Special Needs and the Montessori Classroom

 

Montessori Method with Children of Varying Abilities

All children benefit from the Montessori method, but very few parents understand how well it works for those with special needs. The important thing is to acknowledge that Montessori is a learning strategy rather than a teaching strategy. In other words, emphasis is placed on providing children with the appropriate tools for them to learn at their own pace and not on giving teachers a curriculum that all students must be molded to fit.

The Origins of Montessori Learning

Maria Montessori was a doctor who became one of the first advocates of special needs education. In her professional role, she was positioned with the task of working with children who had mental and physical disabilities during an era when such children were considered to be unteachable. Maria did not agree with that viewpoint, and began studying how children learn so that she could make an impact. She later transitioned to teaching “normal” children, but continued using her experiences with special needs children as her guide. The result of her work was the development of the Montessori method, used today by more than 7,000 schools worldwide.

Materials and Organization

The Montessori school is commonly referred to as the “Children’s House.” Each classroom is designed around the children who will use it, including child-sized furnishings and decorations. Even the materials are selected to match the children, such as the progression of beads and bars found in all Montessori classrooms. The materials are arranged for maximum benefit, and children are able to move about the room and up through the progression of materials as they master new educational skills.

Mixed Ages and Special Needs

Since the classroom is designed around mixed ages, there is no social catastrophe when a child needs to be “held back.” Children of differing ages are also motivating for the students, as older kids gain self esteem from helping little ones, and the younger see benefits from having in-class examples of what their goals can become. Cooperation is one of the foundations of Montessori learning, and it creates an environment of helpfulness and acceptance.

Student Goals and the Montessori Method

Some special needs students need special education strategies, and may require specialized guidance or therapy, including speech and behavioral guidance. But even these special needs can be worked into the student’s personal goals, building a more rounded child by matching his needs to his daily educational program. The structure of the Montessori classroom has been shown to assist in the development of children with conditions such as autism.

The Montessori method uses a hands-on approach to learning that appeals to children – having the freedom to work on projects at their own pace, and being immersed in an environment that teaches real-world skills is a comfortable and intuitive way for the special needs student to become all that they can be.  At our private day care in Fremont, CA, the staff at Montessori Childrens Center welcome children of all abilities. Contact us today to schedule a tour!

Games to Teach your Preschooler Teamwork

Life for your preschooler during his or her school time is about learning how to work with their peers. This concept is difficult for young children, so it’s important to promote teamwork during play to make it inviting and fun. Creative games or art activities are useful tools to initiate communication, collaboration, and cooperation among preschoolers.

Teach your Preschooler Teamwork Through Games

Your preschooler probably loves to play dress up or with blocks as these are common play activities with young children. Through these activities, they naturally develop cooperation between each other, but there are other games they can engage in to further promote teamwork. Try some of these ideas with your preschooler and their peers to focus them more on working together as a team.

Boxes and Balls

Using a large box cover, you can put your child to work as a team member and create an incredibly fun event. The best type of cover is one that has sides, so the ball remains contained on top and does not go rolling off as often. Place your child and their friends around the sides of the cover and put a brightly colored ball inside for them to keep in the middle. As a team, the preschoolers will have to work out how they hold the cover to maintain the ball in the center of the cover.

Group Mural

On a large sheet of paper or canvas draw a circle large enough to accommodate the number of children. Let the kids decide what images they want inside the circle, and they will work as a team to fill in space. This coloring or painting activity will have your preschooler working as a group to decide the style of coloring they choose and how to fill up the circle. It is also a great way for preschoolers to demonstrate or learn different techniques in coloring.

Amazing Maze

You can create an amazing maze with the bottom cut out of a large box. Inside the lower part of this box create a maze using brightly colored straws. Place an object such as a large marble, toy car, or any small movable item the children can work through the maze. With your preschooler and their friends placed around the bottom, each will have to work as a team to tilt the box and move the object through the maze. This activity is ideal for promoting cooperation between the team members.

