Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Montessori!

The more activities we try, and the more I continue to research, the more I like Montessori! We are having so much fun - I enjoy making the little trays (it makes me feel organized!), and M likes pulling them out and trying new things.

Here's what we've been up to for the past few days:

Practical Life

Tea parties! 
This is obviously not a traditional Montessori activity, but who doesn't love a good tea party? Learning to set the table, flip through a cookbook, cut up fruit, serve your guests, wash the dishes - endless learning possibilities!


Scrubbing porch furniture
I've seen a lot of Montessori blogs that talk about teaching children to polish shoes. Of course there's nothing wrong with polishing shoes if you want to do that, but does anyone actually do that anymore? Is that really a practical life skill that you need? Instead, we spent a couple hours "polishing" the rocking chairs on our front porch. They desperately needed a good wash, and M had fun spraying them with the hose, scrubbing them down, and drying them with her dish cloths.

She lost interest before the job was done, but she stayed with it longer than I expected. I set up her baby pool in the corner of the porch and she splashed around while I finished cleaning.

Sweeping and Using a Dustpan
We bought this child-sized broom at Mast General Store. We were there buying some small gifts for upcoming birthday parties, and she desperately wanted this broom. She's been using it to sweep up dog hair ever since - haha! 

Since she was enjoying her broom so much, and because she kept dumping the sand from the transfer activity so she could clean it up, I showed her how to use the hand broom to sweep all the sand into the taped off square, then into her dustpan, and finally pour it back into her cup. This is still pretty challenging for her (she has trouble holding the dustpan flush with the table, so the sand will go under it). She will work on it for a while, but gets frustrated when some of the sand ends up on the floor.

Transfer Activities

My shipment from Oriental Trading came in, and with it were these plastic trays, small paint palettes, mini plastic shot glasses, and child-friendly tweezers. I put some tiny fuzzy pom poms into one of the shot glasses, and some glass beads into a condiment dish. She used the plastic tweezers to pick up the objects and transfer them into the wells on the palettes.

She came back to this activity a few times. It's just hard enough to keep her interest - in the "sweet spot" as they say.

Getting Dressed
I dug through M's old baby clothes, and found a few newborn items with different types of fasteners: buttons, snaps, zippers (jacket), and velcro (shoe fasteners). We practiced dressing and undressing her dolls (thanks Tigger!). She still needed a lot of help with this, but she had fun trying.

Tigger was tired after all that dress-up, so she made a crib and put him to bed.

Washing hands
Obviously this is something we do every day, but I have made a conscious effort over the past week to minimize my interference with activities M can do on her own. Washing hands is one of those activities. She has a step stool in her bathroom that allows her to reach the soap, and she knows how to turn the water on and off and adjust the temperature. I placed a hand towel next to the sink so she wouldn't have to move the stool to reach the one hanging on the opposite wall.

Using Tools
M got this cool airplane as a Christmas present last year. The battery-powered drill has interchangeable flat head and Phillips head attachments, and a forward/reverse switch to use to assemble and disassemble the plane. The pieces are large enough to be used easily by a two or three year old, and M absolutely loves it. She does still need some help figuring out how to put the pieces back together, but she's starting to figure it out more on her own.

Ok, so we're not technically gardening yet, but we're planning on it! M has been helping me carry our kitchen compost out to the compost bin in the back yard. She likes to wear her gardening gloves, look for bugs with her magnifying glass, and help spin the compost bin. It has given us a chance to talk about decomposition, different types of fungi and molds, and how nutrients are released back into the soil. I'm excited to start a small vegetable garden in the fall!


Ocean-themed Sensory Bin
This was my first attempt at a sensory bin, so I just threw in a bunch of random items. I put some rice, cous cous and macaroni in a ziplock back with some rubbing alcohol and blue food coloring to dye it all blue. It turned a neat teal color (blue mixed with the yellowish color of the pasta), but it took a couple of days sitting open to start to lose the alcohol smell.

I have several different kinds of beads from some craft and collage kits, so I rummaged through and found a bunch of different shapes and sizes of blue, green and clear beads to add, as well as some fuzzy pom poms. I threw in some of the ocean creature figures from the set I bought on Amazon. I also added some scooping and transferring tools - a melon baller, measuring spoons, and small condiment containers. I put M's magnifying glass on the table when we set the bin out so she could get a closer look at everything inside.

