Monday, August 26, 2013

A Prepared Environment in a Small Space

    This is the second post I'm doing that focuses on establishing a Montessori environment in a small space.  You can find the first post with ideas for how to store materials here.

    About nine months ago, we moved into an apartment that was about 30% smaller than our previous space.  Q-ball's previous exploration space (You can find some older pictures here.) was quite large and included lots of floor space and lots of shelves, our current living arrangement just does not allow for this sort of space. However, we work hard to ensure that Q-ball still has lots of options for exploration.  Here's what we've done.

1.  Find unique spaces for small shelving units.  As the high temperatures here have been over 100 for the past few weeks, we really didn't see the need for a fireplace.  So, Q-ball's primary prepared environment is a converted fireplace.

2.  Use nooks and crannies. Q-ball's writing/art table is in a small corner near natural lighting and her reading/music shelf fits perfectly next to our family media shelf.  

3. Use Large Baskets.  Baskets are a key feature of any Montessori design.  However, in our small space, I've found that larger baskets are critical as they can easily be placed on the floor for use and then shifted to another place depending on the activity and how many people are in the room at any given time.  We have a basket for stuffed animals, blocks, balls, and a train set.

 3. Squeeze items into their "true" location.  Q-ball's kitchen materials (with the exception of her knife) are always assecible in the bottom of our pantry, and Q-ball's set to bathe and care for her stuffed animals along with her personal makeup bag are under the bathroom sink.

Montessori Monday

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watch Her Grow...

Showing off her kefir mustache.  She loves her kefir!
Interactions with Materials
  • Given that we are just one or two weeks away from Baby, we have been getting out some items to prepare.  Q-ball has loved placing her animals in the carseat, the co-sleeper, and the swing.  She's also loved washing diapers and clothes for the new baby.
  • Q-ball is training for her first race!  A 1/4 course for 0-5 year olds!  She is very excited and often will just start running, clearly focusing on pumping her arms.  She loves saying, "I'm going on a run like Daddy!" 
 Interactions with Others 
  • She is really trying to reach out and play with other children her age (most times...)  She typically likes to observe play for a long time before diving in.  At church a few weeks ago, all of the children started to run in circles following the service.  This was perhaps Q-ball's favorite activity to date, and since that week she has started running after church, working to try to get the attention of all of the other children.  She'll often get one or two followers, but not all of the kiddos.  
Critical Thinking
  • Q-ball continues to be deep into her imagination exploration.  As grandmas are on their way soon, it's important for them to stay on their toes to figure out if they are talking to the lifeguard, the engineer, the mailman, the gorilla, or Daddy.
  • She has really become a little comedian. Her current favorite jokes include: pulling out pajamas to wear during the day; telling me that she wants to go to the library, park, grocery store, etc. after we've just left or when she knows that we are going elsewhere; or, saying that she is ready to eat lunch and take a nap when she knows it's not time for these activities. 
Practical Life
  • We have finally become more formal with Q-ball's clean-up routine.  She has a "cleaning station" that she uses to spray and wipe up the counter after she eats a snack.
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what the other kiddos are up to! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to Store Toys in a Small Space

         I don't think I've ever been to a Montessori blog or site that shares posts about what is currently on the shelves in their home.  Every month or so, there are tons of new, awesome materials for the child to explore.  This certainly is one of the few things that causes the "keeping up with the Joneses" plague to strike me. I want to get everything I see! But, as I've started to collect materials, I've often wondered, where are all of the items that are out of rotation?  With the neatness and organization stressed within Dr. Montessori's philosophy, I have to assume all of the materials are neatly tucked away.

         But, I must confess, my out-of-rotation materials were a giant mess! We live in a smallish apartment with extra storage, so I ended up throwing things here and there.  In addition to looking terrible and taking up tons of space, it made material rotation time a huge headache.  So, I decided to re-organize. 

This is what everything looked like when I pulled things out of the closets:  AHHHH!

