Great Books and Tips for Reading to Preschoolers

There are so many methods and wonderful books available to parents with toddlers and preschoolers.  Much of the recent research on parent-child reading presses the importance of adopting a conversational style while reading to children to promote the development of comprehension and more sophisticated levels of thinking, and yet the simple significance of listening to a timeless tale cannot be underrated.

Below you will find five quick tips for reading to your toddler and preschooler, as well as a list of Intelligent Nest recommended books.  Keep in mind, that the more you read to your children, the more they will able to enjoy longer, more in-depth stories (an important sign that their attention span is developing).  A young child’s ability to sit, listen and comprehend should not be underestimated.

For Intelligent Nest reading tips and book recommendations for babies, ages 0 to 18 months, click here.

Mother with daughter in the park

5 Tips for Reading to Children Between 3 to 5 Years of Age

1) Focus on Bonding: As our preschoolers now revel in activities and adventures apart from us, there is less time for bonding.  Reading is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy skin- to-skin contact with your child.  Cuddle up without distraction and enjoy a few minutes of each other’s company.  The world can wait.

2) Ask questions:  Studies are unanimous in declaring that asking children questions while reading is essential.  Be careful to avoid taking up the role of a inquisitor.  Children can sniff a test a mile away and if they do, they will not enjoy reading with you.  Instead, occasionally pause and start a conversation using open ended questions (2 or 3 is plenty for one book).  For instance: “What do you think will happen next?”; “What do you think about that character?”; “What did you feel when ___ happened?”; “If you could change the ending, what would you have happen?”; “What was that character thinking when he did ____?”.   Avoid conveying that the child’s answer is right or wrong.  Reinforce their effort and keep reading.

3) Develop a Love for Reading:  Stories are a timeless form of entertainment.  Our modern society offers so many new ways to be entertained and books can often take a back seat to television and video games.  A parent’s job is to overcome this possible outcome and make reading as fun and as exciting as possible.  Use animated voices, slow or quicken your speech, raise or lower your voice when you read.  If you appear to be having fun (even if you are exhausted), they will adapt your positive attitude towards reading as well.

4) Read to Increase EQ (Emotional Intelligence):  One the primary functions of  storytelling, throughout history, is to teach lessons about life.  Books over a non-confrontational way to learn about life’s trials, emotions and predicaments.  Children will cling to a beloved storybook character because they can identify with them and learn from watching their stories play out.  Often, the character books are not “quality” literature and do no make it onto lists like the one below.  Do not underrate the importance of books like Curious George, Berenstain Bears, Maisy and so forth.  Pick out books that fit a child’s particular phase or problem (going to the dentist, starting school, sleeping over night away from home, etc…).  Often, book can often be a better source of comfort and instruction than a lecture from a parent.

5) Read for Repetition:  If you haven’t already noticed, preschoolers can be a bit volatile.  They live within a world in which they have very little power and control, nor understanding about what is happening around them or to them.  They are subject to fits of anxiety, fear and doubt as they learn the ways of the world.  Stories that incorporate repetition are very soothing to a young child.  After they pick up on the pattern (which is in itself an important skill), they are quickly soothed by their ability to predict what will come next in the story.    Try leaving out parts of a favorite story and your child will quickly correct you.  Children crave consistency and predictability.  Indulge this desire through books, especially during difficult phases of development.

Great Books for Children Between 3 to 5 Years of Age
(Books are available for purchase at The Intelligent Nest Toy Store- Powered by Amazon.com.  Click here to visit!)

Young woman and little girl read a book

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

Bears New Friend by Karma Wilson (Entire series is lovely)

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Swimmy by Leo Lionni (most books by this author are quality literature)

Madeline by Ludwig Benelmans

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni

Bear in Square by Stella Blackstone

Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Ten Apples Up on Top! by Dr. Suess

Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman

Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. & John Archambault

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Viginia Lee Burton

The Tangerine Bear by Betty Paraskevas

 

Books are available for purchase at The Intelligent Nest Toy Store- Powered by Amazon.com.  Click here to visit!

