You may see photos of the children with red plastic object in their mouths. These mouth works are specific to each child and allow the child to teeth safely. When we see a child put something in his or her mouth we let the child know the object is not for the mouth, but the mouth work is and give the child the mouth work. The mouth work is cleaned with vinegar water each day.

Several of you have asked about how you can help in our classroom. We will wait for the children to be more settled in the classroom before we invite other adults in the classroom. You are always welcome to linger out of sight and listen to what goes on in our classroom. We usually have one or two families volunteer to wash the bibs and hand towels each week. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you for labeling all your children’s clothes- even shoes

Our fingers are crossed that pick up will be on the playground next month. Salem Montessori School’s tagline is learning by heart and hand. Maria Montessori writes extensively about the hand being the tool of the mind and importance of classroom materials that children can hold and touch in order to sense the weight, texture and temperature.  Think about what Anne Sullivan was able to teach Helen Keller by making letters and symbols on her hand. Being able to touch an object brings it from the abstract to the real.

The open-ended, non-specific-task materials in our toddler classroom invite exploration.  As teachers we expect the children to deconstruct works before putting them back together and using them for their intended purposes.  At this age we observe them putting objects in and taking objects out. There is a clear plastic bottle that children can put corks in and shake them out.  The children have also put the corks in the large wooden threading beads. Colorful scratchy plastic curlers allow for putting in and also provide a small challenge in pulling them apart. Corks also fit into the curlers. We have even observed corks on the car track not moving and not providing the same satisfaction as the rolling cars.  This intermingling of works allows children to discern spatial relationships. They even experiment with their own bodies as they crawl under the table, up into the tower, through a shelf, or into the boxwood on the grassy hill.

In addition to independent play and exploration the children are invited to the table for group activities and snack.  We often will introduce a new work in the group setting before putting it on the shelf for independent work. Such is the case for playdough.  As a group we can talk about how playdough feels ‘soft’ and ‘squishy’ and we can define what we do with the playdough ‘squeeze’ ‘roll’ ‘pat’ all the while an adult is close by to make sure the playdough is not eaten. (See side bar)

Around 9:45 a little bell rings and snack is announced.  Each child washes hands, picks out a bib and sits at the table with his or her water bottle.  We sing our blessing song* and then enjoy a snack of sunbutter on rice crackers and banana. Each child has a bowl and the teacher serves the sunbutter rice crackers.  The children help peel the banana by pulling a piece of the peel. At the table the children practice staying in their seats (“We sit to eat”), eating from their own bowl, and asking for more.  After snack the children place their bowls in a wash bin and their bibs in a basket below the wash bin. Even in a few short weeks the children are accustomed to this routine. We will add placing unwanted food in the compost and using cups and pitchers for water instead of their water bottles.

Language development is a characteristic of toddler time.  Two ways we support language development in the classroom are sportscasting and singing.  Sportscasting gives language to what the child is doing or what the teacher is doing with the child.  “I see you are shaking the bottle,” we say what we see, “The ball is heavy.” We sing often in the classroom; it helps change the mood.  We sing about the farm animals in our classroom using the classic Old MacDonald. We sing hello to everybody using shakers. We sing about what everyone is wearing, stripes, polka-dots, pink, purple, blue and trucks and dinosaurs.  And we sing good-bye. Singing also helps mark our transitions in the classroom. After we sing goodbye we take off our slippers and head out the door to put on our shoes to meet you on the grassy hill.

While the children’s hands and bodies are occupied with works and routines, their hearts are also engaged. Saying goodbye to a caregiver and learning to trust another is hard work for toddlers. Our experience is that with gentle guidance and reassuring words that toddlers learn to trust new caregivers. We honor their feelings with our words and actions, “I see you are sad. It is hard to say goodbye.”  The second heart work that toddlers embark on is “My work” and “My turn next.” We aim for children to learn to hold on to work that is important to them and to ask for a turn when they want a work that another child is using. In both cases, we find that often just acknowledging a child’s feeling helps him or her calm down. Simply saying, “You really want that work” allows the child to shift focus from not getting what he or she wants to deciding what to do while they are waiting or even asking to join the child who has the desired work.  

With the work of the hand and heart we are peacefully and joyfully making our way, learning and growing together. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.  We are so grateful to share this journey you and your child.

In peace,

Catherine and Miho

*Blessing Song
Welcome Welcome Welcome to our Table
Welcome Welcome We all sit down together
Earth who gave to us this food
Sun who made it ripe and good
Dear Earth, Dear Sun thank you for what you have done.

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