Monday, November 25, 2013

Montessori Monday: Sharing

Last week, a friend of mine posted a link to The S Word - Toddlers Learning to Share by Janet Lansbury on her Facebook page. In the article, Lansbury writes, "The truth is that toddlers don’t yet understand the concept of sharing, and our parental concerns make ‘share’ a loaded word. We tend to misuse it. We say “share”, but what we really mean is, “Give what you have to another child."

I wholeheartedly agree with her and gave my kudos in the comments on my friend's page, but then I was really surprised to see the reactions of others. People felt that it was irresponsible not to force sharing because it will lead to uncharitable and selfish adults. It really got me thinking about how misunderstood the concept of sharing in early childhood really is. So I thought I would share with you (wink!) how sharing is managed in a Montessori classroom.
  • In a Montessori classroom there are many children, but only one of each material, shared by everyone. 
  • Each child has the freedom to work with a material they've had a lesson on for as long as they like. 
  • No one can take it from them or share it with them while they're using it.
  • Only when they've finished and put it back on the shelf is it available for someone else. 
You can see how a system like that creates a peaceful, secure atmosphere for non-sharers. Sometime between 4 1/2 and 6 years old, children develop the understanding and willingness to share and then it comes naturally and easily. But it can happen that when forced to share before they are ready, hoarding and greediness settle in because of the insecurity it creates. In Montessori, children do learn sharing because they have to understand that they must wait when something isn't available and respect others. However, the squabbles are avoided because one child can't interrupt another child who's stacking blocks and decide to line them up instead. That type of sharing, where two children are using the blocks together, always goes wrong with the toddler and preschooler group because they aren't cooperative learners or players yet. Very young children are just learning to following their inner motivation and listen to their own cues. It's vitally important that they be able to realize their vision of stacking or lining up blocks without interruption or obstacle. So, when not expected to share, children can relax and use the blocks in the way they want to (following the rules of respect for the materials and others, of course!) and they're better off for not sharing. 

What do you think? Do you encourage typical sharing? What do you think of the Montessori approach to sharing? (In the photo of Coco and her friend above, Coco is clearly saying, "MINE" in her head. That was just moments before we had to separate them to keep the peace;) 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 Reasons to get Holiday Cards from Minted

We just placed our order for our 2013 holiday cards through Minted. We've ordered with them for the past four years and it's so amazing to look at the evolution of our holiday cards. There we are as a young couple off an adventure moving to Switzerland in 2010. Then our lives changed forever and for the better when Coco arrived in 2011. And then we found ourselves immersed in family life in 2012. I know a lot of people think holiday cards are cheesy, or just a vehicle for bragging. But I really love having a beautiful memento that sums up our year to keep and cherish. 

Here are my top ten reasons you should send a holiday card from Minted this year:

10. Everyone loves receiving a piece of mail that isn't a bill!
9.  When you order through Minted, you support indie designers and a cool company. 
8. If you're on a budget, you can select a postcard design and save a few trees while you save on postage. (That's what we did in 2012 and this year;)
7. Minted uses thick, luxe paper as standard.
6. If you opt for envelopes, they will address them for you!
5. It's easy to design your card with their super slick personalizer. And the backer options mean you don't have to write on each one, just sign it! ;)
4. If you're disorganized, you can send a New Year's card and not worry about getting them in the mail on time. (We're sending a New Year's postcard this year!)
3. When you go to your friend's houses, you get to see yourself looking good on their fridge.
2. They offer really fast, really affordable international shipping.
1. Your baby or toddler will confiscate one and carry it around smiling for months! :)

So don't delay! Minted is offering up to 15% off your order through Monday. Do you normally send holiday cards? Will you this year? 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Lately, I have been daydreaming about kitchens, toddler bedrooms and having a really airy house with great light. Can you believe how exciting I am? I actually dreamt that I found two Jenny Lind toddler beds at the Goodwill the other night! Honestly, though, as much as I love our apartment, I really look forward to the day we have a house that we can make completely ours, just the way we want it. 

The photo above is from the impressive kitchen renovation on A Couple Cooks. I love all the white and natural wood and sleek metal. It's absolutely beautiful and peaceful. Nothing makes me feel more relaxed and happy than being in a beautiful, tidy room with good lighting. It's the little things, you know? ;) What do you daydream about? 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Recycling with Coco

Despite the terrible twos we've been experiencing lately, the past few days with Coco have been completely sweet and lovely. She has started saying "Danke viel mal" (thank you very much in German) when we're out and about and it is so adorable. Yesterday, a woman let Coco pet her dog for a little while, much to Coco's utter and total delight. As we parted ways, Coco chirped happily to the woman, "Danke viel mal!" and I couldn't help but swoon. What a little dream boat she is! 

Then we continued on our way and took the recycling together. She absolutely loved it! After years of hating the tedious and complicated system of recycling here in Zurich (more on that another time!) it has finally become something fun. That's one of the unexpected benefits of having a toddler around - mundane everyday activities are endlessly exciting for them. ;)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Have a fun weekend.

