Later in the week I’ll be posting about how Tabitha is learning her letters, but before I do that I thought it would be interesting to review all the skills she has mastered to get to this point. There seems to be a lot of pressure nowadays for two year olds to learn their alphabet, but I deliberately avoided teaching Aaron and Tabitha any letters until they were at least three years old. At such a young age, there are so many better things for them to focus on (although I have never discouraged an interest) that will prepare them thoroughly for learning abstract concepts like letters and numerals. One of the things I love about Montessori is how it breaks down complex skills into small, logical steps. Right from the beginning, the activities build skills that will eventually help children to be ready for reading and writing.
Writing is a very physical action, so many practical life activities are great for promoting pre-writing skills. Whole hand activities are designed to strengthen all the muscles in the hand. From about 9 months babies can transfer objects such as balls, fruit or pinecones from one container to another. From about 18 months toddlers can learn to transfer water with a baster or sponge, and transfer objects with tongs.
Wrist turning activities help the child to develop wrist strength and flexibility. These activities include dry and wet pouring, sweeping, jars and lids, turning with a spatula, nuts and bolts and keys and padlocks.
As their fine motor skills improve, toddlers and preschoolers can work on activities that promote a pincer grip or three finger grasp similar to that used when writing. Transferring with spoons, pipettes and tweezers, pegging and peg puzzles all encourage children to use a three finger grasp.
Another important physical skill needed for writing is hand-eye coordination. Threading and posting are both excellent activities for developing this and can be easily adapted for different abilities and age groups.
In Montessori settings, children use metal insets to develop pencil control by tracing shapes in a counter-clockwise direction, similar to writing letters. This is one part of the pre-writing scope and sequence that we haven’t done, partly because the insets are expensive and partly because the children have always had free access to art supplies and seem to get plenty of mark-making practice that way. Drawing around peg puzzle pieces, drawing with stencils, making marks in a salt/sand tray, tracing over a wipe-clean workbook and tracing over chalk with a wet paintbrush are all good alternative activities.
Reading involves more cognitive and sensorial skills, such as visual and auditory discrimination. Matching, patterning, sequencing and sorting activities help to develop vocabulary, encourage visual perception and a sense of left to right movement. There are endless possibilities and variations using toys, household objects, commercial games and puzzles, or some of the many free printable materials available online.
Toddlers can use sound cylinders and musical bells or other instruments to develop their auditory discrimination, whilst preschoolers often enjoy playing “I spy” or rhyming games. Ideally, children will be familiar with the initial sounds of words long before they are introduced to the letters.
With so many skills to learn before they are ready to read and write, there is no rush to teach letters! By focusing on practical life and sensorial activities first, children will master many of the necessary skills and will find learning to write and then read much easier than being thrown in at the deep end.
If you want to find out more, there is a very interesting series of posts over at Vibrant Wanderings which covers early Montessori language skills:
Early Math and Language Skills Part 1
Early Math and Language Skills Part 2
Early Math and Language Skills: Pre Writing
Early Math and Language Skills: Pre Reading
We’ve been treating this last week as our family holiday. The weather has been scorching hot, Colin’s sister and fiance have been visiting and Colin had the week off work, so we’ve been making the most of it.
We spent a day out at Croyde beach. The children went bodyboarding for the first time, which brought back memories of the first time my parents took me bodyboarding on the uncovered polystyrene board my mum used as a child.
Working on the allotment has been hot and sticky work, so Aaron watered the plants and himself to cool down!
I love these colourful marigolds against the blue shed.
Aaron helped Grandpa do some painting.
Another day was spent rockpooling at Westward Ho! Tabitha was thrilled to drive the children’s karts for the first time, whilst Aaron came on the big go-karts with the grown ups.
For dinner we ate fish and chips overlooking the sea and then finished off the day with ice creams. I think these two photos really sum up the children’s different characters. Aaron is often serious and concentrates intently on whatever he is doing, whereas Tabitha is cheeky and mischievous.
We live very close to the Tarka trail, which is a coastal cycle path using the old railway routes. We hired bikes and spent another day cycling about 18 miles to Bideford and back. The scenery was wonderful but we were all feeling very saddle sore by the end!
We weren’t sure if Aaron would be able to keep up on his own bike, so he rode on a tag-along on the back of Colin’s bike.
Tabitha rode in a trailer on the back of my bike. She felt sick at first and wanted to go home, but after a while she got used to it and chilled out with some snacks.
Three messy cousins!
