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

Toys and activities

What We Started Doing After the Montessori Congress

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 6:39 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Lately, I’ve been uninspired. I’ve done everything with my children that I learned during my 0-3 training and they’re ready to move on. I start my AMI 3-6 training at Montessori Institute Northwest in September, but that seemed like eons away. I needed new ideas NOW.

Was it fate or a coincidence that the 2013 International Montessori Congress took place here in Portland OR, just 15 minutes from our home? AND it was a huge inspiration. The theme was Montessori: Guided by Nature. The most memorable parts of the Congress for me were the really cool people I met, Vandana Shiva’s closing presentation and Rusty Keeler‘s “Playscape”, an amazing play space made entirely out of simple, natural materials one can find anywhere.

After those five days, I was enlivened. I felt inspired to bring more nature into our lives. So we did just that. 

For starters, we simply took more walks in nature. Here’s one that we took with my friend, Brenda, and her 5-year-old daughter, Gerren. Little did I know that Brenda, being a native Washingtonian, was a total naturalist – and she led us to amazing little treasures at Hoyt Arboretum, a forest right next to our house…

Our fearless naturalist and leader, Brenda, foraging for goodies

Did you know there was something called Thimbleberries? A tiny little red fruit that tastes delicious!

 A handful of thimbleberries – gone in 2 seconds

Look at those loaded wild blackberry bushes! And they are free! 

Delicious blackberries

What?! You can eat these?

This valley of wild flowers belongs in a storybook. But Gerren doesn’t know that – she’s right at home prancing through the fields of blossoms! And they aren’t just pretty…

Look what they come with – wild sweet peas!

M ates pods after pods of these tiny peas. Definitely the most amount of raw veges she’s ever consumed in one sitting. Good for practicing that pincer grasp, too.

Dandelions!

Nature walks would not be complete without slugs. And Brenda spots one right next to our car. She finds leaves for transplanting the slug to a new home.

Everyone gets an close-and-personal opportunity to pet the slug

Gerren demonstrates how to handle a slug with care. She lays it down on a patch of grass, faraway from the roads, where it can be safe.. 

We’ve done lots of other ‘nature’ activities since the Congress that I will share in the upcoming weeks. For those of you out there who attended the Congress, what have you been doing differently? 

We Started Gardening! Part II

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 7:09 pm | By Stephanie Woo

M and Dad are back from the mountains. First they have to mix the dirt they dug up from the mountains with store-bought organic soil to create the optimal soil mixture. M helps Dad cut open the package of store-bought soil with her Muji scissors.

M scoops in soil from the bag, while Dad dumps in dirt from the mountain. 

M crawls into the bucket to help mix the dirt and soil.

Dad dumps the soil mixture into the trough. M helps to smooth it out.

We’ve been collecting vegetable scraps for two days. They add it to the soil as worm food. It’s raining and M looks pooped in this picture, but trust me, in real life, she’s still going!

Dad adds the worms to the soil. Apparently, these red wrigglers help produce the best planting soil. We think we might even start a worm farm! Dad covers up the worms and food with another layer of soil. The worms need one week to do their magic before we start planting. 

The next day, we add more worms. Even B can’t resist getting involved – once you get past the ‘ewww’ factor, they are really fun. Even I’m hooked!

If you’re looking for a reason to plant with your children, consider these benefits:

  1. Sensorial exploration (wet, cold soil and wriggly worms)
  2. Gross motor skill development (treading wet mountainous soil while carrying a pail and shovel)
  3. Fine motor skill development (cutting, scooping, mixing, spreading vegetable scraps, picking up small worms)
  4. Appreciation for nature/cycle of life (composting, preparing the soil, planting)
  5. Language development (‘gardening trough,’ ‘composting,’ ‘prepping the garden bed,’ ‘red wrigglers,’ ‘starter plants,’ ‘clay soil’ vs ‘sandy soil’ – even I had to learn these!)

But my favorite part of this whole process is watching how much effort M puts into it. She uses her whole body to dig, transfer, mix and pat. There’s nothing better than watching young children use maximum effort to engage in tasks they’re interested in. And after a few hours of work like this, M (who usually hates napping) is out like a light-bulb at nap time and stays asleep for THREE straight hours! 

More gardening posts to come!

We Started Gardening! Part I

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 11:59 pm | By Stephanie Woo

I’m a city girl. As a child, I grew up in a condo building in Taipei. As an adult, for 20 years, I lived in New York City. So if you ever tried to talk to me about gardening, worms, dirt and nature in general, I would’ve tried to change the subject on you. 

Well, now that I live in Portland, I’ve decided to do “as the Romans.” Almost everyone here has a garden. If you are not composting, raising a worm farm and eating dinner out of your garden, then seriously, don’t you care about the environment?? 

So, after much research, discussion with seasoned locals and Youtube videos, we decided to give this ‘grow your own food’ a shot. 

First, we went to the famous Portland Nursery and bought a whole bunch of ‘starters,’ or baby plants. You just have to transplant them into your garden and they’ll grow into fruits and vegetables! I sat there envisioning a garden full of food I’d want to eat. We ended up settling on some strawberries, bok choy, spinach, carrots, scallions and napa cabbage. I really would have preferred some watermelons, figs, kiwi and chocolate cake, but apparently Mark thinks we should start with the basics. He’s soo conservative sometimes. 

Of course we decided to involve B and M (now 2 years, 4 months) in the process. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean my husband, Mark. I followed everyone around and took pictures. 

So before you plant, you need something to plant in. Mark decides to build our own gardening troughs. After a trip to Home Depot, he showed up with all these cedar planks and got to work. Whenever he builds things, he thinks of ways for the children to help. Here he is screwing in castor wheels and the girls are helping fetch the screw and lining them up in the hole.

B lines up the screw

 

B holds the screw in place

 

Dad uses an electric drill to screw in the screws

 

The finished gardening trough!

Next, we put on our rain boots, grab our pail and shovel, then go for a short 30-second hike into the mountains (right behind our house). Oh, by the way, we tried to buy dirt at the nursery, but they didn’t have any to sell! I’m not used to that. I’m used to New Yorkers who will selling you anything you ask for. Oh well. We decide we’ll go digging for our own.

B, M and Dad digging for dirt in the mountains

 

B had enough. She said, “Dirty. Brooke wants to go home.” Just like that, she picks up her pail and goes home.

 

Dad and M keep going. M is using the smallest shovel you’ll ever find in the stores. Small yet mighty effective!

To be continued…