Welcome to YCC South! The Young Children's Community is a place that supports both individual development and learning how to live harmoniously in our community. Our days will be filled with opportunities for baking, exploring, developing independence, acquiring new language and challenging motor abilities, just to name a few. I am happy to welcome your child to our sweet community and I look forward to the year ahead.
"Joy, feeling one's own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul."
Thanks to warm weather this week, the children have been busy at work outside - sweeping patios, reading, painting and cleaning the glass on the windows and door. At home, if you have a sliding glass door or patio door with a low window, this is a great place to let your child get to work with a spray bottle and squeegee. This is what we use at school. You can find small spray bottles in the travel section in most stores and this mini squeegee (which is perfect for small hands) can be found in the automotive department at Lowe’s.
Plant watering has also been a big hit lately and with the recent possibility for planting outdoors, your child can participate in this at home, too. Look for a small watering can. It’s helpful if the hole on top is not obstructed with the handle - this allows for easier filling for your child. If your child is not yet ready to operate an outdoor faucet or hose for filling the watering can, you can offer water in a food service beverage dispenser, like this. Placed up on a milk crate, your child will be able to reach and operate it on their own.
With our recent new additions to the YCC, we created a new photo roster, which was sent home in your child’s backpack. I hope you enjoy having this at home. It’s a nice way to build the home-school connection. In the classroom, we use the children’s photos for language cards. We like to line the photo cards up and sing this little song (exchanging ‘sitting next to you’ for ‘whose picture is next to you’). At home, you can use the tune and sing it with your child as you go through the children on the photo roster. I’m sure your child would enjoy singing all about their best buddies.
This weather this week has felt like such a blessing. The children have loved playing outside in the warm weather. We apply sunscreen and offer the children extra water outside. As future warm mornings may allow us to offer more classroom work outside on the patio, the time your child spends outdoors may increase - so it’s a good idea to get in the habit of applying sunscreen before school.
In the classroom, the children are enjoying lots of plant watering, tooth brushing, cheese chopping and creating sticker collages. We recently rearranged some of the materials and areas of the classroom, to better meet the needs of the children. As always, they have shown us that they are flexible and enjoy small changes in scenery, just like we do. If you’re feeling like your child is growing tired with their toys and materials at home, try rearranging, placing items in baskets, simplifying how much you’re offering or rotating out some different toys. And, as I often like to recommend - offer your child some everyday objects that you already own - an old purse with an empty wallet to explore, some of your jewelry (safely within reason) such as a necklace and bracelet, a belt with an interesting buckle, a collection of different kitchen tools. These may look like nothing special to you, but these found objects can lead to great conversations with your child and long periods of exploration for your little one.
Viktor recently moved up to Primary - Congratulations Viktor! We will miss you. We also welcomed Arthur Walter into our class. Arthur was a familiar face, as he transitioned up from the Nido next door. He has enjoyed a warm welcome from his new YCC peers.
Thank you for meeting with me last week for Parent-Teacher Conferences. As always, it’s lovely to have the time to connect with you about your child.
We recently welcomed Everett Cook into the YCC. Welcome, Everett! We’re happy to have you! In the classroom, the children have been excited to explore a new ‘treasure box’ with a lock and key. The key is attached to a piece of furniture in the classroom with a carabiner. After figuring out the carabiner, the children can operate the lock and key to reveal what lies inside the box (a squeeze-operated flashlight). It’s been a great hit and they’re all very motivated with these fine motor tasks.
A few weeks ago, we introduced some neck gaiters to the children for wearing outside while at school. There are two designs - one with dogs, one with bananas. The children often refer to them as ‘puppy neck’ or ‘banana neck’ - so if your child is asking for a ‘puppy neck’ at home, now you know what they’re referring to. Also, now that the weather is evolving into a wintery-spring mix, we’re breaking out the rain suits. The children are loving every minute of this messy in-between season, so please send rain boots - the puddles are simply irresistible.
And finally, it’s not often that you get to enjoy a 60-degree afternoon and snack time out on the playground with your best buddies, but this week gave us one of those rare blessings. Cheers!
In the YCC, routine and order are paramount. Our daily routines, the physical layout of the classroom, the adults and children within the room - all of it stays the same day in, day out. Practical Life and self-care materials, such as plant watering, tooth brushing, sweeping, handwashing, wood polishing, table scrubbing, etc are always available, as the needs of our physical environment and the care of ourselves are ever present. However, some materials are rotated weekly - art, musical instruments, language, books and manipulatives change often. We are able to pull in holiday or season-specific art materials such as stamps or (lately, Valentine’s-themed) stickers, different gluing shapes, and always switch out a rainbow of colors for artistic explorations. Language materials often reflect topics we’ve been discussing, such as winter sports language cards or objects and cards for the life cycle of an ant or perhaps replicas of different whales because we’re really enjoying singing Baby Beluga (hint, we’re really into that song this week). Books are exchanged frequently and you can be sure that we have a smattering of toddler-essential - trucks, animals, nature or seasons, a song book and always a book about families or relationships. Finally, fine motor manipulatives change throughout the year. When we have a younger group, we cater the materials to simplified tasks and movements, and as they age, increase the difficulty. Basically, there’s always a rotation, always a little something new mixed in with the reliable staples of the classroom environment.
