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Thursday, 6 May 2021

Benedykt and Sylvester

Benedykt and Sylvester is a small British business run by Brittany, a Montessori Mum to Benedykt, 4, Sylvester, 2 and baby Otylia. 

After being inspired by the teachings of Maria Montessori, Brittany created a range of learning resources to help support her children at home and after witnessing their success, decided to turn her idea into a business! 

Brittany now sells her learning resources across the globe! 

The Nature Explorers Montessori Gift Set.


All of the Benedykt and Sylvester resources are made from FSC certified forests. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, which is the governing organisation that ensures wood is sourced responsibly both for social standards and the environment. 

Furthermore, all of the beautiful wooden cards are printed with realistic images and photographs which aligns perfectly with Montessori principles. 


How can you use these cards? 
There are so many possibilities for using these cards in a Montessori home. You could use them as a matching activity, ordering and categorising. Can they recreate the cards using artwork? Can they identify which one is missing? Let us know in the comments section below how you like to use yours! 

Recently, Benedykt and Sylvester launched a subscription service, allowing you to get different activity boxes delivered direct to your door every month. For more information, be sure to visit their website or social media! 


Visit
www.benedyktandsylvester.com to find their full range or check them out on Instagram.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Kinder Wood Craft

Kinder Wood Craft

Some exciting news! Catkin Toys has started stocking Montessori resources from Kinder Woodcraft! 

Catkin Toys loves to stock ethical and eco-friendly products. We also love to support small business! You guy have been asking us to stock more Montessori themed products, so we are delighted to announce we are now stocking Kinder Wood Crafts full range! 

Kinder Wood Craft is run by Amy and Rick who have two children of their own. Their journey to educate their children, while focusing on sustainable living, led them on a journey to create their own family run business. They pride themselves on creating toys which are durable, nurture curiosity and look beautiful in any home. Having been a customer of Kinder Wood craft for a while now, I can say with confidence that they are absolutely smashing it! 

Everything Kinder Woodcraft stocks is sturdy and easy for small hands to grasp. Each piece is thick and durable and most importantly made from solid wood. Arlo took a shine to his Kinder Woodcraft cylinder puzzle straight away and not only did he love to examine the parts and complete the puzzle, I also found him using the cylinders to create a stack and knock it over again. He had so much fun with what is such a simple toy. 

Watch this clip. You can see the learning and engagement! 

The sorting trays are again sturdy and well made. I love that it has the Kinder Wood Craft name on the back which really sets it apart from other products shipped in from overseas. You can tell this was made with love and care. It is also much thicker than other ones I have seen in the past and I have no doubt it will stand the test of time. So many activities flooded my mind to use this sorting tray!


The full range of Montessori inspired Kinder Woodcraft resources are available right now over at www.catkintoys.co.uk/kinderwoodcraft

Tag us in your photos on Instagram using #CatkinPlay or @CatkinToys. 

Don't forget, you can also find us via our Facebook group and on our Instagram account. 

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Creating a Plan for Your Montessori Toy Rotation

 Creating a Plan for Your Montessori Toy Rotation

My Montessori journey and experience

 By Guest Blogger: Dana Vitolo

I’m a trained Montessori teacher (AMS) in 3-6 and have nine years of experience in the classroom. But now I’m a homeschooling mom spending my days exploring with my active 2 year and 8 month old daughter.

I have experience setting up shelves in the Montessori classroom for 20 or more children. But setting up a Montessori toy shelf and storage and rotation system at home is a bit different. There are challenges, but it’s so worth it.

For instance, at home:

You’re setting up a shelf for your kids and not a classroom full of kids. The types of toys you put on the shelf may need to be rotated more frequently.

      Only your kids will use the toys, and they may grow out of them quickly or never want to use them.

      You may not have as much free time (or any time at all) to clean, declutter, and rotate toys on your shelf. Therefore, it’s important to be more creative with your time.

Our toy shelf at 7 months


 My Montessori toy rotation journey

 I set up a Montessori toy shelf in our living room when our daughter turned 7 months old. This is when my Montessori toy rotation journey began. When my daughter was this young, it was easier, in a way, because I didn’t have to rotate the toys as often. I just changed a few toys here or there, as needed.

