Monday, July 26, 2010

Making Memories, Montessori (& Malaguzzi) Monday: Our Family Bedtime Routine

Peanut butter cup time...memories in the making, with Montessori and Malaguzzi tie-ins, too...
Bedtime is almost always a nice time for our family, as generally, when it is time to go to bed, we have all had a busy day and are ready to wind down, relax, and get some zzz's...
Hopefully, the way that we do our night time routine will continue to create pleasant memories for Big Bro and Little Bro.
Am really going to miss when they are too old to tuck in and have a nightly ritual like the routine we have now, so I try to remember to cherish every moment.
Sometimes, it seems like it was just yesterday when they were tiny infants and would nurse with me as they were falling to sleep.
Every once in a while, it is hard to believe how fast they have grown.
But the neat thing is that as they have grown, our night time routine has changed a little, too.
It has actually gotten more elaborate, but it really seems to work for them for now, as it gives us some lovely time as a family to unwind and decompress from our busy days, so even though our current routine is a little longer than what it used to be, this is where we are this moment in their development.
Making Memories
Before bath time, both boys go in and pick out their first morning work for the next day.
During the school year, they generally do more Montessori works in the morning and then, do more play based activities in the afternoon.
During the summer, they may choose a Montessori work, or else they may choose to start with something that is more play based, such as playing on our lanai in their clubhouse.
In summertime, if they want to eat their breakfast outside on our lanai, they are most welcome to do so...we consider summer to be our summer camp time, so it is a much more loosely structured sort of morning...
The boys place their selections either on the table in our kitchen or else our floor in our adjoining family room. They are then all set for the next day.
After selecting their morning activities, they start getting ready for bed.
Generally, the boys take a bath,  put their jammies on, and brush their teeth, and then, we do the rest of our nighttime routine in Big Bro's room.
The boys round up their favorite night time things, namely their blankies and their stuffed animal friends. They get all settled and then, we read a book or two...
We're all on Big Bro's bed as we are listening to the stories.
Many times, Dear Hubby will read. We all love when Daddy reads, as I have already read with them at different times throughout the day. Having Daddy involved in reading the bedtime stories pulls him into what the boys' current interests are, as generally, the stories are reflective of their interests.
Little Bro and Big Bro take turns selecting the book or books that we read together.
As we are reading, we take time out if the boys want to talk or ask questions related to the book(s). We try to get Little Bro to understand that if he wants to share something that does not relate to the story we are reading, that he is most welcome to do so after we wrap up the book.
Big Bro likes this. He is a very matter-of-fact sort of kid and likes to stick with the book or the theme of the book. Big Bro has had to learn to be more patient with some of the randomness of Little Bro's conversations during story time...but Little Bro is starting to have a longer attention span and more focus on the book at hand...
We then kind of recap our favorite part of the day or something that we wanted to share before saying prayers.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Loris Malaguzzi, he is considered to be the founding father of the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood. He helped an Italian community to bring together an excellent early childhood program that was also very respectful of children, and to some extent,  followed their interests similarly to Maria Montessori's philosophy...
One of my favorite Malaguzzi quotes comes into play regarding listening to your child
(This quote appeared as part of his obituary, written by Wolfgang Achtner, that ran in the Independent shortly after Malaguzzi's death in 1994.)...
(Adults need...) a willingness to question all your own abilities, your knowledge, to become humble. Only then will you be able to listen to the child, to set off on a common search, to educate each other together.
Sometimes, the questions that Big Bro and Little Bro ask or the insight that they have really takes us aback as Dear Hubby and I are listening to what the boys share at bedtime...introspective and  contemplative, more so than if we would have tried to point out everything to them about the adults, we need to be humble and truly listen to what a child shares with us.
Bedtime in our home happens to be one of the best sharing times, so Dear Hubby and I have to always be ready to really listen to our sons...
Most recently, Big Bro has been sharing his thoughts on the oil spill. He does not focus on whom should be blamed for the spill, but rather, on ways to fix the problem, how the spill area should be cleaned. He asked why "everyone is focusing on capping the spill if the oil is trying so hard to come out"? and "Why doesn't someone design a machine or tool that works with the oil wanting to come out...some sort of big vacuum invention that will just speed the oil trying to escape, but forcing it to go to where we want it to go rather than all over the place"???
He really wants to create an invention to do just this sort of thing...
Little Bro, who is way more into the comedic side of life, has gotten into saying goodnight to himself...he says goodnight to all of us and then, he says goodnight to himself, along with some sort of positive affirmation about his day went. Can honestly say that I never gave much thought to trying to solve the world's problems with new inventions or reflecting upon my day and saying self affirmations like the boys do when I was little.

