Skip to main content

Transferring as Early Math Work

Toddlers love to transfer! They just love it! And the best way to engage them in transferring work is to make it REAL and PRACTICAL. So, moving laundry from the washer to the dryer, scooping/spooning/tonging food from a serving bowl to an individual plate, pouring water from a pitcher to their drinking cup, etc. But, sometimes that need to transfer is so strong that they will love a tray work meant specifically for transferring. 

Gus is at that stage right now! But instead of having something where he is endlessly transferring without purpose, I decided to change it up a little bit and sneak in a bit of math. As I've said before, toddlerhood isn't for teaching academic concepts to your child. But, it is about laying a foundation for this work to come later on. One way to do that is with some one-to-one correspondence work. 

An easy way to make transferring work for a toddler into a way to build math skills

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

One-to-one correspondence is the concept that each object represents one thing. Eventually, these things are connected to abstract symbols that represent this number of things (the numbers). In Montessori, this comes well after children learn quantities concretely. So, in practical terms when creating work, this means one space for one thing. So, a toddler is transferring, but also getting that indirect preparation for concrete math.

 You can also add the counting language as they do this work, so that they are learning the names for that quantity too! But the counting is ALWAYS accompanied by concrete representations of the actual quantity that they are counting. 

There are so many ways to set up work like this! We used little pumpkins (keeping it seasonal and fun) and a mini-muffin tin. Simple! It could also be used with an ice cube tray, a divided tray, or any similar container. The items for transferring can be varied as well! Just make sure there is only 1 for each spot in your container. Also make sure the thing that the toddler is transferring is 1. the same (even in color so that only quantity is changing) and 2. safe for them to explore. 

Also, KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS IN CHECK! Toddlers are not meant to sit and do tray work for hours. They just don't. They will spill, explore with the material, could throw the material, or come up with their own interesting way to explore. In these cases, you need to observe to see if your child is really ready for this type of work. It may be that your child isn't, or just needs more practical (and real) work like those I first talked about! 

There are still plenty of ways to work on one-to-one correspondence practically and in a real context. Bake some muffins together, and have your child place the papers or put eggs away (if you have one of those slotted containers for them). 

I want to empahsize that once again, these little trays may not work for every toddler. And, they are something that we only do occasionally! But, if you see a need in your child to transfer, here's one way to sneak in a little extra concrete learning and fun! 

Does your toddler enjoy transferring? Have you considered a one-to-one corresponding work? 

An easy way to make transferring work for a toddler into a way to build math skills



Nora said…
You explain the principles behind each work so well. Thank you.

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2019

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure!

2019 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include a variety of brands and new product finds! Just a reminder that no one child will be interested in all of this or needs all of this. These toys are just here to spark ideas and give you a feeling for some Montessori-friendly options available! 

So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 

First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created to…

Working from Home with Kids - A Montessori Schedule

One part of my life that I haven't talked a ton about here on The Kavanaugh Report is how I'm a work-from-home parent. Eight years ago I started to work at home while parenting full time. For the first several years, I worked as a legal writer while maintaining this space on the side. When Gus was born, I moved into working on sharing our Montessori life full time. It has blossomed into a full time career sharing content here, teaching courses, and now the podcast! Through it all, my kids have been home with me. 
This all seems more relevant to so many of us now that Covid-19 has closed schools and forced parents to stay at home and work while caring for children. I'm not going to lie - it's tough. It's hard to balance work and kids, especially when children are used to a completely different routine. But, it's not impossible! And, it can even be enjoyable. 

As I talk about in my podcast Shelf Help, we block our days into 3 hours groups. It helps me remain fle…

Which Open-Ended Toys are "Worth it?"

As a Montessori parent, I try to provide a mix of materials in our home to engage my kids! That work that will spark joy, concentration, and repetition. It's not always an easy task, as Maria Montessori said, "Life is mysterious...only the choice of life can choose the work that the child truly needs. Therefore, the teacher respects this mysterious process and knows to wait with faith." So, there does sometimes feel like there is a bit of trial and error when it comes to choosing materials that your children need. 

For us, the right balance is easier to find when I spend time deeply observing my children. Watching their interests, sitting on my hands if I have to, letting them struggle a little with things, and letting them get bored. And what I have personally found is that here at home, a combination of open ended materials and more structured work have been the right balance. Open ended toys wouldn't necessarily be found in a Montessori classroom, but they are perf…