Tips to Help your Preschooler Learn the ABCs

By the time your child enters preschool, they should know their alphabet. They don’t necessarily need to know how to write each letter; however, they should know the alphabet song or at least most of it. They should be able to recognize some of the letters. If you want to start preparing your child for preschool, you can start their lessons at home.

Singing the Alphabet

One of the most effective ways to teach your child the alphabet is to sing the song for them. You can start doing this very early, even before they are able to speak. If you listen to a song on the radio all the time, eventually, you will know it by heart. Most people don’t print out the lyrics and memorize them. Just hearing the song over and over makes the words stick in your head. The same will be true with your child and the alphabet song.

Read Alphabet Books Together

It is good to start reading to your child at a young age. Not only will it help you bond with your child, it will also help instill a life long love of reading. When your child is preparing to enter preschool, you should start reading alphabet books together. There are plenty of books available that will teach your child the letters of the alphabet and also the sounds that they make. Books are great learning tools when you are teaching your child the alphabet.

Alphabet Puzzles

Wooden alphabet puzzles are excellent learning tools. Children love puzzles and most incorporate learning. Alphabet puzzles have pieces shaped like letters. Many puzzles also have a picture on the puzzle piece that coincides with the letter. The better your child gets at doing the puzzle, the more they will learn.

Incorporate ABC Lessons in Your Daily Life

You don’t need to be sitting down at a table to teach your child the ABC’s. You can work on your lessons when you are cooking dinner or walking to the park. For example, if you are cooking and you need the butter, you can tell your child that butter starts with B. If you are walking to the park and you see a tree, you can tell your child that tree starts with T. If you do this often, your child will begin to get the connection between the letter and the sound.

Alphabet Flash Cards

Alphabet flash cards are excellent teaching tools. Each card has the letter printed on it, as well as an object whose name begins with the letter. At first, you may need to give your child the answers; however, over time, they will be able to start naming the letters and the objects themselves.

The Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus will take the alphabet lessons that you have taught your child and will build on them in fun and creative ways. It won’t be long before your child is reciting, recognizing, and writing the alphabet. Prospective parents and students are invited to tour our school and visit our classrooms to see the Montessori difference.  Contact us today and make an appointment.

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.

The Value in a Montessori Elementary School Education

A Montessori education prepares your child to thrive with an exceptional curriculum that prepares them skillfully and meaningfully for our ever-changing world. When your child leaves their elementary school environment, they will be ready for opportunities and challenges awaiting them in high school, college, and life in general.

The Value in a Montessori Elementary School Education

Elementary education in the Montessori school is divided into two parts. Lower Elementary are students in grades 1 through 3. Upper Elementary are students in grade 4 through 6. All grades throughout the two parts are taught subjects in accordance with the Montessori ‘cosmic education’ principle. This principle means your child will be taught to make direct use of their knowledge. They are encouraged to pursue their own interests independently and in depth. Support is provided, so your child doesn’t spend time just memorizing material, but will use their knowledge in real life applications.

Grades 1 through 3

Students in the lower elementary grades begin cultural work to look at their universe from the beginning of time. Timelines are used to organize and explain the formation of the earth and origin of life. Your child will learn about plants and animals and along the way, learn the history of life forms.

Lower elementary students’ curriculum also includes math, language, and practical life studies. When your child learns math skills, they will also develop problem-solving skills and be able to use math skills in their daily lives. Language will give them an understanding and appreciation for reading and literature along with knowledge of all writing and grammar styles.

Practical life studies will prepare your child to perform a series of jobs necessary to their classroom community. They will be asked to take care of a class pet, clean up after a group setting, or prepare and serve a class snack. These studies will show the importance and necessity of group work within a community setting.

Grades 4 through 6

Upper elementary students continue work introduced in the lower elementary. They extend the study on cosmic education with courses on human history. Studies will also include following the sequence of earth science, physical science, and biology. Their math curriculum will provide them a strong foundation in plane figures, area, volume, and formulas along with an introduction to congruence, equivalence, and similarity concepts.

