You asked, Ms. Wood answered: Read Full AMA Session Here

On Thursday, October 12th, Ms. Wood was available for a two-hour live AMA (Ask Me Anything) session here in Primary.

Even if you weren’t able to join the live discussion, you can still benefit by reading through the thoughtful questions posed by Primary parents and the insightful answers from Montessori educator, Ms. Wood.

Read all questions and answers below, and get your questions ready for the next AMA session coming soon.
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Primary parent: I have the hardest time getting my child out of bed in the mornings. Any tips?

Ms. Wood: Some days are easier than others, especially with these changing seasons. Have you tried implementing a routine? Children love a routine. Get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, whatever needs to fit into the morning. When you know what to expect, it’s a bit less tumultuous.
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Primary parent: I really don’t want to have confrontations with my son, but want him to understand the concept of no. Do I have to be ok with tantrums for awhile? He’s 18 months…

Ms. Wood: Understanding and being comfortable with “no” is a life skill. Tantrums aren’t uncommon when a child is on the verge of something – learning to walk, almost ready for conversational skills – because they’re acutely aware of what’s just beyond their abilities.

Sometimes it helps to phrase things differently, rather than simply “no.” For example, “The park sure is fun, but today we’re going straight home.” or “I don’t like being pulled, could you hold my hand and show me?” 18 months means not yet in control of emotions. Be patient with yourself and your child, you’re teaching an incredible concept.
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Primary parent: My 19-month toddler has acquired a taste for throwing or banging things (toys, spoons, food, books, you name it!) whenever he’s over excited, bored or tired. We keep on trying to help him be gentle, more patience and careful, and end up saying “no, no, no” quite more often than we’d want…but it doesn’t seem to change anything for him. We also try to change the focus of his activity, but his mode is not really affected much by that either. Any ideas on how to manage this? Thank you!

Ms. Wood: Sounds like looking for an exciting outlet! You’re the expert in your child, are there cues he’s getting to the point and you could redirect that energy before it takes hold? Sometimes a big “doing” activity is what’s needed when we’re seeking stimulation. Running outside, stacking or moving books, even using a handheld vacuum!

Very young children love to work their big muscles, and engage in activity that uses all their coordination and focus – the Montessori term is “Maximum Effort.” They also love to contribute and do whatever you do, such as helping with chores. Sorting flatware or putting dishes away, perhaps some scrubbing, matching socks fresh from the dryer. How might he contribute, and use that energy for Purposeful Work? Thanks for the question!
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Primary parent: Thanks for doing an AMA! My daughter used to be very independent, completely content exploring the back yard alone or eating lunch in the dining room while I went outside for a moment. Lately she has completely refused to be alone outside OR inside, she seems to be afraid of being along. Any advice on how I can help this new behavior?

Ms. Wood: This can be challenging for families, especially when we’ve reveled in their independence and joyful exploration. It’s the ebb and flow of childhood! It can sometimes be paired with big life questions from a child, and is absolutely natural. We can reassure a child “I’m right here.” It’s an especially important time to follow through with promises.

There comes a keen awareness that sometimes the world has scary things, like a busy street or the dark, and it might be counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to push back toward independence. The same safety and security she felt that made her feel at ease and courageous before, can pave the way back toward confidence. “Sometimes I’m scared, too, but I’ll always be here, and I’ll always love you.” Hand-holding is just part of the process. Are there situations where she’s feeling successful, or where she’s especially tentative? Thanks for sharing!
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Primary parent: My 4yo son seems to have anxiety, he’s always seeking reassurance that his father and I aren’t mad at him. How should we respond to these questions in a way that makes him feel secure while working to relive this reoccurring anxiety?

Ms. Wood: “Mad at” could also be understood as “out of relationship.” Parents are a child’s Most Important People. When these questions come out of nowhere, “I will always love you” is very reassuring. Also, asking a child, “are you worried about something?” Can open the door to an unfolding of what’s really bothering them. Conversations can lead to solutions!
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Primary parent: My question is: I love the idea of Montessori for my daughter but wonder if she might need more structure?

Ms. Wood: You know your child best, trust your gut, the only bad decision is the one that doesn’t feel right to you. That being said, sounds like Montessori might be great for your daughter! Montessori is education of the Whole Child, including developing self-control and self-discipline, comfort with natural and logical consequences or limits.

The older children in a classroom help younger children grow into the best versions of themselves. It’s a really lovely dynamic. If you have the opportunity to observe a Montessori classroom, that can be a helpful decision-making tool.
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Primary parent: My super son is mischievous and naughty. I am worried how he would behave in school next year? Any suggestions to prepare him. Right now I am loving his acts ;).

