Thursday, March 31, 2016

Montessori Morning -- My Montessori Favorites at IKEA

It's no secret in the Montessori community that IKEA has a ton of Montessori friendly products! I mean, just look at this post from Kylie at How We Montessori, seriously the Montessori is strong at IKEA! 

So,after seeing this post about the new line of children's furniture and accessories at IKEA yesterday, I got the itch to go! When I woke up to a cold, rainy spring-break morning, I knew today was the day! I'm fortunate enough to live really close to one, and my kids love going to play in the little rooms. After a long morning of spending all the monies (just kidding, Morgan!) I wanted to share some of my favorite Montessori IKEA finds! 

Shelving

Besta Shelving: I love this open shelving. Its my dream to replace my shelves with this. 
Kallax -- another very popular choice! 
Rast -- perfect for small spaces
Trofast -- these can be used with bins for storage or with open shelving! We use these in our classroom!

Bedroom

Toddler Bed: Legs can be cut down or removed for young children. This is the bed Nora uses now. 
Small Acrylic Mirror - We have these in our block area, they are indestructible so you don't have to worry about breaks. 

Bathroom

Little Potty -- a Montessori essential
Suction Cup Mirror -- just got this one!  
Hooks -- perfect for hanging lower on the wall so kids can reach their own towels 
Tall Step Stool -- this is perfect for actually reaching the sink, and is what we use at home 


Decor 

Fruit/Veggie Prints -- These are my new favorite
Plastic Frame -- A frame that looks real glass, but is plastic, perfect for toddler spaces! 
Larger Plastic Frames -- These are lightweight and acrylic front makes them super safe. Plus the price is right! 
Leaf Prints -- also beautiful
Spice Rack Book Case -- They are replacing this in the new series, but I super love these for books

Kitchen  

Glasses -- these are my favorite, small but heavy
Children's flatware -- perfect for little hands
Small Cutting Board -- I was so tempted by this because it was the perfect size
Perfect Tiny Peeler -- got this one today! I see a lot of carrot peeling in my future
Ceramic Dishes -- we use these too, and they are very durable

Kids 

Hand Powered Flashlight -- seriously how cute!
Wooden Stacker -- love these colors
Table and Chairs -- we have had this for years, I love it.  

There are so many other great products at IKEA that it is impossible for me to list them! I'm sure I will have even more favorites once the new products are released! 

What are your favorites at IKEA? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Montessori Friendly Bird Themed Materials

As the weather warms up and the birds return to Minnesota, Henry suddenly has an intense interest in birds. If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed that he has been gravitating toward birds and I've been scrambling to keep up. As a Montessori family, I try to follow my children's interests as much as possible. So, if one day its birds, I want to give Henry as many resources as possible to let him explore that interest.


One way I did that was creating simple matching cards with these beautifully illustrated bird stickers. I simply laminated the stickers, cut into cards and printed out labels. To make the cards self-correcting, I added a number to the back of each label and picture. Easy and so well loved!


But, as I've been searching for ways for Henry to explore his new found interest, I realize there are so many amazing Montessori friendly bird themed materials available! Many looked so amazing that I had to share my favorites! 

Books

Life Cycles: Robins
About Birds: A Guide for Children
Birds, Nests & Eggs
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
Beaks!
Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them
A Nest is Noisy
An Egg is Quiet

Toys

North American Bird Stickers
Backyard Bird Toob
Exotic Bird Toob
Soft Singing Birds
Schleich Birds
State Birds Coloring Book


Games

Bird Bingo
Bird Feeder Jigsaw Puzzle
Montessori Bird Puzzle
Match a Bird Game
Wooden Bird Memory Game
Bird Trivia

Learning

Chicken Anatomy Model
Backyard Bird Flashcards
Life Cycle of a Chicken
State Birds Poster
National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America
Beginning Birdwatcher's Book
Common Birds and Their Songs - Audio Book

Practical

Build and Paint a Birdhouse
See Through Birdhouse
Audubon Bird Journal

Right now we have a few of these books and some of the singing birds! Henry has been using them constantly. I would love to get the matching game for him too. And, make some state bird work! 

Does your child like birds? How do you fuel this interest? Anything you would add to this list? 

