Posts tagged Tips
Going Grocery Shopping With Kids? Read This First!

It’s a common scene in the checkout aisle: a tired-looking parent is hurriedly putting the grocery items on the conveyor belt. A baby sits in the front of the cart clutching a teething toy. A three year old stamps her feet impatiently and then inspects the candy bars at eye level.

It begins with a tiny whine but quickly turns into an attention-getting wail. Two options are quickly obvious to the parent: buy the candy bar or endure an embarrassing meltdown in public. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid grocery store tantrums and it comes down to four steps.

1. Role-play It at home

2. Give Reminders first

3. Be Responsive to Their Wishes

4. Set Realistic Expectations

1. Role play it at home

A little preparation goes a long way. Here’s how.

  1. On a table or on a rug, have your child help you set up some objects to “buy.” Get a piece of paper and only write down a few of the objects on the list.
  2. Get a basket to gather the items you need to “buy.” Then, pretend you are going shopping. Show your child the list and read the first item on the list. Select that item.
  3. Intentionally reach for an item that you know is not on the list and stop yourself before putting it in your basket, reminding yourself that you aren’t going to buy it at this time.
  4. When you are finished with your pretend shopping, return the items to the rug and help your child make a list for his/her own basket.

Example

“I’m going to go grocery shopping, but first I need a list….Okay, I’ve got my list! Now I’ll shop. First I need… Oh look at this! Wait - it’s not on the list. Maybe I’ll put this on my list for next week, but I’m not buying it today. Let me look at the list again. I need….”

2. Give a reminder just before you go in

Before you actually enter any store, remind your child what the expectations are for shopping. Do this by taking the time to bend down to your child’s level, make eye contact, and speak clearly and calmly. Tell your child exactly what you will do in the store together.  

Example

“We’re going to go into the grocery store now. You will get to sit in the cart, and we will do our shopping together. Do you remember how we played grocery shopping yesterday? Well, here’s our REAL list! I’m going to need your help. We only need things that are on the list… Can you help me stick to the list?”  

Example

“Remember that when we go into the grocery store, we will walk, not run. We don’t want to bump into anyone and hurt them! We will choose the items on our list, and we’ll be done soon. Then, we’ll be ready to take you to the playground this afternoon.”

3. Be Responsive to their Wishes

Grocery stores are designed for one thing in mind -- to get you to buy what’s on the shelves! Everyone can be susceptible to the desires for wanting to buy what isn’t needed. Your child may want something that is definitely NOT on the list, and if you say “no” and argue as to why it’s a “no," you may be in for a meltdown.

The trick here is to respond and respect your child’s wishes as valid, human feelings that are worthy of your attention. Be prepared to listen, answer empathetically (yet firmly!) and move on.

Example

“I see that you really want to buy this, but it’s not on our list for today. Would you like for us to consider putting it on a list for next time?”  

Example

“I know how you feel! You really want this. I wish we could buy it! I want it too!” 

4. Set Realistic Expectations

What grocery store will be easiest for you and your child to navigate? Is it the tiny, local shop on the corner with fewer purchasing choices? Or is it the big superstore with wide aisles? If you go shopping at 8:00am on a weekday, will it be less crowded? Or is the better time on a weekend in the evening?

If you can pinpoint the right store and the best times for doing your shopping, it could be worth the effort.

Young children have limited attention spans and limited tolerance for overwhelming situations. Consider bringing a toy to fiddle with in the cart or snack to eat while shopping. Don’t forget that even with very small children, taking the time to smell the oranges that you are buying can engage their short-lived interest a little longer.

For older children, consider giving them a list of their own to help shop with, or send them on mini-errands to pick up items. Most children love helping out when the work is purposeful. If you can involve them in the planning and in their own behavioral expectations, you'll have even more success!

Example

“Oooh, look how red and smooth the apples are this week! Would you like to feel how smooth it is?”

Example

“The next thing on my list is bread. What’s the next thing on your list?”  

Your Plan of Action

Do you see a common theme here running throughout all of these suggestions? Having an overall plan and including your child in the responsibilities involved with shopping will help you get through your shopping experience in the smoothest way possible!  

Start now by writing down the answers to these questions on a pad of paper and make your plan now.

  1. Where do you commonly go shopping? List all the stores. 
  2. Which stores seem to be easiest for your children to navigate? List the top 2. 
  3. Which stores seem to be the hardest for your children to handle? List the worst 2. 
  4. What are your expectations for your children in the store -- Sit in the cart? Walk beside you? Snack while shopping? Make sure YOU are clear on these answers before talking to your children. 
  5. Have you role-played shopping? If not, put it on your to-do list now. 
  6. Practice your language. Your child wants to buy a candy bar. You've decided it's not on your list. What are you going to say? 

Happy shopping! 


Hey, Parents! 

Looking for long term solutions power struggles, meltdowns, and tantrums? CDIR now offers Illuminate Parent Coaching with Aubrey Hargis, catered to your family's situation. A 6-8 week intensive program helps you focus on positive strategies that WORK to help develop the responsible, considerate adults you are raising as children in your arms today.

Inquire here. 

Don't Feed Your Kids. Organize the Fridge!

Did the kids eat this morning? I didn't see it with my own two eyes, but what have we here? A hodgepodge of mugs filled with varying amounts of milk or water or.... something... on the dining table. And here, a couple strawberry hulls on the tile floor. And here, a mostly empty bowl of oatmeal by the sink.

Either the kids ate breakfast or we have the most capable rats this side of NIMH living in our house.

I don't need a mountain of evidence (or a secret society of super rats) to know the story. Since they were very young, we have given the children wide latitude in the kitchen. Kids being kids, I can usually tell what they're eating and how much -- with little effort.

Free Range Children

The idea that even young kids can feed themselves can strike people as odd. Isn't setting food out in front of the child two or three times a day one of our most basic duties as a parent?

No.

Certainly, we must ensure our children are eating well, but allowing children some control over their diets doesn't shirk this duty. In fact, it can actually support another critical duty - teaching children independence and self-control.

Choice Leads to Good Choices

Giving kids some control over their diets doesn't mean a free for all. If you want your kids to make good choices, you need to make sure they have access to good things. That takes adult planning and preparation -- keeping the pantry and fridge stocked with easy to access choices like mason jars with precut veggies or a big pot of cooked oatmeal.