Montessori Promotes Teamwork and Respect

Montessori classrooms are the ideal environment for your preschooler to learn about teamwork and respect. Classrooms are more like small communities where your child will share and work together with others while they learn the skill of being a team member. This skill is often forgotten in typical classroom settings, but in the Montessori environment, your child is encouraged to respect not only the teacher but their classmates as well. The teamwork aspect is a skill your child will take with them to create a lifetime of success.  The teachers of the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus integrate teamwork activities into their students’ daily learning.  Schedule a tour today to see the positive impact working together has on a student’s learning environment.

Sensory Focused Painting Activities

Children learn by engaging in a variety of activities. Encouraging sensory activities allows your child to explore through touch, smell, sight and sound. In addition, introducing sensory focused painting activities into your child’s routine encourages creativity, large motor skills, and enhances eye/hand coordination. As the activity unfolds, your child will learn social and vocabulary skills which enhance other areas of development.

Painting Activities for the Senses

Sensory focused painting activities go beyond the traditional paint and brush use. Introducing a broad spectrum of materials allows your child to engage in the project with endless possibilities. Using different textures and materials helps engage your child’s natural curiosity for learning. A routine painting activity may lead to other art interests.

Bubble Wrap Painting

Bubble wrap is a fun addition to sensory focused painting activity. Securing bubble wrap to rolling pins, paper towel tubes, or wooden blocks is a great way to paint. Simply dip the instrument into the paint and apply to paper. The bubble wrap produces small trails and texture lines. As your child uses various colors, the paint trails will blend.

Another bubble wrap sensory focused painting activity engages large motor skills and the sense of touch. The bubble wrap may be formed into socks or mittens. Trace your child’s foot or hand. Secure the bubble wrap with tape. Depending on the area of the bubble wrap, allow your child to walk across large sheets of butcher paper or make handprints. Producing art through movement engages the whole child.

Painting with Different Textures

In addition to bubble wrap as a painting instrument, you may use other items to allow for various design outcomes.

  • Yarn
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Sponges cut into different sizes and shapes
  • Marbles
  • Toy cars
  • Spray bottles
  • Eye Droppers
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Pasta noodles

Along with unique painting instruments, apply the paint to different surfaces, which increases the learning experience.

  • Old compact discs
  • Sandpaper
  • Material pieces
  • Aluminum foil
  • Butcher paper
  • Poster board
  • Construction paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Coffee filters

The combination of the instrument and surface increases your child’s engagement in the project. By offering your child choices, the overall experience increases curiosity to further learning opportunities through exploration.

Adding Spices to Paint

Smell is a powerful sense. Using paint with different odors adds to the learning experience of sensory focused painting activities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, chili, and vanilla are perfect choices. Along with engaging fine motor skills, the mild smells allow your child to engage another sense.

Children love to create. Sensory focused painting activities are fun and messy. Along with enhancing the sense of touch, smell, sound, sight and depending on the paint, you may include taste.  At Montessori Childrens Center, we encourage our students to embrace their creativity by incorporating hands on activities into our everyday lessons.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.

Creating an Herb Garden with Your Toddler

Are you looking for a way to develop your toddler’s interest in growing things? Creating an herb garden together is an excellent way to get children excited about science and nature. Herbs are generally pretty easy to care for and can be grown either outside or inside, in a garden or in containers.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your child’s first experience with nature and gardening is a positive one.

