Homemade Toddler Slot Box

An Imbucare Object Permanence Box is meant to allow the child to practice seeing an object disappear and understand that it is still there, while at the same time working on muscle coordination. I won’t go as far to say that my homemade version is an Imbucare Object Permanence Box because mine is see-through and does not easily allow for retrieving the objects out of the box. I could work on improving my homemade version- mine is more focusing on coordination and muscle control over object permanence.

Purchasing an Imbucare Box from Neinhuis, one of the leading brands of Montessori materials, is not cheap on the pocket book.

Even buying this from Montessori Outlet is more than I am able to spend:

More than 50% off is still very expensive!

I had a restless child who needed a toy to concentrate on so I took an Indian food takeout container (those tall thick ones for liquids) and cut a rectangular hole in the top. I then got some old playing cards and taught my son how to place the card through the hole. He loved this activity! It engaged his brain and his body.

Careful cutting the hole not to create any sharp edges

I quickly learned that playing cards lose their shape in the hands of a toddler. After the cards became bent he would have a difficult time getting them through the slot. I tried to find a sturdier object so that he would not get frustrated. Finding a stash of old bank, grocery and university cards we were back in business! A much needed upgrade as credit cards don’t lose shape and they are thick enough that he can pick them up when they are flat on the floor.

The second issue with this activity is that I have to supervise him because he can’t open the lid by himself, these containers seal so well they are hard to peel open. So I have to stand close by to open and close the container as he goes through all the cards (watching a toddler slowly pick up and place cards in the slot is difficult to to intervene but he does well… just takes much longer than it would us!) Since he has a short attention span for activities these days, I don’t mind sitting with him but I wonder if I created a more Object Permanence-Like box if it will increase his attention span since he would have more independence.

While I wanted a quick and cheap activity on the go, there are ways that I plan on improving this DIY version to create a more permanent (pun intended) material to add to our collection.

Toddler Hack: $0, 5 minutes

Future Improvements: Add Object-Permanence element, use a non-plastic item

Money Saved*: $30-60

*Saved for college fund since I can’t DIY Diploma

Outdoor Toddler Clothes Line

We’ve all been told the phrase “If you want something done right, do it yourself” at least once, if not multiple times. There is nothing farther from reality when teaching a toddler how to do chores. Today we worked on hanging our laundry outside. I didn’t plan on doing this, it was my son that taught me that he was ready and that I needed to include him.

toddler hanging shirt on laundry line

My son was standing beside me fussing and whining. I was focused on the task of getting the laundry up and trying to get him to play independently (i.e. chase our dog around the yard). When he wouldn’t let up, I gave him one of his shirts and told him to put it on the line, gently guiding his hand. He beamed with pride when it stayed up! I handed him another one, he focused on getting it on the line, it fell, but he just asked for another piece of clothing.

I know that I need to be more patient and slow down. I can thank my son for helping me to teach him. Sure he piled the clothes into one area or half of them fell down and I had to go back later and fix them, but that was not what my son saw. He learned how to do something new, he enjoyed working alongside me, and he felt pride in his work. Perhaps next time his coordination and his attention span will be longer.

Getting distracted by birds chirping

Adult to toddler hack: In order to make our clothesline toddler friendly, we just added a rope at his height at the bottom. Cost= $0. Time=5 minutes

Advanced Lessons: for older toddlers and children you can incorporate lessons on solar energy and/or practical life of folding clothes after they have dried

Toddler Level Mirror

It’s hard to be a little kid in an adult world. Everything is made for big people and you are working so hard to navigate this world but don’t seem to fit in. Having a toddler sized layout is important for building self-esteem and independence. Unfortunately, it is surprisingly counter intuitive and difficult to do as an adult that has had adult sized items for so long. One way I like to help myself navigate this new world better is to crawl around and see what my son’s perspective is and how I can better create an appropriate environment for him. It is not something that has happened quickly, but I like to give myself credit even for the small things. My house doesn’t look like a Montessori classroom or a toddler oasis but I am trying one item at a time.
One rearranged item is better than none I tell myself!

mirror hanging at toddler height on bedroom wall

It’s a small change I made. I happened to have this non-glass mirror hanging above my dresser so I could put my earrings in. It was very useless since I can’t wear earrings anymore unless I want to risk losing my lobes. I decided to hang it low in my son’s bedroom so that he can see himself in the mirror.

The first time he got a peek he did a double take. He smiles when he sees himself. He gets joy from seeing me in the mirror and then turning around and seeing me right there. Sure it’s covered in finger prints most of the time and doesn’t entertain him for more than a couple minutes, but I believe having this at his height is one small step I can take in making him feel confident in his environment, making him feel that his room is his.