But the payoff is worth it. I find that children will ingest more healthy foods and a wider variety of healthy foods when they have control over what they are eating

Five Tips

Want to give it a try? Here are some tips for encouraging your children to serve themselves.

Don't feed your kids! Organize your fridge! Five steps to food independence

1. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods.

It seems like all of us have different opinions on what is "healthy," so do your own research here and run with it. I think we can all agree that getting kids to eat veggies is a good thing, so make sure to stock up on lots of those!

I strongly recommend keeping the junk food completely out of sight or better yet... don't buy it at all. Kids can't make good decisions about cookies. Sugar is just too tempting! We keep a limited amount of chips, cereal, candy, and snack foods in a high cabinet far out of reach.

2. Prepare your veggies ahead of time.

After grocery shopping, I try to give myself about 30 minutes to do some food preparation. I chop the celery and carrots into sticks. I cube the beets. Wash and spin the lettuce. Separate the broccoli florets. Slice the bell peppers and squash. Not only does this make fresh, raw food accessible to my kids, it makes cooking meals MUCH faster!

3. Store your food in child-accessible containers. 

In my fridge, I use more than one type of food container. Mason jars have the added bonus of being see through. Plastic tops seem to be easier for my kids to open than screw tops. Plastic baggies work great for some things. Recently, I've been really into these plastic freezable containers, but large yogurt containers and the like are great options for food storage, too.

4. Make sure the kid dishes and utensils are reachable. 

You can provide a stool so they can reach the family cabinet, you can choose a kids cabinet at eye level, or you can keep their dishes on a shelf. Our kid dishes are on a shelf very close to the kitchen table where they eat.

5. Designate a place for the dirty dishes.

In my house, the children put their dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and wash them. When they were younger, we kept a plastic tub on a low table near the sink that they could easily reach. They didn't have to wash their dishes themselves, but they were strongly encouraged to put them somewhere ready for washing.

 
Five Tips (1).png
 

And One More Thing... Be Ready for Weird

Once given free reign, your newly independent kids may choose to eat things that would not occur to you... like a tub of shredded parmesan cheese or a clove of raw garlic or the entire 2 pound container of strawberries.

Click here  to join us in the next session!

Click here to join us in the next session!

Be cool with it.

They're experimenting and exploring their senses.

If they are eating something inappropriate, you can troubleshoot this a couple of ways. You can say, "Hey, kids, I'm saving the parmesan for the lasagna, so if you want some of that, tell me first, ok?" Or you can put the parmesan in the back of the freezer out of sight. Or you can put a Post-It note on the parmesan that says "MOM OR DAD ONLY." 

Over time, they will figure out what foods you allow and what foods you want them to ask about. In our house, all of the condiments are "ask an adult first" foods.

So give it a shot. If your fridge is full of all kinds of good food, they will thank you for it, and more importantly, they will learn competence and confidence in the kitchen.

Five Ways to Respect Newborns

It's not just you. Science confirms it - babies smell delicious. They also look like angels when sleeping. And nothing is as soft as a baby's bum.

Little wonder that we think of babies as small and helpless creatures, which is too bad, really. Babies actually have immense power. No adult could accomplish anywhere near the task the baby has taken on in the past nine months of growth. 

But more than that, our tendency to underestimate babies makes us it harder for us to respect them.

We love them. We protect them. But respect? Respect In the way we respect a mentor or person who persevered? The concept is too often foreign even though babies both have much to teach us and have undoubtedly persevered. 

Respect for children -- not just protection but actual respect for them and their work -- should be a central tenant of our social contract. It is one of the surest ways to social growth. 

The baby is biologically driven toward becoming a great adult human being. If we give him the respect he deserves as an infant, he will grow into an adult who treats other adults with respect -- creating a stronger, more civilized, peace-seeking society in the future.

Developing human potential

As Dr. Silvana Montanaro writes in Understanding the Human Being, a newborn has "a strong drive to develop all the components of his human potential harmoniously." Here are five ways to foster this development through respect.

1. Snuggle and Nurse Your Baby Often

Give your baby direct, physical contact -- and lots of it. Skin-to-skin cuddles, babywearing, and cosleeping are all great ways to facilitate close contact. Human babies are born with the instinct to be close to their mothers, as they seek round-the-clock nourishment, comfort, and protection. Rather than trying to keep up with the usual household duties, take time to nurse and snuggle. You cannot give a newborn too much physical affection.

2. Allow sleeping and eating on your baby's schedule, not yours

The treatment of children should really be considered a matter of social importance.
— The Absorbent Mind

Newborns are gifted with a biological rhythm that tells them exactly how much nourishment and sleep they need. Allow them to regulate these needs themselves by making both milk and a calm place to rest available. Trust in your baby's instincts.

3. Provide Consistent Routines

Children have a natural sensitivity to order, and routines remain a great comfort throughout childhood. Your baby will naturally come to understand the difference between day and night and will be comforted by daily, repetitive experiences. By changing baby's diaper in the same place often enough, he will come to know and expect what is about to happen. By singing the same lullaby to your baby, he will soon internalize the music, so the first few lines soothe him right away.

4. Let them look around and move their bodies

Newborns are notoriously nearsighted at birth for a reason. Their ability to focus on objects is the exact distance between your breast and your face. Allow your baby to gaze on you while you nurse, and give him lots of eye contact and smiles. Newborns also need to be able to move their bodies. Laying on a lap in a rocking chair or on a soft blanket on the floor is perfect for stretching muscles and nearby focusing. Conversely, bouncers, play yards, swaddling blankets, and other common baby products can restrict both the baby's view and ability to move freely (and may contribute to problems like plagiocephaly).

5. Stimulate their senses

Babies thrive in environments rich in sensory contact, and you don't need to work hard to create one for them. Bring your baby into the thick of life, and rich sensory experiences will take care of themselves. Eat nutritious food, and you'll give your nursing baby a taste sensation (breastmilk takes on the flavor of what the mother eats). Let your baby listen in on adult conversations, and softly speak to him directly about what you're experiencing. Go outside and feel the wind softly blow. Stand under a branch and look at the leaves as long as his gaze remains focused. 

Making Tantrums a Positive Experience

When your child is having an emotional meltdown, it's hard to keep your cool!

What if your child is crying uncontrollably or is kicking and screaming on the floor? What then?

