Montessori activity

Montessori Moods: The Book That Started My Montessori Journey

The book that started my interest in Montessori education was Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. I started reading Barbara's blog, Mommy Life, at the recommendation of a friend. Barbara had ten children, three of whom have Down Syndrome, two of those being adopted! I wasn’t even married yet, let alone a mom, but her life was fascinating and she wrote in an engaging way. At that time, much of her blog was devoted to Montessori and implementing Montessori in the home. She was a trained Montessori directress, but at some point had decided that having her young children at home was more important than having them in a Montessori school. And she realized that she could do Montessori with them herself at home. I loved her blog and I loved all her ideas, so I bought a number of her books. mommy teach me pic Mommy, Teach Me! made the Montessori method seem so logical and accessible. At that time I didn’t see how anyone could not want to use it. It was allowing your child to learn how to be a human being - following their interests and showing them how to live life. It seemed so natural and obvious and Barbara was so encouraging. Anyone could teach their child preschool. Everyone had things in their home they could use to teach their child.

The first four chapters of the book lay a foundation of why you can confidently teach your preschooler at home, how to teach them, how to encourage them to learn and how to prepare and understand Montessori activities. The rest of the book (chapters 5 – 11) describes specific activities in detail: how to prepare and present them, what your child is learning from them, as well as, appropriate age ranges for each (which I find really helpful!). It is a wonderful, laid-back introduction to Montessori education and a confidence builder for moms at home with their little ones.

Barbara is a Christian and she talks about her faith in this book. It’s not a dominate topic, but it comes up at relevant moments. I found it to be authentic and not distracting. If you’re an atheist, it might be annoying.

I still go back to this book when I get discouraged. The world of Montessori can be overwhelming with techniques and manipulatives and having to do things the “right” way. Mommy, Teach Me! reassures you that you don’t have to be perfect or do it perfectly, you just need to know and follow your child.

Note: Barbara passed away last fall, but her blog is still up and you can search the archives. Most of the Montessori posts are from years ago. She was active in the Catholic church and active politically and those two topics kind of took over her blog in her later years. Don’t let it scare you away. She wrote some wonderful posts, it just takes a little digging to find them.

Check back with the blog this Friday for a special giveaway featuring this book!

Montessori Moods: Transferring Part II, Pouring

Pouring is another fun transferring activity that provides life skills and prepares the muscles of the hand and wrist for writing. Start with two similarly sized pitchers small enough for your child to handle. Creamers are good, as are small liquid measuring cups. Keep your eyes open at thrifts stores, dollar stores and places like TJ Maxx for attractive creamers and such. Nice looking objects will make the activity more enticing! However, you will notice the ugly plastic measuring cup in the pictures below. Sometimes you just need to use what you have. Fill one of the pitchers with beans. I used somewhat large beans here (my youngest is just two), but you could also try smaller ones like lentils and see how your child does. Demonstrate slowly placing your fingers around the handle, moving the pitcher over the center of the other one, and slowly pouring the beans. If you spill any onto the tray, pick them up with thumb and forefinger and drop them into the filled pitcher. Now pour the other pitcher using the opposite hand. Then let your child try! There may be some spillage, but no worries. The whole point is to help them learn to do it. DSC_0433DSC_0426 Once they’ve mastered beans, you can move on to pouring rice. After rice they can try water. Whenever you let them use water, provide a rag or small sponge so that they can clean up any spills themselves.

Here my son is pouring water from a small pitcher into juice glasses. You can use a small pitcher like this and keep it in the refrigerator filled with water or milk for your child to pour his own drink. My older son (almost four) can actually pour milk from a gallon jug now if it’s half or less full. He needs to steady it with his left hand, and you can show your child how to do this, too. It’s all about progression to more challenging movements. Give them enough practice with the easier activities before they move onto more difficult ones. DSC_0429 There are lots of fun variations like pouring with a funnel or pouring from a tea pot into tea cups. You can use colored water (if you dare!). Children can also get less formal pouring practice with a tub of rice or a basin of water outside.

They really love this kind of real-life activity, so set something up and give it a try! Soon you’ll have a little helper for meal and snack times!

Montessori Moods: Transferring, Part 1

One of the subject areas in the Montessori classroom is practical life. These activities, if it’s not already obvious, are all somehow related to real-life, everyday tasks.Practical life activities are not just for learning everyday tasks. They also help with gross and fine motor skills, which include prerequisite movements for writing and even reading (left to right motions). Kids just think they’re fun!

Transferring includes a pretty broad range of activities and you can find lots and lots of variations online. For the youngest ones (even as young as 18 months) you would start with big objects like beans (or even pom poms or cotton balls) and a big spoon or scoop. You have to try things out and see what works for your child. I originally thought a scoop would be easier for my youngest to deal with, but the motion of using a scoop is actually more complicated than just a regular spoon.

When presenting the activity, start with objects in a bowl (or other container) on the left and an empty bowl on the right. Sit to the left of your child. Carefully and slowly with a look of interest and concentration, scoop beans onto the spoon, carefully place the spoon over the empty bowl and pour the beans in. Do this until you’re finished or until your child wants to try. When the bowl is empty, you can either encourage your child to turn the tray so that the full bowl is on the left again, or not. I have seen it both ways. My kids didn’t really like the turning and it seemed to over-complicate the activity, so I ditched it.

Two transferring activities.  The one on the left would be more difficult with rice and a small spoon than the one of the right with cotton balls and big tongs.

If beans are spilled (it is good for you to spill some on purpose during the presentation), point it out to your child and then slowly pick up one at a time using pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger) and put them in the bowl.

A note about trays: In a Montessori environment each practical life activity (as well as some other types of activities) is usually kept on a nice-looking tray. It makes it easy for the child to choose it and take it to her workspace. You can find trays at dollar stores and thrift stores. You can also make use of large plastic food storage containers or even small cardboard boxes. Everything is supposed to be attractive, but sometimes you just need to work with what you have!

As your child gets adept at one combination of objects/tool/container, you can switch it up and make it a bit more challenging. You want it to be the right amount of challenging so that your child is neither bored or frustrated. Just watch your child to see.

My littlest tonging cotton balls.  The rice one proved unpopular with both children.

Here are some more ideas:

Objects: rice, barley, other grains, marbles, little erasers, beads, pebbles, water beads

Tools: big serving spoon, teaspoon, coffee scoop, Japanese soup spoon, big tongs, little tongs, tweezers

Containers: cereal bowls, clear glass bowls, tea cups, ice cube trays (one object in each section)

Notes: Keep close supervision of children who still put things in their mouths!! I let my children transfer beans at about 18 months, but I was always watching and made sure they weren’t putting the beans in their mouths. You also have to demonstrate (by example) how to properly handle breakable objects. Montessori believed that children could be careful with delicate objects and intentionally had them in the classroom and available to the children. They just need to be shown how to carefully handle breakable things. That said, my son did break a bowl while transferring one time, but I wasn’t paying close attention and he was just messing around by that point.