Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part Two 18 to 24 Months

In Part One, I explored some of the puzzles that Nora, my puzzle crazy 26-month-old, used between 12 and 18 months. As I said in that post, the age ranges are approximate in these posts. She used many of these puzzles for many months at a time and her interest in shelf work would come and go as she focused on gross motor and practical life work. 


Before I share the next puzzles I introduced, I just wanted to share a few tips on what to look for when purchasing Montessori friendly puzzles. For me, I look for a few things when purchasing puzzles: 
  • Natural Materials -- this isn't always possible, but I try to stick with wooden puzzles at this age. I think they hold up better and are just more beautiful and inviting. 

  • Realistic Images -- Toddlers are interested in reality, they want things they can recognize, name and see. The more realistic the better. You won't find any fantasy puzzles in my toddler collection and I try (although it is hard to find new puzzles like this) to use as realistic of images as possible, skipping cartoons altogether if I can. 

  • Developmentally Appropriate -- You won't find alphabet or number puzzles in my toddler collection. These are not, in my opinion, developmentally necessary for such young toddlers. 
Now, on to the puzzles we used (and many we are still using) starting at 18-months:

Tiny Knobs -- abstract picture

As Nora was working with the tiny knobbed puzzles, I wanted to move her a bit toward abstraction. So, I pulled out these puzzles where the pictures under were not an exact match of the pictures above. This forced her to focus as much on the shape of the piece as the image. She really enjoyed this challenge. These were introduced around 22 months.


Pictured: Hape Transportation Puzzle {alternative}

No Pictures Puzzles

Again, as we moved toward abstraction with Nora, I wanted puzzles that only focused on the shape of the pieces and not matching at all. And, I took lots of steps at this point. First, very defined shapes, then indents where the shapes go and finally no hints about where things fit. These puzzles are all vintage and therefore, it's been hard to find nice Montessori friendly alternatives. I've done my best, but if you know of others let me know in the comments! At 26-months old Nora is still working through these puzzles -- especially the last one. I started these puzzles right before her second birthday, and still rotate through them regularly.


Pictured: Vintage vegetables puzzle -- this one I wish had knobs, its hard to get the pieces out without dumping {alternative fruit puzzle; large set of puzzles}; Vintage transportation/food puzzles; Vintage Farm Puzzle {sort of close -- frame puzzle}

2-Piece Jigsaw ~ 3 Piece Puzzles ~ 4 Piece Puzzles

After Nora was starting to get the hang of some of the picture-less puzzles, I introduced these simple jigsaw puzzles. The 2-piece puzzles are the one puzzle where I wish I had introduced them earlier with Nora -- probably at the same time as the abstract knobs, or right after. By the time I gave her these there was no challenge left. The same day I gave them, she was able to sit and do the whole box (like 15+ matches) all at once. The other two puzzles have been a bit more of a challenge and probably introduced at just the right time. She is still very interested in doing all of these at the moment.


Pictured: 2-piece Match It vehicle puzzles; 3-piece magnetic puzzles; 4-piece vehicle puzzle board

Simple Picture Puzzles

These simple picture puzzles are only a few pieces each but come together to form interesting pictures without a ton of guidance. These are Nora's jam right now. I introduced slightly after her 2nd birthday and she had no interest. Two months later she would love a 100 of these right now! I bought the boat thinking it would be a bit easy for her but actually, its chunky pieces and more abstract picture are proving to be a nice challenge right now as well.


Pictured: Vintage Puzzles -- there really are not very many great substitutes for these incredible puzzles, so look everywhere for these, eBay can sometimes be a good source if you're willing to pay a premium {not exactly the same, but the best I could find -- puzzle set; alternative chunky animals}; Chunky Boat Puzzle

Larger Jigsaws ~ Larger Picture Puzzles 

These have been the latest puzzles I've introduced to Nora. Like the smaller jigsaws, these jigsaws could probably have been introduced a bit earlier than they were, since she was able to complete even the 6-piece one by herself from day 1. The more complicated picture puzzles were introduced by accident. I purchased a new one at a consignment sale and hadn't put it away when Nora discovered it. She needed some help putting it together but did eventually get it, much to my surprise. So these are now in our rotation at 26-months.


Pictured: Multi piece jigsaw set; Vintage picture puzzles -- these are still the best I've found {alternative butterfly; alternative plane puzzle; alternative polar bear; pilot puzzle}

Next up on our puzzle list will be more complicated 12, 24 piece jigsaws and layer puzzles. I don't anticipate that we will move up to them quite yet, but Nora will be my guide! I'll keep you updated!

What types of Montessori-friendly puzzles have you used at this age? Any great ones that I'm missing? 

