Montessori Primer: Inviting Your Children to Help Prepare Thanksgiving Dinner

As we’ve discussed in our previous posts exploring nutrition, a vital element in educating children about food and healthy choices and encouraging independence is having your children participate in the preparation of meals. What better time than this week, with Thanksgiving only a few days away, to develop the habit of your children helping in the kitchen?

My Kids’ Adventures, an excellent blog dedicated to equipping parents to make the most of moments with their children, offers suggestions for 12 classic Thanksgiving sides that are perfect for children to make alongside their parents. They also remind readers of the value involving the whole family in the planning of the meal – which not only increases enthusiasm for the dishes presented, but offers great hands-on experience in the practical steps needed to put a meal together.

We hope you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Montessori Primer: New Ideas for the Lunchbox

Today, we return to our Montessori Primer and our exploration of nutrition in the Montessori classroom.

As we discussed in our previous post, lunch can be the most challenging meal for a parent to prepare. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of sandwich after sandwich, or to lean on pre-packaged, processed food in fear that healthier options will be thrown away.

Finding helpful resources and developing a plan are key to keeping lunches stress-free for parents and successful with little eaters. Lisa Leake, author of the excellent blog 100 Days of Real Food, offers fantastic tips for parents on mixing up the usual lunchbox routine with everything from smoothies to kabobs, all with nutritious ingredients that are easy and quick to prepare. She also offers tips for streamlining the prep of lunches, a multitude of great snack ideas (which can also be used to round out a lunchbox meal, or to keep mom and dad going throughout the day!), and a wealth of other recipes, meal plans, and general nutrition resources – including tips on dealing with “picky” eaters!

Please join us later in the week as we continue our Montessori Primer look at nutrition!

Montessori Primer: We Are What We Eat

Welcome, new readers! We are so glad you’ve taken a moment to visit our blog, where we regularly share rich, easily digestible info for families about Montessori both in the classroom and in the home. Today, we continue our Montessori Primer with an exploration of the importance of nutritious foods and the role they play in your child’s readiness to learn. Please join us on Monday when we’ll take a brief break from our Primer to roll out the welcome mat to our blog, highlighting the content we’ve shared and helping new readers get acquainted.

No discussion regarding lunch is complete without looking at nutrition. It is easy to trade convenience in lieu of food value. For dinners, we put together meals that are balanced nutritionally for our family, but sometimes approach lunch by trading home cooked meals for pre-packaged options. Most parents fear that nutritionally rich items will simply go uneaten and be thrown away.

Dr. Montessori was one of the first to recognize the link between nutrition and the brain. Maria Montessori believed that as guardians of children, we need to prepare the child for school by preparing their bodies with nutritionally rich foods. “You are what you eat,” should be kept in mind. Children who are prepared for their day with proper breakfast are better prepared to learn in the classroom. Lunch serves the same purpose. Children need a balanced meal to help them focus during the rest of their day. In Dr. Montessori’s book The Secret of Childhood she states,

“One of the most striking things about our normalizing [Montessori] schools is the fact that children who have been freed from their psychic deviations and have acquired a normal state lose their greedy craving for food. They became interested in eating correctly and with the proper gestures.”

Children should be involved in preparing their food. Let your child help you pick out the fruits and vegetables they choose to eat. Set up a station to help them prepare their meals easily. Teach them about how food fuels their bodies, and always teach them the importance of grace and courtesy.

For more ideas on packing healthy lunches that children enjoy eating, visit Laptop Lunches, the makers of a bento-style lunchbox kit, who provide many useful tips on creating attractive and nutritious meals.

Montessori Primer: Developing Mealtime Independence and Skills

On Monday, we began discussing nutrition and mealtime with an introduction to lunch time in the Montessori classroom. Today, we’ll examine steps you can take at home to help your child develop independence and master the skills required to meet his own fundamental need.