Here are the steps I took to clean up: 

Things were too out of hand to do a true "before" shot, but this is in the beginning stages.
  1. Throw away "Happy Meal Toys."  True, we've only gotten one happy meal for Q-ball (who subsequently lost the accompanying toy about 1 hour later somewhere in the car...), but we've gathered tons of small favorite-toys from birthday grab bags to awesome finds at the park. I got rid of pretty much all of these toys as they really aren't in line with any of the goals for our shelves.
  2. Group items by type.  My previous problem was when I was looking for a certain object, I didn't know where to start looking.  I'd tried labeling boxes, but as I was consistently rotating materials, the labels didn't do much good.  By grouping items by generic type (sensory, puzzles, blocks, music, bead activities, etc.), I can still label my boxes. 
  3. Package items individually, when possible.  Here, I grouped blocks in paper bags and reused boxes.  I have also seen people use the plastic, zipper bags that come with new sheet sets and mattress pads for this task- that way you can see inside!
  4. Label boxes.
  5. Find a place to stash. This step has been the toughest for me given our current storage limitations.  For larger items, I used large storage tubs.  For smaller items, I used a hanging shoe organizer and a larger hanging closet organizer.  

    Montessori Monday

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Practical Life
Sporting her new sunglasses

She loves the bars and rings the most!

Interactions with Materials
  • We are still spending lots of time outside, despite highs that are over 100.  At parks, Q-ball can spend nearly an hour swinging. She likes to switch swings every few minutes, and desperately wishes that another child will come swing with her.  But, she has also enjoyed hanging and climbing, practicing her new moves from tumble class.
  • She has also returned to her old love of reading, while we'd certainly never abandoned reading, we had very few days where we were sit and read for 20-40 minutes. Now, she's loving doing this again.  Maybe it's the heat!
Interactions with Others 
  • She is typically excited to meet new people nowadays.  She even shared a huge hug with another girl in her tumble class, leaving them both on the floor.
Critical Thinking
  • It's amazing to me what Q-ball notices and remembers.  When we are driving, she'll tell me which direction to go, and she'll tell me where I could turn if I want to go to the library or the grocery.  
Practical Life
  • After much work, she has become quite proficient at putting on her shoes.  It's also helped that we did buy the next size shoes, but these are still a bit too big and fall off at times. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Placenta Encapsulation III: Breastfeeding Help

This is the third post of this Science Friday series which explores placentophagia- the act of eating the placenta after birth. While this can take several forms for humans, one of the most common is through placenta encapsulation. This post analyzes several theories that have been proposed as the cause of placentophagia.  Check out the other posts here.

       The placenta plays an invaluable role in breastfeeding. Indeed, in all cases of lactation, whether placentophagia is involved or not, it is the birth of the placenta that initiates the body’s production of milk.   This afterbirth triggers the productions of hormones that start the production of breast milk.  (Lieberman, 2011) In Traditional Chinese Medicine, placentophagia is used to foster the mother and baby’s breastfeeding relationship by increasing the mother’s milk supply.  Recent studies have sustained this belief by demonstrating the placenta’s power in increasing milk supply. 
                Using mothers with whom doctors anticipated breastfeeding difficulties, researchers at Charles University in Prague, demonstrated that consuming the placenta increased milk production.  In this study, 210 mothers who had recently given birth consumed dried placenta within a period of two days.  Some mothers completed treatment immediately following delivery, while one mother waited two months to start treatment.  No mother experienced any negative symptoms, to include stomach pains or nausea.  In fact, some mothers enjoyed the taste!  Over 30% of mothers saw an increase of one ounce of milk in one feeding, and nearly 56% saw an increase of at least .7 ounces in one feeding.  The finding indicate that these early successes in breastfeeding continued, and many of the women in the study breastfed for many months.
                While these results are clearly a boon for mothers who want to breastfeed, the researchers findings do not immediately demonstrate what about placenta causes an increase in milk production.  Knowing that placenta is a high source of quality protein, the researchers gave another group of woman beef in a form identical to that of the placenta.  However, only one-third of these women experienced an increase in milk production, far less than the group that consumed placenta, leading the researchers to agree that the protein is not the source of the milk increase.  Using urine tests that measure progesterone and other hormones in postpartum women, the researchers currently believe that the hormones in placenta are the primary cause of increases in milk supply. 
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