Monday, December 10, 2007

Subject Two: The Young Dude

Look at him! Isn't he sweet? Subject two, "Van" to his friends.
This is Van's birth story. It' couldn't be more different from Nuvy's if it tried (see the Obligatory Montessori Birth Story at the very beginning of this blog)

Van, like his sister, gave us a completely uneventful pregnancy, except that it was a little longer than usual (10 days late the first, 9 days the second). Unlike his sister, he then decided to scare the bejeesus out of everyone on his way out.

We are 0 for 2 for birth center births. We were transferred from the birth center to the hospital with Nuvy, after a very long and dysfunctional labor, but decided to try again for the home-y, jacuzzi-equipped, birth center birth of my dreams with baby #2. I had all my prenatal care with the wonderful, WONDERFUL midwives at The Birth Center in Bryn Mawr, PA. Without exception, they rock. Julia, one of my rockin' midwives, delivered Van at Bryn Mawr Hospital, but that's getting ahead of myself.

At 7 days past due, Van got an A+ on his "non-stress test", which is a physiological assessment based on fetal heart rate and movement to determine whether or not the uterine apartment is still up to code. No problem, so no eviction.

Day 9 started busy. Nuvy was scheduled to spend the afernoon with her Baba--my mother-in-law--who was and is my local lifeline when this mommy thing gets hairy (as it does when you're well past due with a busy toddler under foot) so our usual routine was a little accelerated to get ready for the special outing. It was only after Nuvy left that I noticed a weird silence in me belly, and it hit me that I hadn't felt a single squirm or kick all day. I immediately gorged myself on high-octane Indian restaurant leftovers and lay down on my left side (I'm an avid reader of alarmist prenatal literature, so I knew just what to do).

I waited almost two hours.

Nothing. I called.

As I drove myself to the birth center, my mental tire swing oscillated between feeling like an overwrought jackass for asking to make an unsceduled and probably unnecessary prenatal visit in a very busy practice, and wondering what I would say to all the people who kept asking if I'd had "that baby yet", when it turned out that there wasn't going to be any baby after all.

Unable to contain myself, I called my poor husband to share my terror, and told him through my sobs that I was terrified, and that there was nothing he could do. Nice, huh?

When I got to the birth center, it appeared that there was a third possibility I hadn't thought of. They put me in a chair, strapped me to a monitor, and after a couple of minutes of less-than-70 bpm fetal heart rate, the nurse calmly handed me a pillow and told me to get down on my elbows and knees, and someone would get my husband on the phone and get me a car to the hospital.

The birth center office manager drove me to Bryn Mawr hospital, about a 500 foot drive, where I was taken to labor and delivery, gowned, strapped, and IV'd, and it was determined that the baby was happy (heart rate wise) only if I lay on my left side. I still hadn't felt any movement at all, but I took the bouncing green line on the monitor at face value--since that was the best news I'd had all day.

At this point I was not in labor, but was having the kind of piddly little contractions a person (at least this person) tends to have for several weeks before any baby gets around to being born. The midwives and labor nurses discussed various possibilities regarding induction, caesarean, and such, and a doctor whose face and name I still can't remember--it was the first and last time I ever saw the guy--came in and shook my hand and assured me that I would not leave the hospital without a baby. I called my mother, my doula and my husband. The nurse set me up with a potty chair, and told me not to go anywhere. Everyone then promptly left, and I lay there, on my left side, recalling my first (three day) labor and wondering how long my left hip and shoulder were going to hold out.

Incredibly, I started having real, live, serious contractions. Right then. Julia says I willed myself into labor, but I still say it was Van who said, "get me the hell out of here!", and my body complied. My doula called back to say she was in traffic and would be there when she could, my husband called to ask me what he should take to his mother's for Nuvy. I think I said the word "pyjamas" and that this was going to have to be my last phone call, because I didn't think I could talk anymore. He asked some more questions I only half heard. I hung up the phone, since I couldn't think or speak anymore. I think maybe half an hour had gone by since the first real contraction. I labored alone, on my left side, thinking that this was not AT ALL what I had in mind, for what didn't seem like nearly time enough to get the job done.

