Sunday, December 10, 2017

Preschoolers Learning about Calendars - days, weeks, months - oh my!

The preschool years are a great time for kids to start learning about the calendar. Many parents have wondered how teaching preschoolers about the calendar impacts their learning. The good thing to know is that your preschooler will benefit from opportunities to learn more about days, weeks, and months.

How to Introduce Calendar Time
One way to introduce calendar time into your child's routine is to make a calendar, either using poster board or felt or wood for greater durability. Asking your child questions about what day of the week it is, was yesterday or will be tomorrow is a great way to generate interest in the days.

Going With an Interactive Option
Instead of focusing on individual weekdays, you might prefer to use a calendar that focuses on the numerical dates. This is an interesting way to help spark your child's interest in numbers and make sure they recognize them easily. This method is a fun way for your child to learn to count down the days til their birthday or a holiday.

Take Advantage of Dry Erase Options
A dry erase board is a fun way to make a calendar that is fully customizable. Your child will enjoy filling in the squares with activities they're looking forward to for that day. Don't be surprised if he or she takes the initiative and starts filling in the calendar out of their own initiative.

Use the Calendar for a Matching Game
This option works best if you have the calendar filled out and have index cards with matching numbers handy. The object will be to have your child match the card numbers with the numbers on the calendar. Your child will be able to identify and match the numbers with total ease after a few tries.

Use Pictures for Greater Impact
Drawing pictures inside the calendar boxes helps put activities into the proper perspective. For example, pictures of pizza and ice cream can help remind kids that going out for these treats is part of the day's fun. Drawing a house with the name of one of your child's friends next to it can be a playdate reminder.

Even though specific days may be a vague concept for preschoolers, using a calendar will make it easier for them to put everything into perspective. Your preschooler will look forward to fun events in his or her life and learn from their anticipation.  Using an interactive approach to teach your child falls right in line with the Montessori Method that our teachers use at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see how incorporate interactive and hands-on learning into our daily curriculum.

Creative Preschool Holiday Party Food Ideas

The holidays have officially begun, and that means it's time to start passing around the snack plate. So if you have a party for your preschooler coming up, here are some fun and creative ways to celebrate with festive food and snacks.

No. 1 - Snowman Juice Boxes

If you're looking for something simple, fun, and creative – these snowman juice boxes are perfect for you.
Here's what you'll need:
  • Juice Boxes
  • Thick Construction Paper
  • Sharpie
  • Buttons
  • Glue Gun
  • Ribbon for Scarf
Once each juice box is dressed up for the occasion, simply pack them up and enjoy watching all the happy faces once you reveal them to the party.

No. 2 - Rice Krispie Christmas Trees

Turning Rice Krispie treats into Christmas trees is the perfect snack to bring to your preschooler's party. And best of all, they are easy and fun to make with your kids who will love adding the frosting for garland and candy for ornaments.
Here's what you'll need:
  • Rice Krispies Cereal
  • Butter
  • Marshmallows
  • Green Food Coloring
  • Miniature Reese’s Cups
  • M&M Minis
  • Candy Stars
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Milk
  • Corn Syrup
For a full tutorial on how to make these Rice Krispie Christmas tree snacks, click here.

No. 3 – String Cheese Snowman

For something super fast but still festive, try making these cute string cheese snowmen with just the supplies you have laying around the house.
Simply draw on the snowman's face and buttons with a sharpie, use a small piece of ribbon for the scarf and then some black scrap paper for the hat. And because it's such an easy holiday snack, your kids can join in on the fun when creating them!

No. 4 – Snowflake Oreo Cookies

Who doesn't love Oreo cookies? But when you add sparkling white snowflakes on them with a blue background, these ordinary cookies turn into something extraordinary - with little effort on your part.
To make this yummy holiday snack, you'll need:
  • Oreo cookies
  • White chocolate
  • Edible white pearls
  • Sparkling sugar
  • Marshmallow fondant
  • Corn syrup
  • Paintbrush
  • Circle cutter
For a full set of instructions on how to create these snowflake Oreo cookies, click here.

