History of the Montessori Method

The first Montessori school opened more than 100 years ago in 1907. The school introduced what was a new approach to education at that time. Today, Montessori schools are found on every populated continent, and the methods first used by Maria Montessori have become popular in public and private schools alike.

The Origins of Montessori Method

In 1896, Maria Montessori became one of the first women to become a doctor in Italy. Her focus was on psychiatric methods to help educate children with disabilities. Far from accepting that these children were unable to learn, she looked for alternative ways to reach their natural curiosity. She experimented with different methods which seemed to show more success, and in 1900, she was given a role as co-director of a training institute for teachers in the field of special education. She put many of her earlier observations into practice, and the program turned out to be a success.

The Children’s House

Maria Montessori’s flagship experiment, Casa dei Bambini, opened in an underprivileged Italian district in 1907. Children who were considered ill-behaved or even unteachable responded enthusiastically to puzzles, hands-on education, and real-world activities. Maria observed how the children responded to stimuli, teaching themselves by playing and performing enjoyable tasks. Instead of forcing the children to learn using unfamiliar materials, she designed a classroom that was child-centered and interesting. The Montessori Method was born, and soon achieved recognition throughout Italy. By 1910, Montessori education began to be accepted worldwide, and a new way to educate children had arrived.

Child Based Learning

The tenets of the Montessori method were revolutionary and based on the idea that children learn better in their own environment and at their own pace. The Montessori classroom was designed around children rather than the adults and teaching materials included enjoyable activities. She believed that children are learning even when they are playing, and her classrooms were developed to encourage children to get involved and entertained as they learn. Instead of forcing children to learn in an academic situation, she fostered participation by making the learning process more enjoyable, using play and real-world activity rather than focusing on textbooks and rote memorization.

Child, Environment, and Guide

Teachers in a Montessori school are typically referred to as guides. Their primary purpose is to create an environment which children can identify with and respond to in a positive manner. The guides maintain a sense of order while allowing children to move about the different activity centers freely. To help foster learning, multi-age classrooms allow younger children to learn from older ones, which has the added benefit of creating a sense of worth and responsibility in children as they grow.

The Montessori method is a different approach to education, but one that has been shown to work, not just over the last century, but throughout the history of mankind. Children have always learned by observing and doing, and Maria Montessori developed a way to bring those traits into the classroom.

Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, CA offers Montessori programs for children ages 3 months to 6 years.  Our teachers and staff follow the methodology first established by Maria Montessori herself more than 100 years ago.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the impact of child-centered teaching.

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.

Preschoolers and the Lesson of Friendship

The preschool years are a perfect time for children to learn about the importance of friendship. Your child will form friendships that could last throughout their childhood and beyond at this time. Helping your child learn about the importance of friendships from such a young age will get them ready to make new friends at school.

Read Books About Friends With Your Child

Preschoolers can take away a lot of information from reading books, making reading a perfect activity to help explain the importance of friendship to your child. After reading these books, take some time for you and your child to discuss how their friends are like those they read about in the stories and how they’re different.

A few books that your child will enjoy include:

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister – A story of a fish with shiny scales who gives one away to a sad friend, then gives away more when he sees the happiness they bring. You’ll be able to introduce your child to the idea of giving to those less fortunate than they are.

Just My Friend and Me by Mercer Mayer – This Little Critter classic shows how the signature character learns it’s okay to play alone after a difficult playdate. Your child will learn a little more about coping with conflicts.

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni – When Blue and Yellow come together after being apart, they turn green and all accept them. This book is a cute lesson in tolerance.

Make Friendship Necklaces

A friendship necklace is a great activity for preschoolers, under adult supervision. In place of beads that could present a choking hazard, you can use pasta dyed to bright colors using a food coloring and vinegar mixture. Thread them on to pieces of string with a knot at one end, tying the ends off to close.

Host a Tea or Lunch

Enjoying a tea or a lunch together is a great way for kids to appreciate the value of friendship. They’ll learn how to share with each other, as well as some other basic manners that will help them when they reach school age. One of the fun things about this type of setting with preschoolers is that they will often play pretend, inviting their stuffed toys or even imaginary friends to the table.

