Frida is two!

I wanted to share a few photos from Frida’s second birthday last week. 

I set up a Waldorf celebration ring with two candles for our dining table, Frida chose her own birthday flowers, and I hung the birthday banner. 

We had a lovely, relaxed day at home; playing with new toys, eating pancakes for breakfast and birthday cake in the garden, and just enjoying spending some time together. Frida loved her gifts and cards, and really enjoyed unwrapped the most beautiful gift from her “birthday fairy” (I do a secret-Santa style gift exchange with some friends who all have children born around the same time). 

I couldn’t be happier or prouder or more in love with our little girl. We are very lucky. 

Birthday gifts, age two

Frida will be turning two tomorrow! It feels very strange. On the one hand, I can’t quite believe that I’ve been a mother for two whole years already. Two! It doesn’t feel very long ago at all that we first met Frida and instantly fell head-over-heels in love with her. On the other hand, she seems at times so much older than she is, so much so that it feels bizarre that she isn’t already two.

I have really enjoyed selecting gifts for Frida this year, choosing things she will (I hope) love and want to play with again and again. 

Frida’s biggest focus at the moment is on imaginative play. She plays for hours with her animals and people and Grimms toys, quietly narrating to herself as she plays. Following her lead, therefore, I’ve chosen toys for imaginative play over anything else. 

For her birthday we have bought her: 

  • Grimms Bauhaus mobile home (available here) – Frida loves setting up pretend homes for her figures and animals, so this was a natural choice to extend her play. It’s unbelievably lovely in real life. We love Grimms toys – the play possibilities are endless. 
  • Grimms dolls house crib and toilet (available here) – I thought these would complement the mobile home furniture well. Frida is very interested in toilets at the moment! Also pictured is a Grimms bed which my sister in law bought for her, I thought it made sense to present these together to her. 
  • Grimms doll and baby (available here) – Frida has some figures already, but they were very cheap and it shows. The quality of these is superb and I know she will love playing with them.
  • Pink playsilk (available here) – as a carpet / backdrop for the mobile home.
  • Home by Carson Ellis (available here) – a beautiful book which I am sure she will enjoy reading. 

  • Holztiger bunnies and frog (available here) – Frida especially enjoys rabbits at the moment following the Beatrix Potter books, so I thought she would enjoy a couple more. She doesn’t have a frog and I think she’ll like it. She has a lot of Holztiger animals already and they are played with multiple times a day. 
  • Wooden Gruffalo toy (available here) – this was the only gift Frida asked for, after seeing a drawing of a child in a book holding a toy Gruffalo. I’m not a big fan of “character” toys, but she repeatedly told me she would like one, and this figure is ethically made from natural materials.
  • Grimms wave stacker (available here) – Frida has a cave stacker which she uses a lot for imaginative play, and I thought this would be a nice addition for sea scenes.

I will share some photos of our celebrations over the coming days soon. For now, wish me luck as I try to compose myself ahead of tomorrow… 

What we’re reading: March 

I wanted in this post to talk a bit about how we choose which books we bring into our home. Although we are a Montessori-inspired family, one of the areas I struggle with is books, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you as they relate to our family.

I want to start with a confession: we read fantasy to Frida. This seems to be a hotly-debated topic, but as I understand it: strict Montessorians will not introduce young children to books which have fantasy in (for example, talking animals, animals wearing clothes, magic, witches and wizards, fantasty creatures such as unicorns and monsters, and so on). The idea behind this is that it’s better to give children reading materials which are based in reality, as they have no way of distinguishing what is real and what is not. Young children are learning about the world through all we present to them, so by presenting reality-based books we are reinforcing real-life to them.

Whilst I have some sympathy for this view, it isn’t one which works well for our daughter, or family! Although we give Frida many Montessori-friendly books (her favourites for a long time have been Shirley Hughes books, and fact-books about birds and animals and insects), we have always had a selection of “fantasy” books (mainly books which feature talking, person-like animals).

Frida is nearly two, and she already understands perfectly well the difference between stories which could happen in real life, and things which are “pretend” – if you ask her “do animals really talk?” she knows full well the answer is no! We spend lots of time going to farms, to the zoo, to aquariums, and we have a pet cat – none of which wear clothes, or talk, or sing. She is also using the idea of “pretending” in her own play, and will delight in telling us that she is pretending her rug is an island, or that she’s pretending to sleep.