Make lunch together

Developing independence relies upon seizing teachable moments. Just as in the classroom, parents need to provide opportunities to teach their children how to care for themselves. Making lunches is one of those moments. It is a moment to improve your child’s vocabulary, teaching the nutritional value of what they eat, and food handling safety. Most importantly, children who prepare their own food are more likely to eat what they prepare.

Pack lunch Montessori-style

When considering your child’s lunch, there are two key things to keep in mind: your child’s taste buds and the small size of their tummies. Provide a variety of single foods rather than an adult-sized meal. Children are more apt to eat items in small portions (half a chicken breast cut into small pieces) than larger items (an entire chicken breast). We find that students will first partake of their crackers because they can be eaten individually without aid from a teacher. Children will not sit down and eat an entire apple at lunch, but they will eat a 2 slices. Small, separate portions let children combine foods in different ways.

Children also love to dip their foods. Simple veggie dip with carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli can be a delicious treat for your child to eat on his own. Bread sliced into cracker size pieces with similarly sized pieces of meat and cheese or spreadable peanut butter and jelly allow your child to create her own sandwich combinations.

Involving your child in the preparation of lunch ensures that lunch time will be more successful.

‘Only man is guilty of the vice of gluttony, which blindly leads him to eat not only more than he should but also what is actually harmful.’ Maria Montessori

Join us Friday as we continue our discussion of nutrition by exploring the idea of “We Are What We Eat.”

Montessori Primer: Nutrition and Meals in the Montessori Classroom

Today, we move into a new area of our Montessori Primer: Nutrition and meals in the Montessori classroom.

What makes Montessori lunch time different?

Maria Montessori believed that meal time is also an opportunity for children to learn. From infanthood when children learn to sit independently, Montessori children are given child sized tables and chairs and are taught to feed themselves. They learn hands-on experience by using real glasses and plates. They practice signing please and thank you, as well as serving themselves and others.

Recently we held a parent education evening addressing Montessori lunch time. Parents were able to gain insight from the teachers as to what is an appropriate lunch and what are the distractions children face during lunch time.

See the Powerpoint presentation from our Parent Education night!

“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self.” – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Join us Wednesday as we continue our discussion of nutrition by exploring how you can help your child develop mealtime independence and skills.

Montessori Primer: How to Reach Joyful Obedience

Maria Montessori believed obedience develops naturally in the child’s character. The word “obey” is derived from the Latin word audire, which means “to hear.” Obedience begins with hearing a request and ends with an action in response. Humans learns skills in stages. We tend to move between the stages, repeating the activity, gaining new skills, until we can do it with no further instructions.

First Stage: We are introduced to a new activity and have assistance to complete the activity correctly.
Second Stage: We choose do an activity but do not always take the initiative to do it (needs reminders).
Third Stage: We know what we need to do and do it without asking.

Does this sound familiar? Or have these words ever come out of your mouth: “How many times do I have to remind you to…?” Sounds like Stage 2, doesn’t it? Children will move through these levels back and forth until they have internalized the rule, and it becomes a natural pattern of behavior for them.

Maria Montessori’s Levels of Obedience

First Stage of Obedience (Children under 3 years):
Montessori believed that before children could learn obedience, they needed to be able to control their urges. As she stated, “If he cannot obey even his own will, he cannot obey the will of someone else.” At this stage, the child will be both obedient and disobedient to parent commands. For parents, this is the first time they hear, “No!” from their child.
Parents can help support this stage of development by encouraging their child to be independent (walking by themselves instead of being carried, putting himself to sleep/self-soothing, and using their words to express their needs are all examples).

Second Stage of Obedience (Over Three Years of Age):
Montessori believed that at this stage the child can always obey, because he is now in control of his body. He can now take directions by his own will or that of another. Children at this stage of development will be seen by adults in their world as being very compliant. The child is helpful and does not want to disappoint. Although at this stage many parents feel a sense of accomplishment, children will move back to stage one and up to stage two a few times. Parents who have heard these words, “I forgot how to tie my shoes,” know how frustrating this process can be. Be patient. They will move back to this stage and into stage three. The most important thing to remember is to encourage the child to keep moving forward in his development. Responses such as, “I believe in you. Try again,” will do wonders to keep development moving forward.

