involving our toddler in holiday traditions
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been interested in learning more about the Montessori method. I read a few inspiring blogs, I’ve checked out some books from the library (ebooks from the library are amazing). One of the things that I find most striking/awesome about the Montessori approach is the involvement of the baby/toddler/child in everyday life. I really appreciate and try to embrace the suggestion to consider what the child might be capable of or interested in, to put an activity in front of them that will challenge them enough to require concentration but not enough to cause frustration.
With that in mind, I’ve been trying to involve Lil in as much of our Christmas preparations as I can. In my last post, I mentioned that we toddler-proofed the tree as much as we possibly could by putting non-breakables within Lil’s reach. We also had purchased a small tree and some little ornaments for her to play with before even putting up the big tree. She played with the little tree A TON in the first week, and putting on/taking off ornaments required a bit of concentration for her. She plays with the real tree much less, except for a few ornaments with wheels that she likes to push around, and the jiggly pinocchio ornament we bought her in Italy. She’s surprisingly gentle with both.
Probably the easiest way to involve Lilly in the holiday is in the kitchen. She LOVES to use spice containers to shake out whatever is in them, so I thought sugar cookies were in order. I purchased the sugar sprinkles in bulk for cheap and mentally prepared myself for the post-cookie mess, and let her go to town. I rolled and cut shapes, and she sprinkled the unbaked cookies with sugar. This kept her busy for a solid 20-30 min. It also covered my kitchen in tiny red and green sugar crystals, but nothing a bucket of water, dishrag, and a few deep mama breaths couldn’t solve.
There was also some eating of the red sugar crystals. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think strict Montessorians allow eating while cooking.)
We’ve also tried chocolate covered pretzels. There was much deep concentration… until she realized that the pretzels were covered in NOMNOMNOM (what she seriously calls candy/treats), then all bets were off. I’d used this wooden skewer to pull the tiny pretzels out of their melty chocolate bath, and when Lilly asked for it, I handed it to her and watched her imitate what I had just done — poking the stick into the pretzels. Within a short time, this evolved into sticking the skewer into her mouth to lick off the chocolate, but hey! who could blame her?
Just this past week, we decided to share our baking fun with friends. The girls had a blast with the sugar sprinkles, and also with the chocolate-eating. We found several pretzels that had been licked clean of their chocolate.
They were also sweet enough to help us with the cleanup. Arm some toddlers with wet washcloths and let them at it! The mess can’t get much bigger anyways, can it? We also made peppermint bark (yum!), encouraging the girls to smash the candy canes, although they didn’t seem as interested in that process.
I think that one of the keys to getting Lilly interested and involved has been to consider ahead of time which supplies are needed and how to adapt any of the supplies for toddler use. For example, we have a shelf of rags within her reach that she now uses to wipe the floor whenever she spills, and there’s a bucket in the kitchen corner for dirty rags (note that she doesn’t clean up the spill perfectly – I often have to finish cleanup – but I do appreciate and thank her for her effort). For the projects above, the child-sized table in the kitchen was so useful (it’s an old side table from Ikea – $7, I think), and I also only filled each of the sprinkle shakers about 1/4 full because there was no way the girls each needed an ENTIRE shaker full of sugar. Tiny aprons would be wonderful, too. Perhaps Lilly will find one under the Christmas tree.
We’ve been talking a fair bit about baby Jesus and his birthday and Santa and sharing gifts with our friends. I’m certain most of it is over her head, and that’s fine. I’ve tried to involve her by asking her to help make presents for her grandparents and friends at daycare, and asking for her help in wrapping said presents.
We had a great time with paint a few weeks ago, and when I pulled out the projects to wrap them with her just a few days ago, she pointed at them and then at herself and said “paint”. I was so surprised that she remembered! Those are all of the details I can divulge on that until the grandparents open their little presents. (They’re all over pinterest, so you’ve probably seem them, but ohmygosh they are so cute I wish I could share with you now!)
We’ve made bird treats to share with our friends at daycare (directions here). This was one of those not very successful projects — I thought she’d be into scooping a gelatin & birdseed mix from one bowl to a mold… instead, she was into eating the birdseed and couldn’t be convinced otherwise. (So no pictures of this one!) She is becoming interested in stickers, though, so I asked for her assistance in decorating tiny cellophane bags that we put the bird treats in. I’d ask her which sticker she wanted me to peel off of the sheet and she’d point to one. I’d ask her where she was going to put it and she’d point to one of the bags. Then I’d hand her the sticker and she’d place it where she told me she was going to. I am hoping that this activity helps build planning skills, since they are so so important, but I really have no idea when those sorts of skills start to take shape (anyone?). Stickers definitely build her eye-hand coordination, and her ability to use her fingers more independently — I’ve seen both of these skills improve as we’ve played with stickers, and I’m hoping to get her assistance in decorating a few more packages before the big day next week.
And that’s how we’ve been involving our toddler in our Christmas preparations (she’s 17 months for any of you wondering if your toddler would be able to do similar activities). I’d love to hear other suggestions of how to involve her further. What are you doing to get your kiddos into the holiday spirit?