Sunday, September 25, 2011

Montessori Sunday: A Week of Challenges!

Here are some of the activities we've been up to in the last week! I felt like a lot of these challenged Tyler just enough, and some took him just a bit out of his comfort zone, which felt good for both of us when he was successful! I often feel like he masters things far too quickly and I'm left scrambling to come up with more, more, more. These should last!

We worked on sorting shapes, using objects that were square, circular and triangular. Ty knows his shapes, but sorting isn't always his thing. I hoped to be able to gently challenge and convince him to give it a try.and did wonderfully. Though Montessori isn't into pushing kids to do what they don't want (learning is joyful!), if a child is avoiding a certain area, there are attempts to entice them. I felt like this went pretty well. He seemed proud of himself for completing the task!

On that note, I wanted to quickly show these soft shapes from Manhattan Baby. Ty's had these since he was born and they're a wonderful sensory experience with different textures, patterns and have a light jingly and crinkly sounds. You can think of them as early and safe geometric solids! I rediscovered these when I was gathering items for a garage sale and realized how very "early Montessori" they were!

Ty has never wanted to even attempt lacing beads until this week, telling me "no" whenever I demonstrated. They're still not his favorite work ever, but he can do it and feels quite proud of himself when he laces them all! This is a great skill for him to practice as it forces him to use two hands together in a really coordinated way, something he can be lazy about at times.

Along the same lines, Ty has really gotten into his Educo Baby Connects as well (kind of like pop beads but more complex). It used to be that I would have to connect them in some fashion myself and then he would work to pull them apart, but now he's enjoying putting them together! I didn't care for this product at first as the plastic is soft and seemed kinda flimsy, but they're working well!

Thanks to the Pink Tower, as well as just pointing out big and small in every day life and books, Tyler has a good grasp on the concepts of big and small. The next sensorial area I'm introducing is "tall" versus "short". Some of his mini cylinders are graded by height, but we haven't had a lot of discussion around them as I tend to let him work alone with these materials. Here I used some of his short and tall cylinders from his unit blocks. My intent was to have him sort by height, but he wanted to stack instead. I worked with it, labeling each block "tall" and "short" as he stacked them, then he began labelling them on his own.

 We've also started working on "tall" and "short" with straws cut at two different lengths. After labeling the straws and looking at them side by side, we created two playdoh worms, one for short straws and the other for tall, and he put them in the appropriate place while verbally labeling them. This has made sorting a bit more fun for him! Next time I will visually label each with a picture and word card as well.

I've been a bit undecided about creating a letter tray for Tyler, but this week I made one using the sandpaper letter "b". In the tray are a: beetle, butterfly, button, wooden banana, magnet letter b, block, box, black and blue paint chips, balloon memory card, flashcard with a ball (if it were a real ball it would be far too distracting for him!), and his favorite, a bird. We work with this together right now, as I need to remind him to trace the letter and say the sound before handling the objects. He's really enjoys this and is great about saying each word over and over again on his own. I emphasize the "b" sounds with him and point back to the letter here and there. Though I do like this idea now, I feel I need to do something else as well. He isn't as into three period lessons as he used to be. Suggestions are welcome!

These two piece "Where's My Tail" puzzles from Infantino are another activity that we've had for quite a while that Ty has never been into. After being in the closet for quite some time, I let him explore these then asked him to pick three of his favorite animals. This seemed to entice him enough to want to try, and he's even picked this activity on his own a few times.  

Ty is over the grudge he had with his Wedgits and they are by far his favorite activity now! I really think that if Dr. Montessori were here to see these she would approve! You can build so many different ways while learning about space and size (and color...he loves to name each color) and they're fun for adults too!

The birdseed sensory table has gotten a lot of use this week. We babysat a friend's daughter at our house and this was her favorite activity by far. She's three, so she also enjoyed adding Ty's jumbo animals to the table for some pretend play. I was happy with how well Ty played and socialized with her...after he stopped crying about her playing with his toys! I hope to watch another toddler when we move to our new city, so this was a good test to see how Ty would do. I think he'll really enjoy having a regular friend in our home!

As for large motor activities, Ty is now swinging on a big kid swing and even trying to pump on occasion! This takes a good amount of core strength, balance and coordination. We're really proud of him! I'm not sure if it's coincidence, but since he's been trying and succeeding with so many new large motor activities, his language and social skills are really taking off, as well as his general confidence. If you need proof that gross motor is important for the brain, I think I've got a little 25 mos old example right here for you!

The other day I purchased a big plastic bat from a thrift store for Tyler to practice hitting his hanging wiffle ball with. My husband was adamant about teaching him how to swing in just the right way, so he's been working on this with him. By the second round of trying, Ty was hitting the ball all by himself! Great bilateral coordination and eye-hand skill!

Two of Ty's cousins had birthdays on Wednesday, so we made them cards to mail to them back in NY. He used markers, stickers, stamps, glue and glitter to create them. There was barely any room for me to write a greeting by the time he was done, but they were certainly made with love!

We also tried a painting project I saw on "Getting Messy With Ms. Jessi" that would be especially good for kids who don't like to get messy. I made a bubble wrap "glove" for Ty.and showed him how to dip his glove/hand into the paint and make prints on the paper. He thought this was somewhat bizarre, but did smack his hand on the paper to make some prints. Half of the fun of painting for Ty is getting dirty, so this wasn't quite for him!