After a little more than two hours of labor, Van was born. Kent was there for about twenty minutes at the end. Wendy, my doula, was there for the last two of the four pushes it took to get him out. And now, we learned what all the silence had been about:

the knot.

Yes, there was actually a knot in his umbilical cord. See how dark it is above the knot, and how pale below? EEK! Several of the childbirth professionals present had never seen one before. The midwife said she'd seen one or two--ever. But for all that apparent lack of blood flow (which must have tightened up at the VERY end, or ... I can't even think of it), he seemed the picture of health.

To make a too-long story short, he is the picture of health, but there were some complications. In the end, after a five day stay in the NICU and a couple of brain imaging scans, he was pronounced normal-looking and sent home with the same lifetime guarantee everybody else gets.


Friday, December 07, 2007

The Stage 6 Montessori Environment

Jack-O-Lantern Days for the Stage 6 Pumpkin

As those who have almost-two toddlers can attest, the Stage 6 emergent big-kid has a sometimes-maddening taste for making changes. She can make a big plate into lots of little plate bits, or a tastefully fresh-painted wall in a flat (and highly un-scrubbable) shade of barely-there slate grey into a Timothy Leary nightmare in crayon. What follows is the Stage 6 developmental snapshot and environmental supports according to my own Montessori gurus.

As always, I look forward to hearing the opinions of differing gurus, or the disciples of differing gurus, as it lightens the tedium of all these rules. At the time of writing, I have been recently delivered of Subject Two, my second child (three weeks ago) which is a story in itself--but more on that later. on to the Experimental Toddler's raucous romp through Stage 6.

Stage 6 Neurological and Physical Development

At eighteen to twenty-four months, the brain is twice its size at birth. The specialized functional areas of the cerebral cortex are established, and cross-patterning and hand/foot/eye dominance are usually expressed. The Stage 6 child is now capable of carrying out experiments entirely in his head. He is able to imagine an activity and decide its likely outcome without actually carrying it out. As you can imagine, this increases his processing speed tremendously.

He has twenty teeth. The bones are hardening and the fontanelles (soft places on the head) close. Just in time, too, to protect him in his now well-developed mobility. This child can walk steadily, run, hop on one foot, and climb stairs with alternating feet.

Hand-eye coordination is quite good now, and the child can begin to regulate the force of his movements. He can begin to manipulate small or fragile objects, including turning the pages of a book or using a spoon.

He can eat independently, and should practice that independence. He is aware of his body functions, though control of the elimination-regulating muscles may not be fully developed. In some cases, he may begin to express interest in toileting.

Cognitive Development

An eighteen to twenty-four month old child is capable of deductive reasoning. She can examine strategies intellectually, without the necessity of trying each one. Experience and memory—from all her practice with trial and error in the past six months—can be called upon to help with decision making.

She has a strong sense of object permanence, and looks for objects that have been put away, even if some time has passed since she last saw or used the object. She is capable of thinking in symbolic terms, equating a representation of an object with the object itself in processing strategies.

Relating to the developing capacity for symbolic imagination is the development of ludic play—imagining herself in another social role. For example, she may pretend to cook, care for dolls as if they were babies, write letters, use a computer keyboard, or any other “real” aspect of life that she sees as part of an adult role.

Her ability to remember things, symbols, people and conversations is expanding. She will remember the things you tell her now, and hold you accountable for them later.

Emotional and Social Development

A child of eighteen to twenty-four months has a well established sense of self, and an investment in protect that self. He begins to feel fear. He may be afraid of disappearing, of the dark, of loud noises. Related to self-preservation is a strong separation anxiety with regard to significant adults. He remembers dreams and talks about them.

