Montessori for Nomads: Eighteen Months to Two Years

Lil Miss Greenthumb

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a Montessori tutorial in any way, shape or form; but rather, this is intended to share how we attempt to incorporate our understanding of Montessori principles in a DIY-minimalist-eco-friendly-raggamuslim-kinda way. Proceed, if you wish.

Montessori for Nomads:  Birth to Six Months

Montessori for Nomads:  Six to Twelve Months

Montessori for Nomads:  Twelve to Eighteen Months

As Lil’ Z approached two years old, there was a noticeable consciousness of herself as an able-bodied member of our family.  She was a full-time walker, no longer bound by the vicissitudes of the sling she no longer needed.  Daily, she was keen to know what we’re doing and where we’re going.  Any outing for her was rightfully named “an adventure” and that’s the same eager curiosity with which we approached our everyday occurrences.  In this regard, simplicity is very important.  With an added stretch of time, every experience can be layered with language, the senses, and an opportunity to make your growing toddler an active part of it.  As Lil’ Z’s cognitive awareness grew, these were some of the Montessori concepts we found useful for incorporation into our home life.

Play Mat

Having a small mat or rug available for your child to play on helps to condition the boundaries of the activity at hand.  Instead of blocks or toys spreading all over the place, the play mat helps to localize where things belong.  The mat can be introduced much earlier when demonstrating how to use an activity or game but, for us, we found that Lil’ Z was able to independently retrieve and put away her mat at this age–with constant reminding.

Spatial Awareness

There’s a classical Montessori activity known as the Pink Tower, where wooden blocks of graduated sizes are stacked to form a tower.  Because the blocks are uniform in design, the child can focus on the varied sizes and their assembly position.  Finding the Pink Tower locally wasn’t an option for us but a visiting relative brought along a much lighter, space-friendly equivalent that Lil’ Z got plenty of use out of.  Available in both cardboard or wooden material, we opted for the lighter cardboard, though wood clearly lasts longer and is more sensually appealing.

Wooden puzzles, blocks, and geometric shape sorters also are helpful for conceptualizing how to organize objects in space and understand how pieces fit together.

Tot-Sized Chores

It’s really important to start looking at meaningful tasks to be done around the home that can be undertaken by toddler hands.  Something as basic as dropping ice into a cup or as useful as watering a plant are great ways to communicate to your little person their value to your family and collective share in responsibility.  Another very relevant task is setting the table before meals.  Though our communal meals are usually eaten on a floor mat, Lil’ Z eats her breakfast and lunch at a coffee table-turned-toddler dining table in the kitchen.  Cloth place mats and utensils can be stored on a low shelf, and if you’re ready, so can small drinking glasses, bowls, and plates.

shelves

Toileting

For us, it was time to pack up the cloth diapers indefinitely.  As we mentioned in the last entry, we bypassed training pants and went straight for the underwear which Lil’ Z was thrilled about wearing.  Of course, we explained that wearing “big girl panties” means using the potty, not soiling yourself.  There were a few accidents in the beginning but slowly she began to realize that soiling herself meant an instant mess, not a damp cloth sitting unnoticed on your bottom.  We helped her out by not asking, just taking her to the restroom before leaving the home or our destination.  It also helped to be prepared for roadside toileting with a bottle of water and baby wipes for easy cleaning.

Clothing Selection

Getting dressed is not every toddler’s priority but peeling off clothes and running around nude almost always is.  To give Lil’ Z some sense of agency about her appearance, we offered her limited clothing selections.  Picking between two shirts or what color panties she wanted to wear helped to transition her from “Should I get dressed or not?” to “Which one will I wear?”

Everyday Adventures

Summary

Your little person is continually growing into their very own.  Lil’ Z weaned just shy of two years old and with the cloth diapers and sling packed away, we had to reacquaint ourselves with not just a toddler but an emerging little girl.  In a very slow and steady way, your child is becoming a partner.  At this time, we really started to not just enjoy Lil’ Z but enjoy her company.  Even at two years old, her own personality, interests, and humor came shining through, and seeing her blossom really affirmed for us how important it is to step aside and do the pruning while Lil’ Z does all the growing.  Very gratefully, we’re glad to assist her in her flowering childhood.

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Oman Adventures: Wadi Shab, Al Hamra, and Misfat al Abriyeen

“Beauty has a destination” is the the new tourism slogan in Oman and it really is appropriate.  I’ve met well-off Omanis who have not traveled further than the Gulf and don’t have any desire to.  They are so satisfied with the simple, yet varied beauty of their homeland that they don’t see a need to veer any further.  Coupled with Oman’s political and social stability, even the expats are hesitant to leave her shores.

While living in Yemen and Algeria, we were so focused on study and work respectively, that we had few opportunities to explore both countries.  We vowed that whenever we’re settled in a place, we will be brave and venture out.  Since coming to Oman, we’ve had overnight trips in Salalah, Dimi wa at-Taiyyin, and Suwayq but there’s still so much more to see, so we vowed this year get a move on it!

First Stop:  Wadi Shab

Firstly, a wadi is a valley.  Sounds simple but what really makes the wadi experience is what takes place in the wadi.  Some are dry, with hardly any water, just dry desert stones, rocks, and empty space.  Some are filled with waterfalls, lush greenery, and date palms.  The experience also varies depending on the time of year and incidence of rainfall.

Wadi Shab is considered the most beautiful wadi in Oman.  It’s located in a fishing town, Sur.  We were hesitant to make such a long journey for a day trip but it was an opportunity not to be missed!  After the vast and imposing entrance to Wadi Shab, you can continue to discover oases, diving points, cliffs, waterfalls and caves.

