Exploring Light, Shadow and Reflection

We went to our local art gallery which has a brilliant light play exhibition at the moment. I also browsed through the inspiring Reggio Emilia exhibit ‘The Wonder of Learning: the Hundred Languages of Children‘. It was incredible but unfortunately did not allow photography. I wish I could have had a child-free look and took notes!

light, shadow, reflection, reggio, light table, ipswich art museumPin it

Anyway, back to the Light Play! exhibit. What they had on display was packed full of ideas that can be adapted for learning and fun at home. It is the epitomy of open-ended exploration, inquiry and play.

light table, reggio

First to attract Lucy were the light boxes. There were so many opportunities for learning and exploring.

How do the objects change when placed on the light box?
Are their many shades of colour? Why?
Can you change the colour of an object by placing another object on top? Why?

Note the tower of measuring cups that a girl created over the time we were there.

light table, reggio

Lucy was attracted to everything colourful. I loved that many of the manipulatives on the light tables were simple, attainable and affordable items light cups, measuring spoons and shot glasses. There were lots of mirrors as well to add another dimension to the experience. They also had these great transparent geometric solids:
view through geometric solids

light table, zoobs, sparkle, toys, reggiozoob sparkleI saw some Zoobs (sparkle variety) at a local store and wondered how they would go on a light table. I really loved how the containers to hold them were transparent too.

 ohp, overhead projector, reggio, light
Cameron went straight to the overhead projectors (OHPs) which looked impressive taking up lots of wall space. I have an awesome friend who is giving us an OHP soon so it was great for inspiration.

New questions came up like:
How do the sizes of the materials change on the projector?
Why are some objects brighter than others?
Why are some items that are colourful not colourful on the projected image?

ohp, reggio
I saw a few adults creating patterns on the OHPs too. One child spent most of their time getting in front of the projected image and marveling at the colours on her shirt and skin.

ohp, reggio, light, overhead projector
Lucy was more fascinated by the OHP itself. She kept pointing at and questioning it.

reflections, reggio
The reflections corner was completely bypassed by both Cameron and Lucy (unless you count Lucy donning one of the sparkly wigs.

shadows, reflections, reggio
Cameron’s favourite area was the shadow sculptures. He loved shining the torch on the disco ball and making it reflect off all the walls. I used the sculptures behind him to show him how translucent objects can cast coloured shadows and how moving the torch further/closer and side to side affects the shadow.

light table, web cam, reggio
This is the only area that would be hard to replicate at home – the webcam + projector light table. It’s was very engaging. Cameron spent a lot of time with the liquid timers (see below) in front of the web camera and watching it on the screen, in the mirror and in front of him. They were mesmerising.

light table, liquid timers, reggioSet of 3 liquid timers at Edex

It sure gave me a lot of inspiration for materials, experiments and play with light/shadow/reflection in our home. I definitely want to set up some shadow play after seeing Cameron’s enthusiasm. I hope you gained some inspiration – thank you for reading!

You may see me linking up here.

Montessori at Home Pinterest Round-Up!

montessori at home, montessori, pinterest, pinterest boards, ideas

  I love Pinterest. It can be used for all kinds of things: party planning, gift wishlists, a virtual cookbook, a blogroll, DIY ideas, etc. I, however, primarily use it to collate inspiring ideas, activities, information and spaces for learning … Continue reading

Freedom in Montessori

Montessori Mythbusters Freedom
Today I have another installment in the Montessori Mythbusters series.
I’m joined by the lovely Isil from Smiling like Sunshine who is here to debunk some misconceptions surrounding freedom in Montessori.

smiling like sunshine
One of the things that people ask about is the freedom in the Montessori education. Some people think that freedom means no discipline and do not like it. On the other hand some people think that Montessori education is too structured and there is no room for freedom.

According to Montessori, the child should be able to freely choose his/her own actions and should only be prevented from doing so if s/he may hurt himself/herself or the others. The freedom in the Montessori environment does not mean doing whatever the child pleases, it means to be considerate. Montessori stated that:

Freedom is understood in a very elementary fashion, as an immediate release from oppressive binds; as a cessation of corrections and of submission of authority. This conception is plainly negative, that is to say, it means only the elimination of coercion. From this comes, often enough, a very simple ‘reaction’: a disorderly pouring out of impulses no longer controlled because they were previously controlled by the adult’s will. ‘To let the child do as he likes’, when he has not yet developed any powers of control, is to betray the idea of freedom.

