A Summer of Montessori: 45 Fun Things To Do With Your Toddler

My two-year-old is home for the summer. He’s in that not-so-sweet spot of too little for most camps, but maybe too big to just be home with me and his baby sister all day.

Since my days still largely revolve around the baby’s naps, it’s hard to commit to even mommy and me activities.

So, I’ve been trying to plan things at home by making a true schedule of activities. Let’s face it, if I don’t make a schedule that resembles a to-do list, not much will take place other than a lot of boredom! I love Montessori activities because the curriculum incorporates a lot of practical life skills.

He’s at the perfect age where he loves getting more responsibility. It’s good for his confidence and reinforces his role as big brother.

Below are 45 Montessori activities your little one can do each day.

Check out our list, pick your favorites, and enjoy the summer months!

  • Go on a nature walk
  • Slice fruit/veggies
  • Wipe Tables
  • Plant seeds
  • Cut paper
  • Serve food throughout the day
  • Do puzzles
  • Use dustpan
  • Mix (lemonade, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit)
  • Practice hand washing
  • Sort items in the house (small to large)
  • Practice putting on socks and shoes
  • Make a bird feeder
  • Pick flowers and arrange them
  • Wash dishes
  • Practice pouring
  • Play Memory match games
  • Find different textures throughout the house and outside
  • Make homemade instruments (tap spoons on Tupperware, strings across paper plates, paper towel roll horns)
  • Name the day of the week, month, date and year
  • Water plants
  • Fold laundry
  • Take out trash. Sort recycling throughout the day
  • Pick out clothes to wear for the week
  • Make bead necklaces
  • Practice scooping and transferring
  • Use a work mat for all activities. Practice rolling it up and putting in away.
  • Make a flag with things about yourself on it
  • Report on the weather
  • Pick a place on the map and learn 3 things about it.
  • Learn some yoga stretches
  • Practice buttoning and zippering
  • Have a dance party
  • Practice manners
  • Use tongs throughout the day
  • Research the planets
  • Identify sounds throughout the day
  • Draw letters in a tray of sand
  • Walk on a line
  • Draw letters in a tray of sand
  • Talk about shapes. Identify them throughout the house and outdoors
  • Learn about the parts of a tree
  • Carry things on a tray or a plate
  • Look at and then create art
  • Find things that sink or float

Transitioning from Homecare to Daycare: A Parent’s Survival Guide

There is a lot written about how to ready your little ones for daycare, but what about parents? This is a transitional time for you as well. Here’s a quick survival guide to get through the transition.

Visit the school often

Get to know the team that will be working with your child. Before your child’s first day, spend time shadowing the class so you are in tune to what your child’s day will be like. Being able to visualize what they are doing throughout the day will help you feel more connected. My daughter’s class always had playground time at 9:30, snack at 10:00 and lunch at noon. Just knowing what she was doing at different points during the day provided me with a lot of comfort.

Make Day 1, Just Daycare

Having a day that is just daycare focussed can ease some of the stress for parents. For example, schedule your child’s first day for a time when you are not working (perhaps a day before you return to work). This will help avoid added stressors like getting yourself ready, commuting to work and in general being focussed on work related items.

Use Technology

So many schools ofter apps like Munchkin Report where you can log in to see your child’s activities and pictures of them throughout the day. This is an amazing way to see what your child is doing and engage them in questions about their day as soon as you pick them up.

Create a Night Before Checklist

Mornings are often the busiest times in the house. Taking time each night to prepare will reduce morning chaos. Restock the diaper bag, make note of anything you might want to tell the teacher, check the weather to make sure the change of clothes is temperature appropriate.

Treat Yourself

Sending your child to school at any age can tug on the heartstrings of the most stoic parent. If you choose to do a just daycare day, use the time to do something nice for yourself – have lunch with friends, get a massage, go for a quiet walk. You deserve it!

5 Tips To Success With Your Au Pair

The idea of welcoming an au pair into your home can be both exciting and scary. The first few weeks of getting to know each other personally and professionally is a very important time. Here are some tips for getting things off on the right foot and continuing to keep you, your au pair and your children happy!