Afterwards we had a lot of paint left and I hate to be wasteful, so I pulled out a roller I made about ten years ago, back in my daycare days (yes, I keep everything!). It's simply an empty lint roller that I glued yarn to so that when you roll it over the paper, it makes interesting prints. The only issues with toddlers is that it isn't their natural inclination to use a flat, rolling movement like this to print, so it's better for older children. Ty did get creative though; he started moving the roller back and forth with his hand the same way you would to form playdoh snakes and it worked well. Clever!

Showing Ty how to dress independently is something I slack on a bit, mostly because I forget about it. Ty's close to getting his shirt over his head and can do the arms, but I also found out the other day, by accident, that he knows how to put his pants on from start to finish...we just never gave him a chance. Montessori Mommy fail! We will be much more mindful of this from now on!

Ty has become quite skilled at using his hand broom when he spills, though he usually needs a reminder to do so. Here my husband holds the dust pan, though I've seen Ty hold the pan and sweep into at the same time as well. I've seen other parents who tape a square to the floor to sweep into (great idea!), but I know for certain that our current landlord, who's in and out fixing things lately, would not approve! 

Linking-up with 1+1+1=1, One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now!


  1. Thanks for this great post and for sharing your ideas.

  2. The shape sorting activity is my favorite too! I think I will definitely be setting that one up at home (I even pinned it for later if you care- I always wonder if anyone ever pins my stuff other than me!)

    I think that not being able to keep them interested is the hardest part about being at home instead of school, especially with an oldest or an only. There isn't room for the same amount of materials to be perpetually available and it isn't really practical beyond that so it takes a little work to keep things fresh and interesting. Even after doing this for many years I still struggle with that sometimes!

    Thanks for sharing,



  3. Just out of curiosity when did you start doing the Three Period Lesson with Ty? I wasn't going to even attempt it until we officially start school which will be in a year in a half when Logan turns 2.

  4. Tyler made major step forward! :)

  5. so many great ideas! I too slack on letting my daughter dress herself and have started to have her do it more often. She doesn't fight me when I do it so I often forget to have her try it on her own! I like the bird seed sensory table. We are about to bring our water table in for the winter and I've been trying to decide what to put in it. Bird seed might be better than rice!

  6. Thanks everyone! Always glad to share what we're doing and to get new ideas from all of you!

    Thanks for the pin Heidi! I'm going to check out your blog later, too. :)

    Monkey Toes: I started doing them around 18 mos old when I made nomenclature cards for him (here's the post: I don't do them all that often, but my goal is to introduce the sandpaper letters in the "correct" way. Half of my problem is that he knows most of the letters already somehow so he's not that into it I suppose.

    Yes, Iowa Farmer's Wife, we've done rice and birdseed in the table and both were nice!

  7. Great activities this week! I've got those Wedgits on my homeschool wishlist :) They look great. My tot is also 25 months, and I've been struggling trying to figure out what activities are best for him, he doesn't seem too interested in anything for more than a minute, but then he wants to keep up with his big sister at the same time. Fingerpainting, however, is definitely a winning activity any day!

  8. Great activities! The playdough worms with short and tall straws are very cute and creative! Since your son already knows a lot of letters, I wonder if he would enjoy sorting objects between a few sandpaper letters. My son used to love that when he was little: I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page.

  9. Love these ideas! I have a 26 month old and we share a lot of the same ideas and philosophy! So thanks for sharing!

  10. Thank you so much ladies!

    Wedgits are truly fabulous Debbie! Whenever someone comes over they want to know what they are and where to get them (I bought mine on Amazon)! My husband says that for Christmas he wants the big expansion set...for himself. :)

    I really appreciate the FB feature and the letter ideas, Deb! That activity looks right up Tyler alley! I'm planning to write a blog soon about introducing letters and am certainly going to include this link in my post now!

    Love your blog as well Marnie!

    Jen [blog owner]

  11. You always have such great ideas. I really enjoy popping in to see all the neat ideas you do with your little boy.

  12. Shape sorting is so fun. I have that one the shelf right now with 3 geometric solids.

    As far as the issue with the 3 period lesson- be sure to take your time. He's still little. 3 period lessons don't happen one sitting, or even in one school year- sometimes it takes a while to get to the 'what's this?' stage.

    It may be about interest, if he doesn't want to- he probably wont :) Sometimes simply choosing the work yourself and using it exactly as intended is enough for him to catch on. Afterall, that's the beauty of Montessori Schools. At home, we are the other kids ;)

  13. Thanks for the advice "The Education Of Ours"! He used to be into the 3-period lessons with the letters but yeah, I haven't pushed them at all since he isn't as interested. I'm trying to figure out new ways to introduce letters because he is pretty ready to learn, but the 3-period lessons aren't the way to go. He picked up on many letter sounds without teaching (I found out by accident that he knew that letters say when I named them) then he learned to associate letter sounds by looking at them (capital letters unfortunately from a book). Sometimes I wonder a bit if I'm confusing him knowing his letters with being interested in learnng letters. He follows words with his fingers when we read and points to words so I think it's a senstive period now... This is an area that I really don't want to mess up for him by doing things too soon.

    Totally agree on the "if he doesnt want to he won't". Couldn't be more true about toddlers! I tell this to people who don't understand Montessori and think that I must push learning onto him. :)