I've found that once I'm in the mindset, it becomes increasingly easy to spot the developmental potential in a range of throw-away items, or toys designed for other purposes. Montessori-inspired equipment doesn't have to be expensive when you can re-use beautiful and interesting items from around the home. Culturetot is an early walker and has clearly been focusing hard on this in recent weeks, but she is starting to grow out of her first treasure basket (see here), and, having mastered the home-made permanence box I made for her (where she puts a ball through a hole and it emerges elsewhere (see here) I thought it was time to create a few more DIY toys. Culturetot is clearly starting to show an interest in putting one item in, on, or through another, and this week in particular (at just under 10 months) she has been really enjoying:
1. Posting a stick through a hanging curtain hoop sampler and watching it fall down the other side.
2. Playing with recycled wooden curtain rings and a re-used Melissa and Doug stacking frame. The smooth tactile wood, the generous width of the rings compared to the poles, and the three options for placement has made this a challenging but interesting task for her to master. I've also found Culturebaby exploring it too and I might use it for some numeracy games. Culturetot has also been enjoying putting the stick back into the hole of a single stacker base and removing it again. Over and over...
3. Using a hammer and ball toy (without the hammer) as a slightly more complex permanence box. Following a couple of demonstrations, she has been pushing the balls through the holes again and again. Where a ball has escaped, she's crawled across the room to retrieve it. This has definitely been the favourite activity this week.
4. Putting one brick on top of another using the wooden blocks from her walking truck. She initiated this one herself, I suspect copying her sister who had been building with them.
It is easy to feel guilty with a second child; that you don't have the same completely dedicated time with them and you spend so much of your day dealing with the demands of the older sibling. But then they have something the first child never had: they have a ready made family, companionship and a sister to emulate. It is always a surprise and delight when they show how much they understand. I was busy constructing a miniature table and chairs this week for them both to use, and Culturebaby was 'helping' me. With apparent purpose, Culturetot crossed the room to the wooden play toolbox, selected two screws, brought them back to us and attempted to put them on the upturned table next to where we were working. It was a great reminder not to ever underestimate these little absorbent minds. Babies are amazing.