What are your weekend plans? Tonight we are going to Coco's godmother Noel's birthday dinner. I am so excited to get dressed up and go to an all-adults dinner party! Then tomorrow night we are having raclette with friends. That time all the kids will be there and it will be the best kind of madness. ;) I'm really enjoying the crisp wintry weather even though it's cold. We're wearing hats and making fires and doing the whole winter thing, as you do in Switzerland. It has me very excited for Christmas, which is only six weeks away. Where did you go, 2013?!

Here are a few fun things from around the web this week:

Have you ordered your holiday cards yet? Get $25 off at Minted!

I've been so homesick for Portland lately.

Biopic actors and their real-life counterparts. (Wow!)

Speed clean for your guests this holiday season.

A green-bean casserole for expats - no cans required! ;)

Sweet Mister Rogers facts.

Real colors on a play house.

YouTube really is changing the world.

Yes, please!

Super easy fried rice. (Coco loves it with zucchini, too:)

I hope your weekend is amazing. See you back here Monday! xo

(Frenchie (right?!) photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three little differences between Switzerland and the States

Since living in Zurich, I've been surprised by these three little differences between the States and Switzerland. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Zurich with Kids: Chinagarten

During his fall holidays in October, J took advantage and went on lots of outings with Coco. He loves that now that she's older, he can take her on his own and they can spend a day together.  So they  made the most of of a rainy day by visiting the Chinagarten together. It's just a quick walk from our house!
Coco loved exploring all of the passages and walkways.
Then she was amazed by the colorful carp in the pond. The fish were so friendly, as soon as Coco and J stood at the water's edge, they all swam over to say hello. Coco wanted to pick them up!
To cap off the experience, they saw a blue heron and got to watch it move around gracefully as it eyed the fish. 

J said he was really surprised at how much she loved it. Now, whenever we walk past the entrance, she wants to go in and see it again. I've even had to run in after her and stop her from going in on her own! What are your favorite outings where you live? Or, what sort of unexpected toddler-friendly discoveries have you made in your city?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Have a sweet weekend.

Coco is a huge fan of birthday parties. She loves singing happy birthday, but really she's in it for the cake. ;) Our neighbor's baby girl turned one last weekend and the carrot-cake cupcakes were to die for. I'm still thinking about them.

Everyone around here is feeling much better. (Just in time for the weekend:) Joel went for acupuncture last night and since going, his cold is going away in a hurry. Coco is almost back to her normal schedule. And my headache finally responded to Advil. Phew!

Here are a few things I found worth sharing this past week:

Amazing singing in this Daft Punk medley.

I am really enjoying this cookbook.

This perk may influence our decision to stay or go.

Reading The Paris Wife inspired me to read this classic. (No surprise, it's good;)

Disgusting facts about laundry. (Good to know!)

I made this gnocchi last night and it was awesome.

Perfect fall nail polish.

We are going to make our own play dough ASAP.

Have a happy, healthy weekend and see you back here Monday, my dears. xo

(Photo of Coco at Loretta's birthday party by Kati Gerstl. Wearing a Pink Flower Bandana by lamercs*)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Around here lately...

Poor Coco bun had the stomach bug going around this week. Luckily it wasn't the worst kind. She was pretty upbeat and cheerful between bouts of sickness and it only lasted two days. Now that we're on the tail end, she's still a little tired and grumpy, but all in all, she's getting back to her usual exuberant self quickly. Phew! It's never fun to see your baby fighting a fever and miserable. :(

So that's the bad news. And the good news is that I went in to see the ENT again and he says I don't need ear surgery after all! It was a small perforation in my ear drum and an infection and it cleared up on its own with ear drops. What a complete and total relief. I thought that a problem I had had surgery three times for during high school had come back, but it was a false alarm. Hurrah! 

The doctor also said we can go ahead with our baby plans anytime. That is exciting and crazy and wonderful and scary all at the same time. Let's just say that toddlers, while they're so amazing and charming with learning to talk and formulating their own ideas, are also really intense and exhausting and excellent birth control. Ha! It's not that I'm not enjoying this time. I am. Immensely. But it requires a serious amount of energy and patience. For that reason, first trimester morning sickness and fatigue would render me useless at this point. From my experience as a Montessori teacher, I know that the closer we inch toward 30 months, the easier everything is going to get and then I'll feel like I can do both without short-changing my darling, beloved Coco. Because she is just divine and I can't believe how much more I love her every single day. She sings now. It is beyond adorable. Her favorites are Happy Birthday, Rock-a-bye-Baby and Pop Goes the Weasel. What a doll!