The lesson of friendship is a very important one that your child will benefit from learning as early as possible. These engaging activities will help get your child excited about making new friends as they prepare to start school.  The teachers and staff at Montessori Children’s Center encourage students to be friends with all, embracing the differences that make each child unique and special.  Contact us today to schedule a visit of one of our preschool Montessori classes.

Five Montessori Books to Read this Fall

Fall is always a good time to start putting a reading list together, especially when you have kids that are learning using the popular Montessori method. Books are a great way for kids to get prepared for autumn and help open the door to other learning experiences. You’ll want to read these books with your children this fall.

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnson

One of the most fun things about fall for younger kids is learning how fall relates to winter. In this cute tale, a little girl visits her favorite place in the woods where she observes the changing leaves, chipmunks and squirrels gathering nuts, and other signs of fall. As she observes these fall events, she notices the gradual change to winter, creating a good starting point to discuss seasonal changes with your child.

In November by Cynthia Rylant

There is so much that goes on in nature and our lives in November that this book makes a perfect way to open up discussion of all of these. The season is starting to shift from fall to winter a lot more quickly, and it’s easy to observe animals starting to prepare. Individuals are getting together to celebrate the blessings in their lives with loved ones. The beautiful illustrations in this book are a great way to highlight all these things.

A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas

Kids love seeing fall leaves, but one thing your child may not have thought a lot about is that leaves have a life cycle. This book uses beautiful illustrations to show how leaves change and evolve throughout the seasons. Your child will have a better appreciation for the colorful leaves depicted everywhere during fall.

Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

A little girl named Sophie has an unusual best friend – Bernice, a squash. As it gets closer to winter, Sophie starts to notice some changes in her friend. Cute illustrations and a humorous take tell the tale of how both friends get through this time of transition.

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Snead

A bear wants to tell a story before he hibernates for the winter. However, he quickly finds that his forest friends are busy making winter preparations of their own. The illustrations help follow the bear on his quest as he learns more about what his friends are doing.

These books are a great way to help your child learn more about fall. Colorful illustrations and fun stories help bring everything to life even for the youngest kids. They’ll be all ready for fall after reading these stories!  At Montessori Children’s Center, we encourage parents to read with their children at home.  Older students are also invited to join, as the Montessori method encourages students to work together.  To see what books our students are reading this fall, visit us today!

Montessori Kindergarten: What Children Learn

The Montessori learning model stands out because of the unique and innovative approaches it takes when educating young minds. It is based on many years worth of research into all of the different aspects of a child’s development including: cognitive, emotional, neurological, physical, and more.

The goal behind Montessori educational programs is to provide a well-rounded learning experience that fits children of all ages and backgrounds. Here’s what children will learn in a Montessori kindergarten classroom.

Academic Intelligence

Unlike the traditional learning model found in public classrooms, Montessori programs focus on more than just gaining academic knowledge. However, Montessori programs understand so-called “book smarts” are extremely important to a child’s overall development. As academics are such a vital part of the Montessori learning experience, Montessori schools have taken great care to design curriculum that is both fun and educational.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is greatly underrated in our society, and that’s why the Montessori kindergarten program has developed new and exciting ways to enhance each students’ ability to process their thoughts and emotions in healthy and productive ways.

Much of our emotional intelligence is learned through simply knowing how to be self-sufficient and trusting our own judgments while still valuing the advice and guidance of others. Montessori schools will encourage their students to be independent and free thinkers alongside their teacher who will be there to guide them each step of the way.

Social Intelligence

Knowing how to start, grow, and maintain interpersonal relationships can be a deciding factor in our quality of life. That’s why Montessori kindergarten programs put special emphasis on teaching children how to relate to others.

Montessori educators believe it’s important to start this socialization process early so it becomes part of student as they continue to learn, grow, and develop throughout life. Every Montessori classroom is a place where differences and diversity are celebrated rather than just tolerated.

Critical Thinking

What does it mean to be a critical thinker? That’s a question we want every Montessori student to answer for themselves. Learning how to think critically is a process that must start early on to lay its foundations for the rest of their lives.

Critical thinking skills are what will allow students to stand out from the crowd later in life. It also gives students the tools they need to become expert problem solvers in all areas of their development, not just academically.

