Age-Appropriate Apps for your Preschooler

Getting your child used to technology early is a great way to help him or her succeed academically. A child who is used to using software, including mobile apps, will find trying new things less of a challenge. Apps like the ones summarized below can also make learning experiences more engaging, and your child will be more likely to look forward to school.

Alpha Tots

This app helps children learn their phonics and letters through the use of action verbs, such as “B for building”. Other features include an ABC’s-based sing-along song, mini-games with fun interactive features, and puzzles. One of the things you’ll appreciate is that the app works perfectly fine without ads or in-app purchases that could otherwise be a major distraction.

Reading Rainbow

This app features a lot of the appeal that has helped the show remain popular over the years. Some of the features include themed islands to explore, video field trips featuring host Lavar Burton, and easy access to hundreds of book titles. Helpful tools for parents include tips and the ability to track how much time your child spends reading.

Elmo Loves 123s

This Sesame Street favorite is perfect for teaching the youngest preschoolers how to count up to 20. Games and videos help provide even more of an interactive feel to get toddlers and young preschoolers fully engaged. Parents have a section where they can check their child’s progress very easily.

Animatch

Matching is an important skill for toddlers to learn, and using colorful animals is a good way to make things more interesting. Animal sounds and movements help keep kid’s attention throughout the game. With 30 different animals, kids will learn great memory and concentration skills easily.

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

This app offers a little bit of everything for preschoolers, including pattern recognition, counting, shapes, colors, and letters. Each activity follows a goal of filling the monkey character’s lunchbox. The child’s reward for completing the activity is a colorful sticker on a virtual bulletin board.

Preschool Arcade

This fun little app has four arcade-style games to entice preschoolers: Whack-a-Mole, Claw-Crane Matching, Pinball 123, and ABC Invasion. Some of the cognitive development features include counting and alphabet recognition. Kids will enjoy the sound effects and animation that mimic real arcade games.

All of these apps will help make learning a more exciting experience for your preschooler. He or she will have more have more of an advantage once they start school.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, we understand how technology plays a vital role in today’s environment.  While we don’t believe in focusing solely on electronic devices, they do provide another educational opportunity for time spent outside of your school and especially when preparing your preschooler to begin school in the first place.  To schedule a meeting with our teachers and staff, contact us today!

How to Keep and Preserve your Child’s Artwork

Every piece of art your child creates is worth preserving. But when your little Picasso is creating more art than your fridge can handle, it might be time to get creative when keeping and saving their timeless masterpieces.

Here are some fun and innovative ideas on how to keep, enjoy, and preserve your child’s artwork for many years to come.

No. 1 – Have a Filing System

In order to curate and preserve your child’s artwork, you should first have a filing system in place. Choose a storage container where you can keep all of your child’s artwork and separate it by using the following categories:

  • Use for Crafting Projects
  • Frame and Hang
  • Save for Later Use
  • Mail to Loved Ones

You can add your own categories depending on what you plan to do with your child’s artwork. But the important thing is having a system in place to deal with the onslaught of colorful rainbows and smiling stick-men your child joyfully brings you every day.

No. 2 – Download Keepy

Take your child’s artwork into the digital world by downloading Keepy – an awesome app that allows you to upload pictures of your child’s art which you can then save, share, and print until your heart is content. This will also help you de-clutter your current collection.

No. 3 – Make a Mini-Gallery

One of the best ways to celebrate your child’s talents is by creating their very own art gallery in your home. You can start by picking a specific wall, painting it with magnetic paint, and then hang up your child’s favorite pieces. You can then rotate the art once a month so you’re always keeping it fresh and interesting.

No. 4 – Use it for Wrapping Paper

As long as you don’t mind parting with some physical copies of your child’s artwork, you can use it to wrap presents on special occasions and holidays. Not only will you save some money on wrapping paper, but it will make your gifts even more unique and thoughtful than before.

No. 5 – Start an Annual Tradition

If you want to keep as much of your child’s artwork as possible while also documenting their progress as they grow up – you can make an annual tradition of sorting, filing, and comparing their work at the end of each year.

Get some three-ring binders and label each one with a different year. Then, you and your child can sit down to go through their artwork, comparing them to previous years and preserving the best ones in labeled page protectors.

Getting Creative

Saving your child’s artwork can be a bonding experience for the whole family while also teaching them important lessons in organization, preservation, and creativity. And by turning their doodles and drawings into lifelong memories, you are helping to give them the confidence and skills they need to succeed later in life.

At the Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, California, we encourage creativity throughout our curriculum and specifically use hands-on learning techniques that allow children to explore on their own.  We treat each child as an individual and can help you come up with a plan for working to preserve all your child’s work, including their artwork.  Contact us today and schedule a tour of our school.

Teaching your Child about Being Thankful through fall Crafts

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this is an excellent time to teach little ones the importance of giving thanks and being grateful for what they have in their lives.