Future goal: a brush on a shelf so he can learn to comb his hair

Homemade Bilingual Books

Finding bilingual materials is a constant challenge in the United States- especially if the language you are learning is not Spanish. With a lack of resources available locally, I can either order them on Amazon Canada, French websites, or the free shipping version is to make my own!

Like all good blog posts, I got a little help from my friend Dolly. Have you ever heard of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library? If you didn’t already love Dolly, here is another reason to love her, her commitment to childhood literacy. We signed up to receive a free book each month. After two months of this we realized that we had been gifted so many books by family and friends, combine this with our weekly trips to the library, we quickly took ourselves off the list. Books are not something we needed more of, but if you are struggling to make it to the library because of the number of children you have, or if your library is far away and you would like to spark joy and literacy in your child by getting a free book in the mail every month (until the age of 5)- please sign up for Imagination Library!

Two of the books we received from Dolly were bilingual books- in Spanish and English! What a great way to introduce children to another language. Speaking French myself, and not Spanish, I decided to take a Sharpie and write in the French. While I could just translate in my head, I want my son to see the words and when I am exhausted at bedtime, language translation does not sound like a fun activity.

trilingual children's book: Spanish, English and my hand written French.

With a sharpie and some time, I added a multilingual book to our collection. Thank you Dolly!

DIY Montessori Shelf

Wouldn’t we all love to spend endless money on the perfect setup for every room? If I could, I would have bought this Montessori infant shelf from Sprout. I found this brand when I was searching for a toddler table (blog post coming soon). I decided to convert a bookshelf that we had in his room. We had LOTS of children’s books on the bookshelf, and my son liked to create chaos by pulling all the books down on the ground… over, and over again. I found myself constantly putting the books back on the shelf multiple times a day. This appeared to be a waste of my time and my sons’ time.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Then I started to think about it from my son’s perspective. If I saw a shelf full of books stacked really close together, wouldn’t I have the urge to pull them off the shelf as well?? Looking at adjacent photo, what can a child actually process? This shelf is overwhelming. The books aren’t viewed as single items but as a large unit built up of building blocks- and what do toddlers like to do with building blocks? Knock them over! Break them down to their smallest part to try to understand their structure.

Wooden bookshelves are expensive. Even before I decided on a Montessori set-up, I knew I wanted a real wooden bookshelf. Buying new was way out of our price range, so my mother in law found this wooden bookshelf at a consignment shop for us.

bookshelf with only two items per shelf.
Visually manageable for a toddler

The first of every month, I rotate the items that are on the shelf. Every item on this shelf was a gift we received. I keep his books in the top shelf of the closet and his toys in a toy box. I am no longer putting handfuls of books back on the shelf multiple times a day. My son now goes to the bookshelf and actually looks at the different items. He will normally just take one item to play with (or throw on the ground, let’s be honest). Even though the top shelf appears out of his reach, he actually really good at reaching to the top and likes getting the book up top. We did secure the bookshelf to the wall with cables for the day he decides to climb up the shelf.

His bedroom is less messy, I am cleaning up less and we are all much happier!

Bilingual Bébé

Before my journey into parenthood, I was a high school French teacher. I didn’t grow up bilingual and always wished that I had. While I love learning languages and cultures, language learning does not come easy to me. I had to work really hard to acquire French skills, especially since I am a very quiet introvert. I studied abroad for six months, spent a year working at a bar in a French monastery, spent a school year working in Senegal and I still try to keep up the language with movies and practice. What better way to practice than to speak to my son in French.

During the first six months of his life when all he did was sleep and gurgle, I read him my French novels, we listened to French podcasts together and I spoke to him with my heavy accent and strange foreign way of speaking. At first I was afraid I would mess up his brain speaking to him in a non-native language, but after reading the limited research available, it didn’t appear that this would be the case. There isn’t a lot of academic research as to what happens when a non-native speaker tries to teach a second language from birth, it appeared that my son might not master the language completely, but just a little exposure to a second language is beneficial.

During my graduate studies, I spent a summer working at a Montessori preschool in Guadeloupe (French speaking island in the lesser French Antilles). I noticed that a lot of parents at this private school tried to introduce their child to English at home. Their parents all had heavy accents and limited vocabularies (like me!) but those that had the most exposure to English at home were the most comfortable and had the best comprehension in English class at school.

So to all you parents out there who are hesitant- go ahead and learn a language with your child! In the U.S. the easiest language to learn together is Spanish- the public library has the largest selection of Spanish children books over other world languages. With language learning apps like Duolingo, you can advance your skills during nap time, and then read books together at bedtime.

