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

Words are Important

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We use our words to express our feelings, our needs and to converse with others. The words we say to young children are extremely important.  Before birth, infants are hearing and learning words that the immediate family is speaking. Within the first few months of life, children decipher the sounds that belong to the language of their birth. A baby can learn any language that is spoken to him/her from birth, it is the language spoken most that becomes most important.

This New York Times article titled, “Quality of Words, Not Quantity“, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek says that it is not just shoving words in it is about having fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like a pretend tea party or using a banana as a phone.

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Children and Nature

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Several years ago at an American Montessori Society conference, I had the pleasure to hear Richard Louv talk about children and the importance of having nature be a part of their lives. Richard has written several books that I highly recommend parents read. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder has become a mainstay in Montessori education.

Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. We city dwellers have to think and plan to incorporate nature into children’s schedules. We are fortunate to have many natural parks in and around NYC to take advantage of. We can’t just send our children out to play, we have to accompany them. What a benefit since being in nature is good for all! And what better time than when the leaves are beginning to change in the autumn?

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The Survivor Tree

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On September 11, 2014, we thought about what we were doing on that day many years ago.  I was in Memphis, head of Lamplighter Montessori School.  We invited the then Executive Director of the American Montessori Society, Michael Eanes, to spend two days with our school community.  I was ready to pick him up at his hotel when I was alerted to the first crash into the tower.  I remember watching horrified as the second tower was hit.  Words cannot express the impact it had on our school community in Memphis, many miles from NYC.  Michael was worried about his staff back in NYC and his family in Connecticut. It took 4 extra days for him to be able to get back home.

Today, I received this story of The Survivor Tree.  May it bring you as much peace and hope as it did for me.

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How do Babies Learn About Music?

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Adults listen to music for a variety of reasons:  to lift our spirits; soothe our frayed nerves; and move us to dance.  Can listening and playing music benefit your baby?  We know that singing to and playing lullabies for babies helps to sooth infants.   Although  Baby Einstein was debunked as a way to increase cognitive abilities, research has shown that learning to play a musical instrument definitely helps with higher level thinking, memory, and problem solving required for mathematics. Click here for more benefits.

There are many ways to encourage musical play with children.  For centuries babies have been given rattles and shakers to hold and enjoy shaking.  Pots and pans or any unbreakable container with a wooden spoon will produce beats and eventually rhythm.  Using call-and-response sessions between you and your baby will show him/her how to shake or drum in response.  At your next gathering of other parents and babies you can host a jam session!

Watch this video to see how one family is encouraging music in their house.

For more detailed information, visit this blog.

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What’s so great about MUD? International Mud Day – June 29th!

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I have fond memories of the role mud played in my childhood.  From raiding the kitchen of old containers and pots with dents, to gathering twigs and bits of moss, to finding a water source so essential to any mud project.  My learning evolution progressed from a sensorial experience with mud on my hands and squishing between my toes, to cooking mud cakes in the sun, to sliding down a muddy hill on a flattened cardboard box, to constructing whole communities for my troll doll, Pumpernickel.

Those of you with access to green space around your home will appreciate the latest article by Mary Rivkin in the Community Playthings newsletter.  Click here.  Rivkin has also written a book, The Great Outdoors:  Advocating for Natural Spaces for Children.

Jan White’s Natural Play Blog also talks about creating a mud kitchen.  I love this picture that is posted on Jan’s blog.

Mud cooking with small hands!

Mud cooking with small hands!

 

Did you know that there is a World Forum International Mud Day?  It is happening on June 29th!  It is for children and early childhood professionals , parents, and mud enthusiasts all over the world.  Check out their FaceBook page!  The pictures are fantastic!   I am disappointed not to find any mud day activities listed for my back yard – Central Park in NYC.  I will have to find my own mud!  What will you do with your children on June 29th to celebrate International Mud Day?

 

International Mud Day!

International Mud Day!

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Toddlers and Social Skills

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New York City is a wonderful community that provides learning opportunities for people of all ages.  Parents have multiple opportunities for their children to participate in a variety of educational settings.  One such opportunity for toddlers was highlight in an online article in the Wall Street Journal. I was contacted by the journalist who wrote the article asking my opinion about the program and the length of time the children are in this particular program.  Please read the article and respond.

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Dr. Tovah P. Klein Lets Little New

Yorkers Resolve Their Own Disputes

 

 

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Why do we need handwriting skills?

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Many of you have heard me say that we must limit screen time for our toddlers and early childhood children.  The ideal would consist of no screen time under 2 years of age and no more than 30 minutes for 3 and 4 year old children!

Many schools are moving away from teaching handwriting after 1st grade and focusing on keyboarding skills.  This is a mistake.  The New York Times published an article on June 2, 2014 titled, What’s Lost as Handwriting FadesRead it here.

03WRIT-master495What is lost when we skimp on handwriting skills?  According to psychologists and neuroscientists, there is a link between handwriting and broader educational development.  Children learn to read more quickly wen they first learn to write by hand.

Montessori always taught writing skills before reading, or simultaneously.  When learning sounds that letters represent, we use sandpaper letters.  Students trace the letters while hearing the sound and seeing the letter.  The tracing reinforces muscular memory.  Hearing, seeing, touching, use three senses to learn letters.  Experts say that handwriting has links to working memory – a skill linked to long term success in school.

Plus if were are not writing when would we get a chance to doodle? And you all know that doodling can aid a person’s memory by expending enough energy to keep one from daydreaming.  But that’s a topic for a future blog!

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Ceramics or Plastics – what do you use?

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Twin Parks Montessori Schools use real glass or ceramics table ware whenever possible.  We introduce an open glass to our infants as soon as they are ready to hold on.  A picture of one of our students was featured in an article in DNAinfo New York.

 

Central Park Montessori Student prepares for lunch using real table ware.

Central Park Montessori Student prepares for lunch using real table ware.

Most parents are using glass and ceramics to prevent harmful chemicals from plastics which could potentially leach into foods.  We want to allow children to have responsibility for authentic experiences with with hands and minds.  What do you use?

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How can we develop future leaders?

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Do you consider yourself a leader?  If so, how did you become one? What did you experience in your childhood that helped you become a leader?

While reading an article by Kathy Caprino in Forbes online, titled, 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders, I discovered some ways that I hindered my own children while they were young. It is still hard for me as a parent to be aware of my adult children’s disappointments or struggles without wanting  to “fix” or help with their challenges.

Quoting Caprino, here are some things we should do to promote leadership in our children:

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

Take a look at this video Stuart Brown: Play is more than just fun

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Dr. Virginia Varga Speaks to Parents

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On November 11, 2013, Dr. Virginia Varga came to Twin Parks Montessori Schools and worked with all of the infant and toddler teachers. The main topic was concepts that we teach our youngest students. Dr. Varga then spent the evening with parents. She spoke about what children learn. Dr. Varga also answered a myriad of questions from the parents in attendance. Her presentation was audio recorded and posted on vimeo. Please listen at your leisure.

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