But, I had a tendency to put too many toys on her shelf at once. I learned that it’s best to have no more than 10 toys on the shelf at one time. For months, all she wanted to do was pull everything off the shelf or not go to her shelf at all. This was all normal for her age. But I suspect she may have also been overwhelmed with all the choices.

 Our toy shelf at 10 months

Although with time, I figured it out. It got easier. It started to make sense when and how to rotate her toys. The whole process is a learning experience but it’s also rewarding and a lot of fun!

Montessori Toy Rotation is an ongoing process and it’s always changing and looking different. Just when you think you got a routine down, your child changes. For instance:

      She no longer loves ducks, but now she loves dogs.

      She mastered that puzzle quickly and won’t touch it anymore (even if you put it away for weeks and take it back out).

      She’s not a fan of art materials this month, but she’s always asking for play dough lately.

      She has no interest in anything on the shelf, even though I just changed everything. But she just wants to run, jump, and climb.

Our toy shelf at 16 months

As my daughter got a little older, we needed to get more toys and I had to think of more challenging activities. She mastered her toys and grew bored of them quickly.

As I write this, my daughter is two years and 8 months old. It’s starting to become more challenging to keep on top of the toy rotation process. Her toy and activity collection is growing, and I foresee how Montessori toy rotation can become overwhelming if I don’t get on top of it and if I don’t have a plan.


But there is one thing that is needed for both the Montessori classroom and your Montessori-friendly home. You need to have a plan for rotating activities on the shelf.

Coming up with a Plan

I didn’t always have a plan at home. I’m just starting to organize a plan for our Montessori toy rotation system now.

The best thing to do is write everything down. I have always told myself that I can remember everything in my head so I don’t need to write anything down. I usually can remember everything. But, there is always something that I miss or something that I could have done better if I just wrote it down.

What do I write down on my plan?

Plan for the year
When I was a Montessori classroom teacher, I planned ahead all of the themes or topics I wanted to cover for the whole year. I would write down the lists for each month in a word doc. This is an excellent practice to do at home, as well.

Plan for the month
Look at the themes that you planned ahead. For the month coming up next, dig deeper with more details. Write down this list in a word doc.
• What specific activities do I want to do?
• What does my child like right now?
• What do I need to make?
• What do I need to find or buy?

Make a List for all of your toys in storage
Write down all of the toys and activities you have in storage in an Excel spreadsheet under different categories.  Even better, print out that Excel sheet and put it on a clip board in your closet for quick and ready access. This will help you keep track of everything you have at a glance, which can help you with your toy rotation and planning. It can also help you decide on what you need to buy and what you can purge.

Observations for the week
Write down the 8-10 toys/activities you currently have on the shelf with space for writing. Write down your observations for that week. Did your child touch that toy/activity? Did she use that activity every day all week long?
These observations will give you clues as to what to take away, what to keep, and what you can take out next.

Our toy shelf at 2 years 7 months

How often should you rotate the Montessori toys?
You will need to rotate the toys on the shelf on a regular basis. Otherwise, your child will become bored. How often you rotate the toys depends on your child. Further, the frequency may change over time. It could be every week to every three weeks, or as needed.

Additionally, you could change out one or two toys, here or there, or change them all at one time. I do both. About once per month, I change out all of the toys on the shelf. I remove everything off the shelf and put everything on the floor while I dust the empty shelves. Here’s a good cheat…have your child help you dust as a practical life activity!

While I do this, I look for clues as to what my daughter really liked on the shelf, because she’ll start exploring with them on the floor. As I put all of these toys away, I look through toys and activities stored in the closet to put on the shelf next. I involve my daughter.

I replace all the toys we had on the shelf with all different ones. It’s wonderful to start fresh and my daughter notices right away with excitement!

Tip: Get your kids involved!
When I rotate activities/toys and go through the bins in the closet, I declutter as I go along. I do this with my daughter! She loves to help and go through all the toys in the closet. This also gives me a clue as to what she gravitates towards and what I could toss, or put on the shelf next!


Observe

The best way to know what to put on the shelf next is to observe your kids throughout the day. While you’re watching your kids, ask yourself questions. You’ll start to notice patterns.