Parenting to Win is a Parenting Fail

Let us begin with a story of my own parenting fail.  My daughter was two years old when I signed her up for a gymnastics class because she was demonstrating many signs of interest in the activity.  I was so excited to watch her delight in learning a new skill.  Readers, I confess that my enthusiasm was not as carefully masked as I might advise.

With every skilled move on the bars and somersault on the mat I cheered her on with unbridled glee.  Of course when she was resistant to try an activity, my disappointment quickly burst through my “good parent” filter.  It finally hit me when the instructor pulled me aside to discuss Lucille’s talent that I had completely lost touch with my role as a parent.  Somewhere among my private thoughts about how of course Lucille was so talented, her great-grandfather was an accomplished gymnast, the instructor began reviewing how to proceed into the competitive gymnastics arena…. practice every day, private instruction, she went on.  I finally snapped out of my competitive parenting bubble and put the brakes on… fast!

Parenting to win is the Achilles heel of parenting.  I would be surprised to find a parent who is above comparing their children to others and pushing and pressuring them beyond what is appropriate.  The truth is, our comparisons and pressuring has everything to do with us and our own inadequacies and very little to do with our children.    We want our children to be the best and win because we feel good when they do.  Their successes quickly become ours, as do their failures.

The roots of why we feel jubilant when our children succeed stems from the less attractive parts of our own character, but also from love.  It is a story of love run afoul.  We love our children so deeply that we want to ensure that they do well in life and doing well in life is often equated to winning or being the best.  Although our logical side might tell us that our children are responsible for their own behavior and future, our emotional self is terrified that their failures are, in fact, our fault.  This fear of becoming a failure, by way of parenting, leads us to act in rather unsightly ways and become the very type of parent that we were trying so desperately to avoid.

Before you bow out and declare yourself above falling victim to this particular ill, consider that parenting to win is more common in “child-centered” homes, where it disguises itself in a cloak of child-friendly and educational activities geared towards making our children the “best and the brightest” and reveals it’s malignant self only to our children who unfairly bear the brunt of our parenting anxieties.

Before you get too down on yourself and retire to your couch to watch a “Honey Boo Boo” episode to console your insecurities about your own parenting, be reminded by my story that I am right there with you Reader!  How can we move past parenting to win and move towards a healthier type of parenting that puts our children’s needs before our own?

Let’s be reminded, together, of what children need from us and what other explosions of passion need to be sidelined for our children’s sake and for our own.

1) Unconditional Love:  Babies, children, teens and adults all need to know that they are loved, all the time, without reason, restriction or condition.  Children have an innate need to love and be loved and we, as parents, are their primary source of love.  If we cannot love our children unconditionally, then who will?  In spite of failure or success, children need to know that they are loved because they are our children and not because of anything they do to earn that love.  Our love is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

2) “You Did It!”:  Children need to be proud of what they did because they did it.  They don’t need to be told constantly that they did a good job, according to another individual, but rather that they did their job.  It is important for children to learn to self-assess and self-motivate.  Constantly offering our assessment of their effort and works, whether positive or negative, can lead to insecurity and a need for constant external approval.  Instead of saying, “You were amazing!” a parent can say, “I saw you jump higher than you ever have!”.  Focus on restating the specifics of what your child does and let them make the judgment about their accomplishment or failure.

3) Being the Best v. Trying their Best: Which of the aforementioned standards do you want to be held to at work and at home?  Our children, like us, want to know that their best effort is all that is expected of them. Attending an Ivy League or being so well connected and accomplished that you can name drop at a cocktail party does not lead to happiness.  Children who learn from an early age to try their best and feel satisfied by their own efforts gain important experiences that can lead them to live a more satisfying life.  Children who are taught to be the best are led astray into an unsatisfying life as one can rarely be the absolute best at anything.

4) It is OK to Fail: Children need to know that failure is an option.  To clarify, I do not applaud mediocrity, rather learning from one’s mistakes.  When a child fails, state (without judgment) what you saw happen.  Then state, “You can try again”.  Ask, “What can you do differently next time?”.  Everyone fails, but truly successful children know what to do when it happens.  Teach your children that they don’t have to be afraid to fail because it is an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  Modeling how to accept and learn from your own failures is one of the best ways to teach your children this skill.

5) It is Important to Try New Things: A frustrating part of parenting that often brings our darker side to light is when our children are resistant to trying new things.  We cajole our children to eat their veggies, try the potty or just hit the ball… one time… please, for Mommy?  Children need to learn to try new things, but they also need more time than adults (typically) to warm up to the idea of branching out.  If your child is resistant to trying a new skill, food or activity, do not push them.  Demonstrate the novelty with a smile, but let them choose to branch out. Children can sense pressure a mile away.  No need to remind them what “big kids” or their friends are already finding easy.  This part of parenting takes a bit of acting and I am the first to admit that I am not a Thespian.  Take off that look that you give (yes…take look) when your child puts up a fight and put on your calm, cool and collected face.   “Oh, do you not want to try that?  I didn’t notice.  Maybe next time.”

Summons to Speak More & Speak Well

A young child’s ability to verbally communicate is closely correlated to his intelligence and future “success” in life.  A 2-year-old with verbal abilities akin to a 3-year-old will not always be the best and the brightest later in life, but in many cases she will find scholastic and social tasks to be much easier than a child with fewer verbal abilities.  Nature contributes significantly to a child’s verbal acumen, but nurture also play an important role.  This article will focus on how parents can nurture their child’s verbal abilities.

Verbal Skills Study

A influential study conducted in the 1990s compared the quantity & quality of words a mother spoke to her child to the quantity and quality of words that the child spoke as various ages within the first several years of life.  The study then compared and contrasted the mother-child pairs based upon socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.  Mothers with professional backgrounds spoke considerably more words to their children and used more complex sentence structures and vocabulary.  Mothers who received welfare, spoke fewer words and used more simple sentences and words with their children.  Even in cases where the mothers on welfare used a plethora of words, the children were still found to have diminish vocabularies, due in part to the mothers using simple sentences and vocabulary words.

Applications

The recommendations by the research team from the above study suggested speaking frequently to children, but even more importantly, they urged parents to not simplify (or dumb down) their sentences and words too frequently.  There are, of course, exceptions to this recommendation.

The importance of “motherese”  (high-pitch voice parents often adopt when speaking to their babies) cannot be overlooked in the first year or two of a child’s life.  Motherese has been shown to have positive effects on a baby’s language and socio-emotional development.  Therefore, do not feel as though you must speak to your baby as your would to your CPA.   Simply, continue to adapt your sophistication of communication as your child grows.   Using dramatic and expressive language and body movements is exciting for babies and toddlers.  Just remember to add in more complex forms of speech and vocabulary when possible.  As a child grows, focus on speaking clearly, with eye contact, and using “real” words and grammatical sentences.  Instead of greeting your baby saying, “Howz whiddle boy?”.  You can say, “Son, how are yooou to-day?” with a big smile and bright eyes.

Toddlers comprehend simple words and sentences better than more complex forms of speech, so save your simple speech for when you need it most- during discipline.  “NO TOUCH STOVE” (in a low, deep voice, said while giving eye-contact) has a higher chance of sticking with a 18-month-old than, “Ahhhh! Don’t ever touch the stove!!!  You’ll burn yourself!!”.

Instead, use normal, calm moments (trip to the market, morning walk, etc…) to develop your child’s speech.  Describe your thoughts and experiences and ask your child questions.   Speak clearly and slowly, while pausing to allow your child to process your words and respond to you.  Face your child so they can see your expressions and perceive your emotions.  Use gestures so that they can grasp contextual clues to aid their comprehension.

When possible, use the correct word for objects.  For instance, call letters “the alphabet” instead of  “ABCDs”.  Make the assumption that your child can learn to communicate well, but he will not do so perfectly and he will make mistakes.  Children will also create their own words for familiar objects.  Let them use their made-up words and you use your adults words.  Never force or shame a child into using  adults words.  They will eventually choose to use the socially acceptable word, when they are developmentally ready.

Children are much brighter than we assume!  Just because they can’t speak as well as we do (yet), does not mean that children and babies cannot infer our intended meaning and learn from our normal patterns of adult speech.  Parents, speak more and speak well to your children!