No. 5 – Fruit Grinch Kabobs

If you want to bring a healthier snack to your preschooler's holiday party without being boring, try making these colorful fruit Grinch kabobs.
Just round up the following ingredients and shape them into the adorable Grinch kabobs you see here.
  • Green Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Toothpicks

The truth is, you don't have to spend a ton of time or money to create fun and festive snacks for your preschooler's party. The holiday snacks on this list are quick and easy, but they're still sure to bring a smile to everyone's face.  The teachers and staff at Montessori Children's House encourage parents to work with their students in creative activities outside the classroom, including being creative with food!  Schedule a tour of our Montessori classrooms before the winter break! 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fun Map Activities to teach your Preschooler about Basic Geography

Geography is a challenging subject for many school-age children, and part of it may be not being taught enough of it at an earlier age. Perhaps because so many adults find geography difficult and unexciting, they're unlikely to find fun ways to teach it to younger children.

Here are a few ideas for making geography memorable for your preschooler, not to mention fun for both of you!
  • Puzzles: There are many geography puzzles that make geography easier and more fun to learn. For instance, you could get a floor puzzle of the United States to help kids learn where all the states are, or even a map of the world to help teach the locations of major countries and give your child a sense of scale of the world we live in.
  • Geography Bingo: Make or buy Bingo boards with states, countries, rivers, mountain ranges, or other features. For younger kids, you can randomly call out the names on their boards, or even make their boards the pictures or shapes of the states instead of the names. For older or more proficient kids, you can make it more challenging by making it into a memory game. For instance, you could call out the capitals, and they would have to choose the corresponding states on their board.
  • Geography Twister: Get an old flat sheet at a thrift store or repurpose one from your own closet for this fun game. Using a permanent marker, draw a map of the US or the world on the sheet. Your preschooler will love to help by coloring in or painting the states or countries. Also make a deck of cards with the names of states or countries on them. Shuffle and draw the cards one at a time to tell your kids where to put each hand or foot.
  • Hopscotch: Grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside to play this fun game! Draw a simple map of the United States, the continents, or whatever other geography you want to teach. When your child plays hopscotch on the map, they have to name each state they hop in.

Learning geography doesn't have to be either boring or difficult. These fun games will help your child better remember basic geography such as the US states, European countries, or continents. At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus, our teachers incorporate hands-on and interactive learning techniques throughout the subject areas, including geography.  To find out more about how our Montessori program works, contact us today to tour our school.

What to Expect: Parent-Teacher Conferences at a Montessori School

Most Montessori schools hold periodic parent-teacher conferences, under one name or another. Each conference is a short, personal dialogue between parents and classroom staff, aimed at improving the performance of the children, or working out a plan to incorporate the home environment into the Montessori method. Neither you nor your children are on trial, and the meeting should not be thought of as any sort of mark against your kids. The idea is to keep you informed and in the loop.

You’re On The Same Team

Before you even head out the door for your first parent-teacher conference, remind yourself that you and the classroom staff are both interested in the best outcome for your children. Before you become defensive, take a moment to hear out the instructor and consider what they are trying to say. Having a united front between the parents and teachers provides children with an example that education is an enjoyable part of life.

Communicate and Inquire

The student guide, as teachers may be referred to, is going to spend around 15 minutes or so with each parent. During that time, the goal is to communicate to you any strategies being looked at to assist your child, and you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have in a formalized setting. Keep in mind that your children are the focus of the meeting, and prepare yourself accordingly.

The Montessori Environment

If the meeting is held inside your child’s classroom, the teacher probably had to bring in a piece or two of adult-sized furniture. You will notice that most of the room is designed around the perspective of a child. The idea of meeting in a child-centered classroom is to allow parents to experience the way the room is designed around the children’s activities rather being built to adult scale with a few child-sized items. Feel free to ask about any of the items in the class, and how they can be used to teach various lessons.