No matter what, realize that it is your job as the parent to push your own emotions aside as much as possible in order to help your child. But how? It takes practice and a lot of determination.

In this video, I ask you to turn your thinking about tantrums around. Instead of seeing the tantrum as something negative to nip in the bud, look at it from an educational perspective...a positive learning opportunity for both you and your child.

Tips for Success

  1. Be Their Voice. Children do not always know how to communicate their frustrations to you. Your job is to help teach them how.
  2. Be Strategic. There are two times when your child is more likely to be in a receptive state: before the tantrum starts and after the tantrum is over. If at all possible, use those times to your advantage.
  3. Keep Cool. During the tantrum itself, remain compassionate and patient until it's over. If your child likes to be hugged, provide physical comfort. If your child prefers to be left alone, just hang out sympathetically nearby until the tantrum is over.
  4. Keep Firm. If you said no to something your child wanted to do, really mean no and stick to it. Don't give in just because there is a tantrum. Giving in will not solve the problem. Discussing feelings and coming up with solutions and compromises will.
  5. Be Kind to Yourself. You're only human. Every tantrum gives you the chance to grow and change as a parent to meet your own unique child's needs. By putting a positive spin on the situation, you are not only empowering yourself, you are raising a child who will learn how to put life's hurdles into perspective.
Five Tips for the Montessori Beginner

So you want to do Montessori in the home but aren't sure where to start. Maybe you follow those Instagram feeds filled with achingly beautiful photos of some fantastical Montessori home and think "if only I knew the secret, my house, too, could look like that." Perhaps you've toured a Montessori classroom, beautifully prepared with neat shelves of learning materials and thought, "if they can do it with 17 kids, certainly I can do it with just one!"

Well, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is you can't replicate the Photoshopped fantasy nor the carefully managed classroom. The good news is you aren't supposed to. Montessori is much more a philosophy of child development than a set of things to do. Plus, you're doing it in your home -- under real world conditions. Expect the mess. 

So where does that leave the aspiring Montessorian?

Mastering the philosophy can be a life's pursuit, but there are a few tips you can incorporate right away to help you along the way. You might now 

#1. Follow your child 

This is number one for a reason. Learning new skills will not occur without your child's interest. Following your child means seriously observing your child's stage of development.

What toys does your child keep coming back to over and over? What is he/she trying to do? Learning to crawl? Pouring and spilling water everywhere? Spending hours turning the pages of a book? Going to the potty to (ahem) play in it? Catching bugs constantly? Picking out a shirt to wear, discarding it, only to put on another shirt?

I can't tell you what activities to focus on in your Montessori home because that's your child's job. Many classroom teachers will tell you that they can't truly design the shelves without meeting the children and observing them. This is even more important for you, Montessori parent, because unlike a classroom filled with child centered, ready made curricula, you are incorporating your child into a family-centric environment.

You most likely have limited resources and space, so focus on your child's interests. You can (and will!) change the environment as your child grows older and has different needs. Write down a list of your child's current obsessions, whether it be banging pots, throwing blocks, or matching colors, and ask yourself, "What is he/she trying to learn from this behavior?"

#2. Invest in shelves and baskets

While you're not likely to achieve immaculate, you do want to make your Montessori environment as organized and peaceful as reasonable. It also keeps your house from becoming too cluttered with random kid stuff because you can't stuff everything on a few shelves like you can in, say, a toy chest or some bins.

Unlike toy chests, shelves naturally encourage you to limit quantity.

Shelves are cheaply found at stores like IKEA and Target plus garage sales and thrift stores. You can find excellent baskets at Goodwill for less than a dollar. If you can afford it, invest in several shelves and LOTS of baskets and trays. Check out our Montessori shopping list to get a better idea of what to look for at a thrift store.

Remember, you don't have to get everything at once. Start with baskets and shelves. You won't be disappointed.

#3. Choose some of your child's nicest toys 

Toys are fine when the quality and quantity is appropriate. If adding toys, pick ones your child loves; that inspire and nurture; and (if at all possible) are beautiful and made of natural materials. Likewise, steer clear of flashy, noisy, battery-operated toys as much as possible and focus on toys that spark your child's imagination.

And the toys that you aren't choosing to put on your beautiful shelves? You don't have to throw the rest away, but do keep them away from your child's shelves, hidden wherever you have available. A closet? The basement? The laundry room? Giant plastic storage tubs are great for this, as are heavy-duty black garbage bags, as long as you have them labeled "not trash"!

And if you find yourself acquiring a massive amount of toys, it's a great idea to donate them in batches regularly.

#4. Limit quantity

If you have a toddler, you probably won't be needing all 286 blocks that came with the set. You might need about 20. Just enough to stack into towers and topple down. Put those in a basket and store the rest. You also don't want to crowd your shelves. Space the baskets on the shelves so that it is obvious where the work should be returned.

Space the baskets on the shelves so that it is obvious where the work should be returned.

Are you wondering how many toys to put out at a time? I can't tell you that, but your child will. If you have a toddler who is into "dumping" making a big awful mess for you to clean up every time, or if you have a four year old who is having a hard time putting things away, you probably have too many toys.

You also might want to select one type of toy and rotate within the category. For example, if you have a lot of puzzles or different sets of building blocks, consider displaying one or two and put the rest away for now.

#5. Get Support

You can't make this journey alone. You need help! Start with spouses, partners, or others who are actively participating in raising your child, such as grandparents. The goal is to have a shared vision for what Montessori in your home looks like. This may require you to have some hard, deep conversations -- especially if your partner isn't totally onboard -- but it's critical.

Go further, though, and reach out to friends and other parents. Talk to them about what you're doing, even if you aren't completely confident in it. In fact, talking about it will help you better understand your own perspective and dissolve the feeling of isolation so common in parenting. 

Lastly, look for mentors in other places. The Internet is filled with wonderful resources for parents at any stage of their Montessori journey, including our own Montessori 101 Facebook group. Join the conversation! 

Making Music: Tips for Circle Time Success

No one wants to sing a song with a group of squirmy, inattentive, interrupting children. It’s just plain frustrating! Good teachers set the bar high for good behavior, but excellent teachers engage the restless like Mary Poppins with her magic bag.

While there’s no movie magic in real life, effective music strategies and an enthusiastic attitude can work like magic to command the attention of even the wiggliest child. Check out the article “Circle Time Singing Is More Important Than You Think” to learn more about the research behind the magic.

