With the winter holidays rapidly approaching, we offer suggestions for some appropriate toys and gifts.
It is easy to over-buy at this time of year. In Duna and Bruce’s family, we choose one gift for each child. When they were little, they would ask for something special. When you limit yourself to one thing, it becomes all the more difficult to decide on the perfect gift. Below is a list of worthwhile toys that most children will greatly appreciate. That the less you give, the more meaningful the gift.
A special place: Parents report again and again that once they go to the trouble to Montessori-ize their home their children become incredibly self-reliant, responsible and neat! Our main supplier of child-sized equipment is the Montessori Services catalog (montessoriservices.com) that we sent home in the fall. Take a look at your child’s room and see if you can replace the toy box with shelves, lower the clothes bar in the closet, simplify the bed-making process (replace multiple sheets and blankets with a fitted sheet and duvet with cover) and provide low hooks for hanging coats so your child’s room can truly be her own. It will expedite getting out the door each day if there is a child-accessible place for outside clothes near the door. Clean-ups will be easily handled by your child if he has his own sponge, bucket, broom and dust pan. And children are great at preparing vegetables and salads if they have a small peeler, chopper and cutting board. (When you send in your Montessori Services order be sure to write the name of our school on the form so we will get credit toward new equipment.)
Blocks: A good set of hardwood blocks and/or Legos is very expensive, but a must for eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and the foundation of mathematics and geometry concepts.
Cars, trucks, trains, and rolling marble sets: One reason little girls have typically been poorer at math than boys is that they are not encouraged to play with these “boy” toys. These toys are important in building an understanding of the principles of physics, linear math and mechanical engineering.
Dolls: A well-made doll that is easy to hug, dress and undress, with a few accoutrements necessary for feeding and putting to bed, is very important in teaching and practicing skills that will one day make your child a good Daddy or Mommy. Just as cars and trucks are important to girls, dolls are important to boys.
Doll Houses: You can spend very little or very much money on a doll house. The important aspect is that the child is provided with a means of role-playing the functions of the home. The doll house is a good place to explore what problems, if any, the child is having in adjusting to changing roles in the family. The doll house is also a way for children to practice organizing and maintaining domestic tranquillity on their own.
Art Supplies: Even the young child should have access to plenty of plain and colored paper, crayons, chalks, oil pastels, markers, water colors, colored pencils, stencils, scissors, glue, scraps of various shapes, colors and textures. The older child will enjoy sketching pencils and erasers, water color pencils, oil paints, good water colors, a mixing palette, pen and ink, art paper, tracing paper, and “How to Draw” books as well as some of the child-oriented books on artists. A kit to keep supplies in, a smock and a place to work are important considerations. How about replacing those Disney posters with a framed art print for your child’s room?
Puppets: A collection of well-made hand puppets or marionettes (for the older child) and a simple theater would make a marvelous gift. The Hearthsong catalog usually has shadow puppets and theaters as well. When choosing puppets, look for a boy, a girl, a man, a woman, some animals and/or fantasy creatures. A theater can be made from a cardboard box or a curtain on a spring rod that fits in a doorway.
Dress-up trunk: How about filling a trunk, suitcase, or basket with hats, shoes, purses, wallets, jewelry and clothes? Thrift stores are good places to find many of these things. A yard or two of various fabrics (calico, fake fur, nylon tricot, satin, etc.) would be wonderful to drape and tuck for just the right effect. Halloween costumes, masks and leotards can be added to satisfy the dramatic flare. Your child will be asked to don costumes for virtually every occasion right up through college, so why not start collecting now?
Books: If you buy your kids books that are just a little ahead of their ability, you can read them aloud now and they can read them on their own later. Even adolescents enjoy reading aloud with the family. Bring a great book on the next road trip or turn off the tv and read together. Pick out a few of your favorites from your childhood.
Music: An iPod loaded with children’s versions of ballets and operas with accompanying books will keep your child happy on trips while giving them an early start on music appreciation. There are some wonderful versions of “Peter and the Wolf”, “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker” that even very young kids will enjoy. Speaking of “The Nutcracker”, Duna started taking her daughter, Lina, to the ballet when Lina was two years old. Although they finally let the tradition go after 20+ years, granddaughter Finley attended her first Nutcracker at 18 months and sat raptly through it despite her mother’s doubts. If you enjoy the ballet, opera, theater or the symphony, get matinee tickets this year and plan to make a hasty retreat to the lobby if your child is not as enchanted as you are! Listening to the music in advance and telling the child the story helps prepare them.
Etc.: So you already have all this stuff and we have not helped a bit? Well, then how about cross-country skis, downhill skis, snowshoes or ice skates, a set of bells or a keyboard, a real musical instrument and lessons, a nice globe, a set of real child-sized tools and a work bench, a rock tumbler, dance or theater lessons? The gift of adventure is always a good choice – perhaps a snorkeling or spelunking adventure for an older child? Whatever you choose, go for quality. Avoid toys that entertain rather than encourage
In December we begin a discussion of Montessori’s sensitive periods of development starting with motor development and cultural development. Parents and grandparents with babies up to 18 months of age are welcome to join our class on Fridays from 9:00 until noon. And bring your family to our school play on the 19th at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 N Brookside Ct, off Highway 224, at 11:00 am.
We teachers have voted December “Most Challenging Time of the Year.” So much to do! We begin in October planning things far enough in advance to keep November and December from becoming too busy. From the toddler’s point of view, the holidays can all be a dizzy blur. But there are also so many wonderful things to enjoy. Candles, music, sparkling snow, fantastic decorations, special foods, fragrances, singing, etc. We would all do well to slow down to the toddler’s pace and take time to enjoy every detail. But this seems impossible when you glance at your “To Do” list. This is the time to go over your list and decide what is really important and what is not.
Try letting go of all but the most cherished traditions. Keep things simple and allow your child plenty of time to eat, dress and play. Transitions are difficult for many young children so plan activities to include transition time for your child. Also keep in mind that young children enjoy a consistent routine. Stick to your regular schedule as much as possible and involve your child in decorating so changes don’t seem to happen too fast. Reconsider having big parties or lots of guests. When planning trips, keep your child’s needs in mind and again try to stay with your normal schedule. In the end your efforts to simplify your holidays will do much for both you and your child.
Monday – Art
The children have developed the ability to pick out many of the distinguishing characteristics of Mary Cassat’s work. She is particularly appealing to children because of the warmth of her colors and subjects, many being mommies with their babies. During December, we will move on to “Modern Art” with Georgia O’Keeffe. If you would like to further your child’s interest in fine art, a collection of art note cards makes a fun game. The note cards can be obtained from museum shops and catalogs. Buy sets of your favorite artists and try matching games. At first, matching pictures that are the same, then picking out different pictures by the same artist from an array of many. Once they become familiar with them, the kids can try guessing titles, artists, and other facts about each artist.
Tuesday – Time and Seasons
During December we will concentrate on winter celebrations around the world. We have already celebrated Diwali and plans for Las Posadas and Hanukkah are in the works with snacks, stories, songs and ornaments to go along with each. If you would like to contribute, please talk to any teacher.
Wednesday – Geography
Our study of North America will integrate with Winter Holidays through December. We have focused on the many types of American Indians living here when the Pilgrims arrived and how others followed in pursuit of their dreams. Moving on to present North American cultures, we will take a look at holiday traditons across the continent.
Thursday – Literature
We have read many of Tomie de Paola’s wonderful books and have learned a little about him. His stories are often autobiographical and can be silly, sad or funny. In December we will study Dr. Seuss. This is a good time to send your favorite Seuss books to class to share.
Friday – Biology
We studied plants and their edible parts in November. In December, preparations for our Winter Celebration take over our Friday lessons. The bean plants we grew in class may carry out the cycle of life by producing beans with a little care at home. As a home extension of our Botany studies, consider making your child “family botanist.” With a small pitcher or watering can marked with the correct water level, some cotton balls and an eyedropper bottle full of water your child can water your plants and polish their leaves. If you have lots of plants perhaps a few could be cared for each day. Yes, there will be some spills and some over-watered plants but once this becomes routine you will have a few minutes to work on your jobs while your child does his!
Monday – History
We bring our timeline of US History up to present times before Mondays give way to rehearsals in December. This lesson links the Thanksgiving Timeline students have learned in Early Childhood to some of the major events that have shaped our country over the centuries since the Pilgrims arrived.
Tuesday – Geography
In December the Elementary Class helps host several school holiday celebrations including Diwali, Hanukkah and Las Posadas. Each of these involves crafts, snacks, stories and songs.
Wednesday – Theater Arts
The class has reviewed sketching basic shapes and continues to practice using those shapes to draw the real things they see. We have also experimented with color mixing and painting. This month we will apply our artistic skill to building sets and props for our play, “Soaring Wings’ Holiday Revue”. The elementary classes take the lead in every aspect of crafting a play. We will work on story telling, acting and theatrical “magic” as well. Plan to bring family and friends to see the finished product on December 20th at 11:00 am in the Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Aevnue.
Thursday – Holiday Cooking and Crafts
In December we’ll be busy making gifts, cooking surprises and carolling to spread holiday cheer to our friends and neighbors.
Friday – Dance
We have attended the Repertory Dance Theater where we noticed how professional dancers expressed their ideas with movement. We are now choreographing our dance piece for the play and we will refine it through rehearsals over the next weeks. We can’t wait to show it to you at the play on December 19th.
(Asked of the Cottonwoods and Rainbows EC Classes at the Thanksgiving Feast)
Jacqueline: …Amy and Natalija.
Nikola: …having a feast.
Sofi: …pumpkin pie.
Kehoe: …the American flag.
Zeke: …my parents.
Dean: …my family.
Joshua: …my house.
Lucy: …our family.
Max: …people who died for our freedom.
Grace: …my mom, dad and Elle.
James: …the Thanksgiving Timeline.
Anna: …my mom and dad.
Simone: …my bracelets.
Evie: …my kitty and doggies.
Jackson: …my dad and mom.
George: …our freedom.
Ryder: …my goats.
Taryn: …my house and my family.
Urijah: …my grandma’s dog.
Duna: …this happy place to be every day and the wonderful big and little people involved.
Natalija: …the mountains.
Leigh Ann: …my family.
Amy: …a happy, healthy family .
Lina: …health and happiness.