Favourite toys and where to purchase

I have had a few people asking for recommendations for toys/materials and where to get them. You can see my previous toy recommendations for a 9-12 month old here. If you have a specific item you want to know more about, let me know :)

Lucy is almost 15 months old (in a week) and her everyday toys and materials are:

montessori, toys, wooden, toddler, preschoolerClockwise from top left:
Clogging Track by GoGo Toys (purchased this second hand)
Peg and Stack Board by Fun Factory (from Entropy)
Stacking Bowls by Q Toys (from Kidsmile)
The last 3 are all from Classic Baby:
Colour Stacker
Increasing Circle Puzzle
Lock Activity Box by Mamagenius

Aside from these toys, she really enjoys drawing (with her Lyra Ferby pencils), playing with musical instruments and with play silks.

Cameron is almost 3.5 years old. It’s harder to single out his favourite toys as he spends a lot of time playing outdoors and more free, imaginative play. So he spends less time with toys and materials and more with ‘untoys’ and loose parts (i.e. rocks/dirt/sticks, binoculars, a piece of hose, safety glasses). The toys he does use frequently are blocks, duplo, diecast vehicles, his fireman toys, and Schleich animals. Of course, art materials are a daily thing too, particularly collage, fine tip markers, and plasticine.

Half of the toys I have are 2nd hand, the other half are gifts from others or Christmas/birthday gifts. Aside from the stores above, I shop online at Ebay, Fishpond, and Etsy.

I have my current wishlists for Cam and Lulu, as well as the toys I have purchased in advance for Christmas/birthdays on pinterest. Do you buy in advance? Do you have suggestions or questions?

What are your children’s favourites?

Farm Animals, Aussie Animals and A Wild One Too!

ipswich nature centre, wombat, montessori, homeschool

We now live right around the corner from a nature centre. We have already taken advantage of this and visited twice since the move. Cameron is fascinated by the animals and loves learning more about them.

australian animals, matching, montessori

This matching activity is very easy for Cameron but the challenge now is learning the names of some of the animals he does not know well (i.e. bilby, echidna, tasmanian devil). We work on starting sounds of the animals he is very familiar with (‘w’ wombat, ‘d’ dingo, ‘k’ kangaroo/koala/kookaburra). Many of the matching and sorting activities I have made for Cameron are easy to develop into something more challenging and interesting for him.

play dough, diy, recipe, montessori, farm animals, schleich

For Easter I bought Cameron and Lucy some Schleich farm animals (they got plenty of other traditionally Easter related gifts from us and others too) which have been a regular play thing. Yes, Lucy is nomming a gumnut in the photo above. These figures have really helped Cameron learn the different names for female, male and juvenile farm animals.

schleich, farm animals, montessori

After a lot of play with the dough and animals, we decided they needed a bath.

qld, ipswich, snake

We had our first wild snake visit our yard! So scary, considering Cameron was downstairs playing and saw it first and screamed out to me. Our new place backs onto vacant land and a river so I sort of expected snakes. It was a good wake up call to teach Cameron about wildlife. Thankfully he is naturally cautious and respectful of animals and insects.

coin activity, diy, montessori, toddler

Lucy has started more activities. Above are some photos I snapped of her first coin activity. She didn’t even notice I was taking pictures, she was so engaged. Ring stackers are a big hit with her at the moment too. She isn’t sorting by colour or size but she loves removing and replacing the rings of her stackers:

stackers, toys, montessori, home

I have been organising a few activities for both Lucy and Cameron. We went to a baby farm animal petting zoo which Cameron (& I!) loved so decided to expand on the farm animals we know and their young in a fun way. I made up this bingo game! I’m yet to print it out and play but I will share when we do!

montessori, printable, free, farm

Would anyone be interested in this Farm Animal Bingo as a printable? If I get interest I will create a file to share with subscribers :)

Toy recommendations for a 9-12 month old

I always love seeing what toys and materials other families recommend, so I thought I would share the toys that Lucy tends to favour. As a Montessori-inspired household, she of course has access to all of her toys on low shelves. She also has access to some of Cameron’s toys as well as general toys like blocks, musical instruments, our play farm and various animals and cars, etc.

montessori, toys, infant, toddler

Her absolute favourite toys that get played with daily are:

- a wooden postbox toy from the Early Learning Centre
– this ball tracker which I was lucky enough to find 2nd hand (apparently called a ‘GoGo Toys Clogging Track’)
– her DIY Montessori object permanence box
– this music box by ‘U Wood Wooden Toys’ that I got from ebay

montessori, toys, infant, toddlerSome more toys that get regular play and I would recommend are the peg stacker, advanced ball return (she’s only just started to work on this at 11 months), pop-up toy, increasing circle puzzle and the windmill stacker (which mostly just gets pulled apart at this stage but she will consistently choose it).