As an upper elementary student, your child will expand their knowledge of grammar, creative writing, and different writing styles. They will be exposed to an in-depth literature curriculum. There are also practical life studies included in the upper grades to help prepare your child for necessary everyday practices.

Enriched Social Development

The Montessori Elementary education provides students in both levels with a well-rounded educational experience. Teachers will incorporate art, music, different languages, and physical education into their time. Students are encouraged to discuss, and problem solve issues that arise among them and speak honestly while feeling safe and included. They are taught to deal with social and emotional issues with empathy and respect.

Montessori education is different from a traditional education, in that students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and work with their peers and older students alike to gain better understanding of the world around them.  At Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, we offer a full elementary program for grades 1 through 6.  Our elementary program not only inspires academic excellence but also encourages each child’s curiosity, creativity, and imagination.  Contact us today to schedule a tour.

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.

The Importance of Toddler Oral Health

The month of February is National Oral Health Month, and this is a good reminder of the need to start teaching good oral health habits early. The toddler years are a good time for children to start learning how to take care of their teeth. Children at this stage are learning and getting used to daily routines, making oral care something that is easy to turn into a habit.

Fun Tools to Help Your Child

There are many fun things you can use to help spark further interest in oral care for your child. Some of the options to consider include:

  • The Tooth Fairy app from Colgate that includes a game, map to see where teeth come in, and information for parents.
  • Child-size toothbrushes featuring favorite cartoon characters.
  • Songs like Sesame Street’s “Brushy Brush” that encourage children to brush for two minutes.

Give Help As Needed

A toddler isn’t likely to have the fine motor skills to use a toothbrush very well without help. Make sure your child’s toothbrush is the right size and has soft bristles. Fluoride rinses geared towards younger children are helpful, but you should supervise your child to ensure he or she doesn’t swallow the rinse.

Encourage your child to eat fruit or other produce items as a snack, instead of sugary items. Even when your child snacks in between meals, encourage them to brush their teeth anyway. They will begin to treat this as part of their normal routine.

Other ways you can help your child follow good practices include:

  • Changing out the toothbrush about three or four times a year, plus after illnesses. Make things interesting by having your child pick out their toothbrush.
  • Make sure your child sees you eating healthy and brushing regularly. You will be setting a good example by doing these things yourself.
  • Schedule regular visits with a good pediatric dentist. These dentists know how to make younger kids comfortable and make the experience fun.

Good Dental Health Helps Later

Your child’s dental health early in life will also make an impact on their life later, especially as they progress into school. Pain issues from bad teeth and difficulty chewing foods can negatively impact a child’s quality of life. Even younger children often become self-conscious if their teeth become discolored and other children notice. If you help your child take charge of their oral health from an earlier age, they are likely to have greater self-confidence.

At Montessori School of Pleasanton, we understand the impact that personal habits can have on a child’s development and focus in school.  We encourage students to take proper care of themselves, including their dental health.  To see how Montessori education emphasizes developing the whole child, contact us today to schedule a tour.

What Nature Teaches Children

Children are born with a natural curiosity to learn about the world around them. As a parent or educator, building upon their natural desire to learn will help in a child’s overall development. Part of a valuable learning experience is exposing children to nature. Being outdoors or bringing nature items indoors has numerous benefits. For young minds, the potential learning opportunities are endless.

Learning in Nature

Indoor classrooms have limits for the safety of the children. Introducing children to an outdoor environment has fewer restrictions. Encouraging children to run, skip, hop, and simply play brings numerous benefits to each child’s development.