In your own home, you can try this, too - establishing tools and materials which are ever present and others which are rotated occasionally. As we well know, in a home with young children there will always be cleaning tasks; many in which your child can participate. For these consistent tasks, consider providing your child an established place for their materials. For instance, hang your child’s broom down low, next to where you keep your broom or provide an easily-accessible basket of hand towels for cleaning up spills. For less permanent things, such as books and toys, consider providing a small selection, which can be rotated as needed. A few small baskets of activities can capture your child’s interest, especially if you’re engaged with them.
In preparation for Valentine’s Day, we have been discussing things that the children might see - Valentine’s cards, flowers, decorations, a box of chocolate, etc. As with other holidays, we try to help the children understand some of the images and things they may be seeing in their world, giving them the vocabulary and some background of the holiday. While we do not celebrate Valentine's Day in the YCC with a card exchange (that’s just too abstract of a concept for most of the YCC children), we do celebrate with pink beet pancakes. The beets make the pancakes a beautiful shade of pink and, of course, the children LOVE them.
If you’ve never tried beet pancakes, now is the time. Here’s the recipe.
Despite the cold weather, we manage to go outside every day - even if it’s just for a 10 minute walk around the playground and right back inside. At home, this might mean a walk down the driveway and back. It’s still important to continue your child’s routine and get some fresh air, even if it’s very brisk. And remember, your child is tougher than you may think.
Nevertheless, with cold winter weather upon us, you’re probably spending more time indoors. If you’re looking for more to do with your little one at home, food prep is a great way to stay busy and productive. This weekend might be the right time to mix up a batch of fruit bars (I shared the recipe on 1/6/22) or, my family’s favorite, pita chips. Here’s a tutorial on how to make this delicious snack at home. Better buy an extra bag of pitas though - if your family is anything like mine, they’re going to inhale these.
Our favorite song lately: 10 Horses. Watch Emily sing this favorite little jingle. Sing it at home and notice how your child can make the galloping noises of the horses. It’s awfully sweet!
Next week, Ben Foley will join us in the YCC. Ben’s older brother, Rory is in Primary. Welcome Ben, we are so happy to welcome you into the YCC community!
While we have only had a few days together since returning from winter break, the children have been busy and focused, happy and motivated, working hard throughout the day. Perhaps because of our absence, it feels even more special to be here.
The children have been enjoying lots of gluing collages, bead stringing, puzzles, polishing, and, as always, orange juicing. A new language work - which we have been referring to as ‘contents of an adult’s bag or purse’ - has been a big hit. We filled a small purse with items you might find in an adult’s purse: a set of keys, gloves, an old cell phone, a scarf, etc. This would be something fun to try at home. You likely have an old bag or purse that you could use… fill it with everyday items that you’d likely find in a purse and turn it into a language lesson for your child. An old wallet or small coin purse could offer further exploration fun, as these sorts of small items often have interesting openings and closings.
Finally, over break, Katherine transitioned up to Primary. Congratulations Katherine! We will miss you. Also in January, we welcomed a new member to the YCC - Henry Miller. Welcome, Henry! We are happy to have you. The children always welcome a new friend into our environment with open minds and open hearts. Nevertheless, it’s special to watch these new relationships evolve.
It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of the fall semester. Time has flown by and we’ve had wonderful months together. I do not take for granted the incredible capacity young children have to grow together into their own little community. Watching this group has been a joy, and as always, it is our privilege both to witness it and to be a part of it.
This week we explored a new cookie baking language work. This includes a mixing bowl, a mixing spoon, a rolling pin, a cookie cutter, a timer (that actually rings) and (their favorite) some rainbow sprinkles. The children have been particularly interested in talking all about how to roll out dough and how to decorate cookies - perhaps your child would be interested in helping out at home. We also created a holiday-inspired craft - a fingerprint ‘string of lights’. While we seldom do any product-oriented art in the YCC, every once in a while it’s fun to capture their tiny handprints and fingerprints. I hope you enjoy these for years to come.
Finally, Congratulations to Frankie! Frankie recently moved up to Primary. We’ll miss you, but we’re so excited for you Frankie.