Here are six tips and strategies to get you going. 

1. Embrace the Fun

To nurture a love of music in kids, we need to demonstrate our love. Pick a fun song and embrace the silliness. For example, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is nearly a surefire hit (See Printable). In the song, an old lady swallows a fly, of course, and then goes about swallowing ever larger creatures to catch whatever she ate last. As the creatures grow more and more absurd, so, too, does the hilarity.

The song's simple fun has two hidden teaching objectives – ordering by size from smallest to largest and sequencing backwards. Plus, because it's a cumulative song it has a simple, repeatable structure that makes it great for playing with the lyrics. More on that in #6!

2. Be Expressive

To make the song more interesting, don’t forget to lead with dramatic facial expressions. Make sure to start out smiling and then raise your eyebrows, subtly shifting your face into greater expressions of surprise as the song moves from verse to verse. Peter, Paul, and Mary give a great example.

3. Get Children Into the Action

Adding body movements may strengthen memory and recall the order of the animals. It also calms the spirit. Instead of asking children to sit still while we sing, we should be asking them to sing with their whole bodies. You might make up your own movements (fluttering your hands for “fly” and wiggling your fingers for “spider”) or you might consider using sign language.

4. Make It a Game

If you are singing this as a group, consider choosing several children to represent each creature in the song. At the end of each verse, invite the child representing that verse’s creature to sit with the others in the middle of the circle.

If you are a parent singing at home, consider playing the role of the lady gobbling up the creatures. Your child might squeal with joy as you capture the fly (your child) and, with a little tickle, pretend that it is now in your belly. Depending on the age of the children, you might feel more comfortable with changing the last line to “Perhaps she’ll cry” instead of “die.”

5. Put It Out for Repetition

Singing in a group can be inspiring, and some children may want to repeat the experience later on their own. Put pictures of the different creatures (See Printable) in a basket on the classroom shelf or, if you are a parent at home, in a spot of your child’s choosing.

6. Write a Book

Emergent writers often love scaffolded writing experiences where they are responsible for illustrating on paper and writing a simple word or phrase. Because it’s a cumulative song, “The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is a perfect compliment.

Using the template (See Printable), have children either write the original song or make up their own lyrics (“There was an old lady who swallowed a…porcupine!” (Cue laughter.) If children cannot yet write, encourage the illustrations and do the writing yourself to model.

After everyone who wants to has contributed (or if a child wants to make several pages), staple it into a book and sing it out loud. Because it’s a modified version, it won’t sound like the original, but don’t worry. Just make sure to giggle at each surprising ending.

If you are creating a book with only one child, start with just a few pages and then offer more. Some children will want to create many pages of silly verses.

Click here to download the printable kit.

9 Never Fail Name Games and Songs for Circle Time

As a Kindergarten teacher, I spent years collecting songs and name games that were winners for breaking the ice in a new class during circle time at the beginning of the year. I kept a large stack of index cards of my favorite songs and added to the box as I learned new songs from other teachers.

I now am the proud owner of an index box ridiculously full of hundreds of songs appropriate for the 18mo-6yo crowd. Because music is meant to be shared, I pulled together some of my favorite chants and songs. Who knows...maybe you'll learn a new one to add to your own collection!

1. Hicklety Picklety Bumblebee

For this name game, sit cross-legged on the floor and pat your knees while you chant in a regular, somewhat emphatic voice . It's not an easy one for little ones, so it will be mostly the adult chanting. You want their attention to draw toward you as you get softer so that by the time you are mouthing the name silently, the children are totally focused on your mouth and you have their full attention.

Hicklety picklety bumblebee

Who can say their name for me?

Allison! (loudly)

Allison. (whispered)

All-i-son. (mouthed without vocalizing)

2. Johnny Whoops

This is a name game that starts with your index finger pointing to each finger in succession. Start by pointing at the pinky and when you get to the index finger, "whoops" toward your thumb, say the name on the thumb, then whoops backwards again toward your pinky. The sillier and more drawn out your "whoooooooops" the more laughter and excitement you'll generate. This is a real crowd pleaser. Every child loves to hear his/her own name whoopsing back and forth.

Johnny Johnny Johnny Johnny

Whoops! Johnny

Whoops! Johnny

Johnny Johnny Johnny!

 
 

3. Jack in the Box

name games and songs for circle time pinnable

For this name game, the child sits on the floor all curled up hiding his head (the yoga "child's pose").  When you shout, "Yes, he will!" the child pops up...just like a jack in the box, arms up overhead as if to say, "Ta-da!"

Christopher in the box, sits soooooo still.

Will he come out?

Yes he WILL!

4. Willoughby Wallaby Woo

First listen to and learn the tune to Willoughby Wallaby Woo by Raffi. Then just sing this short verse below, substituting in the child's name. If you have an elephant puppet or little stuffed elephant to literally "walk" over and "sit" on the child, all the more giggle-inducing!

Willoughby wallaby woo

An elephant sat on YOU (point finger toward child whose name will be used)

Willoughby Wallaby Wistopher

An elephant sat on Christopher!

5. Pig On Her Head

First listen to and learn the song Pig On Her Head by Laurie Berkner. Fill a bag with small toy animals. Let the child reach in and take one out of the mystery bag and place the animal on his head. Switch the song up by choosing another animal out of the bag or by placing it on another body part. This is a delightfully goofy song.

George has a sheep on his neck,

George has a sheep on his neck,

George has a sheep on his neck,

And he'll keep it there all day!

6. Who Is Missing?

Lay out a blanket or very large scarf on the floor. Ask the child to curl up (child's pose) on the floor, and make a dramatic point of draping the blanket carefully on top.  It then becomes a game of peek-a-boo. It's so foolishly simple, but always a winner! I never had a child who didn't want to take a turn hiding after this game was played a few times and everyone was comfortable. Sometimes you  have to speak quickly because the child won't want to wait for the dramatic pause and will swoosh the blanket off him/herself very quickly. That's just part of the fun.

Hmmm....someone is missing! Who is it? Who's missing? It's...(pull off blanket in a big swooosh).....Kaitlyn!"

7. Yoo Hoo! 

I learned this one back in my college music education class and I have no idea who wrote or published it, so feel free to link up the tune if you find it. Until then, make up your own little tune to sing to the words. This time the child hides behind something in the room (a desk? the couch?). You begin by singing and "hunting" with your eyes.

