Montessori Practical Life in the Garden in Spring

This post is a part of the Montessori Bloggers Network project "Our Montessori Spring". My blogging friends and I collaborated to share with you our seasonal ideas.

It is a spring here! And spring means gardening and growing vegetables and flowers. During every season we look and think how we can diverse our practical life with meaningful activities that will suit that season. And gardening for spring is just perfect. Even if you don't have a full garden you still can do it while visiting granny or on your balcony.

It is great to include a child in these activities because
- it is a typical characteristic of the season and this way child will learn more about seasons in general
- it is great for developing the child's independence
- it helps a child to be responsible
- it teaches him to care about plants
- it teaches nature appreciation
- it influences his future eating culture

There are 3 basic ideas to help your gardening to be more Montessori:

1. Prepare the environment

Think about what your child may need to be able to work in the garden by himself.
- give him his own area where he will be growing his own plants. You can make a funny sign together that will tell that it is his small garden.
- prepare for him his own tools. They should be appropriate and child-sized so he can use them comfortably.
- prepare a small place where he will store his own tools
- place a little hook near where hi will hang his garden apron and put his garden gloves
- learn the names of the tools using the objects themselves or cards with the help of 3-period lesson
- add activities about how plants grow to your shelves
- learn about different seeds
- support the gardening idea with the books related to it and wall art
- start a garden journal where he will observe how his plants grow

2. Show him how to do everything

Show the presentations about how to do gardening things as we do with the materials in a Montessori classroom. You can show them one at a time, slowly step by step. You can divide the big process into several small.

Show presentations how to
- put on/off his garden apron
- use every tool he has
- dig garden beds
- how to use a watering can
- how to clean hands after work in the garden and much more

Think about what lessons he may need to be able to work there without your assistance and present them to him.

3. Give your child time

Give him an ability to explore all these things at his own pace. Even if you think that he is doing nothing and just standing there - he does. He observes you and learns from you how to do it. Be his example. Don't expect that the child will do the things as you do it. Our aim is to make the whole process interesting for him. We don't need him to grow a tomato exactly but we want him to enjoy gardening and to love gardening in future. 

I have found several things that will be suitable for your child's work in the garden:

Garden Personalized Tools
This tool kit is little and will be perfect for little hands.
Personalized Children's Gardening Tool Kit
This kit of garden tools also includes a special bag and gloves!

Personalized children's garden tool set
These tools in primary colours look nice!

1. Tulip design watering can
2. White watering can
These watering cans are beautiful and can be the wonderful addition to your child's gardening set.

Does your child already have a special garden appropriate apron? You can use one of these cute ones or maybe you can find a rubber one that will be easier to clean ;)
Flower Garden Apron
Poppy apron
This gorgeous gardening poster can be a great wall decoration that will look perfect in your child's room in spring.

Vintage Educational Print
I hope these things will inspire you! Have a happy gardening!

Don't forget to check out other amazing posts about Montessori and spring! I wish you inspiration!

Don't forget to come back on March 21 and read all our botany related posts!

This post contains affiliate links.


Where should I start? Montessori Resources Recommendations for Beginners

There are many of you out there who want to use the Montessori method and want to learn more about it. The internet is full of information and you don't know where to start. Maybe the closest Montessori school to you is 4 hours away and there is no one to ask about Montessori in your circle. I get often asked about resource recommendations for beginners. I decided to support this desire for exploration and learning. 

I asked experienced Montessorians, teachers, consultants, guides and experts to recommend one resource for a person who just discovered Montessori method and wants to learn more about it. I asked to name the resource that can be a starting point in your Montessori exploration. I suggested them to name any resource that they think is important, helpful and that is the best one to start with. So this can be book, site, article, podcast, course or whatever that will help the searching mind to find the answers and understanding. 