Third Stage of Obedience:
Joyful obedience is the term Montessori used to describe this stage. The child at this stage is obedient not because of external forces, but because he has developed a high level of self respect. He makes appropriate choices in the absence of adult presence. At this stage parents are encouraged to support relationship and observe how the child handles himself.

An example of the Three Stages of Obedience in a four-year-old:

First Stage:
A parent and child are at a park. It is time to leave. Child begins crying. Parent reiterates it is time to leave and a tantrum follows. Parent picks up the child to leave. (Child has not learned to self-regulate feelings. No explanations will work at this stage.)

Second Stage:
A parent and child are at a park. It is time to leave. Child begins crying. Parent reiterates it is time to leave and explains they will come back again soon. Child stops themselves from crying, and they go home.

Third Stage:
A parent and child are at the park. It is time to leave. Child says, “Okay. Can I carry the bag back to the car?”

Encouraging this type of development may seem like a daunting task, but it is a very important one. Learning how to self-regulate and to become obedient to themselves is important to raising healthy, independent adults.

Obedience is seen as something which develops in the child in much the same way as other aspects of his character. At first it is dictated purely by the vital impulses, then it rises to the level of consciousness, and thereafter it goes on developing, stage by stage, till it comes under the control of the conscious will. – Maria Montessori

Montessori Primer: Praise and Intrinsic Motivation

In an earlier post, we addressed the Montessori principle of avoidance of extrinsic rewards and cultivation of intrinsic motivation. Today, we dig deeper into this idea, exploring the appropriate role of praise in our interaction with the child.

All parents want their children to be independent, self-reliant, and have the opportunity to be creative. In an effort to support the child, parents often say “good job” for the simplest successes. However, praising interferes with natural learning and come become a form of control. Children learn their actions are celebrated and can begin to perform for adults versus interacting with them.

Here are a few findings about children who are over-praised:

• Praised children do not perform as well as intrinsically motivated children
• Praised children produce lower test results
• Praised children become dependent on others
• Praised children become less successful at tasks

Studies have shown that children’s motivation, creativity, social interactions, and overall cognitive functioning are negatively affected by extrinsic rewards and false praise. Children know when they deserve the praise or recognition for a job well done – they also understand when do not deserve it. Many times children will stop performing or begin acting out because they feel there is no standard they must reach.

Instead, encourage your child. Encouragement is powerful self-esteem boosting tool. Focus on:
Effort“What a great effort you made today!”
Improvement“Wow, you did five more sit-ups today.”
Contribution and Involvement“Your team worked well together today. I saw you work together with Johnny on that play that scored.”
Confidence“I can see how proud you are.”

As a parent, it is difficult to know the fine line between appropriate praise and encouragement. Instead of praise, find opportunities to intrinsically motivate your child. Be specific on what you are complimenting about to your child. For example, instead of saying “Great job on that picture!”, say “I really like how you took your time to color in the lines.” Instead of saying “Good work!”, say ” It looks like you really tried to use your best handwriting on this piece of work.”

So remember…we should encourage and display gratitude instead of praising the smallest tasks. Your children will thank you for it later in life!

For more information on this topic, please read “Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job’” by Alfie Kohn, a leading author and speaker on education, parenting, and human behavior.

Please join us on Friday as we discuss How to Reach Joyful Obedience.

Montessori Primer: Nurturing a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning is jargon that has been floating in the educational world in recent years. But what exactly does a lifelong learner look like? The Montessori method provides the framework of the ideal habits of learning – habits that will sustain students the rest of their lives. Surprisingly, the phrase “lifelong learning” has roots not in the educational world, but as jargon in the 1970’s that was popularized in European intergovernmental agencies in the 1990’s. Europe was seeking to change educational policies to create a stronger global economy. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, governments around the world adopted this platform to make education a priority.