Montessori argued that if children were left to behave as they like or misuse the materials that were available, it would lead to the development of abnormalities. Therefore it is the teacher’s task to observe the children and guide them within this limited freedom. A very young child or a deviated child needs guidance from the teacher until s/he is able to do his own choices. On the other hand, normalized or older children will be given more freedom.

In the Montessori environment the child has freedom of choice (doing  an activity or not doing an activity), freedom of speech, freedom to rest, freedom of movement, freedom to make mistakes,  freedom of repeating an activity as long as s/he wishes to do so, freedom to socialise and freedom to choose who to work with.

Montessori viewed freedom as a development of natural guides which she defined as “horme”. This development happens by education.  The teacher should follow the children and present them with activities that “engage the child’s whole personality” . When the child is engaged and concentrated, this leads to the coordination of movements and a mental order which in time helps the child become more effective to make decisions about his/her own work and own behaviours.

Therefore, real freedom is a consequence of development and the construction of personality and that it is a long road which every child must travel to attain maturity. Montessori stated that

“It is clear therefore that the discipline which reveals itself in the Montessori class is something which comes more from within than without. But this self-discipline has not come into existence in a day, or a week, or even a month. It is the result of a long inner growth, an achievement won through months of training.”

Montessori saw freedom as the single most important factor in allowing children to develop as spontaneous, creative individuals. This freedom however is linked to responsibilities and the responsibilities are linked to the ground rules of the environment. The child has the freedom to choose an activity from the shelf and work with it as much as s/he desires, however, s/he is then responsible to return it back to the shelf where s/he found it so that another child can use it. The ground rules guide the child to be respectful to her/his self, to others and to the environment. Freedom is also facilitated by the organisation of the classroom, accessible shelving, work cycle and cycles of activity.

The children in a Montessori environment are given the freedoms that allow them to grow a self discipline which is necessary to lead a creative and successful life.

Isil is a Turkish mum living in the  United Kingdom and writes at Smiling like Sunshine..She is a former economist and is training to be a Montessori teacher. She has a six year old daughter and a three year old son. On her blog, she writes about children’s books, kids activities, Montessori education and parenting.
You can find Isil on Smiling like Sunshine.

Some Inspiration

We are still in the middle of moving (got knocked back for a rental) and don’t have a car at the moment (long story) so I’m not in the mood for blogging. However, I thought I would share some Montessori/Reggio Emilia/Project-based/Inquiry-based learning:

Have you heard of Steve Hughes? He is a pediatric neuropsychologist & huge advocator for Montessori education. His talks on Montessori, education and parenting are brilliant. You can find them on his vimeo page.

I have also added my Goodreads page over to the right –>

What have you been watching/reading/doing?

Mastering Skills

That proud look Cam is sporting is common lately. He has been learning a lot of new things and mastering some old one’s.

He has finally mastered pouring himself a glass of water from a dispenser with a spigot. Until now he found positioning the cup under the spigot hard, or felt like letting the water flow into the bucket below, or did not get the angle right. But now (with tonnes of cuter-than-cute concentration) he has it down pact.

Another tricky activity that I got a snapshot of is his tonging transfer. It takes a lot of hand control and muscle to do this one but he is a pro.

Speaking of muscle, he melted some mama hearts at playgroup this week when he asked to “squeeze orange juice?” and grunted “squuuuuueeeeeeze” as he tried so dang hard! He got some help and enjoyed it with some carrot that he helped me peel!

Cameron’s vocabulary, at almost 20 months, boggles my mind at times. He comes out with new words daily and the clarity of them is amazing. Just now he randomly said “football” when Mike talked about a recent game.

Like his mama (unfortunately) he finds making mistakes really hard. He struggles with accidents and finds some new things frustrating if he can’t work them out quickly.

It is often hard to know how to reassure him because I know what he is feeling and I still struggle with it at times.


