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.

Preschool Center Ideas You Can Use at Home

Children are born with a natural curiosity to learn and explore their individual surroundings. Preschool-aged children thrive in a consistent, well-prepared environment. Promoting accepted behavior helps your child understand limits and consequences. Setting up your home environment to mimic your child’s preschool center will inspire growth and learning.

Ideas for Your Preschool Center for Home Use

The next time you visit your child’s preschool center, check out the different aspects of the room. Use the ones that best fit into your home environment.

  1. Child-Sized Environment

Creating areas specifically designed for your preschooler will help promote learning. Child-sized furniture allows your preschooler to engage in the environment without difficulty. Moving around the room without hindrance develops a sense of independence.

  • Low shelves for books, activities, clothing, shoes, etc
  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Step stools to reach bathroom sink
  • Clothes hung at a lower level in the closet
  1. Promote Self Learning

Use baskets, small tubs, and trays to store activities and other learning materials. Your preschooler can set the item on the table for further exploration. After playing, placing the items back in the basket promotes responsibility. When making up the baskets, keep items together for specific areas of learning.

For example, a math activity could include placing small objects on corresponding color cards to match the number sequence. Preschoolers with advanced levels of learning could place small items on colored cards representing basic math.

A sensory activity should focus on one or two of your preschooler’s five senses. Simply providing your preschooler with measuring cups, scoops, and different colored beans provide a chance for optimal sensory engagement.

  1. Books

Place books on low shelves directly related to your child’s interest. Allowing your child to find books of interest helps in the learning process. When your preschooler shows interest in a subject in another curriculum area, books can be a foundation for continuous learning. As your preschooler develops other interests or curiosities, add different books.

  1. Incorporate Nature

Upon entering the preschool center, you may notice the emphasis on nature. Developing your preschooler’s understanding about the natural world promotes continuous learning opportunities. Provide your preschooler with items directly from nature.

  1. Creative Environment

Incorporate art into your preschooler’s home activities. Engaging in art promotes creativity with open-ended possibilities. Enhancing vital fine motor skills, art will strengthen finger and wrist muscles needed for learning to write and other activities in the future. Setting up a box of recycled or inexpensive items for art creation will encourage creativity, vocabulary, and language and physical skills.

Implementing small changes in your home will enhance your preschooler’s natural curiosity for exploration. Using the preschool center as a basic guideline will help you provide a consistent learning environment. If you have questions about setting up a home environment, contact the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus.  We invite current and prospective families to tour our school and visit our classrooms to see the Montessori Method in action.

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.

Preschool Library Corners

Preschool classrooms may vary in their design and the program they follow, but one thing is consistent: They always have a library corner. But why do classroom libraries and book nooks work so well? Here are a few of the ways in which book corners promote literacy in the preschool classroom.

  • They make books always available. In the typical preschool classroom, the library corner or book nook is open during any free play or work session, putting books literally at children’s fingertips at any time. This makes books an integral part of the preschooler’s day, allowing them to explore at will and model good reading habits to other children.
  • They provide a comfortable, inviting space. Most book nooks have comfortable chairs, beanbags, and pillows where children get settle in comfortably. Some also have headphones with music and books on tape or CD. This makes the library corner very appealing to children, especially those who want to get away from the noise and bustle of the classroom for a little while.
  • They provide a source for information. Library corners also often include nonfiction books, where kids can go to learn or look up information. When the class is learning about a specific topic, many teachers even add a few related books to the classroom library, encouraging kids to learn more on the subject during free time or work periods. In this way, kids discover books are not only a source for entertainment and relaxation, but also for research and learning.
  • They provide structure. Children crave structure, so organizing a classroom into small, easily-definable stations gives them visible boundaries. Carving out a separate reading nook, in addition to other learning stations, helps to break up the classroom. Making the reading area well-defined and separating it from other, noisier learning stations also encourages quieter behavior and better focus, helping to establish lifelong reading habits.

Bringing the Love of Literacy Home

You can drive home the importance of books by borrowing the idea of the library corner. This could be an entire room in your home, or perhaps a study or office with a corner for the kids’ desk and books. If you have a dedicated play room or craft area, you could install bookshelves and some comfortable seating on one side of the room, or you could dedicate one corner of your child’s bedroom to a book nook.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, our private Montessori elementary school encourages parents to continue the teaching and fostering of their child outside of the school environment.  For more information about how our Montessori preschool program strives to promote literacy and a love of learning, contact us today to schedule a tour of our school.

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.

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.

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.

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.