Annabelle's Shelves: 18 Months
We've been in a bit of a rut. Not because of any one thing. Just lots of little things. We moved, and the new house needed a bit of work. We spent time setting up the rooms but didn't take much time to really make the school room a learning space. There were shelves, but I randomly put toys and games on them, without much thought. And honestly, now that we have 5 acres of property, the kids were outside most of the day. So sitting inside, doing these focused activities, just wasn't a priority.
But I am looking for balance. I want them to spend time outside every day. I want them to spend lots of time outside. I think that's important and healthy.
I also want them to sit and focus on things. Alexander was always able to do this, and I don't know if it's because of anything I did. I think that's just his personality. Annabelle is a lot more free spirited and interested in every little thing going on around her. She will sometimes focus, but it's hit and miss. Finding activities for her was more of a challenge because she doesn't "try anything once" like her brother. That's okay with me right now; I think she'll get to that point eventually. I like that she's so decisive.
Her shelves aren't just for 18 month olds. Her shelves are for Annabelle. She likes certain things, so I tailored her shelves to her personality and interests.
She likes the act of putting a ring on a peg/stick. I've got two stacking puzzles that she likes. We played with the right one in the car, on long drives, and the dark blue ring is... missing. It's not lost; it's in the car somewhere! I just have to find it. She puts the rings on in any order she pleases. The owl puzzle is a little trickier because the pieces are different thicknesses, and there's even one piece that's sort of rubbery, not wooden like the rest. Plus, in order to make the owl, they have to go in the right order and proper orientation. We aren't there yet! For now, she just likes stacking.
The next shelf has two more classic Montessori activities. The left is animal object-to-picture matching. We have a bunch of Toob animals, and I had made some complimentary flash cards a while back (when Alexander was younger). I simply picked out 5 animals and their matching cards. We do this activity together.
On the right is transferring. I've got some big red fluffy balls, two bowls, and a slotted spoon to use. She uses her hands. She's able to scoop the balls into the spoon but can't twist her little wrist enough to dump them out, at least not consistently. Using her hands is easier for her. The spoon will stay put, if she decides to try it again.
The third shelf has a farm animal puzzle. We do this together, to learn some animal sounds. On the right is another classic Montessori activity: small cylinder blocks. These are knobbed cylinders. I took two of them and combined the pieces. I don't know if that's the right way to do it, but she likes dumping the pieces out and putting them back in. Adding a second little block is just an added challenge. Sometimes she just puts the blocks in the bucket and dumps them out (instead of putting them into the holes).
The bottom has a little hammer with a block of pegs. That's a sort of gross motor activity; she's got to really hit the pegs pretty hard and directly for them to go down. (Alexander likes this one, too.) And the last thing on the bottom is a wooden truck with wooden animals. Most of the animals can fit into any of the holes, so it's easy enough for her to do. To get them out, you slide the door up and just pour them out. I may switch that one out with something that's not animals. I just realized that I've got 4 different animal-related activities on her shelves. I'm sure she doesn't care, but maybe something related to colors would be better.
Finally, I've got a red bouncing horse next to her shelf, something for her to balance on. She's a little short to actually bounce on it, but she likes trying to climb onto it!
There are a few other things we're doing with Annabelle these days, things that aren't on her shelves.
- Water pouring. I will give her two pouring cups, one filled with a small amount of water, and she pours the water back and forth.
- Cleaning spilled water. This goes along with the water pouring. I just leave a rag next to her. When she spills (a lot... she doesn't seem to notice when she spills a small amount), she says, "Mess, mess" and she cleans up the spill with the rag.
- Stickers! She loves putting stickers on, well, anything. She started by putting them on a giant sheet of paper, but she's moved on to putting stickers on people, herself, the floor, the table, and any place they'll stick.
- Tidying up. She helps at the end of the day by picking up strewn books and toys and putting them where they belong. I help (I feel like I'm micromanaging, but she gets distracted mid-task) by reminding her what she was doing.
- Loading the dishwasher. She just handles the small plates and non-sharp utensils.
I'm working on the post about Alexander's shelves at 4 years + 2 months.
Correction... I'm working on what the heck to put on the shelves. THEN I'll work on the post about it!