Monthly Archives: February 2012

Montessori Monday–Polishing Silver

Polishing Silver 1

Sometimes, I feel like the Montessori Method is just an excuse to use my three-year-old as a slave! Not really, but it still is a bit hard to wrap my head around the fact that Dora considered polishing silver to be one of the most fun things that she has done in her entire life. Part of this was that the silver we polished was baby spoons, forks, and knives that are in my silverware pattern and that my older children had received as baby gifts and were very tarnished after so many years (my silverware is not actually silver and I use it daily, I’m not sure why they made the baby versions out of silver). Since we polished them, Dora has been using them every day. She loves having access to small versions of the regular silverware. She has even been using the small baby spoons (most of the spoons are actually what I would call junior spoons). As a side note, if you were ever given baby silverware that matches your pattern, I find that they work great for serving things like petite pickles, chutneys, hors d’ouevres, etc.

Pink Tower - Brown Stairs Extension

We also did some brown stair/pink tower extension work. Honestly, I could spend all day playing with the pink tower, brown stairs, and knobless cylinders.

Geometric Solids 1

Finally, I was moving the geometric solids and Dora saw the box and asked to see what was inside. She has really enjoyed them. I was quite surprised as she has heartily resisted my efforts to introduce her to the geometric cabinet. Perhaps, I am introducing them in the wrong order? It seemed logical to me that 2D shapes would come before 3D, but clearly Dora begs to differ.

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Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–The Human Skeleton

X-rays 1

This week, Dora and I continued to look at the human body, this time focusing on the skeleton. We started off the week by reading two good books about the skeleton. The first was Jessica’s X-Ray.

The book’s illustrations aren’t the best, but it includes several real x-rays in it. In addition to traditional X-rays, they cover MRI’s, CT Scans, and ultrasounds. I had no idea that the book covered ultrasounds, but it was so nice that it did, because the next day found us at Children’s Hospital getting an ultrasound of Dora’s kidneys! It was really great, because she knew exactly what to expect. The technician had never heard of the book, but was really impressed with Dora’s understanding of the what to expect.


I will warn you that if you decide to use this book, I personally found the MRI image a bit creepy, as you can see the person’s eyeballs. Dora was not afraid of it at all and she is very sensitive, so maybe it’s just me, but I felt I should give you all a head’s up that it might scare some children.

We also read the book Bones: Skeletons and How They Work. This book was aimed at somewhat older children and some of the pages scared her, so I ended up setting the book aside for right now. It looks like it will be an excellent book to come back to at a later date.

X-rays 2

We had fun putting together this skeleton made from true-to-life human x rays. The photo at very top of this post is of the x-ray of the hand on our light table.

Child-sized Masterpieces on Frames

We didn’t get a to particular craft project this week, though, as always, Dora did lots of painting, coloring, collaging, and other art forms on her own. She has lost interest in the Child Size Masterpieces series of art matching cards (probably because she has maxed out all the cards that don’t require reading to do and hasn’t had any new cards to match for months). I even took the cards out of their folders and displayed them on easels in an effort to make them more enticing, but no such luck. So I brought out some books that I had left from Gohan. I have very few materials left from Gohan as I didn’t want to save many things for ten years. I only saved a select-few, very-special items. One of which was the Katie art series. This series of books is about a little girl named Katie, who frequently visits the art museum with her grandmother. Every time she is at the museum, she slips away from her grandmother and climbs into some of the paintings. Through her adventures in the paintings, children learn a about art history and appreciation.  I had worried that the series would be a bit too advanced for Dora as Gohan was a few years older when I read them with him, but Dora loved the book I set out. I only set out Katie and the Mona Lisa and plan to set out one new book a week as long as Dora is interested in the series (or until we run out of books, whichever comes first).