He is beginning to be aware of how he is perceived by others. Emotionally, he feels trust and mistrust, anger, and embarrassment. He understands rules, but will test their rigidity. His play contains elements of abstraction of roles. In play he is not “Daddy” but “the daddy”. He can wait his turn at play.

At this time there is an explosion in language. His expressions change from gestures and nouns to sentences. He learns “I do, I want, I will”. He continues to show interest in the names of things, and begins to make up his own names.

Stage 6 Environmental Supports

Puppets, Dolls and Pets: A toddler approaching two years of age begins to be aware of her role in the family, and to compare it to the roles of other members. She imagines herself in different roles, especially nurturing or caretaking roles. The environment should support these sensitivities by providing opportunities to explore role playing. Puppets and dolls help to create imaginary scenarios and the child can gain experience in nurturing and gentleness from helping to care for a pet. (A baby brother is sort of like the ultimate pet. More on that later.)

Child-size Household Tools: child-size versions of practical tools encourage ludic play. We are talking about kitchen sets, little mops and brooms (Michael Olaf has a great miniature carpet sweeper that is actually useful, in a toddler kind of way), and the old dishwashing station. Nuvy's fancy-schmancy dishwashing station is on her list for Santa, at which time she'll be a week shy of two years old. If you're brave enough to hand this over to an eighteen-month-old (and I know some who are!!) please let me know how that works out for you. We have enough water hazards around with handwashing and sponge-transferring! You can get the officially-sanctioned one from or, or you could have your carpenter (or handy self/husband) copy it and buy your own dish tubs at Target for significantly less.

Transferring Activities:
Fine motor control is sufficiently developed that the child can benefit from transferring activities such as pouring water, and spooning sand or beans (watch those beans-in-the-nose, and stay away from Red-Hots!). You can provide these in a structured way, or you could sit back and watch as your child develops her own transferring activities. Of particular interest to Nuvy have been such activities as transferring cheerios from the bowl to her placemat, transferring pieces of pasta or small bites of sandwiches from her plate to her glass full of milk, and transferring her water or milk from her glass to mine, and back to hers again, or from her glass onto the table or floor, if no second vessel is available.

In setting up formal transferring activities, the orthodox way is to present the activity with the full vessel on the left, and the empty one on the right. This way the child moves matter left to right, reinforcing the left-to-right orientation of written material.

Table Setting: One-to-one correspondence continues to be of interest in Stage 6, and the child can handle more involved tasks in this area, such as setting a table for four, or placing many objects in compartments.

Squishy, Goopy, Messy Activities: The Stage 6 child continues to be fascinated by transformation, so that crushing, dough rolling and artistic activities such as water painting or fingerpainting hold his attention.

Manipulatives: His ability to mentally experiment allows the development of spatial reasoning. Manipulatives and simple puzzles support this development. This is a wonderful time to introduce board books and picture books both to read to him and for him to enjoy on his own by flipping pages and naming the objects in the pictures.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Handwashing For Toddlers

Waterplay On A Mission: Handwashing for Toddlers.

As all you Montessori kids know, washing things is a big part of the Montessori life. Practical life includes "Care of Self" which is basically grooming, the central activity of which is handwashing; "Care of the Environment" which, while sometimes ecology-oriented, usually means washing things and tidying up after yourself; and "Grace and Courtesy" which involves the development of other-regarding habits, otherwise known as good manners, only with philosophy attached. Other-regarding-ness comes back around to hygeine and tidiness, and so there you are at handwashing again. See?

Hence we introduce handwashing as an activity (not just a means to an end) early on. Young infants get a quick wipe from an adult before and after meals and after diapering, but the toddler activity is a big step. When first introduced, handwashing is an annoyingly attractive activity, by which I mean that it's hard to get the child to do anything else besides splash in the water and make a sodden mess of everything nearby.

