Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Teach less but observe more". M.Montessori

Many of my readers have been asking me for some Montessori activities ideas for their children. The reason I do not specify the child’s age is because some of the lessons might be interesting for a one year old, others for a four years old. Also, they will get a different approach from the same material. For example, I have a basket of sea animals and another basket of farm animals. My one year old Vasilisa loves to touch them, their small parts, she puts them on the shelf, then back into the basket, I name the animals for her. That’s how far she goes, at this point. My three years old uses the same materials on a different level. He names all the animals, their habitats, can separate them in appropriate baskets, and even creates small stories with the animals. As he masters these skills, I can introduce animals babies names, parts of the world where they live and we even can place them on the map of the continents. So, the same two baskets can serve our family needs for up to five years! 
My one year old Vasilisa is imitating rooster's sound.
As always, follow your child’s interests and be ready with some prepared activities on the shelf. In my family, we call them “lessons”. My son always gets excited to participate in a new lesson. Try to separate these activities from your child’s regular toys. Maybe you can dedicate a shelf for it, or a little corner in his playroom. Do not place more than two or three new materials on the shelf. Introduce them one at the time. 

If possible, have the material on the tray and teach your child every time he is done with the activity, to bring it back to the same spot on the shelf. You will teach him how to keep things in order and have his materials ready every time he wants to use them again. For example, your daughter played with the animals baskets, and left them on the floor. Gently call her and remind to put them back. If she refuses, offer to help and start picking up the animals, asking her which basket you should put them in. I observed with most of the children I know, they most likely refuse to clean up if you just stand and boss them around. When you are down on their level, participating in the task, they enjoy to be a part of the process. 
So, here are a few easy educational lessons to make or buy for your child. 

Theme baskets
The Montessori way of organizing materials is to keep them in baskets by themes. Here is the list I recommend for themed baskets:

You can introduce two seasons at a time, or all four, depends on your child’s level. 
  • Fall basket can have yellow leaves (the dollar store has them), tiny umbrella, rain boots (dolls accessories), pumpkin (you can buy a real one but keep it small, so it fits in your basket), etc. If you have all four seasons, do not place more than five objects in each basket. Otherwise, if the child mixes them all up, it might be difficult to separate too many things. If you have just two seasons on the shelf, go ahead and prepare more objects. 
  • Some ideas for winter basket: scarf, warm hat (dolls accessories), tiny Christmas tree, snowman, sleigh. 
  • Spring basket can have spring flowers in it, birds, bugs, nest. 
  • Summer basket: a tiny bottle with sand (beach concept), sunglasses.
  For your two years old it will probably be a little confusing to differentiate summer from spring. So you might want to wait until he turns 3-4 to explain the difference. Also, if you live in a sunny state like California, like I do, the concept becomes even more challenging. I explain to my son that usually at spring, the nature wakes up from a cold season (winter). We take off our warm and puffy jackets and put them high in the closet. Instead we wear light jackets and put less layers of clothes. But it’s not hot enough for us to swim in the pool, so it’s not summer yet. This season is called spring.

This one is fun for even a one year old. With them, I start with just one color at a time. Collect different objects around your house that are the same color. Every time you take a new object from a basket, repeat the name of the color. Of course, the first colors you introduce need to be primary (red, blue, yellow, green, etc.).

This one is for the older kids. You will definitely need a map that you can lay down on the floor. Tell your child that our planet Earth is divided into water and land parts. All land parts are separated into continents. There are different animals that live on them. First, introduce one animal per continent. Some of the suggestions are: 
  • Africa (lion, tiger, zebra, elephant), 
  • Australia (kangaroo, koala),
  • North America (coyote, bald eagle, bison), 
  • South America (parrot, llama),  
  • Asia (cobra snake, panda bear), 
  • Antarctica (penguin), 
  • Europe (wolf, squirrel, fox).
It is not that easy to find little toy animals, so you can just find these images online, print and laminate them. At the bottom of this blog, I will post some suggestions from Amazon that I found helpful.  

Animals and their babies names.
This one is very cute and one of my son’s favorite. The idea is that you mix up animals with their little babies, than together with your child put together the right couples. I name the babies from the first lesson, so my child hears correct names from the beginning and doesn’t call a puppy a baby dog. Chose animals your child likes the most. If you pick his favorite animals, I guarantee this will be his favorite activity. If your child knows how to read, from actual animal toys, move to the cards with the images and then just have names printed on a card. Let him pair them up.  
Animals and their babies.
In my collection, I have the following animals: 
  • chicken and chick, 
  • duck and duckling, 
  • cat and kitten, 
  • dog and puppy, 
  • pig and piglet, 
  • goose and gosling, and many others. 
For bugs lovers!
Another twist for an elementary child is to add male, female version (rooster, hen, chicken).

This one is fun. Look around your house and collect real objects of certain shapes. Make sure it’s clear for a child which shape certain object represents. Also, decide if you want to have 3D shapes or flat shapes and keep them consistent in your baskets. Let’s say, you choose 3D shapes. Have one basket with 
  • cylinders (actual geometric shape of a cylinder, (you can find them on Amazon) empty soup can, 
  • sphere (Montessori wooden sphere, ball), 
  • cube (original wooden shape of a cube, rolling dice, small box), 
  • cone (kids orange construction cone, small kids toy of an ice cream). 
Be creative! I'm sure if you look around, you will find much more treasures around your house. 

There are more activities to add to your Montessori shelves. These are just a few. But I hope it will open the door to much more fun lessons with your little ones. Remember, our children are eager to learn and they love to spend time with their parents. If you combine both of their favorite things, and teach them some “cool stuff”, you will have a unique opportunity to be your child’s own educator. There is nothing better on this earth than to see the “AHA moment” in your child’s eyes.
Stay tuned for more posts with lesson ideas! If you come up with something, share in the comments below.
We just love this educational puzzle! It has continents,  oceans, and animals too!

My Amazon suggestions:


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