Somebody's hiding inside the closet.

I wonder who it could be... Yoo hoo... You hoo...(child sings back from the hiding place)

I wonder who it could be. ....It's Evan!

8. Clapping Names

So simple but also fun! Just go around the circle clapping each child's name with each syllable.

Let's clap Harriet.  Harr-i-et!

Now let's clap Kathy. Ka-thy!

9. Who Do We Appreciate? 

Be forewarned. This is not a quiet chant. It's a rile-em-up and make them feel like a million bucks chant. For this one, you're going to put on your very best cheerleader voice and grin, clap your hands and at the end wiggle your fingers up in the air like you've won the game!

2-4-6-8 Who do we appreciate?

Zachary! Zachary! Yaaaaaaayyyyy Zachary!

Woooo!

How to Give a Fabulous Lesson Like a Montessori Teacher

Before giving a work to a child aged 2 to 6, a Montessori teacher almost always gives a “lesson” to demonstrate the activity while the child watches. Montessori believed strongly in the importance of good modeling, writing:

“The lessons, then, are individual, and brevity must be one of their chief characteristics. Dante gives excellent advice to teachers when he says, ‘Let thy words be counted.’ The more carefully we cut away useless words, the more perfect will become the lesson.” (from The Montessori Method)

Five Rules of the Road

  1. Remember to sit side by side next to the child rather than across the table. This allows the child to see the work from your point of view. We often recommend that you sit on the child's left side if the child is right-handed.

  2. Let your fingers do most of the talking. By speaking very quietly and only when necessary, you will be directing your child’s attention to your hands and how they are interacting with the materials.

  3. Model activities from left to right. This is intentional. It prepares a child for reading and writing, which is also oriented from left to right.

  4. Exaggerate your movements especially regarding care of the materials. If you want your child to care for the work and not be careless, make sure that you also model this. Hug the materials if you like as you get them out. They are special.

  5. Note that formal lessons are not always necessary. Use your own instincts for when to cut a lesson short or allow a child to work even without a lesson at all. If the child is engaged, draw it out a bit. If you are quickly losing interest, encourage the child to take a turn. Toddlers especially often cannot sit through long formal lessons. For a toddler, the modeling should be very brief.

Keep Attention on the Child

Maria cautions us to do our best to remove our own egos and personalities from the lesson. When the focus remains on engaging the child in the material, the formal lesson will be most effective. However, as an experienced teacher, I can tell you that it is also important to establish a very real, physical human connection with the child...otherwise, a robot might as well be giving the lessons!

Children who receive more eye contact and verbalization from their parents develop better interpersonal skills and have higher vocabularies.

For example, current research tells us that lower student-teacher ratios are all around better for children in the classroom because there is more adult-child personal interaction and attention.

We also know that children who receive more eye contact and verbalization from their parents develop better interpersonal skills and have higher vocabularies.

You might note that a typical Montessori classroom has a fairly high student-teacher ratio, and this is because we are not providing a teacher-directed environment but a child-led environment.

The Child Leads

In an authentic Montessori classroom, you would see a lot of student-to-student interaction. We believe that even more important than the proper lesson is the role that the children play in their interactions with each other as role models who learn from each other. The way the entire classroom functions is dependent upon these human connections.

As with anything, it's a balance. Don't let these lesson-giving "rules" deter you from having a deep conversation with your child about the work, and keep your formal lessons strictly to a minimum when working directly with concrete materials to teach a very specific skill.

 
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21 Montessori Water Activities For Your Practical Life Shelf

Let's get some Montessori water activities on your practical life shelf! Don't have space for a shelf? Don't worry! Just keep some of these object handy for when kids seem ready for a bit of water play.

1. Pour water from two tiny pitchers back and forth. Any glass or ceramic creamer-style will work for the Pre-K crowd, but for toddlers, tiny metal creamer pitchers are best.

2. Spoon water with a ladle from a big bowl to another big bowl.

3. Spoon little floating objects (corks?) from one bowl into another bowl.

4. Spoon little sinking toys (marbles?) from one bowl into another bowl.

5. Try tongs instead of spoons for #'s 3 and 4!

6. Use a baster to transfer water from one bowl to another.

7. Use a funnel to fill small vases with water from a pitcher. Then dumping the water back into the pitcher. This is is preparatory work for the flower arranging work.

9. Squeeze a sponge from one bowl to the other to transfer the water.

10. Gather small objects from around the house (that won't be hurt by water). Find out which ones float and which ones sink.

11. Experiment with color mixing. Three small glasses of colored water (red, yellow, blue food coloring) and several small empty bowls. Use an eye dropper or a pipette to make different colors in the bowls.

12. Whisk one drop of dishwashing liquid in a big bowl of water.

13. Try an eggbeater in #12 instead of a whisk!

14. Try grating some bar soap into #12 instead of using dishwashing liquid. (Supervise this one closely.)

Keep a towel and a nice, sturdy tray handy to catch any spills.

15. Fill two bowls with water, one hot and one cold. Add one piece of ice into each. Which melts faster?

16. Use a medicine syringe to transfer tiny amounts of water from one glass to another.

17. An outside game: Fill a giant plastic pitcher or watering can. Pour the water into a large bucket. Haul the bucket to a kiddie swimming pool and fill it up. Then play!

18. Have a tea party with real tea (rooibos or berry tea are caffeine-free options.) 

19.  Scrub a section of the kitchen floor with a small bowl of soapy water and a sponge cut in half.

20. Put a water-safe baby doll into a large bowl or tub. Add a small pitcher of water, one pump of liquid soap, and a small washcloth.

21. Mustard/ketchup bottle squeezing. Fill an old squeeze bottle with water and squeeze directly into a bowl.

Kids Deserve good Poetry: Daffodils

There is a scourge on children's literature, and it is bad poetry -- sing-songy, not-quite-rhyming lines rife with an uneven number of syllables. But it doesn't have to be this way. The world is full of great verse -- A.A. Milne, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear... You get the idea.

Sure, reading William Blakes' "The Tyger" might require a mental stretch from your kids (and maybe you, too) but that's a good thing! Plus, great poetry is simply fun to read!

