children the different dimensions. As the name suggests, the children use the blocks to build “stairs” starting from the broadest to the narrowest. This allows them to further enhance their learning of sizes and shape.

  1. The world map

The World Map puzzle instills geography knowledge and skills. The cutouts of different continents teach children the name of seven continents as well as the names of their countries, their capital cities, and their demographic location on the globe.

  1. The Checkerboard

An advanced mathematic material, the Checkerboard helps children learn multiplication. The checkerboard material contains colorful beads and a large painted board. However, unlike the traditional methods that force children to memorize the multiplications table, the Checkerboard teaches abstract mathematical skills that allow them to calculate large numbers without counting.

  1. Practical Life Materials

As discussed in previous blogs, Montessori emphasizes practical life skills that help children in their daily routine and make them more independent and resilient in the future.  The practical life materials are a norm in Montessori classrooms and include the basics such as broom, dustpan, mop, and duster. Each item is child-sized so the children can conveniently access the items without asking for adult’s assistance. Children are also assigned duties during the school hours such as cleaning the shelves, watering the plants, and giving food to the class pet. This makes the children more responsible and instills them with a sense of pride for their contribution.

 

Montessori materials, while seemingly simple, can be used in a complex manner and through every stage of a preschooler’s development. More importantly, the materials develop a love of learning, advanced critical thinking skills, and the ability to problem-solve, even at this young age.

 

December 7th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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The unique Montessori classroom

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.

 Freedom

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

-Maria Montessori

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.

Beauty

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.

Social environment

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.

Intellectual environment

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.

October 24th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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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

Posted In: Tips

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5 tips for surviving holiday shopping with kids

mall-shopping

Christmas is just a few weeks away and even if you have completed your holiday shopping in advance – there are some people you are likely to have accidentally overlooked. As parents we know that it’s far easier – and faster – to keep the kids at home to complete the shopping list. Unfortunately,  this may not be feasible and you have to make the dreaded trip to the mall with kids in tow.

To help you out, here are some tips that can make the shopping experience, despite the traffic and crowds, pleasant for both you and the little ones.

  1. Have a plan ready:

Before going out, prepare a shopping list so you know what to look for and where. Try to pre-plan your parking to be close to the section of the mall where you need to shop. Pack some snacks and lightweight books/puzzles ready in your bag for kids if they become cranky. It is easier to shop if your kids have something that entertains them and bringing along a favorite activity will go a long way in keeping your kids’ attention.

  1. Explain rules in advance:

Just as you have rules for proper behavior at home, you should have rules for proper shopping behavior. Make these clear to your kids ahead of time so they know exactly what’s expected of them. Remember safety and make sure you tell your children that stores will be crowded and they are to stick next to you. You can also offer rewards for good behavior, such as a stop in their favorite store or a milkshake in their favorite flavor. Everyone needs incentives, and if it will cut your shopping time in half to promise a treat at the end, it’s well worth the reward.

  1. Involve them:

No one likes to stand around feeling useless, even little kids. Give them a task according to their age. If they are young, ask them to hold on to the shopping list and track your progress. Or ask them to select between two shirts for grandpa and actually listen to their opinion. By making them feel useful and important, you are likely to limit any behavior issues. They will naturally want to help when they see you value their input. In addition, you are showing your respect for them as little people, and they appreciate that!

  1. Take Breaks:

Are your kids acting up? Are they cranky? Maybe they are tired, hungry, thirsty, or just plain bored! Take a quick rest by having a snack or maybe even a nap for the little ones. Visiting Santa is also a great activity that kids look forward to when in the mall. Grab a bite to eat, get off your feet, and take a few minutes to rejuvenate. After a little break, everyone will be back in shape to finish off the shopping list.

  1. Have some fun:

Shopping doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it fun by singing carols on the way to the mall or skipping from store to store. By keeping your kids happy and entertained, your shopping trip will go by in a breeze. Remember that learning can be fun and keeps little minds engaged, so get them to help you with the math of a purchase or aid you in  finding the best price. Ask them to count how many people they see wearing red sweaters. Games can come out of the smallest moments, but they make a big impact when it comes to creating a pleasant shopping experience. They also make long memories that your kids will treasure when they get older.

With these tips in mind, your holiday shopping trip will be a fun experience for all and not an overwhelming hassle, like you expected. Give these tricks a try and happy shopping!

 

December 12th, 2016

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Divide and Conquer: Chores for the little ones

Toddler child washing dishes in kitchen. Little boy having fun with helping to his mother with housework.

Doing chores is (and should) be a tradition in a family. Children learn responsibility by doing their chores and of course, by sharing chores with the family members.

Not sure where to start and which chores to give your little ones? Don’t worry! We’re here to help and make doing chores a positive experience for all.

By giving children responsibility, they feel needed and know that they are making a contribution to the family. If children learn to help in their younger years, they will work harder later in life. Even children as young as two years old can help around the house and are more able than you think they are. They can easily use the modern gadgets, so tasks at home are simple.  However, they are not born knowing everything and just like you taught them how to walk and talk, you must teach them how to do tasks that are appropriate for their age group. Don’t insist on perfection but praise them as they struggle through each job that you have assigned them.

Make a Chore Chart

Create a list of jobs for every member of the family. Hang it in a place where everyone can see and follow. Rewards can also be given to children to motivate them to do their tasks on time.

2-3 Years old

  • Put toys away.
  • Put clothes in hamper.
  • Wipe up spills.
  • Pile up magazines and books.
  • Fill a pet’s water and food bowl.

4-5 years old

  • All of the chores mentioned above
  • Make their bed.
  • Empty waste paper baskets.
  • Bring in the newspaper.
  • Help clean the table.
  • Water flowers.
  • Help unload the dishwasher.
  • Wash dishes.
  • Help parents prepare food.
  • Be completely responsible for pet’s food and water.