  • Keep it small. To encourage ownership of the garden, keep it to just two or three plants for your toddler. You may have a larger garden with many more plants, but your toddler should be expected to care for only a few. Herbs such as mint, chives, and basil are fairly easy to grow.
  • Choose the plants with your child’s help. Toddlers are too young to do the actual research themselves, but they can “help” you choose what herbs to plant and learn how to care for them. Once you plant, make sure each of your child’s herbs is marked. A plastic marker with a picture is helpful for toddlers.
  • Choose between indoor and outdoor. Is your toddler’s herb garden going to be inside or outside? In containers or in the ground? This decision may depend on whether you have the space outside. Either way, most herbs like a lot of sun and well-drained soil, so if you plant a container garden be sure they have drainage holes and are placed in a sunny window.
  • Decide whether seeds or seedlings are best for you. Planting seeds is more educational for children because they get to experience the entire process from beginning to end, while planting seedlings is more exciting because they get to see progress right away. What you choose depends on what kind of experience you are wanting for your toddler.
  • Encourage independence. To help your child take ownership of their own garden, help them carve out a space that belongs only to them. This could be a corner of the garden outside, a large pot that contains two or three plants that belong just to your child, or a collection of small containers with one plant in each. Help your child plant the seeds or seedlings and teach them basic care such as how much water to give. Even if you have to do a little of the maintenance yourself, allow your child to take ownership of the plants.

Inspiring Young Gardeners, Scientists, and Nature-Lovers

The best part of growing your toddler’s first herb garden is seeing their excitement and their interest in taking care of the plants. We love projects like this at Montessori Childrens House for how they inspire children to learn. To find out more about the kinds of projects we explore in our classrooms through Montessori education, please contact us today to schedule a tour.

Spring Crafts for Ages 0-6

Spring is always a fun time for kids, and few things help them get into the spirit of things like craft activities. One of the best things about doing craft activities is its ability to engage even the youngest of children. No matter whether your child is already experienced with crafts or just starting to play with crayons, these activities will help awaken your child’s imagination.

Tray Spring Art

These pieces of spring art are easy for even the youngest toddlers to create, made from one of the simplest items available – a meat tray. Let your child color in the background with non-toxic markers or paint. Then, attach colorful foam shapes such as butterflies or flowers that fit in with the spring theme.

Colorful Windchimes

Kids love windchimes, but you might have concerns about working with glass or metal pieces around little kids. Twig chimes are a fun alternative, and your kids will enjoy selecting their own twigs as part of a nature walk. Paint the twigs in bright spring or rainbow colors, then hang them in a spot where everyone can enjoy them.

Tissue Paper Rainbows

A rainbow is a great way to introduce young kids to colors. Tissue paper is easy for little ones to work with and cut using safety scissors. Once the rainbow is put together, your kids will want to display it and tell stories.

Clay Vase Necklaces

These necklaces help spark kids’ creativity when they get interested in working with clay. One of the best parts of making them is that it is easy to shape the clay and run the string through. For an extra bit of fun, go out exploring with your kids and find some pretty flowers to put in the miniature vases.

3D Animals

Animal figures are lots of fun for kids, but nothing comes close to making your own. Help your child trace the outline of an animal on a file folder with its body spread out; make sure the fold will be in the middle of the back. Cut the figure out, color, and then fold it so the animal stands up.

Drip Dye Flower Pot

Drip dye is a fun activity for kids who like paint and playing around with colors. Drop one or two paint colors into a cup filled with water, then pour the dye over a plain vase. When the paint dries, the vase will have a unique look your child will take pride in.

These fun activities are perfect for a spring day in the Bay Area and for helping your child prepare for school.  At Montessori School of Pleasanton, students are encouraged to embrace their creativity, including through art activities.  Our hands-on, interactive learning approach allows students to explore independently while working with their fellow students to engage in the subject at hand. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

Understanding the Principles of the Montessori Method

The Montessori Method is an educational approach for helping children learn and develop in a natural manner. Focusing on children’s curiosities, a Montessori teacher will be able to implement a prearranged lesson plan to foster exploration and further learning. The Montessori concept focuses on basic principles to ensure the highest learning potential.

The Basic Principles for Understanding the Montessori Method

Implemented in classrooms for the last 100 years, the basic principles of the Montessori Method focus on cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development of the child. Fostering the whole child helps create a sense of self. Unlike traditional classrooms, a Montessori learning environment allows for different age groups. Interacting with older and younger children provides many benefits including leadership skills, social interaction, and cognitive development. Using the Montessori approach helps engage all students in a well-prepared learning environment.