For this reason, I have seen it omitted from many infant communities (Come on, you know who you are!), and underutilized in many primary communities. Just for fun, Montessori parents, sneak a peek at your child's classroom handwashing station. Check it for dust. If you find it's not being used much, it's because while it's a really great practical life activity, many teachers consider it a colossal pain in the ass. It was always a challenge for me to encourage teachers to use it.

To set up toddler handwashing at home, I give the materials list and "simplified" handwashing procedure below.

Parents of older kids: If you have a child in a Primary Montessori class (ages 3-6), I recommend checking with your primary teacher to get her exact handwashing procedure before setting it up at home. Lessons vary in detail from place to place, and the primary handwashing ("involved" handwashing) has a very specific choreography. If your Montessori teacher is using it, she will appreciate your getting it right.

Materials for handwashing: You can order handwashing stations all set up and coordinated from Michael Olaf or other Montessori sites, but I consider this a silly expense for a home setup. I feel a little differently about dishwashing, but we'll get to that.

1. a low table or washstand. I am using my abandoned weaning table (see "Weenie Whiny, Whoa!)

2. a wide, shallow bowl. Mine is enameled, but you could use plastic or ceramic, depending on your tolerance for replacing broken pottery.

3. a small pitcher, manageable by the child, and with a capacity that will give you an inch or two of water in the bottom of your bowl with only one pour. Same considerations about materials as the bowl.

4. a small piece of soap. I like Burt's Bees baby shampoo bar, because it's solid, non-toxic and doesn't sting if it gets in the eyes. You could also use those little flower-shaped guest soaps, or whatever. just make sure the piece is small, so your child can manage it easily. I do not recommend liquid soap for this activity. I'm sure I don't need to explain.

5. a hand towel on a bar, or two baskets and a couple of hand towels. I find the towel bar more convenient for just our family. I have the station set up next to the dishwasher, which has a little towel bar that is at a good height. If you don't have anything readily available, you could install a bar at your child's height, or use the two-basket method. The first basket is for clean towels, the second is for used ones.

6. A little sponge. Probably half of a kitchen sponge will be adequate. A whole sponge is too big, but you will need enough sponge to sop up some water.

7. A bucket with a handle. This is a running theme in Montessori water activities. It is the "slop" bucket. Children learn early in Montessori school that clean water comes from pitchers, and dirty water is carried in buckets. Yes, it is a job to keep a toddler out of the slop bucket. Just empty it every time they use it.

Montessori teachers will carefully color-coordinate all the elements of the handwashing station, and other stations in their classrooms. In addition to eye-pleasing, this is so that it is easy for a child (or teaching assistant) who is tidying up an activity station to see what goes with what. My handwashing station is made up of cute little things I have on hand, and is not particularly matchy.

I admit that for my own toddler (Nuvy is 17 months old), who has just been introduced to handwashing, I keep the station "dry", that is, with the pitcher empty, and I don't have a water source within her reach. She brings me the pitcher if she wants to wash her hands (saying "hands? hands?"), and I fill it for her and supervise the activity closely. Orthodoxy suggests having a water source (like a drink cooler) within the child's reach, but I am just not ready for that kind of insanity yet. Maybe when we get to dishwashing.

You set it up like this:

Starting at the left, place the pitcher, then bowl, then soap, then sponge on the table. Hang the towel above the table, and slightly to the right. Place the bucket on the floor to the right of the table. (If you are using baskets of towels, place them under the table, basket for clean ones on the left, for used ones on the right). This way, the whole activity moves from left to right (an early preparation for reading, I'm told).

Here's the "simplified handwashing" procedure:

Invite the child to wash her hands. Then demonstrate how it is done.

1. Remove the pitcher from the left side of the bowl. Fill it with water.

2. Pour the water into the bowl. Place the pitcher to the right of the bowl. (If there is room on your table, great. If not, I have seen many people just replace the pitcher in its original place. This kind of thing is a typical point of hot debate among the Montessori gurus I know. Personally, I like to move the pitcher to the right. The reason is below.)

