Great Montessori inspired activities are sorting games that work on fine motor skills. Montessori teaches that children need to be physically ready before they can write. One way to get them ready is to strengthen their fine motor muscles in their hands. I bought a pack of large plastic tweezers from Amazon. Lady P has finally reached the stage where she is strong enough to use them!
The other day I did a quick exercise with Lady P (mostly to keep her entertained while I made dinner). I gave her baking soda, vinegar and a dropper. She made mini volcano eruptions in a…cocktail glass, I’m ashamed to say (I didn’t have any test tubes) and I let her go with it. She was really interested in this activity for quite a while. This would be a great activity for older ones who are learning about volcanoes but I just used it as messy play. It helps her with her pincer grab, it teaches her about simple kitchen science and it’s fun!
Today I tried the alphabet sound boxes with Lady P and she really enjoyed them. I started with one box and played ‘I spy’ with her then, when she got the gist of the activity, I moved on to two boxes. I chose ‘w’ and ‘l’ and she really struggled with this. Then I realised that those two letters are quite similar in sound and she was getting very confused as to what started with ‘w’ and what started with ‘l’ so I switched the ‘w’ box with ‘b’. She seemed to hear the difference between these two sounds and she was able to sort the items correctly. Sometimes she would put them under the wrong one on purpose then look at me to see if I would correct her. I didn’t at first. I just moved the item under the correct letter after she went onto the next item and she stopped being silly on her own. I used my sandpaper letters I made and started my lesson by tracing the letter and saying the sound. She loved doing this! Then I demonstrated an item by over-emphasising the letter sound and the word i.e. b…b…battery (yes I put a battery in there, but I don’t recommend it). She quickly caught on and continued using the same technique.
She wanted to keep going with this activity so I’m happy I’ve found something she really enjoys! I do find that I’m constantly looking around the house for items to put in my sound boxes. There are pieces missing from all sorts of things: puzzles, memory games…my husband’s keys…Anyways, have fun with this! (P.S. don’t look at my non-Montessori inspired shelves…I find it impossible to have them neat and organised)
Today we headed over to our friend’s house, who also home educates her children, for a baking session. It is really nice to get the kids together with other like-minded homeschooling families,to socialise and do activities together! There were four children all together (including 2 under 14 months) which can be quite difficult! It can be difficult to homeschool and look after a baby at the same time, so you just do what you can! But today’s session was very successful and the children (including babies) had a lot of fun!
Today’s highlight: Lady P was given an egg which she banged on the table one handed and put in the mixing bowl, egg shell and all. It was pretty funny!
Lady P is wearing an apron and hat that I made myself from a website called Making Montessori Ours. The author was kind enough to put a free pattern on her website, which I printed off and sewed myself (can you hear the pride in my voice?). This is a very straightforward pattern and is perfect for beginners. In fact, it’s my first project.
After we had lunch (and cupcakes), the children did a picture together then played with play dough! It was a great day!
Alphabet sound boxes can be made from any containers you choose (I ordered 50 x Plastic 650ml Microwave Food Takeaway Containers from Amazon). As long as there is one box for each letter of the alphabet. I decided to put in my sandpaper letters, a magnetic letter and any items from the girls’ toy boxes I could find that started with each letter. One important thing to remember is to put in items that start with the phonetic sound (like cat [hard c], not cinnamon [soft c which sounds like ‘s’]) to avoid confusion. The letter ‘x’ can be tricky as words that make the phonetic sound usually end in x not start with it. So I put in a picture of a fox and a box.
Activities to try:
1. Play ‘I spy’ with one box of items until your child understands that you want items that start with the sound you are making. eg. “I spy with my little eye, something that starts with ah ah ah” Your child may pick up the apple. Emphasise the starting sound. “ah ah apple.” Once your child generally understands this concept you can move onto 2 or 3 letters and play ‘I spy’.
2. Another activity you could try is a sorting activity. Choose two boxes with sounds that are not alike (eg letter a and letter s). Put the letters at the top of your mat; mix up the items; choose an item and say what it is, emphasising the beginning sound (eg. ah ah apple); trace the sandpaper ‘a’ and say the sound then place the item under the ‘a’; do the same for each item.
3. A third task would be to use one letter box, trace the sandpaper letter, then draw the letter in a tray of sand or cornmeal. Say the letter’s sound. Say what each item is, emphasising the beginning sound and put the item underneath the sandpaper letter.
I have finally varnished my number rods (using yacht varnish [probably very toxic]) however, this material will only be used with supervision until both girls are old enough to keep things out of their mouths (my eldest is terrible!).
The first activity I did with Lady P was to carefully take the number rods from the shelf and place them gently on the rug (this may seem like a silly step but long sticks of wood and toddlers generally don’t mix). I read about the number rods beforehand and learned that if children handle each rod using two hands (one at either end), they begin to understand the concept of 1 being a small amount and 10 being a larger amount. Once we got to 10, the rod was too long for her to hold at either end. I named each rod as I gave them to her: “this is 1…this is 2…etc”. She usually repeated what I said and took them to the rug (Now, I’m using the number rods in the same way that the red rods would be used. I just didn’t see the point in making two sets of rods for my personal home use. You could, however, paint your rods all red then add the blue stripes when your toddler is ready for them. )
The second lesson we did was ordering the rods from shortest to longest. I made the mistake of trying to get her to order all 10. I should not have done this as she was completely lost. Next time I will focus on 3 or 4 rods then add a few more as she perfects the activity. I used vocabulary like short, shortest, long, longest, longer etc. She could pick out the shortest rod and the longest rod but it got a bit fuzzy after this.
