Montessori Inspired Stories Uncategorized

The Bottlenose Dolphin

For more real world short stories, please check out my e-book on Amazon Natural World Meditation Stories for Children.

This story takes approximately 5 minutes to read aloud, slowly.

Relaxation Exercise

You are going to take a meditation journey in your mind to experience what it might be like to be a bottlenose dolphin.

Before you start your journey, make sure you are nice and comfy, and close your eyes.

Take a deep slow breath in through the nose and down to your tummy. Feel if you can inflate your tummy like a balloon but don’t push, now breathe out through the mouth slowly. Do this three times nice and slowly.

Now be very still and see if you can feel or hear your heartbeat.

Now try to focus on each part of your body in turn. Start with your toes.  Breathe in slowly and try to push the breath all the way into your toes. Feel them relax. Now your legs.

Keep going all the way through your back, chest, shoulders, arms and head. Take a deep long breath in through your nose, into your tummy.

Hold for one, two, three then let it go slowly out of your mouth for one, two, three, four. Now your body is relaxed and comfortable and you are ready to begin.

Relaxation story

You find yourself standing on a raft in the middle of a light blue sea. You take a deep breath and jump into the bright water.

You have become a dolphin, young, agile and full of energy. Your body is sleek and designed to speed through the water and soar up through the waves.

You are filled with delight at the speed and strength of your body, as you burst up through the surface of the water in a breath taking leap. You see the drops of rainbow drops of water against the sunlight and feel the lightness of the air before you dive back into the water effortlessly. It is so much fun you soar up and leap again and again, feeling at one with the sea and the sky.

You hear clicks and noises that tell you your family is close by. You move closer, following the sounds of the pod. You see them and they are so excited to see you, they swim right up to you and nuzzle you with their noses, tails and fins. You are making a happy clicking sound to greet them. Collectively you decide to play up on the surface, chasing each other, leaping and racing over the waves.

Once you have tired of playing, you all head over to your favourite lagoon – a calm area near the beach, surrounded by dunes and rocks that prevent predators and strong currents.

It is very peaceful here, there are long fronds of bright green seaweed waving gently, and shoals of beautiful fish of every colour of the rainbow.

The coral is vivid with long plumes, and some that look like great big brains. There are columns of coral which grow tall, like the ruins of ancient cities. Around them cruise huge silent rays.

You see an octopus wriggling out from under a large fan coral and you swim down curiously to take a closer look. It moves across the ocean floor using its strong tentacles, and when it sees you it stops and turns into the colour of the rocks.

Next you notice a large sea turtle gliding gently among the wavy seaweed. You swim up to see it, and watch how the sunlight dapples its green and brown shell. Its eyes stare at you as it glides, they are old and wise and full of calm.

You push yourself up easily through the water, up and up and break the surface into the bright warm air, taking a deep breath down through your airhole. You stay there for a while, head bobbing, feeling the sun on your skin and enjoying the view of the sea and the sky around you.

You are a little hungry now, and swim down to join your family, and start to hunt some fish to eat. They are plentiful here and it is an easy task to find a silvery shoal. You and your family herd them from different sides into a ball and push them up towards the surface, and feast until you’re full.

You chase some fast ones up to the surface and they jump so far they fly! You leap after the flying fish, some you catch, some are too quick and fast this time.

You chase your family through the waves playfully, feeling the sea-spray on your skin in the dazzling sunshine. The day is yours to play with endless energy and joyful spirits, in this beautiful safe coral reef.

For more real world short stories, please check out my e-book on Amazon Natural World Meditation Stories for Children.

Cultures around the world Knowledge and Understanding of the World Montessori with Mother Uncategorized

An Imperfectly Montessori Hallowe’en

6 ideas to make Hallowe’en a little less grotesque and a little more significant.

Hallowe’en… It seems nearly impossible to tackle this holiday with a Montessori approach, what with all the plastic tat, fantastical monsters, mugging neighbours for sweets and the Godawful music.

However, it’s not impossible to try to balance this Celebration of Tat with some Knowledge and Understanding of the World. There are interesting aspects of Hallowe’en to consider, namely the traditions, history and cultural interpretations. Here are six suggestions to explore Hallowe’en with young children in a non-scary, non-plastic and informative way.