Fantasy stories, for Frida, are captivating. I would also argue that many of them are superbly written, with the sort of language I haven’t seen in more Montessori-friendly books. Just this week she has learnt the words soporific and implore, and can use these correctly in a sentence. These both come from a Beatrix Potter book! The rhythm and rhyme found in some of these books is amazing, too – really good for language development. I do think that books are part of the reason why Frida’s language and vocabulary has been quite advanced from a young age.

For our family, a mix of books works well, especially now that Frida has strong views about which books she would like (she loves to look at the “more books in this series” pages in hr books and point out the ones we don’t have and that she would like to read!). We mix fantasy books with books based in reality, and lots of discussion about real vs. pretend, and with lots of learning about the real world.

These are the books Frida is enjoying this month. I’ve marked them MF (Montessori-friendly) or NMF (not Montessori-friendly), for ease!

The Barefoot Book of Children (Strickland / DePalma / Dean)
This book is simply amazing. I think it belongs on the shelf of every child. It’s a wonderful celebration of diversity, what makes us different, and what we all share. Frida loves to talk about why we have different skin colours, why some people have different family set-ups, and why some children need to use a wheelchair. A beautifully illustrated book which will open up many important discussions. If you only buy your child one book, buy this one! (MF)

Bee (Britta Teckentrup)
A lovely read for spring! This shows the journey a bee goes on, collecting pollen and drinking nectar. There is a ladybird to spot on each page, and lots of familiar animals and flowers to look at. The illustrations are gorgeous, and Frida really enjoys reading this book. (MF)

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Another amazing book, and one which we will be reading (and using as a basis for further learning) for years to come. It features the stories of 100 inspirational women and girls – from Cleopatra to Malala – alongside great illustrations. Another must-read for boys and girls alike! (MF)

How Does My Garden Grow (Gerda Muller)
This book is a little bit old for Frida, but she loves to look at the illustrations, and talk about how vegetables grow. It’s a brilliant book for sping time, just as all of the shoots are coming up, and it tells the story of a little girl who goes to stay with her grandparents and learns how to grow food. (MF)

123 (from our beloved Shirley Hughes Nursery Collection)
I always rave about how much we love Shirley Hughes, and this book is no exception. Frida is starting to show some interest in numbers, so this book is a perfect addition to her current shelves. (MF)

Hairy Maclary, Shoo! (Lynley Dodd) and Hairy Maclary’s Hat Tricks (Lynley Dodd)
Frida LOVES the Lynley Dodd books, and has done since she was very small. The language Dodd uses is fantastic, and her rhymes are brilliant too. I actually think these are pretty Montessori-friendly – despite featuring animals, they don’t talk, they just do / think animal things (for example, in Shoo, Hairy goes into a delivery van, gets lost, runs around lots of places, and finally gets taken home by a neighbour). These were a great library find! (MF)

The Tale Of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies both Beatrix Potter
These are new for Frida, and my goodness, she loves them. They have been inspiring all sorts of rabbit-based imaginative play, and lots of discussion. The language Potter uses in her books is great – not at all dumbed down. We have had to slightly censor a couple of things in these books, as on occasion they do talk about baking rabbits into pies / turning them into purses (!), but I think on the whole Frida is ready for these slightly longer books. The illustrations are beautiful too. (Very much NMF though I’m afraid!)

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (Dr Seuss)
We are big Dr Seuss fans in this house. For a long time The Cat in the Hat was a firm favourite (to the extent that my husband memorised the whole thing to recite during car trips!) and so I thought it would be fun to get the sequel. Frida was delighted with it. (NMF)

Tabby McTat (Julia Donaldson)
A good library find for my cat-obsessed toddler! Julia Donaldson is great, too – some of her books I find better than others, but the way she writes is catchy and the stories are great for little ones. Frida loves the Gruffalo (which we also learnt by heart for her), the Gruffalo’s Child, the Snail and the Whale, Tiddler (another we both learnt by heart!), and A Squash and a Squeeze. (NMF)

What books are you loving this month? I’m thinking ahead to Frida’s birthday in a few weeks – I’ve already put aside a copy of Home by Carson Ellis for her birthday, but I will probably get a couple more books and would love some inspiration!

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Sleep, and the family bedroom 

Last week we decided to move Frida’s toddler bed into our bedroom (for now the “family bedroom” I guess?!). 

Her bed had previously been in her room, but as we are still cosleeping it wasn’t being used at all. The few times I had tried to get her to nap in her room, it took ages and was just not very successful – and who can blame her? Most of her toys are in that room, and her only association with it is play, not sleep. Moving all of her toys out wasn’t an option (we don’t have a playroom and our house isn’t very big), but more and more I felt that if she was going to sleep out of our bed, moving her into her room with our current set up was not going to work.