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore and…

Toys In The Dryer     abc button Classified: MomFor the Kids Friday

Science SundayNo Time For Flash Cards

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Preschool, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

DIY Bendy Fairies

DIY Bendy Fairy

I found this great tutorial for making bendy dolls and I thought they would be a great step up for Dora in her small doll play. She currently has a dollhouse where the dolls only move at the waist and shoulders. I wanted her to be able to have her dolls be able to sit, hold onto things, etc. As Dora has recently been introduced to Tinkerbell movies, I also wanted more of a floral fairy look than the tutorial uses, so I used an artificial flower for the skirt and left the embroidery floss plain for the shirt. I also hot-glue gunned on some wings that I cut off from some artificial butterflies that I found on sale. Overall, I was happy with the end result, given that this was my first bendy doll, though I want to work on making better faces in the future and I’d like to hide the pipe cleaner in the hair better.

Later, I found a book from Klutz that offers some different approaches to making flower fairies. What I liked most about this book, however, is that you get tons of flowers with it. It is just one ring/petal for each flower, but that’s all you need for a skirt. So instead of spending a fortune on buying artificial flowers, you just buy this book and have enough flower rings/petals to make tons of flower fairies.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Priming the Primroses

Vivi Planting Primroses 2Last week, while Dora’s kidneys were well and before she caught Gohan’s cold, we had a bout of mild weather. So we made a run to the nursery and stocked up on primroses. Dora picked out all the colors, dug the several holes, and planted many of the plants. She is very proud of how colorful our front yard looks. Now I just hope that we don’t get anymore snow!

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–The Human Body

Vivi Checking Her Heart

This week we studied the human body, focusing on the heart for Valentine’s Day and the kidneys so that Dora might understand a little bit about what has been making her so sick. We used See Inside Your Body, which kind of scared Dora at first, but by the end of the week, she was fine with all of the pictures except the muscles one. I really liked the number of lift-the-flaps the book has, I’m not sure if she would have been engaged by the book without them. I kept things simple and only read the main text and what was under each flap. I also gave her a real stethoscope. She has a couple of play ones for her doctor kit, but was very excited to get a real one and went around checking everyone’s hearts. The photo above is of her checking her own heart. If it isn’t obvious, she has started picking out her own clothes, and she loves mixing and matching prints! I have matured some as I have aged, so I am able to let her enjoy doing this, during this time when she can get so much joy from matching her favorite clothes without the self-consciousness that comes for most of us as we age. I wasn’t so mature with Secunda and Tertia and have always regretted suppressing their creativity in that aspect. I was fine with them mixing and matching at home, but always made them chose matching outfits if we went in public. Now, I could care less if people care about Dora’s wild combinations.

We also read The Valentine Bears, which is about a couple of bears who set their alarm clocks for February 14th,  so that they can celebrate Valentine’s together. It was written by Even Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett, so you’ve got an award winning duo there, but I didn’t feel that it was an award-winning book. I’m a bit of a cynic about Valentine’s Day, however, and I think that greatly altered my outlook. The older I get, the more I want to rebel against the holiday altogether.

Of course, we did one requisite Valentine’s Day craft. When Dora wasn’t looking, I colored a white heart on watercolor paper. Then I told her that if she painted the paper, my secret Valentine to her would be revealed. She started painting with the watercolors and could see the heart being revealed, but I finally had to guide her to paint on the outside more as she was about to rub a hole in the paper trying to get the paint to stick on the heart! She was so impressed, she had me do some other secret messages and I showed her how it was done then. I still had to work with her to get her to paint on the borders of the images more than trying to force the image to appear by painting heavily on the crayon resist part.

Heart Crayon Resist

Though her kidney/bladder infection was controlled most of the week by antibiotics, she caught a bad cold from Gohan, so we did not go on any fieldtrips this week. We see the pediatrician on Monday, so will hopefully have more answers then.

