- Kelsey Paff
What's On Your Shelf? Interview with Montessori In Real Life Founder
(Photo Copyright Montessori In Real Life)
I'm very excited to share this interview! I had such a lovely time connecting with Theresa (founder of the blog Montessori In Real Life) and I'm looking forward to adding more interviews like it to my blog. Thank you again, Theresa!
For those who are unfamiliar with your blog, could you tell us a little bit about your Montessori approach to parenting and what inspired you to start Montessori in Real Life?
Sure! The idea behind the Montessori philosophy is to provide an environment in which children are self-motivated, eager to learn and try new things, and above all, respected. I love that the Montessori approach provides the opportunity for my children to discover their own interests, care for their space and for others, and become independent, confident, and capable little people. My hope is that by modeling respect for our environment and for each other, we can help raise children who grow up to be respectful, caring, and earth-conscious people.
I started Montessori in Real Life when my daughter D was just a newborn. Though I knew I wanted to raise my children with Montessori principles, I quickly realized it was more challenging to do so as a mom than as a teacher. I started the blog as a kind of journal for implementing Montessori at home and over time it became a way to help other like-minded parents incorporate Montessori at home as well!
In a recent Instagram post, you talked about cultivating a love of reading from birth and how board books with high-contrast illustrations are perfect for infants who are still developing color vision. Could you tell us a little bit more about your favorite high-contrast board books for children 0-6 months? An Alphabet in Silhouette by Natalie Jarvis is one of my favorites.
Black & White by Tana Hoban - This is the first book I introduced to our babies as newborns. It is very simple but the images are beautiful, large, and in alternating black and white. It’s great at captivating their attention!
Hello Animals by Smriti Prasadam - This is a fun introduction to various animals, with a little color pop on each page. This author has a whole series of high contrast books that are great first books for babies.
Jane Foster’s Black and White - The artwork in this book is just beautiful, making it sure to last beyond the first few months. Each page features a different animal and simple text to match.
As your toddler grows, could you tell us a little bit about which board books are (and have been) her favorites?
The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward - This was one of D’s first favorites, with wonderful photos of dogs and babies being adorable. The words are simple, making it a nice book for babies and young toddlers.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers - This has been a longtime favorite of hers. It tells the story of how babies all over the world are adored. I also love how it provides a visual timeline of all the milestones babies reach over the first year.
Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions by Abrams Appleseed - She loves imitating the photos of children’s various faces/emotions in this book. It’s a fun emotion matching game too.
Who: Peek-a-Flap Board Book by Jaye Garnett - Lift the flap books are always a hit with toddlers, and this one is great because the flaps are chunky (won’t tear). D loves finding the forest animals and we both learn some fun facts about them!
I Can by Helen Oxenbury - This is one of the simplest board books we own, but she’s loved it since she was a baby. Each page is an action that a young toddler can do, and she likes to imitate the actions along with the book.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle - A classic, and always a favorite around here! Toddlers love the repetition, and naming the animals and colors on each page.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury - Another classic and toddler favorite with the repetitive verses and adventure story. D likes to act this one out with hand and body movements. I love how it provides a memory game too, with the characters racing back home the way they came.
Finding Momo by Andrew Knapp - She loves finding Momo (the dog) hidden on each page in this beautiful photo book. There are other fun objects to find on each page too!
Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure - This is our favorite seasonal book right now. It is beautifully illustrated and poetic, and D loves to answer the question on each page, “Is it summer yet?” with “No!” and finally a big “Yes!” at the end.
Tacos! An Interactive Cooking Book by Lotta Nieminen - D was just gifted this one for her birthday, and it is such a fun idea! Each page is interactive with toddlers able to “mix the guacamole”, “chop” the veggies, and even “eat” the taco at the end. It includes a real recipe too.
In a recent New York Times article, "Can a Playroom Makeover Make My Kids Over?" Simone Davies, a Montessori teacher in the Netherlands and author of The Montessori Toddler, redid a playroom in order to make it more Montessori-esque. While doing so she removed all the books from a large bookshelf and left only a few out in a basket. Could you tell us about how you display your books at home and how Montessori has influenced your organizational process when it comes to books?
My daughter LOVES books, so we have various “book spaces” around the house. In her room, she has books on a couple of small floating wall shelves, as well as on the shelf next to her bed. In our living room (which is also her play space), we keep her books in the IKEA Flisat bookshelf. In each of our bathrooms we keep a small basket with books for her too. On her bookshelves, I set out between 6 and 12 books at a time. Just as I rotate the Montessori materials on her shelf, I rotate her book selection every month or so. I keep the books not currently displayed in a couple of large clear boxes in our closet. Another Montessori feature is that her bookshelves and baskets are low or on the ground (easily accessible) and all of the books’ covers are facing out. This makes the books much more inviting to a toddler, and also easier to put away on her own!
With so many board books available in local bookstores, at Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon, are there any particular board book traits or themes that you look for when considering a purchase?
All of the choices can definitely be overwhelming! However, I am a little picky about the types of books I choose for our house, and much of it is based on the Montessori philosophy. One of the biggest differences you’ll notice in a Montessori classroom or home with young children is that there aren’t typically books with fairies or talking animals. The Montessori belief is that children under 6 learn best through reality (concrete) rather than fantasy (abstract). Though pretend play is expected and encouraged at this age, we typically see that young children, especially toddlers, act out real-life scenarios rather than fantasy plots. While I am not super strict about this (The Pout Pout Fish and Little Blue Truck are in our mix), I do lean more towards books about real people, objects, and animals.
I especially love books with real photos or realistic pictures, as well as beautiful illustrations. I also try to make sure the books we have are age-appropriate for D: simple enough for her to understand but interesting enough to keep her attention. Lastly, I try to incorporate various themes, sometimes seasonal, other times just a new concept. That being said, D tends to most enjoy books about people, animals, and food, so we do buy more books along those themes!