Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Give Your Bathroom a Montessori Makeover

Nearly every room in our home has a bit of Montessori inspiration in it.  Our bathroom is no exception!  With the amount of use and play it gets, the changes we've done are totally worth it.

(corporate lingo ahead)

Let's first "align-on-the-principles" : Montessori pays careful attention to creating an environment that encourages children to learn through exploration and independence.  If you think of these two things for a child in a bathroom, you'll find big and small ways to make a difference.

Here's our "before" picture when we moved in:
Goodbye 1970s tiles!

We made everything white to bring the bright sunshine in:

Notice that we kept that low wall separating the shower area?  We knew we would share this bathroom with kids someday, so that was going to be their makeshift bathtub in there.

The orange potty seat marks her official moving in to share the space when she turned two.  Little did I realise that we would soon happily turn the space over to her.  Why?  Because we wanted to sleep. 
At three years old, getting up in the middle of the night to help her pee was getting very old very fast.  When Awesome Guy found this at half-price off, he couldn't resist getting it installed:
A teeny toilet - independence down to flushing by herself!
Granted that we could only do this because we had a master's bathroom for ourselves, but this teeny toilet changed everything.  At six years old, her bladder still wakes her up at night - so far that toilet has paid for itself by giving me three years of full sleep.

 It was strangely fascinating to see this little person do everyday grown-up things.  I always love watching Montessori classrooms because of that.  So I guess we got hooked.  

A year later, when we needed to switch out the sink because cockroaches would hide under the pedestal, we found out that the pipe fixtures were low enough to transfer our old master's sink at kid-height.  So here's what happened next:

A lowered sink!
Since we used an adult-sized sink, the basin was large.  Even at its lowered height she needed a step stool until she grew tall enough to reach the mixer handle.

But an adult-sized sink means a wide basin for play!
She loves bringing her baby bath over to make a mini bubble bath

Here's a tour of the little DIY-touches that make our space constantly evolving as she grows.

First the sink area:

The sink area : entirely functional for independent hygiene
... Or a creative art idea
... Or a flashcard lesson.

The toilet area:

Within reach and easy to press down for little fingers
The area in front of the toilet has a towel to wipe after she uses the bidet;
plus extra hooks for storage all at kid-height 

The wall above the toilet converts adult towel racks into an open storage area.  I leave the green night light on for safety when she pees while we're asleep ; the yellow light is for my light fetish at night.

The shower area has these kid-height shelves and more hooks for toy storage.  You can tell we've got some usual bath time and play time rituals by the stuff we keep handy:

 Our bath and shampoo double as our play tools, and I like having them out handy to teach her to wash herself... and everything else.  It's part Montessori, part fun.  This is also the reason why I chose not to use a hugely expensive brand and turn into a control freak over dosage.

For obvious reasons today, I love Johnson's Baby with a passion.  Hahaha - call it fate!

I know it may seem like a lot of fuss over a bathroom, but for our home it's made such a difference.  I still smile when she announces, "I have to make pee!" and races off by herself.  I still love to see her exploring play in the shower area (here and here and here).  Her playmates love coming over and using the bathroom effortlessly.   

And... I 

That's the guided tour, folks.  Try a little (or a lot) of Montessori in your bathroom!

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Leave a Valentine-Making Station

Ever since Ladybug Girl turned old enough to understand Valentines day, we've made cards.  Just cards.  You would think that with all the craze and craft ideas out there, I would cook up something fancy.  

Nope, I've stuck with cards.  Here's why.

Materials are cheap and plenty:  

paper, stickers and pens.  bam.

 It makes for great no-brainer floor time together after work:
Doing it together models the practice, and the value of thoughtfulness

And best of all - you've got an instant high-interest activity tray for leave-behind play!  If you didn't know this yet, I love a good activity that Ladybug Girl can have fun learning with while I'm at the office.  There's a whole gallery built on this here.

In our early years, I started leaving behind super-simple card-making prompts like this:

that started out as a blank card, pink and red pencils, and cool stickers

A year older, I began to leave a box for letter-making.  Which she later filled with her finished cards and marked for the occasion:

The "Val(entine's) Day Box" : so special, she wrote in real letters instead of her then-usual scribbles.