Then, after bedtime story time, we do the the newest addition to our night time routine, after the boys turn off the room lights...our nightly shadow puppet show!
Daddy and Mommy are the audience and Big Bro and Little Bro are the puppeteers.
Recently, when we replaced the night light in Big Bro's room, the boys realized that the light helped to create a perfect shadow puppet stage.
Both boys love, love, love to do nightly shadow puppet shows!
They dance, make shadow puppet animals, and pretend to be famous people.
Little Bro loves the fact that he can "be so, so, so big" with his shadow.
Sometimes, we also talk about the glow-in-the-dark Solar System stickers on Big Bro's ceiling.
Almost always, at this time, Little Bro will tell us how he would love to go visit either the moon or Neptune. He has always been enamored with both the moon and Neptune. He pretends to blast off to the moon while he does his shadow puppetry.
This is one of the reasons I am so excited about doing the light table swap items, as the shadow puppets  and other light table items we make for the swap are going to be huge hits with the boys...
not just during the day, but at night, too...

As a family, we then say our prayers.
Our prayers are partly traditional and partly ones that we have created as a family to give our thanks to God for a nice day and for our families and friends. 
Then, we sing a few songs. Some are religious and some are not...just some of the boys' favorites.
We give each other goodnight kisses, say our I love you's to each other, and then, sometimes, Little Bro and Big Bro get silly saying things like "Goodnight, Silly Pickle...or "Goodnight Cheeseburger." Pickles and cheeseburgers are exceptionally funny to both boys, especially to Little Bro at bedtime.

Then, the boys like for us to stay there with them for a few minutes until they are settled. Little Bro adores having his feet rubbed as he is trying to fall asleep.
Big Bro just likes to have us snuggle with him for a couple extra minutes, and then, he's all set to fall fast asleep.
Lately, Little Bro has liked cuddling in Big Bro's room at night.
He had a Montessori style floor bed, but has really moved beyond that, for the most part.
At some point, we are going to probably have to get him a big boy bed that is off the floor, but the arrangement at the moment seems to be working well for the boys, so we will wait and see.

As far as the Montessori tie-in, sometimes, when I think of Maria Montessori, I actually feel sad for her to think that she had a son whom she never would have had been able to snuggle with and to have a bedtime routine with, as she had to essentially have him adopted out by a family in the countryside.
She gave the field of education and child development so much, but as far as getting to have a family night time routine, she would have never ever have gotten to experience this first hand.

I had been a live-in nanny while in graduate school and then, shortly after grad school.
While working as a nanny, helped with everything during the day and even helped with things like getting them ready for bed, but I was not the one to do the bedtime routine of reading them stories, listening to their thoughts about their day, or tucking them in at night.
If, for some reason, I was the one to put them to bed, we would still read a story and say "sweet dreams and goodnight", but it wasn't quite as snuggly as it is when it is your own child or children, even though I loved the little ones I cared for...just not the same sort of drawn out bedtime as with my own children, though.
In both cases, the night time routine was largely still something that their own parents did at night.
Had really felt like I was ready to be a mom when I was working in the capacity as a nanny...thought that I had pretty much experienced everything that a mom would experience with respect to raising children, but I was so is so different when it is your own child...when you are the parent versus the nanny or classroom guide or teacher.
Montessori's concept of a floor beds make sense and we did use them at different times since the boys were born, but not exclusively. She would have never known the experience of a family bed, or of little brothers who like to sometimes sleep all snuggled together but other times, like to either snuggle in with mom and dad or else be by themselves and have room to spread out in the bed. 
Both boys had floor beds and we did use them, but we also have had our time spent doing the "Family Bed" thing while I was nursing, as well as a kind of morphed bed on their own - family bed arrangement that we currently have.

Have not found much in the way of writing about whether or not Loris Malaguzzi had any children. Know that he was married, but even in his obituary, it did not mention if he was survived by any of his own children...
So, the same would apply for whatever Loris Malaguzzi might have stated with respect to bedtime and children, as if he did not have any of his own children, it would be only as an observer that he could comment about this subject.