If this is what you are looking for I would ask you to use this resource wisely. I would recommend you to choose 1-3 resources from the recommendations and write them down on a paper for yourself. Then I would ask you to investigate and explore them properly. When you think you are done with these 3 choose next one. This way you will really use this knowledge and not only read and skip. I am very grateful to all the lovely Montessorians who contributed to this list. I should say that they all treated it very seriously and even asked time to think about their choice. So you can not waste this opportunity. 

Pamela Green:
About me: I am a Montessori Guide, Consultant, parent educator, workshop facilitator, childbirth educator, Birth Doula, and Assistant Midwife. Visit me at Anandamontessori.com

Tammy Oesting:
About me: Twenty-five years ago I stepped foot in my first Montessori classroom as an assistant and never imagined my journey would drive me to pursue my training as a 3-6 then 6-12 teacher, Director of Education, teacher trainer, and now, the founder of a professional development company. From my dogma as an intern fresh from training to my seasoned view of how Montessori is applied around the world, I am more than convinced that this methodology serves children and the advancement of humankind. Visit me at www.classroomechanics.com

Matt Bronsil:
About me: I grew up in Montessori. I was brought into my parents' classroom as an infant and am now a Montessori 3-6 Teacher in Taiwan. Visit me at www.MontessoriWebinars.com

Lolly Kent:
About me: I am a Montessori teacher (6-12) and Montessori mum. I have several years experience in Montessori classrooms and currently tutor students using Montessori principles and materials. Visit me at elementaryobservations.blogspot.com.au

Angela Hardy:
About me: Once, a child told me she wanted to change the world because of me. You can inspire children without knowing anything about Montessori, but Montessori does a great job of exploiting all the best ways of inspiring individuals.

Yuliya Fruman:
About me: I am a mom, raising my two children in a Montessori inspired home. My son is 4 years old, and I present Montessori style activities for him at home. Visit me at www.welcometomommyhood.com

Meghan Hicks:
About me: I am trained in 0-12, I teach children from birth to age 16 in various settings, I lecture for two international Montessori teacher training institutes, I write about Montessori for families, I travel to schools around the world to help them refine their environments and their practices, I homeschool my own children.

Jeanne-Marie Paynel:
About me: I am a Montessori Parenting Mentor and Home Consultant, founder and owner of Voila Montessori, empowering parents to nurture their children's full potential with joy and confidence. Visit me at www.voilamontessori.com

Carine Robin:
About me: I'm a Montessori teacher for children aged 3 to 6. I work for myself now, I run a parents/toddler group and I offer private support to help parents to incorporate the Montessori principles into their family life. Visit me at www.montessori-family.co.uk

Simone Davies:
About: Simone has been working in Montessori since 2004. She is a trained AMI teacher who runs parent-child Montessori classes in Amsterdam at Jacaranda Tree Montessori and has two children who have attended Montessori school through primary school. Visit me at www.themontessorinotebook.com

Tamarah Rosenberg:
About me: I am unnatural Montessorian, my soul is loud and chaotic. Creating a peaceful place for my children brought peace to my soul.

Kelly Johnson:
About me: I am trained AMS 6-9 and have been a Montessorian since 2000 in many capacities, from art and music teacher to toddler assistant to garden coordinator to substitute to lower elementary lead teacher. I find immense joy in the method and philosophy because I see how holistically amazing it is for children, and I adore the aesthetic preparation of the adults and environment. Visit me at www.wingswormsandwonder.com

Deb Chitwood, M.A.:
About me: I have my master’s degree in early childhood studies, and I’m a former Montessori teacher, school owner, and administrator. I was also a Montessori homeschooler and homeschooled my now-adult children through high school. Visit me at livingmontessorinow.com

Jae Espuerta:
About me: I'm a homeschooler teaching my kids through Montessori methods. Visit me at www.pinayhomeschooler.com

Carolyn Lucento:
About me: I am a seasoned Montessorian. My first training was completed in 1980 and I trained again in 2005. I have been an assistant, head teacher, school owner, site director, and now I train teachers in an AMS training program in SF Bay Area. In 2013 I left my site director/head teacher position to become a music specialist in Montessori schools throughout SF Bay area. Nowadays I teach 32 classes a week in 8 different locations...about 800 children from 3-9 yrs old. Visit me at www.magicalmovementcompany.com