Please let me know if you have any questions as I do know that I use this blog as more of a diary and I would like to involve you more 🙂

my son…

my son:

{loves to spin around and around}

{calls me Mummy 50% of the time now – rather than Rachel}

{makes monkey noises if I ask him “are you a cheeky monkey?”}

{believes that a nudie-rudie run after every bath is compulsory}

{sorts by colour now}

{knows ‘up’ and ‘down’ & points in the direction when asked}

{knows where his hair, eyes, nose, ears, chin, teeth, tongue, hands, feet, belly button, bottom and privates are}

{isn’t that fussed with his new – to us – outdoor play kitchen} – we will do this up, pics soon

{points out things that are circular in shape and knows what a circle is}

{tries to paint/draw in circles and says “round and round” in tot-speak}

{drank out of a vase at Montessori instead of putting the flower in it}

{hears airplanes well before I do & gets this beautiful look in his eyes when he spots one}

{loves koalas (“coo-wah-wah!”) and frogs (“ri-bih!”) at the moment}

{adores this book – he asks to read it over and over}

{is interested in phonics – he already can say & identify m, a, and b}

{said thank you several times to his Daddy for his newly painted rocking chair, and outdoor chairs}

{says his own name now}

{asks to call his Grandma several times a day}

{is getting a longer and longer attention span. He will happily sit through stories and work on something interesting}

this set up meant I could clean the kitchen

{has dropped down to one breastfeed a day most days now}

{asks boobah, please? nigh nigh? when he gets hurt or overwhelmed as he knows that nigh nigh time means mama milk}

{is just adorable}

More on Montessori

Disclaimer: I’m not a Montessori-trained teacher, I’m just a mama to a young tot who is interested in Montessori practices. I’m merely providing this information to inspire others, to share thoughts and to give a point of view and my opinions. Feel free to point out anything I’ve said which is wrong or not-quite-right or to question me!

What is this whole ‘observation’ thing?

All of Montessori’s theories and materials were based on observations of children. The whole notion of ‘following the child’ doesn’t really make sense if you do not first observe them.


Initially, I found the concept of observation (in the books I read) fairly vague. I wasn’t sure what to look for, what conclusions that I could draw from what I was seeing, or what changes I could make to his environment as a result.

However, ultimately, what it is about is that your child holds all the answers.

Some things to consider as you watch your child are:
– What toy/s is s/he favouring?
– What room does s/he prefer to be in?
– How is s/he moving from room to room and activity to activity?
– What is s/he having difficulty with?
– What skills does s/he seem to be attempting to master (look for repetition)?
– What is s/he most interested in?
– How is s/he behaving?
– What activities is s/he drawn to?

From these answers you can extend on your findings by asking yourself what it is that you can I include/remove (in their environment or daily life) to help develop his/her abilities, confidence and freedom based on his/her interests, preferences, behaviours, movement and difficulties.

Is Montessori all about making children work?


Children, particularly toddlers, are natural learners. They soak up the world around them (hence Maria Montessori’s term the ‘absorbant mind’) . They want to know ‘what is this?’, ‘what is that?’, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘what will happen if I do this?’, ‘why did that happen?’ and on and on and on. They want to repeat things and they want to feel safe in exploring the world.

My happy tot modelling his newly painted rocking chair

Montessori believed in following the child’s interest and that for them, work is play… and I wholely agree. Cameron isn’t forced to do anything. To me, parenting Cameron in a Montessori-inspired way is not about making him the smartest or independent quicker or anything of the sort.

I want Cameron to feel respected and valued. I want him to gain independence at his own pace (and through dependence on me at this stage). I hope for him to have a love of learning and for him to feel capable and confident. Which is what Montessori is about.

I believe that the best way for me to provide this is by setting up a beautiful and adaptive environment where he can move about freely and gain age-appropriate skills in practical activities as well as those of language, math, culture, nature, sensorial etc.

Why the floor bed?

So many of the things that parents use for their children (prams, cots, high chairs, play pens, etc) don’t really allow freedom of movement and choice for the infant/toddler/child.

The idea behind a floor bed is to allow the child to get in and out of bed when they want to. The rest of the room is child-proofed and they are able to play upon waking. The child doesn’t have to cry upon waking or be ‘allowed’ out to do what they want.

Why is everything on shelves and accessible? Isn’t that a bad idea?

