Friday, January 28, 2011

From the Vault - Picture of the Day

A three year old's first lesson in hand washing.

A three year old's first lesson in hand washing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Repeating Work

I confess. I am not a trained Montessori infant / toddler directress. I am trained in Primary. So please take the last and the forth coming posts as simply my curiosity about the whys and ways of a toddler and my observations - post mental scrutiny.

Prior to spending the day with Julia recently, her mother told me with a wonderful smile that Julia was now frequently removing her clothing and then, later, attempting to put them back on. It was after breakfast, and we were upstairs so that I could quickly check my email (I am still the editor of Rochester Woman Magazine and need to stay in touch with my writers - Julia's parents found no issue with this as they too use the computer in their home with Julia present), when it began. Julia had all of her clothes off in a flash and then started putting them back on again. This cycle of activity continued for a good while. I silently watched and then asked myself, "Is this her work and if so is she simply repeating her work?" Each time she pulled on a sock she was so specific about making sure the fit around her toes was perfect. Here was: attention to detail, a period of concentrated effort, silent activity and the pursuit of perfection. So...Julia was repeating her work - learning to dress and undress herself - moving towards greater independence.

She was so utterly focused on each garment of clothing that she was absolutely quiet. I remained also. And then something new caught her eye. She became captivated by that small detail.

She sat right down to study it closer:

It was the plastic tag left over from holding the price ticket:

After removing her clothes for the third time and starting to put them back on - one more thing drew her eye - her own shadow.

Shadow Curiosity:

It was a wonderful 45 minutes. I could have written two dozen pages of observation notes.

And then she saw her boots:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Does a Spoon Have a Taste?

These days I am spending time with a 22 month old a couple of days a week. My life as an editor and feature writing provides me with flexibility in my schedule to commit to spending a few hours a week nannying. It is a favorite part of my week.

Last week I presented spooning to Julia. I care for her in her home, so I use what I can find in the cupboards. After I gave her an initial presentation and just before she did the work herself, she did something that caused me to question the whys of her behavior. With the two bowls before her, one filled with dried kidney beans, she lifted the spoon, hesitated, looked at me with a questioning silent expression and then licked the empty spoon. When she was finished licking it, she looked at the spoon for a moment as if accessing her recently taken in data and then began her spooning work.

Is it a leap to abstraction for a toddler to understand that a spoon or other utensil is not the source of flavor? That the flavor solely comes from what is put on the spoon? So, if we accept that children are sensorial beings and that the act of tasting something is not simply to satisfy hunger but also used as a method of gathering information like temperature and texture, and if we accept that most of the time a spoon delivers data and content - food, why then dismiss or attempt to discourage a child from using their instinctual behavior which is based on prior knowledge? A child, a toddler, licks an empty spoon before using it to evaluate whether it is the spoon itself that always provides some type of taste or other sensorial data. Does a spoon have a taste? So - again my question - is it a leap for a child to understand an empty spoon has no flavor? Too, is it not also significant that a tool be used appropriately. If all of the child's prior experiences with a spoon is as its use to deliver food - is it then a leap to understand that it may also be used to transfer quantities - which is what spooning is - without first licking the spoon?

To me, this is also somewhat of a mathematical act - the coupling of a spoon with food - addition. Spoon + Food = Taste

Working with one child at a time is an enormous luxury - but I do get carried away with my Montessori minds loves that about me!