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore and…

Toys In The DryerChestnut Grove Academy  Shibley Smilesabc button Classified: Mom

Science Sunday

For the Kids FridayNo Time For Flash Cards


Labels: Arts and Crafts, Preschool, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Mondays–Language Trays

Catergories Tray

Last week, I ended up setting out several trays to occupy Dora while my finger healed. One of the trays was what I call a “language tray”. I don’t know if these are actually a Montessori thing or not, but they seem like they should be and they use Montessori materials, so I am calling them Montessori. A lot of materials for teaching language are on paper – cards, lotto games, worksheets, matching puzzle pieces, etc., but Dora has made it very clear to me that she is only interested in truly hands-on learning. She has rejected all of the puzzles and lotto games, turned her nose up at flashcards and worksheets, and generally made it clear that paper is not useful to her for learning language skills (unless it is in the form of a book). At the same time, she evidences some of the problems with language that both Primo and Gohan struggled with at this age and they both ended up having language processing disorders. So I am trying to work a lot on language skills with her. Right now, I am trying to get her to map words using as many neural pathways as possible (i.e. an apple can be associated in the brain as a fruit, as something associated with the fall, as something red, as something roundish, as a type of pie, etc.). The more neural pathways a person uses to access language, the easier word retrieval is and the more fluent speech is. So first I made a go-togethers tray, with simple objects that go together (i.e. moon/sun, bat/ball). This tray proved to be a real challenge for her and I realized that I needed to step backwards a bit. So I made a categories tray instead, using four objects for each category and having three categories on each tray. She struggled a bit at first, but is getting the hang of it now.

Alphabet Box

For the objects, I simply used objects that I have in our alphabet box. I first read about alphabet boxes on Counting Coconuts, when Dora was about one-years-old. I knew as soon as I read about it, that I wanted to make one for her. So I have been collecting objects for over two years now and have a very extensive collection (we have many more objects than most alphabet boxes have, but I knew I wanted to use miniatures for other language activities, so I bought extra). Mari-Ann, of Counting Coconuts, does an excellent job of telling you how to set up an alphabet box and where you can get miniatures for your box, so if you are looking to set up your box, head on over there. My Boys’ Teacher at What DID We Do All Day? also has an excellent post about other ways to use your miniatures. After reading her post, I’m realizing that I need another storage box so that I can start working on blends and digraphs.

Cutting Necklaces

I also set out a basket of cheap bead necklaces to let her cut them up. She had already cut some of them and had started working on some of her nicer necklaces, so I was hoping that by isolating these beads with the scissors, she would stick to cutting only the cheap beads. I’m afraid that it didn’t work and neither did any of our attempts to talk with her about why she couldn’t cut some things up. She took the fact that she could cut these beads as permission to cut up anything and everything. When she started cutting up the pants she was wearing, we finally had to take the scissors away and put them up out of her reach for a while.

Metal Inset Tray

On another tray, I set out a metal inset with some paper, in hopes of enticing Dora to give the insets a try. It worked like a charm. She immediately started using the insets.

Tonging Marbles

I also put out some tongs with bath dots and showed her how to tong marbles on to the dots. Though it did not present much of a challenge for her, she really enjoyed it, so I still have it out this week.

Cyliners Extension

Finally, we did some cylinder work, putting the knobless cylinders in the knobbed cylinder blocks. Dora thought I had completely lost my mind when I first started trying to do this, but she quickly joined in (what she doesn’t realize is that I lost my mind a long time ago, so I don’t have anything left to lose).

How about you? Did you get in any Montessori work last week? I’m linking this post, as always, to Living Montessori Now, your source for Montessori inspiration 24 hours/day, 7 days/week!

Labels: Language Arts, Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool @ Home–Sense of Taste

Rootbeer Store

Dora and I finished up looking at the five senses this week with studying the sense of taste. Ideally, I would have had Dora experiment with the Montessori tasting cups for this unit, but I knew that she would not have appreciated tasting extremely salty, bitter, or sour foods. Since she is so good about taking her various liquid meds, which she absolutely abhors, there was no way that I am going to pressure her to taste anything else that she does not like. So we went on a field trip to The Root Beer Store instead. I have been meaning to go there for ages and this proved to be a good excuse. It did not teach Dora about the various types of taste buds, but it did reinforce the idea of tasting things with our tongue and comparing various tastes. Plus, it was fun! Can you believe that they have 100+ types of root beer, not to mention all of the brands of root beer “cousins” that they carry (sarsaparilla, cream soda, ginger beer, etc.). If you are ever in the Seattle area, they have two stores and host root beer tastings on the weekend.I did have a craft project planned, but was not able to do it, because of the stupid splinter in my finger (read my previous post if you want to know exactly how dangerous splinters can be!). We read tons this week, but the the best book we read for this unit was Handa’s Surprise, which was a really cute and funny book that taught Dora about some fruits that she has not tried yet. We also read Taste (Five Senses). We have really enjoyed this whole series. It teaches about all of the senses at a level that a preschooler can understand. I also really like the illustrations, which border on being Waldorfian (yes, I just made that word up, but it sure sounds so cool – it almost sounds like something out of Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica!).