Grounding Guilt

Guilt-laden parenting tactics: What parent hasn’t resorted to them at some point, perhaps only out of desperation?  What impact does guilt-inducing parenting tactics have on children?  And why do we, who love our children so deeply, use them at times?

The job of being a parent is not straightforward.  It is not as though the doctor hands a list of duties and expectations to you as you leave the hospital with your newborn baby.  Instead, there are numerous obvious and implied responsibilities and plenty of more obtuse obligations that you must simply figure out.  Parenting earns the label as the “hardest job in the world” because it is so deeply personal and inextricably linked with your inherent self-worth and significance in life.

When your children does not do as you please, how does that make you feel?  Perhaps you feel differently when you are at the park and your child snatches a toy from your friend’s child, than when you are in the privacy of your own home and the toy is being snatched from another sibling.  Do you feel that your child’s behavior reflects upon your own reputation?  Do you feel that the quality of your work as a parent is judged upon what your child does and who your child becomes?

When being honest, most parents will answer “yes”to the above questions.  If this in fact how most parents feel, then the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of the article (“Why do we use guilt-laden parenting tactics?”) is obvious.  We possess a monumental love for our children, but at times we permit parental and adult stressors and responsibilities to overlap with our love and aspirations for our children.  It is natural and understandable to, at times, resort to guilt-inducing parenting tactics, but it can have a negative effect on children.

A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (see citation at end of article) points to guilt-laden threats as a cause of anxiety in children.  Children whose parents use guilt-inducing language to cajole them to do as the parent bids are more likely to experience anxiety and anger following the exchange and, possibly, until the following day.

What is meant by guilt-laden parenting?  Guilt-inducing parenting happens whenever a parent connects more responsibility to a child’s actions than a child is ready to bear.  For example, a guilt-inducing parent may explode at a two-year old for spilling milk.  He may huff and puff while cleaning up the milk up, mumbling about how tired and annoyed he feels. Instead of bearing the annoyance of the spilled milk in quiet, he passes that burden to the child, in essence communicating to the child that he/she is unworthy of the parent’s efforts and love and is the direct source of the parent’s troubles.  Distressed and exhausted parents are most likely to use guilt-laden parenting tactics, according to the above mentioned article.  What parent hasn’t hit that point of pure exhaustion, or even desperation, and resorted to a comment or suggestion that blames the child for his or her distress?

Chances are if you have made a mistake and passed guilt onto your child for your own exhaustion here or there, and you apologized, then you have nothing to worry about, but if you are consistently using guilt-inducing parenting tactics to manipulate obedience then steps need to be taken to avoid psychological harm to the child.  The Intelligent Nest is a guilt-free nest.  Parenting is hardwork, so don’t be too hard on yourself, try a couple of the suggestions below instead:

1) Take a break!

If you have had a new baby, suffered a major loss or tragedy or are just in a difficult phase of life, you will need to find more opportunities for a break.  Save up and hire a babysitter for a day or ask a friend to help and then spend a day relaxing.  Don’t do errands or make appointments, just treat yourself to a couple of activities that you find relaxing.  There is no shame in saying, “I’ve had it and I need a break.”

2) Seek a Listening Ear

Even if you don’t have time or money to go talk to a psychologist about the burdens you are carrying at this phase in life, find a friend with a listening ear to help share your baggage.  You’ll be less likely to unload the weight of your worries on your child if you have a healthy outlet.  If there is no one around to help, you can always journal and let your pen be your confidant.

3) Give Yourself a “Time Out”

I’ll be the first to admit that it is hard to hold your temper when parenting young children.   I, from time to time, have to take a “mommy time-out”. Be honest with yourself about your feelings and experiences.  If you feel overwhelmed, then take time on your own to cool off, meditate, pray or check your email- anything to help you feel grounded.  Even two minutes of “time-out” can help an exhausted parent regain their footing and patience.