Yuliya Chernikova:
About me: AMI trained teacher for the Primary level

Vanessa Thiel:
About me: I'm a Montessori (inspired) stay-at-home mom who is homeschooling my preschooler. I'm also a Pediatric RN and an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant.) Visit me at www.mamashappyhive.com

Yang Jingyi Gabrielle:
About me: I used to be a preschool teacher before becoming a stay-home mum 5 years ago. It was also then I discovered about the Montessori method and has been adopting a Montessori lifestyle with my two boys. Visit me at coffeeandtoastmama.wordpress.com

Grace En-Tien Chang:
About me: I have a BS in Biology, and have been a Montessori & brain science autodidact for the past 5 years. Have helped run a Montessori co-op and am currently undergoing my internship for my certificate at a Montessori 3~6 school in Taiwan. Visit me at whenthediaperleaks.wordpress.com

Patricia Taylor:
About me: Now I am 72, my eleven children are grown, see grandchildren seldom if at all, rent rooms in two homes ["Prepared Environments"] to keep ownership and earn more than just SS, widowed 18 years, as a watercolor artist, I teach children techniques in art, seamstress, and Montessori mentor to all I meet by chance, but on Craigslist I advertise my Montessori classroom for parents to utilize in a program that engages them with their children in learning how to present lessons and carry them into their homes - my life style centers around Christ's and Montessori principles.

I am very thankful for all the wonderful people who shared their knowledge! I think these recommendations can be helpful to so many.

I have also created a file where I collected all the books, websites and advice in a list so you can print it for yourself and use. You can get it here HERE.

What are you going to do first? What are your top 3 advices from this list? Where would YOU recommend to start?


How does a perfect stacking tower look according to Montessori principles?

There are lots and tons of different stacking toys out there. Many of them are called Montessori ones. Together with you today we will try to find a stacking tower that will correspond to Montessori principle. Also, I will write a bit about the sequence of presenting stacking towers to children.

In fact, there are no stacking towers created by Maria Montessori herself exactly. She was mainly creating materials for children from 3 years. So no stacking tower can be called Montessori one. But we can look at them from a position of Montessorian. We can think about how many of them have qualities of Montessori materials.  

So let's think first about the aim of a stacking tower:
- development of manipulative skills and hand-eye coordination
- development of grasp
- learning to stack and thread
- development of size discrimination
- assist in colors learning
- assist in the development of pre-writing skills

What material should it be made of?
There are no standards but I would prefer wood. I think it is nice to touch and also it creates interesting natural sound when you stack it. But if you will find a plastic one that will be appropriate with colors that are not too bright - that would suit also.

What qualities of Montessori materials should it have?
- it should have one main and direct aim. I think the main aim is to teach a child to stack on the first stage and to teach him to form a tower from big to small on the second stage.
- it should have the isolation of difficulty. It is a bit similar to the previous point. We distinguish one aspect of teaching from all the possible variations we can do with it. For example, if we want to teach a child to stack exactly we don't point to the color of the elements at the same time, we don't count them and we don't show different variations of putting it together. 
- it should have isolation of qualities. The child should concentrate on only one quality of the material, the one that changes. So if we want our child to learn how to form a tower from big to small we need to choose the toy that has all the elements of the same materials, texture, and color. The size only should be different

Now let's have a look at the sequence of presenting different stacking towers to the child according to his needs. I wrote "stacking tower" in google today and there are so many of them. I have chosen for you exactly those that correspond to our requirements. There can be many variations to the order of presenting these materials but I found this for myself.

Let's call these variants our child's first stacking toys:

Stacking Rings
1. The child starts using this toy at about 8-12 months. The holes in rings are pretty big so this fits perfectly to child's abilities at this stage. Here he learns to stack, develops his fine motor and hand-eye coordination. I like that this set has a big base so the dowel itself is very stable. All the elements are of the same uncolored wood. The rings are of the same size.

