I realize I haven't given you a guided tour of our home for a while now. So before I'm rethinking and changing everything to welcome our new family member this autumn, I thought I should show you around.
Our home is in continuous transformation, the spaces evolve as our daughter grows and our needs as a family change. Our family values don't change though, they are our anchor. Our home is designed ...
to foster our daughter's independence, right from the start
to facilitate her contribution to our family's life and show her that she is a member her own right, that her needs and interests are as important as ours (and vice-versa)
to infuse our daily life with beauty, to encourage mindfulness and gratitude (towards life and towards each others) - some of the core values of our family
I should start with this space because it's where we spend most of our time, especially in summer. This year we started an organic mini vegetable garden and this has brought us a lot of joy. There is something blissful about growing your own food. And there is a lot of learning happening in the garden and the vegetables garden. In wintertime we have a little house for birds and one for the bees. Squirrels, fields mice and birds live in our garden too so we can observe them and marvel at their way of life.
This summer, my daughter being very much into imaginative play, I have put together a little "summer kitchen" for her.
All the kitchen tools and the little tables are recycled, thinks that we didn't use anymore in our kitchen. Close to this space, we have a sandpit, a pile of soil and a water source. My daughter can open and shut the water by herself so we that we don't waste too much of it.
.. is probably the most important space in our home. We spend a lot of time her, cooking healthy fresh food that we buy at our local organic market and our biodynamic local farm.
Since she was only 18 months old, my daughter uses a Learning Tower to access the kitchen counter. Here it's where we cook together. She can push it by herself around the kitchen to come closer to the sink and the stove. She has a drawer with her own children-size real kitchen tools.
She also has a little shelf with her tableware. Here she can access water for drinking (in a little pitcher) and for washing hands, fruits and dishes (in a big water dispenser on the top of a washing station).
Also a very important space, where a lot of learning happened and still does: getting dressed alone, brushing teeth, washing hands, etc...
We have a little open wardrobe where she can access her clothes. You can read more about this space here.
A space in the hallway where she has her shoes, hats, sunglasses. She has a horseback with her bags and coats.
On the top of this shelf we also keep the things she usually takes with her when going out: a bottle of water, her plants and insects inventories, a basket for collecting natural treasures and a magnifying glass. On this shelf she improvised herself (one more :) nature table
In the hallway, in a cupboard that she can open by herself, she has a dedicated drawer with all the things she needs when she goes to the swimming pool with her dad. She prepares her bag by herself.
In the bathroom, we have a stepper that allows her to climb and open the tap by herself.
When we are home, this is where my daughter spends most of her time. We all share an office/ home library space and one corner is for my daughter.
Here I sometimes work on my computer while she is "reading" books. When she was just a baby, I could display all of her books at the bottom of a bigger bookcase but now we have so many books that I needed to add a little bookshelf for her where we display books. We rotate together the books every week or so. All our children books are stored in the bookcase nearby. I used to have them in our cupboard with toys and materials for rotation but my daughter's love for books being so big and her thirst for reading books so important, that I had to put them close to her reading area. Otherwise she spent her days in front of this cupboard taking out all the stored books and "reading" them.
So although we do rotate books, they are all at her own reach and she likes to search through them according to her mood of the day and the interest of the moment. For example, she might see an insect in the garden and quickly come inside to pull out of the bookcase the right book to identify it.
In this space we also keep a rocking horse and a Wobbel board, as I have noticed that quite reading times naturally alternate with active play (rocking, jumping, climbing, swinging...)
Music has been with my daughter since she was three months. It's when we started to attend the Music Together classes. It was in he beginning a good excuse for me to get out of the house and meet other parents, as I had just moved to Beijing. It turned out to be the beginning of a great musical journey. I found these music "classes" very compatible with the Montessori and the respectful parenting philosophies.
We have real, children-size instruments (no musical toys) since my daughter was just a tiny baby. In time, we have added more of them while traveling around the world. When my daughter was about to turn three years old, she became very much interested into ballet and classical music. Now this passion has vanished a bit, although it keeps coming. We have gathered some CDs and audio books with high quality classical music and opera, with the help of a musician friend.
Our music corner is a space that our family shares. I always prefer to make accessible a space for the everybody in the family, rather than duplicate it for my daughter. She wants to take part in what we do and to access the same resources as we d. She doesn't want be given a "copy" of the real life, especially made for children.
She can access the CD player and play a CD by herself since she was about 16 months old. She has a little box with her own CDs and I have a box with mine. When we use each other's CDs, we ask permission first. It means that she can use my CDs too, but she needs to ask me. An-nd I do the same with hers (she has some real good classical music ones in her collection ;) We have this little rule not only to protect some rare CDs that are souvenirs from my travels but also to infuse one of our family's values, mutual respect, in our daily lives. The message here is that we are equals and we respect each other's things. Since we started this corner I've got only one (irreplaceable) CD broken but that was also a great learning experience for all of us.
In this blogpost you can see how to create your own music corner and some of our favorite audio books.
I start my days with my meditation and yoga practice. When my daughter was younger (about two and half- three years old) she enjoyed doing yoga with me. At the moment she is not so interested in it anymore but I have a yoga mat for her close to mine and some books with yoga for children that she loves flipping through while I'm meditating. This space is an invitation and a reminder. A reminder that yoga practice exists and it's accessible to her if she wants to. This space is also my own temple and my way of showing her what is important to me.
The art space is just on the opposite corner of our mindfulness space. It has been a wonderful combination: my daughter likes to use the time I take for my yoga practice to work on her creative projects. She takes great pleasure in painting, drawing, creating objects, crafting things she imagines and then bringing them to her playroom to use them in her imaginative play.
I have written a lot about our art space as I believe that it's so important to encourage a young child's creativity and imagination. You can see our art space here (when my daughter was two years old) and here (when she was three)
In this blogpost you can see how we integrate crafts and handiwork in our daily rhythm and what's on our shelves. And here is an example of a process art project that we did in spring
Work & playspace
Before we end up our guided tour, lets have a look at our work and playspace. This is where my daughter spends time immersed in her world, engrossed in imaginative play. One corner is dedicated to her Waldorf-inspired toys and materials: Grimm's open-ended toys, silk scarfs, wooden animals, etc... Animals and miniature Grimms dolls are used often for storytelling so we take them with us in the reading corner when we read books. In the playroom, we also have a Speilgaben, which is a wonderful resource for loose-parts. We have blocks, all kind of building materials and a lot of natural treasures that my daughter collects: stones, pebbles, pine cones, chestnuts, snail shells, etc..
The other corner of the room is dedicated to her Montessori materials. Trays of activities never really worked for my daughter as she always prefers the real, practical work. But she loves puzzles and cards. At the moment, we have puzzles with numbers and letters, geography puzzles, emotions cards,... We have real maps (no children' maps) and a basket with Schleich animals that she loves placing on the maps We also keep here a little globe and a calendar I made for her when she started to be interested in time and seasons (when she was about to turn three). At the beginning of each new month, she turns the wheal with the twelve months of the year. Each morning she turns the wheal of the days of the week and we look into our calendar to see what we have planned for the day.
Our home evolves with us. As my daughter grows, some spaces grow, other disappear or they are transformed. As our needs and interests change, the house changes. I see the prepared environment as an organic space that evolves as the family evolves. It's not only about the child, it's about the whole family's rhythm, interests and dreams.
If you want to see how our home has evolved, have a look here, at one of my first articles on this topic when my daughter was 18 months old. You can also read my guest post for How We Montessori "A Montessori Home for a Toddler" and this interview I gave for The Montessori Notebook when my daughter turned three.