Ms. Wood: Aren’t we adults a conundrum? We might be worried about something, or think “hey now” about a behavior, while simultaneously thinking it’s funny, or loving a child’s impish side. Children know we’ll tolerate a lot, and they’re so adaptable. They quickly figure out what will fly at home, and what a peer will think is fun. This is one of those “trust the child” moments. As long as we’re not supporting anti-social or unpleasant behaviors, it is perfectly reasonable that some things will be appropriate for school, while others remain at home.
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Primary parent: Whenever we have to put our 5 year old son in timeout, without fail, he will mischievously try to sneak away fr leave his spot. It can be soooo frustrating. Do you have any advice to build proper respect towards time out and what it represents? Thank you!

Ms. Wood: Testing limits is part of a child’s vocabulary, that’s for sure! Is this adult consistent? Do they mean what they say ALL the time? Is this still the rule today? Cool, just checking.

5 is old enough to understand consequences, how their behaviors affect others. What types of situations evoke a time-out? In the classroom, we use a Thinking Chair, where you can think about what work you’d like to use, or how we move in the classroom, or what a better way to handle a situation might have been. When you’re ready to talk, I’m ready to listen. This gives a child Agency in their own behavior, instead of just waiting out the clock, throwing “sorry” around like confetti expecting it to fix something when they don’t really mean it, or even just being sneakier with misbehavior.

When we talk through consequences, ask a child what they think should happen, and support the learning that my behavior affects others, we’re helping them learn, no one will Make me do anything, I am in charge of my behavior, and thus privileges and opportunities, and even how others see me! Following through is so important, and so hard. Hang in there! You’re among friends!
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Primary parent: My lo is 2.5 and has just started in a Montessori. She is a very sensitive child. The transition hasn’t been smooth for her. I try to talk to her about me returning after school to pick her up etc, but she still gets really nervous and cries. It’s been 7 days since we started. How to help her feel better or how should I help ease her anxieties about going to school? Thanks in advance:)

Ms. Wood: New situations can pull at the heartstrings, can’t they? While we can feel enthusiastic about a new school, and just KNOW this is the right place for a child, 7 days is still a new situation. It takes a bit of time to adjust to a new routine, to different friends and adults, to feel settled. We like to say, give it six weeks. The greatest gift we can give a child is time and space.

Additionally, this might be a moment for self-reflection. When I’m feeling stressed or unsettled, the children’s strong empathy picks up on it, and it whips through the class like a whirlwind. Their excited energy sets me more on-edge, and it’s a terrible cycle. When I can see, oh wait, I’m the problem here! And take a moment to breathe, to sit and get out of the way, the children “magically” settle back into their peacefulness. We sometimes think we’re so good at hiding our worry that a child will have a hard drop-off, or if we’ve made the right decision, or if perhaps she’s too young, but we can’t hide that from a child. What were the signs that helped you identify this was the right school for your child? Remind yourself of these, take a deep breath, and believe in your child. Wait six weeks, stay positive, and know, it’s okay. Where talking down anxiety might actually be more of a stressor, time, patience, and love might be the key to success. Keep us posted! After six weeks, perhaps you can observe your child in her new classroom. Knowing she’s well-adjusted at school might help you feel more assured in your decision, which can translate to a smoother drop off.
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Primary parent: What’s your greatest joy in working with parents?

Ms. Wood: I really do love working with families. I think parenting can feel isolating and even scary, since it’s a bit unknown. Every question or concern or joy has been felt by parents for generations, and we educators, advocates, and allies can remind families, your’e far from alone! If you’re willing to put a worry into words, it mysteriously loses its power, and solutions appear.
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Thanks for reading, and we hope you join us next time for a live AMA with Ms. Wood!

Do you have suggestions for the next AMA? Let us know in the comments below.

Try Cooking These Meals With Your Kids

Making homemade pizza is one of our favorite dinners, especially when my daughter was a young child. Here’s what we did.

I would line the kitchen table with newspaper for easy clean up, then we started making the dough on large cutting boards. When the dough was ready, I would give my daughter a small ball, a rolling pin and a little flour so she can roll her own pizza.

She would spend at least an hour playing with that dough! Now, she is in college and happily cooks her own meals.

If you do not want to make dough, buy store bought pizza dough and arrange for the kids to shred the cheese and slice their choice of vegetable for the topping. Then, let everyone build their own pizza. Use your homemade tomato sauce.

Another choice will be taco night. Use soft corn tortillas, chop the vegetables, make your own mashed beans and your own salsa. Let everyone build their own tacos!

Make fresh lasagna or pasta. Even if you ended up using store bought it is really fun, especially for kids.