She seemed a little overwhelmed at first - maybe there was too much in there. She was very intrigued by the melon baller, and that became her primary tool for digging through the bin.

It turned into more of a transfer and examine activity (I don't know what I was really expecting). She used the melon baller to scoop a bunch of materials into the condiment containers, then would examine them with her magnifying glass. She didn't seem to be interested in separating or grouping the materials at all - they all went together into the different containers. I'm hoping she'll come back to this a few more times, and maybe we can extend it to do some color or shape or texture sorting.


Color Sorting
I got a cheap vegetable and dip tray at a dollar store, and these colored counting chips (there are actually five colors) at Staples. I put four of the colors of chips into the middle, and showed her how to separate them by color into the other four sections on the tray. She really liked this, and thought it was hysterical when I would put the chips in the wrong section. 


Color Mixing
We mixed up some more of the chalk paint that we used earlier this summer. I made a very small amount of each color, and mixed the primary colors (blue, red, yellow) in individual plastic shot glasses.

We poured the primary colors into three of the wells on the mini paint palettes, then mixed the primary colors to make secondary colors (green, orange and purple). It was really hot outside, so we decided to paint inside on paper instead. M was more interested in mixing the colors than she was in actually painting, so I showed her how to get different colors on her brush and mix them together on her paper.


Identifying letters (and sounds)
M got this Mickey Mouse Smart Pad for Christmas last year. It came with a set of books about Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and each book has icons that correspond to buttons on the Smart Pad (M calls it her iPad). One side of the Smart Pad has letters, numbers and colors, and the other side has images of Mickey and friends and different objects in the stories (hammer, violin, flowers, etc) that make different sounds when you press them. M likes to read the books and press the buttons as we read, and she can identify the objects by sound now.

We played for a while with the letter side of the Smart Pad - she would press a letter and we would name all of the objects in the room that we could find that started with that letter.

This is a cross between language and math (and practical life?), but we spent a long time one afternoon with M's magnetic calendar. We updated it for July (we were a little behind), and I showed her how to put the number magnets in order on each of the squares, working from left to right across the rows. After we put all of the numbers on, we talked about all of the things we had done so far this month, and tried to find magnets to represent our activities (visiting Disney, going to the beach, going to a birthday party, etc.). We talked about the names of the months, what month we are in now, and what month her birthday is in.

We have this talking map that M absolutely loves. The batteries actually died recently because she played with it so much! It says the names of the states when you press on them, and has other games and facts for more advanced users. She likes to locate our state, and the states that other people in our family live. She also likes to talk about the places we have visited, and wants to know why we haven't been to ALL of the states (we're working on it, kiddo!).

This week we put some new batteries in the map (practical life: finding batteries, finding a small screwdriver, removing the screws, changing the batteries, talking about why batteries die...). She likes to push her little chairs together in a row to make an airplane and fly her animal friends to different places on her map.

Tracing letters and shapes
I drew some letters and shapes on M's chalkboard and gave her a paintbrush and a cup of water to erase the letters by tracing over them with her brush. She found this pretty amusing, and we went through several rounds before she finally moved on to something else.


Several of the activities listed above had math components to them. The only true "math" activity we did over the past few days involved matching clothes pins. Interestingly, I made this activity on the fly because M kept messing with the new "claw" car mount I got for my phone. I figured if she wanted a clip to play with I could make up something with clothes pins to satisfy her.

I took a piece of collage board and wrote the numbers 0 - 9 around the outside. I wrote one number on each of 10 clothes pins as well. I gave her the 10 clothes pins in a small box, and she matched the numbers. She liked this activity, but it was really more matching than math because she doesn't know what most of the numerals stand for yet.

When she got bored with the number matching, I took the board and clothes pins back and modified it. On the back of the collage board I added dots to match the number on the opposite side. I also added the corresponding number of dots onto each clothes pin (two dots on the #2 clothes pin, etc.). This made it quite a bit more challenging.

She counted the number of dots on the clothes pin, then counted the dots on the board to find its match. I also showed her how she could check her answer by flipping the board over to see if the numbers matched. 

That's all for now! Check back again soon!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Angry Birds Birthday Box!

