Baby Evelyn!

Baby #2 (as she was formerly known) arrived last Sunday early morning weighing a healthy 8lbs even just like her big sis. How unusual is that?  The *exact* same birth weight.  She’s an absolute angel and has already brought so much joy into our home.

Her arrival has also renewed my interest in early days infant and child development.  I’m currently reading Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three. Stay tuned for posts on that.

The Importance of Free Play

Violet taking Big Rupert and Little Rupert on a Train Ride

A lot of research and articles exist talking about the value of free play for kids. The Ontario Kindergarten curriculum highlights it’s new play-based program, IKEA has done extensive research studies discussing the importance of play for families and child development in their Play Report and this article published just a few days ago called “Busy kids need free play, warns experts” covers the subject once again.

The key line in this entire article for me is what is described as the result of an overly scheduled child:

“Tiredness, anxiety disorders leading to depression and eating disorders, obesity, and a lack of initiative and creativity are the downsides to an over-scheduled life.”

That’s scary. Especially considering that’s the result of parents thinking that they’re doing a lot of good for their kids? Talk about good intentions back firing. Ouch.

It’s so easy to get carried away signing kids up for this sports program or that art or music class and I do feel there’s a lot of value to doing so, BUT in the last few months I’ve really started to see the value in letting free play happen or in other words providing time where we’re not doing anything which results in a ton of imaginative play that I wouldn’t have even thought of.  It absolutely amazed me to see what Violet does with that free time where she just PLAYS. She starts to sing; she’ll talk in a sing song to her bears; she takes them on adventures in pretend cars or trains; she picks up her play piano and decide that she must put on her ballet leotard and shoes in order to dance – can’t dance without the outfit!

As much as I value exposing her to all sorts of new experiences, places, arts and sports activities, I’m just loving observing how she fills that time in between.

The Hundred Languages of Children – Poem

In all of my reading and research of teaching and learning philosophies, the poem below (written by the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach) has stood out more than anything. It encapsulates my excitement in watching my little girl explore and learn through the ‘hundred languages’ and my fear in what school and culture might do to harm her ability to exercise those languages.

It’s beautiful but it’s scary.  It is my hope that if I can do my part to prepare my child to be one that will say:  “No way. The hundred is there!”

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

– Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lelia Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Through a Child’s Eyes

Ever have those moments when you think you see something but your eyes are playing tricks on you? Say the lights are dim and you think you see an image of a dog reflected in the shadow of furniture or you might see an image in the clouds.

Well, the other day getting out of the car at the mall parking lot Violet started laughing and kept saying “look at the laughing, smiling face!” It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about until I looked up at the street light in the nearby highway and saw this huge grin smiling down on me!

Ahh, to take a moment to see things through a child’s eyes. To just slow down enough to let our imaginations have some fun is a real treat!

Holiday Craft Exchange and Playdate

This is truly a brilliant idea. I can’t take credit but I’ve enjoyed participating in a holiday craft exchange for the second year in a row now.  Here’s what it is: a playdate where each Mom brings a simple holiday craft packaged and ready for as many kids that will be at the party. Ten seems to be a good number. Have some fun playing, have each mom explain what they brought and any special directions for the craft.. but the best part is going home with 10 different crafts that you can pull out on a snowy day. The result? Some fun and creativity with minimal effort in coming up with the craft AND instant gifts your child can give to a grandparent or relative that is uniquely made by your child.

And the proud result…

Games of the Early 1800s

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

It’s fun to think about what types of games kids played a hundred and even two hundred years ago… A couple of weekends ago we enjoyed an afternoon out at our Historical Society’s Harvest Festival at Lakeside Park. It was the perfect crisp fall day for hot apple cider, baked goods, peaking into the historical Thomas House, a Pioneer home of the 1830s – 1840s, and best of all (as far as Violet was concerned) trying out games of the era.

The ‘hoop toss’ game, as I’ll call it (not sure of it’s official name), kept Violet occupied for quite some time. This is certainly going on my project list for cottage games to make.

We were also introduced to a ‘leisure activity’ called The Game of Graces in which each person gets two dowel rods and throw a wooden hoop between the players. I learned from Wikipedia that the “winner is the player who catches the hoop ten times first”.

Nana and Violet gave it a try!

Now, this is a game meant for older children and ladies, however Violet did alright with some directive throwing from Nana! The history of the game is interesting:

The Game of Graces was considered a proper game benefiting young ladies, and supposedly, tailored to make them more graceful. Graces was hardly ever played by boys, and ever played by two boys at the same time, either two girls, or a boy and a girl.

