This past week, Finn came down with a case of the blahs and a fever. Not surprising, given the change of seasons, but it required a slowing down of sorts around here. (And cancelling our trip to Mexico, which we were certainly looking forward to, but the last thing you want to be doing with a sick toddler is international travel!)
So slow down we did. I think the most I accomplished last week, other than getting food on the table and getting an excellent upper body workout from carrying Finn all the time, was put up this little shelf. And to be honest, Patrick really did all the work. I gave him orders from the sidelines.
The shelf is the finishing touch to what I lovingly refer to as "Finn's Corner." You're probably tired of seeing this this spot by now, but truly, it's the heart of Finn's practical, day-to-day experiences in our family. There's lots of activity in this corner, from serving water to sweeping, mopping, and wiping up spills. It's where I store a few much-used art materials (beeswax crayons and watercolor supplies) as well as where Finn polishes wood and plays with playdoh and has other encounters with art.
From left to right on the peg shelf (found at Little Colorado): a Mama-made apron from my free pattern; a "wipe-up cloth" which is easy to make - take an old towel, hem the edges, and attach a ribbon loop for easy hanging; his rainbow broom; and his mop. The apron is a new addition to this kitchen/living space. He adores it, and loves that he has his very own now, just like his Mama. We put on aprons when we're baking, washing the dishes, or polishing wood.
Polishing wood is the first Care of the Environment Montessori-style activity that I've set up for him. Up until now, he's just been offered the opportunity to mimick us in our everyday cleaning and cooking activities. This little tray is a very simple set-up, perfect for a toddler who has a lot of beautiful, unfinished wood in his life, from wooden toys to wooden plates. Polishing wood with beeswax (I recommend this stuff) is a safe, easy, and fun way for him to contribute to the care and beautification of his home environment.
I put the soft beeswax in a tiny jam jar, the kind you might see if you go out to brunch at a nice-ish restaurant. I always unabashedly throw a few extra jam jars in my bag when I see them - they're so useful for helping little ones with portion control. I also use them in art activities. They're especially good for storing homemade paste for collage.
The teensy-weensy spoon is about the size of Finn's thumb, and also helps put a natural limit on how much beeswax is appropriate to use. I found it at Montessori Services while I was still teaching.
Finally, the cloth is from a stash I made for my classroom - 10 cm x 10 cm squares of flannel sewn with right sides together. Leave a small opening for turning it right side out, then topstitch along all edges, closing the opening. I have ten of these that I store on his play kitchen shelf; if one cloth gets very dirty, there's a laundry basket on the floor where Finn can place it (as well as dirty clean-up cloths) and then he can find a replacement from the stash on the shelf.
To present the wood polishing activity, I showed Finn how to get one scoop of beeswax from the jar and use his finger to place the wax on a wooden object. I used my index finger to work the wax into the wood, then sat in silence while it soaked in a bit. Finally, I used the flannel cloth to buff the wood, then returned the object and the tray to their respective spots. Eventually, I'll show him how to polish larger items, such as his play kitchen and shelving.
It was an instant hit with the 17 month-old, and I'm sorry I have no pictures to prove it. When it came time to take a few pictures for this post, my little model was running some errands with his Daddy. But you know what? It's hard to take pictures of a wiggly toddler in a low-light setting. All you would have seen would have been a blur of motion, anyway.
The slowing down stops as soon as the toddler feels better. You know how it goes!