6-7 years old

  • Vacuum rooms.
  • Mop floors.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Put the laundry in its respective places.
  • Empty trash cans.
  • Wash light load of dishes.
  • Take clothes from the dryer.
  • Take care of pet’s food, water, and exercise completely.

8 years old and up

 

  • Dust.
  • Clean kitchen.
  • Clean bathroom with help.
  • Mop.
  • Help clean car.
  • Tidy up drawers and cabinets.

With these tips in mind, you will be well on your way to creating a chore system for your household. We at Montessori kids Sugarland also believe that children should take care of their own belongings so we encourage them to clean up their class work and lunches. With this partnership. Children learn responsibility and feel that they are members of the larger community.

 

 

December 5th, 2016

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The dangers of too much screen time

screen-time-dangers-537x402

Screen time is an inescapable reality of modern childhood, with kids of all age groups spending countless numbers of hours in front of their iPads, smartphones, and television sets.

Although experts have revealed that some “quality” screen time is required to sharpen the children’s brain development and communication skills – not to mention that they keep the children entertained while parents hurriedly finish their daily task –too much exposure can delay the child’s cognitive and physical development.

According to recent studies, excessive use of the screen can result in:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep disorders
  • Behavioral issues
  • Lack of social skills
  • Less time for physical activities and play

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time for children aged 2 -5 to an hour per day. They also emphasize that children under 18 months of age not use any form of media apart from video chatting.

Most readers will agree that our culture is addicted to the screen and most parents find the digital devices a “convenient” form of babysitter. To inspire our parents, here are some tips for limiting children’s screen time so they can enjoy other activities.

  1. Set the example: It may be hard to model for many parents but we all know children do what they see. If they see you reading a book, they are likely to do so as well. And if they see you watching television, they will too.
  2. Set time limits: It will be much easier to limit children’s exposure to the screen if appropriate times are set aside for television, video games, and iPads.
  3. Encourage them to participate in other activities: Set aside time for unplugged activities such as reading, board games, and physical play.
  4. Interact with children: It might be easier for most parents to just turn on the TV for their children but parenting requires much more. Listen to children, observe them and be involved in their lives.
  5. Observe changes in children’s behavior: Television and the internet have an immediate impact on children. So keep a lookout for any aggressive, impatient, selfish, and irritable behavior.
  6. Keep screens in a common area: Keep TV out of children’s bedrooms and ask them to charge their devices outside of the room at night. Studies show that in addition to the obvious distractions, just the glow from these devices disrupts sleep patterns.
  7. Eliminate background noise: Most families keep the television on during meal times. However, meal times are an important opportunity for the whole family to connect and talk. Eating dinner while watching television also affects the children’s eating habits which may eventually lead to weight issues. So make it a rule to turn off the TV during when no one is watching; instead, protect your coveted family time.

It may seem like an “impossible” battle, but the less you and your children depend on digital devices, the easier it will become. And trust us, in the end. it will be worth the effort!

October 24th, 2016

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Developmental milestones for your 5-6 year old

pic_enrichment

The school-age years have now begun and children at this stage are spending more time at their respective educational institutes and less time at home. They are now more influenced by their teachers and peers and learning many different skills that help them in both – inside and outside the classroom area.

As a parent, it is important to observe the children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth and seek help if needed. To help you out, here are some developmental milestones to look out for after the children celebrate their 5th birthday.

Movement Milestones:

Children are very energetic at this age and are constantly running around, especially with their friends. It is a good time to get them started on a sport they show interest in. This will help them build self-confidence and the ability to set and achieve goals.

Children after the age of five are more confident at climbing, sliding, swinging, and balancing on one foot. They can also learn to skip with a jumping rope and do somersaults.

Their fine motor skills are improving and they may be able to tie laces, dress and undress, use utensils, and go to the toilet more with little or no assistance from your side.

At this age, the children are also able to:

  • Write their own name
  • Copy letter and number from memory
  • Recognize most colors
  • Draw and recognize most shapes
  • Read simple picture books
  • Draw more realistic looking pictures
  • Say their full name, address, phone number, age, and birthday

Language Milestones:

Five-six-year-olds love to talk, especially about their day at school. Give them lots of opportunity to talk by listening attentively and asking questions. Children at this age are also given opportunities to participate in “Show and tell” at school where they can enjoy telling their school friends about certain items and toys they bring from home.

Social and Emotional Milestones:

These children like to be recognized for their achievements and are especially pronounced when given evaluation from their schools for their academic performance.

5-6-year-olds are likely to:

  • Be more self-confident about themselves
  • Imitate adults
  • Enjoy making simple decisions
  • Want privacy especially in the toilet
  • Play with children of the same gender
  • Tell the difference between real and artificial
  • Agree with most rules set by their parents, teachers, and caregivers

Cognitive Milestones:

Children this age are active learners meaning they like to take charge of their own learning. They can now count 10 or more objects and say the complete alphabet. They are also attempting many new experiences and don’t hesitate to take risks to develop new skills.

What can you do to help?

  • Encourage them to play different sports and games.
  • Include them in simple household chores like setting/clearing the table, folding laundry, and putting away the dishes.
  • Play with them each day even if it’s for only 10 minutes. This gives children a sense of security and shows that you care for them.
  • Arrange play dates and allow them to play in groups.
  • Give them a variety of foods to eat but don’t force them to eat unwillingly.
  • Talk about their feelings and be sensitive to their fears or embarrassment, if they have any.

Children progress at different paces so don’t worry if your child exhibits these milestones a bit earlier or later than other children. However, if you feel that there is a significant delay in your child’s development – consult a child specialist.

Happy Parenting!

October 17th, 2016

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