It also seemed like a big jump to move her into another room. Lying next to me, she reliably sleeps most of the way through the night, perhaps waking once or twice. All I have to do is lie her back down and cuddle her and she immediately goes back to sleep. The logistics of this seemed much harder if she was in a room behind two closed doors (we can’t leave bedroom doors open as our cat likes to jump on our faces). I know that it’s unusual in our society to bed / room share with a toddler or older child, but for us, for now, it makes sense. It also means that she has a playroom with lots of space to play. 

As for Frida actually sleeping in her own bed? Well, this week was in hindsight not the best week to try as she’s been ill so we have been happy for her to be in our bed. She’s had a few naps in her own bed though, and has done a few stretches from the beginning of the night until around 1am when she’s woken up and I’ve just brought her in with me rather than resettling her in her bed. Now she’s feeling better we’re going to try again, this time resettling her in her own bed if needed. 

When it’s time for Frida to move into her own bedroom (and I have no expectations about when that might be!) I think we will move her into the tiny bedroom (currently used as room for her books and as a guest room) so that she still has a dedicated play space separate from where she sleeps and her sleeping space is calm and peaceful. However, our home layout is always evolving, so we will see. 

Although Frida’s sleep is hugely improved since I night-weaned her a few months ago, she currently wakes around 5:30am asking to nurse, which is still a bit too early for me. I usually ask her to wait until 6 which can lead to frustration for her. I’m considering getting a Gro Clock as an easy way for her to tell the difference between night and day, especially as the days get longer, but the blue light puts me off, so I’m not sure really. Maybe I just need to accept that earlier mornings are the trade-off for better sleep at night.

I will do another post soon showing you around her playroom soon. She’s really enjoying the space so far. 

Celebrating spring 

Ok, so I know that technically spring does not start for another twenty days, but I am impatient and I can’t wait that long! Our winter shelf has had me itching for change since the shoots and flowers of early spring started to appear, and our focus outside has shifted from frost and pinecones to buds and bulbs.

I wanted to share with you a few of the ways in which we will be celebrating spring and using it as inspiration for our activities.

Every season I update this shelf in Frida’s room. Because we have a (very active and inquisitive!) cat, we can’t set up a proper nature table, so this shelf is my compromise.

On Frida’s spring shelf I have put:

We have already spent the last few weeks looking at crocuses, daffodils, blossom, and the buds which are starting to appear on the trees. Although winter is still here (and at times it really feels like it!), spring proper is definitely not far away.

To celebrate spring over the next few weeks and months we will be:

  • Reading seasonal books together.  I’ve put away our winter books and swapped in a few spring ones. I’ll keep adding to our collection though so I would love your recommendations!
  • Going outside, playing outside, eating outside. Puddle jumping, mud squelching, water splashing. Enjoying the flowers that are starting to pop up, continuing our regular trips to the park to see what has sprung up since our last visit a few days ago, eagerly watching as new flowers peek through each time we visit. Going outside a lot is something we do all year round but in spring this is especially magical.
  • Talking of flowers, I’d quite like to do some flower-pressing with Frida, and I’m planning on setting up some simple flower arranging for her too as she’s expressed an interest in doing so.
  • Using these fantastic Usborne flower cards to expand Frida’s knowledge and vocabulary around flowers. I’ve only just given them to her and they are already proving to be a hit.
  • Doing some simple gardening. Planting a few bulbs and planting a few seeds together, so Frida can learn first-hand how plants grow. This book by Gerda Muller looks like it will be a wonderful companion.
  • Visiting city farms more regularly again. The city farms tend to be quieter over the winter (and the ones near us close their cafes which I find very offputting) but spring is a perfect time to visit farms. Hopefully Frida will see some chicks!
  • Dipping for frogspawn, and learning about the frog life cycle.
  • Making and giving May Day posies.
  • Celebrating Frida’s second birthday in April, and my 29th in May.
  • Painting eggs.
  • Easter baking. Buns, breads. Yum.
  • Visiting bluebell woods as a family, and generally planning lots of outdoor day trips to some of the beautiful nature reserves, woods, forests, and outdoor spaces we are lucky to live near.

Whilst Frida is still young I think we will be going by calendar seasons as it makes it a bit easier for her to remember them.

I’m sure I will add lots to this list over the coming weeks, and I’ve just ordered this brilliant looking book which I am certain will provide lots of inspiration for years to come! How are you planning on celebrating spring?