The typical method of storage for toys are toy boxes. But can you imagine chucking all of your work into a box and not having order or beauty within your spaces?


I agree with Montessori in the idea that having toys/books/activities neatly displayed on shelves helps a child to develop a sense of respect for their environment while also showing them that you value their things.


I hope that gives you a little more to look into and think about. For those who are much more knowledgeable than me regarding Montessori, I would love to hear your thoughts on these common misconceptions of Montessori. I’m sure that someone could answer these types of questions better than me!

Montessori At Home

I often get asked “what is Montessori?” now that I’m blogging more about it … & it’s a pretty loaded question. However, it is simply a different method of education and parenting. These are the basics:

– It is a scientifically designed method created by Maria Montessori (a progressive physician/anthropologist) over a century ago in Italy.

– It is based on countless hours of objective observation of children, in prepared environments. One of the big things that Montessori believed was to follow the child in order to know how they learn, what they need & how you can help them as a whole being.

– It is based around specific ‘sensitive periods’ of development. Montessori Mom summarised them like this:
Birth to 3 years:
The absorbent mind – the mind soaks up information like a sponge
Sensory learning and experiences: The child uses all five senses-touch, taste, feel, sight, and hearing-to understand and absorb information about his or her environment.
1 ½ to 3 years:
Language explosion-a child builds his or her future foundation for language at this period.
1 ½ to 4 years:
Development and coordination of fine and large muscle skills, advanced developing grasp and release skill spawns an interest in any small object (usually dangerous ones on the floor).
2 to 4 years:
Very mobile with greater coordination and refinement of movement, increased interest in language and communication (they love to tell stories- true or not!), aware of spatial relationships, matching, sequence and order of objects
2 ½ to 6 years:
Works well incorporating all five senses for learning and adapting to environment.
3 to 6 years:
Interest and admiration of the adult world, they want to copy and mimic adults-such as parents and teachers. One of the few times most children are very open to their parents and other adults.
4 to 5 years:
Using one’s hands and fingers in cutting, writing and art. Their tactile senses are very developed and acute.
4 ½ to 6 years:
Reading and math readiness, and eventually, reading and math skills.

– It respects the child’s individuality by emphasising respect for children’s abilities.

– It promotes self-esteem and healthy natural socialisation of not only children of their own age but of younger children, older children and adults.

– It allows for close, adaptable and personalised teacher/student relationships.

– It offers the child scientifically-designed materials to manipulate and learn from that are created with specific developmental milestones in mind.

– It provides the young child with mental order, self-discipline, and the ability to adapt and thrive in new environments.

– It encourages grace, courtesy, care of self & your environment, community awareness, cultural awareness and much more.


A great (free!) starting point is this catalogue which is quite detailed for the infant/toddler stages (lots to read but well written).

I find books by Maria Montessori herself to be complicated, particularly as an introduction to her theories.

However, there are several great books that I have read at the library (How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin for a start)


What I really love about Montessori is the thought that is put into the environment for the child, the way you interact with them & the respect for children in general.

I love that there is an emphasis on toys and materials that are natural, beautiful and stimulating. They are often purposeful and have a beginning and end which gives his play meaning. Too often are toys commercialised, plastic and electronic where there is little room for open-ended imaginative play.

I adore how everything is child-sized and accessible by children. Each playgroup is a weekly reminder to observe Cameron and to talk purposefully with him & trust in his thirst for knowledge.

Sure, it is a learning curve. There are spills of water when he decides not to focus as he takes his full watering can outside to the flowers; or a tanty when I ask him to put away the puzzle before sculpting dough. But each time he tries, he gets more confident and able.

Some examples of things that he has mastered recently are: putting on a beanie or hat himself, pouring himself a cup of water from the dispenser, his home puzzles, carrying a tray to and from the shelf to a table, spooning beans from one dish to the other, pouring activities, and more.

I have watched Cameron get so much more confident since he started his Montessori playgroup and even more again since we do more at home. I’m sure some of this new-found confidence also comes with age and ability but I do not underestimate how these little experiences have added up to positive changes in him.

In this instance, independence isn’t about getting my toddler to take care of himself and/or grow up, not at all. It is about helping him to do it himself and guiding him through everyday tasks and different toys that help him learn about his world and feel important.