Your Child’s Strengths and Challenges

The Montessori method is a total life-skills approach to education. During your conference, the teacher will talk with you about the perceived strengths your child has exhibited, and discuss challenges that may need to be addressed. The subject of the conversation may include many different topics, including your child’s behavior, dietary concerns, areas of special achievement, and more. This is a good time to share insights, and ask pertinent questions.

Parent-teacher conferences help you establish a direct involvement in your children’s education. They are a good time to talk about any worries or joyous occasions related to Montessori method. The idea is to keep parents and teachers on the same page, and lay the groundwork for future educational strategies.  To schedule an introductory meeting and get a better understanding of the Montessori method as a whole, contact the Montessori School of Pleasanton today.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

History Lesson for Preschoolers: Pilgrims and Native Americans

Even young children associate Thanksgiving with Pilgrims and Native Americans. However, are there ways to present the Thanksgiving story in a way that's culturally sensitive, accurate and age-appropriate? The good thing to know about this is that it is possible, and by taking these ideas into account when discussing Thanksgiving with your child, he or she will be more likely to have a better understanding of what the day is about.
Among other things that your child will learn, he or she will:
  • Learn a greater respect for those who differ from them
  • Appreciate the value of offering help to and accepting help from others
  • Have a greater understanding of the idea of giving thanks

Read Some Books About Thanksgiving

Two helpful, age-appropriate books for preschoolers are "The Story of Thanksgiving" by Nancy J. Skarmeas and "The First Thanksgiving" by Lou Rogers. Both of these books are age-appropriate and have colorful illustrations that help make everything come to life.

After reading the books, take some time to talk to your child about what he or she learned. Depending on your child's age and curiosity level, you might want to think about discussing why we use the term Native Americans, why the Pilgrims came, and how the local tribes might have helped them find food.

Make a Fun Treat

Preschoolers will appreciate learning about how Squanto taught the Pilgrims to plant corn, especially when taught using an edible example. To do this:
  • Put some chocolate pudding into small cups with crumbled graham crackers on top to represent dirt
  • Place a piece of candy corn into the cups to represent corn seed, with a goldfish cracker or Swedish fish to stand in for the fish used as compost
  • Cover the candy corn and fish with the "dirt", then serve

Discuss Thanksgiving Foods

A preschooler should be able to name the foods they like the most on Thanksgiving. As they name the foods they like, help them learn to categorize them.
  • Is it a type of meat? Explain how Native Americans and Pilgrims hunted for some meats because there were no stores.
  • Are certain foods fruits or vegetables? Tie this in with your earlier corn-related activity and explain that early Americans grew certain foods that we buy now.
  • Discuss certain Thanksgiving favorites that people like now that wouldn't have been present at the first Thanksgiving meal. This can be a good way to discuss the importance of traditions.

Taking time to discuss Native Americans and Pilgrims is a great way to help your child appreciate the significance of the holiday.  At Montessori Children's House, we teach students about every holiday using hands-on and interactive learning techniques.  We enjoy teaching our students through history and encourage them to learn more about holidays through their families own unique traditions.  Contact us today to see our hands-on teaching approach firsthand.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Using Instruments as a Preschooler: Is it too Early?

Childhood prodigies are extremely rare, but the only way to discover one is to give them access to instruments. Instead of pushing your child to be one, consider the benefits of having access to musical instruments, and allow natural talents to emerge on their own. There are other purposes for instruments at early ages, and using instruments should begin as early as possible.

Early Music Appreciation

For many infants, music is the equivalent of auditory bright colors. When a baby hears musical notes that they like, they may become more active, expressive, or even vocal in their own babyish way. Obviously, you cannot expect an infant to play a symphony, but allowing him to touch an instrument and associate that instrument with sound is an important way to encourage his enthusiasm. The goal is not so much to learn how to play the instrument at that age as to give the child a tangible association between music they hear and the instruments which make it happen. Just as children must learn to associate a face with a voice, they are also learning to identify sounds with specific objects.

