Discover the secret of childhood from 0-3 year old:

1-2 years old

Eating ‘Family-Style’

Friday, April 27th, 2012 1:20 pm | By Stephanie Woo

I have moved away from putting food in a bowl and handing it to my kids to eat. Instead, I decided to teach them to eat “family-style.” I was inspired by the Montessori classroom I visited in CT, where the children sat around a table and served themselves out of a serving bowl.

It also makes sense for our home because we eat dinner together every night. Being a Chinese mother, I can’t help myself, I want to make sure they eat, so I may be guilty of overfilling their bowls, JUST IN CASE they are super hungry (or my cooking is super delicious) and they want to eat all of it. Sometimes it’s wishful thinking, like when I try to hide the small mountain of sauteed spinach underneath the rice in Brooke’s bowl. But sometimes Mama can dream…

After seeing too much food in the trash, I decided to change tactics. I bought several colored serving bowls and serving utensils. They caught on quickly —

Breakfast is yogurt, pear and oatmeal. Mackenzie starts with the yogurt.


I helped her move the bowls around, so she can reach the oatmeal.

Here she is scooping up the pears

Brooke also helps herself to some pear

and some oatmeal…

This is what Mackenzie’s bowl looks like after she serves herself. Much more reasonable amount than what Mom usually puts in there! Plus, she can always serve herself more of something she wants – in her case, that would be more yogurt, which ranks as one of her favorite foods!

I’m happy to report that we are wasting much less food now that they are allowed to eat what they want and the amount they want. Alright, I still try to sneak spinach into Brooke’s bowl, but can you blame me?

Tip #1: Your child will need some help with this at the beginning. This activity touches on several different skills, including sequencing, distinguishing (this spoon is for serving, this spoon is for eating) and organizing. For example, B and M have the motor skills to scoop, but they need my help offering them the bowls one after another and they sometimes try to eat from the serving spoons. So be patient with them, this skill may take some time to master.

#2: Make sure your serving bowls and utensils have a different color and shape from their bowls and utensils. When they can distinguish the sets visually, it really helps them grasp the concept.

#3: This is also the perfect time to teach table manners, “May I offer you some more pear?” “I see you would like some more yogurt?”

The right material is key for your toddler, make sure you consider the size, weight and feel of each item before purchasing it. Here’s where I bought mine:

Serving Bowls:

These bowls are brightly-colored (but not gawdily-colored AND easily distinguishable from the white bowls they eat out of), high-quality and just the right size as children’s serving bowls. They come in many different appealing colors.


The white bowls my children eat out of are Corelle dessert bowls. They’re made of glass, but with all things Corelle, do not break easily.  Toddlers are short (or vertically-challenged, if you like), so if the bowls that are tall and deep, they cannot see what’s inside their bowl when they are trying to scoop. Babies and toddlers generally know what they want, but they don’t have the motor skills to pick up exactly what they want yet. They are already working hard on their motor skills, so don’t make it any harder by blocking their view! These bowls are shallow so they can easily see what they are eating. We have 12 of these. I think each order comes with 6. I love these and cannot get enough of them!

Serving Spoons:

The serving spoons I bought at my local kitchen store (called ‘Vintage Spoons’) have a white handle at the top. They look a lot like this one I found online. The white handle at the top makes them easily distinguishable from the regular spoon.


Our spoons come from IKEA. They are the perfect size for toddlers, but in my opinion, a little too big for babies under 12 months.

Children know exactly what they want

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 8:47 am | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke signs, ‘Music.’

I’m sitting at my computer. Brooke comes to me and makes the sign for ‘music.’ “Would you like me to play some music?” I put on a Raffi song she’s never heard before. She listens for about 30 seconds and then shakes her head vigorously. “You don’t like this one?” I put on the Suzuki piano CD that starts with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She immediately starts swaying back and forth to the music. After about 3 minutes, I say, “Would you like to read a book now?” She shakes her head vigorously. “Okay. Well, then would you like to hear this song again?” She makes the sign for ‘again’ several times. And then starts humming along when the music begins.