Have a great deal of admiration and respect for both Maria Montessori and Loris Malaguzzi, and in so many instances, find that my personal vision of raising my children seems to mirror what they espoused, but then, I also have to trust myself in my decisions with regard to my own children.
In the area of night time routines, from what I can gather from my research, neither one had personal experience with putting their own little ones into bed for the night.

So, as far as deciding whether to do a family bed, floor bed, or a combination of these, as well as the type of  bedtime routine for my own children is something that Dear Hubby and I had to work out for our boys, as our family experience is so vastly different than from ones through an institutional / child care setting.
It helps to know, understand, and appreciate various educational philosophies, but ultimately, it is up to the individual parent or parents to decide what works best for their family, such as what is working very well for our family bedtime routine.
Speaking of bedtime routines, if you would like a copy of an activity we have about bedtime called Time For Bed, you are most welcome to have it.
The activity consists of a sheet that has a drawing showing a bedtime scene and then, a page of word cards featuring words that go with the Time for Bed theme.
These sheets work well as a Montessori style shelf work, if you make two copies of the words sheet, and one copy of the illustration sheet...then, glue to card stock if you may also want to laminate your sheets. Ours are laminated.
With the word card sheets, I cut one of the two sheets into individual words.
Then, the boys match the little word cards to the themed words sheet.
You can also do this activity as a seek and find, where they have to find the individual word cards in the illustration.
For those who may prefer a bit more of a play based approach, the cards also work well if you want to do a scavenger hunt and have your children find some of the bedtime items.
If you have a child who is reluctant to get ready for bed, this can be a nice transitional activity before going to bed.
You could also use some of the word cards as labels if you wish to have labels around your home for your child. If your child is just starting to learn English, or if your child is just starting to learn to dress him or herself, you might find these labels to be helpful, as they show both the item and the word.
These cards are also excellent for children who are on the autism spectrum, as you can use them as sequencing / schedule cards and lay out what will come next in their bedtime routine. 
If you would like these pdfs, please either leave me a comment with your email addy or else, email me at and I will send them to you.

Please be sure to check out Jody's Montessori Monday post and link ups today.
She has a neat video clip and post about truly following the child.

 Nicole at One Hook Wonder is taking a break from doing lessons with her children to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, but is still graciously hosting the Montessori Monday link ups from others on her blog., so please be sure to pop by her blog to see the link ups.

Jennifer from Adventures in McQuill-Land has a nice post about scouting memories.

Happy Monday!


GRANDMA said...

Loved reading about your bedtime routine. Very sweet. Always envisioned the boys sleeping together in the Den at our house. May happen yet.

Jennifer said...

LOVE the post on bedtime rituals! Ours is always a little more hectic, as my boys seem to wind up rather than down when they are tired. We did have some nice bedtimes last week on vacation, but it helped having two Mommies present. One to focus on the wild littler ones and one to encourage the more independent, quieter older ones.

The Making Memories Monday link is up, just a bit late. My own need for bedtime delayed it this week! I have to get back on a more regular blogging schedule again... ahh, so many posts floating around in my head, so many other things demanding my time, and so little energy at the end of the day - must be Summer!

Unknown said...

This is a really nice post. Routines are very important. I know anytime that my children awaken in the middle of the night, we must have skipped a step that evening. Just as dinner is important so is the bedtime routine. Thank you for reminding me of how special this time really is. I would like a copy of the pdf. A lot of children I care for come in tired from sleepness nights. Maybe this will help them at home. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I have our snack scavenger hunt posted. It was fun! Thanks for hosting. Here is the link

Anonymous said...

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for the nice comment on my snack post. Yes, you have my permission to use my photos. I can't wait to see everyone's results. I've also added a little blurb to my post about your next month's scavenger hunt. It sounds interesting!

Anonymous said...

Your "Time for Bed" activity is so cool! I'm going to tell my friend with little ones to check it out for sure. Thank you so much for letting me know about it.
Blessings to you,
Sue :)

XYZZ said...

Thanks for linking up to Montessori Monday! I always find it so interesting how different families do bedtimes, so thanks for sharing yours! I love the puppet shows - your boys must look forward to that every night.

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