Lasagna is an excellent choice for a dinner to freeze. When I make lasagna, I make two trays, one to eat right away and one to freeze. Make your own white sauce, basil sauce and red sauce using this recipe. Tip: Use lasagna sheets that don’t need to be boiled to save you time and headache.

Soups will be good hearty meal with garlic bread. Most soups freeze well and all that you need is a good tomato base, a couple of canned beans and a bag of frozen vegetables.

Stews and pilaf are also good choices for freezing. When you take the stew or soup out of the freezer make fresh rice or mashed potato to go with the stew.

Get everyone involve in planning the weekly menu. You do not have to cook everyday. Choose a few recipes and build around them. Food and meal time should be fun for the whole family!

About the Author

Sanaa Abourezk is a Gourmet Chef, Restauranteur, Author, Nutritionist, and Blogger. She’s passionate about the art of cooking and enjoys sharing delicious recipes.

Sanaa owns and operates a popular Middle Eastern Restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters degree in Nutrition.

Choose Healthy Meals AND a Night Out with Family

We all enjoy a night out to good restaurant. A good tip for enjoying your meal is to choose well for the family!

For example, when you go to a pizzeria, choose pizza Margarita. It is usually made with fresh tomato, little cheese and fresh basil. Do not choose pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni, or extra of anything.

If you go to a hamburger joint, order regular burger on whole wheat buns with tomato and small fries. There is no need to add bacon, extra cheese, and fried onion rings.

Italian restaurants are always a good choice. A pasta dish with tomato sauce will be a good choice. Add a salad bowl with olive oil and vinegar dressing for an excellent dinner. By the way, there is no need for soda, you know we humans survived centuries just enjoying a good glass of water!

Make sure you go to restaurants that offer healthy choices. Make this the norm so kids grow up learning good food choices and habits from you and they will not feel deprived.

If they order dessert, share it so it is no big deal. After all, we go out to have a good time as a family, not to fight battles.

About the Author

Sanaa Abourezk is a Gourmet Chef, Restauranteur, Author, Nutritionist, and Blogger. She’s passionate about the art of cooking and enjoys sharing delicious recipes.

Sanaa owns and operates a popular Middle Eastern Restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters degree in Nutrition.

4 Ideas for Reality-Based Costumes for Kids

Regardless of whether or not you celebrate Halloween in your family, it’s difficult to ignore the preparations going on all around us.

Grocery stores are stockpiling candy, costume supplies are everywhere and decorations have started appearing on front lawns.

But Halloween can be a tough time for a young child. Some decorations are frightening and it’s confusing to see loved ones in unfamiliar costumes.

In fact, children have a difficult time distinguishing fantasy from reality. They may really think Dad now wears an eye-patch permanently even though it’s just a part of a pirate costume.

If you decide to celebrate Halloween as a family this year, consider dressing up as real-life characters to avoid any unnecessary confusion! Here are 4 genres to choose from:

Sports Players

Baseball, basketball or tennis players are all real-life people that children will have seen. Pick your child’s favorite activity at the moment and dress up like you’re a professional!

Medical Professionals

EMT’s, doctors and nurses are all people we look to in our time of need. Give your child the option of dressing up as someone they’ve encountered before, like your pediatrician or nurse.

Loved Ones

Make a Mini-Me! Your child will love mimicking a family member for the evening, down to the clothes they wear and the things they eat or say. Try dressing up as Grandpa, a favorite Auntie or Mom and Dad. Get creative!

Historical Figures

Many children’s books feature historical figures like Amelia Earhart or Daniel Boone that your child comes to know and love. Pick one and dress like him or her for Halloween! Make sure to talk about what that person did during their lives that made them memorable.

What are your favorite reality-based costumes for kids? Share your ideas in the comments below.

What “Fun and Easy” Says About Childhood

A simple Google search of “activities to do with kids” returns 202 MILLION results in under 1 second.

That’s a lot of arts and crafts.

These ideas from the bottomless internet give us inspiration and encouragement to try new things, but there is one other trend I’ve noticed.

A lot of kid-friendly activities include the words “fun” and “easy.”

At first glance it makes sense. Kids like to have fun and busy parents or educators need easy activities to put together.

Upon reflection however, and after noticing that I myself had begun searching for “fun and easy” activities, I started to reflect on what those two words say about our definition of childhood.

In some ways, “fun” means that everything we do or put in front of children must be entertaining. In fact, edutainment is a term that’s become more and more common when describing learning apps or games designed for children.

“Easy” speaks to our expectations of a child. We, subconsciously, might think that an activity needs to be easy or a child won’t be able to do it. Of course this isn’t always true, but it’s one interpretation.

