useful phrases for working with children

I collect phrases. When I hear a string of words that resonates, I try to capture them in my mind or on paper. We are constantly trying to find the words to use with children — words that set limits, words that encourage, words that include.

useful phrases for working with children


During my school’s work week, while carpet was being installed in my class, I chatted with the teachers and administrators — what are some of your favorite phrases to use with children?

Here are 13 phrases, covering general interactions, alternatives for “good job”, conflict resolution, and the big one, redirection and limit setting. As you can see, most of them don’t just tell, rather they engage the child, help the child recognize their needs, and give the child the opportunity to be a problem solver. It’s not “Carry the tray right”, we say “Remind me, how do we carry a tray?” By engaging the child with these underlying ideas, we are giving them autonomy and a sense of control, rather than being controlled and just telling them what to do.


I see. . . or I notice. . .

Phrases that help redirect behavior and set limits

Remind me. . . (where you should be) (how we carry a tray)

What can you say?

You are showing me. . . (that you are not being safe with the scissors)

What would be a safe way to do that?

I found something that belongs to you! (usually a work that is left out, a jacket on the floor)

Would you like ______ or _______, you choose. (Would you like to put on your pjs or brush your teeth first? Would you like to put away the puzzle or the art work?)

Conflict resolution

Tell me a way that you would like me to help.

How can we work to solve this problem?

What do you need to feel better?

Words that encourage and recognize effort

It looks like you really enjoyed that work.

Tell me about your work, what’s your favorite part?

That’s a tough one, but I think you can work it out.

What are some of you favorite phrases? Leave them in the comments so we can all share!

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montessori sewing lessons

I’m over at Confessions of a Montessori Mom sharing seven Montessori sewing lesson (there’s even a video!). Come over and check it out!

montessori sewing works

If you like these Montessori sewing lessons, subscribe to montessori works, because soon there will be a whole book! I’m writing and taking pictures of over 30 Montessori sewing works and projects, it will be for sale this fall — subscribe by email to stay in the loop!

montessori approach to allowance — real practical life

My daughter hoards stuffed animal, cats are her favorite. She prefers them in the $3.00 or less category (which you can find at almost any store) and every month, that is where her spending money goes. Is it what I call a quality item? No. Would I pick it to spend my money on? Not at all. Is it my decision? Nope, and that’s why it is so important.

We started giving Imogen an allowance a year ago when she was about 4 and a half. It all began because anytime we went into ANY store, there was always, the “I want!” “I need!” and even though she didn’t “get” those items, it was still a constant power struggle — so we transferred some of the power, her own little spending money.

a montessori approach to allowance | montessori works

I did a little research and we went with the system where the child separates all her money into three categories: Spend, Save, and Share. There are some pretty cool ready-made banks for this purpose.


Moonjar Classic Moneybox: Save, Spend, Share


Money Savvy Pig – Blue

I wasn’t looking to make that much of an investment when we started this journey. So I used some clear zippered pouches that I had, they were from the Martha Stewart line at Staples. They are easy to tuck in my purse (I always carry the spend pouch), it is easy for her to add and remove her money — for us, pouches win. Pinterest is also full of Spend, Save, Share jar tutorials, by people much craftier than I.

Now, this is how the system works for us — Imogen gets $12 a month, at the beginning of the month — I give her all $1s. Of the $12, $2 goes into Sharing, $4 goes to Saving and $6 goes to spending. If you google “How much allowance should my ? year old get” most people recommend a dollar for each year of their age, per week. So that would be $20 a month for Imogen who is 5, I find that to be a little too much, especially since we don’t require to buy her clothing, or items like that. $12 seems more appropriate, so that’s what I went with. Any birthday, or extra money is also divided in the same way.

  • I pay her monthly, it is easier for me to remember (I use cash anyway for most my monthly purchases, so I just add her $12 to my monthly withdraw). Also, I would rather have her budget her money all month.
  • We just use these three categories. I know others have a tithe category that is separate from the share, and still other people that have children saving for cars and college. To me the saving for college and a car is a little too abstract. What I want now is to instill the idea that there are items worth saving for, and the habit that every time you get money, you divided it up, some for now, some for later, some for others.
  • Her allowance is not connected to any chores. The idea that she helps around the house is a given and is not rewarded with money. I think this is very important in a Montessori type house. Children help around the house because that is the expectation, not because they are being rewarded.

What has Imogen gained from having an allowance?

  • Some things are cheap and they break easily. She now throughly inspects every stuffed animal she buys for loose threads or holes. The disappointment she went through when her cheap junk that she has purchased breaks, taught her much more about quality than I could have.
  • Buyers remorse. We did tromp back to a store once to return a $1 Japanese novelty eraser.
  • Budgeting — She use to go through her spending money by the 3rd of the month. Now she is more thoughtful about her purchases, is constantly figuring out, if I buy this, how much will I have left?
  • Delayed gratification. She is saving HER money for something big (one of those large stuffed animals), we aren’t buying it for her, it’s her choice and purchase. I have a feeling when she finally had enough money, and we buy it, it will be her favorite.thing.ever.
  • The joy of sharing. She has plans to buy a good friend a gift with her share money, and then buy cans of cat food for our local SPCA.
children and allowance, a montessori approach

how Imogen feels about her allowance

Allowing her to have her own money, and make her own decisions about how to use it, has really been an exercise in practical life. In a Montessori home, we are always looking for real ways to give children ownership and responsibility for their actions, what better way to help prepare them for life than to trust them with their own money.

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a compilation of free montessori resources!

For the last few years, at the end of the year, I reread Julie Volkman’s The Promise of Fall. It’s not because I am a super teacher that is constantly thinking about how I can improve, or what I can do better, it’s just that I finally realized it is the perfect time to reevaluate and think about your classroom, your homeschool routine, your co-op. At the end of the year we can see and remember “what’s going well” and “what’s not going well, and honestly driving me crazy.” Come September, the summer sun has faded those thoughts and feelings, everything has a rosy glow and I can’t even remember how I have the shelves arranged.

a compilation of free montessori resources | montessori works

To that point, I wanted to share this article so you too can also start thinking about next Fall. I also complied of some of the best and free Montessori resources I could find on the internet. I purposely kept this list not based on free downloads and printables and more philosophy/albums/lesson plan based. Continue reading

wildflower seed pods

I’m running about 2 weeks late. My original plan was to have these ready to send home with our Mother’s Day gift, well, it’s May 12th and we just started them. While these seed pods are designed for guerrilla gardening (similar to seed bombs, but easier to make) I imagine most will end up in a pot or planter at home.

This was set up as an independent stationary activity in my classroom, but it can easily be a group activity or an individual at home project.

easy wildflower seed pods | montessori works

wildflower seed pods

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monthly bread, may — it’s the experience, not the product, right?

April flew by without bread, whoops! We will aim for two loaves this month to make up for it!

So, I was feeling a little nostalgic when we were planning this loaf of bread, and I went to an old recipe that I remember making about 7 years ago with my stepdaughter (she went through a bread baking kick). I thought it was the first loaf we made together, but looking at the date on Soulemama’s post, I know there were loaves before that!

monthly bread, may | montessori works

My nostalgic memory is of a delicious perfect loaf of bread. Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened, but I imagine in was our fault and not the recipe’s. And really, I’m the only one that even noticed the overly dough texture despite the extra long baking time, and super strong honey taste — the family inhaled it!

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