Pro Tips

Poetry (like its cousin, music) is ancient, which is probably why children have such a natural affinity for it. Still, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are four:

  • Read it Morning and Night: Try reading poetry before bedtime or while your child is eating breakfast. Those two times work really well for listening.
  • Make it Available: Keep a poetry anthology on the dresser or in with the cookbooks. Adding poetry into your daily routine will make it, well, routine!
  • Don't Overthink It: Don't feel like you must pair every poem with activities or discussions of new vocabulary words or anything "schoolish." Just read and enjoy them!
  • Repeat: When reading a poem, go through it twice in a row if the kids allow it. This is especially important with the short poems. 

The Poems

To help you started on your good poetry adventure, here are three daffodil-ly poems to chew on.

Nursery Rhyme from The Little Mother Goose

Daffy-down-dilly has come up to town

In a fine petticoat and a green gown.

 

"Daffodowndilly" by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour: "Winter is dead."

 

"I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed---and gazed---but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Break the "Good Job" Habit with These 21 Alternatives

Excess praise can be damaging to our children's intrinsic motivation (working just for the pure pleasure of it - not to please anyone else), but what should we do instead? Constant "good jobbing" is a habit, and habits can be hard to break. But it can be done!

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The easiest way to stop saying "good job" or "nice work" if you are committed is to simply start by swapping out the praise-heavy phrase with a more neutral one.

Keep in mind that a child who is used to getting lots of praise will keep asking for it, so using more than one of these suggested phrases when your child keeps probing may help get both of you past the praise dependency. In my experience, most children (even the most persistent praise-seekers) become self-satisfied when there is a meaningful dialogue.

Below are some phrases that might work for you in your home or classroom. None of them will fit in all situations, and if used without the intention of connecting more deeply with a child, they will definitely not work. Use them as a starting point, and before long, your automatic "good job" will become an automatic "something else."

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The List

1. "Hmm!" Smile and nod. That's right. Bite your lip if you have to. Just don't say it! Smile and nod. Smile and nod. And then listen. What will the child say?

Example: Child brings you a puzzle that has been completed. "Hmm!" Now look the child in the eyes, tune in, and listen. What does the child say about his puzzle?

2. Tell me about this! 

Example: Child has glued a yellow circle onto an orange piece of paper and comes to show you the big gluey mess of artwork. "Tell me about this!" What the child says may surprise you.

3. I can see that you_____. (describe what you see)

Example: Child has scribbled with chalk on the chalkboard with pink and blue chalk and brings you over to see. "I can see that you have been using pink and blue chalk."

4. You look proud. Are you? I'm glad you_____. (describe the accomplishment)

Example: Child chops strawberries into a bowl to serve herself and then invites you to look. "You look proud. Are you? I'm glad you know how to chop your own strawberries now. It's nice to serve yourself when you're hungry."

5. Describe + How did you do it?

Example: Child presents you with a handwritten, hand-drawn, haphazardly stapled book that you recognize is very similar to one of his favorite bedtime picture storybooks. "You made your own book. How did you do it?"

6. Thank you! I appreciate_____.

Example: Child gives you a love note in pictorial form - drawn for YOU. "Thank you. I appreciate you thinking of me." Never underestimate a simple thank you!

7. Describe + I appreciate your hard work / effort.

Example: Child loads dishwasher perfectly and looks to you for approval. "You loaded the dishwasher perfectly. I appreciate your hard work!"

8. Your face looks happy! It feels so good to_____.

Example: Child: asks you to watch him perform a physical trick on the playground. "Your face looks happy! It feels so good to stretch your muscles, doesn't it?"

9. I am so happy for you because_____.

Example: Child masters the monkey bars and she runs to you to celebrate. "I am so happy for you because I know you've been working on those monkey bars for a long time!"

10. When you __________, I__________.

Example: Child builds a very tall tower with blocks and asks you to look look look! "When you started that tower, I didn't have any idea how tall it was going to get! Super tall!"

11. What was the hardest / easiest part?

Example: Child learns to ride a bike up and down the block. "What was the hardest part about learning to ride? What was the easiest part?"

12. When I was a child, sometimes I liked to_____. Do you like to_____ too? 

Example: Child hands you a list she made of -at words. You read cat, hat, sat, mat... "When I was a child, sometimes I liked to sing a rhyming song. The caaaaat saaaat on the maaaat la-la-la... Do you also like to sing your rhyming words?"

13. Wow! May I______?

Example:Child constructs a crazy invention out of straws, paper towel rolls, masking tape, and paper clips. "Wow! May I try your invention? How do I use it? Would you show me?"

14. Hmm... I wonder what you’ll come up with next.

Example: Child makes dominoes topple over in an interesting pattern. "Hmm... I wonder what you'll come up with next."

15. You did it! 

Example: Child has been trying very hard to write his name and finally has written all of the letters correctly on the page. "You did it!"

16. I've noticed that_____.

Example: Child builds an airplane out of legos and comes to show you. "I've noticed that you've been working on your lego building skills and you are starting to make a lot of interesting things.")

17. I love seeing you_____. Would you like to_____. 

Example: Child sits and reads a book. When he gets to the end, he closes it and tells you he can read it. "I love seeing you teaching yourself how to read. Would you like to read this book to me? Or would you like for me to read it to you?"

18. What did you learn from this? 

Example: Child works hard to match all the pictures of animals that live in Africa to the continent of Africa. "What do you think you might have learned from this?"

19. How did you come up with the idea for this?

Example: Child has made a paper airplane and decorated it. "How did you come up with the idea for this?"

20. You sure are growing! I remember when you weren't able to_____, and now you can_____.

Example: Child has brushed her teeth, for the first time, by herself. "You sure are growing! I remember when you weren't able to brush your own teeth. I brushed them for you every day. But now you can brush them all by yourself!"

21. A hug or a pat on the shoulder. As long as you are giving physical affection regularly and not tied to specific behaviors, feel free to connect with the little one without any words at all! A hug can sometimes say it all.

Patience and Practice

Like anything else, learning how and when to effectively use these phrases will take practice. Pick a few to try out and get familiar with those first before moving on to others. It's a guarantee you'll find opportunities to use all of these phrases within a single week of time spent with a child, but it will likely take much longer to solidify the new habit.

Click here for a printable version of this list

Three Books To Help Teach How to Hug

Need to help a little one learn the right way to hug? Here are three books that can help.