Some of the time we were just too hot to venture outdoors, so we’ve also done plenty of indoor activities. The children loved building ball runs with a 2 m length of guttering sawed into three pieces.
Dribbling balls through a slalom of upturned bowls kept hot and crabby children amused.
They also enjoyed this miniature “treasure island” sensory small world created with sand, pebbles, shells, mini bucket and spade and a treasure chest full of colourful gems.
Today we finally got round to making a scarecrow for the allotment. I stuffed a pillowcase with plastic bags which I’ve been saving for months and the children painted the face with acrylic paint.
Grandpa fixed a wooden stake and crosspiece into the ground. For the body we filled a sack with more plastic bags and scrunched up newspaper, tied it around the stakes and then dressed it.
We stuffed the arms with rolled up sacks. By the time we added gloves, wool hair and a cap the scarecrow was looking pretty good, despite missing facial features at the moment because the paint was still slightly wet!
It’s been a wonderful week and I’m very thankful for spending time with my family, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful area we live in.
It seems like a long time since I last posted. I’ve been ill several times and busy with work. I turned down work for the first time a couple of weeks ago, which felt very strange but I know it was the right decision. My own children need time alone with me and to be honest I’m already absolutely exhausted on my days off. Definitely looking forward to the summer holidays in two and a bit weeks!
The children have been doing lots of building with Duplo and Lego. Aaron still likes to use the Duplo for large scale sculptures of things like dinosaurs, ships and space rockets.
Tabitha and the baby had fun with a puffed rice sensory tray.
Painting has been popular.
Aaron painted a space rocket and a bus.
Aaron has been wanting a skateboard for years so when we spotted these mini ones I finally gave in. He soon discovered that it wasn’t as easy as the teenagers make it look!
We’ve always thought that Tabitha may have inherited dyspraxia, so I was expecting her to struggle with the skateboard. However, she did pretty well and is keen to keep practising, so all that time riding a balance bike and scooter must have paid off!
Tabitha loves to turn on a children’s CD and dance around, making up her own actions. Yes, she’s wearing Aaron’s milo vest so I’m knitting her one of her own, which you can just see in the basket on the right.
I had a scan at the hospital yesterday, then went up to the college to pick up all my results for the year. It’s been hard work but I’m really pleased with my marks, just hope I can keep it up for another two years! As part of my course I have to do a 50 hour work-based learning placement with a specific focus. I chose to focus on outdoor provision in my childminding practice, because not having a garden makes it much more challenging. On Tuesday I spent the day observing outdoor play at Two Rivers Outdoor Preschool, which was a great experience.
We have also decided that Aaron and Tabitha will be starting at Two Rivers for one day per week in September. It is a Steiner-inspired kindergarten, accepting children aged 3.5 – 7 years, with lots of home educating families involved. Based in a yurt in the middle of secluded woodlands, the children have fantastic opportunities to play outside for hours every day. I’ve been following the school’s progress since before it opened, but it is a 20 minute drive away so attending hasn’t been an option until now. We haven’t been able to go to our local home-ed group for months due to the hours I work and Aaron really misses his friends there. When he discovered that his beloved friend Rose goes to Two Rivers, I knew that he would love to go too. At first we weren’t sure about sending Tabitha but she insisted that she wants to go with Aaron. She really enjoyed it there on Tuesday, quickly making friends with a little boy and even talking to the teachers by the afternoon, so we’ll see how it goes.
Today I decided to reorganise our craft supplies by colour, inspired by some of the amazing Reggio photos Ali has sent me! Tabitha helped me to sort things into the right jar.
More happy rainbows in my home! Hopefully having lots of different supplies in each jar will help the children to discover things that get forgotten and not used very often.
Colin’s youngest sister has a birthday this week and his middle sister is coming down to visit. For the first time ever, Colin has the week off work and I don’t! The sunshine is back so we’re hoping to enjoy some family outings in the lovely weather.
I love this little scene the children created early one morning. Open-ended toys are so versatile!
It snowed for several hours on Wednesday, although it didn’t really settle. We went out on the balcony to catch snowflakes and enjoy it before it all disappeared!
Aaron has been enjoying these Montessori botany puzzles. They are too fiddly for Tabitha, so I’ll probably end up getting some of the easier zoology ones for her.
For Aaron’s 5th birthday, I promised to take him ice skating. It was something he mentioned months ago when we were talking about things to do in winter. Today we went to the synthetic ice rink and he had his first ever go at skating with me while Daddy and Tabitha watched.