One of the things I love about my great home state of Kansas is the support offered to parents. One program offered to anyone who applies, free of charge, is called Parents as Teachers. All I had to do was call and give some information about our family and be placed on their list. The one downside was that if you don't call by the time the child is six months old, it's unlikely that you will be able to start the program. In Parents as Teachers, a parent educator makes a monthly home visit to discuss your child's development, make observations, give suggestions, and help you think of toys and activities to do with your young one that need not cost anything. And this is all for standardly-developing children - the supports and early interventions offered for children with any delays are even better!!
Tennessee, where we are moving in just a few weeks, just doesn't have this awesome program (methinks because in Kansas, it is funded from tobacco settlement money. In Tennessee, tobacco is still one of the largest cash crops!). It does have the Dolly Parton book-a-month program, which is pretty amazing. But nothing like Parents as Teachers.
Sandy, a retired teacher and my parent educator, made a visit on Thursday. She is always so encouraging and reassuring about any worries that I'm having. We talked for the better part of an hour, and then she showed me this fine-motor activity to do with Vicki Jo. We were both impressed that she has the coordination, perception, and pincer to do the smaller one!
As you can see, this is a kind of size- and shape-sorting activity. The large bottle is from juice, the smaller one from water. The blue tube is a travel toothbrush container and the small wooden things are old-fashioned clothespins. Sandy gave me all these materials, but I estimate you could put this activity together yourself for about five dollars.
Vicki Jo wanted to work on this material for forty minutes this morning! Her concentration was admirable. She kept filling up the bottles and then asking me to dump them so she could do it again. It reminded me of the Montessori concept of "the match." Finding that magical activity for your child that is perfectly at the edge of their developmental level; challenging enough to keep them interested, but also accomplishable, so they feel encouraged by their progress. I think we found it! This also made me think she may be ready for a coin slot activity, where I cut a slit in the top of a plastic-lidded container and give her something small like poker chips to poke through. She may even be ready for multiple-shape sorting!
One thing that troubles me about Montessori is that sometimes it can seem overly focused on the materials, and a little fussy. And I start to think, "If I can't do it perfectly, should I even be doing it at all?" And, if I don't have the money to buy a fancy set of materials, will the method do any good? This activity showed me that the heart of the philosophy is observing the child, offering simple and straightforward work, and allowing them to grow in their confidence and independence through accomplishment. Just the reassurance I needed this morning!