There are tonnes of Montessori blogs out there but these are the ones that I enjoy:

Sew Liberated
One of my favourite blogs. Her post on dough sculpting inspired my dough kit with Cam & I love her post on setting up a water station at home. Meg used to be a Montessori teacher and now designs patterns & is a mother of two gorgeous boys. I love seeing Montessori in action. Her older posts on Finn’s Montessori-inspired nursery were one of the first things that made me look more into Montessori at home.

Counting Coconuts
One of the best resources for Montessori-esque activities for little ones that are practical. There are tonnes of ideas and photos.

How We Montessori
A lovely Australian mama who has two boys and is really great at sharing her experiences with Montessori at home.

Montessori Confessions 
A very helpful and knowledgeable mother who has a wealth of information about Montessori at home and in daycare/kindy/etc and who is very realistic and understanding of the challenges of parenting.

I also love to search the internet for Montessori home environments and activities for inspiration. Hence my Montessori/Waldorf Board on Pinterest.


Speaking of the Waldorf (AKA Steiner) method; I will do a post on this with my thoughts, information and resources soon.

Hope that helped give you a bit more of an idea of what Montessori is about even if it isn’t your cup-of-tea 🙂

❤ Racheous

Our Montessori Playgroup

I love our Montessori playgroup. It is situated in a gorgeous suburb (Auchenflower) in Brisbane in an old church hall.

As you walk up to the building you see the flowers and plants to water and care for where the toddlers can peg little signs that say “I have been watered”. There is a large sandpit outside with real, child-sized tools (shovels, buckets, rakes, sifts, shells, etc) and minimal plastic.

Next to the sandpit is an art area with smocks and a child-sized easel with a couple of pots of paint and a little wooden clothes line to hang artwork to dry, cloths and the art smocks. The little ones are also working on a new sponge activity (the table and chair) where they transfer water with a sponge as a pre-cursor for cleaning tables.

Before they go inside the children are encouraged to brush any sand off their feet/shoes and to remove their shoes by themselves. Cameron can undo the velcro on his shoes but gets frustrated with removing them at this stage. One of his favourite activities is to wash the windows which has meant I have brought him a squirt bottle for home to practice.

When you walk in the door you find beautiful wooden floors, high ceilings, lovely lighting and a thoughtfully set out large area. There are many child-sized sets of wooden tables and chairs for activities and one bigger set up for snacks which always has freshly picked flowers in a little vase.

There is a small broom, mop, dusters, pan & brushes, watering cans, gardening tools and sponges/cloths and then the cutlery/crockery/placemats/etc in the practical life area.

The little ones can pour themselves a glass of water, juice an orange or cut up fruit at any time.

Cam is encouraged to wash up after any drink or snack and to help take care of the environment around him.

There are ever-changing activities that go with themes for the term or month (this term is sea-life). There are various arts and crafts as well as the typical wooden montessori materials (object permanence boxes, stackers, puzzles, nesting objects, container/lid combinations, wooden toys, balls, etc)

The infant area is lovely with tonnes of age appropriate toys, different montessori mobiles and a mirror at their eye level. Cameron likes the ball runs next to it and the books which are rotated too.

There is simple artwork at the childrens eye level as well.

The nature table changes with the seasons and themes. The littlies are encouraged to explore the different textures/sizes/smells/etc of shells, seeds, pods, pine cones, leaves, nuts, flowers, bark and what not. There are a couple of fish too! We are donating a bigger fish tank for the gold fish 🙂

There is an adults library too and every playgroup finishes with shared story and song time with instruments. The tots pick out their own songs/rhymes that have corresponding images so they know what they are before reading (i.e. farm picture for Old Macdonald). It’s so lovely.

I love that Cameron doesn’t even realise he is developing skills (emotional, physical, intellectual, social, etc) and learning. He so enjoys himself and he is already so comfortable there.

I have him down on the waiting list at a local C & K kindergarten but I’m contemplating getting him on the waiting list for their affiliated C & K Montessori kindy (out the back of this playgroup). It’s hard, there are positives and negatives for either choice.

I hope you enjoyed a little peak into our Montessori playgroup. For more information on the Montessori method, I recommend googling the montessori sites in your country and the Montessori playgroups/preschools/schools in your area.