If you likes this post, don't miss: Montessori Geography Trays; Montessori at 4-years-old

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Montessori Inspired Pollution Work for Preschool

With Earth Day quickly approaching, I've been thinking about ways we can instill a love of Earth with our children. For Henry, concrete examples work best to give him a clear picture about why pollution, in particular, is such a problem in our world. 


These are trays that we also used last year that have stuck with Henry all year long. He still talks about this work every time we see pollution in our everyday lives. 

Air Pollution


This simple tray simulated air pollution with a candle. I would light the candle and Henry would blow it out. We would then talk about where the smoke went and how it would effect the earth if it was dangerous pollution. The card had a definition of air pollution that we could read and a picture of a factory emitting air pollution into the air. 


Land Pollution 

This was another really easy way to simulation pollution. Here I just filled a large container with dirt and some garbage. I stuck mainly to wrappers and small pieces of plastic that wouldn't start to smell in the house. Then, I included a large pair of tongs, a shovel, and a garbage pail. Henry could then dig in the dirt and use the tongs to throw away all the trash. 


We followed this tray up by going around our neighborhood and picking up any trash that we found. Henry still stops to pick up trash he finds outside. 


Water Pollution

This was by far the most engaging of the trays. Here I used a big container of water, some sea animals, rocks, and some cooking oil. I placed a few tablespoons of cooking oil into the water to simulate water pollution. The rocks and animals where then placed into the water. Henry used a sand sifter to scoop them out of the water. 


I then asked a bunch of wondering questions to see if I could lead him into some discoveries. "I wonder how the animals feel now? I wonder if they like that? What will happen to them if the pollution stays on them? Can we take the pollution off with our hands? Is it easy to remove from the water?" These questions led him to the conclusion that pollution was bad for the animals and hard to remove. 


Once the animals were removed from the polluted water, Henry could place the oil covered animals in a smaller bowl of soapy water and scrub them with a toothbrush. 


Have you talked to your children about pollution? How do you plan on celebrating Earth Day? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Montessori Inspired Preschool Recycle Game

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Object-to-Picture Matching for Montessori Toddlers

When I think about object-to-picture matching, It feels like one of the most quintessential Montessori materials. It's just use so frequently that I immediately think "Montessori" when I see it. 

It's also one of those activities that can keep a wide range of children happy. There are times when Henry at 4/5-years-old has enjoyed matching pictures and objects. I'm just focusing on toddlers here, though. 


Like object-to-object matching, object-to-picture matching has some very important benefits for toddlers. One, it again helps with vocabulary, moving from left-to-right and providing order. However, object-to-picture matching also helps toddlers to explore abstraction. 


In other words, it helps toddlers start to make the connection that what they hold in their hand is the same as what they see on the picture. The picture of an apple is an apple, and the apple they are holding is an apple. This sort of abstract thinking is essential for reading. And, this work easily helps toddlers make those connections.


Object-to-picture matching does not have to be difficult to set up! Nora (21-month-old) is just starting to show an interest in this type of work. For this post, I set up a few examples, although I typically would only have one of this work out at a time. In an ideal world, this work would include objects and matching cards. The cards would be the exact same as the objects (down to the size). This is extremely difficult to find so might not be possible in a home setting. So, I use what I have access to.


In my case, I make a lot of my own cards by taking pictures of the objects. Or, sometimes, I use premade flashcards. I try to keep them to just the picture, and no words, but that's not always possible either.

For Nora, I made three simple trays. The first was matching Schleich farm animals to an over sized set of farm flashcards. These flashcards are some of my favorite but sadly they don't make them any more. 

Next, was matching fresh fruit to another set of flashcards {from an Etsy shop that closed.} These had words, but the pictures are beautiful and real. 

Finally I made a set of cards to match birds with their pictures. Those beautiful cards are a printable from my good friend Amy at Midwest Montessori


There are so many possibilities when it comes to object-to-picture matching. Again, I completely recommend following your child's interests. Does you child like cars? Then use cars! For Nora, its animals, so we are heavy on animals. Other ideas would include: 


Remember that this work is again about exploration, not perfection. The focus should always be on the process and not the product. If you notice, Nora did not match very many correctly from the fruit or farm trays. She really liked the bird work which will stay on her shelves for now! I didn't correct her, or lead her exploration. I set her free and let her come up with how she would use! 

