Twin Parks Montessori Schools - Preschool Manhattan, Upper West Side, New York City (NYC)

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Kathy’s Insights

Puzzles, Puzzles for Everyone!

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Did you ever wonder why our classrooms have a variety of puzzles on the shelves?  Most of the puzzles we have are lateral thinking puzzles and are designed to have one correct and obvious answer.  They have a control of error built in so that the puzzler will know when a correction needs to be made, rather than someone pointing out a mistake.  We believe that mistakes are opportunities for learning.

We use jigsaw-type puzzles in our early childhood classrooms for children to learn political boundaries as part of our geography curriculum.  The concept has not changed much since 1760 when British engraver and mapmaker, John Spilsbury mounted a map on a sheet of wood and sawed around each country.

Puzzles are extremely beneficial for the development of reading and math skills.  Children utilize visual discrimination, which helps to differentiate the shapes of letters and numbers.  Visual “mapping” is learned by looking at a picture of the completed puzzle to find out where a piece should be placed or rotating pieces to find the correct visual orientation and directionality. Puzzles provide opportunities for abundant problem solving skills.  Another skill developed through puzzles is frustration tolerance.  Puzzles can also be shared with others and helps to develop cooperative social skills.  Who knew puzzles pack such a wallop in early learning?

This past week, I spent several days with friends in Vermont.  It rained hard all but one day.  I carried along a 500-piece puzzle of Adolf Dehn’s 1941 watercolor of Spring in Central Park.  You are probably familiar with this famous painting.  There were 5 adults actively working on the puzzle.  Between making up stories about the people depicted in the painting and rules for puzzlers, and what should be included in a puzzler’s tool kit (a puzzle hammer), we laughed until we cried!  Who knew a puzzle could be so entertaining for adults?  I highly recommend them for young and old!

Adolf Dehn's Spring 1941

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Summer Fun With Children

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In a few days, our school year will end and parents will be looking for activities for their children to do beyond summer camps and vacations.  For many, the summer includes time at home with family, reading books, playing games, taking walks in the park and relaxing.  Contrary to popular beliefs, children do not have to be constantly entertained.  Even though children use the phrase, “I’m bored”, often.  I wonder if they truly know what it means.  The best response to hearing that phrase is , “Great! That means you get to decide what you want to do! ”  Of course you want to make sure you have plenty of open-ended materials on hand including blocks, paper, tape, glue, etc.

The Roemer Boys 1988

I vividly recall a game my husband and son played called, “Power Lines”.  With a large spool of twine, they wound the twine under, over, around, up high, down low every surface that would hold it.  It looked like a giant asymmetrical spider web.  Then with small s-hooks, toys could traverse the power lines downwards.  This went on for hours.  The clean-up required back tracking to re-roll the ball of twine so it would be ready for the next time to play.  My younger son enjoyed cooking.  Actually this started when he was not yet walking.  He loved to pull out all of the pots and pans, banging, stirring, spooning, etc.  Eventually this evolved into standing on a stool, assisting with putting a meal together.

These types of connections are at the very heart of childhood roots of adult happiness (see previous post about Dr. Ned Hallowell).  Earlier in the year I spent individual time with each Twin Parks’ teacher asking them to recall events from childhood that helped make them the adult s/he is today.  All recalled special time spent with a relative participating in daily life.  Cooking with  grandmother, doing errands with dad, reading with mom, etc.  What happy time do you recall from your childhood that you can re-create for your child this summer?  (Post and share your ideas for others to read)

Have a wonderful summer!

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Mind in the Making

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Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making, which outlines the seven essential life skills every child needs, spent the evening of May 31, 2011 with Twin Parks Montessori School teachers, parents and community members.

Ellen’s easy delivery style of presentation gave the audience samples of activities to do with children to keep the “fire in their eyes” for learning.  Ellen talked about her career’s work and showed video clips of researchers’ studies with children in the fields of child development and neuroscience.

Ellen Galinsky makes a point in her presentation.

I met one attendee at the bus stop the morning after the event who said she greatly appreciated Ellen’s “non-alarmist presentation”.   Ellen’s great news is “that there are many simple things all parents can do to build these skills in their children for today and in the future.  And it is never too late to begin”.

Audience of parents, teachers and community members listen to Ellen.

Follow the presentation, Ellen signed books and answered additional questions.

Ellen personalized a copy of Mind in the Making.

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