1st birthday, montessori, toys, gift ideas, toddlerLucy’s birthday is this month and aside from some clothes and books, she will be getting the above from us. The cabbage patch baby doll is a soft toy. The wheely bug, colour sorting stacker and lock box are all from Classic Baby.

Most of what she plays with are more open-ended toys and ‘un-toys’ and she spends a lot of time crawling through our play tunnel, following Cameron and I, playing peekaboo & climbing everything.

What would you recommend for a 9-12 month old? What would you suggest for a gift for a one year old’s birthday?

{Imagine}

Cameron is very into dramatic play lately and I’ve found him being quite crafty with regards to what he uses for dress-ups and pretend play.

Some of the items he has are for kitchen play, doll play & he has some play tools (+ some real ones in the garage)

Some thrifty, simple ideas of items to add to your dramatic play set up that I thought I would share are:

- an old wallet with play money (either play money from a discount store – I laminated mine – or free printables like here) & old cards

- rubber gloves (both disposable and non-disposable)

- some un-wanted keys

- toilet paper roll super hero cuff

- old hats, bags, telephone, typewriter, diary, brochures, etc

- binoculars

- diy masks

- envelopes

- pegs

- safety goggles & goggles

What else would you include?

Lucy Snapshot (6.5 months old)

Lucy is a delightful baby and is growing up too fast!
She is a real mover. She sits herself up with ease and strength. She shuffles to get wherever/to whatever she wants. She rolled early and was rocking on all fours super early; so I should have known.
Lulu has started vocalising a lot more. She is often babbling away, a favourite being “dadadadad” just like Cammy at her age.
She is content to do whatever is offered and is not fussy. She adores her brother and really likes being around her cousins too. You can see how badly she just wants to be doing what they are doing.
She can get a little attitude about some things. Primarily food. She will also yell at you if you take a toy/item from her or leave the room without letting her know.
Her fine motor skills have come a long way in the past few weeks. She is keen to feed herself and she really loves and gets engaged with treasure baskets that I make up for her.
Her favourite toys are her Skwish, Cam’s playsilks & rainbow taggie. Other toys she will sometimes pay an interest too are her Haba trix toy, little wooden cars and her puzzle ball.
Mike is in the process of making a Montessori object permanence box and a pull up bar similar to these:
I will share photos once they are complete :) I have bought her a Montessori advanced ball return for Christmas. I’ve asked Mike to make some other materials too.
I will hopefully do a “Cameron Snapshot” soon :)

Our Evolving Spaces

We were going to be moving but Mike’s job wasn’t the right fit for our family; which was so disappointing. And as a result I really felt like I was stuck in a rut with this house. We have rented this house for over three and a half years now and have accumulated too much stuff. Everything felt cluttered and disorganised.

So, I have been simplifying and re-organising every room (still have much to go!) and trying to create more Montessori-inspired spaces.

We switched the play and living rooms so that the play areas are on tiles. This has freed up lots of space because I also pushed our dining table against the wall where the 6ft fish tank was (it’s now in the living room).

The space above has had a few changes and more to come. I finally found some appropriate sized glasses for Cam (he had grown out of the espresso one’s that I purchased after he grew out of shot glasses) and bought some proper smaller bowls and plates for him (up until now he has had plastic ones). Cam now sorts his cutlery and puts away his own dishes from the dishwasher. He loves sorting our cutlery too now and puts them all away while I put away the rest. We also purchased another step for him (Ikea 2 step stool) so that one can be out here and the other in the bathroom.

These smaller shelves now hold our instruments and Lucy’s toys are on the bottom shelves. The black box at the top is full of her other toys. The light table is to the right for now and (not pictured) I have bought a coffee table with a shelf under it to hold his sensory tub (which is currently space themed with mini rockets, rocks, homemade moonsand and various scoops/cups/tweezers/etc).

Here are Cam’s shelves. The top four are storage (mostly art supplies and practical life activity items). His 12 shelves hold his dough & materials, collage/gluing/stickers box, cutting practice tray, nature basket, puzzles, more puzzles, Montessori cylinders and sandpaper letters, a blank spot which will house his nesting boxes which are on their way, his farm & animals, some duplo, play silks and play foods.

Cam is just about ready, I think, to start using regular kids scissors. He has truly mastered these beginner ones.

This box gets a lot of use. Not all of the art supplies fit in the boxes up the top of these shelves; I’m only storing the things we use regularly (different types of paints/mark makers/stamps/papers/contact paper/etc). The rest is now neatly stored in a chest of drawers in our spare room.

I’ve added more helpful things for Cam as his abilities & interests have evolved (i.e. a laundry hamper, writing materials, appropriately sized soap to wash himself before I thoroughly clean him, etc)

Cam asked to do all four mini-cylinders at once. It was a bit too challenging & asked for help after finishing a little over half the pieces, but he put them back on their shelf without prompting. I am going to need to purchase a smaller work mat for him, he can’t roll this one independently & I’m going to try to get him using one now. Up until now I have only used it with him a handful of times.

Lucy is loving batting at toys and likes this handmade organic crocheted rattle (from etsy) for grasping practice.

Stay tuned for more. Please feel free to ask questions and/or make suggestions!!

Rambling about my almost-2.5-year-old

Cameron’s play has really evolved in the past few months. I hear the loveliest stories from him and it is fascinating to watch his imagination unfold and flourish.

The importance of open ended toys and play has been clear in this house. For example, Cameron played with a jug (pretending it was a blender, making all kinds of concoctions) for over half an hour today.

The thing that I love about his play now is that it is often a glimpse into how he views the world and how he is processing things.

My favourite thing is experiencing how he views me. Through his play I get to see him impersonate things that I do and say. It is a real eye opener, and makes it all the more clear what a profound influence we have on our children.

Cam helps me see that I’m doing a good job; when my mind is accusing me of the opposite.

Manners have been a biggie lately too. I had been getting frustrated by Cameron interrupting conversations when I realised that it was my fault. He has never been expected to wait, or taught how to excuse himself.. So what could I expect?

Now it is something that he almost always does well. We do need to work on whether the reason for the interruption is important, however :P

Cameron has been very keen to be involved in food preparation. Until recently it was more of a novelty. He has started to work on or perfect – buttering toast, peeling an egg, cutting a banana, helping make smoothies and omelets, etc. he gets such pride from it.

Other practical life activities (sweeping,cleaning windows and surfaces, pouring a drink, spooning, brushing his teeth, removing his clothes, and more) have always been of interest to him. But it’s only in the past few months that he has shown any interest in putting on clothing, washing himself properly, helping with the washing and folding, feeding our cat (he used to enjoy it.. But as a game rather than a proper task) and fish, as well as more, I’m sure, that I can’t think of now.

Cameron has also started to show an interest in writing (writing ‘o’ and ‘m’ – his 2 favourite letters) and his pencil grip has matured too. His love of art hasn’t lessened and he now names his drawings as he draws them.

Cam has also found a newly sparked interest in numbers. He used to count sporadically.. I would often hear him saying “1, 2, 1, 2, 1- yayyy”. Every effort to include numbers & counting into our play was met with disinterest.

In a clear display of toddlers learning what they want, when they want; Cameron counted to 9 one morning when getting dressed for the day. I was counting his buttons and he took over from 3 and counted to 9! “you can count?!” I questioned him with surprise and he answered me with a full belly laugh. Along the same lines, he now likes to ‘trick’ me with colours. Pretending he doesn’t know or hasn’t heard what I have said is extremely funny, apparently.

So Cammy now counts to 12 and counts backwards too (exclusively for rockets, which he is obsessed about). He likes to count things in books that we read now as well.

Speaking of books, I purchased a second hand book sling for the playroom and have been amazed by the positive response from it. I knew it would make reading more accessible for us, but I had no idea how much so. Until now his books were all on his bookcase in his room.

It also seemed to coincide with a change in Cam’s attention span and ability to follow a narrative. I would never turn down reading a book to him so some days we will read ten or so books in a row. He now asks questions as  we read (“is she sad?” “where did it go?” etc); it makes it all the more enjoyable for me.

Cam & his cousin with a wild wallaby

So much of what Maria Montessori believed in has became so clear in my observations of Cameron. I have always believed in much of what Montessori stood for, but as I’m moving along in this parenting journey I’m finding myself so passionate about it.. Because I’m watching the magic of Montessori (even in a less than Montessori-pure environment, within our home) with my own eyes.

I will be back to talk about and share some photos of Lucy (who is almost 11 weeks old).

(Sorry about the poor quality photos guys, and the lack of posts. I have become more of a blog reader than a blogger, hah)

2012!

It seems I took a bit of a break from blogging over the festive season! I can’t believe we are 11 days into 2012 already!

Christmas & Cameron’s 2nd birthday both were amazing and we were left with full bellies and a serious toy overload. I have been trying to re-organise his playroom but it looks as though we will have to take up some space in our spare room for his massive Thomas the Tank Engine collection!

I can’t believe my son is 2! Well, I can, if I look at him and how much of a little boy he is and how far he has come since he was born.

I’m 28.5 weeks pregnant with our daughter and all is going well. I have my first psychologist appointment tomorrow, alongside another doctor appointment. My medication has been increased slightly after several depressive episodes. It feels strange to be battling depression more than anxiety. I have all that I want and yet my mind is my own worst enemy!

Part of Cam’s birthday present from Mike and I was meeting Thomas the Tank engine and friends – at our local railway museum! There was a fun bumpy mini train (on wheels) ride, songs and stories from the Fat Controller, he got to go inside Thomas (and Donald – a new fave) and see various other trains from the books/show. We have been again since and plan to a couple more times before the Thomas set up finishes at the end of the month.

The museum itself is full of awesome, interactive, educational fun with train simulations, science experiments, various themes throughout the year, a playground, a huge model train set up (big with my hubby who is working on his own model train set!), a cinema and tonnes of big trains and information. We got an annual pass – Mike is really looking forward to their annual model train expo later in the year!

We were lucky enough to have a photoshoot with a friend who is getting into photography and is really talented. It was such a lovely shoot and the images are amazing! I’ll do a separate post with a slideshow of some of the images! My belly bump sure is growing!

We sent off our cultural exchange packages just after Christmas and we received our first package the other day! And from non-other than Rachael herself from Little Red Farm (who set up the cultural exchange and has a post about the contents of her parcels here)

I honestly wasn’t too sure about Cameron’s interest level on the packages at this age but I was pleasantly surprised! I should have known, Cam loves flags, money and little novelty items. He immediately loved the flag and we talked to him about it coming from somewhere far away from a little boy who is two like him (he’s very facinated about being ‘two’).

His favourite things were the soccer items and the chocolate money. Now he sees the real coins and asks for chocolate :P I loved the idea of making the postbox and we will soon. All of the information was so detailed and great to read! I’m so glad we participated in the exchange and hope that the recipients of our package enjoy their parcels!

Racheous

Montessori Cylinders – mini set

YAY! We got our mini wooden Montessori cylinder sets this morning! I’m very pleased with the quality for the price. We got them off ebay from this store.

Cameron was excited because he had just seen Tyler using them on Jen’s “Peaceful Parenting” blog.

I can already tell that these will be a favourite on our shelves!

This picture shows how each set varies in height and diameter. The set that only varies in diameter is definitely the easiest for Cameron.

He kept saying “I did it!” when he fit each piece in it’s correct spot. This is our first semi-proper Montessori material (we have sandpaper letters and a moveable alphabet but we are yet to use them very much).

This set is perfect for the cost- and space-conserving mama.

Random Cuteness

Today has been one of those days. It has been raining, Cameron is teething (still, he is so unlucky with teeth!), and I’m out of money for going anywhere or doing anything.

But I have been forcing myself to see the sweet, cute, clever and funny things that Cameron has been doing to get myself out of this funk. I love…

- seeing his pride as he does something new (in this case, swinging on the big boy swing)
– hearing how he pronounces some things… like “spep” (step) and “dancee” (dancing)
– watching him put away all his train tracks and trains piece-by-piece without me asking
– looking down to see this:


– hearing him say “oh no” with concern when he hears the sirens of an ambulance or fire engine
– Cam’s enthusiasm for feeding my fish every morning
– watching his brain gears turning as I ask him to point to different shapes (he now knows star, crescent (moon), circle, triangle and square… and sometimes rectangle and diamond.
– listening and watching intently as Cameron reads a book back to me after I have finished it, pointing out the things that I did and nodding.
– hearing him complain about the stickers being “stitee” (sticky) when I set up this quick, cheap colour sorting activity (simply drawing circles with crayon in corresponding colours to the stickers & pointing out how they matched – he did the rest)

Tomorrow we have Montessori playgroup in the morning and Saturday is my Dad’s wedding so hopefully my next post will be full of lovely photos and things to share :)