Next up in the matching series -- Picture-to-Picture matching! If you missed the first part of this series, see it here: Object-to-Object Matching.

Does your child enjoy object-to-picture matching? Have you noticed this is an activity that they enjoy for a long time?  

If you liked this post, don't miss: Zoology Sensory Bottles for Montessori Babies

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Object-to-Object Matching for Montessori Toddlers

Toddlers are in sort of unique situation. They are starting to have the tools to classify the world around them through their language, exploration, and a strong need to for order. This creates the perfect opportunity to introduce matching work. 

Not all matching work is the same. For toddlers, it's best to start as concrete as possible -- with objects. Then, over time move to more abstract concepts. Typically, many Montessori toddlers move from object-to-object matching, to object-to-picture matching and eventually picture-to-picture matching. I'm hoping to dedicate a post to each in the next few days!


Matching skills are important for a variety of reasons. They help to develop the visual discrimination skills necessary for reading. They also help instill order, concentration, moving from left to right and many other valuable skills. While toddlers don't need to be working on formal academics, working on these pre-reading skills is an awesome place to start. For us, object-to-object matching was introduced right around 15-months. 


Preparing object-to-object matching is pretty straightforward. It's simply gathering a set of similar objects to match up. Nora loves animals so we often use little animals in her work. However, it could be any two identical objects. 

Some examples: 
  • Matchbox cars 
  • Fruit {preferably real but play could work too}
  • Construction vehicles 
  • Household objects like kitchen tools
  • Seashells 

This basically works with anything that is a real tangible object that has a identical (or very similar) match. 



To start object-to-object matching, I start by lining up the first set of objects from left to right and naming them. Then, I move forward with the second set matching and naming as I pull them from the basket or tray where there are stored. However, Nora might not do the presentation exactly how I modeled (and that's completely alright!) Now, at 21-months-old, Nora is starting to line them up to match, but before she may not have. 


In fact, she may not have matched them at all. Sometimes its about exploring the animals, sometimes just making them all stand up, sometimes just emptying and refilling the tray/basket where they are kept. All of these forms of exploration are fine with me and there is no pressure on Nora to complete this in a specific way. 


Right now, Nora is looking for a little more of a challenge with object-to-object matching. So, I've started to introduce Mama/Baby {with the cows} matching. The objects are very similar and clearly go together. But, are no longer identical. She absolutely loves this right now! 

Stay tuned for more information on toddler matching! Next up is object-to-picture matching!


Have you introduced object-to-object matching to your toddler? What kinds of things do you match? 


This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Hang Your Montessori Mobiles

One of the most beautiful parts of a Montessori infant environment is the wonderful mobiles. These mobiles, in my opinion, really are a beautiful work of art made just for your baby. They help to develop concentration, visual tracking depth perception and so much more in your infant.


As I have mentioned before, many of these lovely mobiles are easily and cheaply made. They last from the time your baby is born until he or she is mobile. First come the visual mobiles, then the tactile ones.


But, practically, where do they fit into your home? How are they hung? 

For us, all of our visual mobiles were hung in Nora's movement area. This area was found in one corner of her bedroom. This space was specially designed for her and her alone. To hang the mobiles, we used a hanging plant bracket and some ribbon.


I attached the ribbon to the bracket using a keychain ring. Then the end of the ribbon had one as well. The ribbon was attached through the ring and hot glued to itself to create the loop. Then each mobile had a ring, so they could be slid together.


While this is fairly cheap and easy way to hang the mobiles, the downside is that they are fairly stationary then. Its hard to move them around if you can't just sit in the nursery. Unless you place these brackets on several different places in your home. 


This is where a tripod comes in handy. A tripod is a apparatus that allows you to move the mobiles around. So, if you are hanging out in your living room, so can your baby and the mobiles. This is one thing I really missed when Nora was an infant. The downside to these, is that they can be a bit expensive. There are great alternatives available on the market, however! 



So many of these are an excellent way to hold mobiles and eventually toys for new babies. In particular, these would do an excellent job holding more tactile mobiles, like a bell on a ribbon or elastic or a hanging puzzle ball. Another great thing about these is that you can also use these to place toys, or high contrast images! There are just so many possibilities. 

Have you used and Montessori mobiles with your baby? How did you hang them? 