4) State the Obvious

When emotions and anger flares, it can be hard to remember the truth about what is actually going on around you.  If your child is spilling his milk in the midst of you receiving a negative phone call, it is more likely that your child will experience the brunt of your frustrations about the angry phone call.  Instead of passing that guilt/blame to your child, silently, or out loud, state your obvious observations.  For example: “My child is only two”; “I feel angry about the bad phone call and not about the spilled milk”; “Milk can be cleaned up”; “All kids spill milk from time to time”, etc…

5)  Focus on what is important

Guilt-laden parenting tactics focus more on the parenting experience than on the child’s behavior.  For example, a guilt inducing parent might say: “I am trying so hard and I do so much for you”; “Don’t you want to make Mommy/Daddy happy?”; “I bought that for you instead of buying x for myself”, etc…  Instead of talking about how you are feeling taxed, state your behavior expectations calmly to the child and keep your feelings and experiences out of it.

To sum up, a parent’s personal headaches are not a young child’s responsibility.  As hard as it may be, do your best to separate your own burdens from your child’s shortcomings.  Also, be gentle with yourself.  Parenting is not easy.  It is a job that requires continual personal growth to succeed.  As your child grows and learns, you will as well in many ways.

* * *

Aunola, K., Tolvanen, A., Viljaranta, J. & Nurmi, J.-E.  Psychological control in daily parent-child interactions increases children’s negative emotionsJournal of Family Psychology, 2013 (in press)

Read to Me!: Great Books and Tips for Reading to Baby, Stage by Stage

Babies naturally love to be read to for important reasons.  Early reading strengthens a baby’s language skills, memory, sensory development, bonding and other essential developmental tasks.  Some babies enjoy sitting still and listening closely and others prefer a more interactive experience. Reading is very important, but it can be confusing, at times, for parents and caregivers to know what  to do and when and where to start.

What should be expect from reading to babies in the first year-and-a-half of life?  

Which books are considered “good” books for babies?  

What reading practices should parents and caregivers use while reading to baby?

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Continue reading Read to Me!: Great Books and Tips for Reading to Baby, Stage by Stage

Effective & Loving Discipline

Article’s Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Reasons to Discipline
  3. Routine Negative Behaviors
  4. Dangerous Childish Behaviors 
  5. Willful defiance
  6. Tips and Tricks for Addressing Negative Behaviors
  7. Conclusion                                                                                                    

(This article is long, but well worth the time.  Print it out and read it in sections- better than having to buy and read a book on the topic!)

Overview and Reasons to Discipline

Difficult parenting

Disciplining children is one of the most unpleasant parental duties and yet one of the most important.  Effective discipline takes as much practice for a parent to learn to administer as it does for a child to learn from its administration.   Discipline must have a purpose beyond a mere reaction to a child’s negative behavior and above all, it must be done with love.  A parent demonstrates love to their child during discipline when they remain calm, confident and consistent.  Young children have a very limited scope of the world.  They constantly perform behavior experiments to gain a better understanding of the rules that govern life and struggle with conflicting desires of dependence versus independence. Continue reading Effective & Loving Discipline

Activity Centers: Seeing play at home from a new perspective

Home is your child’s first and most important classroom and you, Mom and Dad, are your child’s first and most important teacher.  Children learn throughout every moment of the day, not just at school.  While home should be a place of comfort and rest (not flash cards and other drills), it can still be stimulating and engaging, which will promote peace and rest for everyone in the family.

An engaged child = A happy child

&

A happy child = A happy parent

In the early 20th century, Maria Montessori surprised parents, educators and professionals by teaching adults that children do not see life, nor do they experience life, as an adult does.  They require different sized furniture and apparatus to succeed in caring for themselves.  She also taught that children absorb knowledge from their environments and so adults should make an effort to create engaging, attractive and organized environments for children.

A cost-effective and simple application of this teaching is to create learning-centers at home.  Next time you drop your child at preschool, stop and take a look around their classroom.  You’ll notice several neatly organized learning centers with child-sized objects displayed for learning at your child’s height.   Preschool teachers select these items for the classroom because they stimulate a child’s desire to learn, engage their attention, and enhance their learning experience.  Why not try this at home?

If you are interested in more reasons to stray from the cultural norms of arranging play-things at home (i.e the playroom) check out my article on “Rethinking the Playroom”.  If I have already convinced you, read on!

The playing child

How to Create Activity Centers at Home

The good news is you likely already own most of what you’ll need to create activity centers at home, it is just a matter of rearranging.  The bad news is, if you are accustomed to a playroom, that you’ll need to adjust to sharing some adult space with your kids.  I promise that everyone will be happier, learn more and come to enjoy the new arrangement. Just give it a try!

