Sheryl Jesin

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The Sensitive Periods and Montessori Schools

As mentioned in a previous post, Dylan started a Montessori school in September.  There are a lot of different things that drew us to this school in particular and to a Montessori school in general.  One factor that drew us to a Montessori school was learning more about Sensitive periods – a term coined by the Dutch geneticist Hugo de Vries and adopted by the founder of the Montessori system, Maria Montessori.

Maria Montessori belived that children experience leaps in learning from birth to age 6, during sensitive periods.  These leaps can be thought of as periods of time where children easily acquire certain abilities, such as language.  It is possible learn a new language, for example, later on in life, but this requires more effort.  

The Association Montessori Internationale describes these sensitive periods by topic area.  The sensitivities include the following:

  1. Sensitivity to Language – from birth to age 6, children are extremely sensitive to vocal sounds and acquire language skills rapidly.
  2. Sensitivity to Order – from approximately age 1 to age 3, order is extremely important to children as their brains  are organizing a mental scheme of the world surrounding them.  Often, what is thought of as an outburst or tantrum is simply a child reacting to apparent disorder that they observe. 
  3. Sensitivity to Movement – from the age of 2 to 4, a child posseses a sensitivity to movement.  In order to learn, they must move about their environment.   This is why it seems like a toddler or preschooler can’t sit still – it often appears as if they are in contant motion from the moment they wake until the moment they go to sleep!
  4. Sensitivity to Small Objects – children between the ages of 1 and 3 have a strong interest in small objects.  For example – a child might notice and be fascinated by an ant crawling on the ground where an adult would not even notice it. 
  5. Sensitivity to Sensory Impressions – children learn about the world around them by exploring their environment with their senses – they touch, smell, taste, feel and hear things as they explore the world. 

We were impressed how Dylan’s school respects the sensitivities that toddlers and preschools experience and sets up the classroom and the daily routine in a manner that allows these sensitivities to be explored.

Dylan exporing Russian dolls in his classroom - respecting his sensitivity towards order and small objects

We are learning more and more about the Montessori philosophy each day.   Next week we will be going to a curriculum night at Dylan’s school and I hope to share more Montessori information with you!


Playing outside without a backyard

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


We moved into our townhouse about 4 years ago.  It is in a great location – really central, close to downtown and the subway, and within walking distance of lots of great restaurants and shopping.  All of these factors were really important to us when we purchased our house.   At that time my husband Jake and I were both working at law firms downtown and were really busy.  We didn’t have time for gardening or shovelling snow – convenience was really important to us!

Fast forward to now – my husband works mainly from home and I work out in the suburbs and we have a two year old son with boundless energy.  Our house is still great – we have enough room and we still love the urban location.   There is only one thing missing – and that is a backyard!  We often think about how nice it would be to have a backyard where Dylan could burn off some of his energy – perhaps with a swingset and a kiddie pool.

Dylan climbing a tree at one of our favorite parks

It’s not in the cards for us to move right now for a variety of different reasons.  But it’s still important to us that Dylan has lots of time outdoors.  We are lucky that we live in walking distance of two amazing parks.  Both contain great jungle gyms geared to kids in Dylan’s age group.   Both even contain splash pads for those hot humid Toronto summer days.  Whenever we take Dylan to the park, we all have a great time.  He often finds other kids his age to play with.  Jake and I also enjoy the fresh air and the chance to be away from all of our distractions at home – our laptops, cooking, cleaning, etc.

In addition to the parks, we live quite close to an amazing walking/biking trail. Dylan calls it the “forest”.  We love to go for walks in the “forest” and now that Dylan has a tricycle, it’s a great place for him to ride without the worry of cars.

In the summer, we spend lots of time outdoors at our family cottages.   Dylan can play with his older cousins in the sand and the lake for hours.  There are wide open spaces for Dylan to run around and we all enjoy the clean country air.