So what does a “lifelong learner” look like at MASS? We believe that constant self-improvement and pursuit of passions is a natural human tendency that begins at birth. If fostered, this urge never goes away. We witness the child who engages in play outside with his friends, peace conversations between two students with opposing views, and the sense of confidence as the students share their research. We believe parents are the best role models for their children. To encourage lifelong learning in your child, it is important to demonstrate what it looks like.

Lifelong learners:

Challenge Their Minds
Regularly reading, writing, and completing puzzles keeps the mind engaged

Exercise Their Bodies
Habits of fitness lead to positive self-image, and building core strength increases ability to focus and concentrate.

Stay Socially Connected
Interacting with family, friends, or volunteer improves communication skills and ability to work together with others

Stay In School
Take classes in areas you love (sewing class, programming class, yoga)

Are Confident
Those who can control their feelings, control their choices

Manage Stress
Stay as calm and positive as possible in all situations

Join us Wednesday as share more content from our Montessori Primer!

Montessori Primer: The Child Whisperer

We have all been there. Embattled in a test of patience in the middle of the store as our child is throwing what we think is largest temper tantrum seen by man. We stand there waiting, cheeks warm and red, as we scope out the nearest possible exit doors. We have read every book on the topic; we should ignore it, talk it out, remove the child, leave the child at home, but none of that works. Here we are again, not winning.

The Child Whisperer by bestselling author Carol Tuttle delves into the topic of personalities and parenting to the personality of your child. Children tell their parents every day how to parent them by their behavior. Children are unique and so should be the way they are parented. Honoring children begins with recognizing who they are.

The Child Whisperer reveals to the reader the key to raising cooperative children by simply understanding and responding to the nature of your unique child. After reading, you will find that this will help you customize your parenting to your individual child.

Join us on Monday as we continue our Montessori Primer with advice on helping your child become a lifelong learner!

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 5

Today, we conclude our series exploring how to interact with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a key to addressing negative behavior, Logical Consequences.

Logical Consequences

When there are behavioral problems, use logical consequences. Logical consequences should be respectful, relevant, and realistic.

  1. Stop the behavior
  2. Teach an alternative to the behavior
    • Have the child state the rule
    • As a parent, pull back the limits
    • When child shows a working understanding of the rule, extend limits

When handling misbehavior, it is important to use a normal tone of voice and speak directly to the child. Focus on the behavior and not the child’s character. Be firm; this is not a time to negotiate. When deciding on the consequences make sure the punishment fits the crime. The time frame needs to make sense to the child. A punishment that is either too long or too short is ineffective.

An example: Johnny is playing is in his Brother Grant’s room. Johnny has been told that he cannot play in his brother’s room without permission. Grant is at his friend’s house playing and Johnny sees Grant’s new airplane. Johnny says to himself, “I just want to touch it. I won’t break it.” He wanders into Grant’s room and is flying the plane around the room when the dog rushes in and jumps on Johnny. Johnny drops the plane, and it breaks. Johnny starts yelling at the dog and runs downstairs and tells his mom, “Spot broke Grant’s plane!” But did Spot break Grant’s plane? Mom investigates and finds that Johnny was not following the rules their family has in place and did indeed break Grant’s plane. An accident, but an avoidable one if Johnny had been following the house rules. When Grant arrives home, Mom sits Grant across from Johnny. Johnny admits his fault to his brother and apologizes. His brother is very upset. Mom then explains that Johnny will now earn the money to purchase Grant a new plane by doing a set amount of chores for the next two weeks. Johnny also promises not to go into Grant’s room again. Two weeks later, Mom takes Johnny and Grant to the store to purchase a new plane. Johnny pays for it himself and then hands the plane to Grant. This is a teachable moment for both Johnny and Grant. Johnny and Grant have both learned about accountability, consequences, and forgiveness.

Raising children is an awesome responsibility. No one will ever say it is without challenges. But the rewards are amazing!

If you would like more help in parenting your child, we recommend the book Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children.

To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any powers of control is to betray the idea of freedom.
– Dr. Maria Montessori

Join us on Friday as we share another of our favorite resources for parenting tips and gaining a better understanding of your child!