1. Create a written list of rules/expectations.

Give the au pair clear direction on your childcare practices and your house rules. The handbook should contain everything from what to do with the kids (e.g., what they can eat, washing hands, how much screen time) to house rules (e.g., no shoes in the house, dishes should be washed after a meal).

2. Help with communication.

One of the biggest challenges with an au pair can be the language barrier. Take her to a local language school and help her enroll in classes. Teach her how to use apps like Munchkin Report and have her log children’s activities throughout the day. This is super helpful because it eliminates any confusion on what took place during the day.

3. Make sure she is comfortable with the area.

Take her around the local area so she can see where the kids can play (parks, playgrounds) and where she might like to go during her time off (coffee shops, movie theaters).

4. Include you au pair in family activities.

This will help her feel comfortable around you and the kids. It also gives her a chance to see how you interact with as a family.

5. Provide feedback.

Set time so you can provide feedback on what is going well and what areas might need attention. This is critical in the early days when you are still getting to know each other. You might start with weekly meetings and then move to monthly as you get more comfortable with each other.

What are some challenges you’ve faced hiring or onboarding your au pairs? Leave a comment below!

New Feature: Teachers can now receive email reports

We’ve added a small feature to allow caregivers the ability to receive a copy of their munchkin’s email reports. Previously, only parents could receive email reports.

The feature is optional and turned off by default. To turn this feature on, follow the steps below.

1.) Login to your Munchkin Report account in your web browser, click on your name, and choose “Account”

Account Menu

2.) On the left hand side, click “Settings”

Settings Menu

3.) Click the checkbox next to “Send Teachers Reports” and click “Update Settings”

Update Settings

Now, when you attempt to email a daily report for any munchkin, in addition to the parents, the currently logged in caregiver will be available in the recipient list.

Send Email Report

The feature works for both the web app and the iPhone app. You might have to close/re-open your iPhone app to get the recipient list to refresh.

How to Differentiate Your Preschool

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Preschool

When I talk to early childhood educators and ask them what makes their learning centers different from the rest, most inevitably say the quality of their staff. As a parent, I wholeheartedly applaud this, but at the same time I fear it.

I love my daughter’s pre-school teacher so much that when she has a well-deserved vacation I secretly wonder: Is she interviewing for another job? What would we do if she left?

There’s a danger in having your school’s entire brand tied up in the people because when I ask educators their biggest challenge, they say retention of staff.

Here are 5 easy ways to differentiate your school beyond the importance of attracting top talent.

1. Create a community

Having events outside of the standard back to school night where parents and children can spend time together helps bond the community that is your school.

Our daughter’s school does a Fall and Spring outing. And (wait for it…) they do it on a Saturday!!! This allows working parents who are usually rushed during pick up and drop off to attend as well.

Often times they get families together at a local pizza place or a park to keep costs down. As a working parent I really look forward to these outings because I get a chance to know the other kids and their families.

2. Increase Communication

Historically this has been done through daily activity sheets, but with the advent of online childcare reports, parents don’t need to wait until the end of the day to get an update on their child’s day. Getting daily reports via email or in real-time on their smartphone allows parents to feel more connected.

Online activity tracking also helps teachers save time by logging items on a computer or smartphone rather than writing details on a sheet for each child. Look for an app with a multi-log feature so that teachers can log an activity one time for the whole class (e.g., at 10am everyone sat for circle time).

3. Create an ‘ask me about’ prompt each day

How many times have a parent picked up their child and asked “What did you to at school today?” only to be met with a blank stare?

Creating a specific question for parents to ask their kids helps them feel connected to the school and being specific makes it easier for children to share something about their day. An added bonus to the teachers is it helps enforce lessons from the classroom at home.

The question can be sent in the child’s daily activity report so it’s sure to get to the parent each day.

4. Post Pictures

I love receiving pictures of what my daughter is up to throughout the day. Not only is it another great way to prompt dialogue about things she did, but it also makes me feel great to see her happy and playing. I like to save these pictures as a timeline and look back to see how she’s grown over the school year!

5. Connect Parents with Each Other

One of the many challenges with the rush of pick up and drop is getting to know the other parents. I remember when my daughter started school and saying she wanted to have a play date with a little boy in her class. I had no idea who his parents were or how to contact them. In fact, I didn’t even know his last name!

