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

2-3 years old

Wanna Nurture Will, Determination and Concentration? Help Your Child Find His Work

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 7:58 am | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke Washing Dishes

In Montessori, we talk about the child ‘finding his work.’ This means helping the child discover a piece of work that grabs his attention so much that – when undisturbed – he will work at it for long, long time. Preferably, it is a solitary piece of work done with his hands, using real objects, accompanied by increasing precision and concentration. Play kitchens, dollhouses, legos and most other conventional toys do not fall in this category. Don’t get me wrong, those activities serve wonderful purposes and are important, too. But in this case we are referring to activities like polishing a shoes, cleaning the windows, sweeping the floor, ironing, sewing, etc. Again, to review, these are 1. solitary activities 2. done with the hands 3. using real objects 4. requiring increasing precision 5. accompanied by concentration.

Helping a child find his work is a science and an art. You need to create the right environment. You must observe the child to see what he’s capable of and interested in doing. You have to respect the child when he finds his work and never interfere when he’s working. And you have to never give up on the child. Some children take a really long time to find their work and you have to keep presenting new materials till it sticks. Once found, nothing should stop you from protecting those critical moments of concentration.

I’m telling you this because when a child finds his work, you’ll be the happiest parent ever. Here’s how I know.

I have two very different children. Mackenzie loves to work. She is constantly busy. The quintessential Montessori child, she’s always coming into the kitchen saying, “Mama, I want to help you.”

Before you ask why I should be so lucky, I have another child, Brooke, who is the exact opposite. She’s more of a floater. She doesn’t like to work much. When I offer her lessons, she wanders off. Her favorite activity is to lie on my lap and suck her thumb. She’s not a passive child though, as 90% of the tantrums in our house originates with her. Cleaning up is especially painful and can take her twenty minutes to put away three pieces of Lego.

If you remember this post, she found her work here: changing into swimsuits. That has continued to be something she loves doing, changing outfits, doing her hair and putting on accessories. But recently, we went through another difficult spell with her. “I’m at my wit’s end,” was the exact text I wrote to my friend.

Then, about a week ago, after we made breakfast together, I asked Brooke (3 years 10 months) if she wanted to do dishes. I did a double-take when she said yes. For half an hour, she stood in front of the sink and washed those dishes with precision and care. She would sponge up a cup inside and out, put down the sponge, rinse away all the soap suds, then place it carefully in the dish rack. She worked for such a long time, I checked on her several times. When she got to the bottom of the sink, I found more dishes and quietly slid them into the sink. I even put in a few clean cups. I wasn’t going to let the lack of dirty dishes stop her from working with this level of concentration! When the sink was finally empty, she said, “I’m done.” Without any prompting, she noticed and wiped up the (very wet) floor too. Then she took off her apron and put it away.

After that moment, I saw a change. For days, she didn’t throw tantrums. She’s been working with intense concentration on other things. Overall, she’s been a much happier child. But you know who’s even happier? Me!

M washing fruits and vegetables to juiceM washing fruits and vegetables to juice

B and M have been doing Practical Life activities since they started walking. And they haven’t stopped. Now that they’re older and more capable, I give them more complicated Practical Life activities. Take juicing, for example. At 2-years-old, they juiced pre-cut oranges, all presented to them on one carefully-prepared tray. By 3, they learned to slice fruits and vegetables before juicing them. Now, they fetch the fruits and vegetables from the fridge, wash, cut, juice, clean up everything, then serve it to the whole family. A 1-year-old can only do one step of the process. At 4-year-old, the child can do the whole sequence.

Now that B and M are almost 4, I feel some pressure for them to learn to write or do math (it’s in the Asian gene, what can I say?!). We work on some of those things, but the bulk of their time with me is still spent working around the house. I know Maria is right when she placed her first emphasis on Practical Life. That is where the child builds will, determination and concentration. That is where the foundation is set. If you’re wondering how to ‘fix’ the child who loves to throw tantrums, or one who can’t concentrate on anything, or one who is overly aggressive or overly clingy, or if you’re simply wondering what activities to do with your child, try practical life activities. Ones that fit the criteria I mentioned in the beginning: a solitary piece of work done with the hands, using real objects, accompanied by concentration and increasing precision.

I think you’ll be happily surprised.

If Your Child Hits, Bites, Screams or Throws Tantrums – As Told By A Lizard

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 10:38 pm | By Stephanie Woo

You’ve read a lot of blog posts and watched a lot of videos. I hope this format will work better for us sleep-deprived mothers – expanding your screen will make it easier on your eyes, too!

What should you do if your child hits, bites, screams or throws tantrums? Watch the slideshow below and take some parenting advice from a wise ol’ lizard…

Learning Geography Through Fun and Play!

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 12:03 am | By Stephanie Woo

In November, Mark and I went to our children’s school for “Parent’s Night” so they could show us what they’ve been working on. We discovered that they had started working with the World Map!

Then one day they came home and over dinner, the two of them spontaneously broke into song. Like this:

That was a clear sign to me they were interested in the names of the continents. So I immediately bought a globe on Amazon.

A great way to introduce globes to children is to start with the basics. I would point to a blue part and say, “Ocean.” We’d turn the globe to find more oceans. Then I would point to the colored parts and say, “Continent.” And then together, we would find more continents. Our globe also has raised surfaces for mountains, so I would point to those and say, “Mountain,” then ask them to find several more mountains. 

Whenever I tell them stories about our family and friends who live faraway, like A-gong and A-ma (grandpa and grandma) who live in Taiwan, Grandfather who lives in Austin, TX or Great-uncle who lives in Paris, we would take out the globe to find those cities and countries together. If we travel – for example, we went to Seattle a couple weeks ago – we would look for those on the globe as well. 

I started looking for a way to teach them the Chinese names of countries. I never buy any Montessori material for our home if I know they have it at school, so I didn’t want to buy the wooden Montessori maps. Then I saw this GeoPuzzle Map. I must confess the quality is just above average. It requires adult presence because the puzzle pieces move around quite a lot, so it can be frustrating for a 3-year-old to do on her own. However, it serves my purpose: it is different enough from what they have at school and I can use it to casually introduce the Chinese names of these countries. To them, they don’t know the difference, it’s just a fun puzzle they want to play with a lot! 

Between 0-6, the child is in the Sensitive Period for Language. Between 3-6, the child has an insatiable desire for vocabulary words. There is really no limit to how much vocabulary they can learn during these few years. Learning all the continents and then all the countries within those continents is easy (and interesting!) for them during this age. 

The other day, M picks up a cookie, bites it into a long oval and exclaims, “South America!” She also sings a little song about Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It’s all fun and play – a foundation for geography just happens to come along with it. 

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The foundation of a child’s life starts in the first year. If you set up the first year right, things will be much easier moving forward. Perhaps you have a child between 0-12 months. Or you plan on having a child. Or you are interested in learning more about this age group. Join my next Long Distance Course, starting April 26th! Take the course from the comfort of your home and learn at your own pace!