For example:

• What worked and what didn’t work?
• Do they have a favorite toy right now?
• Which books/toys/activities do they take out mostly these days?
• Did your child master any activities? Which ones?
• Is there a toy they never want to play with and why?
• Did your child have an “aha” moment and is there a way to challenge her further?


Our toy shelf set up at 2 years and 8 months old

Concluding Thoughts

The 4 most important things to remember on your Montessori toy rotation journey are:

• Have no more than about 10 toys out on the shelf at a time
• Write down a plan for the year, month, and week
• Rotate the toys every one to three weeks, or as needed
• Observe your child and write it down

In conclusion, the toy rotation process is always changing, including your storage area. It will never be perfect or completed. Do the best you can. Go with the flow, involve your child, and have fun with it!

I hope that this article was helpful and inspiring to you. How do you rotate your toys? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Leave a comment!

About Dana Vitolo: 
I’m a Montessori mommy mentor, trained in Montessori (AMS) 3-6, M.A.Ed, and homeschooler. I’m here to inspire you on your Montessori at home journey! Let’s connect at http://brightlittleowl.com


Tuesday, 1 December 2020

FREE Card Matching Game resources

 New Card Release!


You may remember that a few months ago I released a set of cards for matching or play activities. Well, they've had a revamp to make the images higher quality and I have added a set with different vehicles too! 


This morning I had a go at this activity with Arlo. I used our Ikea table and filled one side with cous cous. I buried the cards inside and provided some tools such as tweezers, a paint brush and a scoop. I then demonstrated the activity by finding cards which were the same and making pairs on the other side of the table. Arlo caught on quickly and was able to pair up all of the cards completely independently. He wasn't sure about the cous cous sensation at first, but by the end he had both hands in and was having a whale of a time! 

Other ideas for the cards include: 

  • Match the animal toy or model to the card. 
  • Hide the cards in one tray and the animals in another. Fill with sensory equipment such as shredded paper, cous cous, rice etc. and allow the child to dig through and find matching pairs. 
  • Hide one of each animal around the house or garden. One at a time send your child to find the matching card. A great scavenger hunt! 
  • Present your child with some paper and pens plus copies of the cards as inspiration for art work. 
  • Turn the cards over and play a memory game. Can they remember where each animal is to make pairs? 
  • Take a walk. How many can you spot in real life? Some places, such as National Trust properties, have many of these animals such as: bird, squirrel, deer and you may even see signs of others such as a foxes den or a rabbits burrow! Many of the vehicle cards would be seen from just standing at the end of the road! 
  • Match the animal to the habitat. 
  • Match the vehicle to the job 'e.g. car to a family, van to a parcel etc' 
There are now two editions up for grabs, both are completely free. You can print them at home and laminate them for longer lasting use, or use them as they are. Here are the links: 


They are completely free, no strings attached


If you use the cards, or have any other ideas for how the cards can be used, let me know over on my Facebook group, or tag me on Instagram! Hopefully (with your permission of course!) I can update this blog entry to show some of the amazing activities you have come up with! 

Don't forget, you can also find us via our Facebook group and on our Instagram account. 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Instagram Play Hashtag Competition

 Worldwide Play Hashtag!


This month we are launching a new Worldwide play hashtag! All you have to do is use the hashtag in your play activities which have a 'bright colours' theme. The four hosts will check the hashtag every day to like, comment and share our favourites. We will also showcase the best entries in a roundup throughout the month. It is great fun and a great place to get lots of inspiration for different play activities! The hashtag will run each month but with a different theme, so keep checking back! 

If you are a UK resident, every time you use the hashtag, you will earn 1 entry into our monthly giveaway as long as you are following all four hosts (@MontessoriAtHomeUK, @StirUpAStory, @Montessorimamaof1 & @curls_twirls_and_twins)

Have you taken part? Drop me a comment in the comments box below and let me know! 

Don't forget, you can also find us via our Facebook group and on our Instagram account. 

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Bonfire Night!

 Remember, remember, the 5th of November!