The thing is: I like fun and easy activities. Children like to play and have fun and not every activity we do during the day should be an extreme challenge.

But perhaps we shouldn’t let “fun and easy” be the only two deciding factors for the activities we choose to do with children.

In fact, maybe we shouldn’t choose at all, but rather let children show us what they find of interest. We might be surprised to find that fun and easy aren’t really considerations.

Keep it Calm After-School with these 4 Ideas

After a long day at school, children are excited and relieved to get home. They finally get to relax after a long day in the structured school environment.

This may also mean that the hours right after school pick-up can be somewhat…hectic.

But you can help your child ease into the evening with a solid after-school routine. Try these 4 ideas to get started, and tweak as you go to suit your families needs:

1. Provide a Healthy Snack

As humans, we’re not at our best when we’re tired and hungry. Your child may be both of these things after school. Alleviate the hunger by having some healthy snacks ready in the fridge, like peanut butter and apple slices, yogurt and fruit, or cheese and crackers.

2. Make Time to be Active

Preschoolers move a lot. In fact, movement is one way children learn about the world around them! After school, make time and space for movement and play. Start with a simple activity like a walk around the block. If you’re limited to indoor play, try dancing or a game of Simon Says.

3. Find a Place for Everything

One way to keep backpacks, lunch boxes and coats and shoes from ending up all over the house is to have a dedicated spot for them. Hang some low hooks for coats, right by the door. Empty a low shelf where your child can put their lunch box when they get home. This will prevent things from going missing, too!

4. Start a Bedtime Routine

After dinner, or at least an hour before bed, start preparing the environment for bedtime. That could mean you turn off the bright lights in the house. Turn TV’s or loud music off, and play calming classical music instead. Engage in quiet activities like coloring or working on a puzzle so your child naturally begins to slow down and prepare their body for sleep.

Try the ideas above to create a calm and stable environment after-school. Cherish your time together as a family and watch your child flourish!

Harvest Time Together

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” – William Blake

Near where we live, when the autumn light is just so and everything seems to shimmer, golden, harvest means a time to reflect on the season of growth past and preparing for the winter to come.

As a child, I grew up in a family dependent on the harvest. My parents were small business people and the harvest determined how our business would be for the coming months.

As a teenager and adult, BC (before children), I walked the fields to hunt pheasants and enjoy the peacefulness and the rush of dry grain against my oiled boots. Now, as a father, harvest time is one of reflection – walking the fields and seeing what the hard work of preparing the soil, planting, tending, hoping, and the bringing in the crops means.

Harvest presents all sorts of wonderful things to do with and for your child. Our favorites in the Upper Midwest, where our whole family was born and raised, are as simple as going for a walk and finding leaves or going on a drive as the trees change.

We love a trip to the apple orchard in late summer and early fall to fill baskets to bake apple pies together. And later in the fall, we head out for gourds and pumpkins to carve, paint, and make (again) into pies. Most of all, we like to smell the crisp autumn air and star gaze as night time comes earlier each day.

Autumn also is a great time to see big machinery at work and to talk about the purpose of each of those behemoths, from combines to grain carts to semis and grain elevators. It creates an opportunity to engage your child in conversations about the cycle of life, from field to factory to table. Harvest also is ripe with animals readying for winter and can help parents and children talk about the long winter ahead and how animals and people – today and long ago – prepared and stored food to weather the cold.

Really, harvest time is for harvesting time with your child. Spend some time thinking on the summer past, taking in the brisk air, going for walks, and taking your child away from the every day of school. It’s a chance for you to go hand-in-hand through the fields, experiencing the space between seasons.

About the Author

Bill Anderson is a father of 4 who shares his experiences about parenting and life with Primary.

What Cooking Can Teach Your Child

We talk a lot about cooking here in Primary.

Maybe because families spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Maybe because everyone likes to eat!

Or maybe because children can learn a lot of practical skills while cooking.

In “The Real Reason to Teach Your Kids to Cook“, mom Stacy Basko speaks from experience when describing what she learned while cooking as a child.

“My confidence soared. Cooking made me proud, like I could take care of myself and others, at least for one meal.”

Confidence and independence are skills that children learn in the kitchen but that can be applied to other areas of life like academic studies, organized sports, and hobbies.

Ms. Basko is passing on the lessons she learned in the kitchen to her two children. “These days, most of the learning happens in my own kitchen.” she says. “With backup from my husband…I’m teaching my 10-year-old twins how to make dinner.”

While learning to whisk or sauté, your child could also be learning cooperation, time management or concentration.

Consider this the next time your child would like to help with dinner! In fact, let them pick a recipe and lead the way.

Dinner suggestion: Black Bean Enchilada Casserole