What’s on Frida’s shelves (22 months) 

I recently decided to refresh Frida’s art shelves and change the area a little bit. Previously, these shelves contained only art materials, but I thought it would be sensible to use them for Frida’s Montessori-inspired work, as I wanted to keep this work separate from her other toys. Frida is tall enough to reach her art materials now that I have put them on the top of the unit, and can clearly see what she is reaching for.

She has the following art materials freely available to her:

  • Paint
  • Felt-tip pens
  • Coloured pencils
  • Wax crayons
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper (both plain and coloured / textured)
  • Stickers and sticker books

Liquid watercolour, glitter, glue, and other materials I keep stored away out of reach.

In addition to her art materials, on her work shelves Frida has:

Shadow matching cards.

These are a lovely, simple material for toddler matching work. You can read my blog post about these here. 

Geometric solids and kinetic sand (sand not pictured) 

These solids are a brilliant way of introducing 3D shapes to toddlers in a fun way. There’s no pressure for Frida to learn or memorise shape names (though I mention these to her), they just provide her with a tactile way of exploring 3D shapes as well as a fun tool for building with her kinetic sand.

I keep the kinetic sand in a big tupperware tub, which sits just behind the shapes on the shelf (fun fact: this is the same tupperware I brought Frida’s placenta home in!)

These are the geometric solids we use and this is the kinetic sand.

2D shape work

Frida is using this as a puzzle and as a matching game, as I made her some simple cards to go along with the puzzle. This is also a great way of expanding her vocabulary to include shape names.

We choose to use the proper words for the shapes such as quatrefoil and rhombus rather than clover and diamond.

Similar shape puzzle here.


Colour paddles

Frida still loves to use these, enjoying holding them up to her eyes and experiencing the change in colour.

Similar colour paddles here.

Knobbed cylinders 

These are still keeping Frida engaged but I think it’s time to add more to keep this challenging. You can read my blog post on these here. 

I didn’t buy these but this set looks similar.

Ink stamps 

These are still in rotation as Frida is still showing interest in them, but they’ve been on her shelves for months now! You can read my blog post on these here. 

This is the stamp set Frida uses.

I feel like this area works well for our needs at the moment, though I have had the same pieces of Frida’s art work up for months now so I need to find time to refresh these. As ever, I am constantly finding that I need to make tweaks and changes to our space to ensure it’s fit for purpose and fulfilling all of Frida’s needs. But isn’t that part of the fun of Montessori!

Wonderlab at the Science Museum

Oops, it’s been well over a week since my last post. I feel like sometimes I really get into the groove of blogging, and manage a post every few days, and then my mojo goes and I have to force myself to start typing. 

Earlier this week Frida and I visited the Wonderlab at the Science Museum, and I was so impressed that I wanted to write about it in case anyone was thinking of visiting. 

The Wonderlab is a hands-on zone for children to explore different scientific phenomena, such as energy and light. The museum states it’s designed for ages three upwards, but I think there was enough suitable for toddlers to make it well worth a trip.

Although the Science Museum is free, the Wonderlab costs around £7 for an adult – though it’s £14 for an annual pass, so I chose that option. Frida went in for free. 

Highlights for us included an amazing rotating model of the earth orbiting the sun which children can walk on, a light table (I really appreciated that this was at toddler height), a room with changing lights, and some very cool displays involving ice and steam. 

For older children there were so many amazing looking zones, including slides with differing levels of friction, pulley systems which raises them wholly into the air, and building materials. I think this is definitely a place we will be coming back to for years to come. 

We went during the week which meant there were a lot of school children visiting at the same time, which did feel a bit overwhelming and noisy. I think next time we go we’ll try to go late afternoon when hopefully the school trips will have left for the day. This is a “problem” in all the main London museums (though actually it’s fantastic – I’m so proud of our free, world-class museums and that they cater so well for children). 

The Science Museum also has a more toddler-focused space (“The Garden”) in the basement with water play, mirrors, instruments, and space for free play. It’s a brilliant place to visit with children, especially if you’re prepared for it to be a little busy. 

Frida was quite tired when we went as we had just come from the Natural History Museum, where we visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (which was amazing but the photos were quite high up and not very big so I had to put Frida in the sling so she could see them properly, which wasn’t ideal), but she had a great time and I’m already looking forward to going back at a slightly less hectic time. 

I’ll leave you with a video I took of Frida enjoying the changing lights – so cool!