This bonfire night is going to be very different. There are no firework displays to attend and we aren’t even allowed to visit friends and families under current lockdown rules, but I still wanted to make the occasion by doing something fun. I decided on this play idea as I know Arlo loves to scoop and play with loose parts, so this one was perfect! 



I drew the outline of a firework and used a glue gun to attach cardboard along the outline. I then painted it and left it to dry overnight! 

This morning I added some colourful dyed rice, beans, peas and pom poms along with:
πŸ’₯@stirupastory phonics stones
πŸ’₯ A couple of emotion stones which you can find @the.future.image (use the code Kimberley for 10% off) to show the range of emotions people might feel when they see fireworks.
πŸ’₯And a Lanka Kade policeman to oversee our firework safet
y! 






Arlo had a great time pouring the different items into each section of the firework and he absolutely adored the alphabet stones! 

Do you celebrate bonfire night? 

Drop me a comment in the comments box below!

Friday, 6 November 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Montessori Toys and Activities By Age!

Toys and Activities By Age!

 

I have been asked a few times 'what can I do with my X month old child?' so I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post about activities and toy ideas by age group. Each age bracket starts with ideas for activities you can do around the home with toy ideas underneath. In brackets, you will see a link to purchase items for both the UK and the USA. I am working on building up a database for other countries, too. 

There is so much variation between children that it is difficult to narrow down exactly what would be suitable for a '6 month old' child for example, however I have tried to do my best by looking at what an 'average' child may be able to do. Please feel free to look at the category before and after your child's current age and do not worry at all if your child appears to be unable to do something or did it months before - every child is different! Arlo is 20 months now and he still loves his stacking rings. He plays with them regularly and has done since he was able to sit up. There is no age limit on anything, really, as long as it is safe. For example, some of the 18-24 month toys may have parts unsuitable for a 6 month old. 

Take a look through the activities and toys are remember to bare in mind your child's current interests - remember, we are always following the child! If they have shown an interest in balancing or stacking then go for that. If they are climbing over everything, maybe go for one of the piklers. It is entirely individual to your child, but hopefully you will find some inspiration below of ideas or toys you haven't seen before. 

If you have had success with anything that isn't on the list, let me know in the comments box below and I will be sure to add it on! 

0-3 Months

Activity ideas

  • Nursery Rhymes – sing songs and nursery rhymes. Your baby will find your voice very soothing.
  • Story time – Read, read, read! It’s never too early to start!
  • Tummy Time – great for strengthening muscles! Use a tummy time pillow or rolled up blanket.
  • Mirror Play – lay a mirror down on the floor next to your baby so that as they play on the floor, they can see their own reflection.
  • Baby Massage – check out a YouTube video or join a massage group if you aren’t sure.

Toy ideas

Mobile (UK Link / US Link)

Contrast Cards (UK Link / US Link)

Baby Contrast Rattle (UK Link)

Montessori baby gym (UK Link / US Link)

High Contrast Play Math (UK Link)


3-6 Months

  • Outdoors - Get outside and explore the outdoors. All those sights and sounds will be fascinating to your baby.
  • Contrast Cards – lay some contrasting cards out around your baby as they are engaged with tummy time or look at them together while having a cuddle. If you don’t have any, just draw some shapes on white paper with a black marker such as zig zags, circles, faces.
  • Photograph time – share photographs of familiar faces with your little on. Begin to develop language by discussing who they are and features such as nose, glasses, brown hair etc.

Toy ideas

Sensory Balls (UK Link / US Link)

Teething Blanket (UK Link / US Link)

Bell Rattle (UK Link / US Link)

Rattle (UK Link / US Link)

Interlocking Ring (UK Link / US Link)

Ribbon Rings (UK Link / US Link)

Skwish (UK Link / US Link)