3. Dip your hands in the water, deliberately, and only once. Take the soap. Give it three strokes across your hand (count them aloud) and put it back in its place.

4. Rub your hands together to make a lather however you want (Again, Primary handwashing will choreograph the lathering, but for toddlers, we try to respect their limited patience.)

5. Dip your hands in the water again to rinse. Dip them three times. You can count them aloud, or you can flip your hands over for the second dip ("front, back, front").

6. Take them out, fingers pointing down (so that the water drips away from your sleeves). Dry them on the towel. If you are using towel baskets, put the used towel in the right-side basket.

7. Pour the used water into the bucket, then replace the bowl where it was.

8. Use the sponge to wipe off the table, bowl, and pitcher. After you wipe the pitcher, replace it on the left side of the bowl. (So, placing it at the right side is a visual reminder to clean up the handwashing station. Right?). Replace the sponge, and you're done.

The Words: Montessori teachers usually have words to go with each lesson, but I am not giving you any. You know how to talk to your kid. I would only suggest that fewer words are better than more, because they'll stick out better, and the child will learn them easily. Please do use complete sentences, though. For example:

No: "Wet." "Rub." "Dry." "Wipe"

Yes: "I wet my hands." " Here is the soap." "Now I will rinse." "Now I clean up."

No: "Ok, Sweetie, let's wash our hands now. Are you ready? Ok. Now put your hands in the water like this. Goood! Ok, ok, ok. Now here, here, take the soap--- right! No, like this. Now rubrubrubrubrub, and rinse, and rinse and rinse. Great! Now it's time to dry..."

So, I have got to be kidding, right?

No, I am not kidding. Older toddlers can do this pretty easily after a few tries. Little ones, like mine, should not do this activity over, say, hardwood floors, but perhaps over a shower curtain on the floor. Actually, a big towel under the whole thing will help with the watery mess that an 18 month-old will not have the patience to clean up.

If the child takes off in the middle of the activity, it's ok. Just let it go and clean it up, then do it again another time. I really don't suggest that you try this at a time when your child actually NEEDS to wash her hands, for this reason. If you try to keep her there longer than she wants to be there, you kill the joy of the activity. Getting all the way through takes a while.

If the child just wants to pour water between the bucket and the bowl, I would recommend cleaning up the handwashing and putting out another activity for pouring water between two vessels. I have two bowls and a towel in my kitchen for just that purpose. It happens to me every time.

Good luck and have fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Field Notes from Stage 5

Field Notes From Stage 5: The Rubber-Road Interface at Age 16 Months

This is a post-fragment, but it's come to my attention that my posts are getting pretty sparse, so pardon the abrupt ending, there's more to come.

So, if you had the stomach, you've read the Stage 5 "expected outcomes". If not, you could read them now, by just scrolling down one post (and pinning your eyelids up). All the definitions are there if you need them. Today's post is about our actual experience as compared with the aforementioned expectations. For example, at left we have the Experimental Toddler in her garden, making cross-patterned mincemeat of an innocent stick.

At 16 months, we're squarely in the middle of Stage 5, so it stands to reason that some of the expected behaviors will be evident now, and some not just yet. Here's what we've seen so far:

Hand dominance: She appears to be weakly right-handed. She tends to pick up tools (like a spoon or a crayon) with the right hand, though she will switch if it's convenient. When feeding herself, for example, she reaches for the spoon with the right hand, but will just hold it in her right while shoveling oatmeal into her mouth with the left hand. She will grab a blueberry or blackberry with either hand.

Heterolateral movement: She walks pretty evenly, climbs stairs with both feet sometimes, but doesn't yet swing her arms while walking. She either clasps them behind her back (so like the little pacing dictator), pushes them out behind like a superman cape, or tucks them in at the elbows when walking. I think this is part of why she doesn't corner well at high speeds yet. In general, her running is sort of awkward, as are most of her attempts at heterolateral arm movements. The grannies have both noticed a little inward sickle in the left foot (and raised the specter of orthopedic shoes! I almost threw up. I LOVE shoes!) Yeah, even I can see the pigeon toe. We're going to the doctor in a couple of weeks and we'll ask about it.