How Do You Hug a Porcupine?

This simple story follows a child imagining how to hug different animals but perplexed when it comes to hugging such a prickly creature. "Can you hug a horse? Of course! But how DO you hug a porcupine?"

The answer turns out to be just exactly the gentle mindset you want to encourage in your child. It's the kind of book you'll happily read over and over. The writing is linguistically appealing; the rhymes actually rhyme (too rare in children's literature).


Time For a Hug

This sweet story encourages you to give your child a hug after every page! It gives great opportunities for practicing using a gentle touch. Walk with Little Bunny and Mama through their day and hug along with them. After every activity they do together, they take a little break to reconnect emotionally. It's 10:00! Time for a hug!


Hug, Hug!

All creatures great and small like to give hugs -- at least according to this delightful board book. As you see how each creature hugs, pretend you're the creatures and each other a hug. Follow-up by talking about modeling how to hug in different ways. For example:

When we hug Great Grandma, we do it like this (gentle). When we hug Uncle, we do it like this (bear hug).

 

For more about how to hug, check out our article on four tips

What To Look For In a Montessori School

Every time a parent asks me “how will I know if it’s a good Montessori school?” I rejoice. I know that these are parents who understand that Montessori is not a trademarked name, and that anyone can open a Montessori school, a Montessori toy shop, or even a Montessori appliance warehouse. I know that these are parents who want to learn. Most importantly, I know that these are parents who want a quality education for their children, and are willing to do the work it takes to find it.

It is not always easy to find the right school. It can be awfully confusing, for someone new to the Montessori world and all its letter organizations. How is a parent who is just getting started with the basics of Montessori philosophy to understand the fine differences in philosophy between the various accrediting bodies? What is a parent to do when there are no accredited schools in the area? And is accreditation really a guarantee of quality?

Accreditation, more than anything, means that a school meets a certain set of criteria, and has the resources (human and otherwise) to undergo the accreditation process. Schools that are not accredited are not necessarily lacking - they simply have chosen not to undergo the process. When visiting a school, it may lend some insight to ask why they chose to be accredited by a particular organization, or why they chose not to seek accreditation.

So how do you know if it’s a good Montessori school? Here are some of the things I look for in a school to assess whether it is a quality Montessori program:

  • mixed age classrooms in accordance with Montessori's planes of development. (birth to walking, walking to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years, 3-6 years, 6-9 and 9-12 or 6-12, 12-15, 15-18).
  • teachers who are certified to teach the age level they work with (or have certification for another age and are in the process of training
  • a calm, peaceful atmosphere
  • a commitment to the development of inner discipline through non-behavioural techniques (ie, no stars, reward charts, time-outs or any other kind of reward or punishment)
  • a commitment to the uninterrupted 3-hour work period
  • a full set of materials in good shape
  • mostly natural materials in all areas of the school (if there's a ton of plastic, even in the hallways or the office, It's not the right place for me - and this is very personal, it doesn't mean it won't be a good program overall)
  • solid transition routines, to start the school year and on a daily basis (How do they manage moving from the work period to lunch? What is the morning greeting/drop-off routine? Is there a transition in September for new students?)
  • walls that are almost bare at adult-level, but beautifully and sparsely decorated at child-level.
  • older children who are confident, calm, polite, sociable and able to carry on a conversation with you as a visiting parent.

Most Montessori schools will offer an observation as part of the enrollment process. I strongly recommend taking the opportunity to sit in a working classroom. It is the single best way of getting to know a school, teacher, and classroom.

I also recommend asking to talk to the teachers, to get a sense of who they are, and whether they are passionate and respectful when speaking about their students. You can also ask to talk to current and past parents, and to older students and alumni. Speaking with the older students is invaluable - they reflect in their very beings what the school brings forth in them. Look at the oldest students in every school you visit and ask yourself “is this what I want my child to be like at that age?” That is probably the single most important indicator of whether a school offers a quality educational experience, and whether it will be a good fit for your family.

For further reading, I highly recommend the website of the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (one of those accrediting organizations), in particular this article on Choosing a Montessori School and this one titled What is Authentic Montessori.

What it always comes down to, though, is this: Does it feel like a place you and your child will be comfortable? That's what you want, more than anything!

Andrea Lulka

Andrea Lulka has spent her whole life in and around Montessori, the last ten years more formally than the rest. She is a certified 3-6 teacher holding an MEd. in Montessori Integrative Learning, now working towards 12-18 certification.

Andrea also has experience in various capacities with every age group from Toddler through to Middle School as well as with parent education and school administration. By far her toughest and proudest role in the Montessori community is that of mother to a Montessori boy.

Your Baby's First Montessori Shelf

During the last trimester of pregnancy, mothers often find themselves scrambling to nest for the baby.  This instinct can be very powerful!  In those last few weeks, we want everything to be perfect for our child's arrival into the world, down to the color of the walls, a sleeping area, the changing area, a rocking chair, toys, books, and a nice stack of diapers at the ready.

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During the first 1-3 months, however, a baby couldn't care less about perfect.  He is focused on gazing into his mother's eyes, wanting comfort through nursing, bouncing, and snuggling.  Even a baby who is less cuddly in nature doesn't need any structured stimulation.  A few basic rattles will do.  Mobiles can be fun to look at if baby is spending a lot of time laying down awake, but when your baby is being carried around in your loving arms and exposed to fresh air outdoors, be rest assured that the surrounding environment is plenty stimulating.

Having a proper "playspace", is not necessary for the first few months. A movement area, however, is absolutely essential. When my sons were babies, I had a supply of baby blankets, and it was easy to lay down a blanket for baby to play on in whatever room I was in at the moment. A basket in our living room held the baby toys.

Tips

Once your baby is getting close to scooting, rolling or crawling, it's time to be a lot more intentional about the play environment. Here are a few tips for creating your baby's first Montessori shelf.

1. Make it safe. That means all the traditional child proofing in the room - outlet covers, etc.  Make sure the shelf is heavy enough not to fall over on a climbing toddler.  OR secure it to the wall.

2. Use the bottom two shelves. If your shelf is low already, that's great.  If you are using a taller shelf, designate the bottom two shelves for baby; use the rest of the shelves anything that could be useful to you!