6-9 Months

  • Muffin Tray & Balls – present child with various balls and a muffin tray. Can they put the balls into and out of the tray?
  • Saucepan band – present a saucepan upside down and a wooden spoon. Let them bash away and create some interesting sounds! Experiment with other equipment such as a whisk or a plastic bowl.
  • Stacking rings – Can they begin to grasp and position stacking rings? You could use bangles on a peg.
  • Treasure basket – put a few select items into a basket and present it to your baby. You could give related items for example a blue ball, blue cloth, blue flower etc. or completely unrelated items. Anything could be suitable as long as it is safe to go in the mouth.
    Sensory bottles – fill a bottle with interesting things such as water and glitter, beads in water or washing up (dish soap) liquid and give it to your baby to examine the contents. Make sure the cap is secure!
  • Sensory bottles – fill a bottle with interesting things such as water and glitter, beads in water or washing up (dish soap) liquid and give it to your baby to examine the contents. Make sure the cap is secure!
  • Shaker – you can buy these or you can make your own by filling objects with lentils or rice and sealing closed. You could use small bottles, hollow egg shapes or whatever you can get your hands on!
  • Play the drums! If you don’t have any, make your own!
  • Messy Play –You could begin to introduce simple messy play here as long as your baby can sit up unaided. Always begin with taste safe play. For example, strip your baby down to their vest or nappy and put them onto a sheet or tuff tray with mash potato, beans, custard… anything your baby would like to squish and experience!

Toy ideas

Palmar Grasp (UK Link)

Pop up pegs (UK Link / US Link)

Musical Toys (UK Link / US Link)

Realistic animals/people (large) (UK Link / US Link)

Single Shape Sorter (UK Link / US Link)

Stacking rings. (UKLink / US Link)

Tuff Tray (UK Link / US Link)


9-12 Months

  •  Hot or Cold! Fill one bowl with warm water and another with cold water. Put some toys in each one and let your child experience the difference between the two. This one was one of Arlo’s favourites!
  • Wooden blocks stack – stack a few blocks and let them knock it over. Stack a few and let them place one on top. Stack a block on something else like the back of a toy animal. The possibilities with blocks are endless!
  • Toy rescue! Tape toys down inside a box and allow your child to ‘free’ them by pulling at the tape. Or you can weave string back and forth through the holes in a washing basket so your child has to reach through the gaps to rescue their toys.
  • Ball scoop – put a ball in a bowl of water and allow your child to try and catch it with a slotted spoon.
  • Jelly play – lay a few toys into a small dish and cover with jelly. Put in the fridge to set and let your child get messy trying to get the toys out of the jelly!
  • Messy Play - If you haven’t already, definitely introduce some messy play! You could use shredded paper, ice, homemade play dough (taste safe – there is a recipe on the website), tapioca beads, dyed pasta or rice.


Toy ideas

Three Cylinder Puzzle (UK Link)

Exploring Colour & Sound (UK Link)

Object Permanence box (UK Link / US Link)

Ball Run (UK Link / US Link)

Shape Sorter with 2 or 3 shapes (UK Link / US Link)

Pull along toys (UK Link / US Link)

Wooden egg/egg cup (UK Link / US Link)

Wooden Blocks (UK Link / US Link)

Cylinder size sorter (UK Link / US Link)

Wooden Car (UK Link / US Link)

Coin into a slot (UK Link / US Link)

Learning Tiles (Animals (UK & US Link)



12-18 Months

  • Help with the cleaning. Can they use a dustpan and brush to clean the floor? A wet cloth to clean their toys? You could even smear something like Nutella or jam onto toys and give them a bath to make them clean!
  • Card Match - Match physical objects to cards. Can they match the toy cow to the cow picture?
  • Mark Making – Give your child a square of paper and one or two different coloured crayons to mark make.
  • Painting – Use homemade, taste safe paint to make pictures. You could use corn flour/corn starch & water or yogurt and food colouring.
  • Flower arranging – present a vase and some flowers. Allow your child to arrange the flowers however they’d like and display at child height.
  • Dyed rice play – using fine motor skills to scoop up the rice and fill containers or create pictures by moving the rice into different shapes.
  • Lid match – present several different containers such as jam jars. Can they find the correct lid that matches each container?
  • Fill a box – present a variety of small boxes, such as match stick boxes or cereal boxes. Each box should have a different item inside. Allow your child to open each one and explore the contents!
  • Water Painting – Use a wet paint brush on large sheets of coloured paper to ‘paint’ a picture.
  • Kitchen helper – using a kitchen helper to help with everyday tasks such as washing up, preparing vegetables, baking bread. 