Children know exactly what they want and I LOVE HOW CLEAR they can be.

Does Your Toddler Know a ‘Tulip’ from a ‘Chimpanzee?’

Friday, April 20th, 2012 4:19 pm | By Stephanie Woo

B and M are learning so fast these days I have a hard time keeping up with them. I’m often turning to my Montessori training and community to see what else I can give them to keep up with their growth.

Children are in a sensitive period for language from 0-6. I don’t know how it happened: just a few months ago, they hardly showed any signs of understanding what I was saying, and all of a sudden, not only do they understand both English and Chinese, they know where to find the “rhinoceros,” “toothbrush,” “tulips,” “measuring tape” and “kiwi” in the house. They can follow commands like, “Please get your shoes,” “Bring the bowl to Daddy,” “Please get some tissues and wipe up this spill,” “Peel the banana and put it in the mixing bowl.” All of this happened so fast I think it’s fair to call it an EXPLOSION!

When I visited a Montessori classroom, I was very inspired by the way the children loved and absorbed the language material. I’ve adapted my own version. Here is a great way to give your toddler more language while enhancing their sensorial learning.

Get a couple baskets/containers and fill them with items from several different categories. Here are some examples:

Household items – you can include things like binder clips, pencil case, a set of keys, ruler, measuring tape

Items you need before you go out – include items like sunglasses, wallet, metrocard, bracelet, necklace, watch, scarf, etc.

Animals – I bought mine from a company called Schleich. Their animal figurines are based on real animals. They are awesome.

I added these baskets one by one over several weeks. This is how you can present it to them:

  1. First, prepare the basket and put in on their shelf the night before.
  2. When they first see the new basket, they would invariably rush to see what’s inside. Say, “Do you want to see what’s inside? Let me show you!”
  3. Pick up the basket with BOTH hands, decide where to sit, then clear everything out of the way, so the area is clean from other distractions. Then, invite them to sit down next to you.
  4. Roll out a small rug on which to place the items. Begin to take out each item, naming them as you lay them out from left to right. (Left to right gets them used to the direction we read and write in the English language)
  5. If they try to reach out to grab it because they’re so excited, say, “It’s my turn right now. When I am done, I will let you have a turn.”
  6. After you lay them all out, put each item back one by one into the basket, again naming them as you put them back.
  7. Repeat this 2-3 times.
  8. When you are done, let them have a turn. Then LEAVE THEM ALONE without interrupting them. Let them further discover the items on their own.
  9. Repeat this 2-3 times over the next couple days or as often as you feel they need.
  10. Note: Keep this basket in a place that is easily accessible to them at all times.

These baskets are very popular with our kids, as well as all the kids who come to visit us. We always take one of these baskets with us to restaurants in case we need something to entertain them before and after meals. And it keeps them hooked.

Mackenzie is going through her “purse” and trying on the various items

When you are choosing what to give them

If you can give them the real thing, don’t use a replica. Yes they will throw the banana a few times till it gets bruised and the sunglass lens will get a little scratched, but so what? Real items are more interesting and offer them so much more sensorial learning than plastic replicas. A real mango can be experienced with all five senses, a plastic one only looks good. While you’re waiting for the fruits to ripen, put it to good use by letting the children have a chance to explore them! In a similar way, children who are allowed to use real silverware, glass cups and bowls learn to be careful with them, whereas children who use plastics all the time have much less awareness. When Brooke was 13 months, she broke a glass. It was a scare, but we swept, vaccummed and everything ended up being fine. Since then, she always handles the glass with care, whether she is bringing it to the table to use or bringing it to the sink to be washed. We’ve never had a second broken glass since!

A fruit lesson – all real fruits! Even Nola, our little visitor, loved touching the avocado!