Don't miss Part One of this series: Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part One 12 to 18 Months 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Evolution of Puzzles Age 1 to 2: Part One 12 to 18 Months

Nora (26-months) is suddenly intensely in love with puzzles. I mean she is suddenly spending hours each day doing a variety of different puzzles with ease, concentration and joy. This, for me, is 100 percent completely uncharted territory. Henry never got into puzzles. It may be his own personality, it may be related to the special needs he is working through, or it may be related to the sort of haphazard way we introduced puzzles in his non-Montessori early toddlerhood. Whatever it is, I've never had a kid love puzzles before.


This change has been very welcomed and so incredible to watch. By offering a wide variety of puzzles slowly over the last year, Nora has had the time to really master each stage of puzzle and repeat it until her interest wains. 

Before I forget, I want to make sure to take a look back at where we started and how we got to where we are now. Before I do that, however, I want to just add a word about following the child. At its core Montessori is about allowing a child to take his or her own path to the world. It's about meeting the child where the child and accepting that.

So, this means that just because this is the path that Nora took during this time, it may not be the path that your child takes. And, that's OK. You're child may be quicker than Nora, or slower, or show no interest at all. Your child may spend months on one type of puzzle then ignore another type. Observe your child and follow his/her path. Use this as inspiration, but not as a month-by-month guide. 

Knobbed Puzzles {Simple then Larger}

The very first puzzles I introduced to Nora were simple 3-piece knobbed puzzles when she was about 10 months old. Traditionally, Montessori would start with single piece puzzles but I used what I had. I'm hoping to get some for baby 3.0. I started with shapes then moved to realistic images. As she mastered these, I introduced the larger knobbed puzzles around 14 months.


Pictured: Vintage fruits/vegetable puzzle {alternative 1; alternative 2}; Vintage 3-piece puzzles {similar animals alternative; similar shapes alternative}; Shape Puzzle

Tiny Knobs -- exact picture ~ Size Comparison Puzzles

Once Nora was starting to show proficiency in larger knobbed puzzles, I started to introduce size comparison puzzles, where an image repeats but changes only in size. We only have a couple of these because they are harder to find, but one had larger knobs and one smaller.


Pictured: Vintage tractor puzzle {alternative}; Circle Puzzle {larger alternative; circle alternative}; Rainbow

Shortly after introducing the size comparison puzzles, I introduced small knobbed puzzles to Nora. She was probably around 15 months at the time. These were great for forcing a pincer grip and added a great element of challenge with the smaller pieces. At this time she was still doing the larger knobbed puzzles as well. However, I made sure these all had exact picture matches so it was also a great picture-to-picture matching exercise.


Pictured: vintage transportation puzzle {alternative}

I think that is about it for this age range. However, the age ranges here are broad and approximate. Nora was very much on a hurry up and stop track with puzzles. She would be intensely interested for awhile then show no interest at all. In fact, there were large chunks of time between 1 and 2 where she had no interest in shelf work at all. She was too busy doing gross motor tasks to slow down for anything else, and that was perfectly fine with me!


I intentionally kept thing on the shelves for long periods of time so she would have the opportunity to not only perfect and master the work but to repeat it for as long as she was interested. So, just because she could do a certain type of puzzle, doesn't mean I removed it right away. I let her enjoy it for as long as she showed interest.

In my next post, I'll go into detail about the puzzles we have used more recently -- from 18 to 24ish months! I'll also have some tips in what I look for when purchasing puzzles for my family!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Montessori Toddler Work 15 to 20 months

This is a long overdue post! Nora is now 26-months-old, but somewhere along the way this post got lost. Here are some of the Montessori and Montessori inspired work that Nora was using at this time. 


I do feel like I should mention that at this time Nora wasn't super into shelf work. She would work in spurts but much of her time was focused on gross motor and maximum effort play. You will also notice many of these works aren't fancy or store bought, but many did the job just fine! 

These also weren't all out at one time. I maybe had one to three of these out at a time in addition to some of her Montessori friendly toys. This way her shelves were a good mix of many types of activities to fit her needs. 

1:1 Correspondence Work: We started with a small container like this and moved to larger containers and more objects.



Color Themed Treasure Baskets


Dry Pouring with Beans -- this was done sparingly when Nora seemed to need a dumping outlet. Typically pouring at this age should be done more naturally -- like pouring a glass of water to drink.


Dry Spooning: Again this was used rarely and under supervision. Most spooning was done in a more natural way this was just as a supplement from time to time.


Dot Painting


Object-to-Object Matching: Here using small Grimm's dolls


Shape Matching Open and Close Basket: Taking lids on and off small boxes where only difference is the shape 



Large Bead Lacing: using pipe cleaner which offers a bit more stability than string but less than a stick 


Simple Stickers


Zip Pouch: Placing and removing smallish objects (some times large wooden coins or large pom-poms) from a zippered pouch


Pin Pushing: Using floral or craft foam and toothpicks (sharp or blunt depending on your comfort level)


Simple Posting Work: made from this game.


I'm sure there were other things that graced Nora's shelves during this time period. And the time periods are pretty fluid. Some of these things Nora would be still interested in today. You really just need to follow your own child's interests, skills and abilities! 