Cross-patterning: We are definitely seeing her reach across the midline with ease. She opens and closes doors, reaches across her body for things, and works objects with both hands simultaneously with ease. She can shake hands, and can easily switch the hand she is holding mine with when turning around.

Cycles of activity: Her bedtime and waking time are pretty well set, including her early morning transfer to our bed (promptly between 4 and 5am) and while she is still a little flexible about the actual hour of the clock, she does expect to have sleep-eat-play cycles in a predictable order. Breakfast on waking, then play, then nap, then lunch, then play, then snack, then more play, then dinner, then bath, then bed. Deviations are tolerated as long as we are not at home, but the order must be rigidly followed at the house, or mayhem.

Undressing: She takes off socks and shoes readily, a cardigan sweater pretty easily, and raises her arms or legs to help with a shirt or pants. She does not really undress herself head to toe, as I hear some other kids do. She does run from diapers, though.

Walking and carrying things: Yes, this is a favorite activity. She will carry the biggest (a kitchen stool) or heaviest (an old doorknocker in the shape of a dog) thing she can find. It is a source of great pride for her.

Opening and closing things: Yes, yes, yes! What a colossal pain in the ass to have one's purse and wallet opened and unpacked all over the floor four or five times a day. Trash can lids, toothpaste caps, whatever she can get open, it is open, and if there is anything inside, it will be outside. She likes to replace the lids, but can't really manage screw caps or snap-tops, so hardly anything is really ever closed again.

Resisting new barriers: We have experienced this in a rather textbook way. I pictured her howling at the gates in the new house, which she has not. She accepts them as part of the whole new-house package. The predictable problem we have now is with her outdoor environment, which does not yet have all the physical barriers it should have. She is MOST resistant to being told not to go down the sidewalk and into the street, which is clearly wide open to her. I can't really gate the sidewalk, so we'll just have to work it through. I mean, she seems to get it, she's just not really willingly compliant. Is that news to anybody?

Jumping on both feet: Nuvy does not jump. The neighbors have a little exercise trampoline, and their children love to put her on it, but she just kind of bends her knees a little, to feel the bounce. The feet do not leave the ground at all. I will sometimes catch them "bouncing" her up and down by lifting her under the arms, which is not something I would do, but it's pretty funny to watch. She now bends her knees repeatedly on the bed or trampoline and says "Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!" Maybe she's taking a clue from the immortal words of Tom Cruise, If you can't say it, you can't do it.

Catching and throwing: She loves to play ball, and will devise a ball out of anything (used packing tape is a recent favorite). She is better at throwing than catching, as might be anticipated, but is very interested in both.

Leaning forward on tiptoe: We are definitely seeing this, and she has a very cute little "tippy-toe dance" that she does when she's showing off, but which is different from the sort of Devo-Jerk kind of dance she does to music.

Digging and building: I see more digging than building, but not too much of either. She is not crazy about getting dirt on her hands.

Speech: She's pretty verbal, and uses many words appropriately. I hear that early talking runs in the family. She says "bless you" when someone sneezes, "thanks" when she's giving you something (though, oddly not when she receives something), and "Oh, shit!" when she spills a whole glass of milk in her lap (I don't know where she got that...). She uses the milder "oopsie" or "uh-oh" for water spills and other accidents, as well as for deliberate acts of entropy. She can name all her immediate relatives and most anything she eats or wears, and repeats everything she hears. Everything.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stage 5 Continued

Now Where Were We? Oh Right. Stage 5

Back in January, at the beginning of our adventures in Stage 5, Nuvy was just starting to walk, just starting to say a word or two, and generally behaving as expected for this stage. Then, somebody turned our snow globe upside down (previous post if you're interested in the details...), but now we are beginning to see more clearly again, and are ready to continue describing Stage 5. As ever, if human development bores you silly, just skip to the environmental supports. That's where the "stuff" is.

Note from the mailbag:
I have had a couple of emails asking for books with all this "stages" information in them. If anyone knows of a single source, please post it. I am writing exclusively from class notes and projects, and have not done too much research into the background sources, but it seems that there are lots of different ways to slice this melon, and I'll bet each one has its own library.

I have also had several messages about differences between my panel of gurus and other panels who run other Montessori toddler training programs, and you bet! There are as many disparate ideas on (tummy time, mobiles, mirrors, crying, whatever...) as there are folks who hang out a Montessori training shingle and tell us all THE MONTESSORI LAW. These bother me less and amuse me more, the longer I keep up this project. Anyway, where's the fun in agreeing all the time?

Stage 5 Summary

Stage 5 is defined by my guru panel as the period between 12 and 18 months. Roughly one shoe size, right? The following is a summary of what we expect from the Experimental Toddler at this stage, after that a few environmental additions we've made. Next post, we'll talk a little about what we have actually observed from our E.T. so far.

Neurological and Physical Development
Significant specialization occurs in all areas the brain at Stage 5, and of particular interest is the specialization of the hemispheres (the old "left-brain/right-brain" thing all those Signals t-shirts are always chirping about). This specialization and coordination between hemispheres precipitates:

  • evidence of hand-dominance ("lefty" or "righty")
  • heterolateral movement--meaning alternating movement evenly on both sides of the body, such as stair-climbing with both legs, swinging arms while walking, and other left/right/left/right activities.
  • cross-patterning--or the ability to reach across the center of the body to do something, like shaking hands, opening doors, or grabbing a spoon from the left side of your plate, using your right hand. Follow?

Cycles of activity are getting established, and with this come the old sleeping and eating routines. You might get some speech at this stage, but many times it comes a little later.

New Physical Skills

  • undressing--a variably convenient skill for parents.
  • walking steadily and carrying objects while walking
  • opening and closing things (doors, jars, boxes...)
  • resisting any new barriers--such as newly placed baby gates. Stage 5 children abhor any kind of physical restraint, so if it's not too late for you, go ahead and get those baby gates up long before you think you'll need them. A barrier placed before Stage 5 is likely to be viewed as a natural part of the environment (at least for a little while) while one placed during Stage 5 will probably become an object of resistance.
  • jumping on both feet
  • catching and throwing things
  • leaning forward on tiptoe
  • digging and building

She is really beginning to use her hands as tools, rather than just for locomotion or gazing, and finds that they are pretty useful for things like feeding herself (food and other things).

Cognitive Development

An interesting cognitive milestone is reached at about this time--the Stage 5 child begins to learn from trial and error, and to alter her strategy to accomplish a goal. If she has a goal, and her current strategy for reaching it isn't working, she'll try it another way. Just a few months ago, she would keep trying the same thing over and over until she either succeeded or abandoned the goal altogether.

She can also go back to an interrupted task--another development that is variably useful for parents--at her next opportunity. Just a little while ago, she would have forgotten all about the interrupted activity and gone on to something else.

Repetition continues to be important, but the sequences become more and more comples, so you see building and stacking. She is gratified by creating tall things or lifting heavy things. She can identify familiar objects and people in a picture, and can categorize based on a simple common feature (e.g. same color, different color).

Emotional and Social Development

The Stage 5 child's interpersonal skills acquire remerkable subtlety. She starts to consciously regulate her emotions, and realizes the influence her behavior has on others--particularly her parents. She can curb her anger if there's positive incentive to do so, tests limits, and enjoys applause. She loves an audience and tries on various roles to see how they feel.

She has a strong sense of self and ownership. She can take turns to some degree, but is a long way yet from sharing. She begins to take an interest in other children, often preferring them to adults.