  1. Trace the roots of Hallowe’en.

On All Hallows Eve the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead are said to be at its thinnest.

Maybe avoid the idea of spirits passing into our world and wreaking havoc unless you want hysterical children refusing to ever sleep again. However, there are interesting reasons why this celebration has become part of our yearly festivities.

The customs and tradition of Hallowe’en go back hundreds of years. The festival of Samhain (pronounced sowin) was celebrated by the Celts at the start of November to mark the end of the harvest and to make predications about the harshness of the coming winter. They would wear animal heads and tell fortunes, which could make for some terrifying role play at home.

A major part of Samhain, as well as religions and cultures around the world at this time of year, is remembering our ancestors. It’s a great time to crack open the family photo albums, ask grandparents for stories of their childhood, and copy photos to stick to a family tree. We are going to have a special family dinner and toast to absent family members, and then snuggle under animal skins (faux fur blanket) by the fire to tell stories.

There’s interesting information about Samhain and the roots of Hallowe’en here

2. Make Soul Cakes

Samhain was incorporated into Christianity to combine with All Souls’ Day on the 2nd November. Soul cakes were baked and left on the porch with a drink for the dearly departed. On All Hallows Day (1st November) children would perform, sing or pray for the dead to earn the treat of the Soul cake, which evolved into the modern day version of trick or treating.

Soul cakes were sweet with a cross marked into the top, much like hot cross buns. They were intended to represent a spirit being freed from purgatory, which is a cheery conversation to have over mixing the dough. Recipe here.

3. Bobbing for apples.

The origins of this game is said to be the Roman festival to celebrate Pomona, the goddess of fruit. A disgustingly unsanitary game, even without the current pandemic, give each person a container of water instead of a group bucket (vom) and pop in a few apples. Set the timer, hold your hands behind your back, and see how many you can get out with your mouth. Bobbing for apples should always be played outside, and followed by a hot shower as everyone will get very wet.

4. Refine fine motor skills with pumpkins.

Once the pumpkins are cut and scooped, young children can separate the seeds from the strands for roasting, and sprinkle slices with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar for baking. Roasted slices are great for cutting and mashing. There are more activities with the humble pumpkin here at an Imperfectly Montessori Autumn

5. Refine gross motor skills with pumpkins.

A trip out pumpkin picking at a farm is a great way for children to practise manoeuvring a wheelbarrow, do some lifting and carrying, and finally washing them. Once the pumpkins have been cut and scooped out, you can have a game of toss-the-beanbag (or ping-pong balls) to see who can get the most in the hole.

6. Play a game of real or not real.

This is a good way to help children feel less spooked about Hallowe’en and learn a little about the fact and fiction behind the symbols. You can print out some pictures or look online and guess whether they are real or not real. If you print them out then they can be used for matching pairs, memory game and snap. Here are a few facts and resources about out favourite beasties.

Jack-o’-lanterns – originated in Ireland with the folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who because of his trickery was condemned to walk the earth with only a coal in a turnip for light and heat.

Witches – can be nicely explored through a feminist lens. From a secular perspective, witches can be understood throughout history as non-conformist, single, wise women who relied on herbology to avoid dying, and helped other women when medicine was not accessible. They were hunted down by the church, led by men who feared women’s power. More info here

Werewolves – fictional creatures that originated in Greek and Roman myths with variations told around the world. Some children confuse wolves with werewolves and believe both do or don’t exist.

Ghosts – eek, this totally depends on the culture and beliefs of the family, but an easy out is to explain scientists say they don’t exist.

Vampires – originated in Eastern Europe mythology and may have roots in terrible diseases like rabies, or vampire bats.

Bats – likely became associated with Hallowe’en via the Celtic celebration of Samhain. When they sat around the fire at night to appease their ancestors and spirits from the otherworld, midges and mosquitos would be attracted to the light and so the bats would swoop around to eat them. In Central and South America, vampire bats cemented the association with their bloodthirsty nocturnal hunting.

Black Cats – a superstition that arose in the middle ages in Europe, when cats were bigger and a whole lot scarier than they are now. The fear snowballed into a belief that black cats in particular were witches’ familiars, evil and bad luck.