The last activity I did with her, she absolutely loved! We created a ‘maze’ using the rods; then she got to balance and try to walk, one foot in front of another (an impossible feat for a 2 year old), around the ‘maze’. She could not do it without stepping outside of the maze with her other foot but she enjoyed the activity. This activity helps young children learn to balance. Another popular activity that also teaches this is walking the line. But I’ve not done this with Lady P yet.
So far, the number rods are proving a good diy project. You can see how I made them here on my blog.
I never knew what Montessori education was until I had my own children and started reading other people’s blogs about Montessori homeschooling. I must admit, I fell in love. I’m constantly amazed at what children aged 3-6 years old are learning in the Montessori environment without being drilled or expected to memorise useless facts. Montessori is all about teaching children to become independent. It is broken down into different areas of study: Practical, Sensorial, Language, Maths, Science, and Geography (Culture)
Newborn to age 5 is the most ‘absorbent’ time of a child’s life. They are learning constantly! Montessori education breaks things down into a three period lesson. For example, let’s say you want to teach them the concept of tall and short using the red rods.
Period 1: With slow deliberate movements and speech, you say: “This is the tall rod”. “This is the short rod”. Repeat if you feel you need to. This step is where he/she understands a new concept, object or idea.
Period 2: Ask the child, “Can you give me the tall rod?” “Can you give me the short rod?” If they can do this task with no problem, move on to Part 3. This step helps the child to understand the differences at a concrete level (or understanding through the senses).
Period 3: Point to the object and ask, “What is this?” This allows the child to understand the concept at an abstract level thus solidifying his/her knowledge. Go back to Part 2 if they child is struggling to grasp the concept.
It seems like a simple process but I am amazed at how little I do this with my girls! Even though they eventually learn new things, I have found that this process really accelerates learning (Which is why children as young as 3 are learning things like Botany and Division in Montessori schools, and it’s not because they are geniuses). Children want to learn as much as possible. With the right tools, parents can really help their children with difficult and abstract ideas.
Finally there is the period of complete development in which the capacity to perform some operation is permanently acquired. There are, therefore, three periods: a first, subconscious one, when in the confused mind of the child, order produces itself by a mysterious inner impulse from out the midst of disorder, producing as an external result a completed act, which, however, being outside the field of consciousness, cannot be reproduced at will; a second, conscious period, when there is some action on the part of the will which is present during the process of the development and establishing of the acts; and a third period when the will can direct and cause the acts, thus answering the command from someone else. (Dr. Maria Montessori)
Anyone can do three period lessons at home with their own children. I’m not an expert, nor have I been trained as a Montessori teacher, I just enjoy learning about it and sharing what I have learned.
How can I do the three period lesson in my classroom at school?
Part 1: Show the student an example of the new concept you would like them to learn i.e. similes. Repeat a few times to ensure understanding.
Part 2: Ask students to tell you what literary device a particular quote or sentence is displaying. Repeat as necessary. This is the concrete level of learning.
Part 3: Ask students to create their own simile thus using their prior knowledge to recreate an abstract thought.
My first official Montessori item arrived in the post last week! Very exciting! I finally got enough money (thanks mum) to buy the Pink Tower. I suppose I could have made it myself, but I’m not very good with wood and I wanted to avoid the hassle.
This material teaches children visual discrimination of dimension. It is a beautiful material that Lady P has shown great interest in: which takes me to my first lesson with her. I spoke with Lady P and emphasised how special the Pink Tower was and that she was to treat it very carefully. I said that because she is now a big girl, she gets to use this material and her baby sister doesn’t until she is bigger. Lady P liked this idea 🙂 I got her to carry each cube to the rug very carefully, and numbered each one: “This is one…this is two…etc” until they were finished. She liked the biggest one the best and replied, “Mummy this is a big, big, big one!”
Lady P can describe the differences between sizes (big, small) so I decided to focus on medium. I got 3 cubes and did the three-period lesson with her.
Lesson 1: The naming period
I presented Lady P with three cubes of contrast and isolated them on the rug. I felt each object thoroughly then let Lady P feel them too. I then told her what each one was: “This is small…this is medium…this is large (she already knows ‘big’).
Lesson 2: Recognition and Association Period
Once she heard the description of each object more than once, I challenged her to show me each cube by name: “Which one is small?…Which one is medium?…Which one is large?…” Then I asked her to put the small one on the couch, the medium one on the shelf..etc to encourage movement so that the new vocabulary she is learning will enter her long-term memory.
Lesson 3: Recall Period
Once she successfully placed the new vocabulary in her long-term memory, I then challenged her to name the cubes herself: “What’s this?…What’s this?…etc”
After I did this activity, I helped her build the tower, from biggest to smallest, vertically, then horizontally. I encouraged her to line up each corner to help with fine-motor skills. She found this quite difficult but she kept trying to do it and I only corrected it after her attempt. Overall, this was a very successful activity.
If you have any interesting activity ideas I could try with Lady P using the Pink Tower, please feel free to comment below!