I was on Amazon a few weeks ago browsing toddler toys for my daughter's upcoming birthday. We must own half of Amazon.... seriously. The toys are multiplying and taking over our house, and everyone I talk to says the same thing! So what do you do when you are invited to a birthday party? What do you buy for the kids who already own everything they could possibly need and want?

I decided to get a little creative and make a custom Birthday Box for an Angry Birds - obsessed friend of my daughter for his 3rd birthday. I found this Montessori-style Angry Birds Mini Unit on Counting Coconuts, and modified the activities based on the supplies I had on hand and could find easily at local stores.

Everything fit in a clear tub that I decorated with strips of Angry Birds duct tape.
Here's a look inside:

Angry Bird Flyers
This was based on the Launch-a-Bird slingshot activity from Counting Coconuts. I wasn't sure the birthday boy's mom wanted me to give him a real slingshot, even if it was designed to shoot little fuzzy pom poms, so I opted for these flyers from Target instead. I added an Angry Birds notepad and pencils, a mini pencil sharpener, and a small tape measure. I let M test these out, and she had a blast! They are a little hard to shoot at first (you squeeze the handle to make the disc fly out), and you have to play around with them for a while to figure out how to aim, but that didn't seem to bother her. I added little index cards with descriptions of the activities and possible extension activities. This one is designed for the child to measure how far they could shoot the discs, but could be turned into a competition with multiple players.

Mini Angry Birds
This gluing activity was also borrowed from Counting Coconuts. I put several fuzzy pom poms of different sizes and a small bag of googly eyes in a pencil case. Add a bottle of white glue and you can make mini Angry Birds! Since there were different sizes of pom poms, and I know the birthday boy has a few (read: more than he knows how to count) Angry Bird stuffed animals, I added an extension activity to try to put several birds in order from smallest to largest.

"Real Angry Birds" Matching

The Real Angry Birds cards on Counting Coconuts seemed a little advanced for a 3 year old, so I made a matching game instead. I found a list of birds on this website, then Googled the species of birds to find pictures I liked. I used the blank Montessori 3 Part Cards template (click here for the link) to make the cards, but I left the names attached since I didn't make the matching cards identical.

Measuring Bird Seed
I almost didn't add this activity because it seemed so basic, but M has enjoyed scooping sand so much that I figured I would give it a try. The measuring spoons add a little extra interest because they could be used for comparisons (How many scoops does it take if you use the tablespoon? What about the teaspoon?). I also thought this could be good for making predictions and practicing counting. The child could guess how many tablespoons of bird seed are in the container (predict), then check their guess by counting as they transfer the bird seed from one container to the other.

Angry Birds Concentration

I printed several (many more than shown) small icons from the Angry Birds game, backed them all on blue paper (so you couldn't see through the back), and laminated them. This would be a pretty intense concentration game if all the cards were used! This could easily be broken into smaller sets for memory / matching games. It could also be used "Go Fish" style to play with two or more people (although the cards are pretty small).

Angry Birds Roller Stamps

These were an impulse buy at Target's Dollar Spot, so I had to find a way to incorporate them into an activity.  M loved the counting stamps activity I did with ocean creature stamps, so I thought that could work with these stamps as well. I included a few blank sheets of construction paper, and one sheet with the numbers zero through five written across the top (put zero stamps under the zero, one stamp under the one, and so on). These could also be used for creating patterns - each pen had a different stamp on the top and they could be used in combination to make different types of patterns.

Angry Birds Dry Erase Board

Another Target Dollar Spot impulse buy... why did they have so much Angry Birds stuff?? This could be used in combination with any of the activities (keep score for the Angry Birds Flyers, keep track of the number of scoops of bird seed, etc.) or as a stand-alone activity. For some reason dry-erase boards are way more interesting than plain paper.

Angry Birds Patterns

I printed this last pattern sheet from Homeschool Creations Angry Birds Printable Pack. They have a preschool and a kindergarten version of the free packet. Most of the pages were a little to "school-y" for me, but they had some cute math and pre-writing activities included.

I packed all of the activities and direction cards into individual containers or clipped them together, and put all of the smaller containers into the tub. As my husband pointed out, it would have been a lot easier to grab something from the store, but I was excited about this custom gift!

We happen to have a few more birthdays coming up next month, so there just may be a couple more Birthday Boxes in the works!