M and M math

Finally, we read the M&M math book, which I used to love when my older kids were younger, but hated this time around. I am now just much more aware about the fact that we don’t need things like candy to entice children to learn. I also am more sensitive to the nutritional ramifications of using candy in the learning environment. I had not actually planned to buy M&M’s, but Dora really wanted to try the exercises, so I broke down and bought some. She has made it clear that she feels we should have M&M’s every time we read the book, so I am going to discretely dispose of the book sometime this week.

Lightbox with Valentines Gels

We, of course, spent a lot of time playing with our new favorite toy (or I should really say MY new favorite toy), the light box. For starters, we played with some Valentine’s Day tic-tac-toe gel clings on the light box.

Light Table with Mirrors

I also followed Play at Home Mom’s DIY instructions to set up a mirror exploration station for our light box.

KidQuest 9

By this morning, Dora’s new antibiotics were really kicking in, so she wanted to get out of the house. She specifically requested that we go to the Children’s Museum again. It was great to see her have so much more energy this week. She spent so much more time exploring things. We finally had to leave and she had only seen about half of the museum. Boy was she worn out tonight though! The one thing that she spent the most time on was, surprise, their light table! I guess light tables are kind of the new fad (or maybe they’re an old fad and I’m just really slow). I was very disappointed with the quality of the bulbs that the museum uses. You can see above that the light is very yellow and not very strong. They did have translucent magna tiles there, however, which we probably won’t be buying as they are just so expensive and I am not convinced that their learning/fun value equals their price.

KidQuest 6

Dora also spent a lot of time exploring the giant ball run and water table.

KidQuest 12

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore and…

Toys In The Dryer    Shibley Smilesabc button Classified: Mom

Science Sunday

For the Kids FridayNo Time For Flash Cards


Labels: Literature, Montessori, Preschool, Science, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

It Could Have Gone Better–Fairy Tree House


Last weekend, I got it in my head that I was going to make Dora a fairy tree house. I was trying for one that looks like the above tree house from Magic Cabin, which actually is a kit that you assemble. I went out and bought a lot of supplies to build the thing. When I went to the craft stores to buy wood rounds, I had a real hard time finding them. It seems that the craft stores in my area don’t carry them, like they do where other bloggers live. Also, the few that I did find, were all extremely oval shaped, which I did not like. After I got home and sat down with some DIY instructions, I realized that none of the pieces that I had found were large enough to serve as a base. I also learned that working with wood that you find while hiking is a little more complicated than I realized. If you don’t want it to rot or have bugs, you need to treat it. After doing extensive research online, I concluded that there was no way I, personally, could do this project for less money than buying a professionally made one would cost. I would however, spend a lot more time and frustration if I did it myself. So I bagged everything up and returned it.

While buying the items, however,  I got a small splinter in my middle finger on my right hand. It hurt like a dickens at the time, but I was able to remove it fairly easily. The next day, however, when I woke up, it was swollen, pussy, and extremely painful. I washed it, applied Neosporin, and kept it as clean as possible. As the week progressed, the skin seemed to heal, but my finger hurt more and more and swelled to the point that I could no longer bend it. So last night, I finally went to the doctor. They had to drain it (after giving me a numbing injection right into the site, ouch!) and put me on antibiotics. It ends up that they see a lot of patients for splinters, especially in the summer. Who knew!?!?! Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve had a lot of splinters in my 43 years and never had one do anything like this. This only took three days to go from a splinter to major infection, which is kind of scary. There was even discussion of the possibility of my losing my finger if not treated properly!!!!