Toy ideas

Pre Writing Tablet (UK Link)

Spiral Tracing Board (UK Link)

Lacing Toy (UK Link)

Wooden sorting tray (UK Link)

Nesting dolls (UK Link / US Link)

Colour Mixing & Exploring Sensory Blocks (UK Link)

Stacking toys (UK Link / US Link)

Multiple shape sorter (UK Link / US Link)

Hammer Bench (UK Link / US Link)

Finger Puppets (UK Link / US Link)

Jack in the Box (UK Link / US Link)

Nuts and bolts (UK Link / US Link)

Stacking train (UK Link / US Link)

Cleaning Station (UK Link / US Link)

Independent book nook/reading shelf (Link)

Large Ball Run (UK Link / US Link)

Cognitive shape puzzle (UK Link / US Link)

Door Puzzle (UK Link / US Link)

Learning Tiles - Colours (UK & US Link)



18-24 Months

  • Nature hunt – explore things in your natural environment. Collect different coloured leaves, collect pine cones and conkers. Look for minibeasts
  • Threading beads – thread beads onto  a string.
  • Matching socks – Can they put together pairs of socks.
  • Every day helper – poor their own water, clean an apple, peeling an egg, wash the car. Can they help with everyday tasks in their own age appropriate way?
  • Draw and paint on an easel. Copy pictures. Decorate pictures by sticking leaves or tissue paper.
  • Doll play – can they use self-care techniques such as washing babies face and hair?
  • Bowling skittles – stand a few bottles up and provide a ball to knock them over.
  • Ride on toys – balance on a balance bike or make use of your local play area for swings and rocking toys.
  • Chalk – draw on the pavement with chalk.
  • Planting seeds – head into the garden and plant some seeds or flowers.
  • Sand & Water play – make sand castles in a sand pit, practice pouring water.
  • Sensory activities – Oobleck play, dyed rice or pasta play, chia seed slime.
  • Reading links – Read a story and find related objects. Such as, can we find an animal figure that was in our book? Can we find something the same colour as the characters t-shirt?


Toy ideas

Pre Writing Tablet (UK Link)

Spiral Tracing Board (UK Link)

Solid Wood Montessori Letter Tracing Boards (UK Link)

Tens counting frame (UK Link)

Stacking By Colour, Shape & Size (UK Link)

Complex Peg Puzzle (UK Link)

Domino Puzzle (UK Link)

Buckles & Zips toy (UK Link / US Link)

Wooden construction vehicles (UK Link / US Link)

Peg & Ring matching activity (UK Link / US Link)

Magnetic animals or letters (UK Link / US Link)

Balancing toys (UK Link / US Link)

Balance board (UK Link / US Link)

Pikler (UK Link-* / US Link)

Locks & Matching keys (UK Link / US Link)

My first jigsaw puzzle (UK Link / US Link)

Grimms rainbow stacker (UK Link / US Link)

Easel (UK Link / US Link)

Colour sorting rings (UK Link / US Link)

Knob puzzles (UK Link / US Link)

Learning Tiles - Land & Water Formations (UK / US Link)


Ideas for Children Over 2 Years 

(We are working to update this section, so please bare with us as we continue gathering the necessary links!) 

Full Set of Realistic Wooden Animal Figures (UK Link / US Link)

Exploring Countries Flashcards (UK Link)

Exploring How food grows (UK Link)

Exploring Animals (UK Link)

Developing Memory through Matching (UK Link)

Recognising Number (UK Link)

The Montessori Family Subscription Box service packed full of Montessori aligned resources. (Link)


I hope, whatever age your child is, you have found something which will inspire you! If you have tried any other activities or purchased any other toys, please drop me a message in the comments box below and I will be sure to add them to the list. Also, if you have any photos of your little one taking part in any of these (or any other!) activities, head on over to our Facebook group and show us. We are a rapidly growing friendly group and would love to see your beautiful pictures!


Don't forget, you can also find us via our Facebook group and on our Instagram account. 

Benedykt and Sylvester

Benedykt and Sylvester is a small British business run by Brittany, a Montessori Mum to Benedykt, 4, Sylvester, 2 and baby Otylia.  After be...