Growing collection inside the box.
You can tell she wasn't big on handwriting then, but she brought the box to school and handed valentines out to her classmates

This year, to encourage her to actually write words on the cards, our card-making station looks like this:
We had all these materials in her art shelf, just now repurposed for Valentines

The top reason I've stuck with card-making year after year?  I see how she's grown better at it.
First her handwriting:

But best of all, her thoughtfulness.
This year I'm amazed how she had personal insight into each person she chose.

Raj gets the minecraft card; Allie gets her favourite cookies all over hers; and so on.

Sometimes the simplest traditions are the best, don't you think?

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Our Last Year At Montessori Preschool

January is when application submissions for our next school choice begin.  In a few short months, Ladybug Girl will be leaving Montessori preschool behind.  

I'm already homesick.  

Pre-school has been the best time so far.  Watching her discover the world has made me genuinely enjoy her company when we play.  So innocent.  Too fleeting.

Her last birthday ceremony at her Montessori pre-school.  She's blowing out the candle representing the sun.
A couple of months ago, she turned six.  I had been noticing her beginning to change, so much so that I freed myself from blogging-related commitments to devote to getting to know this new person emerging.

The physical changes were only a small part.

She has new play patterns : far more independent from me and far more imaginative.  When I ask if she wants to play together, "no thanks" is now among her possible answers!  Complete turnaround.

Lately I've been reading further along this Montessori book for some insights on her age group to confirm my suspicions somehow.  I'm amazed once again by how insightful the work of Maria Montessori was:  children from birth to five years old learn about the physical environment around them and that's why so much play is focused on sensorial learning (as we have).

But children from six to twelve years old are now expanding skills to explore life beyond the present moment - that means emotionally, historically and imaginatively.  These changes were the bigger part.

Lately she's been getting lost in pretend-play for an hour and beyond

Reading chapter books now.  She'll read quietly in bed for a while and then I'll read a chapter out loud before lights out.

Writing out secret codes and excluding me from the action

So to tell you the truth, maybe I'm also a little homesick for the way we used to play.  So interdependent, like a team.  But I know my little girl will always keep building her personality onto the one I helped form.

Now as I get to know my little blooming girl a little bit better everyday, my parenting methods will change but my style will be the same.  To have hands-on, do-it-yourself parenting and (dare I say it?) no regrets about having a career.

Now how do I get through writing about a thousand ideas and pictures of backlog alongside these new insights - I have no idea yet.  In time, in time.

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

How I Get In The Picture Now

Every year I make a video compilation for my daughter's birthday.  It's a great, cheap way to look back and tell a story of the year that was.  The problem is I'm hardly ever in the story.  Nowadays I'm behind the camera.  Being a mom.  

My husband, however, could win Father of the Year thanks to my thoughtful art direction.  But no longer!  Last Sunday we went to the Christmas Light Show at the Ayala Triangle and took this:

This is why I love the Go Pro camera!  I was holding the discreet monopod just six inches away from my face, pointed towards Ladybug Girl.  The view is so wide, it's perfect for getting mom in the picture.  
I also don't look ridiculously self-conscious taking a selfie of myself. 
My new favourite mom gadget
Yes, I'm far from the target market of athletes.  (Far. Very far.)  But look, how useful it's turning out to be!  I won't go into specs here anymore, but it's just been an all-around delight for me in terms of sound and video quality.  The wide effect took time to get familiar with but it gets me some great tight shots I wouldn't normally get with an ordinary camera.
I even promised myself I wouldn't stress about how I'll look on video.  After seeing myself as we opened day 19 of our advent calendar first thing in the morning, it's given me some motivation to make an effort.  Under-eye concealer will be my friend.
Here's a test video of the first time I used the Go Pro on us :

Our next year's story will finally be complete!

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Do you get in the picture?  I'd love to know how.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Eyes of Wonder

You know that look of first-time wonder on your child's face you want to freeze in your mind forever?

I have.

"This wonder is what I put into the world.
It is what I was born with.

Eyes that see the wonder in everything.
 Eyes that see lights in the trees.
And magic in the air."

| Rise of the Guardians

May you have a very very long, wonder-filled childhood, sweet cheeks.
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