Wooden Ring Stacking Toy
2. This toy is similar to previous one but it has the ball mounted on top of the wooden peg. This ball can help the child in the process of putting the rings on the dowel.

Rings on a Vertical Dowel
3. This one looks more like a traditional tower we used to see. The child starts to use such stackers at 10-18 months. Here the size of the hole is smaller so the difficulty increases. This work needs more accuracy and precision of movements, coordination, and dexterity. It helps the child to develop his grasp and hand-eye coordination. Again the base is big so the tower can not fall while forming. Here we can see that nothing will distract the child from the main aim not the size of the rings nor their color.

Blocks on a Vertical Dowel
4. This is the next stage of stacking. Now we use blocks. It develops another type of the grasp. This stacking tower isolates the particular skill of placing the block on the dowel by keeping the shapes, sizes and colors constant. Such materials also develop concentration, attention and fine motor.

Discs on a Horizontal Dowel
5. Now when the child has learned to put discs on vertical dowel the difficulty increases. This horizontal dowel helps develop a slightly different grasp than a traditional stacking toy. It enhances child's fine motor skills.

Discs on metal dowels
6. The difficulty increases again. Now a child needs to thread discs on a metal horizontal wire. It is thinner than a wooden one the work is more challenging. We start with straight wire and then move to the bent one. These materials provide development of different hand and wrist motions.

Primary Color Ring Sorter
7. The child has mastered all the different types of threading with various stacking toys. Now he is ready to progress to stacking by color. Here he needs to place a correct ring onto a matching dowel. The child starts to work with this material at 18-24 months. It helps the child to learn 3 primary colors. As you can see all other qualities of the material are the same, such as shape, size, material and texture. So the child's attention is concentrated only on the difference in colors. I think this is a kind of a variation for stacking work.

Pyramid Wooden Stacking Tower
8. Oh, that was hard to find exactly this one! All the thing proposed are of different colors. I am happy I have finally found something I had in my mind. It would be perfect for me if there would be 3 rings. So here our aim is to teach a child to stack from big to small. Here we start teaching about big and small, bigger and smaller. In this work, child starts to develop the understanding of harmony that he will later continue to discover with pink tower and brown stairs. You see that here the child concentrates on one quality of the material that changes, that is the size. All other characteristics are the same. It should not be specifically uncolored wood but all the elements should be of the one color. I just didn't manage to find another example for you because it is quite a job to find a small monocolored stacker. 

9. Later you can suggest a child similar towers but with a bigger number of rings. Like this one:

Wood stacking toy
I was taught that in the 0-3 classroom we use things with 5 elements and in 3-6 with 10 elements. Number ten correlate in the 3-6 classroom with many other Montessori materials. I think is rule works for stacking toys also we start from 1-3 and go to 5-10 rings. 

These are all the stacking towers that I consider correspond to Montessori principles and Montessori materials qualities. To my mind, it is impossible to name just one perfect stacking toy because as you see they teach different skills and have different aims. But this is my list of the things that fulfill the aim of the material in the best way. 

In Montessori gift guides recommendations we can often find colorful wooden stackers. I know they are very beautiful. But we should not call them Montessori. Not all the wooden toys are Montessori ones.  I am not against colorful toys, for example, I can imagine the variety of uses for a colorful rainbow. But with the stacking colorful tower, what is the purpose of it? What is the aim? I think sometimes we buy children colorful toys because these toys appeal to us and we think that child will be bored with plain color. But they will not. We need to think whose needs are met with this specific toy?

Can we use other towers? Sure we can. We just don't need to call them Montessori.

A lot of things I showed you here can be DIYed in some original and interesting way but with saving of their important qualities. 

In this post, I wanted to share with you how Montessori principles are used for choosing materials. I hope this will help you in some way in your teaching and parenting.