I hope you all have a wonderful winter break. May you have lots of fun spending time with the people you love the most. I look forward to greeting each one of you and your children upon our return in January.
Welcome Back! Welcome back from, what I hope, was a nice long Thanksgiving weekend and from our short classroom closure. Thank you for being so understanding with the closure and so prompt with picking up and testing your children. What a blessing that we could reconvene just one day later.
Last week, our classroom Harvest Feast was lovely. The children enjoyed the meal and sharing foods that came from their own homes. Thank you for your contributions! Getting settled back into the classroom this week, the children were happy to be back in their environment. While the closure was inconvenient, it allowed for some deep cleaning and Annie, Emily and I switched out many of our language materials, books, musical instruments, manipulatives and puzzles. A few days off of school and a fresh set of materials for exploring made for some very hard-working, very busy children. It is a joy to watch them at work. I hope that you’re able to find some time in these last three weeks of the semester to come observe (9:00-10:00 is the best time to come).
We are also enjoying some snow on the playground. The hill provides endless sledding (and slippery slope climbing) adventures. Thank you for preparing your child so well with lots of warm winter gear - this makes for fun, warm and comfortable times outside.
Finally, we recently welcomed Lucy McCall into the classroom. Welcome Lucy, we’re so happy to have you!
Thank you for coming to conferences. It’s always nice to have that time together. Remember, if ever you need more support, have questions or concerns or would just like to hear about your child’s development in more depth, please reach out. I’m here to partner with and support you.
In the classroom, the children have been enjoying lots of baking, bead stringing, citrus juicing, new language materials about community helpers, famous landmarks and the lifecycle of a turtle. With Thanksgiving only days away, we have read some books about giving thanks and have been discussing some of the foods families commonly eat at Thanksgiving. Remember, like any other seasonal celebration or holiday, each family often has traditions and routines that differ from everyday life and it can be confusing for a toddler. Young children can benefit from a little explanation and a little more exposure, especially to seldom experienced food. Our language cards feature images of foods that are commonly eaten at Thanksgiving and our Harvest Feast on November 23 will give them an opportunity to experience these flavors at school. Sign up here for our Harvest Feast.
It may only be the beginning of November, but the holidays are right around the corner. For those of you who celebrate these holidays by giving and receiving gifts, you may have fielded some questions from friends and family about holiday gift giving for your child. I have created a holiday gift giving guide with suggestions of materials your child is sure to love, that will provide more opportunities for connecting with your child at home (reading, baking, creating art together) and won’t completely overwhelm you and your household.
Finally, this song has been a big hit lately. The animals and their sounds, the hand movements and the repetition - it all brings out a smile on every face. Have a listen and sing along with your little one at home.
In the last edition of Classroom Highlights, I touched on the many elements of reality within the Montessori toddler classroom and how some pretend play with the children can be a helpful means for exploring more abstract thinking. Well, Halloween presents us with an entirely new opportunity for exploring and learning about the difference between reality and fantasy. Decorated houses and stores, masks and costumes, skeletons in your neighbor’s yard, even the corn, pumpkins and gourds you might have outside your own home - it’s present everywhere and it can be terribly confusing for young children.
So, in the YCC we focus on discussing some of the things the children might see and help them start to make sense of some of it. We have language cards and language objects, pumpkins, gourds and other items of the season. We carve pumpkins, explore the insides of the pumpkin and roast the seeds. We bake pumpkin muffins. We try to support the children in all areas of development - with their language, sensorially, with food prep - to help build their understanding of the time of year, the cultural holidays and to build in some concrete, real, multi-sensory experiences so that the children can better grasp this time of year and changing of seasons.
We have been reciting the following poem. Each verse has a hand movement. Give it a try at home. Maybe your child can teach you!
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late"
The second one said, "There are bats in the air."
The third one said, "But we don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said, "I’m ready for some fun!"
Wooooosh went the wind
And OUT went the lights.
And five little pumpkins roooollllled out of sight.
We have been blessed with beautiful, warm Fall weather, but the recent wet weather hasn’t stopped us from going outside every day. The children gladly don their rain suits and head out to play. These have allowed the children to stay warm and dry under their suits, allowing us fun, long playtimes outside. While we’re out, we have enjoyed collecting fallen leaves and pine needles. These are fun to rake and collect in buckets. The children have even started incorporating them into their sand creations.