Mummies – many ancient civilisations practiced the tradition of preserving the dead.

Zombies – these mythical walking corpses originated in the Caribbean.

That’s how we are going to kick off our Hallowe’en!



The Three Period Lesson

Name it, show me, tell me.

The three period lesson is a way of presenting an activity to a child to help them build an understanding of a concept. The stimulation of the senses helps them form a precept, which combined with language forms a full understanding – a concept.

So, let the child handle the material and have a good feel of it to build a precept before you start with the three period lesson.

Remember to isolate the sense you are working on, so if you’re working on shapes make sure they are all the same size, texture and colour. If you’re working on colour make sure they are the same shape, size and texture. This helps them be able to discriminate between the items.

  1. Name it. Begin by teaching the child the language involved. Say you have a square, a circle and a rectangle on a tray; pick up one, show it to the child and name it. ‘This is a square.’ Encourage the child to feel it, and run a finger over the edges to build a mental impression of the shape. Continue with the other two shapes.
  2. Show me. See if the child recognises the object from its name. So, you place the three shapes in front of the child, and ask the child to point to the object you name. ‘Show me the square.’ Only move on to the next object when the child identifies the object named, keep repeating the exercise until its clearly understood.
  3. Tell me. See if the child remembers the name of the object. Put the shapes down in front of the child, point to the square ‘what is this?’

If they name them all correctly, you can say ‘you named them all’ but avoid saying ‘good job or well done,’ or worse, give a high-five (which I once did as a student to the horror of my course mentor.) We are promoting a sense of satisfaction in the child’s own achievement, not seeking external validation.

And that’s it!

Montessori Inspired Stories Uncategorized

A little bit about the background to the Montessori inspired meditation stories for children…

Me & Am on a walk

A while ago I was hunting around for some new stories to read to Am. As always, I was looking for bedtime stories that would relax her and hopefully send her off to sleep so I could get on with some wine & trash tv. And as always, I was internally groaning at the rows and rows of books about unicorns, fairies and super-heroes. What I really wanted to read her, were stories about the real world.

Maria Montessori had a thing about fairy tales and any kind of magical realism. She believed our world was packed full to the brim with enough wonder to fascinate any child, and that fantasy only stunts a child’s understanding of the amazing place we live.

It is true that the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is just as dazzling as any unicorn adventure, and the lion hunt on the savannah as fearsome as the most dastardly Disney villain.

Personally, I will never be against fairy tales, they weave our history and traditions through their stories, and show good triumph over evil in full pantomime glory. They incorporate diverse customs into their charm, and can allow us to step foot in a different culture, or time. They can provide insight into social mores, provide guidelines for behaviour, and allow for important conversations about outdated tropes and unacceptable stereotypes. I can, however, see where Maria Montessori was coming from; The world is incredible enough, there is no need to add what is literally unbelievable to spark a child’s interest.

I wanted to read her stories that were based on the world around her now, which would hopefully capture her interest and help her learn about her environment. There are of course many, many books that do this, and I list some of our favourites here. The ones I had found were not exactly what I was looking for, which a collection of short stories about the natural world in the form of a guided meditation for relaxation.

So I decided to write my own. At first they were little stories about animals that live in our part of the UK, in South East England, in the form of guided meditation to help her to relax for sleep. She mostly ignored them at the start, and pleaded for me to make up stories about Pocoyo and Peppa Pig instead. In turn I chose to ignore the maxim of ‘Follow The Child’ and kept at it. During the day I would make up as many ridiculous stories about cartoon characters as she wanted (‘Mummy, can you tell me a story about when Elly the elephant didn’t like eyes.’)

I would read her a mix of stories about real life (going to nursery, learning to use the potty etc) and flying unicorns or fairy princesses with talking frogs. But at bedtime, I would tell her one of my natural world stories. She began to engage with them more, and asked for her favourite ones to be repeated.

When I told friends what I was writing, they asked to read them, and said their children enjoyed them. I enjoyed writing them and started researching interesting animals, places, and things in nature I though might make a good story. I’m now adding ones about different periods of history, to enable her to step into the life of a child in the past. I hope these stories are helping her to grow her knowledge and understanding of the world, which is a fundamental principle of Montessori.