Speech is emerging, and she will name things and remember their names. She experiments vocally with animal sounds and rhythms. she enjoys rhyming as a linguistic point of interest.

Environmental Supports

Space!: The Stage 5 child is walking now, and so needs plenty of room to explore, both inside and out. If you don't have a big yard, go to parks--with and without play equipment. Free movement outside without play equipment is as valuable as climbing and playing on structures. Just make sure there's plenty of outdoor time that's not stroller time. Inside, move those barriers out a bit if you can, take all the breakables off the second (or third) shelf, and let her roam as much as possible.

Language: Naming, naming naming. Collections of things to name are great for this stage. The classic ones are farm animals, fruits and vegetables and the like, but you will find all kinds of things out there. Tools, articles of clothing (doll clothes are good), whatever you can think of.

Sensorial: Opposites are big in this stage. High contrast elements in a variety of sensory experiences should be introduced for matching and comparison. Big and small, hot and cold (not too hot, right?), smooth and rough, hard and soft, loud and quiet, whatever you can think of. A lot of these don't require any new "equipment". You can do loud and quiet with nothing, and just about everything else can be improvised.

Math: 1:1 correspondence appears to be the key concept. Find something with several compartments and put one thing in each compartment (I love those little sock drawer organizers for this. You could even use the socks.). This is where math really begins. After all, without 1:1 correspondence, counting is just language--remembering a sequence of sounds, right? Another great activity for this is doling things out to the family (one blueberry for you, one for Daddy, and one for Mommy), or table setting, if you think your child is up to it.

Care of self/environment (Practical life): With the newfound ability to take off clothes comes an opportune time to introduce cubbies, laundry hampers, hooks, baskets, any easy organizational tool. You might already have introduced tooth brushing and hair brushing. I have decided to convert my abandoned weaning table (see "Weany, Whiny, Whoa!") into a handwashing station.

Grace and Courtesy: When you start to get language that means "give me", you can start expecting "please" and "thank you". Well, expect might be too strong a word, but you can ACT as if you expect it...

The little imitator will do whatever you do, so it's a good time to point out things like covering your face when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands before and after eating. You might also start hearing some sailor-language, if you're apt to use it.

Ok, this post is plenty long, so I'll give you the rundown on my the experimental toddler's actual observed behavior in the next post.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Stage 5 Montessori Environment

13 Months Of Looking At A Chicken:
The Stage 5 Montessori Environment
On January 1st, Nuvy turned one, took her first unsteady little steps, and became what we now know as The Experimental Toddler. It's the middle of February, and I think I'm ready to talk about it.
12 months marks a new phase of development that the gurus call "Stage 5", and that was a month and a half ago. Look at her now! She walks like a champ, even runs a little, climbs EVERYTHING, and generally behaves like a busy toddler.
Stage 5: Stage 5 is the period between 12 months and 18 months, according to this model, so we're sticking with that. If you missed the previous 4 stages, you can summaries of them in the "Stage 3" and "Stage 4" posts. The general trend in Stage 5 is to introduce a fairly wide assortment of new materials to coincide with significant specialization in all areas of the brain.
This post has been sitting around in the "edit" column for two months now, and still nothing. The Experimental Toddler continues to toddle with ever-greater efficiency, speaks fluent baby and knows a few words in English. However, we are moving. The Montessori Laboratory is currently packed in a PODS container in a Philadelphia driveway, waiting to go in the new house.
Further, the Montessori experiment is about to go into overdrive as Subject Two (a second Experimental Infant) is expected this fall. To all of you who asked how this could possibly be done with more than one child, my previous answer was something like "Actually, I have no idea." I will now amend that to "I can't wait to find out, and I'll keep you posted!"
So, for everyone who wrote asking if the Mommybahn had closed for good, it has not. And I'll tell you all about the Stage 5 environment, as soon as I get my notes out of whatever box they're in.