Key Takeaway

The Montessori kindergarten program works to provide children with a solid start in life by exposing them to a wide variety of skills, values, experiences, and academics. Not only that, each student is encouraged to work at their own pace and think for themselves. This natural and inclusive approach to education can make a huge difference in a child’s development – one that can continue to serve them all the way through to adulthood. Contact Montessori Children’s Center today to learn about our programs, including our Montessori kindergarten program. We invite prospective parents and teachers in to tour our classrooms and meet with our teachers.

Helping your Kindergartner get Organized for the First Day of School

The first day of kindergarten is something every parent and child looks forward to, but let’s face it – it can also be a little scary. The key to having a successful start in Kindergarten is in the preparation. Getting your child ready and organized for their first day will allow them to feel confident in starting their educational pursuits.

Here’s some helpful ways you can prepare your child for their first of school:

Explain the Schedule

Simply talking to your child about what they should expect while attending school will ease their mind. Explain how the day will start at a certain time and end at a certain time.

Share Your Experience

We all remember those first day jitters when starting a new school. That’s because every single one of us went through it at one time or another. Make sure your child knows it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous before the big day!

Talk about the Benefits

Knowledge is power. And as a parent, you of course want your child to grow up feeling powerful and capable in everything they do. Tell your child about the numerous benefits education will offer them – just don’t leave out all of the fun and exciting adventures they will also get to experience as a Montessori student.

Make Friends

If possible, introduce your child to a couple classmates before school starts. Let them play together and get to know each other a little beforehand. Then on their first day, they will already have some friends to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable with all of the changes they are experiencing during this time.

Meet the Teacher

Before their first day, have a short meeting with the teacher so your child will be familiar with them as soon as they get into the classroom. As soon as the teacher greets your child as a friend, they will feel right at home!

Get Involved

One of the scariest parts of starting Kindergarten for children is the fact they will be away from their parents for so long. That’s why it’s so important to reassure your child, explain to them you will always be there when school ends each day.

You can also get involved with activities at the school to help foster the educational community that exists there, as well as become an active participant in your child’s learning process.

Have a Routine

Perhaps the most important part of keeping your child enthusiastic and interested in school is having a solid routine they can always depend on. Start this routine early and it will become a habit for the rest of your child’s life, keeping them on track and focused on the goals ahead.

For more information on how to prepare your child for a life of success, contact the Montessori Children’s Center today!  Our teachers welcome prospective parents and students to visit their classroom and see the positive impact Montessori education can have on a child’s life.

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.

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!

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.

Fall Crafts to Teach Thanks

Fall is the perfect time to teach children what it means to be thankful. At our Montessori schools, we love to teach through hands-on experiences and believe that crafts are a fun way to do this.

Fall Crafts that Teach Thanks

We put together a small list of some fun crafts you can do at home with your child to learn more about being thankful.

A Thanksgiving Tree – Colored construction paper and some tacks or tape is all you need for this craft. Cut out a tree trunk and individual leaves. Use these to create a tree on a space in your home that everyone walks by several times a day. Each day, decide on something you are thankful for. Have your toddler draw a picture on the leaves. Fill in a leaf and attach it to your tree. Each time you walk by, your family will see all the wonderful things you are thankful for.

A Thankful Book – You can use brown paper bags or create a book with sturdy card stock or paper. You will need 5 pages in addition to the cover. On each page write at the top.

  • At home I am thankful for …….
  • At school I am thankful for ……..
  • Outside I am thankful for ……….
  • In my family I am thankful for ……….
  • Other things I am thankful for ……….

Have your child fill in each page with drawings, writing or pictures cut from magazines.

A Jar of Thanks – This one is a simple craft. You will need a large glass jar, decorations and card stock. Let your child decorate the jar. Cut out small cards using the card stock. Now fill in the small cards with things you are thankful for; you can also have your toddler drawer pictures. When someone is having a bad day, they can go to the jar and remember all the things they are thankful for.

Create a Thankful Wreath – Cut out some leaf shapes in fall colors using colored paper or card stock. Have your child draw things they are thankful for on the leaves. Arrange the leaves in a wreath, securing them with glue or tape. You can have each child in your home make one of these and hang them on their bedroom doors.

These crafts are all great ways to help your child think about things they are thankful for and things they appreciate in life. It is never too early to start such a wonderful lesson.

Here at Montessori Children’s Center, we love to use arts and crafts to learn new things. If you are looking for a school for your child that includes hands on learning experiences, contact our school today to schedule a tour.