Consider creating an online community for your class where parents can connect. You could also send out mini bios of the family so that parents get to know one another.

Daycare Tracking Apps

Daily Activity App Makes Scary Mommy’s Top Reasons to Love Daycare

Scary Mommy is full of funny real world parenting anecdotes that make sure none of us feel alone when it comes to the crazy things parents experience. I love this site because, just when I think I might have hit the rock bottom of parenting, I realize someone else is right there with me.

And now this! In her top reasons to love daycare, this mommy blogger sites the app her school uses. The app allows her to check in on how her kids are doing throughout the day. This helps keep her connected and feel guilt-free about not having her children with her every second of the day.

I have found so much of my angst in leaving my children with someone else. It’s not the actual leaving that causes my stress, but allowing someone else to steer the ship.

I’m admittedly a control freak, so not knowing what is taking place or what I’m going to come home to frankly just bothers me.

Here are some things I love about tracking apps:

  • Enhanced communication. Rather than spending time when I get home asking for a detailed recount of who napped, who ate, who was happy or sad, I can just look at the daily activities.

  • Recorded history. It’s impossible to remember the details of each day. So when the baby’s fussy and I’m wondering if it’s something she ate or if she’s overtired, I can simply look back in the logged activities to help solve the mystery.

  • Memory maker. I love that child activity tracking apps like Munchkin Report allow you to post photos and mark milestones. This replaces the handwritten baby book so many people use to record these memories.

Read Scary Mommy’s post here for more reasons why daycare is such a beloved place.

What Makes a Great Pre-School Teacher?

Sometimes I sit in parent teacher conferences at my daughter’s pre-school and wonder if it’s a case of mistaken identity.

Who is this angelic good-listener they speak of? This child who readily helps others and always raises her hand or better yet places a “gentle hand” on the teacher’s shoulder to get her attention. It certainly doesn’t sound like my chatter box child who interrupts me so much that I once told my husband I would just talk to him in 18 years when the house is quiet.

But lo and behold it is my daughter. She has simply (as most parents find) fallen for the magic of a great pre-school teacher. It is one of life’s great mysteries how these amazing educators can draw the best behavior from our children.

Parenting.com recently published this article on the secrets of pre-school teachers and it’s worth a quick read.

I especially love #2 (kids can handle scissors and pens earlier than you think). I remember when my daughter came home from pre-school and asked to use the scissors. I couldn’t believe she could do this. I’ve been guilty of underestimating her time and time again. It’s not for my lack of confidence in her, but she just always seems so little to me (perhaps my subconscious wish to keep her this way).

I’ve found over the years the more I let her do, the better behaved she is. She loves the independence–whether it’s helping with dinner or riding a bicycle. Giving her this freedom is often the longer path to getting things done, but it builds her confidence, shows I trust her and is definitely one of the things she gets at pre-school.

Pre-school teacher secret #4 provides advice on how to get your toddler’s attention–what parent doesn’t need some assistance with that? It’s really hard sometimes to get our daughter to listen, yet this is one thing her teacher always tells us she does so well. Some of the suggestions like being more playful in our attempts to get her attention are super helpful.

Now I just need to channel a little early childhood educator patience to ensure the child I pick up at pre-school this afternoon is the same one who will be sitting at the dinner table tonight!

Tired of messy paperwork? Munchkin Report is easy online daily sheets for parents, caregivers, and schools. Try it free!

6 Questions to ask on a Daycare Tour

I remember being 8 months pregnant, touring a daycare that seemed like a great option for our new baby girl.

Our tour guide was great! She was rattling off important information about ratios and food allergies and fire drills.

Even with what I thought was a very thorough list of my questions, there were things I did not anticipate needing to know as a first time parent.

To give you a head start, here are 6 questions to ask on every daycare tour.

1. What are the child to teacher ratios?

While these numbers are state regulated in the US, it’s important to ensure the prospective school is in compliance. It’s also important to ask if these ratios can change and under what circumstance. Some standard ratios include:

  • 4:1 from 6 weeks to 3 years old
  • 10:1 from 3 years to 6 years
  • 15:1 for kindergarten

2. What are the qualifications of the staff?

Ideally staff will have would have degrees and experience in Early Childhood Education. It is also important to confirm that all staff members are CPR and First Aid certified and that these skills are retested every year.

3. Do you conduct background checks on all staff members?

Many parents ask this questions regarding the teachers, but it is critical to confirm all staff that have access to the school (cleaning service and kitchen staff for example) are checked as well.

4. What will children eat and is the school nut free?

Even if your child doesn’t have an allergy, it’s important to know the rules. If you’re packing lunch, you will have to be aware of the labels. Nut-free includes any product that is made in a factory with nuts. This may include many granola bars, breads, crackers, etc.

Any time I start to get frustrated with having to double-check everything, I put myself in the shoes of the parents who have a child with allergies and imagine the stress they feel.

5. What type of discipline policies are in place?

It’s most common that day care centers will use time outs as a method of discipline, but you should understand what circumstances warrant a time out and what they do about repeat offenders (ie: the child who bites repeatedly). Every school should have a documented discipline policy which they normally distribute as part of their enrollment packet. Not distributing this to a perspective parent should raise a red flag.

6. How will the school communicate my child’s daily progress?

Many schools will provide you with a paper daily sheet at the end of the day. This can be a life-saver, especially for parents with infants. When you pick up your child after a long day at work, you want to know their status. Did she eat her bottles? How many ounces? What about naps? Did my toddler have any accidents? Is he being respectful?

Online daily sheets are a big bonus, and are a great sign that the daycare really values parent-teacher communication. There’s nothing like getting an email update on my phone each day (with photos!) and being able to quickly look back in time and find trends.

If the school your touring doesn’t do online tracking, tell them about Munchkin Report! It would mean the world to us! ?


Tracking Never Felt So Good

I want to tell you about a mom who has 50 kids. Her name is Maggie Doyne, she’s only 28 years old, and she’s changing the world through her foundation: BlinkNow.

After her senior year in high school, Maggie found herself backpacking along the dirt roads of Nepal’s poverty-stricken villages where she met women and children struggling to survive the aftermath of a decade-long civil war. She called her parents and asked them to send her the $5,000 she had earned babysitting.

Over the next two years, Maggie and her team built Kopila Valley Children’s Home, which is now home to a family of over 50 beautiful children from infants to teenagers.

We are so inspired by Maggie’s mission that we are donating a portion of every Munchkin Report subscription to BlinkNow. Together we can change the world in the blink of an eye!

Maggie is one of just 10 finalists for CNN Heroes award! Vote for her here.

The Quantified Parent

Everything in moderation. This is sound advice for most things and it is the adage that ran through my mind while reading The Quantified Baby by Anna Prushinskaya.

There is no doubt that in today’s society there are a number of distractions. The Quantified Baby describes the potential distractions of tracking your baby, but for me tracking has provided freedom. Tracking has not only given me the information needed to understand my child’s sleep habits and establish healthy routines, it has also helped me promote healthy eating and optimize play schedules.

The article suggests that tracking may take the human element out of understanding your child’s day. I feel quite the opposite. Because everything is tracked I can let our nanny go more quickly in the evening and get right to spending time with my children. In my pre-tracking days, I spent a lot of time asking questions about the day. Now I check Munchkin Report before I leave the office and know when I get home who has napped, who has eaten, and can even begin to engage right away with “Tell me about going on the swings that looked like so much fun!”

There is no doubt that technology can be a distraction. I know many parents who, in my opinion, spend too much time editing their online lives on Facebook and Instagram rather than focussing on the real life happening in front of them. They are the same people who might say that the 30 seconds it takes to write down the length of a nap is distracting, then provide their children with 2 hours of screen time while they read magazines.

I’ve even used tracking to help teach my 4 year-old things like organization, scheduling, time and numbers. She loves to help me log her little brother’s activities. We talk about the length of his nap (how many hours was that), food intake (how many ounces) and (her favorite) his moods (why was he so cranky!). And of course she loves to see her own tracking (both then and now).

Tracking is a “distraction” that yields positive benefits while so many other distractions (like TV or video games) have virtually no upside. For me, it’s all about incorporating tracking into my routine–like making my weekly shopping list because without I know my Sunday trip to the food store will be less efficient.

Happy Tracking!