"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Montessori-style Activities

Today I'm going to show you some of our Montessori-style activities. I keep a big tub in a closet and when I come across interesting boottles, boxes, jars, corks, boucy balls, beads, spools... you get the idea- I toss them in there. Then, when I have a chance, maybe once or twice a year, I go through and put together a few new activities.

Most of my ideas are pirated directly from Montessori catalogs/ websites. My favorites are Montessori Services, For Small Hands, and Montessori-n-Such. A good book of super-easy, super-fun ideas is Do Touch: Instant, Easy, Hands-On Learning Experiences for Young Children, and another is Preschooler's Busy BookCrafts for Children Books).

There are many books about Montessori and the Montessori method. Many are stuffy and want to make sure that you walk away feeling that only a professionally trained individual can successfully teach Montessori-style. But many are good. I can't really begin to make recommendations here, though, or this post would never end.

Here's what's important with these activities:
-the child can do them on her own after being shown how;
-the activity has natural control-of-error (i.e. yellow botton in red basket: child sees mistake, or, circle lid doesn't fit on heart box, etc.)
-easily set up and put away by child.

Here's what's important with mom:
-DO NOT interrupt child to point out her mistakes, let her find them herself;
-be willing to help clean up.

These first are from "Do Touch," referred to earlier:
Jumbo craft sticks. Pics 1 & 2 are just matching 2 sticks with same patterns. Pic 3 is a simple puzzle.

Also from "Do Touch," sponge sey cut up. One left whole as a control. These are actually quite difficult to put back together!

Button sorting. 3 peanut butter lids with colored paper glued in, heart container with lid to store buttons in the activity's bag.

Flower beads to sort. Three sizes of flower beads (found these on ebay for $1 and knew Rose would love them), 3 peanut lids, tweezers to pick up the beads for fun, pouch to store beads, all in a baby shoe box.
John Paul at work!

These little number puzzles are part of a huge, overwhelming set and were a gift. I rotate a few at a time into a bag with "jewels" to place on the completed puzzles. The jewels make the puzzles much more fun to do.

Letter puzzles. Were also a gift. 26 puzzles are too much for most preschoolers all at once. So a few with objects to match get rotated for this bag. I love that tiny ball of yarn!

Fruit bead sorting, tweezers missing. Sigh. This idea was stolen from the Montessori-n-Such catalog. Fabric covered cardboard, Cezanne picture glued on, jar lids glued on. I like these beads but this tray isn't used very often. I'd really like to replace it with the M-n-S set, but it's definitely a want and not a need!

Lauri crepe rubber toys. Top pic is puzzles that go in a bag together. Bottom is a sorting toy I found for $1 at a thrift store. Lauri toys are great! They are safe, non-toxic, and your toddler can hurl one across the room and it sticks together! They make some cool, inexpensive puzzles for older kids, too. Most of their toys are available on Amazon.

Feel 'n find. A traditional Montssori game. There are 10 objects in bag 1 and their matches in bag 2. Birthday candles, big screws, marbles, thimbles, small spoons, plastic flowers, you get the idea. Make sure the blindfold is easy to get on and off. I actually did buy this one from Montessori services beacause it was cheap and I was feeling lazy, and it is a really nice blindfold!

More bead sorting. We're kinda heavy on bead sorting these days!

Butterfly toss. Just a target and some plastic butterflies. Less dangerous to your breakables than a bean-bag toss.

Bendaroos shape making. I need a laminator, see my bent control card? This is much tougher than it looks.

Boxes and lids. Really fun for 2 year olds. These boxes are usually $1 each, but stock up when Hobby Lobby puts them 50% off.

Hands down favorite! Opening and closing activity. Random assortment of containers, each requiring a different skill to open. Usually each one has a frog or lizard who lives inside, but I'm down to 2 frogs at the moment. JP gets this out at least 3 times a week, and so did my older kids from about ages 14 months to 3 years. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT put child=proof pill bottles in here. They will figure them out quickly and then you'll have a serious problem on your hands.

Transferring activity. Jars of different objects (with tight screw-on lid!), variety of tongs and spoons to use, 2 pails to transfer to and fro. John Paul likes to pour, which is ok, too.

Some of Rosie's activities in a deep basket which sits on a shelf in the dining room.

OK, friends, I am too tired to photograph my science kits. But you can see them at either catalog website mentioned above. We have a sink or float set and a magnetic/ non-magnetic set, plus a rice play box.

I hope this peek into a selection of our Montessori-style activities inspires you!

"It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself."
~Joyce Maynard

"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you."
~Robert Fulghum


  1. Wow! I love the variety of activities you have ready! Question: how do you prevent your children from getting everything out and mixing up the different activities? One of our biggest problems is that activity sets (whether homemade or purchased) get strewn out everywhere and mixed up. I would love to hear about how you prevent this at your house...or how you deal with it when it happens.

  2. Dawn-

    These are in toddler-proof bags and they are in our main living area. So I'm usually overseeing their use. Also, they know to use a tray with each activity, which keeps them from spilling on the floor. I remind the kids to put one away before the next one if they forget. I don't make a big deal of it, I just help them. Isaiah, by now, is great putting them away.

    Sometimes Isaiah wants to steal bits of the activities for other purposes, which I am very strict about.


  3. I did Montessori stuff with my kids when they were younger, much in this same vein. However, you are much more creative than I was! Wonderful ideas!

  4. These are beautiful! I am impressed. I don't have littles anymore, but I will post your blog to my friends who do....My oldest 4 did Montessori PreK/K at a beautiful school in Oklahoma....These activities are so familiar to me!

  5. I'm a little behind, but this is wonderful! I have lots of these things lying around the house and can pull together some new activities for my little ones. Thanks!