Learning how to be grateful, for things both big and small, is a teachable skill that can last children a lifetime. All you need are some scissors, paper, glue and a little bit of creativity to make giving thanks fun for the whole family.

Here are some ideas for fall crafts you can do with your child that will remind them what Thanksgiving is really all about:

No. 1 – A Sharing Plate

The Sharing Plate is a fun project for kids of all ages. Find a blank plate and either paint or draw a poem about gratitude on it. The plate then travels from home to home with your friends and family – reminding everyone to be grateful for every day.

Here’s an example of a sharing plate poem:

“The sharing plate does not have a home, and its adventure never ends. But it never gets lonely because it travels around from friend to friend. The food upon it was made with love and care, so remember to pass this special plate along so everybody can share.”

No. 2 – The Tree of Gratitude

All you need for this craft is some fall-colored construction paper, scissors, and tape. Help your kids draw an outline of a tree, along with some leaves. Then cut the shapes out of the paper and tape it all together.

Then, hang the tree on your wall before having your child write down what they’re most thankful for on each leaf. As the days of fall continue to pass, remind your child to take a leaf off the tree each time they are feeling extra grateful for something and encourage them to share it with the family.

No. 3 – A Giving Thanks Quilt

A Giving Thanks Quilt can be a great annual tradition to hang on your wall and remember all of your fondest memories of the holidays.

But if you don’t have the time or resources to make a cloth quilt, you can make a paper quilt in a fraction of the time. And if you want it to last through the years, you could even get it laminated after it’s finished.

Either way, you’ll want to cut out your quilt pattern and then have your children write what they are thankful for on different squares. Have fun stitching it together as a family, all while teaching everybody the importance of gratitude and appreciation.

Practicing Gratitude

Whether it’s the big things or life’s little pleasures you are feeling grateful for, finding and creating holiday crafts as a family can be fun and educational at the same time. It’s also an excellent bonding opportunity that will give your children memories and lessons that last a lifetime.

At the Montessori School of Fremont, we teach our students about holidays in hands-on and interactive ways.  Showing gratitude during Thanksgiving is an excellent way to teach your children about being thankful and appreciative.  To see the Montessori Method in person, contact us today.

Transitioning from a Daycare to a Montessori School

Childhood is full of transitions, but one of the ones that is simultaneously the most anticipated and the most dreaded is starting a new school. This transition can be especially challenging when switching from daycare to a Montessori school because your child has to not only adjust to a new teacher and setting, but also a new set of expectations.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the transition a little easier on your child, and therefore on yourself. Here are a few ways to smooth things over.

Familiarize Your Child with Montessori-Type Expectations

Since the Montessori method is based around independent play and education, your child’s new classroom is bound to feel very different than daycare. One of the main differences is the independence expected of children in the Montessori environment.

You can help your child prepare by encouraging greater independence at home. Here are a few easy ways to incorporate independence into your child’s daily routine and help prepare him or her for the expectations of a Montessori classroom:

  • Get dressed, brush hair and teeth, get ready for the day
  • Help cook in the kitchen, serve food
  • Organize and clean up toys
  • Help with chores such as sweeping, unloading the dishwasher, and sorting and folding laundry
  • Encourage self-guided play, art, and reading (even if just looking at pictures)

Expect Some Challenges

Once your child starts at the new school, you’ll undergo a transition yourself: Instead of trying to prepare your child for their new Montessori school, you’ll have to be there to offer support. Kids under pressure from a demanding transition respond in a variety of ways. Depending on age, your child might:

  • Need extra sleep
  • Get upset more easily or throw tantrums
  • Struggle with drop-offs
  • Act needy or clingy

During this period, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible with your child as well as with his or her teachers.

Support the Montessori Method at Home

You can help to ease the transition by continuing to support Montessori ideas at home, not only while your child is settling in to the new classroom, but afterward as well. Here are a few of the ways you can incorporate the same principles into your child’s home life.

  • Set up a “work space” at home. A table and chairs, tucked into the corner of your child’s bedroom or playroom, makes a great Montessori work space for home. Stock storage shelves nearby with art supplies and manipulatives.
  • Continue fostering independence. Look for opportunities at home to teach new skills and encouraging continued independence.
  • Follow the child. Allow time with your child where he or she chooses the activity, mirroring the Montessori theme of following the child.

The best way to prepare for a transition to a Montessori program is to understand what the Montessori method entails. If you have questions about the Montessori environment or how to prepare your child for the transition, please contact us today for a tour of our school.  The staff and teachers at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside campus work with parents, guardians, and students to ensure the child is prepared and excited for their new journey into Montessori education.