Respecting the Child as an Individual

Highly trained Montessori teachers recognize each child as a unique individual. This approach allows teachers to build upon each child’s skills, focus, and natural interests. As the children in the Montessori classroom begin to explore, a sense of independence occurs. Fostering the independence allows children to interact with peers in a positive manner. Children learn self-discipline by engaging in the environment.

Engaging the Absorbent Mind

Montessori classrooms do not focus on rewards. Instead, the focus is primarily on engaging the absorbent or curious mind. The joy of learning something new is far more rewarding than a letter grade. Part of the natural learning process, this allows Montessori educators to show children mistakes without punishment. Realizing how the error occurs, children learn to identify and fix mistakes on their own.

Understanding Children Has Sensitive Periods

Children naturally go through sensitive periods. Each sensitive period is a crucial learning point for different types of development. Engaging in predetermined activities, Montessori teachers recognize the natural development process by engaging the child for optimal learning. The prearranged environment allows the child unlock maximum learning potential.

Preparing the Classroom Environment

Montessori teachers carefully analyze the needs of the children in the classroom to prepare a learning environment. Focusing on independence, the Montessori Method focuses on hands-on learning. Children are given the opportunity to choose an activity based on personal interests. Along with the prepared learning environment indoors, the Montessori classroom focuses on nature as an integral component in natural development. Being outdoors provides children many opportunities to expand vocabulary, social skills, and individual curiosity.

Over time, older children learn practical life skills as part of the classroom activities. Preparing snacks, brushing teeth, and putting everything back in the proper place allows for a foundation of skills that will last a lifetime.

Self-Education

The Montessori Method relies on continuous learning or self-education. This approach focuses on the concept children want to learn. As new materials are available, a natural curiosity of a subject will occur. Providing children with uninterrupted blocks of time to explore allows for the successful implementation of self-education.

Day Star Montessori relies on the principles of Montessori education as established by Dr. Maria Montessori over 100 years ago.  Our students are encouraged to explore independently, work with students of various age groups, and be guided by the teacher as to the learning environment that best suits them as individuals.  Visit us today to see the benefits of enrolling your child in a Montessori school.

Preschool Circle Time Activities

Montessori has a unique learning style, and their success goes back centuries. The popularity of the Montessori preschool is growing among parents as they witness the child-directed learning and their child’s progress through this method of education. Their children are not taught by traditional methods; they are encouraged to make their own choices with a teacher guiding them along the way. In the Montessori preschool setting, your child will learn through hands-on, self-directed, collaborative play with other kids. Each day will begin with preschool circle time activities to bring the classroom community together as they greet each other.

Preschool Circle Time Activities

During the preschool circle time, the teacher will review certain concepts that relate to what they are directing learning experiences towards. There are ideas they want to introduce your child to such as time, calendars, weather, and other areas of their world they want your child to become aware of. There are often songs or poems your child will enjoy learning along with creative movement exercises.

Guidelines for Circle Time

The teacher will use a familiar and repeated phrase to let your child know it’s time to join the circle. This familiar phrase will help your child transition from an activity and know to join their friends in the circle. Many times a teacher will alert the children it’s time to put toys away and join the circle by singing a ‘clean-up’ song. During circle time, your child will be encouraged to participate.

Role Playing During Circle Time

Children learn best in specific situations when an idea is role-played. There are times when children do not get along with each other. They might be excluding certain children from joining in certain activities. A good way to show these children the consequences their actions are having on those left out is to role-play the situation. The children are then included in the outcome by asking each for their idea on how to solve the issue and what else could happen to make everyone happy. Books are also perfect for teaching lessons on life situations. The children’s series, Berenstain Bears, is wonderful for telling about conflicts and how to resolve them.

Non-Competitive Play

Games are typically designed to be non-competitive. Game time is designed so your child gets to know the other kids and learns about sportsmanship. These game times will also help your child learn how to resolve conflicts and problem solve situations.