Play centers are typically themed.  For instance, an art center, science center, manipulative table, space for puzzles, reading nook, dress-up center, blocks/building area, train/activity table, kitchen/pretend play area, music corner, etc…  Look at the supplies you already have to decide which centers you want to create.  If your kids love music, then make a music center.  If they love building, then make a block center, etc….  Make sure to offer a variety of opportunities.  Young boys love playing kitchen, just like young girls love science and building.  Try to decide on 5 learning center themes for getting started.

Next, you’ll need to find space to create each center.  Where in your home do you and your children spend the most time?  Most young children like to play and learn near their parents.  If you spend most of your day in the kitchen, then find space in or near the kitchen for centers.  If you are in the basement most of the day, then design centers near the basement.  Thankfully, young children are small and do not need a lot of room for an activity center.   Simply offering a drawer with bowls, measuring cups and utensils in the kitchen can count as a kitchen center.  Children will, of course, want to dump the contents of the drawer, but keeping the center small is great because then your child can reasonably be asked to clean it up when they are done playing.

Here is my kitchen center:

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It is the most complex and involved activity center in my home (so no stress to create a center this involved).  I choose bland colored furniture (because it is static and does not change) and added brightly colored accessories that can change and capture attention.  Notice that the kitchen is staged for play to entice a child as they are passing by to stop.  Some weeks I put out play food, a scanner, bags and a cash register.  Others I offer interesting utensils or a tea set, etc…  On the left side of the kitchen (hard to see) hangs a apron and chef’s hat.  Children (boys included!) love dress up play and it is especially exciting when it matches the theme of the activity center.  Perhaps in a science center you can leave a lab coat and goggles and in the tool center a work vest and gloves, etc…

Art centers are easily created with an easel.  They offer a simple stationary piece of furniture that can be used with various types of art supplies. I keep the extra art supplies in a cabinet out of reach and list the options available when a child approaches the easel.  Some days paint is offered and others it isn’t because it requires more clean-up.  Crayons and chalk are always available and the children can ask to use markers, stamper paints, watercolors, grease markers, colored pencils, stamps and ink, child-safe scissors, tape, etc….  Notice the art center only takes up one corner of a room.

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A easy way to create a center with many different purposes is to use your child-sized table.  Each day (or week) the activity can change from science to puzzles to art to math, etc…  The key to turning the child-sized table and chairs into a center from simply a piece of furniture is to always have an activity on the table and call the table an “activity center”.  These actions will help your child build expectancy.  They will learn that when they choose to play at the table, an interesting activity will be offered.  Display the activities with many parts in a bin to help keep the pieces together.  Keep the activities simple so you don’t burn out.  Here is our activity table this week.  I am offering paper clips and horse-shoe magnets to play (science).  It took me only 2 minutes to display this activity.

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To create a reading nook, find a corner of a room and place soft pillows, blankets, a rug or a child sized chair in the corner.  Display books next to the comfy accessories.  You can use a wall mount (as seen below) to display books, a little book display case (as seen here) or just prop the books up on the floor, slightly opened like they do at the library.  Try to avoid book cases that require you to place the book in a slot that only shows the binding to the child.  Remember young children are not yet readers.  The beautiful colors and pictures on the cover of children’s books are their to invite children to open and read the book.  They need to see the pictures in order to take initiative on their own.

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Once you have established your 5 new activity centers in your most trafficked rooms, spread out around the house.  Strive to create one center in each room of the home that is safe for children.  Keep in mind that centers can be simple- a small basket or drawer filled with themed items for play will do.  Use small rugs or corners of rooms to section off an activity center.  Montessori taught us that kids learn the most from and enjoy activities that mimic adult work.  Children have a natural desire to copy your behaviors because they need to learn how to survive in the adult world.  Therefore, offer real kitchen items for play in the kitchen.  Offer safe tools if you play in the garage.  Find objects for play in the laundry room that will allow the child to mimic cleaning the clothes.  Have fun and be creative and do share ideas, questions and success stories!