3. Select a few toys. Choose toys you think your child would like manipulating or exploring.  These are your baby's first Montessori work choices!  As much as possible, choose toys made of natural materials that can be twisted, stacked, mouthed, and shaken.  Avoid the shiny, noisy plastic stuff with buttons and annoying songs.  I'm talkin' to you, Tickle Me Elmo.  Off the Montessori shelf!  Those toys can live in the closet and can be brought out occasionally.  You want to focus on toys that are nurturing to the brain and not overstimulating.

4. Space the toys out. When my first born was a baby, we chose this shelf specifically because it would provide designated spaces for toys.  When a toy needed to be put away, it was obvious where it should go.  I found that baskets were completely unnecessary with this type of shelf, and it forced me to choose only eight baby toys for displaying at one time.  However, for a more traditional shelf, I would recommend a basket for the go-together toys like blocks.  It pays to spend a bit of time spacing the toys in a way that looks appealing and uncluttered.  Your baby won't ever thank you for it, but when he's dragging everything off the shelf and making a big mess, you'll thank yourself for making the clean up easier!

5. Crawl in front of the shelf at your baby's head level.  What do you see from that angle?  Does it look inviting?  Colorful?  Is it easy to reach for?  Sometimes what we see is surprising to us, like the unpainted bottom of a shelf or a sharp edge.  Getting down low and looking at child level is how you'll know if you've done it right.

When a new mom is pregnant, she may worry about having enough "baby stuff", but the reality is most parents acquire an alarming number of toys and gadgets in just a few months.  All of this stuff can take up an enormous amount of space! Contrast the careful placement of accessible toys on a baby's Montessori shelf to a typical American baby's play area, where you might see an exersaucer, a jumperoo, a play yard, a crib, a swing, and many, many plastic, flashy, singing toys overflowing out of a toy chest.  If you feel that a crawling baby's environment doesn't really matter, consider Montessori's cautionary words from The Absorbent Mind:

"There are some insects which look like leaves, and others which look like stalks.  They pass their lives on leaves and stalks, which they resemble so perfectly as to seem completely one with them.  Something like this happens in the child.  He absorbs the life going on about him and becomes one with it, just as these insects become one with the vegetation on which they live.  The child's impressions are so profound that a biological or psychochemical change takes place, by which his mind ends by resembling the environment itself.  Children become like the things they love.  In every type of life it has been discovered that this power exists, of absorbing the environment and coming to resemble it."

- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Taking care to arrange your baby's first play environment is worth it.  Make it beautiful.  Make it accessible.  Fill it with things that you love and want to share with your child.  The environment that you create for your baby will stay within him for life.

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Now that you have a shelf set up and ready to go (or the intention to create one), you might be wondering if there are some recommendations as to the best toys and books for a baby, young toddler, or older toddler. I've learned so much about how to select toys that work for different developmental stages of infants and toddlers since raising my own babies. Join me and my good friend Nicole in an online course to talk toys for ages and stages. Click here to learn more. 

Potty Learning: It's a Groovy Kind of Love

Who loves potty learning? I do, I do! And I'm not ashamed to admit it. I love potty learning with young children just as much as I love reading stories or taking a walk in the park on a beautiful sunshiny day. What's to love? Well, what's not to love? A cute little tushy, a rosy-cheeked, beaming babe, and a time set aside regularly for intimacy. It's a perfect setup for a joyful learning experience most often shared entirely between parent and child.

 
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I once knew a little two year old girl who used to run out onto the playground with a huge grin on her face and eyes sparkling with mischief. Every day she would grab her friend's hand and loudly exclaim, "Let's go play poo poo! I have to poo poo. Do you? Let's go pooooooooop!" Off they'd run to pretend, just like it was another ordinary playground game like playing house or tag. At the time, my children were not yet "potty trained", and I was amazed at the joy - the lack of self-consciousness, the freedom to be excited about something so simple and ordinary as poop.

It was in this moment that I knew that to a child, poop was anything but ordinary. Clearly, there was some magical property to the potty training process that most of us adults are missing out on.

During the years that I taught toddlers in the Montessori classroom, helping children learn how to sit on the toilet and use it became one of my very favorite parts of the job. The giggles and hugs that came with potty times were mood lifters. It's hard to stay stressed or worried about something in your personal life when looking at a toddler who is filled with the pride of accomplishment.

It was also humbling. As adults, we take the ability to control our body functions for granted. We forget that there was a time when we ourselves had to concentrate to learn how. Being with a child during this period of time reminds me to feel grateful for my own independence and happy for the beautiful child who is gaining a gift that will alter his or her life forever.

In Montessori, we have another term for the time when a child learns how to use the toilet instead of a diaper: "toilet learning". Do semantics matter? We think so. You see, we want to emphasize that there is no actual "training" being done by the adult. This process is seen instead as the young child's work.

Being able to recognize when it is time to go and where it is socially appropriate to relieve oneself does not typically happen overnight, although all children approach this work a bit differently from each other. The sensitive period for concentrating on this task is typically sometime during toddlerhood.

When we as adults remove our own frustrations and anxieties, we can see this great accomplishment through the eyes of the child, full of wonder and fascination. We can relax and know that with a supportive environment, children will be motivated on their own to learn how to use the toilet, and this motivation need not be tampered with by stickers or candy! Natural curiosity and pride will be quite fine on its own, thank you very much. If you are skeptical, look through the eyes of a child. The human body possesses the amazing ability to control both how and when nourishment is taken in and also how and when waste is excreted.

This process can be just as exciting as it is scary. The child who senses that his parent is worried or angry is much less likely to be able to listen to his or her body, so it is actually very important that we stay on the child's side and not let our own fears and goals get in the way. If you yourself are grossed out by poop, remember that long ago, someone taught you that poop was distasteful. Put on a happy face for your little one. There is a golden opportunity for celebrating this new phase that only comes once in the life of a child, and all children need to feel loved and cared for - especially when they are showing you the bravery to take another step toward adulthood.

When my own little one was ready to take the leap into underwear, we celebrated the milestone by tie-dyeing some white training pants. They were soft and brightly colored, held just enough moisture if he had an accident on his way to the potty, and we both loved them. We probably made about 15 of them since they were cheap, and they were worn like regular underwear for at least a year.

And in case you're wondering...I learned about tie-dyeing toddler underwear from a stellar Montessori trained teacher and crafty mama. Let the groovy toilet learning days of love be officially passed on!