Circle Time Reconnects

Circle time is not just to take attendance; it can be used throughout the day to bring order to the classroom. When the children appear to lose their focus on their activities, circle time is a great tool to bring them together and reconnect with each other.

The Montessori preschool will provide your child with an unshakable self-confidence. They will develop a can-do attitude through true life skills and teach students to learn pride in their true achievements.

Contact us today at Mission Valley Montessori to see how we incorporate different activities into our preschool circle time.  Our teachers encourage students to learn and explore on their own, by guiding them on the principles of Montessori education.  Schedule a tour today!

Valentine Crafts for Preschoolers

February 14th, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to do fun crafts with preschoolers. Children love holidays. As caregivers or parents, you can provide a memorable experience with simple crafts. Most of the needed materials are inexpensive. In fact, you may already have the supplies on hand or you can purchase the materials at your local dollar store.

Heart Collages

Young children love to make a mess! Making a heart collage can be both a messy and developmentally enriching project. As children put different textures of materials on the heart shaped tag board or construction paper, they will use fine motor skills. As the instructor of the project, you may want to begin by supplying the precut hearts. Use pink or red for variety. Next, allow the children to glue different materials on the shape.

  • Noodles of different sizes, shapes, and textures
  • Scrap pieces of paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Yarn
  • Googly eyes
  • If you are feeling really brave, you can also add glitter.

Salt Dough Valentine

Creating a salt dough Valentine requires flour, salt, and warm water. As a caregiver, you have the option of making the salt dough shape hearts prior to the project or allowing the children to participate in cutting out the dough. Either way, begin by making the heart shape dough cutouts which will need a day to dry. Remember to pierce the heart toward the top to allow children to hang up their Valentine project. After you make the salt dough Valentine ornament, decorating is the next step. Paint with non-toxic acrylics – pink, red, purple, and white are the top colors for Valentine’s Day.

Coffee Filter Hearts

Coffee filter hearts allow children to mix and discover colors. Begin by cutting out the coffee filters into heart shapes. This messy project requires each preschooler to have a tray or small baking sheet to contain the colored water. Next provide different colors of food coloring in small cups. The preschooler can use plastic eye droppers to carefully drop different colors onto the coffee filter heart. As the colors mix together, a tie-dye appearance will form.

Puppet Hearts

Creating puppet hearts allow preschoolers a chance to make a one of a kind Valentine’s Day project fueled by their imagination. Preschoolers can glue heart shape construction paper or tag board to the top of Popsicle sticks. Depending on the time frame for the project, a caregiver may prepare the Valentine hearts ahead of the time. Next, comes decorating the heart shape. Provide googly eyes for the puppet. Supply different items to glue on the heart and stick for a personal touch, such as:

  • Small pieces of scrap paper in different colors
  • Yarn pieces
  • Small pom-poms
  • Glitter

Preschoolers love spending time creating. As preschoolers make Valentine’s Day crafts, you are inspiring their imagination, engaging fine motor skills, increasing vocabulary, and social skills. Along with all the developmentally enhancement, these Valentine’s Day projects are just fun.

At Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus, we encourage our preschoolers to explore their creativity through self-discovery and independent learning.  Our hands-on approach of the Montessori method truly embraces and highlights each child’s differences.  Call us today to schedule a tour and learn how our teachers incorporate arts into their daily classroom environment.

Teaching Elementary Students Citizenship

The elementary school years are a perfect time for students to learn about the great importance of citizenship. Good citizenship is about far more than just knowing facts about the United States, although this is quite important in its own right. Good citizenship also involves living by certain principles that help children live harmoniously with others, as well as treat others fairly and justly.

Important themes of good citizenship that kids must know include:

  • The courage to do the right thing even in bad circumstances
  • A high sense of personal and public responsibility
  • Respect of self, others, and ideas
  • Compassion for other people and all living things
  • Honesty in all dealings

Sharing Stories

A good way to help children better understand these principles is to share stories related to the principles of good citizenship. Discussion starters always help make these ideas come to life and provide a more personal take that students can easily relate to. Even younger kids are likely to have something to share and hearing from their peers often helps them decide to take the initiative and share their thoughts.

