Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In & Out -- Flowers

As I've mentioned before, we love in and out works.  They help to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  In the Montessori classroom, works progress from easiest to most difficult, concrete to abstract.  This flower work is the most difficult in and out work we've put out yet. 

I filled a basket with some dollar store fake flowers and placed it on L's floor table with an upside down colander with very small holes.  I showed L how to put the stem of a flower into one of the holes, and L quickly continued to fill the rest of them.  She loves arranging the flowers and naming their colors as she goes.  


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pincher Transfer

L has been interested in trying out different utensils in the kitchen.  While walking around the mall trying to induce labor with N, I found an awesome kitchen supply store filled with tons of wonderful gadgets that I could use to create works for L!  I went a little crazy and bought almost the whole store, including three different types of pinchers.

After trying all the pinchers out on different materials to determine level of difficulty, I put together this pincher transfer work.  I put some pom-poms in a bowl, another bowl, and the pinchers that were the easiest to manipulate on a tray.  When L brought the work to the table, I first showed her how to squeeze the pinchers together so they clicked.  L thought that was pretty cool.  Then I showed her how to pick up a pom-pom with the pinchers and transfer it to the empty bowl.  When I gave L the pinchers, she practiced making the clicking sound a few times and then began transfering the pom-poms.  Sometimes she cheats and puts the pom-pom in the pinchers with her other hand, but for the most part she manages to use the pinchers correctly.  This strengthens her hand muscles and builds fine motor skills.  The repetitiive transferring motion builds focus and concentration.  L loves this work!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On & Off

Years ago, my co-teacher came up with this work while browsing through a dollar store.  It met all of the qualifications for a toddler classroom -- interesting materials, promoting fine motor skills, and most important on a classroom budget, cheap!  I bought these materials months ago and was waiting for the right moment to introduce them at home.

Right around the time N was about to be born, I noticed that L was becoming bored with the trays on her practical life shelf.  I looked in my materials closet and found this and decided to give it a try.  I wasn't sure if L would have the fine motor control and hand-eye coordination necessary to complete this work successfully, but I was pleasantly surprised.  

I put unsharpened pencils in a basket and added a small container of pencil eraser caps.  When L discovered the work on the shelf and brought it to the table, I showed her how to put one eraser on the end of a pencil.  She quickly caught on and did a few by herself.  L has chosen this work several times each day since I put it out.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shape Matching -- Gingerbread Clay in Christmas Shapes

As I've mentioned before, we love Christmas and all of its traditions in this house.  L is still very young, so this year is really the first year she has been able to participate in many of the traditions.  One thing I knew I wanted to do this year was make some ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree with L.  I found this recipe for Gingerbread Clay on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  L loved it so much that I decided to make it again to use in a shape matching work.

After I made the clay, L helped me roll it out and used some of our Christmas cookie cutters to cut shapes out.  For the ones that we made into ornaments, we poked a hole in the top for string and painted them after they dried.  For the matching work, I put two of each shape into a bucket and put it on L's shelf.  L was so excited when she found it there!  She quickly took all of the shapes out.  We named each shape and tried to find the other one that matched it.  L likes to put the matching shapes on top of each other -- probably because that's what we do with our Advent calendar work.  L loved every part of this project, and I think it's neat that she was able to create the whole work for herself.  Plus it just smells like Christmas!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Number Matching -- Advent Calendar

Have I mentioned that we love Christmas?  It's possible to make almost any Christmas tradition into a Montessori work.  One of our favorite traditions is doing an Advent calendar.  I decided to make it into a number matching work that could be done all day, while we would open the calendar to find a surprise behind the correct door for each night (I don't put the candy in until right before we open it at night because I don't want our dog to find it!).  We have a large wooden calendar.  Each door has a number on a shape that protrudes from the background.  I drew the same shapes with corresponding numbers on pieces of cardstock and laminated them.  I put them all in a bowl and set it by the Advent calendar, only to quickly discover that L is not ready for this work  There were too many little pieces.  Next year this work will be perfect for her.  For now, we keep the bowl of numbers out of reach and hand her the correct number each night.  She brings it over and we match it to the correct door before opening it.  Since L is so young, this method works much better for us this year.  This work can be done with any advent calendar -- just make number cards 1-24 and allow your child to match each one!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Craft -- Stained Glass Ornaments

I don't normally do "crafts" with L, as they usually involve more work by the adult than by the child.  However, this is one craft that has several steps the child can do by herself, and really only requires that the preparation of the materials is done by the adult.  I've been doing this faux stained glass craft for several years in my classrooms, and I've also seen it on Pinterest.  Since it's December, I decided to make them in the shape of Christmas ornaments, although they can be done in any shape you want.  This is a great sensorial experience as the child feels the stickiness of the glue and hears the crunching of the tissue paper.  It also works on the gross motor skills involved in painting a large object and the fine motor skills needed to pick up thin pieces of tissue paper and place them on the shape.
I began by tracing a bowl on a piece of wax paper.  L loves to repeat things, so I traced the bowl four times since I knew she would never be satisfied with just one.  I painted with glue around the outline of the ornament and told L to paint inside.  When she finished painting one circle, I gave her a bowl of tissue paper squares and showed her how to put them on the wet glue.  She thought it was really funny when the tissue paper pieces stuck to her fingers.  When she finished one circle, we moved on to the next until all four were covered in glue and tissue paper.

L left the table and I painted the ornaments with another layer of glue on top of the tissue paper.  I did this myself because the tissue paper is very fragile and would get all scrunched up and torn with the rough movements of a toddler.  Then I put a construction paper "frame" on top -- simply the same bowl traced on construction paper and cut out.  When the ornaments were dry I cut them out of the wax paper. Finally, I drew a hook on some construction paper and added it to the top of each ornament.  I hung them up in the window so the light could shine through like a stained glass window.  This was an easy holiday project that we can keep up all month, and L loved making them!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ornament Hanging

I love the holidays, but there's a lot of things connected with them that could potentially be dangerous with a toddler in the house.  Last year, I erected a giant barricade around our Christmas tree using boxes filled with cinder blocks and covered in wrapping paper to keep it festive.  This prevented L, who was pulling herself up to stand using anything she could get her hands on, from pulling a large Christmas tree over on herself.  This year, I wanted to allow L to participate in some of our Christmas traditions while still keeping it safe for her.  We  usually get a very large tree and hang it with our collection of ornaments -- many of them glass.  I had seen L's enthusiasm and awe when she noticed decorated trees at stores, so I knew touching the ornaments would be a huge temptation for her. 

A week before we got our regular Christmas tree, I went to Michael's and bought a small (4 foot) pre-lit tree that would be just for L -- an even smaller tree would have been better, but this was the smallest I could find.  I bought some cheap shatter-proof ornaments and some plastic-coated ornament hooks.  I wrapped the wire of the hooks around each ornament so they wouldn't separate and put all of the ornaments in a basket next to L's tree.  L was so excited to decorate her tree all by herself!  Because she's a true Montessori child, when L had finished putting all the ornaments up, she promptly took each one down and put it back in the basket.  I swear that was completely her idea -- I would have been fine with leaving them up.  L loves hanging up her ornaments each day and then putting them back in the basket.  It's a great gross and fine motor activity, and it allows for some artistic expression in L's placement of the ornaments.

 Now that we have our big tree up with glass ornaments, any time L looks like she's going to touch our tree, we point her over to her tree.  My big tree is still up and intact, so I'm calling it a success!