So even though I sometimes feel wistful that Dylan doesn’t have a backyard at home, I think about all the amazing outdoor spaces within walking distance of our house.  I’m an urban girl at heart, and although perhaps someday it will make sense for us to move to suburbia, right now all the benefits of city life outweigh the drawbacks.  Even though we live in an urban area, we still spend lots of time outdoors right near our house, and the fact that we spend many long weekends at the cottage means Dylan isn’t lacking at all for outdoor play.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Moses the Mouse

No, this isn’t a blog post about Passover and Moses and the 10 Commandments, although we have been quite busy celebrating the holiday this week.  (Hence my lack of blogging!)   This is Dylan’s third Passover, and the first one where he was old enough to stay up for the seders.  He loved the seders – especially all the singing and eating!  Jake even managed to teach him part of the Four Questions – he has been singing them non-stop the past week.   It is too cute!

OK, back to the topic at hand.  Moses the Mouse.  Sunday evening we went to my parents’ house for dinner, and as we arrived my mom told Dylan that she had something special to show him.  In her molding on the floor in the dining room, there is a little hole, that she calls a mouse hole.  She had put what looked like a mouse’s tail right next to the hole, so it looked like the tail was sticking out and there was a mouse in the hole.  Dylan was absolutely enthralled with this.  When he saw it, his eyes were wide open with excitement and couldn’t stop staring at the mouse’s tail coming out of the mouse hole!

As it turns out, when my mom was making beets earlier in the day, she observed that the end of the beet looked just like a mouse tail, and she cut it off the beet and saved it for Dylan!  Dylan and my mom played for hours with that beet-mouse tail.  Dylan understood that it was pretend.  He understood that it came from a beet.  And he loved it!  He loved it so much, that he named the imaginary mouse Moses.

Dylan had to show everyone Moses.  He showed Moses to me, Jake, my dad and my brother.   At one point, when he was showing Moses to my brother, my brother pretended to eat the tail.  The look of concern on Dylan’s face was real, but this was quickly replaced with delight when Moses suddenly re-appeared out of my brother’s bellybutton.

It is amazing what toddlers can play with.  We spend so much money filling our houses with plastic junk.   It starts at birth and just continues on and on.  I’ve discovered that the best toys are ones with multiple purposes, that allow toddlers to use their imaginations.  A set of wooden blocks have provided hours of entertainment – they have been towers, stairs, and houses.  Paper cutouts of birds were lots of fun to make, and have been companions to feed and watch fly.  And now Moses the mouse – Dylan and my mom played with that beet-mouse tail for hours that Sunday evening, and he’s still talking about it almost a week later.

Does your toddler have any favorite home made toys?


Aren’t you so bored?

I took a 20 month maternity leave after my son was born. During those 20 months, a very common question that people would ask me was:  Aren’t you so bored at home?  And my answer would always be: NO!

Pre-baby I was a corporate lawyer at a big downtown Toronto firm.  My days at work were long and busy, and my blackberry was always buzzing day or night!   Life at home with a baby was certainly different!  I was still busy, but in a very different way.  My days and nights were now filled with lots of feeding, burping, changing, sleeping, singing, bouncing, reading, playing, bathing, etc etc.  I had no choice but to change my go go go routine.   Life now revolved around Dylan and meeting his needs.

I find it amazing when I hear from other moms that they were bored on their mat leave.  Sure – certain afternoons could drag on and sometimes it can get tedious singing Ba Ba Black Sheep over and over.  But the joyful moments of hearing Dylan laugh for the first time, or watching him take his first steps certainly overshadowed and more than made up for any moments of boredom!

Most days, we didn’t have time to get bored!  We were always on the go, exploring the city and taking everything in

Enjoying the books at Indigo

Here are some of our favorite activities (in no particular order):

1.  Playing with the Thomas the Train table at Indigo or Mastermind

2.  Reading books at the local library.

3.  Going to the park.

4.  Taking a subway or bus ride.

5.  Enjoying a lunch date.

6.  Going to the mall.

7.  Sharing a coffee at Second Cup, Aroma or Starbucks.

8. Visiting with Dylan’s grandparents.

9. Going to a music class.

10.  Meeting other moms and babies at a La Leche League Meeting.

What about you?  What were some of your favorite activities while you were on mat leave?