Some good discussion starters to consider include:

  • Talking about a person that the child has a high opinion of
  • Asking about a time they felt brave about something they did
  • Discussing times when they’ve shown that they care about someone

Role-Playing Often Helps

Kids in the elementary school years often relate to certain concepts through the use of role-playing. Although discussing or writing about certain ideas is helpful, some children might find it easier to act out certain situations to gain a better understanding of them. Interactive activities can also help kids learn these concepts together.

Art activities related to historic Americans who have been examples of good citizens can help children understand the concepts of citizenship in a more meaningful way. When children collaborate on larger projects, such as murals or dioramas, they will also understand the importance of working together with others to achieve goals.

Learning More About What Matters

Children in elementary school are at a good age to learn more about current events that relate to their lessons. The Montessori method encourages kids to take the initiative and learn more about things that interest them. Examples of how children might act on these ideas include:

  • Learning more about how to help those in need, both inside and outside the community
  • Understanding how leaders are elected and how people make their choices
  • Studying the history of events currently in the news and events that happened leading up to them

The Montessori approach is one that is ideal for helping children learn to become better US and world citizens.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, our teachers incorporate hands-on and play-based learning into their lessons.  This allows children to discover on their own, including through role-playing and sharing stories.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori approach firsthand.

What Does a Montessori Child’s Day Look Like?

A Montessori classroom is completely different than a traditional school classroom. The basis for the Montessori educational approach focuses completely on the child. The classroom has many opportunities for self-directed learning activities, collaborative play, and the freedom to make individual choices.

As you bring your child to the Montessori classroom, you will immediately see the differences. The classroom environment is set up to draw the students’ attention to specific hands-on learning activities. By actively engaging in individual activities or small group activities, the classroom provides unique learning opportunities for your child throughout the entire day.

A Typical Day in the Montessori Classroom

The age of your child will determine the exact learning environment. The Montessori approach incorporates a mixed aged classroom. For example, a single classroom may have children as young as 2 ½ years to 6 years of age. The multi-age classroom allows for a family-like atmosphere which helps in the learning process. Learning leadership skills, older children will naturally mentor younger ones, teaching them valuable skills along the way.

Social Exchange

Upon arrival, each child receives greetings from the teacher. The social exchange builds vocabulary, self-awareness, and mutual respect. The teacher recognizes each child as an individual with unique learning interests. By engaging in respectful exchange, students learn to understand the environment. Eventually, children will understand and develop empathy and compassion for their peers.

Block Activities for Development

Students participate in numerous activities throughout the day. Teachers provide the prepared learning environment for specific block activities to build upon the students natural curiosities for optimal development. Learning areas will provide activities for full development of each student physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.

As children develop different interests or they desire further exploration on a subject, teachers will add to the learning environment. Creating a continuous, hands-on learning environment allows children to participate in activities of interest in a self-directed manner. Encouraging children to go at their own pace enables maximum learning potential for each interested subject.

Being Flexible

The prepared learning environment provides specific time blocks for activities. By providing children the freedom to explore, the learning environment provides flexibility. As a way of self-discovery and exploration, your child may spend most of the day learning about one subject. By allowing for the freedom to choose, your child will gain a much deeper understanding of the subject. Over time, the curiosity may allow for further exploration into other areas of learning.

Imagination Activities

Along with the prepared intellectual learning environment, teachers prepare open-ended activities to increase imagination. By encouraging imagination, students learn self-expression and critical thinking skills to try new methods of play. Exploring imaginary ideas also increases vocabulary word use, maximizes social skills, and develops the basis for thinking outside of the box.

The Montessori approach seeks to develop each student to reach their own, individual maximum potential. If you would like further information on a typical day for a Montessori student, contact Day Star Montessori today to schedule a tour.  Parents and students are encouraged and welcomed to to spend a day in the classroom to see the Montessori difference firsthand.