What Montessori work does your 1-year-old likes to do? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Montessori Work from 12 to 14 Months; Montessori Friendly Toys 16 to 19 Months  

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Monday, August 15, 2016

DIY Color Matching Pegs for Toddlers

I have noticed lately that Nora has been super into sorting by color. This makes total sense, of course, because she is still in the sensitive period for order and seeks opportunities to make her world as orderly as possible. She has also been very interested posting/pegging work for sometime. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I could easily make her something to fulfill both of these needs. 


To make this simple color matching activity, you need: 

  1. Old fashioned peg clothes pins 
  2. Pin holders 
  3. Craft wood
  4. Acrylic paint
  5. Super glue 
And, that's it! I happened to have each of these items around my house already and they were each purchased at a thrift sale for under $5 total. But, they can also be found online or pretty much in any craft store. 



The first thing I did was paint each piece -- two of each color. I choose to try to do a couple shades of each color but it doesn't really matter what shades you pick. For me it was just what looked pleasing together and would offer clear self-correction for Nora. 

I only chose to paint the tips of the pins/holders just to keep it simple. I liked the contrast between the natural wood and the bright colors. I also liked that the color matching had a bit of distance between the correct way to place the pin and the match, I felt like that added an interesting challenge. But, you could paint any way you like. 


Once the colors were dry, I arranged the holders on the craft wood. I'm obsessed with rainbow order so I loosely followed that as much as possible. Really I just wanted something beautiful and orderly, otherwise the exact order of the colors wasn't important to me.

After they were arranged, I placed a small amount of super glue around the bottom of each of the pin holders. I made sure to make a complete ring around each but not so much that it leaked all over the inside of the holders. I pressed firmly down and waited for it to dry. 


I waited for the glue to dry and placed the tray on one of Nora's shelves to discover. She has been in love with the tray ever since. The pegs provide a great challenge for her even if the color matching was relatively simple. It's been a great way to work on a pincer grip, since the pegs go in most easily when held and squeezed on the bottom. Plus, you can't been the simplicity or the price! 

This work could easily be adapted to a younger child, I would just skip the color matching in that case and have fewer pegs. Older children could have more pegs and more similar colors. The possibilities are really endless! 


We love colors and color matching and I'm happy to have this on our shelves now! Do your children seek opportunities to color match? What is their favorite work?

Don't miss our Colors Landing Page for lots of information on teaching colors and ideas for color matching! 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Evolution of Our Homeschool Classroom

Now that we are done with homeschooling, it's been fun to look back at the long road we took to get where we are. We started out in just this small corner of our guest bedroom/office and ended up in a beautiful room full of wonderful Montessori materials. It's been so interesting to look back and see how we have changed our lives to incorporate Montessori and how transformative that has been. 


But most importantly with this post, I want to emphasize a few points that I learned a long the way. One, everything does NOT have to be perfect all at once. Your child will learn even in a room that is not perfectly prepared. Yes, a prepared environment is important. But, I've found even if there are things that aren't "picture perfect" it can still attract a child. 

Two, the environment does not have to remain static. In fact, I would argue that it should not. It is an evolving entity in your home. Tweaks need to be made. Adjustments for your child's interests, age level, maturity and readiness. Don't be afraid to make those changes and see how your children respond. And, keep making those changes as necessary to keep your environment successful. 

Classroom 1 



I still love our first little classroom! I knew nothing about Montessori, but it set me on a path to a completely wonderful new life! I'm so proud of myself for jumping in and just doing it! And, I hope seeing where we started gives everyone the motivation to take control for themselves and know that they can do it too! 

You can read more about this space here.

Classroom 2 


This poor little room! It was never successful in this dark corner of our basement. Never under estimate the power of natural light! But, this was a short lived situation. So, this is a perfect example of letting your child lead not being afraid to make the changes you need to have success. 

You can read more about classroom 2 here.

Classrooms 3 and 4


Moving the classroom upstairs was one of the greatest changes that we ever made. You can see we started to seriously incorporate Montessori into our routine and we have been better everyday for it. We still had a long way to go, but this space was well loved while it was in use. 


You can read more about classroom 3 here. And, classroom 4 here.

Classrooms 5 and 6 




The last two spaces were 100 percent my favorites. But, they still weren't perfect. And, I'm not even sure that perfection is achievable. Or, at least for me. Looking back, I'm so glad I tried and I wouldn't change our experience for the world!  


You can read more about classroom 5 here. And classroom 6 here.

Do you homeschool? Have you seen a transformation in your homeschooling spaces throughout the years? 

12 Months of Montessori 

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series! This month's theme is homeschool classrooms! Check out these other great rooms. 

Our 2016 Homeschool Room Tour | The Natural Homeschool
Montessori Homeschool Organization | Mama’s Happy Hive
Little Fish, BIG EMOTIONS | Every Star is Different
Start Your Homeschool Off Right  | Christian Montessori Network

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