It’s easy to not speak to my son in French, especially with a monolingual dad. I like the mental focus it takes. I will follow up this post with resources I use or make in French, and those available in other languages as well. My son isn’t speaking yet, but I have secret hopes that he’ll say Bonjour before Hello.

Rainy Day Blues

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather Book Cover

After hearing about this book from multiple sources, I decided to check it out from the local public library (the best way to read books: support local libraries and reuse materials). What an important book for me to read! Growing up in Seattle, Washington, I lived in the rain throughout my childhood. I don’t remember the rain, or being bummed if it was cloudy; I just remember being a kid and playing in the woods behind my house. I remember disappearing for hours with my neighborhood best friend, coming back after climbing trees and catching tadpoles.

When I had my son, I realized I had become a fair weather outdoors woman. I loved backpacking, but not if it was too hot or too buggy. I loved hiking, but definitely not in the rain. I enjoyed a bike ride but only if it was a crisp and clear day. The long Tennessee winters, the dreary sky, lack of snow and abundance of cold rain wrought havoc on my spirit. I wanted to be different for my son. I didn’t want to be timid and dreary. This book was exactly the motivation I needed to get off my couch and get us outside. I read this book in January and promptly scoured the local thrift stores for rain gear and boots for my one year old. Apparently going outside isn’t very popular with a one year old who just started walking, I had such a difficult time finding used gear and waterproof boots for my toddler.

I switched from looking at thrift stores and consignment shops and went online. After awhile, I found a waterproof onesie from Mountain Warehouse.

Light Blue Rain Suit

It was on sale for $30 and included a removable fleece liner, so that I could continue to use this through the summer and fall. I purchased a 12-18 month size and it was almost comically too big. He could still walk around and so I was glad it would last so long.

With the rain suit bought I needed waterproof shoes. If his feet gets wet he gets really cranky and wants to be held, but still wants to be outside. How do you keep a newly walking toddler’s feet dry? Rubber rain boots seem too heavy for a new walker. I had heard that Croc makes a lightweight boot but their smallest size is 6 and my son is a 4. I had to sacrifice my pocket book and I found a company in Vancouver that makes boots for the little ones. MyMayu makes boots for the very very young. They are flexible, lightweight and seemed like they would be perfect. I bought a size 5/6 with a liner so that they would fit for a long time. I justified the price with the fact that the next child would be able to wear them too. They were a tad big, but with the liner and heavy socks he learned to walk around just fine. They aren’t 100% waterproof, the liner will feel wet, but his socks never feel wet. His feet stay dry and warm.

My son loves going outside from the minute he wakes up, he likes to find his shoes and then put them in our lap, pointing at the door, “Da da da da”. While I am still not entirely thrilled that I have found myself on more than one occasion standing outside in the 45 degree rain before I have finished my first cup of coffee in the morning, I must admit, I feel better after being outside, even in these conditions. With each cold and wet morning I spend standing in the grass, I know I am learning to love all kinds of weather again. Here’s to hoping that my son will keep his enthusiasm for the rain.

I wasn’t born this way

When my son was born, I was overwhelmed and under prepared for the pressure of being a parent. I made a sound decision: to do nothing but my best for that moment and learn as I went along. Isn’t this what we all do? I originally planned on going back to work after a semester off from teaching. One semester became one year, which became the foreseeable future. I had planned on going back to teach other people’s children, as I put my own child into someone else’s care for education. The pressure to educate my own child is much more intense than when I am doing my job in the classroom. I was looking forward to going back to work and not feeling as if my child’s education depended solely on me. As a parent we feel that we must be infallible, there is no room for error. As we all know, we make mistakes all the time. I have decided to pursue the life of a stay at home parent and deal with the pressures that this brings.

I didn’t originally set up my house for a Montessori environment. It was after a year of watching my son learn about this world he lives in did I see how powerful Montessori is not just for the classroom, but for the home as well. It just made sense (to me). My parenting style is what feels natural to me. I didn’t decide to become the poster parent for attachment theory. I don’t walk around screaming about the benefits of co-sleeping and that we should ignore medical professionals’ advice. I just did what felt natural and right for my family.

The set-up of my house feels natural for not just my son, but our entire family. Allowing him to create his own independence gives me and his father more independence as well (something I crave after a year of intense attachment parenting). Oh, and also we are incredibly cheap. So while I will spend 10 years in an institution of higher learning instead of having a stable income, I will not buy something if I can find it at a thrift store or on craigslist. While I haven’t gone back to my dumpster diving college days, living modestly is a goal (although you wouldn’t say I was a minimalist if you saw my closets that are stuffed from floor to ceiling).

So you do you reader. I am doing me. I am full of Pinterest fails, messy endeavors, and chaos searching for serenity.