  • Encourages Creativity and Imagination: Being outdoors allows children to approach the natural environment in different ways. The interaction provides children a chance to engage in physical activity. As children begin to explore the different smells, textures, and hear various natural sounds, the endless world of imagination and creativity about the environment will follow.
  • Allows for Additional Learning: The natural curiosity about the outdoor surroundings encourages children to ask questions. Responsible caregivers will build upon the questions, providing more opportunities to learn.
  • Promotes Autonomy: As children explore, a sense of independence develops, thereby providing children with the confidence to learn about the various aspects nature has to offer. Fostering a sense of independence will help children grow in future academics.
  • Encourages Personal Responsibility: As children learn about the environment, personal responsibility develops. Learning how the living world works will allow children to view consequences.
  • Development of Fine and Large Motor Skills: Being outdoors allows children to engage in physical activity which aids in the development of large motor skills. Just as important, the outdoor environment provides children a chance to develop fine motor skills. Picking up small stones, acorns, or sticks for further exploration requires the use of fine motor skills or simple hand movement. Establishing a foundation for further learning, building fine motor skills helps in hand/eye coordination. Later, the skill will develop into the ability to write.
  • Develops Social Skills: Being outdoors in a group of peers provides numerous opportunities for interaction with others. Sharing discoveries, discussing the environment, or simply engaging in creative play develops valuable social skills. The interaction provides opportunities to build vocabulary, learn from peers, and self-regulation to rules.
  • Encourages Fun: Like adults, children are often subject to busy schedules. Spending time outdoors reduces stress from everyday commitments. Outdoors, children engage in self-directed learning. Having the opportunity to explore the outdoors is fun.

Being outdoors allows children to grow physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. As they explore, children learn to discuss their personal experiences, providing teachers and parents a chance to find additional materials. Children will use their natural curiosity to continue learning. Exploring the outdoor world allows children the opportunity to appreciate the natural environment.

At Montessori Childrens House, we incorporate nature and outdoor learning into our Montessori approach.  We encourage students to discover and explore on their own.  Contact us today to see the Montessori difference!

Be Sure to Claim These Childcare Expenses on Your Tax Returns

Are you paying more than you should be on your taxes? There are a number of credits and deductions available to parents, including the childcare credit.

Claiming the Childcare Credit

The childcare credit enables you to get a portion of your childcare expenses back on your taxes. Rather than a tax deduction, which decreases your taxable income, this is a tax credit, which decreases your taxes, dollar for dollar. In other words, if you are claiming $3,000 on the credit, your total tax bill is reduced by $3,000.

Qualifying Expenses

The childcare credit allows you to deduct a variety of childcare expenses that were paid so that you and your spouse could work or look for work. This includes the cost of daycare, a nanny, babysitters, and even summer camp or day camp. It does not allow you to claim the cost of tutoring, schooling expenses, overnight camp, or date night sitters.

Who Can Claim Childcare Expenses

You can claim your childcare expenses for this credit only if you are the custodial parent of the child. If you are not the custodial parent, but you pay child support, you can claim the child as a dependent, but you cannot claim the childcare tax credit.

How to Claim Childcare Expenses

In addition to your 1040, you will need Form 2441 and Publication 503. Once you’ve completed the form, the credit amount will be entered onto line 49 of your 1040. You cannot use Form 1040EZ if you intend to take the childcare credit.

Limitations

There are a number of limitations on the credit, so make sure you do your research before taking the credit.

  • You can claim 20-35 percent of your childcare expenses, depending on your income, for a max of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for two or more.
  • You cannot claim the credit for childcare that was provided by your spouse, teenage child, or dependent.
  • You cannot claim more than the earned income of either you or your spouse. If either of you were unemployed and a full-time student for part of the year, you can use $250 per month of schooling to figure “earned income” for the year.
  • You must first deduct any benefits you receive from your employer for childcare, such as from a pre-tax dependent care account. Only the difference in childcare costs will qualify for the credit.
  • If you are claiming the cost of a nanny or babysitter, you will have to identify the person and include their employer identification number or social security number. This makes you a household employer, so you will also have to withhold taxes and pay social security and Medicare taxes throughout the year.

Raising kids is expensive, but the childcare credit can help offset the cost. The child tax credit and the earned income tax credit offer other opportunities to recoup expenses, while dependent care accounts allow you to pay for childcare with pre-tax dollars. For more help saving money on your 2016 return, be sure to consult a tax professional.

At Mission Valley Montessori, we teach students to be well-rounded and independent, including making smart choices like you as parents will make when it comes to taking advantage of tax credits available to you.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori educational approach first hand and learn how our school can be a great fit for your child!

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.