This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Montessori Treasure Baskets

A Montessori treasure basket is one way to play with babies. They are baskets that allow babies to safely explore the world around them. Treasure baskets don't have to be complicated to provide valuable exploration for babies. Treasure bins are typically recommended for babies that are able to sit up on their own and who are eager to explore their environment.


The idea is for babies to discover these objects on their own without intervention or instruction from an adult. If you want to use a treasure basket at home, I recommend storing it somewhere where your baby can access it on their own. When they discover the basket, sit back! Let the baby manipulate the objects however they see fit, even if its isn't a way that the way the object is intended to be used. 

After awhile, I think it is fine to start adding simple vocabulary to the objects. "Spoon," "ball," "bowl." But, remember your child should take the lead at all times. Your role is to keep them safe, not to instruct! 

Here are a few tips for making a great treasure basket -- 

  1. Keep it simple. It's for a baby so a few objects will be fine.
  2. Make it safe. Nothing too small, loose, or sharp.
  3. Stick to natural materials. Fabrics, wood, metal are perfect starting places.
  4. Skip anything with a battery. You're looking to provide the baby an experience, not entertainment.
  5. Keep it Practical. These should be real life tools and things found in your environment, no toys necessary! 

So, what are some ways you can prepare a treasure basket? Well, the options are really unlimited. While I don't have a baby at home right now, I was able to quickly pull together a few ideas for you to try at home. So, those of you with babies, should have no problems!

Wooden: blocks, rattle, small crate, egg, little wooden shapes, wicker spiral ball, ridged instrument stick


Nature: wooden bowl, pine cones {please use bigger ones, but these were all I had}, wicker spiral ball, robin's egg {plastic}, large shell, artificial flowers {real flowers would be even better!}.


Metal: whisks, toothpick jar lids, measuring cup, pouring container, various sized spoons, melon baller, ice cream scoop.


Colors {could be done in any color}: various sponges, opening/closing tomato container, foam letters, jar lid. One note about this -- this is an older picture, I would skip the letters now that I have learned more about Montessori for infants and toddlers. 


Some other ideas could be a basket with different types of brushes, just kitchen tools, scraps of differently textured fabrics or ribbons, similar shapes, mirrors, balls or musical instruments! 

I would love to hear from you! Have you ever tried a treasure basket?

If you liked this post, don't miss: Color Themed Treasure Baskets for ToddlersMontessori Work Shelves at 8 Months

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

5 Trays for Toddlers that Love to Peel

Toddlers love to do practical work! In reality, they need very few toys and just want to be involved in everyday life. Recently, Nora has been very interested in peeling the clementines for snack. Peeling is a great way to strengthen hand muscles and increase concentration. 

Nora loves peeling so much that I've noticed that she has been taking clementines from her snack area and peeling them without actually eating the fruit. So, I've put together a couple of other easy Montessori inspired ways that she can work on peeling without actually wasting fruit. 


1. Washi tape on a tray -- Here, just place some washi tape on the tray and peel! So simple! I like washi tape because its not super sticky and can easily be ripped by a young toddler or preschooler. I was actually surprised how much Henry has liked this tray!



2. Crayon wrappers -- Yes, I broke these crayons. They tiny pieces are perfect for encouraging a pincer grip. Just a few broken pieces and Nora was quick to focus on peeling the paper. 


3. Velcro on a Shoe -- This is another simple idea! Just a shoe! The velcro takes some strength to pull apart and precision to place back together. Not only is it fun to peel, its the perfect practice for Nora as she transitions to this pair of shoes. 

4. Ziplock bag -- Here I just included a small ziplock back and a tiny felted heart. Nora loves placing objects inside bags, so she can peel open the bag place the heart inside and repeat. 

5. Clementines -- Peeling clementines is so much fun and tasty! Nora has been doing this daily {see her in action here} for weeks! She's gotten to the point where she can do the whole process -- from starting the peel to throwing all the peel away! 


These easy Montessori inspired trays make a great addition to a toddler or preschool shelf! Many can be recreated with just a few simple supplies. Many times observing a child can give you great ideas about what your child is interested in and what types of work they would be interested in. A simple practical observation -- Nora likes to peel oranges -- can lead to so much more exploration!

Do your children like to peel? Have you incorporated peeling activities with your toddler? Have your observations influenced the types of activities you present? 



This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 


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