Preschool Classroom: Use of Technology

The process of Montessori education has been compared to the process of playing computer games. In order for either one to hold any interest for a child, they have to contain elements that combine involvement, excitement, and discovery. If the game is too difficult or the classroom materials too advanced, then children will lose interest and stop participating.

But how about the use of technology in a Montessori classroom? Is that a conflict of interest, with technology competing for real-world, hands-on activity? Not as much as you might think, and technology is improving by leaps and bounds.

Technology is the Real World

There is no longer a dividing line between communications technology and daily life. Because our smart technology has become so pervasive in our lives, including it in a well-rounded education is more important than ever. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of adult guidance involved, but hi-tech devices are here to stay, and preparing our children to use them responsibly will help them later. Obviously, your preschooler isn’t using social media, but they could be using any of a variety of apps designed expressly for teaching young children. On a computer at home, Gcompris is a well-rounded educational tool, with puzzles and games designed for a range of age groups, and a huge variety of learning tools and more.

Expanding on the Original Concept

Technology can be useful in the Montessori classroom as well. It allows greater customization of computerized materials to individual students, including adjusting the difficulty levels, and allowing easier manipulation of information from outside sources. For example, the former scenario might including learning to use math in incremental stages, while the latter could be something like keeping a database of images of leaves or bugs. Both would progress along with the child and interact with physical activities in a number of ways. The idea is not to separate technology from Montessori, but weld the two together.

Montessori Education is Immersive Education

When the Montessori method was being developed, technology like we have today didn’t exist. If it had, Maria Montessori would have had to include it into her materials and learning stations. Technology is too much a part of our lives for it to continue to be ignored. Instead, young children need to learn about the possibilities and dangers involved with technology. They need to be prepared for a world where calling a taxi and learning how to make a simple volcano are only a few clicks away. This does not mean that physical, real-world activities have to be shunned – only that the activities and the technologies need to be used together for the best results.

Technology has a place in a Montessori classroom. We live in a world which relies on technology, so including it in a well-rounded education makes practical sense. If we teach children to use safe technology practices from early childhood, they will be more responsible technology users as they get older.  To learn how the teachers and staff at the Montessori Children’s Center incorporate technology into the classroom and students’ overall learning experience, contact us today to schedule a tour.

Tax Season: Can you deduct Preschool Expenses?

The 2017 tax season is over, and filing time has arrived. For parents of small children, the question of whether they can claim preschool expenses, and how to claim them is important. We have compiled some pertinent information which should be helpful in trying to gets your tax forms in order.

Child and Dependent Care Expenses

Kiplinger’s explains that a portion of your child care expenses can be claimed as a credit, which affects your net income. Note that this is a credit used to calculate net income, rather than a deduction calculated against that income. There are some qualifying considerations before you can claim the credit, including:

  • Parent Requirements
    • Single parent working or attending college fulltime.
    • Both parents work fulltime, or looking for work
    • One parent works fulltime, the other attends college classes fulltime
  • Income Parameters
    • Income less than $15,000 can claim up to 35% of expenses
    • Percentage gradually decreases down to 20% for income greater than $43,000
  • Maximum Credit Amounts
    • Maximum of $1,000 for one child
    • Maximum of up to $6,000 for 2 or more children

Information Concerning IRS Publication 503

IRS Publication 503 details the forms necessary for claiming child and dependent care expenses. To claim the credit, you will have to file Form 1040, and include Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expense as part of your long-form filing. Publication 503 lists the information necessary, including when you must file a Form w-10, which tests you must pass to be eligible, and other information. For additional assistance, you may contact the IRS directly, or seek the help of a tax professional.

Charitable Donations

If your child’s preschool is a non profit organization, money or items you donate may be deductible. The important thing about charitable donations to the school are that they must be made to the school itself, rather than supplies intended for your child alone. For example, donating art supplies may be deductible, but providing art supplies specifically for your child are not. This is true for school uniforms, classroom supplies, or other donations. As long as you donate to the entire class or the school in general you are okay, but sending supplies for your child are not – and may be required by the school’s charter anyway.

As you see, you cannot claim the cost of preschool directly, but may be eligible for credits that affect your overall tax obligations. Even though you may not be able to get credit for the entire cost of preschool, you will be able to use Form 2441 to reduce the amount of money you owe, or to adjust your net earnings.

The Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus offers programs for preschool and kindergarten children, ages 3-6.  Our children’s house allows students to work at their own pace with gentle guidance from teachers and older students.  To learn about our programs and curriculum, contact us today and schedule a tour.

Age-Appropriate Apps for your Preschooler

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

Alpha Tots

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

Reading Rainbow

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

Elmo Loves 123s

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


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

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

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

Preschool Arcade

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

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

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.