In the sandbox, the children have been enjoying ‘baking’ all sorts of delicious creations. We are often offered hot soup, pizza, smoothies and ice cream cones. Of course, we’re only playing along with them when we pretend to eat the sand ice cream cone, but this is a fun way for young children to start to explore pretend play in a way that is based in our shared reality (food). In the YCC, there are few examples of pretend or fantasy play, Montessori settings are intentionally steeped in reality. Images in books depict reality (for instance, we avoid showing them anthropomorphized animal images), we explore real food in real applications (orange juicing with real clementines, instead of playing with fake food) and all of the materials of Practical Life (sweeping, mopping, metal polishing, etc) allow for a real exploration and purposeful work with real materials. So, sand kitchen play is a fun opportunity for the children (often those who are over 2 years old) to try out things that are pretend with something that we all understand, very clearly, is not a food.
With the youngest children, they are typically not yet cognitively to a point where they can fully understand real and pretend so they typically just observe the ‘baking’. Though for the emerging 2 year old and their evolving awareness and sense of humor, going along with them in this pretend play can be a fun way to help them try out this new awareness. Sandbox interactions also provide the children with many opportunities for problem solving, as there is inevitably one small pot, shovel, spoon or tool that everyone wants and we are there to support them with the guidance and language for working it out with their peers. All in all, we’ve been having lots of wet, sandy, delicious, engaging fun in the sandbox. I look forward to hearing what your child is creating with and for you, too.
Finally, I hope you’ve all had an opportunity to log onto Transparent Classroom to take a peek at what your child has been up to this fall. Conferences are right around the corner (reminder: look for the SignUp in an upcoming Friday Compass) and I look forward to meeting with each one of you about all the hard work and progress your child has made.
If you were able to attend the Back-to-School event at the beginning of this month, you might remember Brianne Allen’s question (Rosie’s mom) about suggestions of materials to have at home. This is a great question and I wanted to touch on it a bit more.
First, I want to assure all of you that while we make many suggestions of things to have in your home for your child, in no way should you feel like you need to make your home environment like that of our school environment. Your home is your home and must be a natural reflection of your own unique family. Naturally, your child will have their own home toys and home activities, just like they do at school. Given that they are two very different environments with two very different purposes, they two must act, look and perform differently. That said, there can be some common areas between the two. Some materials you might consider providing your child in your home:
- Books (do not forget to utilize the library)
- Art materials (stickers, painting, tempera sticks, kinetic sand, play doh)
- Cooking supplies (look for utensils that can fit your child’s hands and include your child in food prep whenever possible)
- Cleaning supplies (look for toddler-sized broom, dustpan/dustbroom, take a few sections out of the handle of an adult-height swiffer, a small spray bottle and washcloths, etc)
- Open-ended building sets which your child can use for many years (magna-tiles, duplos, bristle blocks, etc)
As with any material, remember to keep it manageable - your child would probably enjoy a small half-sheet of stickers, 8-12 magnatiles, 5-8 books, 1-2 new cooking utensils to master, 4-6 tempera sticks… this is less overwhelming and makes for easier clean up (I’m talking about you, tempera sticks). You can always add more when they’re ready for it.
If you’re still looking for ideas, there are many great Montessori toddler blogs out there, but remember, I’m always here to support you and I have lots of ideas for quick, easy, low-cost materials and activities that you can put together in your own home (usually with things you already have on hand).
Finally, the children are loving seeing their family and pet photos in the classroom. If you’ve had a chance to send me your photos, thank you! If not, please send a recent family photo (it doesn’t have to be anything special) and a photo of your pet(s) (or any other friend’s/babysitter’s/relative’s pet with whom your child is connected). The children love seeing their loved ones represented in the classroom and these have made for some great conversations!
Welcome Back! It has been a wonderful start to the school year. Our returning students are loving being back in their community and the new students are quickly settling in. Every day, we witness friendships forming, as our little community establishes itself once again.
Annie, Emily and I often have moments to sit back and watch sweet interactions between the children, the creation and enriching of relationships between these young people. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s not, but every interaction is valid. Every interaction can be a moment when your child learns more about themself and how better to connect with their peers. It is special to watch the evolution of this element of the human experience, and we feel privileged to witness it every single day.
While the YCC is focused on each individual child’s development, it is also the place where young children, often for the first time in their life, get to learn about community outside of their family. Community, connection, it’s all universal. We crave it as adults (the past 18 months have certainly taught us that), they crave it, too. Fortunately, we have this special place together.
I hope you’re enjoying having the photo roster in your home. This is the physical reminder of your child’s community - a concrete example of your child’s belonging in a special place outside of your family. This can help you and your child learn all the names of their peers. It can help you build your child’s peers into your conversations. It can serve as a reminder of their friends while we’re home on the weekends. Whatever it does for you and your child, know that we are glad that you are here, that your child has a spot on our roster. We look forward to growing together this year.
I hope you can join us for our Classroom Social on Sunday morning (9/19 @ 10:30-12:00) at Silver Lake Recreation Area.