Brain Development and Music

Few people realize the relationship between music and mathematics, even though the two are very closely entwined. Musical compositions rely on several types of mathematical functions, including timing, spatial concepts, and repetitive patterns which are easily detectable. Even a toy xylophone makes it easy for a young child to discover that identical patterns will produce different results based on the force and timing used to produce the sounds. A young child does not even need to be able to count to form an understanding of how these facets interact.

Learning Musical Concepts

Teaching a child to perceive the underlying concepts of music can begin as soon as the child is able to manipulate an instrument, regardless of their level of motor control. Pitch, timing, and rhythm are all concepts that can be learned, though probably not mastered, before children have learned to talk. Discovering the sounds associated with various instruments is a simple and entertaining game parents can enjoy with their preschooler - no talent required.

Introducing Musical Instruments

It is not necessary to start out with complicated instruments. Even simple bells are a great way to explore tones and help children grasp the link between size and sound, and then they can discover what sounds to expect from different types of instruments. A simple instrument such as a set of drumsticks will allow children to discover a wealth of information about patterns, music, and their own ability to manipulate one to create the other. The process can be very empowering.

Access to musical instruments is an excellent way to both discover natural talent and to assist development of the brain and fine motor skills. Giving a preschooler access to musical instruments is equivalent to giving them a headstart on many developmental skills, and should begin as early as possible.

The Montessori Method encourages children to explore and learn at their own pace, including diving deeper into areas that interest them, such as music.  Incorporating music from a young age can have a positive and lasting effect on students.  Give us a call and set up a tour of the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus today to see how our teachers encourage students to learn through hands-on, interactive learning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Preschool fall fun in the Bay Area

There is no doubt know that the Bay Area is a fun place, but may not have realized how many options are there for preschoolers. This area is filled with attractions that will arouse even the littlest ones' natural curiosity. Taking your preschooler to visit one or more of these attractions is a great way to give them something to do this fall and help them learn something new in the process.

Children's Discovery Museum

There is a wealth of fun for your child to experience here, with over 28,000 square feet of space. The exhibits are a mixture of both traveling and permanent options, and the museum's website even lists related activities that you and your child are likely to want to do at home. This museum introduces children to the subject of the exhibits through experiments, manipulation, exploration, and touch. Just a few of the highlights include a fire engine kids can play inside, block-building, and experiments featuring bubbles and water.

Randall Museum

This museum is very popular with preschoolers and their parents because of the number of hands-on opportunities it offers. Some of the subjects your child will learn about include natural history, science, and arts and crafts. Arts and crafts workshops are offered for several age groups, with preschool classes of particular interest. Some of the other highlights include a scale caboose model, exhibits related to California wildlife, and an earthquake refugee shack replica.

Habitot Children's Museum

This children's museum is of particular interest to parents of preschoolers because of its scaled-down size exhibits. These exhibits are designed with the youngest children, including infants and toddlers, in mind. Some of the highlights include:
  • A Wind Tunnel, providing an authentic experience with wind
  • Little Town Grocery & Cafe, where kids can mimic grocery shopping
  • Waterworks exhibit featuring a water table, river ramp, and pumping station
All of these exhibits combined help create a sense of curiosity in even the youngest preschooler.

Lawrence Hall of Science

One of the things that attracts many families to this museum is its selection of exhibits designed for preschool children. The exhibits are designed to encourage natural exploration, be as hands-on as possible, and also encourage learning about cause and effect. Highlights include a planetarium, a gravity wall, and a place to design raceways. Exciting workshops will keep your little one wanting to come back.

All of these attractions are some of the best places for preschoolers in the Bay Area. You can be sure they will arouse your child's curiosity and spark their imagination.  At Montessori Children's House, we teach the Montessori Method through hands-on learning.  We encourage parents to take their children to interactive and exploratory museums to further foster the Montessori Method outside of school.  To learn about the hands-on activities we incorporate into our curriculum on a daily basis, schedule a tour today.