We're off to enjoy the sunny day. More tomorrow! xo

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IKEA Chalet Collection

IKEA is a place you either love or hate. J hates it and I LOVE my once or twice a year pilgrimages to the big yellow and blue box store. Now that Chalet 2013 is out, Coco and I are long overdue to take the train out there and see it for ourselves!
It's not a lovely as last year's, but I still like it. I wonder if it would be possible to fit tea lights into those napkin rings? Wouldn't that be cute?! And I'm kicking myself for not buying the Zurich poster in last year's collection. I had it in my hands and everything, but getting it home on the train seemed too daunting. Major fail. This year's mountain themed posters are cute, too. The Zermatt poster is particularly jaunty. And the Gstaad one is adorable! Did I mention that I've been coerced into learning to ski this year? I'm both excited and terrified at the prospect.

The last thing I need is inspiration to go shopping, but the Chalet Collection I cannot resist! What do you think? Would you chalet-ify your home for the holidays? I'm thinking all the way. Bedding and the whole bit, but you know J will try to veto. ;)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Zizzz all natural Swiss Wool sleep sacks and blankets

While I was pregnant with Coco, I developed the strongest aversion to the texture and feel of polyester, acrylic and most synthetic fibers. It was so powerful, I felt like nature was telling me that my baby didn't like those things and to stay away from them. So instead, we ended up using lots of wool and down and steering clear of the yucky stuff. 
So when the Swiss company Zizzz contacted me about trying one of their sleep sacks made with all organic fibers and insulated with patented natural Swiss wool, I was delighted! Sleep sacks are the norm in Switzerland, and they're catching on everywhere else, but I hadn't been able to find one for Coco that wasn't made with synthetic fillers.  We used a down comforter instead, but she kicked it off every night and I worried she wasn't warm enough. 
Coco calls her sleep sack her "special blanket" because I told her it's a blanket you can wear. ;) It really is fantastic. I don't have to worry about her feet getting cold because she can't kick it off. And I don't have to worry about her sweating all night long under a layer of nasty polyester. 

I adore wool because it's natural, breathes completely and regulates body temperature in summer and winter. For that reason, Zizzz sleep sacks can be used all year round! They even have an amazing feature that allows them to be worn while buckled into a carseat or buggy. They're beautifully made with lovely details and clean design. 

I've got my eye on the wool baby blanket for our next baby, whenever he or she comes along. And, of course, we'll need a newborn sleep sack. Are natural fibers important to you? Which Zizzz sleep sack would you choose? 

(Zizzz is a Swiss Lark sponsor and this is a sponsored post)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Montessori: Engagement in Activity

I find myself pinning a lot of pointless photos on Pinterest just because they look pretty. Instead, I want to start collecting more ideas of things that Coco could be doing, rather things that she could have and look cute next to. ;) She is at the age of discovery and I want her to feel engaged and satisfied through working on activities and honing new skills. Isn't this color matching activity  from Australian blogger Hannah brilliant? It would be so easy to make with paint chips and a pack of laundry pins. Then all you would need is a little basket to keep the pins in when they're not being used. The gradients of color is quite advanced, so I would start with a more basic variation and then work up. I've started a new Pinterest board called Montessori at Home where I'll be collecting engaging toddler activities, inspiring parenting and discipline advice and toys that are Montessori friendly. Please follow along on Pinterest. And what are some of your favorite engaging activities for toddlers? I would love to add them to the collection! 

(top photo via Rowen & Wren, bottom photo via Paint on the Ceiling)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween in Switzerland

So. Halloween isn't really a thing in Switzerland. It is catching on (slowly) but mostly it's something the foreigners do. Luckily, Coco's godmother is from California and LOVES Halloween, so we had a really fun time yesterday. I was delighted that Coco's pumpkin costume from last year still fit. ;)
We went over early and helped Noel set up the party. She had oodles of decorations, balloons, jack-o-lanterns and goodies. My favorite was the dead flowers in vases and the green champagne glasses. 
Once it was dark, it was time for trick-or-treating. The jack-o-lanterns and mini graveyard in the front yard looked amazing!
Coco was over the moon she was so excited! She loved being outside in the dark.
She got right in there with all the big kids and exclaimed, "Trick-or-treat!" And it was adorable to hear her say, "Danke viel mal" to everyone in return.

At the first house, the moment the woman opened the door, Coco started to go inside. Ha! That took a little explaining. And then the woman got a bit flustered because she didn't have any candy! (I haven't seen any Halloween candy at the few grocery stores we tend to go to, so I'm not sure if it's being sold here or not.) Throughout the night, we noticed a trend, when people didn't have candy, the default reaction was to rush into the kitchen, grab a box of store-bought cookies and then hand it to one of the moms. I think the kids would have been much happier if they'd opened the box and put one cookie into each of their baskets, but the whole concept is lost on them. In particular, the older generation has no idea what this Halloween business is all about! By the end of the evening, we had five boxes of cookies. ;)
After all that fun, Coco fell asleep in my arms on the train on the way home. She transferred comfortably to her buggy and looked so sweet sleeping there in her little pumpkin costume. But, I didn't move her right away. I just enjoyed that feeling of my sweet little two-year-old bundle of love snoozing happily in my arms while we zoomed along. What a perfect Halloween. These are certainly precious days. 

Happy weekend and see you back here Monday! xo
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