Mila’s Daydreams

This is one of those “I wish I had thought of that!” creative ideas. A mother in Finland, a copywriter and concept designer in advertising currently on maternity leave, keeps her creativity alive every day by creating mini vignettes where she dresses and places her sleeping baby within these really fun and whimsical themed scenes.  The scenes all deriving from what mom imagines baby might be dreaming about. The blog is called Mila’s Daydreams and is definitely worth checking out.

First thought of most mother’s viewing this site: “Wow, she has a good napper on her hands!” Second thought: “Must be nice to have all this free time to set up the scene!”

But seriously, this goes to show that a good idea with a lot of legs becomes really easy to execute. Really, the possibilities are endless. So clever! I especially love how the titles enhance the visual… like this one…

“Attack of the 50 foot woman’s baby!”

or “The Paperdoll”

Mila is just so precious! And what a wonderful keepsake for both mother and child!

Toddler Repetition Compulsion

Notice how kids can do certain things over and over and over again?  We took Violet to a farm on the weekend with some other friends and we couldn’t seem to pull her away from milking this cow!

I try not to interfere with her natural and inherent need to do things repeatedly. After all she was doing very important work. She was perfecting the movement of squeezing and filling up the bucket with water again and again… and as much as I sometimes don’t understand it I really try to let her be when she gets into her repetition mode until she has enough. But, after an hour of standing around this cow, something had to give. There was more to see and do, not to mention there were other kids that wanted to ‘milk the cow’. Eventually, we pulled her away.

What a funny little phase kids go through! According to Dr. Maria Montessori it’s really important to not interfere with this natural need for repetition as she says (if my memory serves me) it gets in the way of a child’s character development. I can see that actually. Imagine you’re at the park and you’re on a mission to climb up a ladder and go down a slide and you’re having so much fun you want to do it again and again. Then, someone comes along and picks you up once you’ve gone down the slide and takes you to the swing, but you’re still thinking about the slide and were just getting into a rhythm. There’s a loss of concentration and power in what it was you were enjoying. There’s a bit of disappointment there, unless of course you really love swings..  😉

So, what do you think, are we messing with character development when we interfere with our kid’s repetition compulsion?

Book: Theories of Development

I’m just about to crack open this book, called Theories of Development Concepts and Applications by William Crain,  and am very excited to do so even though I already have way too many books on the go! But, I’m intrigued.. upon flipping through the book, I  caught a glimpse of the following passage which happens to demonstrate exactly why I am so enamored with Montessori..

Found in the “Montessori’s Educational Philosophy” chapter of the book (on page 80):

Two 6-year old boys’ views on school matters.

Notes the differences in the role of the teacher in the minds of these two children.

1. Who taught you to read?

Regular School Child: “My teacher.”

Montessori Child: “Nobody, I just read the book, and to see if I could read it.”

2. Do you get to work on anything you want?

Regular School Child: “No. But we can go to the bathroom anytime we want. But we’re not allowed to go to the bathroom more than four times.”

Montessori Child:  “You can work on anything you want.”

3. What would happen if you bothered another kid who was working?

Regular School Child “I’d get in trouble from the teacher.”

Montessori Child “He’ll just say, ‘Please go away, I’m busy'” (What would you do?) “I’d just go away ’cause I don’t want to bother someone working.”

Art In The Park ~ Painting In The Park

Well, I have to say our first Art Group experience was a success! All of our little friends created masterpieces under the shade of the trees on this beautiful summer day. Every single child (6 in total) were immersed in painting for upwards of fifteen minutes. Not bad for 2 and 3 year olds! Did I mention there was a park complete with swings and slides within 100 meters? I was quite impressed and inspired watching the little hands mix colours and spread the paint so freely. We even had a little Jackson Pollack in the group!

I decided to keep the first Art Group activity straight-forward but added a little twist to give each child a personalized outcome to their artwork. I brought watercolour paper, tempera paints and brushes and palettes of course. But, I pre-cut the first initial to each child’s name using my handy Silhouette machine and contact paper.  The idea comes from this Watercolor Initials project. Unfortunately I don’t have the finished products as the artwork was too wet to peel the contact paper before our art date was over. I’ll have to see if I can get some photos of the final pieces.  But really, the fun (for me) is watching the kids create. It was a happy morning. I’m looking forward to the next one!