Anyhoo, I felt that this story was a really good one for my new blog subtheme: “It could have gone better…” ‘Cuz let’s face it, this project definitely could have gone better. And it also is a very good example of why I am not much of a DIY person. Disaster stalks me everywhere I go in the DIY world.

If you are feeling brave or actually have some experience with working with wood, there are some DIY instructions for making play tree houses at (also, the last I read, these people managed to not only build these things, but still have all of their digits, so obviously they have some talent that I don’t):

Apartment Therapy


Childhood 101:


Kinder Days:


Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2012

It’s that time again! The Great Backyard Bird Count will be running February 17 – 20 this year (at least in the USA, last year a blogging buddy pointed out that the date was different in the UK). They have a lot of fun bird watching prizes this year! “What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?” you ask. I’m glad you asked!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

“But, how do I participate?” you ask. You sure do have some good questions today!

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.
2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.
3. When you’re finished, enter your results through our web page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission. (We’ll let you know when that is for 2012.)


Labels: Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Feeling Yucky, But Still Doing Some Fine Motor Work


Dora is still not feeling up to par, so her energy level and patience with new activities have been a bit low. We’re not really sure what is wrong with her. It is beginning to look like she may have some sort of congenital defect of the urinary tract/kidneys. She has always had these off and on periods of running fevers and never really getting sick, but I thought she was just fighting off viruses. I even took her to the doctor a couple of times, but every time I got her there, she’d perk up and her fever would break, so I kind of just got used to it over time. She has always been what I have called, “high maintenance”, never seeming to be comfortable in her own skin. Now it appears, that she may have been fighting off  kidney infections all her life. In early December, she had a fairly obvious bladder infection, so I took her to urgent care and she’s not been well since. At this point in time, she has had three documented bladder infections in the last eight weeks, all different bacterial strains. She has been on antibiotics almost non-stop for the entire period of time. Then in late December, she had a seizure, so we spent weeks trying to determine if she had a seizure disorder. At this point, it does not appear that she has one, but that she had a seizure as the result of another bladder infection that we did not know about at the time. The photo above is of her getting an EEG, which she did not enjoy.  We just got the latest culture results back today and have an appointment in two weeks, where we will be figuring out with her pediatrician what steps to take now as far as further testing and seeing specialists goes.

She is not really laying around and still has periods of bouncing off the walls, but she also has periods when she sort of shuts down. In addition, she has started losing her patience with challenging things and will throw the offending work across the room. Also, as I mentioned last week, she just wants to stay home all day, every day. I am really trying to honor that wish. Being out and about is clearly not comfortable for her. She is needing to be at home with a lot of snuggle time and not stressed by the various sounds, sights, and smells of the outside world.

Stringing Beads

At home, she does stay fairly active, though with more sedate activities most of the time. She has really gotten interested with bead stringing all of a sudden.

Stringing Beads 2

She even went so far as to take some beads that we have for shape sorting and started stringing them on the leaf sticks from her Honey Bee Tree game. So I gave her some pipe cleaners and she really loved putting the beads on those.

Cutting Strips 2

She has also been working with scissors a lot. I made her some cutting strips and put stickers in between the lines. She enjoyed cutting those for one day, but has not expressed any interest since. She seems to prefer just exploring using the scissors in a variety of cutting patterns. She also has started cutting all of the cheapy beaded necklaces that we have into individual beads (the necklaces are like the ones people throw at Mardi Gras). It is no fun cleaning them up, but she is clearly building up some great fine motor skills doing it. We have several pairs of children’s scissors available to her at all times and she uses them all at different times. She started with My First Scissors, which are easier to hold for toddlers, as they do not use finger holes. She then progressed to Maped Koopy Spring Scissors. You can turn the spring off if you want, but the spring is nice at first, so the child only has to close, but not open the scissors. She has more recently started using Fiskars Kids Classic 5-Inch Blunt Tip Scissors, but did cut herself (no blood) once and has been a bit scissor-shy of them since.

I’m linking this post to:

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Montessori, Preschool, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff