But many Montessori-minded environment setups are guided by the same principles and ideas. Children are invited to work with activities that
- are inviting and engaging
- stimulate their senses
- are open-ended
- help them grow and master important skills
- encourage problem-solving
- build skills that will allow them to function with increasing independence
- open them up to the world around them
- build up their confidence levels
Once in a while, I share ideas and snippets from everyday learning experiences my children engage with that help them achieve those goals.
Rather than learning through textbooks, I organize hands-on learning activities for my 3 and 5-year-old children during the morning cycle.
It has a shelf with activities I replace daily and spaces with open-ended toys and activities, such as playdough, art, and crafts.
As I devote my attention to one child at a time, the other one is free to explore activities on the shelf. He or she is free to do practical life exercises or play with building blocks, Duplo, make a construction, play with playdough or make a craft and painting.
I use the Shiller Math curriculum with my children which I supplement and adapt according to the children’s needs and progress.
We start by learning to identify numerals and matching quantities and numbers.
These cards and unit numbers were a part of Shiller Math Kit I. We have been using them regularly and they have been very helpful.
In the next step, we revisit counting quantities and learning about odd and even numbers a few times until the child has gained competence.
Next, we play a memory game with objects and numbers written on pieces of paper.
Math beads always come in very handy when learning various math concepts. Making patterns with beads adds extra challenge as the child learns to identify bead quantity by its color and size.
Math beads are also great for learning to skip count and subsequently children learn multiplication concepts.
Number cards with I Can Make 5 task cards that you may cut up or leave in original format. Children practice addition to 5 using beads or small parts or by coloring empty boxes. If laminated or placed in a plastic pocket, children can color boxes with erasable markers. This way this printable can be reused multiple times.
Children practice number formation with short and sweet exercises that don’t let them feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I never insist that the child completes the whole worksheet of numbers. At this age, children may need short bursts of exercises to allow them to rest their finger and hand muscles and not lose interest in continuing and numbers.
There are so many ways for children to practice building numbers. We love using small number rods for simple addition and subtraction exercises. If you would like to use this sheet for your math activities, you can download this PDF here.
Dominoes allow creating easy counting addition exercises. I made this square worksheet, especially for writing equations. You can access it here.
Here is another example of the Shiller Math inequality exercise using their number and function tiles. Switching between different types of tools indeed helps keep children engaged and excited about doing maths activities.
When I have purchased these cylinder blocks when my first child was only three years old, I could not imagine how often these materials would be used over the years.
They are certainly a great tool for children to learn to classify, differentiate, make patterns, sort, grade, and discriminate against the different sizes.
At times my youngest child collects all four boxes on the floor and spends half an hour arranging and manipulating the cylinders in various ways.
Here is another example of Montessori material I am so glad I’ve got. Children naturally inclined to use the Trinomial cube as building blocks.
Yet when it comes to working with this material, they quickly learn that you have to really pay attention to the different dimensions of the blocks to make sure the cube is built correctly.
It provokes them to be very attentive to details and deepens their concentration.
Moving on to sensorial activities. DIY options are always a possibility. Once the child can identify all main colors presented in Color box 2, I take an opportunity to use those paint color samples to invite the child to grade colors.
Here we were beginning to talk about the Earth. We just have a regular globe that we use to present the shape of our planet.
With the help of this printable, children got a demonstration of the proportions of land and water on earth by manipulating and covering land and water with green and blue building block pieces.
Some activities are so fun to do on an acrylic mirror especially if your children are working on the floor and need a solid surface.
Do be aware of the sharp corners. It is a good idea to attach sticky tape or something similar to smooth them out.
Here is a sorting activity to sort cards into three categories – land, air, and water. In case if you are wondering, I generally print all my printables with the ‘save ink’ setting checked for obvious reasons. It works just fine most of the time.
These activities were presented in the process of several days. I generally plan one unit at a time and follow the sequence of presentations with activities spread out through the week or month. Here are our land and water forms playdough mats.
After sorting picture cards instead of building the land and water forms with playdough, you may like to invite the children to build them in plastic containers using rocks and shells.
I would recommend learning about one pair of land and water forms at a time. Asking leading questions and getting children to compare the two will result in some interesting conversations.
After covering the majority of land and water form pairs, the children worked with 3 part cards with definitions and blackline masters. It allowed for another opportunity to concrete, gain fundamental knowledge and important geography concepts, practice reading, comprehension skills, work on writing and coloring skills.
We aim to lead a minimalistic lifestyle. It can be challenging for homeschoolers. You have to be very selective with the resources and materials you acquire for the students.
Hence DIY and printed versions of learning puzzles are logical solutions when you have limited storage capacity. Based on my experience, printed and laminated continent maps do the trick and accomplish the goal of teaching students the names and locations of the seven continents and five oceans. You can find a variety of continent resources here.
I believe it is crucial for children to learn about their cultural heritage from the very beginning. Naturally, that means talking about countries that have cultural and historical significance for our immediate family.
Calendar activity with this calendar mobile is such a fun and engaging way for children to learn about the cyclical nature of our daily life on Earth.
Indirectly children learn one-to-one correspondence, we also talk about the weather and incorporate songs (e.g. ‘What’s the weather like today’ and ‘The Earth goes around the Sun’).
I generally print the moon phase monthly calendar separately. Children use it to check and mark the current moon phase on the calendar mobile.
It is a great opportunity to talk about upcoming events, recurring weekly and monthly events, and help children practice delayed gratification along with other important organizational skills.
This calendar is very easy to store and we have been using the same calendar for several years now.
Sorting and categorizing activities help students to see the order in the natural world and transition those skills into their everyday life. You can find ‘bird, bee, butterfly’ sorting cards here and download ‘parts of the plant’ freebie from the resource library.
I utilize children’s books as much as possible. At this age, 70% of all books we read are nonfiction books. The topics are chosen based on the child’s current fascinations and interests.
After reading a book often students are invited to make their own book based on the information they learned or make drawings inspired by the illustrations.
My child has been reluctant to learn to read and write from the very beginning. I have never pushed him but I insisted that we did language activities every single time during our morning learning cycle. We spend a long time playing sound games and practicing to identify initial, middle, and final sounds.
When he was ready, we transitioned to sandpaper letters and sorting picture cards by initial sounds. Once he got tired of that I introduced this CVC word building mats that go along with the Montessori Pink series.
He absolutely LOVED it. It was never an issue for him to work with those. I found that the large wooden moveable alphabet took too much time for the child to locate the correct letters. He was quickly losing his interest. So I opted for the printed version of the moveable alphabet that worked very well for his needs.
My son also struggled with writing letters hence we started with print as oppose to cursive. With regular exercise and practice, he is doing so well now.
I plan to start introducing cursive in a year’s time once he starts to write whole sentences. In the meantime, we focus on general letter formation, his correct posture, and his pencil grip.
Large and clear pre-cursive and cursive cards with CVC words helped to kick start his reading very successfully.
At the age of five, I allow sufficient time to practice reading, building, and copying words. The moveable alphabet definitely gets used during every single learning period in the morning.
After mastering 3-letter words, we transition to word lists from the Blue and Green series along with reading simple phrases and sentences.
Three-part cards are always popular with my 3-year-old. At this stage, students generally like to work with labeled picture cards and picture cards by naming objects displayed on cards and matching them.
A memory game when children flip cards and look for matching pairs is also very engaging. Older children learn to match the label cards as well and copy words. It is a great handwriting practice and also helps children to learn the concept of sight words when children learned to identify words by recognizing them.
Hands-on Learning Activities
Hands-on experiences and science experiments are a big part of every child-led early year’s curriculum. The initial introduction to botany, zoology, anatomy all happens through direct contact and involvement in the process.
We have so much more success when we respect and honour child’s interests. Here my son is taking apart my old kindle which was a safe and exciting fine motor activity for this age.
Here is another science activity – we collected and broke old crayons into small pieces, filled ice molds, and placed those trays in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 C degrees.
When I notice that children have a well-defined interest in a certain subject, I start looking to outsource those classes that are given to children by teachers who have talent and passion in this area. Science classes were a big hit! On one of them, children made a scribble bot. Excitement was over the top! We replicated the process at home several times after that.
Chess is an exciting new topic of fascination and a great learning opportunity in our classroom. My son expressed an interest and I jumped all over it as I never learned to play chess in the past myself.
I used a combination of 3-period lessons that helped to learn the names of chess pieces and great online lessons on each piece.
You might also like to read my other posts with hands-on activities: