Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sacred Spaces

Apologies for the hiatus in writing.

At the children's school the theme this year is 'Sacred Spaces'. This can be translated in the home in pretty much any way. For us we are aiming for meals together at the table as much as we possibly can, finding time together as a family for reading, excursions etc and each of us having some space that is ours to be in and relax, read or meditate.

We do the first two a lot, but having individual space when there are lots of siblings, is not such an easy task. We are trying to develop respect of others' personal spaces, but it is hard for the youngest to differentiate between when the older two need that space and when they are playing and it is acceptable to go into another one's room.

So we have decided to further develop the hide-away areas for both them. This weekend we have decluttered and moved furniture from the oldest's room and created a small diagonal corner that has draw across curtains. In that area there is a warm mat, chair and cushions as well as a box for his personal treasures. The younger boy has the same but unfortunately on a smaller scale as there is less space in his room. My daughter is getting the remaining play stand side for Christmas and then she will also have a space in which she can go. Together the children decided that they could invite the others into that space if they wanted to, but no child was to invade that private space without the invitation. I can see it working for the boys, but I am getting ready for the youngest to have to stand her ground to maintain her space as sacred!!

Here are the results:

It isn't the best masterpiece in the world, but we are working with the limitations of the rooms. A good friend has a wonderful space in the eaves of her home that she has turned into a similar area for her children. I will try to get some pictures of the spaces for you. I am also going to be writing about a fabulous stage that her husband has built in the house for the children over the next few weeks.

If you have any pictures of sacred spaces in your home that you want to share, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Activities

Okay, so my every intention this summer has been to do less - observe more lol! Here are some of the activities we have been up to so far:

Summer Scrapbooks - actually this is a continuing project. Each of my boys has a scrap book that is journalling our travelling around. We started it last March:

T has added his own writing to his, whereas W has just organised the pictures and souvenirs.

My dd and I have started this project together, using a cheap birdhouse from a craft shop. She is gluing and tiling.

And my elder son decided to paint this little model. It might not look complicated, but it was small and fiddly. He spent a lot of time working on this.

Other ideas we have for the summer are to knit some simple dishcloths with my elder son, do an outing a week and then try to "present" it later, prepare for Harry Potter night - this, as you can imagine, has taken a lot of planning on the eldest's part!! He has made banners, prepared menus for banquets etc etc.

Another idea I thought of, and have not yet put it into play, is to engage the older two in family meal planning and once a fortnight each child is responsible for the planning of and budgeting for and some preparation of a family meal. I may try this over the next couple of weeks and if it works, make it a Sunday night regular!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Summer Reading list

This summer we have been sent home a list of recommended books from the Elementary teachers at the school. It is an incredibly extensive list, but has been compiled only using the Newbery Medal Prize winners from 1922 - present day. I am aware that it isn't a cut and dry list and is only a guideline as to where one might like to start looking, but it misses off some of the great books of our time that I really feel are more suitable for children of 7 - 9. Many of these books have female characters or are quite "feminine" in their story, so of course, my son is not as happy picking this up to read and many, I feel, I too conceptualy advanced for children who are just 7.

There seems to be a lacking of a middle ground for the younger readers who are fluent and skilled readers, but lack the emotional development for some of the content. So, I have adapted a list of books that we are going to tackle this summer, either individually or together.

Some of these may not be the world's most reknowned piece of literature, but in my opinion, at this age, it is important to introduce children to a wide range of literary style and stories.

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
2. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond
3. The Tale of Desperaux - Kate Di Camillo
4. The Barn - Avi
5. Shiloh - Phyllis Reynolds
6. The Story of King Arthur - Robin Lister
7. The Scarecrow and his Servant - Philip Pullman
8. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips - Michael Morpurgo
9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
10. Kira-Kira - Cynthia Kakohata
11. The Homecoming - Cynthia Voigt
12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling
13. Where the sidewalk ends - Shel Silversten
14. Missing May - Cynthia Rylant
15. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Judy Blume
16. The Mouse and the Motorcycle - Beverley Cleary
17. This can't be happening at Macdonald Hall - Gordon Korman

(Anything to avoid perpetual re-reads of Captain P.P Poopyhead and his amazing Underpants!!!)

If you have any books you could add to this list, I would be really grateful.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Colour theory!

I just wanted to post these pictures of the playroom now that I have painted it. I have hopefully used colours that will embue imagination and cooperative play I have borrowed a similar colour scheme as those found in the imagination inspiring kindergartens in waldorf schools- ie: not red for fire and arguments, not white for boredom and lack of creativity and not green for tranquility and sleep etc.

Anyhoo, here are the results -

I decided to put up I's canopy in this corner next to a box of books so they have somewhere to hide away to read. There is also a cushion and our storytelling doll in there too.

The sensory materials have been moved over to this area as they were a little dismissed behind the door.

This area has been laid out for a home style corner (not particularly Montessori I know, but it is an area that all of the children love to utilise!) and we are in the process of creating a nature table which you will see better in the picture down below.

It isn't very clear, but we have got our nature table on the cupboard. So far we have found some interesting wood and an empty nest. The nest was in my hanging basket on the porch until a week or two ago. The birds have appeared to have deserted it. Unfortunately I think the mail man had unwittingly scared them. The eggs were broken too. We have since put it on our table.

The final wall is a work in process!!!

I am limiting the amount of stuff I put ON the walls this time, I have only a framed painting of T's, a picture and a wall hanging and I am going to put our huge map of the US back up too. Other than that, the children's work will now be kept in their art boxes in their rooms and if they do something they are particularly proud of, we will frame and hang in their bedrooms. There is still a lot of work in the kitchen on display too.

And of course - there is a very important factor in all of it working - hmmmm they are currently playing in T's bedroom!!!!!!!ah well, time will tell!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fairy Tales - yes or no??

This post is going to directly come from an amazing workshop that I have been on over the last three mornings. Actually led by a Waldorfian rather than a Montessorian, and fascinating.

It strictly relates to the re-telling of fairy tales to children.

In my hazy recollection, there is some controversy as to whether or not Montessori was for or against the reading of fairy tales to children.

Those in the "against" court argue that they go against the grain of belief that life should be for real, not wrapped up in talking animals and good and evil.

Those in the "for" court argue that they convey a very real life message in their stories and that legend and folklore are all based on and wrapped up in fairy tales, our history is intrinsically linked.

Add to that, the fact that the true original fairy tales are not the ones we know today, are NOT those of Disney and adaptations on a theme of a theme AND that places like Barnes and Noble no longer stock Grimms tales in many shops as they are deemed "not politically correct" you may be easily of the opinion that perhaps they should be left alone, after all, what is the point?

Up to today, I was more of the vein that there was no real need for them, they seem cruel and stereotypical and send out the message that life is full of goodies and baddies and that girls are all princesses and boys either bad men or princes. This wasn't the message I wanted to give to the children, so have avoided them to a greater extent.

Today my mind has been entirely changed. Not only do I realise that I was incorrect in my own jaded adult and very literal interpretations of them, but I am doing my children a disservice by omitting them from their lives. Children do not take these stories as literal but much more archetypically which is exactly the way they are meant to be taken.

Read in their original form and appropriately aged (NOT censored!) they emit a very potent message, that life is a journey, that we encounter good and evil in a variety of forms and that when the right paths are chosen on our journies, good will overthrow evil and justice will prevail. Yes, the "baddies" meet their ends, gruesome or not, but in the case of most of these, the end comes around by self infliction. Take for example the wolf in the original version of Little Red Cap - She fills his belly with stones, but she doesn't kill him, the stones are too heavy so when he gets up, he falls down dead. The stones........getting whhhhaaaay deep now, actually represent the materialism in life that tempts us (or Little Red Cap in this instance) when we are on our journies through life. In LRC's case, the wolf opened her mind to be tempted by the flowers (greed) and he, himself, was overcome with greed to not just eat the grandmother but to also eat LRC. At the end, the wolf is destroyed by his very own materialistic greed - the stones, the densest natural material on the earth.

Of course, for a seven year old, this is not what they are thinking and nor should it be explained to them thus.

The guidelines we were left with was that

a.We should read them ourselves, and find our own fairy tale.

b.We should chose age appropriate ones; ie: the more challenges and conflicts, then the older the audience

c. We should not censor the end for something less gruesome. If you need to censor the end for your child, the fairy tale is not yet appropriate. Also look at it this way - if the wolf lives and runs off - where is he now? Is he hiding in the real world??

d. Read them during the day NOT before bed. Children process these stories better when they have just come from the spiritual state of sleep rather than before they go to it.

e. Learn them and read them unscripted, detail IS important to the stories however, so make sure you have read them and understand the significance of the detail.

It is hard to find a good book of Fairy Tales, I have just ordered the one at the top of this page which is published by The Pantheon Fairytale and Folklore Library and can be found at Bob and Nancy's Books I am thoroughly looking forward to reading, digesting, dissecting and then re-telling these tales to my boys!


This really should go with clothing........but I had to post this separately!! Look what a gem these are. Might be perfect to lose that extra scarf!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Bedroom

There is a lot talked about the baby's and infant's bedroom in various Montessori resources: The Floor Bed, mirrors at a child's level, simple pictures, not so many toys but what few being down on low reachable shelving and maybe a mobile for small babies. There is not, however, so much talked about for adapting the room as the child grows. I have already added some pictures to previous entries but this entry is to show how I have tried to organise the children's bedrooms for their varying ages and with the space and resources we have.


This is her bed. We have got her elevated off the floor and not on a mattress, we didn't actually go down that route. However, it would be so easy to adapt a mattress on the floor and then put it on the frame later on. She has a small bedside table that she can put water or books on and yes, that is a bed guard. The floor is hard!!

This is an area set aside for her to sit and read. It is round a slight corner so out of direct vision from the rest of the room and the door, which means she can be quiet in this space. There is a beanbag for her to use and a selection of books. I haven't really been organised to rotate them, but I frequently cull !! We also have rotating books downstairs in the den that I change on a fairly regular basis. She also has some shoes and slippers on the bottom shelf.

This is inside her wardrobe. We adapted this using a broom handle to create a lower rack for the clothes she is currently wearing in season.

This is her "care of the self" space. She has a mirror at her height and a clothes peg. To the right is a playstand which I have shown from the other side in the photo below, that contains her comb, brush and mirror. She also has, which isn't shown, a box of play jewellery and hair accessories that she can use if she wishes. The basket contains a plethora of soft toys and some hand puppets. Dressing up clothes are primarily in the play room in another wardrobe on a low rail.

Here you can see the mirror, comb and brush and a few small toys. The play silks create a backdrop for a puppet theatre or shop or cover it all or........anything really!

Older child's room:

These two pictures are inside my eldest son's wardrobe (excuse the mess - Montessorischmontessori - they still can't put stuff back in the places it belongs and as for folding aaagghh!)

I have some issues with chests of drawers (one of which is lack of space, another safety, for a child to pull them open and then apply their weight on a drawer fills me with the heebiejeebies) they are stiff and cumbersome, so as we have the luxury of a walk in closet for this son, I bought some wire cube shelving from Target and his underwear, t-shirts, sweaters etc are all in their own space. He has a step so he can reach the stuff that is hanging, but that is primarily the next season's clothing.

This photo below shows his working space. We haven't yet done this with our younger son. We chose to give our elementary son this space partly because he LOOOOVES to write stories and also to give him some space for his hobbies without the younger two. When our younger son reaches elementary age we will try to provide a similar space for him. At the moment, our younger son does his art and craft either downstairs in the kitchen or in the playroom.

This was a flea market table!! $40!!

He has a space for his pens and we also bought a fishing tackle box that he keeps colouring pens and crayons, scissors, sharpeners and glue in. That stays up out of the younger two's reach!! There is also a pin board to display his work and an area to store his stamp collection. Both him and his brother have a CD player in their room (that is as technological as they will get - I will refer to media in another entry) to allow them music or stories on CD.

This is the reading space we have designated for our elder son. Unfortunately he doesn't have a nook anywhere that can be turned over to a quiet space, and he frequently climbs under his covers to read his books (at any time of the day !!) so this is a bit redundant at the moment. Still, it is a low chair to the floor and concealed by the table so he could hide away if he wanted to.


This entry I will add to as I find things, but at the request of another Montessori mom, I am going to list places that I have found to be pretty good for finding clothes that foster independence. By that, I mean, velcro tabbed shoes, good outdoorwear that is easy to put on, elasticated waist clothing etc. If you click on the underlined words, it should take you to the site or the relevent picture. Please let me know if there are any broken links.

This is primarily going to be stuff that the children use at school, because I really have no issue with decorative t-shirts at home. I do prefer natural fibres wherever I can and there is a link for some amazing woollen leggings further down, that fit cloth diapers perfectly!

Indoor clothing:

My best finds have been places like
Kohls for leggings and elasticated trousers and Walmart for training pants and covers. The other training pants I like, particularly for boys are Bright Bots just because their colors are bright and fun and they used to do some funky striped leggings for boys!!

Again I like Kohls for tops, plain t-shirts that don't detract from their work cycles etc. Or for older children
LLBean often has plain t-shirts and I love their flannel check trousers that are elasticated as does my son!! My other favourite place for these elasticated plaid trousers is Boden which again, has great sales, but sells out fast (why am I telling you this??)

I also love the woollen leggings and pants from
this wonderful site Their stuff is pure wool - excellent for winter and organic too. It is a little pricier, but it fits over cloth diapers and is easy to pull on. It is probably better for the younger child and toddler rather than a primary aged child, but they do have sweat pants and cotton leggings sometimes.

For ease for potty training, leggings, shorts or elasticated trousers are far easier for girls than dresses as they pull them down rather than up and then they are totally out of the way and their is less chance of them getting wet. However, there are some "skorts" out there if you do have a girl who loves dresses - might be a half way compromise?

Gap has great clothing for older children for school, trousers for boys and jeans that seem to last forever and plain t-shirts. I think I have found the odd pair of slippers from time to time if the Gap is big enough.

Of course
Hanna Anderson has nice elasticated leggings for girls, but it is on the pricier end of the market and if you have a girl - who can avoid the pretty dress to go with it??!! That said, they often have great sales or there is always Ebay for a second hand item.

There are, as far as I am aware, two good thrift shops in our local vicinity. If anyone has any others, please let me know. I have often rummaged in there to find the perfect pair of trousers or even a second hand rain jacket. The first is opposite Bob's and Stop and Shop on Route 7, the second is on Ridgefield High Street, but you will have to look underneath another shop for it. It is called the Children's corner and is downstairs next to Shaun's ice cream parlor (we don't go there often 'cos it gets expensive with the food detour!!)

Stamford has a
Nearly New Sale coming up in July that might be the place for a bargain or two.

If you are looking for cloth diapers, my personal favourite were Mother ease ®

We used the one-size system so it lasted us from birth through toddlerhood and into her potty training. The diapers are shaped and fasten with press studs. The wraps that go with them are either the Air-flow or the Rikka wraps which are either press stud or velcro respectively. The principle behind things like cloth is that a child can register the sensation of being wet, and likewise, learn to be dry and clean quicker, well that, and the aside that disposables weren't really a late 1800's phenomenon!!

Indoor Shoes:

Indoor slippers are often the harder things to find as the back needs to be firm so that they don't turn into mules like these ones:

the kids then slouch their feet around desperately trying to keep them on, and they need to be able to take them on and off them easily themselves so fastenings need to be zipper or velcro or an excellent slip on, like these ones, which are from Mothercare in the UK:

The back on these have a raised hard edge, so I am hoping there will be less chance of them bending down - only time will tell!

I tend to stick to velcro for the younger two, just because it is easier than catching a sock in a zipper and their feet are often too small and their arch not developed enough to hold on a slip on (or the slip on is so tight they still can't get it on!)

Unfortunately I have found most success for slippers back in the UK from good old Woolworths, but over here I have bought from
Rugged Bear who always have a good sale if you shop in advance!! Again, Kohls has a fairly good kids shoe section, you might be lucky and sometimes Bob's Discount Clothing Store will have that perfect pair.

Online I have occasionally found LLBean to have good ones, although their current ones aren't so hot, but it is summer! Sometimes Walmart has white plimsolls with a velcro tab fastening that work well as indoor shoes. This is always my hardest search each year.

Outdoor shoes:

LLBean if you feel you can shop online for shoes, otherwise places like Hawley Lane discount shoes on Route 1, StartRite is another place and they often have coupons so watch out and check online first for discount vouchers.

These probably need to be velcro, certainly to start with. Later children can manage the likes of Merrells (I find them really hard to get my finger in the heel to pull on and my children have struggled at a young age too.) Or the ones that have the toggles to loosen them. Alternatively, I am not really sure what Maria Montessori would have made of these but as a halfway house for children who are learning to tie laces, it could be a great compromise and after all, independence is the aim of the game!!

Outdoor clothing and snow kit

I am particularly faithful to Rugged Bear for most of my snow kit. I buy in the summer (as I have three to get of everything and the moolah only goes so far!) their sales are good. Take a tip though (which you probably already know!) buy a size bigger. The assistant told me this last year after I struggled with getting my youngest and a thick sweater inside a coat that was her actual size!!
Try to avoid salopettes (overalls, dungarees) for toddlers and younger primary aged children as they may struggle, particularly if they need to go to the bathroom. They will find more independence with basic pull on pants. However, these can be harder to find for this age group!

Our toddler teacher also recommended actual gloves for them rather than mittens as they have more control. Not quite so easy for them to get on, but playing a finger game "this little piggy goes in here" helps them to grasp the concept of one finger in one hole. Again, Walmart was the only place I found these this time and bought about 7 pairs in the same color to ensure we always could match a lost one!!

I also used this
wonderful item last year that my daughter could wear under a hood and didn't fall off like a woolly hat does and it tucked nicely into the neck of her coat doing away with that horrid cold gap or the need for a scarf (something else to lose!). She was also able, at 2, to pull it on herself.


The last rain jacket I bought for our toddler is a Cherokee brand which either came from Walmart (but I don't think it did!) or Tesco in the UK. I have just noted that her velcro tab sandals are also Cherokee. The rain jacket actually has a velcro fastening. Many rain jackets are snap fastenings, which is fine for the older child, or go over the head like a sweater, which is hard to manage for the flip over with a smaller child. I haven't tried this, but I am wondering, for those of you who are proficient with a needle and thread, if a press stud (popper) fastening rain jackets couldn't have velcro pieces stitched in between the poppers?

Again I usually go to Rugged Bear for this stuff and also for wellingtons. The best boots for smaller children are the ones that have the
little hooped handles on the sides to help them pull them on. But watch out, this year I discovered that many of the boots had a small elevated heel that was at an angle and worried me that a child could turn her/his ankle.


I guess it goes without saying really, that with nightwear, pyjamas are easier than all in one sleepsuits, although they are a devil to find. If you can't find p-j's then look for sleepsuits with zips rather than popper fastenings.
Carter's is amongst my favourite place for pyjamas, although check the size of the buttons on the front for primary aged children. Sometimes these things are so tiny and then this just creates frustrations for them.

Lunch packs:

As with the holistic philosophy behind Montessori, children are taking a pride in the world and their place within it, so where better to start than lunch packs that reduce waste in the environment.

Plain lunchboxes we often find in LLBean or Walmart, but I have since discovered
this site that has plain lunch boxes and these wonderful wrapable/reuseable sandwich bags, that not only eliminate the need for plastic wrap or aluminium foil, but also eliminate the need for plastic boxes which have been known to leak toxins over a prolonged period of use, washing in a dishwasher and heating in microwaves. I am still on the search for small square tins that I can use for salads instead of the aforementioned plastic boxes, so will keep you posted.

Okay, that is it for now. I will add to this as I think of things. If anyone has any other tips, please pass them on!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Coat Flip

Okay, so this is probably the most well known method of showing a small child how to put on their own coat and foster independence, but for those of you who don't know it, I have stepped it in photos:

The coat is laid out at the child's feet upside down to them.

They are able to insert their arms into the holes from the floor.

The coat is then lifted and swung over their head enabling their arms to slip down.

Look at me! I can put on my own coat!!!

You just need to watch for loose toggles and other family members or pets standing closely behind !!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Our Outdoor space

The children spend a lot of time outside, particularly in the summer, so we have tried carefully to provide lots of activities for them. They don't tend to watch much television, perhaps a movie on a weekend and maybe a little on Friday afternoon, so there is always a lot to do outside.

The sandpit!

Our climbing zone. There are trapeeze bars for the older two and a low swing for our toddler to manage too. The boys have, however, taken to a new game (adorned with bike helmets!) they leap from the slide holding the rope of the swing and land seated on the swing.............*(&(*&***!!! and you know the saying "monkey see, monkey do"???!!!

The herb garden

Our middle son's carefully tended a growing sunflower. The only remaining one of a posse of half a dozen, three died young, the other two were eaten either by rabbits or deer.

Care of the self and the world

This post is to show what we have done to incorporate care for oneself and others into our home. As you can expect - I still pick up coats, clothes and shoes from the floor on a daily basis, so don't be fooled into thinking this is how it normally is. I think that is hereditary!!

Coat pegs are kept low to the ground for the children to hang their own coats and outdoor wear.

These cubbies from good ol' Ikea, were one of the best ideas I had!! Each child has a cubby for shoes (the toddler at the bottom obviously and most of her shoes are velcro) and an adjoining box for hats, scarves, mittens and waterproofs. The top basket (it is a four shelf unit) contains sports kit and the bike helmets are on the top shelf.

Again, I don't suppose many families have the luxury of pint sized sinks for washing, so I have a step stool again for the children to use. This is their own bathroom, the towels, wash cloths, soap, nailbrushes and toothbrushes are all within their reach.

This is the toddler bedroom. She has a mirror that she can see into and a peg at her height for her dressing gown. On the playstand are some toys and also a brush and comb. I do keep hairbands out of her reach (c'mon people, there is only so many times in a day I can pick up caterpillar sized barettes before vaccumming them up!)

This is inside her wardrobe. She did originally only have one high rack so we had to choose and get her clothing. Using a broom handle we have put a low height one in. Now she has the "out of season" clothing on the top rack and on the accessible rack is the current season's clothing. She also can easily get at clean bed linen so she can at least assist me changing her sheets.
With regards to Montessori's thoughts to a bedroom environment, we haven't exactly followed her to plan. Our daughter doesn't sleep on a mattress on the floor as we had already started on the route of our bed, a crib, then her bed before we read this part! She also has more toys in her room than Montessori would have suggested. This is partly because we have so many of the darned things and partly because she needs her own space with her things which the boys like to hijack for their latest games!
Care of others and the world:
In our outdoor space we are caring for the native birds. We are soooo lucky here that we have a plethora of wildlife including red cardinals and hummingbirds for a couple. Unfortunately the squirrels rather like to pilfer the food before the birds get much of a look in, but the thought here is that the children can learn to take care of animals.

The boys both have a plant to take care of in their rooms. This is a succulent plant that only needs watering once a week and is easy care.

We have a pet that our youngest has the responsibility to help feed and water and our middle child is responsible for sorting and taking out the recycling (which is hit and miss with him !!) We do compost (finally!) and we have an annual veggie patch and herb garden that the children help us with.
Like I said, there are bound to be things to add to this over time!

The Kitchen

This is our slowly changing kitchen. Many things were in place before I got interested in Montessori because they were, to be quite honest, just common sense. However, the one thing I have not ever used in our kitchen, and I think this is a perfectly reasonable adjustment, is a small child sized table. For us, it is important that we can all eat together, so all the children have the Tripp Trapp chairs including the toddler, with no restraints. They are then able to be at the height of our family kitchen. The toddler soon learned to get up and down on her own.

This is not exactly the best example of a meal as the children were not using silverware. But I have a basket with handles that contains napkins and placemats. We try to use these all the time, but this is a habit we are getting into. We have switched from plastic to glass and proper crockery and silverware. We have probably only had one breakage in the last two years! We also have a small vase with some flowers in it. These ones are actually dried from our last bouquet from Trader Joes!!

Here you can see that we have adapted our cupboard by taking off the door. In here we have plates, cups, glasses, dipping dishes, small ramekins for tomatoes and other side dishes and cutlery. There is also a small grater there for the children to grate their own parmesan onto pasta.
The lower shelf contains the plates and bowl.

Now this I am still in two minds over. Partly because I am running out of lower units, and partly because it is actually a devil in disguise. It is a cereal dispenser. The idea i got from our school auction this year where some parents had lovingly created the "perfect" Montessori child kitchen. There was a dispenser and it seemed such a good idea at the time. The children are free to get their own cereal for breakfast without the difficulty of manipulating boxes which are big and cumbersome. However, my children have issues with the cereal choices in the morning and they soon go off the cereal that is currently within the dispenser. Not sure how Montessori would have tackled that one!

This is a great sideways picture (sorry folks!) of how I have adapted my butcher's block to provide storage for pencils and paper and on the lower shelf table cleaning materials. I have chopped up some sponges into quarters and put in a spray bottle with water and Doc. Bronner's and a couple of cloths to dry.

The photo hanging is actually in a bag of pictures for the toddler to help her make a sandwich. I have put all the equipment she needs on laminated pictures into a bag. She can then use this to get the stuff she needs to make her own lunch!

Cleaning equipment lives on these pegs in the laundry cupboard. Not an awful lot of this gets used as the kids (and I!) favour the speed of the dog and the dustbuster! Still, the thought is there!

This is a accumulation of tools for the children to use in the kitchen. So far we have a mini whisk, potato peeler, melon baller and nutcracker and the cute little orange thing is an orange peeler. This is an amazingly simple but liberating device. Both the boys can peel large oranges with this now,

And we are just starting with the baking. This tends to be an activity I prefer to do with one child at a time, so doesn't happen that often. But we have mini baking tins, a pastry brush, measuring spoons (and a cup) and this was my daughter's graduation present from the toddler class (the whisk). I am in the process of providing pictures for making muffins just like the making a sandwich, that way, certainly the younger two can get out the equipment. My eldest can follow a simple recipe with guidance so he will have a few easy recipes to choose from. The harder part in all this, is that the ingredients they need are up high in the pantry, out of reach and in sealed tins and containers. I have to work with the space I have and the mice too!

We also have a climbing step so that all of them can easily reach the work surfaces and kitchen sink. I dont' suppose there are many homes with the luxury of child sized work surfaces, so this was just a cheap Target wooden step stool - job done!!