Creating Manipulatives for your Preschooler

Manipulatives are fun for preschoolers to play with, but more importantly, they teach kids a variety of skills, ranging from physical abilities such as fine motor skills, to mental development such as abstract thinking. Unfortunately many manipulatives, such as Magna Tiles and other fun toys for preschoolers, are prohibitively expensive if you’re sticking to a budget. Supplement store-bought manipulative sets with ones you make yourself, perhaps even with your child’s help!

  • Pom pom magnets: All you need is a fridge or another magnetic surface and a set of these colorful, fluffy magnets, and your preschooler can be entertained for hours! To make these inexpensive manipulatives, buy a bag of quarter-sized pom-poms and small magnets to hot glue onto them.
  • Clothespin alphabet: Write a different letter on each of 26 different clothespins, and make a complete set of manipulatives that’s great for teaching fine motor skills. These easy DIY manipulatives used to be a staple in every preschool classroom. Kids can line up the clothespins along the top of an easel, or you can string a clothesline across a wall in their craft corner or playroom.
  • Lacing beads and cards: Preschoolers love lacing just about anything! Luckily these are fairly inexpensive manipulatives to put together yourself. Lacing cards can be made at home with cardboard, scissors, and a hole punch. You can purchase large beads or use almost anything else instead, such as tube-shaped pasta. For laces, you can use old (but clean) shoelaces, ribbon with fray check on each end, or even just colorful yarn with a little tape over each end.
  • Puzzles: Anything can become a puzzle, from a photograph mounted on cardboard, to the back of a cereal box with a cool graphic on it. Just cut out pieces using straight lines, squiggly lines, or even in such a way so that you can work on fractions.
  • Duplo math: Looking for an easy way to introduce your child to math and fractions? Chalk markers can be used to write on duplo blocks, and then wiped off after math practice is over or when your child is ready for a new challenge. Start with whole numbers and encourage your preschooler to build a tower with the blocks in order, or put together two-digit numbers. As your child gets better at math, you can use different-sized duplos to introduce the concept of fractions by writing the corresponding fractions on the side.
  • Paper plate practice clock: You can easily use a paper plate, some cardboard for the hands, and a brad to hold it all together and make your own practice clock. Time’s up!

Don’t let the term “manipulatives” scare you away from making your own, as it’s basically just a fancy name for the toys you see in most preschool classrooms. If you are interested in seeing what a fully stocked math and manipulatives center looks like – and the rest of the classroom too, of course – call Montessori Childrens Center today to set up a tour of our Montessori school.  We enjoy having prospective parents and students visit our classrooms to see the hands-on Montessori method first hand.

The Philosophy of Montessori Education and Preschool

When considering the benefits of a Montessori education, it is important to understand the core values of the Montessori Method. Originally designed to meet the educational needs of young children, the system has been expanded to include older kids over the years, but early childhood is still a critical period for teaching children the advantages of learning and showing them how to do it.

The 5 Principles of Montessori

Respect for the Child Children are not puppets, meant to do as they are bid without hesitation. In Montessori learning, the first principle is to respect children, to be aware of how each one is special and unique. This does not mean that children are allowed to run rough-shod in the classroom, but it does mean that the classroom must be centered on the children.

The Absorbent Mind This principle acts on a child’s natural desire to learn. Children can be observed to absorb knowledge as they progress through their daily activities, and the Montessori classroom gives them the freedom to live – and to learn – in each child’s own unique way. The idea is simple: During early education the mind of a child is like a sponge which absorbs what it comes into contact with.

Sensitive Periods If the mind is thought of as a sponge, then sensitive periods are the periods of absorption. Montessori principles states that allowing the child time to become absorbed in subjects of interest allows the child to soak up more knowledge, and thereby build on their own natural curiosity and potential.

Prepared Environment The prepared environment adds to the respect of the child and his absorbent mind by providing a classroom that is child-centered. This includes the furnishings, which are chosen to match the size of the child, but it also includes the way the materials are laid out. The idea is to mimic the natural environment while allowing the child to move freely from one resource to another. The prepared environment includes educational as well as social opportunities, including encouraging children to work together on projects and educational goals.

Self Education The ultimate goal is to teach children a love for learning. Once that has been accomplished, children are able to educate themselves, at their own pace, where the teacher offers guidance more than direct instruction. Autoeducation is the final of the 5 steps to Montessori learning, but it is also the sum of the other philosophies together. When respect, encouragement, time, and environment are all taken as a whole, then the child is able to direct their pursuits towards reaching educational goals and acquiring new skills.

Montessori Method has been shown to work for over 100 years, and has been expanded to include children of all ages. Through the 5 Principles of Montessori, the child is given the ability and access to materials which allows seemingly effortless learning. Just as importantly, it teaches children that learning can be enjoyable in itself, and that is a lesson which will last a lifetime.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, we invite prospective parents and students into our classrooms to see the Montessori Method in action.  The 5 Principles are incorporated daily through hands-on, student-led learning.  Contact us today to schedule a tour.

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.