The highlight of Wadi Shab is swimming through three ponds of water, squeezing between a narrow crevice, and reaching the innermost cave to behold a waterfall inside the cave!  Definitely a “subhaan’Allah (Glory be to God) moment”!  The journey was challenging but breathtaking.

General Note:  Wear water shoes, stay hydrated, and use sunscreen.  Even though we walked into the wadi, we had to take a boat to exit because of the rising tide.  Be prepared to pay the kind men who will deliver you safely to the shores of the parking lot.  🙂

Note for non-swimmers:  Travel with people who really know how to swim, learn how to float on your back, and/or wear a lifevest.  I floated my way through the ponds with an occasional tug from a concerned swimming companion.  🙂

Note for those traveling with babies/toddlers:  Definitely requires at least two able adults to do some occasional baby carrying and passing.  Some of the precupices were too steep to manage without passing a young child to another.  Also, be mindful of the time of day and intensity of heat.

Next Stop:  Al Hamra

The following weekend, we were invited to visit a student in Al Hamra, just outside of Nizwa.  While our host’s home was comfy and cozy, with all modern amenities, he took us to the old village of Al Hamra where traditional homes fashioned from clay still stand.  The old village is now largely abandoned due to the inability to install any electricity, water, and sewage infrastructure.  However, our host, a middle-aged man, was born in this village and can remember counting the cars in their town as a young boy.  His vivid memories were made alive through a tour of his birthhome.  He was literally born in his birthhome and showed us that the cattle and goats were stored in a room just across the hall.

A view from the roof shows one lone resident drying laundry on the roof.

To get a glimpse of the humble life that once inhabited this community, we visited Bait al Safah.  A tiny “museum” of sorts housed artifacts of the traditional, village life.

The lovely woman pictured above is roasting coffee beans.  She also showed us a stone mill and how to make traditional sandalwood paste (which she smeared on Lil’ Z and myself) and other body products made from local plants and seeds.

This is how traditional Omani bread is made.  It’s a light, flaky bread that can be immediately folded but crumbles in your hands once it dries.  Lil’ Z is a big fan and happily munched it all the way home, asking for “hubaz!   (Baby tr:  khubz!  English tr:  bread!).  My elder neighbor recently told me that Omanis used to make huge stacks of this bread and carry it for their journey to Hajj because it can be eaten for nearly a month!  Containing no dairy, it remains dry, like a super-thin cracker and can be stored a lengthy time.

Last Stop:  Misfat al Abriyeen

Walking through the winding roads of this village led us to a beautiful falaaj (water course) and through fruit plantations.

The plantations are completely hand-harvested with the assistance of an occasional donkey.  No tractor can make its way through the narrowing and steep passages of this village.

The gushing falaaj courses through channels through the plantation but that doesn’t keep youths from sneaking a cool swim on a hot day!  😉  We are blessed to be in such a beautiful country and hoping to soak it up for as long as we’re here.

Getting the Garlic In…Me and My Toddler

Garlic is amazing!  While taking my Family Herbalism course, the reality of how potent and powerful garlic can be really hit me!  Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-people- you name it, garlic’s got it!  Eating cooked garlic is easy but raw garlic is where the punch lies, so here are our family’s favorite ways to consume it.

Blended in dips

Hummus and baba ghanoush are our favorite garlic caravans!  All of the other flavors mask the taste so well, that you can easily sneak in a good few cloves in a single serving.  For toddlers, dips are easy to eat and fun to play in, so it’s a triple win when you’re under the weather.

Lightly sauteed or roasted with veggies

When sauteeing or roasting your favorite veggie, add chopped garlic towards the end, a few minutes before turning off your flame.  A little olive oil also can help those little garlic pieces taste savory on their own or when chomped with the veggies.

Added to curry

Curried Lentils is our vegan “Chicken Soup”.  Hot, salty, and savory!  Once the lentils are cooked and I’ve added the curry, turmeric, and salt, I add finely minced red onions, garlic, and ginger, and turn off the flame.  Let the additives steep a bit, and you’ve fooled your tongue again!

Garlic Oil

You can add fresh cloves of garlic to a small bottle of olive oil for garlic-infused oil but I’m talkin about adding a few spoons of olive oil to crushed cloves of garlic- this is garlic oil!  Just barely cover your minced garlic with a layer of olive oil and let it sit, preferably in the sun, for one to three days.  Then, use the garlic oil topically.  For a feverish toddler, you can rub garlic oil on their foot bottoms and cover their feet with socks when going to bed at night.  You can rub garlic oil over the chest to “break up” a dry cough.  A few drops of warm garlic oil is also great for ear infections (place a cotton ball in the ear afterwards) or to clear up a fungal rash on the skin.

Garlic, Cayenne, and Honey Remedy

This remedy is a true “in case of emergency” resort.  If you feel a vicious sore throat coming on, this remedy will help to oust before it can take a foothold.  Warning:  It’s rough going down!  The first spoon is not so bad, but the subsequent spoons will make a grown man cry!  4-5 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of powdered cayenne pepper, and 1-2 tbsp. of honey.

Note for Nursing Moms:  The reason it’s important for a nursing mom to eat garlic is that your toddler will already be accustomed to the taste of it from your milk and benefit from the properties when you consume it.  Even if you’re not a nursing mom, toddlers can use a little “positive peer pressure” when it comes to eating.  Watching everyone else dip cucumbers in a fun, squishy dip may invite them to do the same.

What?!? I'm eating garlic?!?

Disclaimer:  The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.